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Preparing for the Fall- A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Fall- its that time of year when the warmth of the sun starts fading, the yang energy subsiding as the yin energy of darkness, cold, stillness, increases. There is a slowing down, an introspection as we draw inwards both physically and emotionally. In autumn we bid farewell to the abundance of summer and start preparing for the hibernation, or hunkering down, that is to come.

In Chinese Medicine, autumn is the season of the Metal element. Metal reflects our core issues, the most refined part of ourselves; an analogy is that of ore found deep within a mountain. The emotion connected with Metal is grief or sadness. The climate associated with metal is dry, while the sense organ and sense associated with it is the nose and smell. The organs connected with the Metal element are the Lungs and the Large Intestine, which reflect the nature of the season, the letting go.

Lungs and Large Intestine

The Lungs and the Large Intestine are both organs of absorption and elimination- the lungs responsible for bringing oxygen to the body and exhaling carbon dioxide, while the large intestine is responsible for the absorption of nutrients, and the elimination of the waste products of digestion. The lungs are our first line of defense against external pathogens. Thus, weak lung qi makes us more susceptible to colds, bronchial infections, asthma and allergies. The lungs also regulate the waterways throughout the body; and therefore, weak lung qi may cause dry skin in the fall.

Traditional Chinese Medicine attributes the Large Intestine with making the distinctions between harmless and harmful elements, and between the nutrients the body needs and those it must eliminate. Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, flatulence, and abdominal pain, all reflect problems with the function of the Large Intestine.

Acting in conjunction, the body needs to be cleansed of toxic matter by the Large Intestine before it can it receive the more refined energy brought in by its partner, the Lung. In emotional terms, this yin-yang pair of organs, associated with grief, are responsible for the ‘letting go’ of emotional ‘baggage’ while making room for new experiences.

Here are some self-care tips to protect and nourish your Lung and Large Intestine qi:

The three W’s of Autumn: Warm, warm, warm. Dress Warmly, Eat Warm foods (literally and energetically warm) and drink lots of Water (obviously warm is better)!

1. Dress warmly and cover your neck. Wear a scarf- add some style to your look! The back of the neck is particularly vulnerable to invasion by wind and cold. In fact, the Chinese call wind the Master of 100 illnesses. So protect yourself from the wind and the cold.

2. Warm Foods: This means literally to warm up your food before eating. No more cold salads, or summery gazpacho type soups or drinks. Always eat foods that are available seasonally- fall veggies such as the squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cauliflowers. Remember that the body has evolved over millennia eating what’s available at any given season, and can digest local seasonal foods much better.

3. Drink water. Preferably warm. The fall is a season of dryness, and staying hydrated helps the lungs and the large intestine function optimally.

4. Practice breathing. Deep breaths strengthen the lungs.

5. See your acupuncturist. Get prepared for the cold months by strengthening your immune system and treating any fall allergies. Get your qi flowing to combat signs of depression that often surface with the shorter, darker days.

6. Let go. The darkening days of fall bring old resentments and sorrows to the surface. Just like the dead leaves on the trees these need to drop away so that you can be prepared to conserve your emotional energy in the winter and the burgeoning possibilities of spring. Perhaps, write down a list of your resentments – writing and committing to paper is in itself a powerful act of acknowledgement. Then decide to let them go- burn the paper, shred it and toss the shreds into the composting bin….


Be creative, and have fun unburdening yourself! Sometimes the best stories are the sad or melancholy ones, so get your writing hat on, sharpen your quill and start telling stories; look around, enjoy the colors, the temperatures and textures, write poetry….I leave you with some beautiful haiku (translated from Japanese) about autumn by the big three haiku poets: Basho, Buson and Issa:

on a bare branch

a crow has settled

autumn dusk ~ Basho

Crescent moon--

bent to the shape

of the cold. ~Issa

more than last year

I now feel solitude

This autumn twilight ~ Buson

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