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Chinese medicine and the change of seasons

The beginning of Autumn signals the pivot from Spring & Summer’s yang, expanding and growing energy, to Autumn & Winter’s yin, contracting and passive energy. The 3 months of Autumn see the myriad things reach maturity with grains ripening and harvests occurring. The wind begins to stir, and the weather begins to cool. One must conserve the energies that have flourished during spring and summer, so winter’s storage of energy can maintain good health until the weather begins to warm again.

To live in accordance with the seasons in Chinese medicine is to adjust one’s actions to reflect the environment around them. As the Autumn wind increases in strength, Chinese medicine’s ancient wisdom advises you to retire earlier in the evening to avoid the chill, and wake earlier to appreciate the crisp Autumn air. The environment turning harsh, is an indication that our emotions should maintain a peaceful calm, refraining from overexertion and anxious thought. One should gather the spirit to be more focused on what you have and avoid letting our desires run wild.

The predominant energy or Qi of the Autumn season is that of the Metal phase, represented by the Lung and the Large Intestine. To maintain good health in Autumn, the Lung energy should remain full, clean and quiet, with regular breathing exercises to strengthen the Lung Qi and avoiding excessive physical exertion, so as not to injure the Lung with dryness.  Pollution, smoking and mould exposure are never good for the lungs, with Autumn being a particularly bad time to be breathing poor quality air and particulates.  The Lung Qi can also be injured by emotional factors such as grief and the inability to let things go.

If one does not live in accordance with the Autumn energy, by winter the Kidney Qi can be weakened and digestive issues such as diarrhoea can occur. The body’s defensive layer will be diminished, leaving it more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. This weakening of the body’s function will impair its ability to ‘store the harvest’ during winter.

Slightly acrid and warming foods help the body’s energy compensate for the colder external environment. Foods like oats, millet, corn, rice, carrot, leek, radish, cauliflower, beef and lamb are warming for the system and ideal during Autumn. If you start to feel the chill of the season, acrid flavours like cinnamon, chili, ginger, garlic and onions stimulate the circulation of Qi and strengthen the body’s ‘Wei Qi’ or ‘defensive energy’, that acts as armour to the external environment.

In Autumn it is important to avoid overindulging in cold food and drinks. By having too many chilled drinks (like ice water, beer, smoothies and juices) and cold food (like ice cream and fruit salad straight from the fridge) we can damage our spleen and stomach yang Qi which will have an affect on digestion and the energy we can use from out daily food and drink intake. Food that is high in fat and oil, as well as excessive dairy products can burden the spleen, leading to dampness and in turn can turn to phlegm disorders which particularly impact the lung and sinus, especially during wet weather.

By having warm food and drinks in the cooler months, maintaining a calm spirit, practising healthy breathing techniques and not overexerting out selves during Autumn, we can conserve the harvest we have cultivated during the warmer months, to have healthy storage of energy for winter.

Chinese medicine can help you during the Autumn months by strengthening the Lung, Spleen and Kidney energies to maintain a strong defensive layer. TCM employs various heat therapies in combination with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to boost and regular circulation and digestive function, clear external pathogens and harmonise the system. If you do start to feel the Autumn wind, Chinese medicine can help to invigorate your inner fire and balance your internal energy so you can maintain your position as the master of your environment.

By Matthew Ryan – Registered Chinese Medicine Practitioner


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