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Wholesome Autumn Health: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

As I sit writing this article, I find myself aware that another summer is past and it seems that winter will be knocking on our doors too soon! Just a couple of weeks ago, I felt un-prepared to say goodbye to the warm days that only summer sun can bring (in spite of the extra rains received this year). But suddenly, it is settling in as I enjoy the local variety of autumn foods and the switch from summer tank tops to autumn sweaters.

Thinking back to the hot, humid days that came in summer, you may remember your body began to feel a bit sluggish and heavy. Perhaps you even noticed that your thinking became muddled. While many of us prefer the sunny, warmth of summer over the cold, short days of winter, too much of that humid summer weather can lead to a bit of stagnation in our bodies, as the moisture pools in and around us, digestion and physical activity also slows. Thankfully, just as we begin reaching our saturation point, the seasons begin to change.

I notice it first in the evenings, as the air temperature drops lower than previous nights. Then, I suddenly realize that the sun is sitting lower in the sky. And I know the changing of the seasons is truly upon us when the daytime air feels crisp and cool, even under a noon-time sun: the very crispness that my body needs as medicine to begin drying out from the humidity of summer.

In Chinese Medicine, autumn belongs to the Lungs and Large Intestine. It is a time to breathe in the cooler air, while letting go of that which is no longer needed. The crisp, clear air of autumn helps restore clarity of thought; this is a great time to take up new studies, especially creative writing. While summer was a time of increased activity to fill the longer days, now we begin a process of turning inward, preparing for a “hibernation” of sorts. Rather than the cold salads of summer, now we seek warmer foods and baked fruits. Try pungent foods to help cleanse your system, such as curries, ginger, onion and mustard greens. You may also notice your lips becoming chapped more easily; remember to carry your lip balm with you and try drinking more water.

If you wake early in the morning, I recommend taking a walk to get your system moving. Be sure to open up your lungs during this time. Simply taking full breaths in which you clear out the old air and bring in the new may be perfect. Or perhaps you feel moved to sing a song; this is a marvelous way to wake the lungs for a new day!

Should you find yourself experiencing grief, whether new or old, seek healthy and wholesome ways to release those feelings. If grief is not released, it is more likely to become stored as stress, thus weakening your immune system. The new life from springtime is now old and withering; old grief that arises in autumn is a natural response to the world around us. If it is new grief, let yourself be held by the changing trees surrounding you; and know that you are not alone. In these times, I like to take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. Hope is now in trusting that fresh new life can only be fed by the passing of this year’s growth to nourish next year’s.

May peace and health be upon you!