It is the summer’s great last heat,
It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
Autumn is upon us, folks! I’m sure you can feel the changes in the weather and temperature, and even see the changes, especially in plants, from summer to fall. Fall is associated with the metal element in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The metal element has many representations such as change or transition, dryness, meticulousness, grief, the color white, pungent tastes, and more.
In TCM, the lungs, aka “the lung organ”, function in breathing and diffusion of qi and fluids throughout the body. The diffusion of qi and fluids ensures that there will be enough moisture in the skin, body hair, and respiratory tract. The lung is yin-yang paired with the large intestine organ. As such, bowel issues can develop if there is dysfunction in either of the two organs. Disease occurs when the lung qi and fluids do not circulate properly throughout the body, showing up as congestion, dry hair and skin, coughing, sneezing, constipation – just to name a few manifestations.
There are three etiologies of disease pathology – internal, external, and miscellaneous. Internal causes stem from emotional imbalances in the body, leading to disease. External causes include pathogenic heat, cold, damp, wind, dryness, summer-heat which invade the body from the outside. Miscellaneous causes include trauma, lifestyle, and constitution factors.
Since people start to get sick around this time of year, food therapy is a form of preventative medicine that everyone can do easily. Keep in mind: Some herbs are consumed as food; as food has its allergens, so do herbs. Check out this article by the Jade Institute on Chinese herbs and food allergies.
Mom was right! Cover your neck if it’s windy!
First line of defense. Green onions cong bai and ginger sheng jiang, two commonly used ingredients used in food therapy are great for nipping a potential cold in the butt. Both of these herbs are said to “release the exterior,” which essentially means that these herbs will kick the pathogen out from the surface of the skin. Now, the trick is applying these as soon as you feel like you are getting sick. While green onions are cooling, great for summer; ginger is nice and warming for the fall and winter. Both perfect in soups, stir-fries, and steamed fish.
When you’re dying of a dry cough – because during the fall season, things dry up. Try Fritillaria bulb, chuan bei mu with rock sugar and Asian pears (apple pears), which can help calm down that cough in a jiffy and tastes like dessert. This is actually one of the first applicable food therapy recipes I learned from one of my esteemed teachers, Dr. Tan Tan Huang. Here’s a friendly version of the recipe for those of you who need step-by-step directions: Asian pears with Fritillaria. Note: If you’re constipated, peel off the skin and add some honey.
As always, seek your local acupuncturist or PCP for medical assistance.
Happy Fall to All!