Autumn is a transitional period in Chinese Medicine terms; it is a preparation for winter. The winter solstice is the height of Yin (cooling, calming, sedate, internal) whereas the summer solstice is the height of Yang (activating, warming, rising).
Traditionally it is the time of harvest, taking things in and storing them. As this happens in the external world so to our body follows this pattern internally. Our energy starts to become more withdrawn in order to sustain us when it gets colder and darker. It is a time of refinement; we whittle away that which we don’t need, releasing the excess of summer and maintain only that which is essential to sustain us through winter.
Each season has an associated element and each element has associated organs and functions. The Metal element is to the fore in autumn. The lungs and the large intestine are associated with the metal element and autumn.
The lungs purpose is to draw essential energy from the air, the large intestine eliminates waste while retaining water in the body and as such they follow the autumnal pattern of retaining that which is essential while letting go of that which is not.
Autumn is a season of introspection and meditation, shedding the excesses of summer, just as trees shed their leaves in autumn.
From an emotional perspective resisting this letting go can lead to feelings of melancholy, grief and anxiety. The physical manifestation of these emotional imbalances are breathing difficulties, chest pain, skin problems and poor immune function. The lungs are the organ which holds onto grief and this is associated with difficulty in letting go. Flu, cold and respiratory ailments are indicative of blocked energy in the lungs.
Autumn is the time for assimilating and refining the essential lessons from our activities and experience in summer and in turn transforming them into the quiet wisdom of winter.
Warming and activating foods can help strengthen the lungs at this time of year – ginger, onion, garlic, carrots, pumpkins and broths help to strengthen the lung Qi and dispel damp accumulation. Salads and damp/cold foods should be avoided as we head into the colder months as it is essential to sustain healthy immune function with warming and activating foods to counter the external chill. As our energy becomes more internally sedate it is essential to eat foods which will help us assimilate the change in season.