Autumn, with its crisp air, falling leaves, and golden hues, is a season of transition and transformation in many cultures. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn holds special significance as it represents the Metal element, symbolizing harvest, maturity, and the gathering of energy. The Metal element corresponds to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs, making them particularly susceptible during this season.
CHARACTERISTICS OF AUTUMN IN TCM
DRYNESS: Autumn is often characterized by dryness in the air. This dryness can affect the respiratory system, leading to conditions like dry skin, irritated throat, and cough. TCM suggests that consuming moistening foods such as pears, honey, and sesame can counterbalance dryness, promoting internal hydration.
COOLNESS: While autumn is a time of cooling temperatures, it is not as cold as winter. This mild coolness helps the body transition from the heat of summer to the cold of winter. It is a time when the body needs to protect itself from external cold, making it essential to wear appropriate clothing to shield against chilly winds.
HARVEST and ABUNDANCE: Autumn is traditionally the harvest season when fruits, grains, and vegetables are collected. These foods are considered to be energetically concentrated, making them ideal for nourishing the body and building reserves for the upcoming winter months.
LETTING GO: Just as trees shed their leaves, Autumn in TCM represents the energy of letting go. It is a time to release what is unnecessary, both physically and emotionally. In TCM, the lungs are associated with the emotion of grief, making autumn an opportune time to address and release unresolved grief and sadness.
BALANCING YIN AND YANG ENERGIES IN AUTUMN
TCM views health as a state of balance between yin and yang energies. Yin represents the cooling, moistening, and calming aspects of the body, while yang represents the warming, active, and energizing qualities. Autumn, with its cooling temperatures, signifies the increase in yin energy and the decline of yang energy from the previous summer season.
Nourishing Yin: As the yang energy wanes, it is essential to nourish the yin aspect of the body to maintain balance. This can be achieved through consuming yin-nourishing foods such as soups, stews, and steamed vegetables. These foods provide hydration, warmth, and nourishment to the body's yin energy.
Protecting Yang: While yin energy increases, protecting the body's yang energy becomes crucial. Wearing warm clothing and consuming warming foods like ginger, cinnamon, and garlic can help preserve yang energy, ensuring that the body stays warm and energized.
Balancing Emotions: Emotionally, autumn is a time when grief and sadness may surface. Balancing these emotions can be achieved through practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature. Additionally, acupuncture and herbal remedies tailored to balance the Metal element can support emotional well-being.
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR MAINTAINING HEALTH IN AUTUMN
-Dietary Choices: Emphasize warm, cooked foods and beverages. Include seasonal vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, which are abundant during this time. Herbal teas with warming spices like cinnamon and ginger can be particularly soothing.
-Hydration: Combat the dryness of autumn by staying well-hydrated. Consume warm water and herbal teas throughout the day. Avoid excessive intake of caffeinated and sugary beverages, which can dehydrate the body.
-Protecting the Lungs: The lungs are particularly vulnerable during autumn. Practice deep breathing exercises and consider wearing a scarf to protect your throat and lungs from chilly winds. Regular aerobic exercise can also enhance lung function and improve overall respiratory health.
-Balanced Rest: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule and ensure you get adequate rest. With the days growing shorter, it's essential to honour your body's natural circadian rhythms and adjust your sleeping patterns accordingly.
-Emotional Well-being: Acknowledge and express any feelings of grief or sadness. Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfilment. Consider journaling or talking to a therapist to explore and release unresolved emotions.
ACUPRESSURE POINTS for Balancing the Metal Element
Acupressure, a technique involving the application of pressure to specific points on the body, can be used to balance the Metal element. Here are two acupressure points when combining them they balance the yin and yang of the Metal element:
Taiyuan, Lung 9 - Supreme Abyss
Hold your hand with the palm facing you. On the radial (thumb) side of the wrist crease, find the hollow between a tendon on the thumb side, the radial artery next to it, and the bone at the base of the hand. Tune into the Qi at the point. Notice how you feel as you hold it. Notice whether it affects your breathing or your mood.
Hegu, Large Intestine 4 - Joining Valley
If you tuck your thumb into the side of your hand, a crease is made. At the end of that crease is a bulge. Press your opposite thumb into the muscle at the highest point of the bulge and direct pressure towards the hand. Roll around until you find a sensitive area. This is the point. Hold for a few minutes or until the sensitivity decreases. Stimulating this point will support you in letting go of all those things that are no longer helpful to you, and no longer in service of your wellbeing. CAUTION: stimulating this point is contraindicated in pregnancy!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn is a time of transition, balance, and introspection. By understanding and aligning with the unique characteristics of this season, individuals can support their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Embracing the wisdom of TCM, we can navigate the autumnal energies with mindfulness, nurturing our bodies and minds in harmony with the natural rhythms of the universe. As the leaves fall and nature enters a period of rest, we too can find solace in the embracing energies of autumn, preparing ourselves for the winter ahead, with a balanced and harmonious approach to life and health.
*The featured photographs of autumn are by my friend Anja Benedik
** DISCLAIMER: Before starting any acupressure practice, it's advisable to consult with a qualified acupuncturist or healthcare professional, especially if you have underlying health conditions or concerns.