Autumn is a wonderful time of year. The air becomes crisp and cool and the leaves change from green to red, orange, and gold. How can we keep ourselves healthy so we can enjoy this time of year? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help keep our body, mind, and spirit healthy and balanced throughout the fall season.
TCM is one of the oldest medical treatments used in the world today. It includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet therapy, massage, and cultivation of your body’s vital energy or qi (“chee”). It began in China over 2000 years ago and has been used as a popular medical treatment ever since. One of the distinguishing characteristics of TCM is that it looks at the body as a whole, rather than focusing on individual systems. Ancient practitioners compared the body to cycles found in nature, one of these being the seasons. To remain healthy one must follow the natural circulation of energy through these cycles.
The season of autumn is linked with the metal element. The qualities associated with metal include clarity, purity, discernment, structure, and value. Metal is associated with the movements of contraction and condensation. This is the time of year when the plants have reached their fullest potential. Like the metal element, the energy of fall is contraction, moving inwards and downwards. Leaves and fruit fall from the trees. Plants wither and die. They begin the decline towards the dormancy of winter, followed by their rebirth during spring.
In our bodies the metal element is linked to the organs of the lungs and large intestine. These organs are involved in the processes of taking in, and letting go on all levels, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. On the physical level this includes breathing, the immune system, health of the skin and large intestine function. On a non-physical level these organs encompass the grieving process, the ability to keep what is valuable and let go of what is not, and forgiveness.
To remain healthy during the autumn season we should encourage our energy to move inward and downward. We should take time for ourselves to reflect on our lives. It is a good time to concentrate on what direction we’d like our life to go and what steps we can take to get there. It is beneficial during this time to find what is sacred and valuable in our lives and let go of what isn’t. It is also a time of year when buried grief can rise to the surface. It is best to deal with this grief and express it in a healthy way. Often repressed grief can lead to later problems with the lungs and colon. If we take time in the fall to do these things it can lead to greater clarity and purity in our lives.
We also need to protect our lungs during this season. Many people have an increase in allergy symptoms during the fall. This is also the beginning of cold and flu season. If we do things to keep our lungs healthy during the fall, we can often avoid the illnesses that come during the winter. It is important to get enough sleep. The days are shorter and we should go to bed earlier than we did in the summer time. We also need to take some time each day to be with ourselves and most importantly Breathe!
photo credit: Laura Breeden L.Ac.