Chinese Medicine In The Autumn
Jill Ellen Smith L.Ac. M.Ac.
For the Howard County Women’s Journal – September 2007
Why Chinese Medicine in the autumn? According to ancient Eastern philosophy and medicine, the 4 seasons (actually 5 according to Chinese medicine), are flowing within us as well as swirling around us.
For example, the winds of Spring bring bursts of unkempt energy into our reality and gusts through our yards and homes. This same energy rises through our bodies as well. It can wreak havoc on some, especially if Blood deficient. The muscles will be stiff, and the joints will ache. I see a lot of irritable menopausal women at this time as well.
The heat of Summer will permeate our lives inside and out. Most of us notice this with an abundance of energy that we’d all love to bottle up and save to get us through the winter (some do… in the form of canned fruits and vegetables).
The lazy days of Late Summer (the 5th season according to Chinese medicine) bring with it the hazy humid dampness. All we want to do is laze away our afternoons as we enjoy the abundance of fresh foods available to us.
Are you getting the picture yet?
The seasons and humanity are inseparable.
Additionally, our natures are also dictated by whichever season predominates within us. A person may be a Spring type person, or a Summer type person. An Autumn type person, when in balance, tends to resonate with the approach of Fall. They will be the first to don their lovely scarfs and will glow in anticipation of the shorter days and longer nights. The lungs and the skin are the ‘organs’ associated with this seasonal element, so when out of balance, autumn type people will often be the ones to show up with skin and upper respiratory disorders. The large intestine is also associated with this seasonal element, so intestinal symptoms can flare up here as well.
So what does Autumn mean when looking through the Chinese medical lens? This is the season of harvest. This is the season of reaping the benefits of all the hard work we have done throughout the year. The farmer experiences this quite intimately as when taking stock of crops picked and sold. What grew well…what didn’t? Will the growth translate into the income (the resources) needed to meet the family’s financial needs as well.
In Autumn, it is most beneficial to behave consistent with the season. It is time to Autumn clean. This is different then the Spring cleaning. Where Spring cleaning is about making space for the abundance that is hoped to come; Autumn cleaning is about ridding oneself of what is no longer needed. It’s about holding onto only what is essential, only, to get thru the cold dark winter.
In the Autumn of our lives, we are well served to evaluate the gifts of our life. The blessings. What really matters, what doesn’t? This evaluative process is essential to carry an elder into his/her senior years with contentment.
Autumn brings with it dryness and crisp leaves. The heavy dampness of Late summer is fading, leaves let go of their branch and descend. This dryness can often show up with sinus issues and the first upper respiratory infections of the cold season. I recall several years ago, before I began my acupuncture journey; I‘d develop a deep throaty dry cough that at its worst would last for months. One year it even developed into bronchitis and then pneumonia. Once I began acupuncture treatment I learned about changes in my diet I had to make. I had to minimize the foods that were contributing to the cold dampness in me chest. This cold dampness transformed into a chronic debilitating cough with the inhaling of the first cool breaths of October. With ongoing treatment I experience a gradual decrease in the length of time my cough persisted. I have been chronic cough free for many years now.
Autumn is a time of Yang waning and descending, and Yin rising and increasing. Heat, light, that abundant energy gives way to hibernation and rest. This is good. This is how nature intended it to be. It is a time to dress appropriately to protect you from the season’s influence. Warmer clothing and protecting your neck region (a particularly vulnerable area if exposed to the cool windy air).
Acupuncture treatment can help you develop your body’s capacity to readjust to the seasonal shifts. Our bodies need to respond like a functional thermostat, maintaining a homeostasis that keeps us balanced and comfortable, and asymptomatic. With support and lifestyle changes (that your acupuncturist will coach you around), you can weather the seasons well. As nature intended.