Fantastic Fall: and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Fall. The air becomes a bit crisper, you can see and smell the
changing of the leaves... everything slows down, the days shorten,
and harvest is just around the corner.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers practical advice for
adjusting to seasonal changes. One of the basic concepts in TCM is
the 5 Element Theory of correspondences. Each element has an
associated season, emotion, taste, organ...
The Season of Autumn is associated with the element Metal. The
emotional aspect is Grief. The predominant taste is Spicy. The
associated and most effected organ in Fall are the Lung and Large
Intestine and the most common external element is Dryness.
The Seasons, Stress, and Colds and Flu
Seasonal change, like any change, can cause stress. The main cause of
stress in TCM is Wind. Wind is said to be the "agent of 10,000
diseases," (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine). Wind
is understood to be not just the movement of air, but also, any
sudden change. TCM has known for thousands of years that stress can
cause sickness, and modern research has certainly proved this.
To combat stress, stay in a routine. To avoid colds and flu, keep
your immune system up, cover your neck whenever outdoors and stay out
of drafts. Wash your hands frequently, eat a balanced diet, get good
quality sleep and exercise three times a week.
The Lung and Large Intestine
In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are an organ system that opens
directly to the exterior. It's function is to regulate and control
the breath through inhalation and exhalation. Because of its opening
through the nose, the lungs are easily susceptible to cold, heat,
dryness, dampness, and most of all, heat and wind. This can effect
the biggest organ of the body; the skin. The lung is closely related
to the large intestine.
The large intestine controls the transformation of digestive wastes
from liquid to solid state and transports the solids onwards and
outwards. It plays a major role in the balance and purity of bodily
fluids and assists the lungs in controlling the skin's pores and
perspiration. It depends on the lungs for movement via the expansion
and contraction of the diaphragm, which works like a pump to give
impetus to peristalsis by regulating abdominal pressure.
The solar plexus Chakra is located below the diaphragm separating the
lungs and the large intestine. This energy center is located at
greatest nerve ganglia system in our bodies. This center allows for
the communication between the upper and lower parts of the body and
is connected to almost all the organs. The solar plexus is often
where we consider our "gut" feeling to come from. This is also where
the connection between the three lower Chakra interchange with the
four higher Chakra energy centers.
The Metal Element
The element, Metal is associated with the Fall season and with
The element is associated with the lungs and large intestines and
related to the skin and the nose.
Emotionally, this element is associated sadness, as metal, like the
season itself, represents a withdrawal from life. Reverence is
sadness without the loss. This is what makes people cry when they are
moved by an experience. A lack of reverence in your life is
equivalent to the lack of nourishment from everyday things. The
appreciation of each moment in the present, is the virtue of this
element in balance.
The character of metal is "sharp, retracting, polised and finishing."
People with the metal element in their personalities can be well-
organized, have strong boundaries, are methodical, principle-
oriented, analytical, and are very orderly. Emotionally, metal
personalities can appear cold, distant or uninterested. They tend to
favor intellect and reason over emotion. Metal out of balance, tends
towards worries about the future.
Physically, metal out of balance can manifest as asthma, allergies,
colds or flu, constipation, diarrhea or ibs.
Dryness is a common problem in Autumn. Dryness can manifest as
constipation, dry throat, dry skin, dry eyes, dry brittle hair,
thirst, and lack of sweat. Most people do not drink enough fluids
regularly, let alone in the Autumn. Spicy food can cause or worsen
dryness. Be careful not to get stuck in the vicious cycle of craving
the same food that makes your symptoms worse!
Grief and Nostalgia
With Fall comes "gathering in, stocking up, mingled with a sense of
loss as the light begins to fade and the air chills," (Between Heaven
and Earth, p.205). Grief is, of course, quite natural and appropriate
in many situations. But excessive and/or long-term grief can harm the
Lung system (a group of correspondences including but not limited to
the actual biomedical lungs), and likewise, people with Metal or Lung
problems can be frequent grievers, criers. And let's not forget that
more positive form of grief... nostalgia, tends to occur more in
the 'Fall' of our lives.
Strengthening the immune system should be a part of any seasonal
ritual! Any tonic formula that strengthens the lungs, nourishes the
Qi and moistens the skin is appropriate. Remember, the best form of
medicine, is preventative.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac.
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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