In Chinese Medicine theory, there are five natural elements that exist within us, as they do in nature. Each season belongs to a particular element and has unique correspondences. When we study nature’s patterns and cycles, we can learn how to support our own health and stay well year-round.
Fall’s Associations in Chinese Medicine:
Yin organ: lungs
Yang organ: large intestine
Sense organs: nose
Yin organ time: 3-5am
Yang organ time: 5-7am
Virtues: purity, self worth, receptivity, inspiration
The fall welcomes the metal element. Trees drop their leaves, days are shorter and cooler, and pumpkin spice lattes replace iced mochas. We depart from the expansive, endless days of summer and hunker down into routine and structure. While some of us long for summer’s sun, fun and freedom, others feel exhilarated by the crispness and structure promised by fall.
Wherever you are in the seasonal transition, the teachings and practices of Chinese Medicine supports the body, mind and spirit in the midst of change. In preparation for Fall, our focus turns to strengthening the metal element’s organ system pair, the Lungs and Large Intestine, and practice that which we observe in nature: letting go.
Along with your seasonal acupuncture tune-up, consider these 9 self-care tips for a healthy fall:
Practice letting go.
Come fall, we may feel the weight of excess accumulation from the summer in the form of mental and physical clutter. Just as the trees let go of their leaves, it’s time to shed what no longer serves us. Whether it means cleaning out a closet, winding down a relationship, or ending a habit, finding ways to let go will help ease the transition into fall.
Protect your neck.
In Chinese Medicine theory, “wind is the cause of 1,000 diseases”. Wind enters the body at the back of the neck, and causes conditions that develop quickly, like colds, flus, headaches, and sore throats. Temperature fluctuations that are typically seen this time of year make us even more susceptible to wind. Remembering to wear a scarf or hoodie offers extra protection against wind invasions.
Practice deep breathing.
The Lung organ system is most active during fall- who doesn’t love taking deep breaths of fresh, crisp autumn air? Deep, cleansing breaths are necessary for stress release, clear thinking, and proper physiological functioning. Deep breathing exercises stimulates lung qi, which contributes to a strong immune system and an uplifted spirit. Tip: include chest opening essential oils like pine, eucalyptus, grapefruit, or frankincense into your breath work practice.
Do some grief work.
Grief is part of the qi of the season and the emotion associated with metal and the lungs. It’s natural to feel some sadness this time of year. There is decay in nature, and a strong sense of letting go as nature prepares for new life. Acknowledging feelings of grief and creating a practice around it will allow feelings of sadness and loss to move through in a healthy way.
Connect with what inspires you.
Inspiration is the yin to eliminations yang. While the theme of fall is to let go, inspiration is an important virtue of the metal element. The job of the lungs, after all, is to “inspire”! Whether it’s revisiting a book or podcast, going to the art museum, or picking up your yoga practice, connecting with what inspires you will support the spirit of the lungs and help you feel uplifted during the shorter days to come.
Sip on spices.
The flavor associated with the fall is “pungent”, which means aromatic and spicy. Pumpkin spice lattes and chai teas fall under this category. Spices likes cinnamon, ginger, clove, and anise help clear the lungs from congestion and phlegm, open the airways, and stimulate proper respiratory functioning. It’s important to keep the lungs strong as they are the first line of defense against illness.
So long, salads and watermelon! Eating raw, cold-natured foods during the cooler months contributes to damp accumulation, which feels like congestion, heaviness, and lethargy. It’s time for nourishing soups, stews, and stir-frys. The color associated with fall is white, so try including white and spicy foods like scallions, leeks, horseradish, onion, and garlic into your cooking.
The climate associated with fall is dryness. While the lungs mostly prefer to be dry, too much dryness disrupts proper lung functioning. Chapped skin, a scratchy throat, and dry nasal passageways are signs of lung dryness. To nourish the lungs and keep the membranes healthy (which is essential for optimal immunity), make sure to stay hydrated (this is easily forgotten when days are cooler). Other ways to soothe dryness: sip honey in hot water, take elderberry or black cherry herbal syrup, eat mucilaginous (slimy) foods like okra and eggs, use a humidifier, and lather up with almond or coconut oil.
Who enjoys shopping at the Container Store as much as I do? Ok, maybe the thrill of new bins and desk organizers isn’t your thing. But if there’s a time of year to finally get things in order, here it is. The metal element thrives on structure and organization. Organization creates space for ideas, inspiration, and planning. For more on this, check out our related article: Why Fall is the Perfect Time to Tidy Up ( and Other Lessons from the Metal Element).