Fall is my favorite time of the year. Maybe it’s because I was born in October and because I love Halloween. I like all the costumes, and in the San Francisco area, it seems like it’s always time for a costume party. I also appreciate the other aspect of Halloween, Day of the Dead, Samhain as the time to remember our ancestors and our loved ones who are no longer with us.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, this time of year belongs to the Metal Element where the Lungs and Large Intestine play a key role. The colors are white and silver. In keeping with the theme of ancestors, Metal gives us the space to grieve and then allows us to let go and move on.
The Spirit of the Metal Element: The Po, "Our corporeal Soul"
“The 'Po journey' from the lungs to the intestines, lifting upward with the first breath of life and dropping downward with the last. In life, the Po resides in the Lungs and is responsible for vital involuntary physical functions such as breathing, peristalsis, and evacuation as well as sensation, balance, and muscular coordination. At death, the Po descends with the bones of the body to the underworld . . .”1
Now you know that the spirit of the Lungs are with us from when we are born until we die. Hopefully I haven’t completely spooked you out already. There’s another very important function that the Po serve while we are alive – to keep us from harm.
As Dechar writes, “The Po are our embodied knowing, our animal wit, our street smarts, the part of us that can sniff out what’s right or wrong, good or bad, safe or unsafe.”2
So how do we access these properties through acupuncture? There are three points I’ll focus – Lung 3, Lung 8, and Large Intestine 11
An Overview on Lung 3
Lung 3 ("LU3") or “Heavenly Palace”, is on the upper arm, 4 fingers down from the armpit (see the image below). This point can be used for cough, wheezing and asthma but it is also a spiritual point called a “Window to Heaven” point. I use it when people are grieving. It doesn’t always have to be about a death – it can be about letting go of relationships that no longer serve us. It is thought that Lung 3 can “help reestablish our connection with heaven as it inspires us within as breath and without as sunlight . . . In this way we may retain the lessons learned from past spiritual encounters without clinging to the person or organization that was a vehicle for them.”
Lung 3 from A Manual of Acupuncture by Deadman, Al-Khafaji and Baker
An Overview on Lung 8
Lung 8 ("LU8") or the “Meridian Gutter” ( also thought to be the "Metal within Metal" point) is strongest when needled between 3-5am, and on the Fall Equinox. It’s located on the thumb side of the wrist, about a thumb’s breadth above the wrist crease as shown here:
Lung 8 can be used for physical ailments such as fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, pain of the chest, and wheezing. Lonny Jarrett has a very interesting interpretation of the functions of this point. He notes, “Chronic sinusitis or diarrhea can be thought of at the body weeping tears of grief. By unblocking the meridian gutter, Lu-8 can help cleanse and renew our entire being. In this way we may restore luster and brilliance to the naturally unadorned mind and spirit.”4
An Overview on Large Intestine 11
Large Intestine 11 (LI11) also considered the “Crooked Pond” ( or alternatively, "Earth within Metal" point) is located at the end of the elbow crease as shown below:
Generally this point is used to relieve rashes, fevers, sore throat, itching, and toothache. It can also be used locally for elbow and shoulder pain. It can also be used to help us process our food and our emotions. Food stagnation can manifest in a stomachache, heaviness, or uncomfortable feeling after eating which “can be a sign that the stomach and large intestine are holding on and not processing life effectively. This can manifest as constantly chewing on the same emotional material without receiving the lesson offered, eliminating the waste, and moving on in life. Balancing the earth within metal can empower the virtues of assimilation and letting go.”
Foods for the Lungs and Large Intestine: Lily Bulb and Pears
I love the look and smell of dried lily bulb. In Chinese Medicine, we use Bai He (Lily bulb) to stop cough, calm the spirit, and moisten the Lungs. Pears are also good for moistening the Lungs and I often prescribe it as a home remedy for dry autumn coughs. For dessert, try this carmelized pear recipe drizzles with a touch of maple syrup or honey instead of caramel and I bet you’ll love it.
One last thought about the Metal element from Lorie Eve Dechar:
“Just as the lungs function to take in the air we need to live and the intestines to let go of what is not useful to our life, the po guide us in letting go of ways of being that are no longer efficient and opening to new, more efficient possibilities.”6
What are you looking to let go of this season? How can acupuncture help you move on?
Healing sound for the Metal element
Close your eyes and imagine the colors white and silver. Now, say the healing sound: Ssssssssss – like the sound of steam from a radiator. If you’d like to hear a wonderful musical interpretation, I recommend Six Healing Sounds by Yuval Ron and Dr. Richard Gold. For more information on Traditional Chinese Medicine and other seasons, please take a look at my posts on Spring, Summer, Late Summer, and Winter.