The time for the Earth Element is Late Summer, around the 3rd week of August through September and the Fall Equinox. The Spleen and Stomach belong to the Earth element. They help us digest information as well as food, hence they are good for helping us study and setting intentions.
The flip side of this season is the tendency to worry and obsess. Someone with a weakness in the Earth element may worry a lot or at the extreme, ultimately becoming obsessive compulsive. They may also have digestive weaknesses like diarrhea, stomach ache, or more severe intolerances to food like gluten intolerance or a shellfish allergy.
Foods for Late Summer: Spices, Cucumbers & More
I know it seems like Fall as soon as people start getting pumpkin spice lattes. I like to think of pumpkin spices as a mingling of the Earth element properties – foods like pumpkin that are orange and yellow help strengthen Earth. Herbs like cardamom, nutmeg and ginger help us to digest our foods better and are also good for the Earth element. More warming spices like cinnamon carry us through Fall and into the Winter.
If you’d like to try something a little less sweet than a pumpkin spice latte, I recommend Date and Ginger tea. This recipe uses red dates which you can find in an Asian grocery store, like the ones found around my neighborhood in San Francisco. Foods that are naturally sweet like dates, ginger, and honey strengthen the Spleen and Stomach. It’s been very hot in the Bay Area lately and Kirsten Cowan from Angelica & Peony has some great recommendations for other hot teas to cool down.
For a tasty late summer dish, I recommend trying baked chick peas with tahini-yogurt sauce. For gluten-free folks, you can skip the pita bread or substitute your favorite gluten-free pizza crust. I also recommend salads such as the classic Turkish cucumber salad, beet greens, and olives.
Another thing to remember about the Earth element is that cooked foods are easier on the digestion. In this case, “cooking” also includes fermenting – like sauerkraut and pickled vegetables. Cultured foods such as yogurt and crème fraîche are also better for us.
The spirit of the Earth element: intention, commitment, perseverance
Each organ system in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory has a spirit associated with it. Yi is the spirit of the Earth element. It’s about setting intention and seeing it through. Lorie Eve Dechar writes in her book Five Spirits
When the Yi is fulfilling its function, we fully commit ourselves to manifesting our destiny and bringing the light of our spirits into the world around us. The Yi is the soul aspect that lets the world know that we mean to stand by our dreams . . .
The Yi endows us with the power to stand behind our words through committed, persevering action. Throughout them, we stay with our task and stay on our path. And through them we gain the capacity to digest experiences and impressions and turn them into usable ideas that empower our action into the world. 1
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the Spleen and Stomach are part of our center – not just the physical center of our body, but of our minds and spirit as well:
Healing involves strengthening a person’s center. It means being able to listen inside to one’s own voice. And it also means having the power to move from the realm of abstract ideas into concrete action. Thus we nourish the seeds of our dreams. 2
Acupuncture Point "Stomach 36": Helping Us to Help Ourselves
If I were alone on a desert island and only had a few acupuncture needles, I would absolutely needle Stomach 36. It is one of the best points in the body to strengthen our immune system. It also helps with all kinds of digestive issues and alleviates depression. It helps us to help ourselves.
Stomach 36 is located on the lateral side of the lower leg here:
This point can be used at any time, however 7am-9am and late summer are the specific times for the Stomach. In The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, Lonny Jarrett says Stomach 36 helps us:
"Seek out and acquire appropriate sources of nourishment, digest and assimilate acquired nourishment, create Qi and Blood from them, and finally to build ourselves newly out of these resources." 3
Due to its location on the lower leg, Stomach 36, or "Leg Three Miles", “can strengthen this foundational joint and enable us to move vigorously forward in life with intention and momentum”. 4
In some schools of thought, the Stomach and Spleen are at the core of our immune system. This is a great time of year to come in and get an "acupuncture tune-up" to strengthen your immune system, prepare you for Fall, and prevent colds and flus.
Late summer is also a time of transition. It’s the end of summer vacation and the beginning of school and work. It’s almost but not quite Fall. It’s also the calm before the holiday storm, if you start counting from Halloween. Take some time to think about the spirit of the Earth element and how it applies to your own life right now.
What intentions do you want to set? What dreams do you want to make reality?
A Healing Sound for the Earth Element
Close your eyes and imagine the colors yellow and orange. Say the healing sound: Whoooooo (If you’d like to hear a wonderful musical interpretation, I recommend Six Healing Sounds by Yuval Ron and Dr. Richard Gold.)
Additional Information on the Seasons and Elements
1 Dechar, Lorie Eve, Five Spirits pp 216-17
2 Dechar, p. 226
3 Jarrett, Lonny S., The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, p 637
4 Jarett p 637