In Chinese Medicine the seasons have specific rhythms and are interconnected with our body’s rhythms and cycles. Each season represent parts of the body, and is tied into Nature’s cycle, corresponding to one of Five Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood).
There’s an extra season in Chinese Medicine known as Late Summer- beginning in the last few weeks of February and lasting four to 6 weeks. It correlates to the Earth element and is a time of harvest, a time of plenty, of reaping what we have worked for throughout the year. The plants and animals have grown and produced the fruit of their labour.
If our Earth is of good quality, like quality soil, we will have the ability to produce good food to nourish ourselves
Earth is a point of stillness in the cycle of seasons, with the lush tranquil energy of heat, ripening and full. This is a time of slowing down. Earth season acts as the transition from Yang to Yin energy, supporting the space between the cycle of Spring growth (Wood), active Summer abundance (Fire) and the inward, cooler emotions of Fall and Winter (Metal & Water). Earth element is associated with the stomach, spleen, pancreas, muscles, and is related to the mouth.
Element – Earth, Color – Yellow, Nature – Yin/Yang Balance Organs – Stomach, Spleen, Emotion – Worry/Pensive Taste – Sweet, Condition – Damp
Late Summer Earth is a time of transition and a good time to relax, eat fresh food, and enjoy family and friends. Earth is a short, languid and still season, and it rests at the centre of Natures cycles. You may struggle with bouts of fatigue as a response to this season, and this low energy and/or motivation is usually triggered by over-exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep from the activities of Summer Fire. Make sure you get proper rest, exercise, stress reduction and nutrition to boost your energy in this Earth time.
In Late Summer, the rising strength in Earth energy creates stability, settledness, and a sense of “home”. Earth corresponds with nurturing, the Mother, a sense of self-worth, bonding and formation of trust in relationships.
When Earth is happy and nurtured, the Spleen is healthy with good digestion and elimination. The mind is balanced and secure, with a sense of belonging, grounding and connection.
When Earth is imbalanced, we worry or have excessive mental agitation, lack of concentration or memory loss. We feel needy for food or attention, seeking sympathy or distraction. An imbalance in Earth can manifest in exhaustion, loss of appetite, poor digestion or loose stools and diarrhea, easy bruising, excess menstrual flow or other bleeding disorders.
Due to its associated organs being digestive ones it makes sense that eating well at this time assists with balancing the Earth energy.
Eating for Late Summer
Orange and Yellow are the colours associated with Late Summer along with the taste of Sweet, so including foods that have these colours and taste will in turn assist health at this time. Good options include sweet potato, pumpkin & carrots.
Please keep in mind that sweets and processed/refined foods can aggravates the pancreas and spleen, irritate the stomach, and create excessive acid and “dampness”. This results in feeling more anxious, tired and unwell. Resisting these types of sweets is advised.
Eat fresh, nourishing foods. Fresh, local foods and don’t combine too many ingredients Be moderate with sugar, fried foods, and dairy. In hot, humid weather, avoid overeating. Lightly cooked food on moderate temperature is easier on digestive system. Eat sour or pungent flavors to help disperse dampness and regulate digestion. Get exercise as dampness tends to settle in and make you feel lethargic.
Always remember balancing work, socializing and self- care is essential for a healthy body, mind and spirit.
The weather is warming, the birds are chirping and the sweet smell of blossoming flowers is in the air, yes Spring is here. Spring is a time of birth and new beginnings, the energy and movement is expansive, it’s a time when we wake up from the slumber of winter and everything comes back to life. In Chinese medicine the changing of seasons has a great effect on our bodies on all levels, physically, mentally and spiritually. There are certain things, which are relevant to the seasons, which we can do to help us with this transition to ensure good health and prevent pain and dis-ease.
One of the common methods revolves around something we do every day…eat! In Chinese medicine, what we put into our bodies greatly affects our health so in order to maintain good health we should be mindful of what we are feeding it. One of the basic principles is to eat according to the season. By consuming foods that are in season and that are similar in nature to the external environment our bodies are better equipped in adapting to the cyclic flow of the seasons thus maintaining health.
In Chinese medicine spring is associated with the wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder (please note this is not necessarily the Liver/Gallbladder from a western medical view but rather its energetic functioning). If we are unable to adapt to the change into spring common seasonal health problems can include colds/flus or a relapse of chronic disease. For those with an underlying Liver imbalance spring time can aggravate the Liver which can lead to headaches and stiff/wry neck, this can be particularly aggravated when it’s windy.
As your Liver and spring time are associated with the colour green it’s no wonder the recommendation is to eat Greens!! Fresh green, leafy vegetables and sprouts are fantastic options. Green tea is also great at this time of the year, as well as other herbal teas including chamomile, jasmine, peppermint, chrysanthemum and orange peel. To soothe and regulate Liver Qi pungent, sweet flavours are recommended. Some of the recommended foods include onions, leeks, spinach, Chinese yam, dates, along with most grains, legumes and seeds which are sweet in flavour. Herbs such as basil, garlic, cayenne, dill, cardamom and chive are useful as well.
Due to nature of the season light and raw food is recommended, however where possible aim to limit overeating raw, uncooked, foods and avoid fried, and processed foods as these can harm the functioning of the Spleen and Stomach if consumed in excess. Aim to not eat late at night as it may affect sleeping.
Spring’s association with the Liver and Gallbladder can explain the emotional challenges that may be experienced or aggravated during this time. The emotional energy of the Liver/Gallbladder and therefore spring is anger and frustration. If Liver qi is not flowing smoothly and freely and becomes constrained these emotions can arise, and quite aggressively at times which I’m sure you’ve experienced yourself or have witnessed in another at times. To help with this get outside (experience the warm sun and the aliveness of nature around you) and move!! Hike, walk, play sports, try yoga Tai Chi or Qi Gong, whatever takes your fancy now’s the time to start moving. This will get the Liver Qi flowing and you feeling great.
Other recommendations for spring:
- Eat fresh local produce that’s in season
- Great time to start a food/herbal liver cleanse
- As the wood element relates to growth and is Yang in nature it’s a good time to start a new project.
- Get outside and do more outdoor activities
- As weather can change from quite cool to warm in the spring, make sure you dress accordingly with layers
- Come in for an acupuncture treatment or herbal prescription. Chinese medicine works to balance your body and mind and can help to improve overall health. Seasonal acupuncture can help to harmonize your body with the changing of the seasons along with treating any other issues you may be experiencing before they become more serious. In the way you take your car for a regular service you can take your body in to J
Contact myself or a Chinese medicine practitioner near you to see how acupuncture can help you this spring.
With the days growing shorter and the nights becoming cooler we can start to see and feel that Autumn has indeed arrived. This marks the beginning into the Yin phase of our season where the energy starts to slow down and we tend to find ourselves becoming more introspective and more reflective on our lives.
Have any of you been feeling pushed lately over the last couple of months. That your “stuff” keeps, coming up and getting brought to the surface or attention drawn to it? This may be in the form of old memories or patterns, different emotions and so on. To make sense of this, aside from the planetary alignments, full moons and new moons which yes absolutely have a profound effect on us, the season of Autumn is associated with the element Metal and the organs of the Lung and Large Intestine. Physically you can tend to see or experience a lot of coughs and respiratory conditions, dry skin, digestive complaints, constipation and so on. But emotionally our “stuff” tends to get brought up and gets more of a focus shone on it as Autumn is all about the emotion of grief and Letting Go. It’s the season where we become more reflective, what’s sitting there for us emotionally gets a spotlight so we can acknowledge it and let it go. Like the leaves that fall from the tree, we must take a cue from nature and drop our leaves, look what is not serving us anymore and let it go. Getting outside in nature and going for a walk can be a great place to start.
Below are some other good tips for maintaining emotional health and balance in Autumn:
- Take time out to be quiet. To sit still and breathe.
- Go within yourself and reflect what’s sitting there. This may be old memories, emotions, resentments and so forth. Attempt to resolve where possible and let them go. For issues you can’t resolve directly with others or for old issues within yourself, writing them all down on a piece of paper and burning it or throwing it away can be a great tool to release what’s no longer serving you.
- The element of Metal relates to organisation, order and stability. It can be a great time to go through your home or work space and clear out what’s of no use to you and re-organize.
- Try to manage your stress levels. Incorporate activities like mediation, yoga, gardening, exercise, and so forth that enable you to decrease or release your stress.
- Get more sleep. With the days becoming shorter and transitioning into the most Yin time of the year its natural for us to sleep more.
- If you are having trouble processing things talking to someone can always be helpful. Acupuncture can also assist during these times
As you may be feeling it’s starting to cool off outside, we are now reaching for that extra layer and wanting to keep warm. Yes we are now in the season of winter, the most Yin time of our year. A time where the energy turns inward and we start to turn to more introspective activites like reading, watching movies, cuddling up in bed and so on. This is a very natural process, if you look at nature what do the animals do…they hibernate….they physically eat, stay warm and go to sleep. In reality this is what we should also follow, it’s a time for us to rest and rejuvenate before the fresh new burst of energy and life that comes with Spring. The ancient sages understood and knew of the importance of living in harmony with the seasons. They believed that for the cultivation of health or life one had to abide by this principle.
The Kidney and Bladder are the organs associated with the season of winter and emotionally it relates to the emotion of fear. Fear is a natural and necessary emotion for us when it arises appropriately. The issue arises however when we start existing and living our days in a state of fight or flight and our lives run by fear. As the Kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear this depletes their energy or Qi which in turn feeds this cycle generating more feelings of fear, panic and insecurity. The key to breaking this cycle and assisting yourself during these times is to de-stress. Stop, take a breath, slow down even just for a moment. Meditation is a perfect exercise.
Our diet, what we feed ourselves also has a vital role in our health. Eating foods that are local and in season are a great start. There’s no coincidence that foods that are naturally available during winter are beneficial to our body and in the winter particularly for our Kidneys. Eating warm hearty soups and stews, whole grains, root vegetables, roasted nuts, beans and legumes (such as adzuki and kidney beans and chickpeas), and warming herbs such as ginger and garlic are all beneficial. For the non-vegetarians it’s also the perfect time to include meat, in particular red-meat, as it’s very Yang in nature.
Another important tonifying food in the winter is salt. It is the flavour associated with the Kidneys and therefore in small amounts will help to tonify the Kidneys. Please take note on the source and quality of your salt however, the best being unrefined sea salt or Himalayan sea salt as they contain all the minerals in the same ratio as the minerals that make up our blood!
Other tips for winter include:
- Keeping warm, especially your neck, feet and low back
- Try not to sleep with window open as a draught while you sleep can lead to waking with a stiff neck or cold
- Get enough rest and down time
- Meditate, try yoga, Qi Gong or Tai Chi
- Avoid eating cold, raw food and eat more warm nourishing foods like soups and stews
- Try to avoid stress and overworking self….listen to thy body
- Have an Epsom salt bath
- Limit the peppermint and green tea and try chai or ginger tea
Part One… The Introduction
When people come to see me they often wonder things like why is she looking at my tongue? What’s going on with my pulses? What’s with all these questions about my dietary habits when I came for sleep problems? And mostly how does this really all work??
Let me tell you I once asked all these questions’ myself, which prompted me personally to go on the path of learning the art of Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine dates back thousands years and is something that I feel is not only a medical system in itself, but also an art form and a way of living. The system draws most of its information or way from the observation of nature, of what is around us every day, and views that what plays out in nature in our world (macro-organism) reflects what plays out in our own body, our inner world (micro-organism). The balance of all this determines whether we lye in a state of health or disharmony.
When someone comes in for a consultation it is not just the main issue the practitioner takes into account. From the moment you walk through the door the practitioner is looking for clues, clues that will eventually provide the answers to what is really going on for this person. From the way the person walks into the clinic (which in itself can indicate whether their holding pain and even where they are holding pain, have they had a stroke, are they confident to the world or shy away from it, etc), to the sound of the voice when they talk, the spirit within their eyes, colour of the their skin, their smell, and well I’m probably sounding a little creepy now but yes this all provides tiny bits of information to let the practitioner know what is really going on.
The practitioner then moves a little deeper, questions asked about what is going on for the person, how long it’s been there, the nature of it, and so on. If required (and with permission of the patient) palpation on the possible area of pain or of some of the acupuncture meridians is performed. The tongue is then looked at as it provides more clues based on many factors including its size, shape, colour, and coat, and finally the pulse is taken. Pulse taking is not just about how fast or slow your pulse rate is. Although this is one of the qualities the practitioner takes into account, there are others such as its fullness or weakness, possible tension in the pulse, what level is it at its strongest and much, much more. This all comes together to form a picture of what is really going on for that person. This is the art of diagnosis in Chinese medicine.
You see it’s not just that dodgy back you have come in for to get treated that the practitioner is looking at. This is just a symptom, a branch on a tree, in Chinese medicine what the practitioner is looking for is why has this presented in this person in this way, they are looking for the “root” cause. Only when you take the whole person into account, mentally physically, emotionally and spiritually, can you find what is really going on for that person, and when treated at its root level the healing is much more profound.
This, my friends is the definition of holistic health.
By Jessica Breust- White Dragon Chinese Medicine