Autumn is here, and we are finalizing our preparations and stores for winter’s long night.
My gosh, October was a whirlwind, and now we are halfway through November. Time on the clocks and calendars have finally merged into one long week for me.
I’ve been really feeling the poignancy of this season.
The changing leaves, the loss of the sun-filled sky, death, what remains, and so on.
In the Five Elements of Chinese Medicine, Autumn is associated with the Metal element and the Lung and Large Intestine/Colon Organ Systems.
Metal is about retaining what is most important, and letting the rest go. It is what lies underneath, the bones of us, so to speak, and the gems as well.
3. Metal Season Lessons (tips to keep you healthy)
4. Working with dryness (and Recipe!)
5. Warming up with food and ginger (Recipe!)
6. An herbal tea to help with stress tolerance (Recipe!)
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Metal Season Contemplation
This time of year is often when we look within and become more introspective. What have been your takeaways, or things you’ve discovered about yourself and your life, as a result of this Autumnal season?
Since we’ve shifted into Autumn: I had my first solo birthday in I can’t remember – maybe 15 years? I celebrated with long Facetime and phone calls with friends and family near and far. It was actually a really lovely birthday! Quiet, introspective, filled with music, my first acupuncture session since February, and a day off from work. I made a delicious meal and had a yummy dessert that a friend had delivered to my apartment! It was all the things I love, and feel are most important in my life: connection with loved ones, music and art, health and healing, and of course… food.
November’s been off to a big start: I was in a recital that was live-streamed and felt well prepared for it considering the amount of time I had to prepare for it. The news has been busy filling up the airwaves, and to escape I took a few days off to head upstate to enjoy the peace of the fields and woods. Now I’m preparing another piece of music for another recital in… less than a month. I’m working with some new herbal clients, which is lovely.
I’m learning how to honor more of what is being asked of me, when to push, when to rest, I’m developing a greater sense of my capacity, and that I have “more” than I realized. I’m being asked to be better with managing my time between my herbal work, job, self-care, violin, and other activities.
I’m also learning that I often override my “I’m tired and should go to bed” response in favor of… relaxing, or reading, writing, etc. Then, of course, I don’t want to get up in the morning. What a vicious cycle!
A happier cycle is that I have learned that I currently adore going to the track to do laps of speed walking (I’m not a runner, I tried, it’s not for me) every day – even in the rain – so long as I feel well enough to go. I walk until I feel my body relax and release those feel-good endorphins.
How have you been doing with caring for your inner and outer self?
This season urges us to take care of our respiratory health, something we’ve all been hyper-aware of this year:
The Lungs are the only Yin (receiving and transforming-oriented) organ that comes into direct contact with the external world. The Stomach (a Yang, transport-oriented, organ) comes into contact with the external world through food/fluid ingestion. This is why our Wei Qi (internal defense system, aka immune system) is so closely tied with the health of not just our respiratory system – but our digestive system as well!
Because of this interaction with the external world, the Lungs are a very delicate organ. It is so very important to protect our Lungs this time of year, and this is why cold/flu season kicks up into high-gear: it is when our Lungs are most vulnerable.
What can we do to protect our most vulnerable Organ in Autumn?
The Lungs do not like dry and wind, so we need to be cautious with these two environmental aspects. Protect your neck with a scarf when you go outside – the acupuncture points on the back of your neck are “wind” points and if those are exposed to the cold and wind, well, cold and wind enter your body and sickness can take hold. Keep those necks covered and protected from wind and drafts of any kind! If you like to sleep with a window open, make sure it is not blowing that breeze directly onto your head.
The Lungs and Dryness
Run a humidifier in your home, or keep a simmering pot of water on the stove.
Because of my violin, I tend to keep humidity at around 40-50% during the months that the heaters are running. I use two different kinds of humidifiers, an evaporative and an ultrasonic, because my mother was kind enough to give me her unused ultrasonic humidifier last year! (Thanks Mom!) I do not run essential oils in my humidifiers (even though I have models that would allow for that), because I have cats and cats are very vulnerable to poisoning from essential oils. I don’t know the science of it, but it has to do with how their kidneys function.
If you want to “clean” your air, get a high-quality air purifier (https://austinair.com/shop/healthmate-plus/), burn some incense or ethically sourced sage/resins, or boil some water with herbs in the water.
Boiling herbs in water on the stove is cheap, it’s more plant-planet-friendly (because essential oils use a TON of plant material, like A TON), you can compost the spent material if you have that ability, and you are getting more moisture into the air in your home! I like a simple mixture of thyme and citrus peel. (That’s another thing I’ve learned this autumn: I really like to keep things simple!)
The other end of the Wei Qi spectrum involves our Stomach, and my favorite topic: Food.
Keep your body warm inside and out, so that it doesn’t have to work overtime keeping itself warm in these cold months AND alert to potential invaders (ie a cold or flu, bacteria or virus). By eating warm, nourishing foods, you allow your body and immune system to be nice and strong!
- Eat warm nourishing foods, warm liquids, and avoid those smoothies, salads and raw foods!
- For those of you iced coffee buffs, lay off the iced coffee until it gets hot out again.
- Lay off the processed foods and sugars because these tax and weaken the digestive system in the long run.
I practically live off of soup and broths this time of year, and cooked vegetables. Get the right balance *for you* of protein, vegetables and starchy carbs and you’re Wei Qi will thank you! (If you would like help figuring this out, set up a session with me.)
This is something I ask of all my clients, and it is worth the short-term discomfort for the long-term gains of healthier digestion and overall health.
Get outside and move – dress appropriately for the weather, in layers – and your Lungs and Liver will thank you for the movement and exercise!
Rest and sleep enough for your needs, and try to avoid using caffeine to get you through the day.
Have cold hands and feet this time of year?
Try a ginger soak!
I LOVE ginger soaks. They are so easy, and a great excuse to sit on the couch with a good book or movie.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: I’m a lazy herbalist. I use powdered dried ginger.
If you are motivated, you can get fresh ginger: slice a three-inch piece into thin coins. Then, put the ginger slices in a small pot of water, bring to a boil then turn off.
Next: get your foot soaking bucket out. Fill with hot water (as hot as you can tolerate without being burned or scalded), add Epsom salts if you desire, and powdered ginger (I use 2TB per soak). If you are using fresh ginger, put some cold water in your soaking tub, then add the hot ginger steep (ginger pieces and all), then top off with water at the hot-but-not-scalding temperature recommended above.
Set a towel on the floor wherever you’ll be sitting, put the bucket on top, roll up your pants and plunk your feet into the water and sit for a good 20-30 mins. I’m reading about six books right now, including this one (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0525512535?ie=UTF8&tag=quaternityhol-20&camp=1789&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=0525512535 ), journaling, taking two classes, and love my TV and movies so I’m usually well-entertained during my soak-time.
Try to do this earlier in the day, versus at night, so that your body can make use of ginger’s warmth for the entire day!
Stress Tolerance and Balance
If you are having a hard time feeling balanced in general, here’s something soothing for your being:
For years I have resisted ashwagandha. I’m not sure why because I’ve liked the “evenness” that it provides me on recent use – especially on the days where I feel scattered and anxious, or shut-down and low-energy.
Part of my resistance is the fact that it is very very popular and I tend to be weary of popular “mainstreamed” herbs. The other part is that, as a migraineur, I am afraid to try anything that has an effect on my energy levels or can increase Pitta. Yet, the ever popular gingko, and my continual love of St. John’s Wort, have shown me that just because an herb has been “mainstreamed” or popular doesn’t mean it is no longer potentially valuable in my life.
With that said, and with all of the changes we have all been going through, Ashwagandha kept “coming up” for me in my intuition. So, I decided to listen to my gut -for once- and try it.
Ashawghanda (Latin: Withania somnifera, Solanaceae family) is a highly regarded Ayurvedic herb that is mildly warming, bitter, astringent and sweet in taste. The root is often used, and it is considered a premier tonic and rejuvinative. It reduces Vata and Kapha, but raises Pitta and Ama with excessive use. It is not to be used when there is a cold or flu present, lymphatic congestion, high Ama (Phlegm in TCM), or severe congestion of any kind.
In recent years, Ashwaghanda has been used for those with Hashimoto’s and thyroid dysfunction (low or hypo thyroid, not hyper). It is noted as a tonic for building stamina, something those of us with Hashimoto’s often struggle with. It is often used with issues of chronic fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, nerve diseases, geneneral debility and exhaustion, anxiety, and if combined with arjuna bark it is beneficial with some heart/vascular disorders.
Click to read more….
So there you have it!
A little bit of everything for this seasonal change!
In the next newsletter, I’ll be writing about herbs to keep on hand for the inevitable cold/flu invasion. For me, the best medicine for colds/flus/infections is prevention.
What have been your takeaways, or things you’ve discovered about yourself and your life, as a result of this Autumnal season?
November 16, 2020