Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, is thought to have said “food is medicine”. So too does Chinese medicine consider that food is the cornerstone of good health – and that it can be used to prepare the body for different seasons along with healing the body when illness arises. So what can you do to prepare yourself for winter?
1. The focus for Autumn
Practically, autumn is the season for harvesting, collecting and storing in preparation for winter. This is true metaphorically also – you should be preparing your body for winter by internally gathering energy and storing it.
Heat left over from the warm summer months should be finally cleared before the body is fortified against the cooler weather of winter. Here in Perth we need also focus on moistening the dryness that is a feature of our climate, particularly in January and February. The digestion is important just as much in autumn as any other time of the year as it’s Chinese organs, the Spleen and Stomach, work closely with the Lungs to promote immunity.
2. Chinese medicine organ for Autumn
Each season has a corresponding Chinese medicine organ. Remember that organs in Chinese medicine are more like an energetic concept as opposed to the concrete matter we understand in the west.
The Lung is responsible for Wei Qi (say: way chi) which is similar to immunity. If your Wei Qi is not in shape by Winter you will be the one who “gets every bug going around”. The Lungs also control the dispersing of Qi in the body and are susceptible to dryness. If the Lungs are deficient and not nourished during autumn you could experience internal Dryness, which may manifest with such symptoms as dry lips, a dry cough, dry skin, itchiness and constipation.
The Lungs draw Qi downwards, which applies pressure on the intestines to aid in eliminating waste. If your Lung Qi is weak or deficient, constipation may be common at this and other times of the year.
Strong, moistened Lungs are a must as you head into winter!
3. Flavour associated with Lungs
Pungent foods assist in opening and clearing the Lungs. Because your Lungs are responsible for the dispersing Qi throughout the body, they need help to do this particularly in autumn to increase your Wei Qi.
3. Key actions
- eat seasonal – autumn foods should clear and moisten the lungs and support the digestive system. As soon as autumn arrives, avoid large amounts of cold drinks and food, along with summer fruits like melon – or you may damage your digestive function.
- Aid your digestion with dark green and orange vegetables, try to include some figs if you can still get them.
- Moisten your Lungs with apples and pears, try some lima and navy beans too.
- Start to move away from salads towards steaming and stewing, soups are good too. Use pungent spices and herbs in your cooking; think basil, coriander, dill, fennel, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, turmeric and thyme. Towards the end of autumn ensure you are beginning to consume more root vegetables, cabbage is good also.
- Consume some sour foods with your pungent foods – olives, pickles, lemons, yoghurt, limes, grapefruit, green apples, umeboshi plums and sauerkraut.
- Pork, chicken, tempeh and nuts in small amounts are good in autumn.
4. Food inspirations
- Leek and potato soup (try adding a sweet potato too)
- Pork and chinese vegetable soup (bok choy is good; add some mandarin peel during cooking)
- Chicken and fig tagine
- Chicken, mushroom, spinach and barley soup
- Chilli con carne (remember to get some pulses in there – borlotti or navy beans are both good)
- Stewed pears with cinnamon