Autumn is almost here, you can feel the change in the weather. Mornings are a slightly crisp, the dry winds have picked up, and autumn is just around the corner here in Perth! But, did you know that Chinese medicine is very particular about diet and lifestyle during the different seasons?
Autumn is a time for collecting the harvest, putting our bounty away ready for the colder months of winter. Apples and pears are coming into fruit in areas like Manjimup, Donnybrook and Pemberton. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkins, sweet corn and swedes are all beginning to make their appearance at the farmers markets. Just as we begin to harvest our foods and put them away for winter, so should we also harvest or gather our energy together and store it ready for winter.
Autumn is the season for the Chinese Lung organ* and it’s paired organ, the Large Intestines. The Lungs are associated with metal and dryness, and the sense organ in Autumn is the nose. The predominant flavour is pungent, which is up-lifting and dispersing. The Chinese medicine Lung is responsible for taking air in and “dispersing” the oxygen through our bodies, and most importantly, takes nutrients from the Chinese Spleen organ and creates Wei Qi, which Chinese medicine says is the protective layer around our bodies designed to protect us from illness.
The Lungs, then, are extremely important during this time of Autumn which coughs, colds and flus start appearing, as the Lungs through the Wei Qi are an important factor in our immune system. A weak Wei Qi will mean that we get every cold and flu going, as it is said in Chinese medicine that Wind brings disease into the body, most particularly through the neck.
Another aspect of Autumn is dryness, which the wind does a good job of promoting. Here in Perth another name for February could be Windruary. Having grown up in a tropical climate, I am particularly aware of how drying February winds are – and understanding the wind from a Chinese medicine perspective and how to protect your body through building Wei Qi is important to ensure you do not get sick. Wind attacks the Lungs, dries moisture in our nose and mouth. If your Wei Qi isn’t the best and you still have residual heat from summer in your body, the wind can dry you out and you may end up with a condition known as Wind Heat – this causes coughs, which are common in autumn. If your Wind Heat is not resolved in timely manner, this can progress to Heat Phlegm – where your cough becomes “productive” – i.e. phlegmy.
So, how can you build up your Wei Qi and protect yourself from the drying effects of wind?
Pungent foods are important in autumn, as they get energy moving up to the lungs and cause the lungs to open up and clear things out. Pungent foods also encourage wind to leave the body. We should also eat moistening foods that moisten dryness and support the Wei Qi.
Include the following moistening foods:
– Tofu, tempeh, bone broths, eggs and pork
– Spinach, mushrooms
– Barley, millet
– Pears, apples, persimmons
– Seaweeds (nori, dulse, etc.)
– Almonds, pinenuts, peanuts, sesame seeds
Include the following pungent foods:
– Bay leaves, caraway seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, pepper
– Capers, chives, dill, oregano, rosemary, thyme
– Watercress, fennel, leek, cabbage, turnip, ginger, horseradish, onions, garlic, chillies
Autumn is a good time to use methods that retain moisture in food – steaming, boiling, quick stir-fries, soups, slow cookers. Try to avoid too much use of the BBQ, or grilling/roasting foods.
Autumn is a time to pare down our social calendar and try to be a little more introspective and conserve your energy. Begin to turn inwards. If the weather is slightly cool, wear a scarf! Even if it is lightweight it will protect you from the wind. Now is a good time to let go of any negative emotions that are not serving you well.
Try to reduce activities that cause you to sweat profusely – unless you are sick, and then sweating is good to aid healing. Remember, conserve your energy and build yourself up ready for winter.
Wei Qi helpers
If you didn’t quite get your Wei Qi at optimum level and you manage to succumb to a cough, try these food suggestions –
Dry hacking cough
– Poached apples and/or pears, add a little bit of raw honey if you don’t have phlegm
– Persimmons, celery and nori are good foods to add in
– Try some fresh ginger when sick, perhaps in a tea. Ginger will encourage you to sweat, which will help you get better quicker.
– Keep your fluids up – room temperature, not cold
– Eat plenty of apples, bananas, peaches, pears, sesame oil and walnuts
Autumn is a beautiful time of the year here in Perth, the heat of summer begins to fade away, and delicious crisp apples from Manjimup are devoured from the farmer’s markets. Make the most of this lovely season by ensuring you don’t get sick! Remember to keep a scarf with you and stay warm, reduce your social commitments and add plenty of moistening and pungent foods to your diet.
* All organs that start with a capital denote Chinese organs, which are an energetic concept, not the actual organ.