Living In Harmony with the Season of Winter

“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang ….. So it is that dissolute evil cannot reach the man of wisdom, and he will be witness to a long life.”

–Huangdi Neijing Suwen

yin yangThis quote is taken from Traditional Chinese Medicine Classics. In the season of winter the associations are:

Element: water
Nature: yin (slow moving, inward energy)
Organs: kidney, urinary bladder, adrenal glands, ears, hair
Taste: salty
Emotion: fear and depression

Kidney energy is important for maintenance of vitality and to prevent premature aging. It also governs energy reserves which allow adaptation to life’s constant changes.

In our present-day world, multitasking and constant stress are common occurrences. These conditions break down kidney energy creating exhaustion and a predisposition to hypertension. A major life challenge for all of us is adapting to change and maintaining body-mind balance.

Things you can do to maintain balance are:

  • Manage your to-do list
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Find ways to relax on a daily basis,( i.e. deep breathing, yoga, meditation)
  • Eat warming foods (cooked) and local fruits and vegetables

The Metal Element and Grief

Autumn is when the metal element is most active.  The metal element is represented by the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians.  It is the perfect time of year to tonify lung energy which helps to protect the body from colds and illness.  The lungs also carry the emotion of grief.

Everyone experiences grief or loss in a lifetime.   Whether it is the death of a loved one, end of a relationship or loss of a pet; grief is a difficult emotion which is part of life.  If we allow ourselves to feel and express the pain, we can begin to let it go.  We don’t let go of the love and memories just the painful emotion.

When our grief is repressed, expressed without control or felt intensely over a long period of time it is harmful to lung energy.  In TCM the lung energy is associated with openness to new ideas, clear thinking, communication and our ability to relax and enjoy life.  When we are out of balance or are experiencing excessive grief it is difficult to cope with a loss.  We can also experience alienation which overtime can lead to depression.

Some healthy ways to deal with grief are:

  • Acknowledge your feelings without judgement.  Be kind to yourself.
  • Deep breathing exercises help to release grief. Practices such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and chi gong all utilize breathing exercises.
  • Walk in nature
  • Foods that nourish lung energy include: garlic, onion, cabbage, radish, walnuts, almonds, banana, sweet potato, and cinnamon.

www.chinesemedicineliving.com

Damp Condition Revisited

I’ve spoken about the six pernicious influences or causes of disease in Chinese Medicine before, but now that we’re in the season of autumn it is a good time to revisit it.  These six climatic conditions are considered causes of disease within the body.  They are: cold, wind, dampness, heat, dryness and summer heat.  Many times these conditions occur together such as damp and cold or wind and cold.

It is also possible for these pernicious influences to develop from chronic internal imbalance.

One of the most persistent conditions which takes some time to resolve is dampness.  When internal dampness occurs it creates stagnation and a feeling of heaviness. It can occur from spending a lot of time in a rainy environment or from sleeping on the ground.  It can also occur internally from eating large quantities of cold foods and drinks, sweets and greasy foods.

Some symptoms of dampness include: edema, phlegm, and discharges.  It can also cause feelings of dizziness and heaviness, water retention, coughing or vomiting phlegm and skin rashes.  A damp condition will also make weight loss difficult. There are many different types of dampness, such as cold damp or damp heat.  Each condition has its own set of symptoms and treatment including herbs to drain the dampness, dietary changes and possibly moxibustion.  Dampness is a difficult condition which needs to be treated by a licensed acupuncturist in order to improve.

–Bill Schoenbart & Ellen Shefi—health.howstuffworks.com

Chinese Medicine and the Season of Autumn

In autumn the expanded energy of summer slowly begins to contract. The earth’s energy is pulled back from the leaves of trees and plants to go deeper into the trunk and roots to survive the winter. Within Chinese Medicine, humans are regarded as microcosms of the natural universe; subject to the same cycles that occur in nature. The cold signals us to prepare for winter ahead by bringing out warmer clothing. It is a time of gathering in, stocking up, mingled with a sense of loss as the light begins to fade and the air chills. It is a time to eliminate what is unnecessary and become aware of what is essential.

Autumn is associated with the element of metal which is represented by the organs of Lung and Large Intestine. The Lung pulls in and refines the Qi, (energy) sending it downward to nourish our roots. The lung rules the skin, the outer layer of the human body, protecting against external invasion and safeguards internal resources. Since autumn is a dry season, we need to protect ourselves from cold air evaporation of moisture from our skin.

Large Intestine is associated with letting go; not just on a physical level but also of thoughts and emotions that no longer serve us. The metal element nourishes our capacity to be analytic, critical, methodical, efficient and disciplined.

The emotion associated with the metal element is grief or sadness. We are leaving the warm abundance of summer and preparing for a quieter, reflective time of year. Keeping our energy balanced helps us to release the past and create space for things to come.

Nurturing foods for this time of year include:

  • white rice
  • white beans
  • pears
  • radishes
  • sea vegetables
  • potatoes
  • cabbage
  • turnips
  • parsnips

The flavors of metal element are spicy or pungent.

Dr. Frank Lipman

Chinese Medicine Tips for Autumn

The Lung and Large Intestine are the two energy pathways most active in fall; both organs eliminate waste. The Large Intestine eliminates digestive waste and the Lungs eliminate respiratory waste. The Lungs also control the skin and sweating. Sweating helps to cleanse the skin and detoxify the body but excess sweating can deplete our bodies. It is important to stay hydrated especially when exercising.

Foods that support the Lungs and Large Intestine are: pear, radishes, daikon radish, cauliflower and cabbage. Immune support for the Lung energy includes reishi mushrooms and astragalus.

If you develop a fall cold or flu with fever you can bring on a sweat at the early stages of infection to help detoxify the body. Spending time in a sauna or hot bath and eating spicy food will help.

Living in Harmony with Nature during Autumn : Traditional Chinese Medicine

As the days begin to get longer, leaves begin to change color and earth energies begin to slow and cool; we turn our attention to more serious pursuits. The season of fall is associated with the Metal element which governs order, organization, communication, the mind, setting limits and protecting boundaries. It is a time to finish projects and clear out that which no longer serves us. We begin to organize our lives for the colder weather ahead.

The internal organs associated with autumn are Lung and Large Intestine. The emotions related to these organs are sadness, grief and letting go.

This is a good time to begin a practice of meditation, yoga or any exercise that helps you to control your breath. Control of the breath can promote, physical vigor, mental clarity and emotional tranquility.

Some tips for the change of season:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Dress for the change in weather- too many people get sick holding on to summer attire too long
  • Protect your lungs- moderate amounts of pungent foods : garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger and mustard are beneficial.

Chinese Medicine and Indian Summer


Late summer or Indian Summer is associated with the earth element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is a time for slowing down the activity of summer and observing the abundance we’ve created in our lives. We reflect in order to move forward again with awareness. Earth is the balance point it is a time to temporarily stop our doing and just be. Earth is stability. “The process of procuring, absorbing and converting the food into our body, is what the earth element represents.”

The earth element provides us grounding and a center.

When we have a center, we are able to see what we need and what we are lacking. When we can acknowledge our own needs, we are able to be sensitive to the needs of others. Earth element is central to all the elements. It is the transition time at the end of each season when we reflect before we begin anew.

The emotions associated with this element are sympathy, empathy and worry.

If we are in balance we can be empathic to our own needs and those of others. When we lose our balance, we become consumed with worry and often obsessive compulsive thinking. The other end of imbalance is aloofness, inability for empathy and the inability to connect.

Some symptoms of earth imbalance are:

  • Excessive mucous in nose, throat and mouth
  • Craving sweets
  • Heavy feelings in body with achy arms, legs and head
  • Metabolic problems, including hypoglycemia and diabetes
  • Bloating and indigestion
  • Lethargy
  • Chronic worry

Indian Summer in Traditional Chinese Medicine is a time for slowing down and gathering in the abundance we’ve created in our lives so we can move forward with awareness. This time is associated with the earth element which brings balance and grounding into our lives.

When we are in balance we can clearly see our own needs and also be sensitive to the needs of others. The emotions of earth element are sympathy, empathy and worry. When our earth element is balanced we feel empathy for another. When earth is imbalanced we take on the pain of another, are preoccupied with worry and obsessive compulsive thinking. The alternative side of this earth imbalance is the inability to feel empathy, aloofness and incapacity to connect with others.

To support earth element:

  • Find time to reflect on your life and meet your own needs.
  • Get out in nature and connect to mother earth.
  • Nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The Body Organ Clock of Chinese Medicine

I like to revisit this information every so often in case someone missed it. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that the chi or vital energy circulates through each body organ in two hour intervals every 24 hours. There are specific times for each organ meridian. These specific times of chi circulation are when the meridian has its point of highest energy. In TCM this cycle helped inform people of the optimum time to eat, sleep, rest exercise, etc. It also made them aware of their connection to each body organ.

Today most people are concerned with waking up the same time each night and not being able to get back to sleep. The time from 11pm -1 am is when the Gall Bladder Meridian is most active. This is a time that the body should be at rest so that it can wake up feeling energized for the next day. If you are consistently waking at this hour your Gall Bladder Meridian needs balancing. Gall Bladder energy is associated with decision making and everyday stress.

1-3am is when the Liver Meridian is most active and the body should be asleep.” During this time, toxins are released from the body and fresh new blood is made.” If waking at this time you may have restrictions in the Liver Meridian, too much yang energy or issues with anger, frustration and rage.

3-5am the Lung Meridian is most active and the body should be asleep. “The body should be kept warm at this time to help the lungs replenish the body with oxygen.” The emotions associated with the lungs are sadness and grief. If awake at this time, deep breathing is recommended.

During winter when Kidney and Bladder Meridians are most active, the 24 hour circulation for these meridians is even more powerful.

3-5pm is when the Bladder Meridian has the highest energy. At this time metabolic wastes move into the kidney’s filtration system and drinking a lot of water will aid the detoxification process. “This is the perfect time to study or complete brain challenging work.”

5-7pm is when the Kidney energy is strongest. The Kidneys filter the blood and maintain proper chemical balance. “This is the perfect time to have dinner and to activate your circulation either by walking, having a massage or stretching.” The emotion associated with Kidney Meridian is fear.

Pericardium Meridian – The Final Energy Pathway of Summer

The Pericardium Meridianis known as the heart’s protector. Though not considered an organ in western medicine, in reality it is the protective sack which surrounds the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is considered an organ meridian which pairs with The Triple Warmer. The Pericardium Meridian functions to protect the heart both from physical damage and emotional excess generated by other organ meridians. These emotions include: fear from the kidneys, sadness from the lungs and anger from the liver.

In TCM “extreme outbursts of the Seven Emotions are regarded as powerful disruptors of internal energy balance and major causes of disease.” This meridian also regulates blood flow in the major blood vessels surrounding the heart. Emotionally it joins the physical and emotional aspects of sexual activity; the loving feelings of the heart with the raw sexual energy of the kidneys.

Associations are:

  • Color – purple red
  • Peak hours-7pm-9pm
  • Mental qualities- love, sex
  • Physical branches- blood, tongue, throat sweat, facial complexion

The Energy Pathways of Summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine man’s connection to the earth was the blueprint for living a healthy life. To be healthy one rose with the sun and went to sleep with the rising of the moon. The seasons in nature were associated with five earth elements: water, wood, fire, earth (soil) and metal. The Fire Element is associated with summer.

“Fire is our ability to have relationship, to feel safe, to feel in control, to be intimate, to have fun, to laugh and be excited.” The energy pathways of summer are heart meridian, small intestine meridian, pericardium meridian and triple warmer meridian.

Today I want to discuss the Small Intestine Meridian. This energy helps us to separate the pure from the impure. The color associated with it is pink; it is most active from 1pm – 3pm. Physically it takes partially digested food from the stomach absorbs the nutrients and sends the waste to the large intestine. The psycho-emotional aspects include mental clarity, powers of discernment and judgment. The ability to make decisions with clarity separating the relevant from the irrelevant is attributed to the Small Intestine Meridian.

Imbalances include: insecurity, difficulty assimilating ideas, indecision, forgetfulness, restlessness and difficulty expressing emotions. Some physical imbalances include: profuse sweating, tinnitus, pain around the ear and in the abdomen when pressed.

There are four energy pathways associated with the summer season. I’ve spoken in detail of the Heart Meridian and the Small Intestine Meridian. Today I want to discuss the Triple Warmer Meridian.

The Triple Warmer or Triple Burner Meridian is a concept unique to Chinese Medicine. There is no corresponding organ related to this in western medicine. This meridian has to do with the body’s temperature and includes three areas: the upper, middle and lower burner.

The upper burner is associated with the heart and lungs and is located above the diaphragm; the middle burner includes the area below the diaphragm to the belly button. The organs associated are the spleen and stomach. The lower burner is located below the belly button. The organs associated are: liver, kidneys, large intestine, small intestine and bladder.

The function of the Triple Warmer is to provide the energy or fire to transport the fluids, blood and food which pass through each area. In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine the functions of the three burners was described this way, “The upper burner acts like a mist. The middle burner acts like foam. The lower burner acts like a swamp.”

The way the energy is dispersed in the upper burner, the heart and lungs, is compared to a mist. Think of the tender tissues of the lungs and the importance of keeping the heart and lungs hydrated for smooth functioning. In the middle burner the function is digestion. The foam represents the digestive churning. The lower burner separates the pure from the impure and excretes the waste similar to a swamp breaking down plant matter.

“The triple burner is the controller of the entire circulation of body fluid” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine)

Some symptoms of Triple Warmer dysfunction are: edema (retention of fluid in the tissues), difficulty urinating, abdominal distention, tinnitus, pain in the throat, eyes, back of the ear, the shoulder and upper arm.