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.

TCM Five Element Theory- Metal Element

The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine speaks of the connectedness of all things and how the different aspects of nature interact with each other and with man. It also details how the different structures and systems in our body are connected to each other and to the natural world. The connection and interactions present humans as part of nature and the universe at large.

Today I want to discuss the Metal Element. The associations of the Metal Element are: the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians

  • The nose
  • Skin and hair
  • The emotion of grief
  • Crying
  • Autumn
  • Dryness
  • The color white
  • Spicy flavor
  • Direction- west
  • 3am-7am

“The Lung’s major functions include maintaining healthy immune defenses against pathogens, as well as circulating Qi and fluids throughout the body.” The Lung and large Intestine Meridians help us to let go of that which no longer serves us, whether it’s mental emotional or physical.

Possible symptoms of Lung imbalance are:

  • Runny nose, sinus congestion, sneezing, loss of smell
  • Catching colds easily in the fall and fall allergies
  • Difficulty processing grief and loss, easily brought to tears
  • waking between 3-5am and having difficulty going back to sleep

Tips for supporting the lung:

  • eat spicy foods , fresh vegetables, tofu, beans, white meat and vegetables
  • deep breathing ,especially outdoors in nice weather
  • let go of that which you no longer need ( clean out your closets)
  • keep warm in cold weather, especially your chest and neck
  • practice qigong or tai chi, these exercises stretch the lung meridian and get the energy moving
  • have your energy balanced

The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine was based on an observation of man in his environment. In early times Chinese doctors identified patterns of continuous change and transformation in the universe and how these changes also occurred within the human body. The concept of qi , the vital energy of the body and the yin yang theory, which views the relationships between things as complementary to the whole, are integral to the master blueprint of the Five Element Theory. This blueprint organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns in nature.

The five groups include: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of these elements includes many “ categories such as a season, a direction, climate, stage of growth and development, internal organ, body tissue, emotion, aspect of the soul, taste, color, sound …” the list is seemingly endless. This theory gives a template to show “how nature interacts with the body and how the different dimensions of our being impact each other.” It gives a multidimensional view and provides a diagnostic framework to identify where imbalances lie.

We are in the season of spring which is the Wood Element

  • The Liver and Gallbladder are associated organs
  • Eyes and tendons are associated body parts
  • The emotion of anger
  • The color green
  • Wind
  • Calling sound
  • Sour taste
  • East is the direction
  • 11pm-3am time

When the Wood chi is weak indecision and a feeling of being stuck can occur. People who have a strong wood energy have clear goals and vision and are able to manifest their goals. Planning and decision making are their forte.

The Five Element Theory presents a blueprint which organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns in nature. This theory attempts to show the interaction of nature with the human body and how the many facets of our being impact each other. The Five Element Theory provides us with a diagnostic tool to help identify where imbalances lie and illuminates the interconnectedness of all things. The structures in our body are connected to each other, to our environment and to the natural world. It represents man as part of nature and nature as part of the cosmos.

The Elements are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. We’ve already spoken about the Wood Element of spring and its many associations. Today I want to discuss the Fire Element.

The Fire Element is the next phase of the Five Element theory. Its associations are:

  • Heart and Small Intestine Meridians & Pericardium and Triple Warmer Meridians
  • Blood vessels
  • The tongue
  • Joy
  • Summer
  • The color red
  • Bitter taste
  • Heat
  • Laughing
  • Direction –south
  • Most active 11am-3pm

People with strong fire energy excel at communication and socialization. They can be charismatic and inspirational speakers. If the Fire Element is weak anxiety, restlessness and insomnia may occur. Stuttering, nervous laugh and rapid speech patterns may develop.

Some illnesses associated with this element are: hypertension, palpitations, heart problems and mouth and tongue sores. Walking is beneficial and the bitter flavor of dark green leafy vegetables. People with weak fire energy can be susceptible to heat exhaustion.

Chinese Medicine Causes of Disease- Revisited

Ancient Chinese Medicine had no knowledge of viruses or bacteria as causes of disease. It identified instead climatic conditions which can create disharmony in the body if a person is exposed to them over an extended period of time. These conditions include: cold, heat, wind, dampness, dryness and summer heat. These weather conditions can invade the body and cause disharmony.

We‘ve already covered Chronic Cold, Chronic Heat and Dampness Conditions. The last three conditions are usually found in combination with one of the former.

Dryness is many times partnered with heat. Heat creates warmth and redness but dryness causes dehydration and evaporation. When this condition invades the body asthmatic breathing, dry cough, acute pain and fever may occur.

Summer Heat is oppressive. It can invade the body after exposure to extreme heat and can cause high fever and lethargy. It is often accompanied by dampness.

Wind is usually combined with cold when it invades the body. Symptoms of wind include: tics, twitches, stuffy nose and headaches.

Chinese Medicine would treat these conditions with a combination of dietary therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, herbal medicine, heat therapy (moxibustion), exercise (qi gong, t’ai chi) and meditation.