Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Moving Inward: The transition into fall from a classical
Chinese medicine perspective
Autumn has arrived. The leaves have turned brown and crisp. The scoop of the big dipper is now pointing right side up, ready to catch the falling leaves. The air we breathe is cool and crisp.
Autumn is a process of ripening, withering, and completion. This is a time of moving inward, so there is no need to resist the urge to stay in and snuggle up. The growing inclination to hibernate is this season’s natural rhythm.
Some of us have already experienced our first cold of the season. Why is it that this happens as the weather turns cool? Chinese medical theory can help us understand these respiratory symptoms. It can also provide us with the tools to stay healthy, or to recover quickly when illness takes us down.
Chinese medicine calls the lungs the delicate organ. Practically speaking, this indicates the vulnerability that our lungs experience with climatic shifts.
Our lungs sit at the top of our body cavity, high above our other organs (like a mountain rising high into the clouds). Chinese medicine says that the lungs dominate the qi movement in our body. Our lungs expand with every inhalation to provide us with oxygen. As we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide. In other words, they take in the pure and exhale the dirty.
As the lungs expand outward and downward, they sprinkle a mist that nourishes the entire body. This mist distributes protective energy and body fluids to the skin and muscles. Our lung qi also descends, moving water downward to provide our organ networks with vital fluids.
Autumn is the season of dryness. The humid, moist air of summer has transitioned and the air of autumn carries with it a propensity to dry out our body fluids. Since it is the lungs job to propel nourishing fluids to the entire body, dry climatic factors may hinder the process, resulting in vulnerability that can lead to a pathogenic invasion. With this, our lungs lose their equilibrium and the rhythm of our entire body is thrown out of whack. Our lungs play a role in regulating urination, and also provide part of the force that pushes waste down through the large intestine to be expelled. This influence helps to explain why bladder infections and constipation sometimes follow respiratory illness.
When a patient presents with respiratory symptoms, a Chinese medicine practitioner first determines if the symptoms are due to an internal or external factor. Next, a practitioner should assess what pathogens are affecting the lungs, and how that is impacting the entire body. From there, it is possible to create a treatment plan based on the presenting patterns of disharmony. Phlegm, heat, dryness (dry nose, dry throat, dry skin), and issues with water metabolism (puffy face, inhibited urination) are just a few examples of the pathogens that may attack our lungs. Our delicate organ requires a delicate treatment and this is why a gentle acupuncture treatment and a simple herbal formula can have a profound result.
Whether you are sick already, or want to boost your body’s natural defenses to avoid illness, Chinese medicine has tools to help you along the way.
Here are tips to stay healthy this season:
• Keep the neck covered with a scarf, stay warm both inside and out; meaning plenty of sweaters and nourishing soups.
• Refrain from excess sugar and dairy.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Pay attention to your emotions. Worry, grief, and sadness all affect the lungs directly.
• Dietary tips to help you recover quickly from respiratory issues:
• Symptoms: Runny nose, thin watery discharge, sneezing, achy body, headache.
• Avoid: Raw foods, cold foods, and dairy.
• Try: Warm foods, green onions, coriander, spiced tea, ginger, garlic, cinnamon.
Ginger Tea Recipe: Wash ginger root. Slice thumb sized pieces of ginger and place in 2 cups of water. Cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes and drink while warm.
Why ginger tea? Ginger is pungent and warm. This warmth can help your lungs regain their hindered dispersing and dissipating function. Ginger can help calm an upset stomach. Note that while a moderate amount of pungent flavor assists our lungs, too much on a regular basis can actually damage the lung’s natural rhythm and dry out body fluids.
Scallion and Ginger Tea Recipe: Wash ginger and scallion. Cut up the white portion of 8-10 scallions. Cut up approximately 4-5 ginger slices. Place in pot with about 3 cups of water. Simmer the brew until 1 cup of the water is left. Add a small amount of brown sugar (not honey) if desired. Drink the tea and cover up under a warm blanket. You will notice a slight sweat after drinking the tea, which is a good thing. Why scallion? Scallion/spring onion can help us recover quickly from external pathogens such as the common cold.
Symptoms: Burning sore throat, cough, yellow phlegm, thick phlegm, fever, stuffy nose.
Avoid: Warm and hot foods, dairy.
Try: Pear juice, green tea.
Sore Throat: Try licorice tea.
Andrea Peruzzi, LAc is at Tabor View Health and Wellness taborviewhealth.com