The Effects of Fall According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
The days are getting shorter, the leaves are getting crisper and Fall is in the air. Fall is a time for looking inward and quiet contemplation. It is a time of reflection and creativity.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each season affects the body and mind in a different way. The change of seasons is a time of dynamic change for the internal organs and it is during these seasonal transitions that we are most susceptible to getting sick. In Chinese Medicine Fall is the season of the ‘Metal’ element. Metal is associated with the emotion of grief or sadness and affects the physical body through the lungs and large intestine. This means that in the Fall we are more susceptible to colds and flu’s with runny nose, cough and fatigue. It is also the time of year where our ‘wei qi’ (immune system) is low and a simple cold can turn into something much more serious for those with weakened immunity. We often see people hit hard with bronchitis and pneumonia around this time of year.
Each emotion affects the body in a different way. The emotion of sadness or grief has an inverse relationship with the lungs. Grief or extreme sadness weakens the lungs and can cause physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, asthma or even pneumonia and conversely lung problems can cause a feeling of sadness. It is not uncommon for someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one to develop bronchitis.
Constipation is another symptom that often appears in the Fall season. This commonly occurs when the weather begins to feel chilly and our body begins its process of adapting to the change in temperature.
A good way to support your body during the Fall transition is by eating warm foods such as soup or stew. Now is the time for steamed vegetables as opposed to fresh fruit or salad which are too cold for the body at this time of the year. Adding ginger to your tea or meals can help strengthen your body in the Fall.
When heading outdoors, make sure to cover your neck (a scarf is good) as cold/wind exposure to the back of the neck can cause a cold to arise in as fast as 24 hours. In TCM, covering the neck during cool weather is a very important preventive health measure. So dig up your scarf or throw on a turtle neck – you’ll be glad you did!
Here is a perfect “Fall Tonic” recipe:
- 2 large butternut squash (about 4 1/2 lbs.) or 4 lbs. peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 2 medium onions
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger and 1 tsp. ground ginger.
- 1/4 tsp. each ground cloves, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or black pepper.
- 3 Tbsp. butter or vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- Halve, seed, peel, and cube the butternut squash. Set aside.
- Halve, peel, and chop the onion. Mince the garlic, if you like.
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter or oil and the chopped onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the squash and the broth.
- Add 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger and 1 tsp. ground ginger.
- Add 1/4 tsp. each ground cloves, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or black pepper.
- Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer small batches to a blender and whirl until completely smooth, 2 to 3 minutes per batch.
- Return the soup to the pot and add more salt to taste.
Makes 4 to 6 servings