Thursday, 9 September 2010

Autumn and Chinese Medicine

I love this time of year. With my door to my back garden wide open I can feel the cool breeze and sense that it is Autumn. I've never been able to grasp what makes that feeling but it both energises and calms me. Maybe its difficult to describe but this is the time of change, when Summer’s warm, vibrant Yang energy transitions toward the quiet, cooler Yin energy of Winter. Maybe its not meant to be pinned down. Regardless, it is an amazing time to observe our surroundings because through observing nature we learn how we should live to transition healthily to Winter. Nature acts as a metaphor for us. In Autumn, plants gather nutrients from their leaves and stems, pushing the nutrients downward and inward toward their roots. Impurities are sent upward into the foliage, which changes colours and is shed to prevent it from sapping energy that is now concentrated deep in the soil to ensure survival of the long, cold winter. In herbal medicine, many root herbs are gathered at this time of year because they are rich in chemical compounds. Autumn is a time where we prepare for the cold winter and time spent indoors. We arrange to get firewood for cozy, calm evening by the fireplace; we seal windows to prevent drafts, and begin to take out warm clothes from storage. Being busy and adapting means change. And change frequently results in emotional uprising. Organising and getting rid of the unnecessary (metaphorically, this can pertain to relationships as well as material things) can also lead to difficulty in letting go, grief and sadness. However, this is a season associated with wisdom. Through grief and sadness come lessons of life and self discovery.

As colder weather moves in, we need to consider eating warmer foods. In Summer, raw foods such as salads which are cold to the system were tolerated. However, in Autumn raw food will be difficult to digest and should be avoided. Warm foods, such as soups, roasted vegetables and meats are ideal. This very simple advice should not be undervalued. The strength of our digestion is paramount in our ability to make Qi and Blood. This is especially important in children who naturally have weaker digestive systems.

Seasonal eating of local foods is recommended because seasonal foods automatically and naturally contain the nutrients needed to prepare us for Winter. However, the convenience of freezers, fridges, pre-packaging and air travel has made it a challenge to know what foods are in season. The BBC Food website is an excellent resource for UK seasonal food and recipes.

And finally, enjoy the beautiful change of season. However, with seasonal change comes unpredictable weather. So bring an extra layer to cover up if needed. This is suprisingly effective to prevent catching a cold!

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