Five Element Theory, Seasonal Diet and Lifestyle Tips, and Herbal Suggestions
Using the Five Element Theory, we can gain insight on how to flow through the seasons and make small adjustments to best harmonize with the energies of different parts of the year. This is something our bodies need to do regardless- adjust and adapt through the changes in weather and “time.” However, if we can encourage our daily practices to move in the same direction, these transitions require less energy, thus having more stores for our own longevity.
Autumn, The Minor Yin
Just like the weather begins to cool and the focus starts to turn away from the outward sunny bursts of summer, autumn marks the shift of “going in.” We begin to make adjustments to prepare for the most yin season of the year, winter. A time of harvest, a time to stock stores. The leaves shine their most brilliant color and start to fall to the ground, providing nutrients back into the earth. After two seasons of cultivation, it is now time to shed excessive energies.
Element of Metal
Each element represents a certain emotion and correlates with its own organ. Metal represents contraction and the energy of going inward. Associated with the emotion of grief, we revisit the idea of losing excess to create space for what is most nourishing. It isn’t usually easy to let things go, but it is essential for growth and receptivity.
Metal corresponds with two organs- the lungs and the large intestines. Coincidentally, as autumn is the season of letting go, these organs are essential in releasing things from our body. There are certain foods and supplements that can support optimal function of these organs.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Stress-release practices
- Full-nights sleep, starting slightly earlier than last season
- Movement in fresh air
- Drinking plenty of clean water
- Steam-breathing treatments or baths with additions like lavender, onion, mint eucalyptus, or rosemary
- Using supplements like probiotics and enzymes to support digestion
- Bringing some plants indoors to purify the air in the house
The flavor of the time is pungent, so favoring pungent foods at this time can be supportive. It is also best now to eat foods that are easier to digest, like soups and slow-cooked meats with steamed vegetables. Balance it out with some more pungent fermented foods or small amounts of raw, sulfur-bearing vegetables. Some examples of foods that increase circulation, purify blood, and reduce stagnation are:
- Root vegetables like onion, garlic, turnips and radishes
- Horseradish and wasabi
Delicate detoxifying foods, supplements, and lifestyle changes will help prepare the body for a more restful half of the year.
Lung Function and Cordyceps
Autumn is the driest season of the year. The lungs are the bodies first defense in preventing pathogens as it governs the opening and closing of the pores, supplementing the smooth flow of wei qi (defense qi/first line of immune defense)
Some of the functions of the Lung according to Chinese Medicine are:
- Rule qi and respiration
- Control the channels and blood vessels (with the Heart)
- Control dispersing and descending
- Regulate and move the water passages
- Control skin, sweat glands and body hair (the “Exterior”)
- Open into the nose
- House the Po (corporeal soul)
- Govern the voice (Not only sound and loudness but the ability for one to express what needs to be expressed, without feeling suppressed)
The Lungs spread Wei Qi (defensive Qi) and body fluids all over the body to area between skin and muscles (The Lungs are related to skin). This ensures that Wei Qi is equally distributed under skin to warm skin and muscles and protect the body from exogenous pathogens (Symptoms of a “cold” = Impairment of dispersing function of lungs, exterior pathogenic influence of cold wind obstructing skin which blocks pores and Qi circulation.) Because of this Qi cannot be dispersed and the pathogen is now stuck within the body, this is when the first symptoms of a cold ensue. By taking Cordyceps we are able to strengthen our Wei Qi and bodies first line of defense preventing illness before it strikes.
Because Cordcyeps nourishes the yin of the lung, it properly moistens it so that it is able to regulate fluid metabolism and delegation within the organ systems. The face, scalp and other areas of skin are able to receive this moisture preventing dryness, dandruff, itching. Nourishing the lung yin helps to preserve our delicate organs by ameliorating them. (The yin can be thought of as the oil necessary to keep a machine running smoothly.)
Other than nourishing lung yin, Cordyceps also nourishes kidney yang, making it a perfectly balanced single herb without the need for a formula. The kidney is associated with the winter and water element. By taking Cordcyeps we are not only taking care of the metal element associated with autumn but we are also appropriately preparing for the winter ahead via nourishing the mother (Metal, Lung, Autumn) of water (metal) so that the son (Water/Kidney/Winter) may flourish. This is taken from the 5 elemental theory that when the mother element is nourished, the son element flourishes.
In conclusion, by taking Cordyceps in autumn and in the winter season, we are not only boosting immunity but we are improving our bodies natural abilities to circulate moisture, fluids, and nourish various systems of the body. We are meeting nature’s natural cycles with an herb that complements the nature of the season. By supplementing the kidney yang, we nourish the jing energy of the kidney, slowing the aging process and increasing our body’s natural energy reserves.
Chaga in Autumn
If you are looking for THE herb for detoxifying and cleansing, chaga is king. Being in the mushroom family, the flavor profile is on point with the pungent necessity of the season, but with its subtle tones of vanilla, chaga is perfect for those fall smoothies. I love to experiment with chaga in my pumpkin, chocolate, spiced or vanilla desserts. Powerful anti-oxidant and adaptogen, chaga can help to support the body’s ability to inhibit allergic symptoms and reactions as the season releases its last bit of mold and ragweed, and the air becomes cool.
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