April Crowell Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
Autumn’s arrival shifts the Qi that had been expanding outward (Yang) in the Summer to begin to shift inward (Yin). We glide through Late Summer at the equinox and then slide into Autumn–the season of Yin within Yang. Of the 5 Elements, Autumn is the season that corresponds to the Metal element.
Autumn is the time of harvest and a time to start storing to prepare for Winter’s cold. After shedding their leaves or ripened fruits and seeds, plants die back or their energy retreats to their roots. Appropriately, Autumn’s abundant food is perfectly suited to help our body’s Qi move inward. This allows our bodies to have greater energy to fend off common ailments, a chance to replenish and provide the opportunity to embrace the season’s delights. During this season, I encourage clients to use foods and tonic herbs like ginseng and rhodiola (if they aren’t treating disharmonies where tonics are contraindicated) to help strengthen the body for the upcoming colder months.
Autumn is a wonderful time to clear out old habits that we no longer need–letting go of that which harms us. It’s a good to time to consolidate and begin storing energy. This might include resting more, or adjusting your exercise–take long walks, practice T’ai Chi or Qigong and include meditation into your routine.
Like all of the 5 Elements, each season has numerous correspondences that Chinese medicine practitioners use to identify patterns in clients, both physical and mental, emotion. Let’s look at a few major correspondence of Autumn.
|Color||White and metallic|
|State of growth||Decline|
|Yin organ & time||Lungs: 3-5am|
|Yang organ & time||Colon: 5-7am|
|Emotion||Grief and longing|
|Vice||Obsession with physical appearance|
|Virtue|| Inspiration and […]
Whoever coined the phrase “bitter hearts” was right. Bitter is the flavor that goes directly to the Heart. Bitter. Even its name can make us cringe, and it’s certainly not the most popular of the 5 Flavors (sweet, sour, pungent, and salty) yet it serves a vital role in our health. The flavor is a powerful mover and enters the Heart, Small Intestines, Triple Warmer and Pericardium–all the Fire organs. When the Fire element is in-balance we are joyful and can act on life plans, we make meaningful relationships and set appropriate boundaries–engage!
Still frowning? You don’t need a lot of bitter, so just play along for a bit.
Bitter flavors enter the Heart and other Fire Organs
Each of the 5 Elements has numerous correspondences including flavor, season, color, organs, sound and emotion. Fire and the bitter flavor correspond with the season of Summer, which is unique in that it has four organ systems rather than two like the other elements. The Heart (Yin), Small Intestines (Yang), Pericardium (Yin) and Triple Warmer (Yang) all belong to the Fire element-and they have a lot going on. The Heart, as the emperor, sits on his throne and controls the circulation of blood and allows us our most intimate relationships. Heart needs to express its truest self to the world. Small Intestines constantly sorts the ‘pure from the impure’–what to digest and what not to digest–physically, emotionally and spiritually–who do we keep in our lives, who do we need to let go of? A lot of people can get stuck in the process of sorting. Pericardium has similar properties to the Heart and the Triple Warmer […]
Summer, the season of the Fire Element, has arrived! The days are long and the bright sunshine invites us outdoors to work in our gardens or play in the sun. It’s a season of activity and joy. All seasons represent the possibility for change in our lives. We can fight their energetic nature or we can use the season’s blessings for our own growth and benefit…and summer has so much to offer.
Why the seasons matter
In Asian medicine’s 5 Element Theory each season (Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter) possess their own energetic dynamics and movement of Qi (energy). They ebb and flow from one to another. Understanding the energetic nature of each season helps us to adapt so we move gracefully from phase to another. For example– knowing that Spring’s climate is wind, helps those that are susceptible to wind conditions such as epilepsy, headaches, anger, and allergies to take appropriate precautions to not be as easily affected by the condition. Winter, encourages us to rest and be introspective, to consider our deepest selves–whereas, Summer invites us to expand and be active. We need not hunker down or fear each season, rather having awareness can help us become flexible and adaptive, we can embrace and benefit from the virtue and blessings each season rather than fight them.
Let’s look a […]
“What’s for dinner?”
It’s a common question that can turn into an amusing (or annoying) game. When you have a busy schedule it can be a daunting task to figure out how to eat well–let alone eat. I’ll tell you a little secret–it’s all about habits.
Our culture has put emphasis on economy and convenience, at the cost of our connection to self nourishment, and I’m not talking about restorative yoga. Think about it. We spend less time planning and preparing meals than any other culture in the world, and we have increasing disease and health costs that are directly related to dietary habits. Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, GERD (okay, there is a virus involved sometimes here, but I assure you, if you slow down how you eat, it improves considerably), kidney stones, ulcers, gout, heart disease–you get the picture. We all know nutrition is important, what and how we eat is the basis for our energy, ability to health and overall health.
Wonderful. So how do we start improving how we nourish ourselves?
Simple-create new habits that make better nourishment and eating habits a priority.
You will be hungry today, so why let that surprise you? Why not plan for it instead? Your health and soul will thank you. Let’s play with a few ideas.
1. Create time–If your current habits don’t allow you the time to menu plan, shop, prep and cook–budget some time. Put it in your day planner or on your ‘to do’ list. If you skip meals, put the time for them in your planner as well. It usually takes me about 15 minutes to make a menu for the week and […]
It’s time for cherries! If you’ve ever picked cherries, likely you have an appreciation for how much labor goes into caring for and harvesting the delicate, tart orbs that are available fresh for only a few weeks. Depending on the variety, a single cherry tree can produce about 30 lbs of fruit each year. A single acre of land can be planted with several hundred trees. That’s a lot of little fruit, and although there are mechanical harvesters, most cherries are still picked by hand making them one of the most labor intensive fruits with the one of the shortest harvest season. But they are well worth it.
A little cherry history
Cherries are a drupe, meaning they have a pit in their center. Like other drupes, including apricots, nectarines, and peaches, they are a member of the rose family and are native to the western hemisphere of Europe and Asia. Written records of cherry farming date back to 72 BC Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and they found their way to America with the pilgrims. Today, only about 15 of some 500 plus varieties are grown for the American consumer. However, heirloom varieties are on the rise thanks to the natural food movements throughout the world and our nation.
Western nutritional highlights of cherries
Cherries range from a deep black/red to a golden yellow, and they are categorized as sweet or sour, even in western nutritional terms. Raw cherries provide dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and minerals. Don’t look to cherries if you are seeking proteins, fats and or complex carbohydrates. That’s not their job–cherries clear and cleanse.
The healing energetics […]
Welcome to Spring!
When does Spring really begin? For most Western cultures, we correlate the start of Spring with the Spring equinox, around March 20-21st. But all of us know that Spring has been well underway by the time the equinox pops up. If you look at the seasonal correspondences in Chinese medicine’s Yin/Yang theory, the Winter solstice marks the depth of Winter, yet as soon as we reach maximum Yin (the shortest day of the year), Yang and light start to return–literally, Spring is on its way. A quick look at the lunar calendar can also help us understand why Spring seems to come early or late from one year to the next. The Chinese New Year heralds the start of the Spring festivals and planting seasons. This holiday falls on the second new moon after the Winter solstice, sometime between the end of January and the middle of February.
Our bodies feel seasonal changes, and when we are in harmony with these shifts we can delight in the blessings of the season. However, the transition from Winter to Spring is perhaps, the most tumultuous transition. It’s a duel between the quiet and restive inward energy of Winter into the strong, upward ascending of Yang energy–and its energy can be big. The season of the Wood element, Spring is a time of tremendous energy, and excitement in the world and in our bodies. It’s a time of change and growth. Our bodies want to move more, we have more energy within us and we want to get up and go! In disharmony, we resist the changes and encounter difficulties. During the Spring this can […]
We love our dogos and puppers and it’s their year. Friday, February 16th is the second new moon following the winter solstice. For Asian cultures this is the New Year and the start of the spring festivals and planting season. This year the Fire Rooster will surrender to the loyal and loving Earth Dog–our most favorite of pets.
Each year of the Asian (Chinese) calendar corresponds to one of the 12 animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and the pig). Besides the animal, we also cycle through each of the 5 elements (fire, earth, metal,water and wood) to create a full 60 year cycle. By the time you cycle back to the animal year and element that you were born in you will be 60–so, don’t hold your breath. Each animal carries its own unique personality and disposition, couple that with the elemental energies and can get an idea of the nature of the how the year may play out.
The nature of the Dog:
Our most beloved friends, dogs are loyal and happy to please their friends and family. They do not care what your wealth or health is like–they believe everyone deserves love. They are considered one of the most auspicious animals in the zodiac and are welcomed into homes to bring prosperity, safety and support. Those born in the dog years are loyal, responsible and caring and bring energy and vitality to other’s lives. However, they may be overly sensitive, stubborn and emotional–those puppy eyes.
Each element influences the dog’s overall nature. This year, the Earth element adds extra dimensions of tenacity or persistence, precise attention and good wealth.
Digestive disturbances affect nearly everyone at some point in their life and it’s estimated that 40% of Americans will suffer from heartburn at least once each month–ouch. In fact, the proton pump inhibitor drugs (think Nexium and Prevacid) are the third largest class of drugs sold in America each year. The following recommendations are beneficial for any level of digestive vibrancy, whether you have excellent digestion and want to make the most of a healthy system or you are treating chronic or debilitating digestive issues. Honestly, I know of no condition that will not improve or benefit from the simple habits listed below.
Chew your food —Let’s start at the beginning. Besides the teeth mechanically breaking down the food, salivary amylase is added in the mouth to break down starches. This enzyme is not found in the stomach–it has to be added into the food in the mouth. Although the stomach churns to help break food down, it doesn’t have teeth and large chunks of food overly burden the stomach causing gas, bloating, and acid re-flux. The physical act of chew also triggers mass peristalsis in the colon–meaning you will move your bowels more regularly. Ideally, you should chew your food about 30 times, so put your fork down between each bite and savor your food.
Have a seat–“Li proceeds Qi.” Literally, where your intention goes your Qi (energy & manifestation) will follow. If your intention is to eat a meal, assist your body by sitting down, relaxing and enjoying your food. If your attention is rushed or focused elsewhere Qi won’t readily flow into your digestive organs to help properly transform the food. Voila–you now have […]
April Crowell, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
We love our Summers and the sunshine here in Boise. It’s time to be in the garden, rivers and mountains. The temperature can swing nearly 40 degrees from sun up to sundown, and then there is that spell in July and August where it hangs out above 100 and never seems to cool off—ack, melt. Occasionally, we spend too much time in the sun, or the season changes so rapidly that we have problems adapting. You may experience a little ‘Summer Heat’ invasion.
Each of the 5 Seasons in Chinese medicine has a climatic nature. Spring relates to Wind, Autumn to Dryness, Winter to Cold, Late Summer (the transition of seasons) relates to Dampness, and Summer corresponds to Heat. These climates are simply part of the nature of the season and Chinese medicine practitioners observe these climatic influences and their behaviors in the body as they can become a source of disease or disharmony. For example, Wind can be involved in many forms of headaches, allergies and palsies. Any of these climatic conditions can pop up in any season due to rapid weather changes, change in location, etc. Heat is most likely to affect us during the Summer and the Summer organs are most vulnerable to Heat, and the 6th Pernicious Influence–Summer Heat.
Summer Heat is an exterior pathogen
Exterior pathogens or the 6 Pernicious Influences or 6 Evils are hot, cold, wind, damp, dry and summer heat. They are acute in nature and come on quickly. They invade our bodies either because the pathogen is excessively strong compared to normal Wei Qi (immunity), like in the cases of plagues, or our Wei Qi is too weak […]
Summer cooking at its best is easy, colorful and uncomplicated. Ratatouille makes the most of the season’s vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. This grilled version can be prepared in two ways. The vegetables are first grilled and you then dress them right at the table and serve them immediately or you finish marrying their flavors over the stove top. Both are delish–it’s just a matter of choice. I tend to prefer the first method, as it’s simpler and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.
Double this recipes or toss leftovers with cooked quinoa and a little extra dressing (if necessary) for a light, high protein dish. […]