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 […]
Basil, apple, sage and spearmint;
Oregano, catnip, pineapple and peppermint;
To many dishes their flavor they’ve lent;
Yet why is one not called merriment?
Grandma June grew a peppermint bush around the water spigot off her front deck. Content in its moist, rich soil and shaded in the afternoon, the plant grew to be a monster. There was no way to reach in and turn on the hose without stirring up the mint’s refreshing fragrance or the bees if the plant was in bloom. Each year she harvested the mint to make teas or jelly to serve with lamb or give as gifts.
In a burst of sentimentality, I planted a clump of mint next the water tap outside my back door. It’s an easy grab to add fresh mint to salads and soups or to make refreshing teas, hair rinses and other delights. And there’s an added bonus–ants hate peppermint. So if you have a few pests in the spring consider a planting of mint, especially spearmint, lavender and penny royal along your home.
A little mint history
The aromatic presence of the mint family have be pleasing our senses for centuries. Mints (mentha) are a part of the lamiaceae or labiatae family–which isn’t a small family. It includes many of our favorite culinary herbs like basil, rosemary, oregano, sage and penny royal. Honestly, there is a bit of debate in the horticulture world as to what clearly defines the mint family, but most recognize that there at least 25 species of mints and countless hybrids including the fun stuff like pineapple, ginger and chocolate mint.
We can track mint’s usage all the way back to Pliny the Elder in the […]
“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 […]
A while ago I wrote on an article on the basics of sprouting (find it here) which mentioned just a few of the wonderful benefits that can be gained from sprouts. Today I would like to take a deeper look at the benefits of sprouts and their amazing properties.
From a Western perspective, sprouts are very nutritious as they are a good source of many vitamins and trace minerals that many people in this country are deficient in, they have a low glycemic response, and are a good source of dietary fiber. What makes sprouts most interesting from my perspective is the presence of a chemical called coumarin.
Coumarin is a naturally occurring, fragrant chemical present in most feed plants and several other common foods (like cinnamon (cassia sourced), strawberries and cherries). A feed plant is any plant that is used to feed livestock or which graze lands are planted with, such as alfalfa or clover, two very common sprout seeds. In concentrated forms, coumarin is toxic to the body and is one of the precursors used to make rat poison and blood thinners, that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is that coumarin in small quantities, as found in sprouts, increases our sensation of satiation. It makes us feel fuller faster by making the body think we have eaten more than we have so we are less inclined to overeat. Scientist believe this property in these plants was evolved as a way to stave off over feeding by grazing animals to give plants a chance to seed. If you would like read more about coumarin, here is the wikipedia article.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, sprouts, are also an […]
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 […]
April Crowell, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM), AOBTA CI & CP, CHN
Red, itchy eyes, sore throat, sinus congestion, running nose, puffy face, congested ears, swollen lips, headaches. Although it may be true that certain seasons have a propensity to bombard us with excess pollen, or air particulates from farming, and pollution there isn’t really one season for allergies. Some people only suffer during a spring and/or autumn season while others may suffer all year long. Some people are allergic to only one thing, while others suffer from a multitude or combination of allergens. Whatever the individual pattern, it is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. It’s estimated that over-the-counter sales of allergies medicines should reach $14.7 billion dollars in 2015–that’s a lot of sneezing and muzzy headedness.
I used to believe that seasonal allergies were coming earlier every year. Though this may be partly true, what I now see in my practice is that Boise’s air quality is declining enough that clients are suffering more and often longer with allergies–crud.
Allergies in the eyes of western medicine
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an example of compromised immunity. Basically, the immune system has a hyper response to a strong pathogen (pollen, an abundance of cat dander, etc) and this causes a rapid physiological changes resulting in itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion, sneezing, asthma and even diarrhea. Exposure to an allergen would cause a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells are mostly located in the lungs and upper respiratory tract, the lining of the stomach and the skin. When these cells are stimulated, they release a number of chemicals including histamine which produce the allergic symptoms.
Stinging nettles sting.
My first encounter with nettles was not pleasant, and at the time, I didn’t know enough to look for lamb’s quarter or dock to soothe the nettle’s sharp bite. Instead, I chose to run screaming back to camp seeking my mother’s aid to treat the flaming red blisters on my legs.
Despite my first meeting with nettles, I have grown to love their amazing nutritional and healing properties. They are one of the few herbs that I can recommend to almost anyone–young, old, weak, strong, nursing mothers and athletes. To date, I haven’t come up with someone that can’t benefit from nettles.
A bit of nettle history
Nettles have a long history of medicinal use–dating back to the bronze age. Native Americans used them to stop bleeding after child birth, Victorian women used nettle tinctures to thicken their hair. Soups were used to build strength and stamina–the list is long as you will see below.
Nettles grow wild across Europe, America and parts of Canada. Many people harvest them fresh, but for ease (possibly I’m just lazy) I get my nettles dried and in bulk unless a local grower has some fresh available. I use them regularly for my family, self and my clients. All parts of the nettle plant have medicinal properties earning them a place of honor in my herbal cupboard.
Western uses and nutritional profile
Long inhale and go…. Asthma, chronic cough, any lung disorder, hives, shingles, eczema, diabetes, uterine bleeding, chronic nose bleeds, allergies, gout, heart failure, spasms urinary and kidney stones, urinary tract infections, strengthen hair, heal wounds, replenishing after surgery, fluid retention, rheumatism, arthritis, reduce edema and bloating, build teeth and bones, balance mood swings, […]
Tyra Burgess, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM)
Turmeric is a prevalent and powerful herb, with a long history of medicinal and culinary uses dating back at least 4000 years. Rhizoma curcumae longae, is a member of the Zingiberaceae/Ginger family, that is packed with curcumin which gives the root its deep golden yellow color and lead to the name “Indian saffron”. In Auyruvedic medicine turmeric is called haldi, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jiang Huang. There are over 130 species of turmeric and India produces nearly 80% of all turmeric, and many of us know it as a one of the spices, along with coriander and cumin, that make up the loved seasoning curry, but this herb has wonderful medicinal properties that make it well worth having in your cupboard.
Turmeric’s healing properties
Turmeric has a peppery, acrid, warm, and bitter flavor. Turmeric is helpful to almost every system in the body, and has been researched and used by every modality on the planet. In Eastern medicine, the herb is indicated in the stagnation of blood and Qi. TCM uses it for conditions such as amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, tumors, and traumatic injury where there is pain and swelling from stagnation. Ayurvedically, turmeric is used to treat a wide variety of conditions ranging from arthritis to ulcers, gas, hepatitis, diabetes, menstrual issues and to prevent and treat intestinal parasites.
With the help of Western Science, it has been determined that there are over 100 isolated components in this miracle plant that are helpful in medicine and powerful in Pharmacology. In Western Herbology, this plant is used as an anti-Inflammatory, antiarthritic, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-septic, antioxidant, topical antibacterial and antifungal, antifertility, hypotensive, anti-atherosclerotic, it has tumor preventing activity, choleretic, stimulates digestive enzymes, a carminative, a hepatoprotective, a nephroprotective, radioprotective, […]
As Autumn creeps in I stock my cupboards with a few items to prevent and treat colds and flu. Gan Mao Ling, Kwan Loong oil, vitamin C, Immustim or Wellness Formula, to name a few, but one of my favorites is simple and reliable elderberry tea and syrup.
All parts of the elder plant have a long history in folk medicine. The flower is used to promote sweating and resolve phlegm from exterior pathogens. The inner bark and root are used as strong emetics and to relieve stubborn constipation. The leaves and berries can be made into poultices with vinegar or honey to relieve damp heat in the skin such as poison ivy.
Elderberry syrup is one of the first things that I reach for when someone is starting to fight a cold or flu. From a Chinese medicine perspective there are two major reasons that we get sick: either our system is weak and susceptible to exterior invasion (Lung qi and wei qi deficiency) or the pathogen is exceptionally strong relative to us (think of plagues). Elderberry helps to strengthen any Lung deficiency condition, giving your immune system a powerful boost. It is antiviral and anti-infective, perfect for fighting off those pesky viruses. The berry also has expectorant, diaphoretic and diuretic properties to help move fluids, the bowels and relieve phlegm. It even helps treat food poisoning. Elderberry is high in calcium, vitamins A, C and B6 and iron—and, best of all, it’s tasty and kids don’t usually mind it.
So how do I use it?