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 […]
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 […]
Cabin Fever. Climbing the Walls. Temporary Insanity. Common terms that imply agitation, anxiety, restlessness, and a general sense of unsettledness. These symptoms are often experienced in the spring by people who tend to run towards yin deficiency from a Chinese Medicine perspective. Much to my surprise Spring Fever means the opposite of these symptoms and is instead associated with lassitude, apathy, and half heartedness, something I will cover in another article.
The following three formulas all have a sedating affect on the central nervous system but through different mechanisms.
A quick note: with any supplement always consult with a qualified practitioner before taking as undesirable side effects may occur when taken by someone who does not need it.
Lavender – Integrative Therapeutics Lavela WS 1265
Modern science in seeking to understand why lavender has endured in usage through the ages have studied its actions in the brain and its effect on our body. Study results have shown that in the brain, lavender has effects similar to Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) and Gabapentin, both of which help to regulate the nervous system and provide a sense […]
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 […]
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.
“I am so tired, I have no energy.”
” I am feeling heavy and sick to my stomach. I am queasy and have a slight headache.”
If you have said this to yourself or to someone else, it is likely that you are suffering from the flu. Not the fill your head with snot flu, but the stomach flu. Viral Gastroenteritis, is described by the Mayo clinic as, “Gastroenteritis, attacks your intestines, causing signs and symptoms, such as:
Other signs and symptoms are a low grade fever, vomiting, sweating, the hot and cold chills, and general fatigue and achiness. Once one contracts the flu, symptoms will appear with in 1 to three days, and can last anywhere from 24hrs to 7 days.
Treatment for the flu
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 […]
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 […]