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Introspective Autumn

Fall is the season of harvest, a time for us to pull inward and gather together on all levels, a time to store up fuel, food, and warm clothing, a time to study and plan for the approaching stillness of winter. We can find great balance in aligning our activities with mother nature and her seasons. In nature in the autumn season energy begins to contract and move its essence inward and downward. Leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, the sap of trees and plant energy begins to head into the roots. The earth’s grasses start to lose their deep green color, turning lighter and drier. To prepare food, which reflects the qualities of autumn, we are aware of its abundant yet contracting nature. Our awareness can be heightened by choices for more astringent as well as heartier flavors and food. In addition, cooking methods involve a bit more focused preparation to provide the greater energy required by a cooler season.

An essence of food is received though the sense of smell, which is related to the Metal Element and lung. The appetite is stimulated by the warm fragrance of baked and sauteed food, concentrated foods and roots thicken the blood for cooler weather. The fall is the time to organize the open and scattered patterns of the previous warmer season. To stimulate this activity in the body, to focus mentally, and to begin the process of contraction, add more sour flavored foods. These might include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, small amounts of cheese, yogurt (digestion permitting), lemons, limes, and sour varieties of apples, plums, and grapes. In general cook with less water and at lower heat, for longer periods of time. This can help internalize our focus. The bitter and salty flavors move energy strongly inward and downward; ideally, they are gradually introduced as the fall progresses into winter.

The lungs receive the qi vital force of the air and mix it with the qi extracted from food. This combination of qi and associated nutrients is then distributed throughout the body and is of particular importance in protecting the surfaces of the body (including the mucous membranes and interior surfaces of the lungs) from viruses, bacteria, and other invading pathogens. The strength of the lungs depend on their qi. In health, lung qi energy is characterized by its ability to consolidate, gather together, maintain strength, and unify against disease at every level, including cellular immunity. The personality of those with strong lungs is influenced by this qi: they are unified, hold onto their direction, create order, and are effective at what they do. How well we “hold on: and “let go” can be expressed in terms of emotional attachment. The colon is the yang organ paired with lungs, and its function is releasing what is no longer needed. People with healthy lungs tend to hold onto their principles and keep their commitments, and when it comes time to let go of an object or relationship, they are able to do it with out emotional repression, feeling the associated grief and sadness, and soon resolving it. In comparison, people with weak lungs may experience loss with confusion and attempt to stifle their sadness, challenged to let go. At the same time they can be disorderly, and either lose their possessions easily or else hold onto them with unreasonable attachment.

PROTECTIVE & PURIFYING FOODS

FOR THE LUNGS AND COLON

Choose foods that specifically affect the lungs and colon. Pungent foods help disperse the stuck, mucus-laden energy of these organs. Pungent foods such as hot peppers and chilies can be used to protect the lungs. Onion, garlic, turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage, radish, seaweeds, marshmallow root, flax seed, and fenugreek offer a purifying effect. Dark green and golden-orange vegetables offer a protective effect. They include carrot, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale, turnip, mustard greens, watercress, wheat or barley grass, common green blue algae, tumeric, and the herbs yerba santa leaf, mullein, nettles. Probiotics are good year round and are especially helpful with changes in seasons and diet. A good tea can be made with marshmallow root and flax seeds. Green foods are especially important, as their chlorophyll inhibits viruses and also helps the lungs discharge the residues from chemical fumes, and other environmental toxins. Green foods also improve the digestion of proteins and fats. Be sure to include plenty of fiber rich fruits and vegetables to keep the colon moving. The fiber in apples, cherries, carrots, and oats aid in boosting colon health, and also help eliminate cholesterol from the digestive tract.

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