Autumn – A Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Autumn is the time to harvest and gather energy for the colder months ahead.


Autumn is a time to nurture and support our organs, fluid and blood, as the yin energy of autumn pushes the body energy in and down.  The two organs associated with Autumn are the Lung and Large Intestine. The Lungs breath in “the pure qi from the heavens” while the Large Intestine “let’s go” of the waste. This is a good analogy to live by in Autumn. Go through those draws, clear out that cupboard, sort out your relationships. Keep what is essential and let go of the rest.


Give yourself some space to breathe in the crisp new energy.


Imbalance of the Lung and Large Intestine manifest as; short breath, cough, colds, flu, nasal congestion, bronchitis, wheezing, sore throat, allergies, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain. It can also manifest in depression, stubbornness, isolation and negativity.

The element of Autumn is Metal and has to do with your sense of self worth. Remember you are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a drop – Rumi

An imbalance of the metal element is seeking things outside of yourself, money, power etc because you feel a lack of worth within.

The lungs are in charge of the Wei (Protective) Qi which is produced by a combination of the spleen/stomach (digestive system) and the fire (yang) of the kidneys. It defends the body from external attack ie. colds, viruses etc. If your Wei Qi is weak you will easily catch colds, flu’s and hayfever. Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Wind Screen Powder) is a Chinese Herbal Formula that can strengthen your Wei Qi. It is taken over the Yin months of winter to prepare your body for the rising energy of Spring and the fresh growth and pollens it brings with it.

The lungs are reflected in the skin. If they are strong your skin will be lustrous and firm. If it is dry increase your intake of oils.

The emotion associated with the Lungs is grief. Repressing grief or grief that goes on for extended periods can cause the lungs to contract over time which affects the distribution of oxygen and clogs up the defensive (immune) system.


To build up the lungs in Autumn we must not over exert ourselves.


Remember the expansive energy of summer is over and as the energy draws in and down.  Being quiet and calm, only acting and speaking when necessary. Not getting too hot or sweating excessively, nor getting too cold.

Pungent foods are associated with the lungs but in autumn we want to tone down the pungent foods and increase the Sour foods. Pungent foods are yang and ascending, they open and clear. Autumn is a yin contracting time. Sour foods draw inward, astringing, drying and firming. The sour flavour strengthens the liver and supports the lung. It strengthens the tendons, improves bladder control, restrains excessive sweating, sagging skin, haemorrhoids and prolapse.

Pungent foods are; bay leaves, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, chives, cinnamon, cloves, cumquats, dill, fennel, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, watercress, wheat germ, cabbage, turnip, horseradish, pepper, onions, garlic and chillies.


Gentle pungents are good for Autumn including; chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, turmeric and ginger.


Sour foods are; leek, sourdough, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, adzuki beans, rosehip tea, vinegar, yoghurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, sour plums and granny smith apples.

Cold’s and flu’s can be common during the colder months with chills and fever, dry or productive cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, aches and pains with clear or yellow/green nasal discharge. Chinese herbs are prescribed for these, a common one being Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder) to clear the heat and phlegm out of your chest.

Good foods if suffering with cold and flu are lemons, cooked apples and pears, peaches, citrus, seaweed, mushrooms, radishes, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, linseed, barley, rye, bok choy, cauliflower and mint.

Use the hot pungents for colds with white or clear phlegm and cool pungents for flu with yellow/green phlegm.

For strengthening the yin steaming and boiling are the appropriate cooking methods using foods such as seaweed, pears, peaches, watermelon, soy, green beans, dairy, eggs, oysters and clams.

Foods for nourishing the Blood include figs, pears, pumpkins, parsnip, sweet potato and beetroot as well as small amounts of wine.


Gentle exercise is important to keep the circulation moving and the body warm in the colder months.


The yin type movement arts are like Qi Gong, Tai Qi and Yin style Yoga are encouraged as they keep the body healthy but don’t promote excessive sweating and leakage of valuable Qi.


Andrew Moulton

Dr Chinese Medicine




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