Despite the warm weather recently, earlier sunsets and cooler mornings signal that Autumn is around the corner. At this time in nature, animals start to prepare for hibernation and plant life begins to decompose as leaves, flowers and fruit return their nutrients to the soil. The trees prepare for the upcoming cold by drawing their sap inwards towards their roots and humans are busy bringing in the Fall harvest.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lungs are associated with Autumn. In TCM theory, one of the functions of the lungs is to extract Qi from air, using it to nourish the tissues and internal processes. Part of this Qi, along with the Qi from food, goes to build Defensive Qi. This Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Indeed, because the lungs interact directly with the outside environment, they play a very important role in fighting off external pathogens.
Due to our dry climate as well as Autumn being the prime time for flu and cold season, the lungs are especially challenged now. In order to have strong immunity and to remain healthy, it is a good idea to protect the lungs by taking a few preventive measures.
According to TCM, the lungs detest dryness, a issue that is made worse by our semi-arid region. So it is a good idea to remain well hydrated with water and herbal teas. Licorice, slippery elm, ginger, mints, and lemon balm are tasty herbs that have medicinal properties which are perfect for problems (sore throats and coughs) that arise in the Autumn.
It is wise to focus on energy rich, seasonal vegetables, grains, and fruits, such as: greens, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, squash, apples, pears, berries, rye, oat, quinoa, rice, etc.. TCM recommends moving away from colder foods and preparation styles such as raw veggies, juices, and fruits. Instead, baking, stir-frying, and other warming cooking techniques are utilized. Soups and stews are a great way to get essential nutrients from a wide variety of vegetables. One of my favorite fall recipes is butternutsquash soup – easy, tasty, and healthy! (see recipe at bottom)
In addition to diet, exercise is another way to strengthen the
lungs and to build the Defensive Qi. Yoga, Tai Chi, and mild cardio-vascular exercise are the perfect tools. They all gently encourage the full use of the lungs, helping to maximize gas exchange. This allows the lungs to extract as much Qi from the air as possible, which strengthens the Defensive Qi.
It’s important to not overdo cardio-vascular exercise here in our semi-arid region. As the lungs humidify our air, too much breathing of dry air can exhaust the moisture or yin of the lungs. This can lead to irritated throats and dry, chronic coughs.
One of the easiest ways of weakening our immunity in our modern world is stress. Here, both East and West agree that stress saps the body of the energy necessary for strong Defensive Qi and a vigilant immune system. Stress comes in many forms – physical, mental, emotional – but all have in common the tendency to drain our Qi. Practicing stress reduction techniques such as meditation, jounaling, acupuncture, massage, art, prayer, and counseling on a regular basis are very effective ways of mitigating stress.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to have a healthy Autumn. If I can be of any assistance with that goal, please email me at [email protected]
Check out my website www.hughsacupuncture.com for more info on acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine!
Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
– 1 large butternut squash
– 1 medium onion
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1 medium celery stock and large carrot
– 2 TBS of butter
– 32 oz. chicken stock
– Salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon
Bake the butternut squash at 350 degrees in a ½ inch of water baking pan for 45 min.
Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot 8 min., or until lightly browned. Add cubed squash. Pour in enough of the stock to cover veggies. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover pot, and cook 10 min, or until veggies are tender.
Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return the pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Add seasonings and enjoy!