by Jenna Ferraiolo L.O.M., MSTOM, Dipl. O.M.
As the seasons transition from the warm months of summer to the coolness of autumn, it is time to focus on strengthening our immune system (Wei Qi) to fend off fall allergens, viruses and colds. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn is associated with the Metal element – the Lungs and Large Intestine. Metal is the element of protection, so it is important to keep our lungs and intestines healthy and strong in order to protect our bodies from falling ill.
According to TCM, the Lung’s function is to take in the clear (air) and the Large intestine’s function is to expel the turbid waste. Keeping both Metal organs functioning properly during the autumn months is essential for staying healthy.
One way to strengthen our lungs is to include exercise into our daily routines. This can be by adding stretching exercises like yoga, outdoor activities like hiking or brisk walks or by doing Qi Gong exercises. Wearing a scarf to cover up your neck and chest on cold breezy days is also important to protect yourself. Pungent foods like pepper, garlic and scallions can be added to foods and soups (Miso) to help clear up mucous and the common cold.
With the cool weather of autumn, comes dryness. Healthy lungs require a thin layer of mucous to protect against viruses and bacteria. If you tend to suffer from dry lips, skin and dry coughs in the autumn months, eat moistening foods such as Asian pear, spinach, barley, loquat, almonds, sesame seeds and honey.
Another way to boost our defensive Wei Qi is to keep our digestive tract healthy by eating foods high in probiotics including sauerkraut, Kombucha and water Kefir. Other fall foods that strengthen the digestion, or Spleen Qi according to TCM are sweet orange foods such as carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, etc. And don’t throw out those pumpkin seeds after carving those Jack-O-Lanterns later in the month as they help moisten the intestines and are known to clear parasites. Having a healthy, moving digestive tract is essential to having a strong immune system.
Autumn is a time for letting go of old attachments; just like the leaves on the trees shed their leaves in preparation for the cold weather, we need to rid ourselves of unhealthy habits and ideas in order to focus on positive self-image and being happy. You may start exploring methods of meditation in order to quiet the mind in preparation for more indoor winter activities.
DIY Natural Cough Remedy
- 2 ripe Asian pears; peeled, cored and quartered
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh organic ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 Tbs organic lemon juice
- Place pears in medium saucepan with enough water to barely cover them. Stir in honey and lemon juice.
- Heat the mixture until simmering and liquid ingredients are combined.
- Add ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Cover and continue to simmer 20-30 minutes until pears are soft and easily pierced with a knife.
- Cool to room temperature, then discard the cinnamon stick, cloves and ginger.
- Refrigerate the finished pears with the liquid in an airtight container.
Eat your pears one at a time or all at once. The poaching liquid contains tons of healthful nutrients, so be sure you make use of it as well.