By Tarynn Butler LAc., MSTCM
The autumn is a time to wind down from the active, expansive hot yang energies of the summer and come into more of a reflective and transformative state of being. The autumn is the shedding of the years fruitions and a great time to let go of old habits that are no longer serving you and to nourish good ones. It is a time to clean things out and shift energies of your life. The air in autumn is fresh it’s crisp and carries a different scent. It reminds us to take in new things and release others (breath in- breath out). As the energies of the Earth begin to go into a deeper state of being, the leaves and plants pass on in the fall to help create the potential for things to come in spring. During the fall we are taught to embrace the years harvest and nourish the Earth energies to build a strong and healthy immune system.
Autumn embodies the element of metal. In Chinese Medicine Metal(Air) is the element of the Lung and the Large Intestine. These organ systems together with the spleen, kidney and several other organ systems help us to regulate the letting go of impurities. They help prevent the build up of stagnations that can lead to colds, flus, digestive upsets and things that need to be cleaned out. The things we don’t need internally, materially and spiritually. These processes are some of the key components in having and maintaining a strong immune system. They help us to create a strong barrier to protect us from illnesses that tend to arise in the darker months of the year.
In Chinese Medicine the immune system equates to what we refer to as the wei chi. It is a protective energy that surrounds our bodies and keeps invaders out. When this barrier is weak it allows for intruders (colds and flus) to enter our bodies. Symptoms such as achy neck, headache, fatigue, fever, chills are all signs of the beginning phases of a disharmony. The strength of your wei chi will then determine the depth at which the illness can penetrate. For example, it may begin as a light cough but with improper care and nutrients it will move down to the chest. Often times if not fully resolved can lay dormant and resurface in the spring.
Keeping the neck covered and protected in colder weather is an amazing, simple protocol to preventing the first phases of illness. It is the neck that is susceptible to being attacked. This is why often times symptoms manifest as achy neck and occipital headache. When this area is kept warm and covered it can not be invaded and wei chi can flow.
Acupuncture can help to prevent illnesses as well by encouraging the release of old energy and the welcoming of new. The treatment a practitioner might choose would come from an array of points that support lung, spleen and kidney qi to help build up resources. Each patient is slightly different so treatments are tailored to the whole being while keeping the nature of the season and person in mind. Acupuncture can also minimize the duration and intensity of an illness if it has already set in.
Herbs such as astragalus, codonopsis, and licorice can help support the immune system. Rosemary, thyme, parsley and oregano have great immune boosting properties. Mushrooms also have amazing benefits to support the bodies wei chi. These are all easy to make into teas or add to soups and stews. Foods should be warmer energetically and physically this time of the year.
Autumn encourages us to take a step back and look at things in our lives that may be stagnating in our systems physically and spiritually. Small regular practices of rhythm and regularity encourage our wei chi to flourish. The fall offers up a time to reap what we have sown over the year and nourish our systems to prepare for the deep yin transcendence into winter.