Staying Healthy in Autumn - A TCM Perspective
Fall is considered to be like a hinge between summer and winter. It is full of movement; of what Chinese medicine names WIND. Wind starts up suddenly and dies down just as suddenly. From September to November there is rapid give and take: one day it’s really hot, the next day cold is in the air.
In Chinese medicine this push and pull, this wind, is dangerous. It is a time when the body must continually adapt to change, from opening the pores to allow sweating to closing them to protect from cold. Change is hard; no wonder this season is considered "flu season".
Chinese Concept of Immune System: Defensive Qi and the Lungs
Chinese medicine has an awareness of the interplay between living with the seasons and maintaining a healthy immune system. Chinese medicine breaks the immune system down into three particular kinds of “Qi” (energy) that regulate different aspects of immune function.
We'll focus on the one called “Wei Qi” or “Defensive Qi.” Wei Qi is the first line of defense against infectious disease. Weak Wei Qi is a factor in patients who easily or repeatedly catch colds, bronchitis, and flus. It is also a factor in allergies and asthma.
In the body's preparation for Winter it is centered especially around the lungs, the organ whose “power is exerted in Fall.” That means that anything you do to injure the interior landscape of the body in autumn; poor diet, digestion, sleep, insufficient or excessive exercise, and stress will easily damage the lungs at this time of year.
Three Steps for Protecting Lungs in Autumn
1. Protect the lungs fron severe cold and dry. In places like Chicago, people cover their faces with scarves or face masks when out in the sub zero weather. This is to warm and moisten the air before it enters your Lung system (the Lung system in Chinese medicine includes the sinuses and nostrils). But since we can’t control the weather, we also use herbs and food to ameliorate nature’s effects–see below.
2. As the lungs are the organ most affected by grief and sadness, it is important, especially if you have weak Wei Qi or Asthma, to be in touch with issues of grief and sadness, so that you may process them. That means allowing the discomfort of grief and sadness to be felt so it can be moved through.
3. Having a lifestyle and diet that's appropriate is another excellent way to ensure lung health.
Kitchen Medicine for the Lungs in Fall
Protecting the lungs from external pathogenic dryness is a first line of defense against catching colds. Adequate moisture in the mucosa makes them slippery. When the nasal mucosa is dry, it is much easier for the Rhino viruses that cause colds to attach and get into the blood stream.
The most common kitchen medicine in China in Fall are pears. Pears are cooling and moistening. Pears have a viscous quality that helps moisten the lungs. And they have a nice cool energy, that balances the hot Santa Ana weather we experience here in San Diego
Pears can be used in salads a lot but another great easy way to use them is to steam them.
Cut tops off pears and core.
Fill each pear with 1 tablespoon honey and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Place top portion back on top of each pear.
Cover, and place steamer over a saucepan of simmering water.
Steam pears for 15-20 minutes or until soft.