“In the three months of autumn all things in nature reach their full maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The heavenly energy cools, as does the weather. This is the pivoting point when yang, or active phase, turns into its opposite, the yin, or passive phase. It is important to remain calm and peaceful, to gather one's spirit and energy, and to keep the lung energy full, clean and quiet.”

The response of the health minister Qi Bo to the Chinese Emperor Huang Di of ancient China relates the connection between our bodies and nature in autumn. That phrase still holds true today, but we are sometimes so far removed from nature and the seasonal influences that it is hard to understand any connection to the seasons other than our attire.

Wu Xing - the Five Phases

In Chinese medicine, there are five seasons or phases. Autumn is the fourth season in a full year cycle of five:

  • wood/spring
  • fire/summer
  • earth/late summer
  • metal/fall
  • water/winter

Each relate to the movement of energy in nature and to a pair of our internal organs. Autumn is the season of metal, and internally, of the Lungs and Large Intestine. During autumn the days grow shorter and become dryer, the plants lose leaves and sap descends, the gifts of the harvest come, and the year moves to conclusion representing taking in and letting go.

The same is represented internally by the Lungs and Large Intestine – taking in good air and letting go of bad air, receiving food from the digestive system and releasing waste. Also related to these organs and the metal phase are the skin, the nose, and emotion of sadness. Many times, a patient with a problem with the lungs such as asthma will also have allergies, sinus or skin problems, or constipation. Dryness is the pathogen associated with metal. Dry weather can attack the lungs and skin. Internal dryness can affect the menstrual cycle, the tendons, or the colon.

Extreme sadness may also affect health by constricting the energy, or chi, of the lungs, preventing the dispersion of oxygen to the body. Chinese medicine sees the relationship of all the internal organs, the mind and the emotions as completely interconnected. Just as you can’t think of autumn without having a sense of the end of summer or the coming of winter, Chinese medical theory is always conscious of the interplay of all aspects of the body. In health, all the internal organs support each other in a harmonious way.

There are only two ways to supply the body with energy: breathing and eating. Slow, soft, regulated breathing of clean air such as during meditation, tai chi or yoga, will help to keep the body strong and relaxed, and will naturally bring our minds inward, calming our spirit and bringing all the organs increased oxygen. Though many people find aerobic activity relaxing, it is during time of deep breathing and stillness of the body, the emotions and the Spirit within that the oxygen can more fully replenish our systems. Similarly, after the menstrual period, the body replenishes itself to compensate for the loss of blood. Therefore, proper nourishment and fluids are necessary to keep the cycle healthy. The wise people of ancient times knew and practiced this, and prepared themselves for the coming winter by decreasing their activities during autumn and keeping their lungs strong thereby protecting themselves from the bitterness of the coming winter.

Chinese medicine is a full system of medicine which includes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Chinese medical massage, tai chi , chi kung (energy work), cupping, and a list of modern techniques. Used correctly, it can correct imbalance on many levels not only during times of injury or disease, but can help preserve balance and support existing health through the seasons. Its diagnosis systems are detailed and intricate, and can help with many of today’s health problems, from all types of pain and internal diseases to problems associated with the menstrual cycle, menopause, and even fertility. It is natural and safe on its own or works well in connection to Western medicine. When choosing an acupuncturist, be sure to check credentials and training. (Licensed Acupuncturists in Arkansas are required to have four years of training at a nationally certified school and pass two national tests on acupuncture and Chinese herbs for licensure in Arkansas.)