3 Surprising Connections TCM Makes to the Fall Season & How to Integrate Them


A fundamental component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is seeing the human as a microcosm of the nature, elements and environments that surround us. To remain in harmony, shifting and changing dynamically just as the seasons do, is ideal. There are behaviors, tendencies and even foods that can best aid and support us depending on the season. Autumn is here and TCM has a lot of links to it that you may not expect. Here are 3 (of many) that you can concentrate on this fall.

The Metal Element

Fall is a time to harvest the literal and metaphorical fruits of your labor. The energetics of this season and element, switch from summer and maximum expansion to contracting inward and downward toward our core. The intuitive drive to begin the process of collecting and storing in order to be successful throughout winter is ever-present. Leaves fall, animals prepare for hibernation, climate becomes dry and the bright and vivid colors of the spring and summer fade, turning lighter and drier. Autumn slows down to meet winter’s absolute stillness.

How to embrace the Metal Element:

  • Slow down. The constant activities and energy of summertime reaches ultimate Yang and autumn starts the transformation into winter and ultimate Yin.
  • Reflect. What things have come to fruition in your life over the last year? Look at your “harvest” and remember the seeds that you planted earlier to yield the current crop.
  • Conserve energy. Commit less. Say yes only when you truly want to. Rest. Spend time interacting with yourself.

The Lungs and Large Intestine (LI)

Every element in TCM has corresponding meridians and organ systems that it links with and Autumn is all about the Lungs and Colon. When there is imbalance in these systems it can often be due to unresolved grief and sadness (more on that later), sedentary lifestyles, poor food choices and exterior conditions related to environment. Generally speaking, there are foods to eat, ways to cook them, activities to do and external precautions that can be taken to complement this time of the year.

How to support the Lungs & LI:

  • Eat foods that are pungent, such as: chilies, hot peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, cabbage, radish.
  • Eat foods that are rich in beta-carotene, such as: carrot, pumpkin, kale, winter squash and broccoli.
  • Eat fibrous foods, such as: pear, apple, broccoli, artichoke, sweet potato, chia seeds, lentils, oats, chickpeas and beets.
  • Eat more hearty, nourishing foods from the earth. Bake, saute and make soup!
  • Practice breathing exercises. Breathe deeply and smoothly through your nostrils, expand your belly like a balloon as you bring the outside air in, pause for a moment at the top of your inhalation and exhale smoothly through your mouth, bringing your belly toward your spine. Repeat.
  • Stay active. Consider what you enjoy, what motivates you and what is reasonable. Setting goals that you can achieve help to promote forward movement and consistency.
  • Dress for the weather. If it’s cold or windy, cover your neck. Try to stay out of extreme weather.

Grief & Sadness

A beautiful part of TCM is the incorporation of emotions and how they can interplay with our health or lack-there-of. Emotions can be wonderful tools that aid in navigating the waters of this mysterious and often complicated life. However, they too can become unregulated and put a kink in the system. Grief and sadness are the predominant emotions tied to the metal element and consequently the fall. 

Ways to use the fall energetics to observe grief & sadness:

  • Look within. As mentioned, fall is a great time for reflection and introspection as the natural energetic is to move inward and downward. Awareness of a pattern, feeling, association, etc. is often a big part of the healing process.
  • Organize. Fall is also a great time to bring organization to scattered and abundant Yang energy. Organize your thoughts regarding how you can show yourself self-love and support while you sort through any emotions that may come up and out.
  • Share. If you feel safe and called to release any repressed feelings of grief or sadness, share with a loved one, a professional, a journal or even out loud to yourself. Let go.

While the above mentioned suggestions may work for many, it is always important to remember they are generalized and both humans and TCM are complicated systems. Staying authentic to yourself and using suggestions and information as guidelines for life choices can help steer life in a more natural way that is most efficacious for you.

Now is the time to slow down, conserve, look inward and warmly nourish yourself. Winter is coming. 

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