Brrr, it is sure looking and feeling more like fall with the cold front and rain that has moved in. Fall is my favorite season and it’s associated with many fun-filled memories. I love the multicolored leaves that turn shades of warm red, orange and yellow. I love the nourishing comfort foods like soups and squash. I love the crisp coolness of the air and the way it makes me feel like a new season has arrived along with the hope of positive changes.
Autumn/Fall is the time when leaves change to beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red, and then fall to the ground to decompose and create fertile soil for spring growth. Chinese Medicine gives us clues to our health through comparisons with the outside environment. These comparisons suggest lifestyle adjustments for optimum health during each season. We can keep these suggested adjustments in mind when making choices about the actives we engage in, the food we eat and the clothes we wear.
The autumnal equinox falls on Wednesday September 22 this year, marking the official end of summer and the beginning of fall. This is the time when the maximum yang (pronounced yong) “hot” energy of summer transitions to the opposite extreme, yin or the “cold” energy of winter. Autumn Equinox or Mabon marks the first day of the season of autumn. Day and night are of equal length making it a time of balance, equality and harmony. During this time of year you should take some time to reflect, give thanks for the blessings that you have received and make preparations for the coming winter months. This is the time when we start to move activities indoors and when we crave more comforting and rich foods. Winter is the time for storage (of your energy resources/nutrition) and in the fall we decide what should be stored and what we are ready to release, freeing up valuable space.
Chinese Medicine links each season to a number of characteristics. Fall has the following qualities:
Fall is governed by the metal element and has the qualities of precision, organization, setting limits and protecting boundaries.
The cooler temperatures and the dry winds of autumn can make the lungs sensitive, often resulting in symptoms such as a scratchy throat, a dry nose, dry skin, dry eyes, a dry cough and even symptoms of dryness in the digestive system such as constipation. We can balance the dryness of fall, protect the lungs and protect our digestion by eating foods that generate fluids and moisten the body. Examples include pears, apples, persimmons, figs, pumpkins, nuts and seeds. The meridian of the lungs are associated with clear thinking, good communication, openness to new ideas, a positive self-image and the ability to relax. The lungs take in fresh air to be used by the body and expel waste (exhaled carbon dioxide), the lungs let go of everything the body does not need. When the lungs are out of balance, we can feel sadness for long periods of time, we can have difficulty coping with change, we can feel alone and have a difficult time letting go of people, objects and experiences. Grief and discomfort can be associated with the end of summer. Some people are greatly impacted by the change to less light and warmth. I too occasionally experience a sense of loss after the first frost and opportunities to eat brunch outside and spending time in my patio garden dwindle.
In addition to eating the right foods for fall, remember to wear a scarf as the winds pick up this season. The nape of the neck is where wind can most easily enter the body and cause illness. There is a saying in Chinese Medicine that “wind is the cause of 1,000 diseases.” Chinese Medicine diagnose many ailments caused by this mechanism including colds, flus, headaches and sore throats.
Here are some additional things that will help you stay in tune with Fall, keep you healthy and prepare you for the next winter season:
1. Make Fire Cider
Fire cider is an herbal remedy developed by the renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in the late 1970s. Her original recipe includes equal parts horseradish, ginger, onion and garlic and a small amount of dried cayenne pepper. Spicy foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish and mustard are beneficial to the lungs. This herbal folk remedy reduces inflammation, aids digestion and boosts the immune system. You can take fire cider when you feel a cold coming on or as a warming bitter-tonic for the digestion. Most people take one or two tablespoons of fire cider at a time, often diluted in water or tea. I recommend taking a shot of tonic every 3 to 4 hours when you feel a cold coming on. I also like to or use it as a vinaigrette for dressings a salad.
Layer the ginger, onion, garlic, horseradish and jalapeños into a quart-sized jar with the star anise and cinnamon stick. Add the apple cider vinegar, adding additional to cover the contents of the jar as necessary. Seal the jar and store it away from direct sunlight for at least 1 month and up to 6 weeks. Shake daily. Strain the vinegar, discarding the solids. Stir in the honey until fully dissolved. Store at room temperature up to 6 months or in the refrigerator for up to 18 months.
2. Roast Pumpkin Seeds
When I think of fall I think of pumpkins. I love everything pumpkin and the well-known pumpkin spice is the ideal thing to use in the fall. Many times in October, I throw a pumpkin carving party and have everyone save their seeds for roasting. Roasted pumpkin seeds are fun to make, and a yummy, healthy snack for the fall. There are many health benefits to eating pumpkins seeds. They have high levels of antioxidants and reduce inflammation. They are also one of the best food sources of magnesium. Healthy magnesium levels are important for optimal blood pressure levels, optimal blood sugar levels, heart health and bone health. Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc. Zinc supports the immune system, skin health, fertility and one’s vision. Eating just one serving of pumpkin seeds (about 1oz) can supply up to 40% of the daily target for this essential nutrient. I like to roast them with a little oil and add cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Yum!
3. Write in a Journal
Journaling is a good way to get to know yourself better. When it was first recommended to me to start journaling, I was reluctant and worried someone would find my journal and read it. If this is a barrier for you too, try tearing up the pages after writing. This is also therapeutic and a symbolic separation from one’s emotions. Ripping up the paper helps me to remember to let go of negative thoughts, patterns and behaviors that no longer serve me. Fall is about boundary setting and communication. Try writing down a list of what you want to prioritize this season, what habits you wish to form and what you can let go of. This could mean establishing a new exercise routine, finishing a creative project, figuring out how to spend more time with friends or saving up money for a new car or vacation. Whatever it is, use your list as a guide to help you stay focused on what truly matters and letting go of things not serving you well.
4. Make Moon Milk
Milk is a drink that consists of warm milk mixed with spices and herbs. This beverage helps the body and mind relax and fall sleep. I love to make Moon Milk on nights when I just want to relax with a good movie or book or as part of a moon ritual.
Moon-Brightened Water Instructions:
To make moon-brightened water place a glass jar of water outside under the direct light of a full moon, allowing it to soak up the moon’s power. You can drink it daily while reminding yourself of your intentions. You can also use it to water your plants, cleanse your home or put it in a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil to create a facial toner. You can also infuse rose petals for this Moon Milk recipe.
5. Conduct a Full Moon Ritual
Tuning to nature and the environment helps us understand ourselves on a deeper level. I find doing full moon rituals helps to be more inspired, hopeful, healthy and productive. The time of the month with a full moon is a time for release. We can learn lessons of release from the fall leaves that turn beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red, then fall from their branches.
Viewing a big full harvest moon is magical. Its gentle glow can have a calming effect, leaving you feeling refreshed and renewed. My family has the tradition to have a picnic and watch the harvest moon rise. We pack apples, pears, vegetables, hummus, smoked salmon and apple cider and go to a mountain top to watch the stunning orange globe rise. A moon ritual is a great opportunity to reflect on what you want to bring in to your life and what you want to let go of. A full moon is ritual a good opportunity to celebrate all you have accomplished so far this month and is associated with positive changes. There are many ways to celebrate the full moon see what feel good to you.
6. Eat Fall Food
When the weather gets cooler we need to give up the raw salads that we enjoyed during the summer months and switch to warming and nourishing comfort foods like soups and stews. Foods in season for fall are apples, pears, figs and winter squash. The Fall element is metal and the taste is spicy! Try adding warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, curry or peppermint to dishes. These items can nourish your autumn organs (Lungs/Large Intestine) and defend against invasions of virus.
7. Knit a Scarf
The nape of the neck is particularly susceptible to wind and pathogens. Keeping this area covered and the body warm helps to create a buffer from the environment to protect the body from external factors. I love to go to the yarn store and pick out the softest yarn I can find in fall colors, of course. It is so relaxing and meditative to just sit down on the couch light a candle and use my hands to create something useful in its end product. The process of knitting itself is peaceful to the spirt. Try your hand at knitting this fall it is easier than you may think.
8. Make Pine Needle Tea & Pear - Honey Lung Tea
Making a tea with pine needles may sound a bit odd but it’s beneficial to your health, it’s free and it’s simple to make. Pine needles have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, are pain-relieving and help your lungs function (expectorant and decongestant). Pine needles also contain antioxidants and Vitamin C. Pine needles steeped in hot water readily release shikimic acid, one of the key ingredients in antiviral drugs. To make a fragrant pine needle lung tea, cut the needles in thirds, add 1/3 cup needles to a mug and fill the mug with hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 min and then strain. For added lung health (and taste), add honey, dried pears and/or cinnamon. Pears have the ability to clear heat and moisten the lungs. Cinnamon is warming to the digestion, antibacterial and good for the circulation. Honey moisten the lungs and digestive organs is antioxidant, antiviral, and has antibiotic properties. This tea is great for a dry cough and can help prevent constipation, a wonderful addition to try this fall.
Note: Do not drink pine needle tea if pregnant. Make sure you identify trees properly and avoid trees with pesticides.
9. Make Pomegranate Pear Dessert
This is one of my favorite desserts to make in the fall.
“Life starts over again when it gets crisp in the fall”
“The leaves are about to show us how beautiful it can be to let go”
“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything burst with its last beauty as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale”
I hope you enjoy some of my fall recipes and suggestions to keep you healthy this fall season. Enjoy the cozy beauty all around you this fall!