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Inviting Autumn in - the TCM way

One of the most beautiful aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is as a tool to live harmoniously with the seasons. Ancient Chinese physicians observed the natural cycles of the seasons and recorded the best everyday practices for staying healthy and harmonizing our own energy with that of our environment.

Having just ended a cycle of strong yang, outward energy (end of summer), the cycle is revolving into the early stages of yin, which symbolizes a more contracting and inward energy.

 Classic autumn food choice, pumpkin soup
Focus on autumn colours for food choices


Autumn is the season associated with the metal element. According to TCM, the metal element governs the mind, organization, order, and stability. We tend to be more reflective, turning inward to our work, our families and our homes during this time. It is a time to organize and prepare for the winter season ahead and a time to reflect on our lives.

Emotionally, this is the season associated with grief and sadness. It is important to keep the mind clear and “let go” of negative emotions, which can impact health more strongly during this time.


The organs relating to this phase are the Lung and Large Intestine.  As a partnership, they are in charge of respiration, digestion, and elimination. Common symptoms associated with lung and large intestine imbalances are respiratory problems, such as asthma, shortness of breath, frequent colds, and sinus infections, as well as constipation and skin problems.


The body is particularly susceptible to wind and cold during autumn. Dryness can cause symptoms of coughing, dry nose, sore throat, dry skin, dry hair and scalp, dry mouth and cracked lips, and hard and dry stools.


By striving to live in harmony with our environment, it is important that we follow the cues given to us by nature. And so, as the weather becomes cooler and crisper and the sun begins to set earlier, here are some of the simplest things we can do to remain in good health:

  • Dress warmer, taking special care to cover up the napes of our necks (as this is a common point for external wind to enter our bodies and be a contributor to the onset of poor health).

  • Incorporate a breathing exercise routine (or as a meditation) to ensure the lungs are healthy and moist – needed to combat the effect of dryness in the body.

  • The lungs control the skin, so keeping the body’s surface clean (by body brushing) and hydrated (creams/oils) will aid this function of the organ.

  • Eat fewer cold, uncooked foods — such as salads — and more warm, cooked foods. Switch to soups and steamed vegetables such as pumpkin/butternut, carrots, peas, broccoli, bok choy and sweet potatoes.

  • Eat foods with properties that match the vivid hues of the falling leaves: red, orange, and yellow.

  • Sleep is an important aspect of staying healthy in autumn, so take advantage of the longer nights.

  • And finally, keep moving to support the chi (energy) of the body.

Enjoy the changes.


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