As the weather gets cooler and our bodies have to work a little harder to stay warm, they also have to work a little harder to fight off those autumn bugs. There are ways, however, in which we can assist in boosting our defence systems and immunity. These range from lifestyle choices to foods and of course Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture are a great ally.
Our tendency to go from warm cosy houses out into the cold air, especially when we are not dressed for it, means our bodies are not ready with their defences. It is great to spend time in the elements, as then, our bodies naturally build up their defence resources, which they need during the cold winter months. When we surprise them though by going from an environment that simulates summer into icy wind they are likely ill prepared. So, either move into a tent in the back yard and you’ll probably not get sick, or take those long walks breathing in the beautiful crisp air and remember to take a scarf when you are running from you house to your car.
In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season of metal which corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine organs and meridian systems. The Lung is related to our defensive qi known as Wei qi. When the Wei qi is strong our bodies are able to fight off pathogens. If pathogens do find their way in, strong Wei qi will protect and stop the pathogens getting deeper into the body. An example of this is when a common cold turns into a secondary infection like bronchitis. The lung is responsible for the skin and controls the opening and closing of pores. This process, in both western and eastern medicine, is our quickest temperature regulator. For all these reasons, at this time of year especially, it is very important that we are looking after our lungs.
Lungs like singing, so I highly recommend singing. Gentle, regular exercise, especially in the fresh air, breathing it deep into the body and feeling it nourish every cell, will boost the immune system in many ways. The colour of the lung is white and the flavour is pungent so simple pungent foods that are white are great for tonifying the lung. These include onions and garlic, parsnip, turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage and daikon. I can see a lot of vegetable soups on our horizon and now that it is cooler, it is the time for warmer more hearty meals.
A lovely formula we use in Chinese Medicine to boost lung qi is called Bu Fei Tang or Tonify the Lungs Decoction. This formula contains Ren Shen (Radix Gingseng) and Huang Qi (Radix Astragali Membranacei). These work synergistically to tonify qi and fortify Wei qi. Ren Shen is one of the most well known Chinese Herbs and translates as ‘man root’ or ‘earths strength in the shape of a man’. The effective components of Ren Shen are ginsenosides, which are glycosides containing an aglycone (protopanaxadiol or protopanaxatriol). These have been shown to have a wide variety of biological properties including agents that modify one or more immune functions, antioxidant, anti inflammatory and anti-tumour activity. Huang qi, means ‘yellow leader’ as the root is yellow and considered one of the most important herbs in Chinese Medicine. Huang qi strongly nourishes qi and is has been shown to stimulate the immune system by promoting proliferation of specific T cells, although at this moment, there is more evidence needed.
Lastly Autumn is the time of harvest. It is the time of abundance and of letting go. It is the nature of Autumn to be abundant in food after the spring rain and the summer sunshine. The plants go to seed and we harvest and preserve enough food to feed us all through the winter months. We gather those seeds and the lessons we have learnt in this cycle as we prepare to return to the quiet cosy hearth and earth. In the same way the plants begin to die back, their stems and roots returning to, and nourishing the soil. As this happens, we let go of the things that no longer serve us, allowing them to return to our soil, ready to be the foundation of all that will follow. Just being aware of the cycles, and being gentle with ourselves within them can bring much strength and insight, allowing flow. A common saying in Chinese Medicine is ‘where there is free flow, there is health.’
And don’t forget the singing! 😃