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Chinese medicine for the four seasons: Autumn

Advice to maintain good health from summer to autumn.

Autumn is the season of harvest, storage and preparation for the coldest months of the year. Crops reach maturity, leaves turn and fall, seeds, grasses and plants dry out. It is a time of transition – from the brightness and openness of summer to the relative stillness of winter.

Chinese medicine associates autumn with the lung organ and its related energy system. The lung opens to the nose and controls the skin, and is seen to be delicate as it is easily affected by changes in the external environment, especially dryness. As the temperature drops and winds become dry you may experience early symptoms of colds or flu such as a stiff neck, body aches, chills, fever, sore throat, headache, cough and runny nose. You may also notice skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis are aggravated; and asthmatic problems or allergies flare. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can assist in the treatment of such conditions. See a registered practitioner for more information.

Eastern medical philosophy teaches the importance of disease prevention as well as treating active or current health complaints. Looking after ourselves through autumn ensures we’re equipped with the best defences possible against colds, flus and other imbalances which tend to prevail as we head into winter.

For optimum health and a smooth seasonal transition, we must focus our energy inwards, gathering together on all levels to prepare for a cooler, calmer climate. Enjoy the freshness of a crisp change in weather but be sure to dress appropriately for cold or rain with a scarf, umbrella, socks and closed-toe shoes. Ensure you eat nourishing meals with heartier flavours and ingredients. To aid your digestive system in the transition from summer to winter, replace raw salads with lightly stir-fried or baked vegetables. Gradually incorporate delicious root vegetables such as beetroot, turnip, sweet potato and pumpkin into your diet. Cook foods for longer, at lower heat with less water to enhance the nourishing quality of meals. Autumn is the season of dryness so it is as important as ever to keep well hydrated, with plenty of room temperature water. Refresh mid-morning and afternoon with a cup of rosehip, peppermint or lemon tea. Pears, apples, millet, spinach and barley are foods considered in Chinese medicine to moisten and cool the Lung system. Eat more of these if you experience thirst, dry lips and skin, an itchy throat or dry cough. Consult with a Chinese medicine or other healthcare practitioner if symptoms persist.

Focusing our energy inward also makes way for reflection on a personal level. This is the time to plan for what you would like to achieve through winter and the remainder of the year. The more active, sometimes scattered patterns of summer are soon to be replaced by the relative order and organisation of winter. Take the opportunity to use autumn’s abundant yet inwardly focused energy for some quiet reflection. Make time for centering activities such as yoga, meditation, practicing slow, relaxed breathing or taking walks in the glorious autumn sunshine.

Baked stuffed apples for autumn:

  • 4 sour green cooking apples, cored
  • 12 prunes, stones removed
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon slivered almonds
  • 1 cup apple juice

Using a sharp knife, make a tiny slit around the centre of each apple so that the skin will not burst.

Combine prunes, cinnamon and almonds and use to stuff centres of apples. Place apples in a shallow ovenproof dish just large enough to hold them. Pour apple juice over the apples. Bake in a moderate (180’C) for 25 mins. Serve hot, with yoghurt if desired.

Advice to maintain good health from summer to autumn.

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