Today, Monday September 22, is the Autumnal Equinox – the day midway between the solstices. Being the midway point, the equinoxes are the times of even balance between Yin and Yang. Furthermore, today begins the next 2-week long seasonal node, also called Autumn Equinox. In the Chinese calendar we are in the eighth lunar month and the time related to the Kidney channel. The smaller 5-day segments of this seasonal node are called Thunder Begins to Retract its Sound (Lei Shi Shou Sheng 雷始收聲), Hibernating Insects Reinforce their Shelters (Zhi Chong Pei Hu 蟄蟲培戶), and Water Begins to Dry Up (Shui Shi He 水始涸). The names of these 5-day segments of time all point to a similar phenomenon – this is the time of year where the movement of Yin-contraction of nature is in full gear. The natural world is preparing for Winter’s slumber.
During this time of year the Huang Di Nei Jing (or Nei Jing for short), the foundation text of Chinese medicine, suggests that we “nourish the Yin” (春夏養陽，秋冬養陰) of our body by conforming with the Yin-contracting nature of the season. In practical terms this means for example getting more sleep. As the days grow shorter so should we be less active. Thus, the Nei Jing tells us that we can still wake at the cock’s crowing, but we should be in bed earlier.
During this seasonal node one traditional recommendation is to guard the Lungs, and in particular the Lung Yin. Autumn is the season associated with the Metal Phase and therefore the Lung. Furthermore, Autumn is associated with environmental dryness. Thus, protecting the Yin fluids of the Lung is appropriate to this season. Some of the foods that protect the Lung Yin, and therefore are useful now, are milk, peaches, pears, apples, soymilk, glutinous rice, sesame seeds, and honey. Those who are adventurous can cook rice congee using white wood ear mushrooms. Click here to read more about white wood ear mushrooms.
Another method for helping the Lungs is acupressure at Chi Ze LU-5 (尺澤穴). Located at the inside of the elbow (see diagram) this point regulates Lung function and treats conditions such as cough, wheezing, asthma, the common cold and seasonal allergies. Furthermore, it is the Water point on the Lung channel meaning that it is appropriate for both the season (Autumn relates to the Lung) and the Lunar Month (the eighth Lunar Month relates to the Kidney channel, which is the Water phase).
In addition to environmental dryness, this time of year sees temperatures dropping. Therefore, while we focus on protecting the Lung we should also be cautious about cold exposure. People who in general are cold and fatigued should focus on warming and supplementing the body this time of year. Wearing adequate clothing is an important part of this strategy. Additionally certain warming and supplementing Chinese herbs can be consumed as functional foods. For example, one traditional recipe for the Autumn Equinox Seasonal Node is Angelica and Codonopsis Lamb Soup. To make this, take 1lb organic lamb meat and cook in an appropriate amount of water with 10g Chinese Angelica (Dang Gui 當歸), 10g Codonopsis (Dang Shen 黨參), 30g Angelica Dahurica (Huang Qi 黃耆), 10g fresh ginger, and salt and pepper to taste. Other in season vegetables can also be added as desired. This recipe warms the Kidneys, supplements the Yang, quickens Blood and moves Qi.
We hope you enjoy the unfolding of Autumn and wish you health in the season to come!