Chinese medicine Metal and Autumn

For me there is a certain melancholy that tinges Autumn. The heated exuberance of Summer is dwindling and the dark cold stillness of winter is just around the corner.

During Autumn we are in the season of Metal. Lung, skin, nose and Large Intestine are the organs, the emotion is grief, the colour is white, the flavour is pungent, the sound is weeping, the climate is dry. Energy moves downward and inward.

The elements of Chinese medicine act as symbols packed with information to help us understand the function of the organs and illuminate the associations.

Metal within us creates a boundary and defends it. Lungs inhale oxygen bringing the outside in and like swords or knives cutting away that which is unnecessary or even threaten us, we exhale CO2 and other waste products. The skin is a barrier. Wei Qi (an immune function) flows beneath it acting as a defence against invaders. The Large Intestine eliminates waste products from digestion. Metal energy demarcates that which is us and expels that which is not leaving only what is essential then works to protect this treasure.

Metal objects are often those we consider valuable, such as coins, jewellery, gold and silver. The sense we have of our own value is in the purview of Metal. Think of a stance with shoulders pulled back, chest full and forward, it says “I’m here, I’m confident, I value myself.” Slumped shoulders, a curved and withdrawn chest implies the opposite.

Trees retract sap and other nutrients from leaves storing it in the roots for winter. The leaves become dry and useless, falling to the ground becoming pungent as they rot. This is a concentration process, saving what is essential and discarding what is not. We preserve the bounty of summer by drying fruits and meats, condensing the nourishment to store and eat later. This is a perfect illustration of the inward downward movement of Metal energy and that dryness as a Metal quality.

When we lose someone, when a relationship or experience ends, when major changes occur in our life we experience Loss. Even when its is a wanted change (you are thrilled to be marrying your fiancé at the same time you mourn the end of your single life) you experience grief as result of the loss. Obviously, there are many losses that we do not choose but the healthy experience of grief includes acknowledging the wisdom acquired through pain and letting go of that which does not serve us anymore. This allows us to move forward. The discretion to keep what is crucial and release what isn’t involves judgement and letting go. These are Metal qualities.

Healthy Metal energy creates our easy breathing, lustrous skin, regular bowel movements, strong immunity and secure self esteem. It follows that unbalanced Metal energy creates breathing problems like asthma, skin problems like eczema and bowel problems like chronic constipation, a poor sense of self worth and persistent feelings of sadness, grief and inability to accept loss or let go of that which does not serve us.

Meditation with a focus on breath is a wonderful way to support our Metal. Eating whole fruit and veg, drinking enough water and exercising to support healthy bowel movements helps to keep Metal balanced. Include pungent spices such as cumin, black mustard, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds and turmeric in your cooking. Eat white foods such as cauliflower, fennel, onions, cabbage, parsnips. Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, swede, carrots, garlic and ginger nourish Metal. Wear white. Collect and donate items or clothes that you no longer need- declutter. Metal likes minimalism, nothing extra.

During Autumn we preserve the riches of summer, storing what we will need as we prepare for the hibernation of winter (food, summer cloths and toys, memories.) We are shrinking back as the days shorten and cool. Honour the contraction by letting go of what is not needed and appreciating the rich density of what you have.