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Late Summer, the Season of Earth Element and Chinese Medicine - Oct 2023

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

Late Summer wheat field at sunset

Late Summer, the season of the Earth Element - Acupuncture lifestyle advice

"In its central position the Earth is the pivot for all of the other Elements which encircle and spin around it. It is a place of stability within the body, mind, and spirit. From this stable anchor, change and growth can take place. Our food can be transformed and processed by the Stomach and Spleen and turned into qi that nourishes the mind, body, and spirit” - Angela Hicks, Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture

Summer is winding down, we are harvesting the fruits of our labour and the days are getting shorter. The transition into the season of Late Summer, the season of the Earth element has begun.

The Earth element belongs to a “fifth season” that spans from the hazy days following the peak of summer to the start of fall. During this time of year, we focus on the digestive system, nourishment, and stability. It lasts from late August until the Autumnal Equinox.

The Spleen and Stomach organs belong to the Earth element, and they play a very important role in our overall health and wellbeing. Chinese Medicine has supported the theory that most ill-health stems from a weaker or weakened digestive system. This can be due to any of the following factors or a combination of more than one. Our environment, diet, lifestyle, medicines, etc. Recent scientific research will support this as the relationship between gut health and immunity is only now we being looked at and discussed in any great detail.

The Spleen is in charge of making our body's Qi and blood, which are the vital substances needed to stay healthy. Most importantly, the Spleen transforms the food we eat into energy and transports that nutritive energy to other parts of our body. When the Spleen is weak or out of balance, various health issues from digestive to gynaecological to emotional can arise.

The Stomach and Spleen is about receiving nutrition for life and turning it into the currency our body needs.

Our thoughts and mental capacity are also the responsibility of the Spleen, which translates to Intellect. It influences our capacity for studying, concentration, memorizing, etc.

And the Emotion is Worry, with its connection to the mind and thinking, the Spleen is prone to worry, anxiety, and overthinking. When caught in this loop, symptoms arise, like digestive weakness, IBS, and fatigue. Meditation and calming the mind are very important for Spleen health.

The Earth element relates to issues of dampness (humidity, heaviness, phlegm) - the climate of Late Summer. Dampness shows up in the body in many ways: physical fatigue, mental fatigue, worry, digestive problems, and muscle weakness to name a few. Because the Spleen and Stomach are particularly impacted by dampness, food therapy becomes so important to keep everything on track. This is especially true in the UK where we have a Damp climate.

Glass globe reflecting sunset on a rock

Living in the Season of Earth In Chinese Medicine, we take the seasonal changes as opportunities to better our health and prevent disease. Just like the seasons cycle, our health is not a fixed state. When there are changes in nature, it’s important that we adjust to the natural rhythms and flow of the earth. Addressing our health in this way will help us cultivate balance, harmony, and holistic health throughout the year.

Now is the time to reinforce the vitality of the earth element and spleen Qi- acupuncture, food therapy, and mindfulness are particularly supportive.

“Earth generates Metal”. Fall is the season of the Metal element and the Lung system- and of course, when colds, flus, and seasonal allergies circulate. Cultivating a balanced Earth Element and strong Spleen qi in the Late Summer contributes to a stronger immune system and healthy lungs in the fall. Now is also the time to visit your Acupuncturist if you need extra support in the Fall.

Chinese Medicine is about preventative therapy. If we look forward and adapt to coming seasonal changes in advance thenbwe are less likely to suffer from ill- health.

What to eat in Earth Season

herbs and spices in a metal bowl

Warm it up - the Earth Element thrives on a nourishing diet and is key for maintaining good and balanced health. Cold raw food creates dampness in the Spleen, which interferes with its role of the transportation and transformation of nutrients and energy, and its ability to produce Qi and blood. This leads to a variety of health imbalances.

Maintain warmth in the centre of the body is very important. As summer draws to a close, it’s time to phase out cold raw foods, including smoothies, ice water and salads. Dairy, refined sugars, and fatty and greasy foods also contribute to dampness.

Do include warm, cooked meals. Aromatic spices and herbs can also help to warm things up, resolve dampness, and strengthen the Spleen Qi.

Sweet Flavours in small amounts, benefit the Spleen and Stomach (sadly, we are not talking about cake). Rather think of vegetables and foods that are sweet in flavour e.g. carrots. These strengthen the Earth element. Enjoy the sweet fruits and veggies that are currently in season and available in the late summer harvest.

Don’t skip breakfast. According to the Chinese Medicine clock, the Stomach has optimal digestive capacity between 7-9am. Your meal should be substantial and fortifying. Eat like a Queen! A good breakfast strengthens the Stomach and Spleen Qi and Yang for the day. Optimal breakfast foods are energetically warming foods, prepared with warm cooking methods that stimulate the body and do not spread dampness. A favourite in Chinese Medicine food therapy is breakfast congee, a highly nouurishing and healing way to start the day.

The colour of the Earth Element is yellow - eating foods that are yellow and orange are especially supportive for Spleen health. See a few examples below.

Find your center - the Earth element is about stability, nurturing, caregiving, and bounty. Think Mother Earth! Look for activities that keep you centered and grounded; focus on what nourishes and fulfils you and those you care about. With Fall just around the corner, the season of "letting go", we will soon think about the things we have too much of and begin the process of releasing, clearing, and simplifying.

Be mindful about what you mentally ingest – the Spleen and Stomach and its relationship to the "Yi"- our mind and intellect- means we need to be mindful about what we MENTALLY ingest, as well. This is a perfect time of year to think about our relationship with social media and the news and create good boundaries around screen time.

And finally- sing like no one’s listening! Every element has an associated sound, through which it expresses itself. The sound of the Earth element is "singing". Whether your stage is the shower, the car, or a stage, get those vocal chords warmed up and sing your heart out!

Foods that are good to eat in Late Summer – Earth Season

Many of these are in season and eating foods that in ready now is an easy way to adapt your diet.

Aromatic spices like ginger, fennel, coriander, caraway, and cardamom help to warm things up, resolves dampness, and strengthen the spleen Qi.

Sweet foods that strengthen the Earth element include whole grains, like millet, rice, and root vegetables, such as yams, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Yellow and orange foods - include squash, pumpkins, sweet potato, yams, corn, papaya, and carrots. All of these foods are also sweet in flavour.

Essential Oils

For a daily earth-strengthening fix, try patchouli essential oil. Entering the Lung, Spleen, and Stomach channels, this oil resolves dampness and phlegm and harmonizes the digestive system. On an emotional level, patchouli can help the body transform and release pent-up emotions and calm a worried or restless mind.

Neroli is good for tonifying Spleen Qi, soothing a nervous stomach and easing anxiety.

Grapefruit for uplifting the spirit and resolving stagnation caused by food and dampness.

Other good oils to consider include - fennel, coriander, cinnamon, basil, clove, nutmeg, rosemary, orange these are also

Author Sheira Chan

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