Metal Element in TCM | Fall 2014 | Finding Balance
The Metal element in the Traditional Chinese Medicine five element philosophy, begins on August 6th and ends on October 16th. Metal is the energy of autumn and it provides our sense of value as nature moves us into a period of rest. When we understand both the gifts and challenges of the metal element, we can achieve balance and live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons. The metal element is about letting go of what no longer serve us, and taking in purifying elements to restore wellness.
From Fire to Metal Element
Our internal system is working with the rhythm of the seasonal cycles, however, here in California and elsewhere in the country, August feels like the peak of summer; it is hot and dry! And yet, our bodies are indeed responding the shorter days and subtle seasonal changes. As the fire element gives way to the metal element, our health can easily become vulnerable. The fiery burst of activities in August is often at odds with the need to slow down and contemplate, to assess and re-assess the value of our activities. A seasonal acupuncture “tune-up” to assist with the re-calibration of the flow of Qi, is in order, whether or not we are feeling out of sorts. Fatigue and depression are common complaints when we do not balance the seasonal energies.
Creating Emotional Balance:
Throughout the transition, creating quiet time is important. The joy and passion of summer can turn to feelings of fear and aggression if there is not sufficient time for inner reflection. Nurturing our Yin energy through activities such as meditation, Tai chi, breathing techniques (Qi-Gong), and practicing daily gratitude will assist one’s body in the transition, allowing it to feel both relaxed and energized.
Creating Nutritional Balance: Time to Spice it up!
As the weather responds to the seasonal changes with cooler mornings and evenings it is wise to adjust our diet to support the metal element, establishing balance through the foods we eat.
When we consume warm, pungent and spicy foods, we combat the cold, dampness, and sluggishness that accompanies the change in season. Foods that support the metal element disperse energy throughout the body and promote energy circulation. Foods that nourish the metal element are:
- White and brown rice
- Navy beans, soy
- Cauliflower, cabbage, celery, radish, onion, mustard and turnip greens, turnips, garlic and leeks
- Bananas, pears,and apples
- White fish such as cod, haddock, and sole
- Herbs and spices such as ginger, cayenne, horseradish, cinnamon, basil, thyme and rosemary
Eating mindfully and consuming the foods that nourish our bodies and our spirits is essential for maintaining balance. When we are out of balance, it is easy to overeat the “wrong foods” and like bears in the fall, put on layers of fat. Unlike the bears, we don’t need the extra insulation! Maintaining a healthy weight, or loosing weight in the fall must be approached mindfully. Acupuncture can help with food cravings, to balance hormones, stabilize moods, and reduce the effects of stress; all which contribute to weight gain. Overeating is a common way to create a sense of security, which we very much need in this season of letting go. It is wise to establish a healthy eating regime in the fall to help maintain healthy weight throughout the holidays.
Strengthening our Bodies:
The organ systems associated with the metal element in TCM are the lung, skin and colon. In TCM philosophy, these organs are associated with letting go: Breathing in and out, we release toxins. Through the pores of our skin, we sweat out toxins. Through our colon, we let out what cannot be digested. When we are out of balance, we become especially prone to respiratory infection, asthma, dry skin, eczema, and digestive disorders such as constipation.
Lungs: Aerobic exercises stimulate circulation, promote healthy breathing, and fights depression. The allergies of autumn are related to the hot dryness with dust and molds in the air. Its important to prevent the mucosa from drying out: to keep them moist (not damp) apply saline nasal sprays, and drink plenty of warm, herbal teas. Acupuncture can help with seasonal allergies.
Skin: Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Protecting skin from drying out is essential for good health as well as for good looks. Moisturizing the skin with topical emollients, drinking plenty of fluids, and detoxing the system from inflammation will help the skin stay supple and healthy. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatments stimulate blood flow to the skin, creates natural collagen and reduces inflammation. Though it is called “cosmetic acupuncture” the goal is to maintain healthy skin naturally. Looking younger is just one of the benefits of cosmetic acupuncture.
Colon: The call to “let go” in the fall is especially true for our digestive health. While it is important to let go of emotional grudges, it is also important to let go of stored toxins. Seasonal colon cleanses are recommended to expel built up toxins and to restore digestive health. A good resource for cleansing is the book “Gut Flush Plan” by Anne Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS. Acupuncture is also effective to fight inflammation and regulate constipation / diarrhea.
Mastering balance is always a challenge, however, when we consciously restore equilibrium within ourselves, we can live in harmony with the cycles of nature and celebrate the gifts that fall has to offer us.