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Autumn: The Season of Metal Energy

The forces of Autumn create dryness in Heaven and metal on Earth; they create the lung organ and the skin upon the body…and the nose, and the white color, and the pungent flavor…the emotion grief, and the ability to make a weeping sound.

-----Inner Classic

Element: Metal

Color: White

Nature: Yin

Organs: Lung, Large Intestine

Emotion: Grief

Sense: Smell

The Metal Element

METAL is the energy of autumn when leaves fall to the earth to be recycled into rich humus. In your life, the power of the Metal Element allows you to efficiently let go of what is not necessary, and store only what is needed for Winter; it gives us our sense of quality and value, and our capacity to look at what lies beyond ourselves.

The Work of Autumn: Cleaning Out Old Negativity In Chinese medicine, autumn is the season of the element Metal (or air). Grief is the emotion of the Metal element. We all experience loss, separation, and “letting go,” and we appropriately feel grief at those times. Grief cleanses us of what is no longer needed in our lives. When the energy of Metal is blocked or imbalanced within us, our expression of grief likewise becomes imbalanced and inappropriate. It may be excessive and ongoing or it may be absent, as in those who cannot express their grief.

Protecting the Lungs and Colon

Beginning on September 22 or 23, the autumnal equinox signals a time of change, in weather, daylight, and temperatures. Physically, you need to take special care of the two vital organs of this season, the lungs and the large intestines.

Breathe Deeply

The lungs—along with the bronchial tubes, throat, sinuses, and nose—are a major detoxification pathway. They act as the go-between for the internal and outer environment, inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide through their pulmonary capillaries. Each cell performs as a mini lung by taking in oxygen from the bloodstream and eliminating carbon dioxide, which is then carried back to the lungs. That’s why it’s so essential for your lungs to have good-quality air that is clean, moist, warm, and rich in oxygen.

Colon Therapy

Equally important to your health and detox process are your large intestines, which also need your special attention during this season. When your system becomes backed up with toxins, a mucus buildup along the lining of the intestinal wall occurs. The wastes lodged in your colon ultimately affect every part of your body and result in constipation. One of the first places this intestinal problem appears is your skin in the form of rashes, blotchy skins, acne, and eczema. And because constipation can cause fecal matter to stay lodged in your system for weeks or even years, this motionless waste develops a hard, stubborn buildup along the walls of our bowels and creates a dangerous playground for unwanted bacteria.


Autumn Foods

The harvest season is the time to begin to decrease your intake of cooling summer foods and start to increase more cooked and warming foods into your eating plan in preparation for winter. It’s also the season to reduce your fruit intake from three portions to two, because fruits are especially cooling to the body. We need more warmth now.

The essence of food is received through the sense of smell, which is related to the Metal Element and lungs. The appetite is stimulated by the warm fragrance of baked and sautéed food – concentrated foods and roots thicken the blood for colder weather. To begin the process of contraction, add more sour flavored foods. These include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and the sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes. Be cautious with extremely sour foods, because small amounts have a strong effect.


When dry climates prevail, it is important to know how to offset their effects. To counter dry weather and treat conditions of dryness in the body, foods which moisten can be emphasized: soybean products, including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk: spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, black and white fungus, almond, pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, honey (cooked), barley malt, rice syrup, milk and dairy products (to be avoided if phlegm condition exists), eggs, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, herring, and pork. Using a little salt in cooking also moistens dryness. Our favorite autumn treat are poached or baked pears with cinnamon and drizzled honey.

Autumn healing tea, herbs, and spices

Fenugreek tea is a great autumn beverage due to its effectiveness as a lubricant and its ability to soften and dissolve mucus in the lungs and moisten the intestinal tract to prevent constipation.

Autumn spices including warming cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and anise, which are not only deliciously aromatic but help to prevent indigestion, gas, and cold hands and feet. Anise is a lung remedy as well, known to help bronchial disorders and asthma. Your autumn tea, herbs, and spices all help to support intestinal and respiratory function and alleviate dampness.


For both cleansing and protection, choose foods that specifically affect the lungs and colon. Pungent foods help disperse the stuck, mucus-laden energy of these organs. All pungent foods such as hot peppers and chilies can be used to protect the lungs, but at least some white pungents should be included because this color specifically affects the Metal Element. These include members of the onion family, especially garlic: also turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage,*radish, and *daikon radish.

Dark green and golden-orange vegetables offer a protective effect because of their rich beta-carotene content. This includes carrot, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale, turnip, mustard greens, watercress, wheat or barley grass, common green, blue-green, and golden micro-algae, and the herbs yerba santa leaf and nettles.

Fiber is important to cleanse the lung and colon and if sufficient enough in your diet, reduces the incidence of some cancers by 60%. For prevention, all fiber-rich foods are helpful; the bran of grains, the pulp of fruit, and the cell wall of vegetables. However, for an effective cleansing fast of a few days, choose the least mucus-forming fiber foods, vegetables and fruits.

*These foods are considered cooling and should be used if there are any heat signs present (yellow mucus, feeling too hot, red face, sore throat, night sweats, periodic fever).

For the autumn detox plan, whether you stay on it for the minimum three days or two weeks, the foods to be consumed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are from the food groups listed below.

Oils—1 tablespoon lignan-rich flaxseed oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil daily

Lean protein—at least 8 ounces daily. Choose from beef, buffalo, eggs, lamb, poultry, tofu, and tempeh

Vegetables—Unlimited raw or steamed, low glycemic; plus 3 tablespoons sauerkraut

Fruits—2 whole portions daily. Choose from 1 medium apple, 1 cup cranberries, 1 medium pear, 1/2 medium persimmon, 1/2 pomegranate; plus 1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Filtered water—8 glasses a day

With or between meals—2 cups of fenugreek tea daily or tea of your choice

Sample autumn detox plan menu

Upon arising—two 8-ounce glasses of water with juice of 1 lemon

Before breakfast—1 cup fenugreek tea or tea of your choice

Breakfast—1 stewed apple with cinnamon and nutmeg; Autumn Scrambler (made with 2 eggs, mushrooms, and onions with 1/2 tablespoon sesame seed oil)

Mid-morning—two 8-ounce glasses of water

Lunch—Tempeh burger; Warm cabbage salad with grated carrots, celery, parsley, and dressing of 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; 3 tablespoons sauerkraut

Mid-afternoon—two 8-ounce glasses of water

Before dinner—1 pear

Dinner—Broiled lamb chops with a dash of cinnamon; braised greens and sliced daikon with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil; autumn veggies (with steamed wild mushrooms, radishes, and snow peas); 1 cup of fenugreek tea

Mid-evening—two 8-ounce glasses of water

Chinese Pear & Honey Tonic Drink

Honey, according to TCM, is a "neutral" food that is it's neither warming nor cooling (balanced yin and yang). It's a food suitable for children and people who have a weak body constitution. This honey pear drink is what I make for my family when hit with a cough. It is good for soothing the lungs and quenching thirst. If you can't find all of the herbs, poached pears with honey also helps.


2 Chinese Pears/Japanese Pears

4-6 Red Dates

1/2 Tablespoon gou qi zi (goji berries)

10g Soaked White Fungus

1 Tablespoon of Sweet & Bitter Almond

6 Strips of Sha Shen (Glehnia Root)

1 liter of Water

About 2 Tablespoons of Honey


1. Wash all the herbs.

2. Peel and core pears. Then cut into quarters and put into a double boiler pot.

3. Bring water to boil in another pot and add in all the herbs and white fungus. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

4. Pour the herbs ingredients into the pot containing the pears and let it double boil in a slower cooker for about 3 hrs.

5. Switch off the heat, allow to slightly cool, and add in the honey before drinking the soup.

This recipe serves 3 persons.

Suggestions for living in harmony with the autumn season:

  • Go through your closet, desk, garage, medicine cabinet - any cluttered storage area-and discard what you no longer need. Then donate, sell, or otherwise circulate what might be of value to others.

  • Do a mental inventory: Examine attitudes (prejudices, envies, hatreds, jealousies, resentments) stored within your psyche. When possible, contact those with whom you harbor old "stuff." Attempt to resolve the hurtful old issues, and then let them go.

  • For issues you cannot resolve directly with others, or for old issues with yourself, write them on paper, being as specific as possible. Then burn the paper, symbolically releasing the content.

  • Take time each day to breathe slowly and deeply. As you inhale the clean autumn air, feel yourself energized and purified. Feel the old negativity, impurity, and pain leave your body and psyche. Then contemplate briefly who you are without these identifications.

  • Receive Acupuncture treatments and massage therapy to assist in releasing stagnant energy.

Welcome Autumn!

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