A Traditional Chinese perspective on Autumn

A Traditional Chinese perspective on Autumn

A Traditional Chinese perspective on Autumn

Autumn - it’s that time of year again where the hot summer days we have loved and enjoyed so abundantly are becoming shorter, the leaves are changing colours and the chill of winter is slowly creeping its way into our mornings and evenings - urging for us to snuggle just that small bit longer.

We pack away our summer clothes and bring out the warmer layers, we harvest pumpkins, squashes and notice the turning inwards, the motion of introspection.

Before I continue with the navigations and investigations of Autumn here is a poem:


Fall, Leaves, Fall

Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.


(Now that we have all inhaled and exhaled with Brontë’s beautiful words)


Traditional Chinese Medicine shares a perspective of Autumn that has always resonated in such truth with me - it explores and expresses a deeper understanding of the motions and emotions which we are all navigating through at this time of year.

Under this understanding Autumn is associated with the element of metal and the organ/ meridian system of the lungs - this governs the principles and practices of boundary setting, honouring our own limits and practicing organisation in our lives. There is also a noticeable grief-filled motion from the external, expansive 'sun-shiney' nature of summer towards a more contractive, introspective and hermit-ed state of being - a slowing down.

And so in this moment where the pause becomes that much more apparent take the time to finish and plan out the closing of projects and enjoy the results of the hard energising work summer and spring birthed. Cultivating a focus on the internal through your work, home and personal practices are encouraged to support and nourish your mind, body and spirit. This is also the time to encourage letting go of all that no longer serves your wellbeing - releasing consciously so that there is an opening through which the light may pour through. 


Element - metal

Yin organ - lungs

Yang organ - large intestine

Sense organ - nose

Tissue - Skin

Emotion - grief and sadness

Climate - dry

Stage of development - harvest

Flavour - pungent

Colour - White

Sound - Cry

Healing sound - sssssss


The lungs and the large intestine 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) every organ has a partner - the yin and the yang, which when working harmoniously together are able to promote balance in the body and promote wellness overall. 


The lungs are here considered to be the yin energy; they are responsible for taking in the new, manifesting as the allowing and welcoming of the crisp autumn air to fill us completely allowing for us to navigate all we do in a day with clarity and ease.

The large intestine is then the counter parted yang energy, it enacts the release and letting go of waste. Being the last phase in the digestive system, the large intestine absorbs the last of all which is needed and then releases it, only taking in that which is vital for wellbeing. On the emotional spectrum this is why it is said that autumn is a good time to reflect on what we are holding on to and allow for them to be released. 

One of the greatest imbalances people experience regarding eliminatory problems and congestion (such as constipation) more often than not translates on the emotional level in the inability let go. Being stored as a sadness, the meridian which connects the large intestine and the lungs then communicate this experience of emotion and grief can be triggered - this can even manifest in the forms of various lung dis-eases. 

Plainly put . . .

these seasonal allergies, the constriction in your chest and the slower stomach movements which you may be experiencing at this time of year are indicative of a greater movement taking place within the mind, body, spirit spheres and one of the greatest practices is to allow for holism to creep into the methodologies used in treatment - and so simply allow for the inquiry. 


A note on the grief the wind blew in

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” – Marcel Proust.


Like most emotions which we have labelled and deemed ‘negative’ or ‘too much’ grief can be a gateway, an opportunity and what I like to visualise as an opening for the allowance, the softening and the growth to take place.

Seeing as grief is the emotion of the lungs it is can provide some clarity and ease in knowing the ways in which the lungs/ lung meridian can enact itself within this experience of emotion - associations include that of clear communication and thought processes, positive self-image, the ability to relax, being openminded, letting go and allowing for happiness to be experienced and felt.

When the lungs find themselves out of balance or are being triggered with an external grief such as loss, change, alienation and sadness there will the additional stress placed on the ability to manage these experiences, emotions and coping mechanisms.

One of the key lessons of the lungs are letting go

this can translate to attachment and attachment styles to people, objects, experiences and even times in our lives.

When our energy (qi) is weakened in the lungs this can be experienced as a  consistent grief sense through which depressive thoughts and symptoms can manifest and the grass always looks a little greener in a moment other than now. However - when met grief provides the perfect doorway through which mind, body, spirit may be fortified and strengthened. The lesson here is not to avoid the emotionality and the experience of it - rather to navigate through it in a way which is serving for you to allow for balance and happiness. 


Autumn practices:

Breathe and breathe deep

The lungs are essentially muscles and they need to be strengthened and worked in order to become resilient - and so breathing deeply can be one of our best friends in this regard. It sounds simple but when we breathe deeply not only can it aid in immune response, energy levels and memory, but when done with intention it allows for our cells and brain to become super charged with that beautiful oxygen so needed in order to enhance vitality and sustainability in fulfilling all the body’s processes. We are also absorbing vital qi (life-force) from the air through the lungs thus allowing for our entire beings to be restored and revitalised. This can be done with various practices such as square breath (in for x, hold for x, out for x, hold for x ), alternate nostril breathing, breath of fire and even just taking a walk outside and consciously inhaling that little bit deeper and sighing out your mouth. 


Practicing releasing:

When challenge makes itself known in life it is more than often that it feels like a force which is out of control and can become consuming. Whilst this lesson is always an important one, with the energy of the Lung meridian at its peak this season it is essential to become aware of these triggers and allow for them to move through with ease and grace.

Negativity is of itself a construct we have created and create daily for ourselves, and so firstly it is essential to disentangle oneself from the experience enough to not label it as ‘negative’ and see it with the perspective that can allow for a development of awareness which will unfold as changes and manifestations within our lives which we may have been praying for. This repositioning is not only psychologically a far healthier lens but it allows for a greater perspective and opens us to the light which shines in our lives, allowing for the expression of happiness, joy and love. 



Move the body - we have all heard this countless times but moving the body in ways which feel intuitive and serving for the entire being allows for the lungs to be strengthened and also allows for energy to flow through our entire beings. Taking time to walk outside and connect with nature, breathe in the crisp cool autumn air and express your gratitude for life can be a phenomenal and short way in which to celebrate and support yourself this season. 


Declutter and reorganise

In the self-sustaining days - Autumn is and has been a time to take stock of all the produce which was grown in spring and summer in order to manage how we would navigate through winter. T

his practice can translate to more relevant ways particular to your lifestyle, letting go of the old to make room for the new. Going through your pantry cupboard, the one drawer we always avoid, your computer, bookshelf, whatever it is donate that which you no longer need to a charity of your choosing and liberate yourself from attachment to that which isn’t serving. As a practical means this can be phenomenal in the symbolism of the working through the emotional releases and attachments, allowing for the mind, body and spirit connection to be in communication. 


Wrapping up

In TCM one of the most beneficial things to do for the yin organs is to provide support and warmth - a simple act like wearing a scarf or waist coat can be an easy way in which you can consciously support your yin organs and allow for them to be held in love and warmth. 


Nutrition in the Fall

As the weather becomes cooler it is a good practice to move away from cooling foods so as to support the body from becoming too cold. Eating less raw foods and salads and rather eating cooked vegetables, grains and spices are especially nourishing for the digestive system. Due to autumn being a time of wind and dryness it is important to introduce more moisture to the body through yin nourishing foods - increasing mucilage and lubrication in the body


Early Autumn 

At this time our bodies tend to hold onto the last of the dampness summer brought to us, for this reason it is a good time to strengthen the spleen through eating more juicy foods which are easy to transform into nutrients and enhance the immune response - apples, pears, grapefruits, radishes and dates are great in the early days to help  your body adapt to the changes.



This is a time where we need to focus on nourishing our yin energies - taking conscious efforts to store energy and allow for decompression and relaxation to take place. At this time including moisturising foods and drinks into true diet are crucial such as honey, milks, pears, wood ear mushrooms and more water.

Late Autumn

With the colder weather come the same dryness we have come to know and our lungs are that much more addicted by this energy, making us more susceptible to catching colds or the flu. Nourishing foods include Black beans, sweet potato, pumpkins, black sesame seeds, grapefruits and breads.


Here are some foods for your autumn shopping list:





Beans/ legumes/ grains




sweet potato






navy beans





soy beans





black beans


black pepper









sourdough bread


goji berries











mustard greens













According to TCM the best way to live a radiantly healthy life is to learn about the seasons and to live in harmony with its spirit - through living in harmony with the outside world we allow for an inner harmony and visa versa.

Autumn is a time to slow down, preparing for rest, therefore sleeping longer, eating warming foods, placing more attention on the internal worlds allows for the spirit of this season to be seen and expressed. 


A note on metal ( jīn) 

Metal is associated with firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength and determination, while this element can be seen as harsh it is also bendable and able to be folded and formed back to its original state of ease when needed.

Being the element of autumn it is important to acknowledge that our sense of and perceptions of self worth is going to be brought to awareness.

This opens the doorway and opportunity for us to be that much more conscious of pouring a little more attention into our self-love and nurturing. One of the most common coping mechanisms we have is out-sourcing when it comes to self-worth, seeking value outside of ourselves through aesthetics, work and status, however when we reposition once more in the resting state of knowing that we can have and do have the ability to find peace and contentment exactly where we are - and that we can always reach out for support when it is needed from our communities, specialists or through personal practice.  



In this season dryness in makes itself known - manifesting in the forms of colds, dry skin, chapped lips and developing bronchial infections.

The lungs and large intestines are key for immunity and digestion and therefore it is imperative to strengthen these systems in order to combat any dryness imbalances.

Consuming moistening foods such as flax (flax oil), nuts, mushrooms, avocados, pears, apples, tahini and leafy dark greens are wonderful ways to strengthen the large intestines and keep the body warm and moist. Cooked foods and cooking in styles which take longer in autumn are better suited in this season in order to provide fortification for the body - introducing more warmth through broths soups, roasts and curries. 

. . .

I will of course share some wonderful herbal allies and further practices which can aid you this season in some blogs and newsletters to come, but for now here are some honourable mentions:


. . . 

I hope this Autumn ode aids in your softening

. . . 


(2021) Art of Wellness Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Available at: https://myartofwellness.com/health-well-news/autumn-immunity/ (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
Autumn health tips from chinese medicine (no date) Five Flavors Herbs. Available at: https://fiveflavorsherbs.com/blog/autumn-health-tips-from-chinese-medicine/ (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
Cruz, A. (2022) The 3 stages of fall in traditional Chinese medicine, Eastern Acupuncture and Wellness. Eastern Acupuncture and Wellness. Available at: https://www.eacuwell.com/blog/traditional-chinese-medicine-stages-of-fall (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
Ncim (2021) Moving into autumn with traditional Chinese medicine - NCIM - national centre for integrative medicine, NCIM. Available at: https://ncim.org.uk/moving-into-autumn-with-tcm (Accessed: March 10, 2023).
Wall, E. (2020) The five elements - metal element ~ Ocean Flow Fitness, Ocean Flow Fitness. Available at: https://www.oceanflowfitness.com/blog/flow/5-elements-chinese-medicine/the-five-elements-metal-element/ (Accessed: March 10, 2023).