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Health in Autumn: a Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

The period between seasons can be rough. During seasonal transitions, many of us become more susceptible to illness, including cold and flu. This handout is a list of suggestions that can help you and your family transition more smoothly from summer to fall and set yourself up for a healthy winter as well.
Guiding Principles

  • In the autumn, nature turns inward. It is also a good time for us to turn inward and not expend more energy than necessary, to sort through areas of life that are cluttered, and to discard what we no longer need or value. It is the time to prepare for winter and to turn inward for reflection.
  • In the words of Neil Gumenick, an acupuncturist in Santa Monica, “The energy of this season, more than any other, supports our letting go of the waste, the old and stale in our lives, leaving us receptive to the pure and new, granting us a vision of who we are in our essence. Autumn returns us to our essence, moves us to eliminate what we no longer need, reveals again what is most precious in our lives.”

  • In Chinese Medicine, the Lung is known as the “tender organ” because it is so closely connected to the outside environment through the nose, and wind and cold (both of which arise in autumn) can easily affect it, especially in those with a weaker immune system.


  • Be sure to dress for the temperature/weather. Especially be mindful that when you sweat, your pores are open, making you that much more susceptible to the wind and cold, and thereby potential sickness
  • After workouts, do not (as my mother would say) “fan around” in your workout clothes that may be moist as well as unsuitable for the outdoors if you were working out inside a gym. Similarly, be sure to dress for the weather if you are exercising outdoors

  • Do not underestimate the power of scarves! Keeping your neck covered and warm will go a long way toward preventing the entry of wind and cold into the body, causing chills, runny nose and stiff neck that feature among prodromal symptoms during cold and flu season.

Managing Maladies Common to Fall

  • A neti-pot can help with sinus congestion or runny nose – use distilled water or boiled/cooled water and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use

  • Pears are very beneficial to eat in the fall. Do not refrigerate them, and if you have a dry cough you can steam a pear 2-3 times/day – eat the fruit and drink the juice. (Trader Joe’s sells some halved pears in a jar that are nice to keep on hand)

  • Elderberry syrup* can be taken once a day or a couple of times a week to help prevent illness in the fall

  • In the very early stages of a cold (feeling achy, alternating fever and chills, just feeling “off”), a warm tea* can help bring on a sweat. Cover up and drink it, get some rest and feel better within just a few hours!

  • For any cough, press and rub downward on the sternum where an acupuncture point is found that can help relieve coughing

This is not an exhaustive list – acupuncture and herbal formulas may be appropriate but need to be done under the care of a licensed practitioner.              *recipe can be found on handout, “Food in the Fall”

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