Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks


Autumn and the Metal Element
By Brian Benjamin Carter
September 14, 2001


Autumn. the air becomes a bit crisper, you can see and smell the changing of the leaves... everything slows down, the days shorten, and Halloween is just around the corner.

Chinese Medicine (CM) offers practical wisdom for adjusting to seasonal change. One of the basic concepts in CM is the 5 element system of correspondences. Each element has an associated season, emotion, taste, organ, etc. Here is a brief chart of the five elements.
Season Element Emotion Taste Organ Pathogen
Autumn Metal Grief Spicy Lung, Large Intestine Dryness
Winter Water Fear Salty Kidney, Bladder Cold
Spring Wood Anger Sour Liver, Gallbladder Wind
Summer Fire Joy Bitter Heart, Small Intestine Heat
Late Summmer Earth Worry Sweet Spleen, Stomach Dampness

An exhaustive discussion of the Metal element could fill a whole book. I will just mention some of the more practical ones.

The Seasons, Stress, and Colds and Flus
Seasonal change, like any change, can cause stress. The main agent of stress in CM is wind. Wind is said to be the "agent of 10,000 diseases," (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine). Wind is understood to be not just the movement of air, but any sudden change. CM has known for thousands of years that stress can cause sickness, and modern research has certainly borne this out. To combat stress, stick to a routine. To avoid colds and flus, keep your immune system up, and cover your neck whenever outdoors. Stay out of drafts, and avoid excessive air-conditioning. It is interesting to note that a cold in the summer can be caused by too much air-conditioning; this (a 'cold' cold) is considered an 'unseasonal pathogen' in CM and is harder to treat than a seasonal pathogen (e.g. a 'hot' cold in the summer). For more info, read about colds and flus in CM.

Metal People
The character of metal is "sharp, retracting, and finishing." People can be metal; well-organized, strong boundaries, methodical, principle-oriented, analytical, favoring order. They are the ideal scientists. Emotionally, they can be distant. They tend to favor intellect and reason over emotion.

Dryness is a common problem in Autumn. Dryness can manifest as constipation, dry throat, dry skin, dry eyes, dry brittle hair, thirst, and lack of sweat. Most people do not drink enough fluids regularly, let alone in the autumn. Spicy food can cause or worsen dryness. Watch out for getting stuck in the vicious cycle of craving the same food that makes your symptoms worse!

Grief and Nostalgia
With autumn comes "gathering in, stocking up, mingled with a sense of loss as the light begins to fade and the air chills," (Between Heaven and Earth, 205). Grief is, of course, quite natural and appropriate in many situations. But excessive and/or long-term grief can harm the Lung system (a group of correspondences including but not limited to the actual biomedical lungs), and likewise, people with Metal or Lung problems can be frequent grievers, criers. And let's not forget that more positive form of grief, nostalgia, that happens more and more in the 'autumn' of our lives. In fact, we can view the whole grief process from a Five Elements perspective. Wood energy sprouts a situation that comes to fruition in Fire energy, leading to the Metal experience of grief, then the withdrawing yin experience of the Water element, finally emerging in new growth and rebirth in the Wood phase.

Suggested Reading

Between Heaven and Earth : A Guide to...

The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine...

CS Lewis A Grief Observed Grief recovery handbook

The Grief Recovery Handbook : The Action...

All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
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