ACH Blog

Seasons in Chinese Medicine

Isobel Cosgrove - Monday, September 08, 2014

Chinese philosophers and doctors recognise five seasons in the year. Late summer arrives early to mid-August, forming a bridge between the expansion of summer and the beginnings of contraction, of nature 'falling back' into the autumn, and later winter. Late summer is the peak, the harvest, of nature's reproductive cycle.

All the push of spring and flowering of summer gives us the fruit, crops and vegetables and all the abundance of the year celebrated at Harvest Festivals in September.

In mid-August I travelled north across the Scottish border and through the Cairngorms. Mr brother-in-law has a horticultural business on the banks of the Moray Firth. His fields are full of root vegetables which he will sell all through the winter. The polytunnels have tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, fennel, courgettes and basil crowding the warm stretches of sandy soil, and much more besides. All of the crops are grown bio-dynamically. They look and taste delicious and are healthy and nourishing.

In late summer we have a chance to gather in the harvest, to reflect on the work of the year and to appreciate the new plans we have made, the projects we have grown and the developments which have flowered and borne fruit. This is an important moment in our year; one in which we need to pause and take in our own achievements and to fill up with them and feel satisfied and nourished.

Chinese medics put the season of late summer at the centre of the year. In winter the rain fills reservoirs, which provide for spring growth. The fiery warmth of summer brings flowers which give us the harvest of late summer. The Chinese Medicine element associated with later summer is Earth, the mother of the reproductive cycle in nature. This then gives way to autumn in October/November when the plants have died back and, in turn, to winter in December, January and February.

I am always aware that I need to take stock in late summer, to ask the question "Have I given myself what I need to take me through the rigorous, challenging months of autumn and winter? Have I filled up with sun, fresh air, rest, fun and relaxation? And if not, how can I make sure that I do so before the cold, misty, damp days ahead?"

Chinese doctors recommend a minimum of one acupuncture treatment at the change of each season. This allows us to adjust to the energetic changes occurring in nature and in ourselves. It is especially important to have input as summer ends and we move into the shorter, colder days of October. In particular the lungs and kidneys need support as autumn moves towards winter.

Isobel Cosgrove

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