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Published: May 16, 2024

Seasonal changes bring shifts in the outside environment and also within the body. Adapting to the transitions of each season can be challenging, even in areas with relatively mild climates. It’s common to experience different illnesses, allergies, and even shifting energy levels as the temperature and climate changes throughout the year.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has, for thousands of years, offered insights into how one can harmonize with these seasonal shifts. With the right practices, one can achieve balance and remain healthy year-round, regardless of what changes the seasons bring. 

Read on to learn how one can weather seasonal shifts and changes with the guidance of TCM.

Understanding the Five Elements

Qi, the vital energy that flows through our bodies, is influenced by the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element is associated with a season, color, and organ, and creates balance and harmony in the body.

Spring corresponds to the wood element, while summer corresponds to both the fire element and the earth element as the season runs its course. Autumn corresponds to the metal element, and winter, the water element. 

Spring: Awakening the Wood Element

Spring unfolds as a time of rebirth and expansion, marked by the awakening of the Wood element. In TCM, the Wood element corresponds to the Liver and Gallbladder meridians, which are responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and regulation of emotions. The transition from winter’s stillness to spring’s activity can sometimes result in Liver Qi stagnation, leading to symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and allergies.

As the body adjusts to spring, ,gentle detoxification and nourishing practices are recommended. Acupuncture can help release stagnant Qi and promote the smooth flow of energy while herbal formulas work from the inside. Xiao Yao San (Tangkuei & Bupleurum Formula) can be excellent for harmonizing Liver Qi and resolving stagnation. Jia Wei Xiao Yao San (Bupleurum & Peony Formula), a modified version of Xiao Yao San with added herbs, is widely used to clear heat and dampness that can come with the warm and rainy spring season. 

Embracing sour foods such as lemon, vinegar, and fermented foods can also aid in moving Liver Qi and promoting digestion.

Summer: Nurturing the Fire Element

The Fire element represents warmth, joy, and vitality and flourishes in the early to peak summer months. The Heart and Small Intestine meridians govern this season, regulating circulation and emotional balance. For many, summer is a comfortable and exciting season as a result of this positive energy.

Excessive heat can lead to symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, and heart palpitations. TCM emphasizes cooling practices during summer, such as acupuncture, herbal formulas, and mindful movement such as Tai Chi or Qi Gong. Exercise is important, and these gentle forms of movement are ideal during these hot months. It’s important to not over-exert oneself. 

By nourishing the Yin aspect and dispersing excess heat with herbs and formulas, we can maintain harmony within the Fire element. Mint (Bo He) and Chrysanthemum (Ju Hua) are excellent standalone herbs for cooling the body. When it comes to formulas, a cooling option such as Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang (Astragalus & Atractylodes Combination) is excellent for clearing summer heat and replenishing Qi weakened by heat exposure.

Late Summer: Grounding the Earth Element

Late summer bridges the gap between the yang of summer and the yin of autumn. This brief period embodies the Earth element’s stability and nourishment. This season is ideal for supporting the body’s transformation and absorption of nutrients. Imbalances in the Earth element can manifest as dampness. This leads to fatigue, bloating, and sluggishness.

TCM recommends incorporating foods that strengthen the Spleen, such as root vegetables, whole grains, and warming spices. Herbal remedies can also help regulate digestion and bolster the body’s Qi. Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Formula) can effectively regulate vital energy and resolve late summer dampness. Beyond herbal remedies, many people find that the combination of acupuncture and moxibustion is incredibly effective during this time. 

Autumn: Harvesting the Metal Element

Autumn marks the transition from yang to yin, as the Metal element takes over. Symbolizing clarity, introspection, and release, this season corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. The Metal element governs respiration and elimination, making it essential to strengthen lung function and promote grief processing. 

Practices such as deep breathing exercises and acupuncture, as well as consuming herbal formulas can help clear respiratory passages and support immune function during this vulnerable time of year. Yu Ping Feng San (Astragalus & Siler Formula) is a formula that can help strengthen the body’s resistance to infections and pathogens that are common during autumn. Sang Ju Yin (Morus & Chrysanthemum Combination) is often used to clear sore throats and lung discomfort that come alongside autumn dryness. 

Winter: Warming the Water Element

Winter embodies the depths of yin energy. It calls for one to turn inward and conserve his or her resources. The Water element represents wisdom, resilience, and the storage of vital essence. 

During winter, nourishing the kidneys and supporting their function in regulating fluid balance and hormone production is essential. TCM recommends warming foods such as bone broths, black beans, and root vegetables. Acupuncture can help strengthen the body’s foundation and ward off colds and flu. Exercise can be helpful during this time as well. 

When it comes to herbs and herbal formulas, there are many good options for the winter season. Gui Zhi Tang (Cinnamon Combination) is a classic formula used to warm the body, promote sweating, and expel wind-cold pathogens that can invade during the winter months. Even Cinnamon (Gui Zhi) on its own can have a warming effect. Sheng Jiang Xie Xin Tang

(Pinellia & Ginger Combination) uses the warmth of Ginger (Sheng Jiang) to dispel cold and ease digestive symptoms. 

Ease Seasonal Shifts with TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a holistic approach to navigating the changing seasons. By understanding the principles of Qi and the Five Elements, and incorporating TCM strategies and formulas into one’s daily life, it’s possible to smooth the transition between seasons and maintain optimal health and well-being. 

KPC is a leading provider of premium TCM herbs, upholding the highest quality and standards at all times. Consult with a licensed TCM practitioner to create a personalized plan for a harmonious and balanced life with KPC herbal formulas.

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*Please note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to suggest specific treatments for patients or that any supplements mentioned prevent or cure diseases or problems. Before taking any herbs, all patients should discuss their options with a licensed practitioner, including any other medications the patient is currently taking, as there may be contraindications between pharmaceuticals and herbs.

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