Taking Care of Your Lungs + Skin This Fall/Winter

written by Erin Langely, LAC, MSOM, Dipl OM

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It’s autumn, and in Chinese Medicine it’s the season to take good care of your lungs.
 

Given the recent fires in the North Bay, this organ needs extra attention as we head into cold and flu season. 

Autumn is a time of withering, of decelerating momentum and growth. We may experience a natural “come-down” from the buzz of Spring and Summer. This transition can register as melancholy. In Chinese Medicine, the lung is associated with grief. Treating the lung can help process grief and give the lungs the strength they need to do their many jobs.

The lungs have several functions, including filtering clean energy from dirty energy, governing our voice, skin, and body hair, regulating water passages like sweat and urine, and working closely with the heart to circulate the body’s energy. The lungs blur the boundary between us and our environment. The air connects us all. At the same time, the lungs provide a healthy buffer, called wei qi, between us and disease. 

Autumn is not a good time to cleanse or sweat heavily. Purgative treatments further deplete our bodies, which are already winding down toward the stillness and storage of winter. The Chinese classic Neijing states, “Do not disperse your energies, and the lung qi will be clear. This is the way of nourishing life in accordance with the nourishing and constricting qi of the autumnal harvest season. Going against these principles will harm the lung network, eventually causing diarrhea in winter, when things should really be in a state of storage rather than leakage.”

So, taking care of our lungs now will serve us in winter, too!

One way to check the status of your lungs is to examine the tip of your (or your child’s) tongue. If it appears to be pinker than the rest of the tongue body, the lungs may be storing excess heat, which we can address in a session. 

Here are some tips for ways to help promote lung and skin health this time of year:

  • Get Acupuncture! Book your appointment for fall now.
  • Do dry brushing at home to improve circulation, and lymphatic drainage throughout the entire body.
  • Eat radishes, white mushrooms and any white colored foods.
  • Try cupping. Kids also love this form of bodywork - it is a good way to address cough and colds (easily remove the phlegm/mucus). 
  • Schizandra tea or lemon water (sour flavors) work well in autumn because they astringe the energy of the lung to help you retain your vitality throughout fall and winter. 
  • Facial acupuncture works wonders to restore and beautify dry skin.
     

Wishing you health this season, and see you soon!
 

Herbs for Protecting Your Energy

written by Bridget Afsonna S., community herbalist

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These are challenging times for many of us.

As we struggle against factions that repeatedly attempt to remove our sense of safety and belonging, it can be easy to feel worn out and emotionally exhausted. Here are a few ways that I protect my energy using the magic and medicine of plants:

  1. Engage with plants that are traditionally used for creating strong and healthy boundaries, such as rosemary and yarrow.

    Both grow abundantly in the Bay Area, and can be taken a number of ways. You can steep these plants in tea, make a tincture, use in your food, or even just carry them around with you in your pocket or hang them up on your front door. 

  2. Make heart-lifting tea. My favorite way to relax at home with plants is to make a pot of tea and share with friends and family. Right now my go-to blend is two parts lemon balm, one part nettle, and ½ part rose. Lemon balm is a gentle heart-opener and spirit-lifter, while nettle is full of vitamins and nutrients to help replenish frazzled bodies. Rose is a classic heart herb that can soothe all kinds of heartbreak and sadness. 

  3. Find an essential oil that works for you. Essential oils have a quick and heavy-hitting effect on your nervous system, and are useful to carry around with you for those moments when you hear some freshly disturbing news. Everyone’s scent preferences are very personal, so I recommend going to a health food store and smelling individual essential oil samples to find the one that is most appealing. Try smelling your own armpit in between samples to “reset” your sense of smell. Some popular ones for mood lifting are lavender, clary sage, chamomile, and rose geranium. 

  4. Get in nature. It can be easy to feel permanently attached to technology, but our bodies and minds are meant to feel the ground beneath our feet and smell fresh air. Even if its just a half hour a week, leaving your phone at home and sitting under a tree can really help the body shed energy that is bogging you down.  

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Heart Lifting Tea Recipe

Instructions:  Bring a kettle or small pot of water to a boil. Turn the flame off and once the bubbling stops, add a couple small handfuls of lemon balm, one handful nettle leaf, and a sprinkling of rose petals. Cover and allow to steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain and enjoy plain or with honey and lemon. 
 
Enjoy by yourself or with friends!