Updated: Oct 11, 2019
A time to harvest – a time to reap and gather - a time to slow down and a time to journey inwards.
Seasonal transitions are often the time to acknowledge the cyclical nature of life and honour the rhythm of our bodies. After the bustle and bounty of Summer, Autumn asserts herself with shorter days and growing darkness. Temperatures cool and leaves fall from trees. The fruits of summer drop as energy contracts and moves inwards, nourishing the roots in preparation for winter.
Autumn is an invitation to initiate self-care and tend to things at home, so we are prepared and nourished before we journey through winter.
Body systems governed by Autumn:
Lungs: 3am – 5am
Deep sleep-dreams memory-detox
The lungs determine the flow of qi around the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the lungs are thought to be in charge of the body's defence mechanisms and the immune system.
When we breathe, we ‘inspire’ and ‘expire’. This can be the literal and metaphoric state of letting go of old and stale air and preconceived ideas or patterns of conditioning.
The lungs yield and demand, give and take, hold and let go. Lungs out of balance can manifest as rigidness, inflexibility and stiffness.
Physical manifestation of imbalance are bronchial infections, sinusitis, allergy, asthma, shortness of breath and chest heaviness.
Large Intestine: 5am – 7am
Waking, meditation, moving bowels-elimination, hydration
The large intestine is also the great eliminator. It lets go of physical and emotional waste. When the mind, body and spirit is clear of toxins, it can be receptive for more refined and aligned energy.
The large intestine is responsible for distinguishing between harmless and harmful substances that enter the body. It assimilates nutrients the body needs and eliminates what it deems unfit.
The gut also houses 70% of our immune cells which makes it an epicentre of proper immune immune function. The large intestines out of balance can result in constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, sleep disturbance and fatigue.
As the theme of these organs is processing and elimination, physically, mentally and emotionally, this can be translated into discernment, boundaries, attachment and letting go. In harmony, these organs create a clear sense of self and connection with the world. These feelings manifest as inspiration and hope. We are able to breathe deeply and take in the new. Bowel movements are easy to pass and regular as we let go of physical and emotional waste with ease. Blockages in these organs manifest as stirred emotions – grief or depression; skin issues, sinus problems or bowel blockages.
Nourishing herbs, roots & warming spices
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)
Energetics: Cooling and grounding
Taste: Sweet and starchy
This is a great root chakra plant for centering, grounding and connecting to the earth
Great for digestive health, high in inulin which is a pre-biotic that feeds gut bacteria therefore supporting a healthy gut microbiome. Mild bitter that stimulates digestive secretions. This helps improve appetite, digestion, and fat absorption
Burdock nourishes and strengthens our filtration systems (kidneys, liver and skin) by cleansing the blood and increasing the flow of the lymph. This facilitates the movement of waste out of the body and helps clear skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Assists disorders requiring increased elimination such as gout and rheumatism
Externally, burdock leaves can be blanched and used as a poultice for burns or skin sores thanks to their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: none known or expected
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
Energetics: Root energetics are more complex than the leaf. Cooling yet moist due to the sweet and nutritious properties. Dandelion can be harvested in both spring and autumn, but the plant properties will be slightly different. Spring dandelion is more bitter (cooling) whereas autumn dandelion root is higher in inulin as the plant is beginning to store its nutrients and sugars in the roots in preparation for winter.
Dandelion has been associated to joy which can be somewhat linked to its healing actions in the liver, which houses anger and stored emotion. By releasing these, happiness is able to shine through
Increases bile secretion, moving liver congestion but also aiding in digestion, loss of appetite, dyspepsia, bloating and flatulence
Bursting with vitamins A, B, C and D, and minerals iron, potassium and zinc.
Nutritive qualities of the leaves include beta carotene (good for eyes), high amounts of vitamin K (bone health and cognitive decline)
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Contraindicated in bile duct obstructions, intestinal obstruction, cholecystitis and known allergy. Caution in individuals with gall stones. No adverse effects expected in pregnancy and lactation
Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus)
Energetics: Yellow dock is known as ‘the herb of understanding’
Taste: Bitter and sour
Strengthens the solar plexus and the seat of our will, power and the assimilation of life experiences. Its down-flowing action governs elimination in all forms such as urination, menstruation, defecation and childbirth. As such, it also assists in flushing out stagnant emotions. This can be beneficial when it’s hard to let go of the past (stories, anger, guilt, pain), or lingering trauma yellow dock is a powerful ally. Physically cleanses the blood and mentally cleanses the mind
A tonic that is nourishing like food. It’s particularly high in iron
Supports healthy digestion and elimination due to its bitter, laxative, astringent and restorative actions
Has the ability to support both constipation and diarrhea depending on dose
Used in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis due to its detoxifying effects through increased liver function
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Not to be used long-term. Should be used in small amounts for short periods of time. Cautioned during pregnancy as may be unsafe
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Energetics: Hot and dry, meaning it’s ultimately nourishing and cooling to the tissues
Taste: Pungent and sweet
Referred to as ‘the universal medicine’ in Ayurveda and the herbalist’s best friend. Supports agni (fire), destroys ama (imbalance), supports comfortable joints and super-charges the immune system
Considered sattvic meaning consumption has the ability to infuse us with its divine energy of clarity, compassion, lightness and wisdom
High in antioxidants and a potent anti-inflammatory, ginger can help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, enhance working memory and improve overall cognition
Anti-inflammatory effects help dampen arthritic related joint pain; topically ginger helps soothe sore muscles
Supports viral clearance and respiratory congestion
As a circulatory stimulant, ginger promotes warmth and is ideal in poor circulation (cold hands and feet), cramps, and chilblains
As a diaphoretic, ginger pushes the heat in the body out and may assist during fevered states
As an anti-emetic and anti-nausea, ginger is a strong herbal ally in stomach upset ranging from motion sickness, morning sickness to general nausea. Helps the body digest food and reduces spasms in the gut
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Contraindicated in patients with gall stones. A daily dose of 2g dried herb should not be exceeded in pregnancy (in small amounts has proven efficacy in treatment of morning sickness).Caution in use with peptic ulcer, reflux, or other gastric diseases. May increase the absorption of pharmaceutical drugs. Daily doses in excess of 4g should be cautioned in patients taking blood-thinning medication or who have increased risk of haemorrhage due to anti-coagulation actions. At large doses may lead to heart burn. Contact dermatitis in sensitive patients
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urtica urens)
Energetics: Cool the body and dry excess damp while nourishing yin. Astringent, nourishing, dissolves masses, restores and stabilises
Taste: Sweet and salty
Nettle lore and myths: Early humans believed carrying nettle would help keep sorcerers and evil spirits away and help break curses. In addition, they believed nettle would prevent being struck by lightning. In Norse mythology, people threw nettle into the fire during thunderstorms to appease Thor, the god of thunder, in belief this would keep their home being struck by lightning
Deeply nourishing and an over-all general tonic. Full of easily assimilated vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron and protein. Helps revitalise the entire body and increases overall health. Helpful in muscle cramping due to low vitamin and mineral intake, and convalescence after illness or prolonged stress
Urinary tonic good for chronic urinary tract infections, water retention, and stress. In turn, this helps to flush out acidic waste which helps in cases of gout, skin conditions and kidney gravel
As an astringent, nettle tightens mucous membranes and capillaries making it beneficial in treatment of internal blood loss, nose-bleeds, heavy menstrual bleeding, leaky gut, diarrhoea, and even seasonal allergies
A wonderful ally for women during all phases from menarche to menopause including pregnancy where nettle helps nourish both mother and child, assisting with fatigue and enriching breast milk
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Contact dermatitis and allergic reaction in susceptible individuals (rare)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Energetics: Warming, drying, stimulating and restoring
Taste: Pungent, sweet, aromatic
Warms the stomach and intestines, promotes digestion and resolves mucous-damp and bloating
Warms the lungs, promotes the removal of phlegm. Opens the sinuses and relieves pain
Stimulates the mind, memory and the senses
Chronic circulatory weakness including low blood pressure, anorexia, poor digestion, and general ill-health
Depressive states with general fatigue and indications of cardiovascular weakness. Rosemary increases blood flow, tones the vascular system and stimulates the nervous system
Improves liver and gall-bladder function
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Rosemary may interfere with iron absorption (non-heme), therefore, should be taken away from meal-times by individuals with anaemia. Caution in women wishing to conceive due to cineole in its essential oil. May be considered unsafe in pregnancy when used orally in medicinal amounts due to uterine and menstrual flow stimulating effects
Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum – Cinnamomum cassia)
Energetics: Hot, dry. Allows the qi to circulate, disperses cold and stagnant conditions, upward moving dynamic that assists to relieve tension and blocked energy in the upper body, particularly the shoulders and neck
Taste: Pungent, sweet, astringent
Warms the stomach and intestines, promotes digestion and relieves colic, nausea and flatulent dyspepsia
Cinnamon helps to encourage healthy circulation and warms the heart, lung, spleen and kidney meridians
Promotes sweating and aides in cold and flu onset, chilliness, fatigue, aches and pains
Helps with acute neuralgia and rheumatic-arthritic pain
Blood sugar and lipid level stabiliser
Warnings/interactions/ use in pregnancy and lactation/side effects: Known allergy.Contraindicated during pregnancy although some safety literature suggests does not present any special risk. Allergic reactions to skin and mucosa in some individuals. If you have a hot (pitta) constitution
Food as Medicine
Begin introducing warm & longer cooked food helps balance the incoming yin and means the food is easier to digest.
Include white foods (not refined!). Cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic, onions, brown pears, ginger contain phytonutrients such as allicin which are anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Bananas and potatoes are also a good source of potassium
Include yellow and red foods. These are naturally high in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Phytonutrients such as carotenoids (beta-carotenes and lutein) convert into vitamin A. We need vitamin A and C for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision. These vitamins are also antioxidants
Foods that exacerbate sinus infections or constipation such as refined white foods, dairy, drying foods and beverages such as alcohol and coffee.
Herbal Practices for Autumn
To facilitate letting of grief - nostalgia - longing
To reignite joy - inspiration - forward momentum
Make your own smudge sticks (link here)
Make your own Fire Cider (link here)
Use these activities to begin turning inward and meditate on what no longer serves you and which ruminating thoughts and emotions that you wish to relinquish. As you acknowledge and allow these to pass, begin to touch in on the feelings you want to invite into your heart.