Cultivating Health in Autumn

Huang Di Nei Jing, a Traditional Chinese Medical classic that talks primarily about health preservation written over 2000 years ago, recommends that we should adjust our lifestyles according to the different seasons. 

Fast forward thousands of years, some of the ways might not be appropriate anymore, but we should still try to understand why such ways were recommended such that we could take advantage of the ancient wisdom. For example, we are not going to live through the Winter like we do in the Summer, drinking ice drinks and going swimming. Further, seasons shift with geographic regions, so it’s wise to make adjustments after understanding the reasoning. 

Autumn is said to be the “harvesting season” - so a person should accumulate strengths and immunity in order to fight the Winter cold, because in modern days, we know that influenza virus thrive and agriculture takes a break in the Winter. According to the Lunar calendar, the first day of Summer in 2020 is May 5 and summer officially ends on August 6. Followed by Autumn which begins on August 7 and ends on November 6 this year. 

Autumn Climate Change: From Hot and Humid to cool and dry

Beginning of Autumn is also thought of as late Summer, in August, the weather is still hot and humid. So we should be mindful of water and heat pathogens attacking and maintain a life style closer to Summer. As Autumn progresses into Winter, weather will progressively get cooler and dryer, so we should be more mindful of the dryness and coolness and pack up our Summer clothes.

Autumn Sleep Schedule

As the daylight is getting shorter, it is best to sleep early and wake early to take advantage of the day before the cold Winter arrives.

Autumn Diet 

Early Autumn and late Summer is still hot and humid, so be mindful of possible water accumulation in your body and avoid pungent and deep fried food that would hurt the digestive system. You can opt for complex grains and legumes such as barley (Yi Yi Ren) and Adzuki bean (aka red mung beans, Chi Xiao Dou).

When Autumn is in full bloom, the climate will get significantly dryer, a person with weak lungs might get a dry cough right around the climate change. It’s important to keep the throat and body hydrated by constantly drinking nourishing fluids (such as light tea, water, juice, milk), and consuming nourish fruits that are harvested in the Fall such as apples and pears. If you are ever unsure about when to eat what, go with the rule of thumb to consume the fruits and vegetables that are meant to ripen in the season instead of green house and imported produce. 

Autumn Wardrobe

The weather is mild in Autumn proper, we should begin layering more clothes such that our body heat does not escape us. It’s appropriate to bring a Fall jacket when you are out for when the temperature drops after sun sets, and be careful not to jump right into Winter clothes, as sweating in your clothes is not ideal either.

Autumn Emotions

Early Autumn, as known as late Summer, is said to be directly related to spleen and stomach and the emotion of overthinking - it’s good to be mindful of this tendency and try to avoid falling down a rabbit hole of overthinking about any aspect in life.

Autumn proper is related to the lungs and the emotion of sadness. Sometimes we may get post-Summer blue and feel sad and hopeless. Again, being mindful of this tendency, it is possible to combat depressing thoughts before it comes, by enjoying the milder weather and taking walks in the beautiful Fall foliage.

Autumn Activities

The weather is mildest in Autumn, so it’s actually the most ideal for physical activities. It’s not too cold to swim and take cold showers to strengthen your body, and it’s not too hot to go for hikes, jogs and Taichi exercise. It’s also nice to optimize physical fitness during the Fall to prepare for the eating and stationary lifestyle in the Winter.

Health preservation is a lifelong journey, there is lots to understand and learn, and this is why we are offering a Health Preservation class this fall, delivered over Zoom due to COVID-19, about the Health Preservation course:

Whether you are a TCM hobbyist that is just beginning your journey, or someone that has been at school or in the industry for a while already, this course trains you with critical thinking to arrive to an optimal health preservation plan, as well as effective communication to explain such plan to your patients. 

The goal of this course is to approach TCM from a health preservation perspective, starting by correctly evaluating body constitution, and appropriately prescribe life style adjustments, medicated diet, self tuina routines and other methods according to different life stages and seasons. 

More information about the course coming soon, please send us a note at if you are interested in the course!

Article written by Karen Tsoi, R. Ac., Advanced TCM student, for reference only, not medical advice.