Autumn - Lung & Large Intestine
In Chinese Five Element Theory, the meridians that are associated with autumn are the Lung (Yin) and Large Intestine (Yang). The element is Metal and the emotion is sadness and grief.
Autumn is a time when we settle back into routine. The summer’s ease and freedom give way to school schedules, more formal relationships and a sense that life is getting back to normal. This sense is a key theme in the Metal element, as the metal element feels comfortable with the maintenance of boundaries and a return to the norm. Autumn is also a time of harvest, where fruit separates from the tree and vegetables are dug up to be stored for winter. In a sense, the Metal element brings us to a place of harvest as the sunny summer experiences are gathered and stowed in preparation for the long cold winter. We innately feel the need to scale back energetically as the Yang energy begins to fall. Just like the harvest where abundant life now begins its transformation towards death and a return to the earth, so we begin the journey inward, the death of active summer recreation leading us to a more studious and quieter existence. There is almost a palpable sense of heaviness, the energy moving downward, back to the ground, on its inward voyage.
The emotion associated with the Metal Element is grief, and indeed we often grieve the end of summer and the passing of those long sunny days. We mourn the loss of the carefree times, knowing long nights are ahead and there is a sadness that pulses with the thought of the approaching winter. The Lung meridian encourages us to feel the grief, but also move on, recognizing that the abundance of the summer only shifts to a deeper place within. We gather what we need and release the rest, as in harvest and death.
Essential oils can assist us through this process of sadness and grief. It’s not that we want to release the grief, because it is a natural feeling for this season, but rather support the energies as we explore the grief. Oils that assist us in moving through a sense of heaviness and loss are frankincense, neroli, rose otto, melissa, rose Maroc, and geranium. Often depression can arise when mourning an endogenous energy; there is a sense of worthlessness, failure, or despondency that can accompany the deep pain of loss. Essential oils that help ease us when exploring these emotions are basil, bergamot, geranium, jasmine, neroli, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang. Dotting a hankie or a tissue with these oils either singularly or in combination and then sniffing them can ease the burden of the emotion and lighten the spirits. And of course, these essential oils can be used in the bath, in an aroma lamp, in massage oil or added to a face/body cream for support in any of the stages of grieving.
Grief can also affect the lungs on a physical level. Often with a period of mourning, the body experiences symptoms of a cold or flu. Allergies, especially to molds, are prevalent at this time also causing irritation to the nose and chest. The lungs become congested, reflecting the heaviness associated with the lung meridian. Oils that help expel phlegm and congestion are tea tree, eucalyptus, cajuput, sandalwood, peppermint and rosemary. Steam inhalation (head over a bowl full of oil impregnated hot water) works wonders to clear mucus and inflammation of the pleural cavity. Rubbing the chest with essential oils in a carrier oil also assists in breaking up stagnation in the lungs as does immersing in a warm bath of oils.The Metal element, when imbalanced, creates dryness in the body. The skin, hair, eyes all feel dry and scratchy. Essential oils that help heal and soothe dry chapped skin are chamomile, geranium, frankincense, lavender, myrrh, patchouli, rose and sandalwood. A few drops of some of these oils can be added skin cream, or lotion. Drops of lemon, tea tree, grapefruit, rosemary, jasmine or lavender can be added to a shampoo to encourage a healthy scalp and hair. Of course, any dryness speaks to a need for better hydration, and plenty of water should be drunk to alleviate and flush out autumn’s challenges.
. The Large Intestine is the Yang meridian to the Lungs and as the lung’s partner, it also is affected in autumn. Being a Metal element, the large intestine also deals with separation. The large intestine’s job is to separate the impure from the pure and extract the liquid from the matter so it can pass out of the body as a solid mass. It removes substances our body no longer needs. Often when we are feeling intense emotion such as grief, our bowel movements become irregular either resulting in diarrhea or constipation. Essential oils that can aid constipation are basil, fennel, lavender, marjoram, cumin, rose and chamomile. Oils that calm the discomfort of diarrhea are black pepper, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, geranium, ginger myrrh, neroli, peppermint and sandalwood. Put up to 3 drops of up to 5 essential oils in a carrier oil and massage the belly in a clockwise rotation, beginning at the lower right hip. This movement will help encourage the waste matter to pass through the colon efficiently, relieving gas, bloating, pain and irritation. When we are unwilling to release and let go of thoughts or judgments, we can become mentally constipated as well. Oils that break up stagnant thoughts are basil, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary and thyme.
The Lung and Large Intestine dynamic encourages us to remember that life is a continuous cycle of taking in and letting go, celebrating the harvest and storing away. Autumn is a time of transformation, from play to study, from outward to inward, from life to death.