Change is inevitable. And that is a beautiful thing. We get to experience newness and wonder in things like the changing of the seasons and the pleasure in new flavors from fruits and veggies that are in season and smells from the spices that are brewing in the kitchen. Wisdom traditions knew that knowledge of adapting to these fluctuations in nature were essential to staying healthy.
In oriental medical traditions, the emotions and physical health are intimately connected. This integrated mind-body approach to health and healing operates in a dynamic loop where emotions impact the health of the body and vice versa. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs and large intestines are the primary organs associated with the fall season. The lungs are in a constant fluctuation of letting go of the old and taking in of new fresh oxygen. Autumn teaches us to release and let go to make room for the new, like a tree that allows its leaves to fall to make room for new growth. The lungs are said to rule grief and sadness, therefore we must learn to process experiences and emotions that are causing us any distress. Here are some ideas to practice during this lovely fall time for wellbeing.
- JOURNAL + PRACTICE LETTING GO. The Fall is the season to unburden ourselves of old hurts, negativity and resentments. A good exercise is to journal what you’d like to let go of, what you’re making space for, and how you envision the rest of the year. Practice letting go of painful, or hurtful events and thoughts and instead, tune into gratitude, and think of practices you’d like to do to feel free and renewed. Journaling is a powerful tool for processing emotions and experiences.
- CREATE A TIME FOR MEDITATION + RELAXATION. Traditional Chinese Medicine says that this is the time of year when spirit is more accessible. If you have learned a meditation technique, try to use it in the morning before getting out of bed, or at a time during the day when you can sit for ten or fifteen minutes to do your meditation. It makes a difference. If you have never learned to meditate, don’t worry, just put on relaxing music, close your eyes and breathe. If a thought arises, let it float past your mind like a cloud in the sky. Watch them as if you are an outside observer. No judgement. Awareness that you are having thoughts is the first step to a successful meditation practice!
- EAT NUTRIENT DENSE MEALS. Mineralize powerfully with medicinal herbs, drink broth (bone broth or veggie/mushroom broths), eat wholesome, warming, and grounding meals to support the digestive system. For the Fall, go for foods that are in season, like Squashes, Asian Pear, Brussels Sprouts, Cactus Pear, Cauliflower, Apples, Cranberries, Daikon Radish, Endive, Garlic, Ginger, Grapes, Guava, Hearts of Palm, Jalapeño Peppers, Jerusalem Artichoke, Key Limes, Kumquats, Mushrooms, Passion Fruit, Pear, Swiss Chard, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, Pomegranate, Persimmons, Pineapple and of course, Pumpkins! Keep in mind; if it grows in mother nature, chances are it’s good for you. If it’s grown in a lab, chances are it’s bad for you.
- DRINK PLENTY OF WATER + TEA. This time of year I drink herbal teas non-stop. It assists in cleansing and harmonizing. As fall is associated with dryness, it is very important to hydrate by drinking lots of liquid daily. Water also bulks the foods in our Large Intestine and promotes healthier bowel movements. For added moisture, take healthy oils like coconut, avocado, flax oil, olive oil, walnut oil and sesame oil.
- BREATHE. Breathing exercises—which strengthen the Lungs, increase energy, still the mind, and lift the spirit—are particularly appropriate for this time of year. In all breathing exercises, make sure you focus on exhalation; when you exhale completely, the inhalation phase of breathing will occur naturally and spontaneously. Deep diaphragmatic breaths are essential for optimal health and processing
Herbal Spotlight For The Fall
In addition to the medical reports on its anti-tumor and anti-leukemic activity, pau d'arco clearly has demonstrated broad spectrum actions against a number of disease-causing microorganisms, which supports its wide array of uses in herbal medicine. Antimicrobial properties of many of pau d'arco's active phytochemicals were demonstrated in several clinical studies, in which they exhibited strong in vitro activity against bacteria, fungi, and yeast (including Candida, Aspergillus, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Helicobacter pylori, Brucella, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and dysentery).
In addition to its isolated chemicals, a hot water extract of pau d'arco demonstrated antibacterial actions against Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori (the bacteria that commonly causes stomach ulcers), and Brucella. A water extract of pau d'arco was reported (in other in vitro clinical research) to have strong activity against 11 fungus and yeast strains. Pau d'arco and its chemicals also have demonstrated in vitro antiviral properties against various viruses, including Herpes I and II, influenza, polio virus, and vesicular stomatitis virus. Its antiparasitic actions against various parasites (including malaria, schistosoma, and trypanosoma) have been confirmed as well. Finally, bark extracts of pau d'arco have demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity and have shown success against a wide range of induced inflammation in mice and rats.
MAIN METHOD FOR PREPARATION: tincture or decoction
MAIN ACTIONS (in order): anticandidal, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-cancerous
One-half to one cup bark and/or heartwood decoction taken orally 2-4 times per day. Simmer 1 Tbsp per cup of water for 30-40minutes. (Do not prepare an infusion/tea for this plant-it will not be as effective.) This decoction also is employed traditionally as a douche for yeast infections (use once daily for 3 consecutive days) and is used topically on the skin for skin fungi (such as nail fungus and athlete's foot).
There have been no reports in the literature of contraindications when a whole-bark decoction or tincture is used. However, at least one isolated phytochemical in pau d’arco (lapachol) has demonstrated abortifacient properties in animal studies. As there are no studies confirming the safety of traditional bark decoctions used by pregnant women (nor is there indication in traditional medicine systems using this plant during pregnancy), the use of pau d'arco during pregnancy is not recommended.
Very large single dosages of Pau d'arco decoctions (more than one cup) may cause gastrointestinal upset and/or nausea. Do not use in high doses unless under the advice of a qualified health practitioner; reduce dosage if nausea occurs.
Written by Dr. Leslie Taylor, author of RainTree
Read more about her incredible writings on clinical and folk research here.