Changing Of The Seasons, Herbal Tune-Up

In Chinese medicine, autumn is the season of the element Metal (or air). Grief is the emotion of the Metal element-missing, separation, and “letting go.” metal How many of you feel a bit of grief as summer turns to fall and the leaves start falling from the trees?  Healthy letting go is important as we make this transition.  If the energy of Metal is blocked or imbalanced within us, our expression of grief can become imbalanced and inappropriate. Furthermore our emotions are tied to our emotional health.

Metal is associated with the “lungs” and as many of you have experienced it is also the time of the year that we often find ourselves catching a cold.  In TCM, the transition from Summer to Fall is a time when our ability to fight off pathogens is most unstable.  Now is the time to prepare for winter by  “tuning-up”  or strengthening your immune system.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine a healthy immune systems helps us to fight pathogens that invade our body manifesting with colds, flu and fevers.  There are many things that we can do to strengthen our systems including changing activities, food and starting an herbal regimen.  Now is the time to start to eat cooked foods, avoiding ice cream, iced drinks, raw foods (particularly if you have a weak digestion, since we know the link between healthy digestion and a healthy immune system), or at least cutting back on the above.  Sometimes we try to keep summer alive by eating certain foods, but again, that isn’t “healthy letting go”.  Having chai , cinnamon or ginger tea is an excellent way to add some warming herbs and spices to your routine that help to heat up your metabolism and combat pathogens.

This is the time of year I start to cook with herbs.  I have found that if I incorporate herbs into my food, I am often more successful at addressing ongoing issues.  There are several herbs that I always use; astragalus and codonopsis, along with a handful of others.  This is a dish I made that from pork steaks, with tomatoes from my garden IMG_3419and adding astragalus, red dates, codonopsis, lily flowers, black and shitake mushrooms.  I cooked this for several hours on 300 in the oven. I ate the pork chops and the next day, I took all of the remaining items and made a broth out of it.  During the fall I basically clean out my refrigerator at the end of the week, throw in a handful of herbs and cook it all in a crock-pot overnight.  I use this broth in soups, for cooking grains, etc.  Here is a slightly more complicated recipe that I use in my classes.

Changing of the Seasons Soup


You will need equal parts (1.5 oz each) of the following herbs.

  • Codonopsis root-This herb will help to tonify and strengthen “Qi” energy. It helps to build blood and nourish body fluids.
  • Astragalus root– Astragalus is a root that helps to strengthen protective defenses, strengthen Qi energy, nourish the spleen, and tonify the blood and lungs.
  • Red Dates-restores vitality and enrich blood
  • Lycii berries (wolfberries)-Lycii berries help to strengthen the liver and the kidneys.

 Additional ingredients:

  • One Organic whole chicken
  • ½ cup Shiitake mushrooms, chopped-tonifies blood and enhances immunity
  • 1 cup Carrots, sliced-high in Vit. A
  • 1 cup Potatoes, cubed-Tonifies Qi
  • 1 cup of Winter Squash, cubed-Tonifies Qi and blood
  • 1cup of Onions, chopped-tonifies and regulates Qi
  • 1 cup of Kale, chopped –vit. K and detoxifying
  • 3 cloves of Garlic, minced-promotes Qi and blood
  • ½ cup of brown rice-Tonifies Qi
  • 3 T. Toasted Sesame seed oil


  • Fill a large stockpot with water 2/3 full. Add the above herbs to the pot and place the lid on. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 hours. If the water level boils down, add water to refill if necessary.
  • Strain herbs and add broth back into pot and then add whole chicken. Bring to a full boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that may develop and discard. Slowly boil all this for as long as you can bear it. Three hours is ideal. Two will do. Add extra water as needed to keep the pot around two-thirds full.
  • Strain and set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Put broth in refrigerator, skim off fat.
  • In the mean time in a fry pan add a 3 Tablespoons of sesame seed oil. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. Then add carrots, winter squash, and potatoes. When vegetables are soft set aside.
  • By this time the chicken should be cool enough to handle, remove meat and add to broth.
  • Combine sautéed vegetables into stock pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Add brown rice, (more if you want it thick).
  • When rice is cooked, add Kale and cook until wilted. Soup is ready.

Have a cup or bowl twice a day for 12 days, then once a week throughout the fall and winter.

IMG_3421Another important household standard during the fall and winter is fire cider. You can find recipes and examples of this all over the internet.  It is often called master tonic, cyclone cider, etc, but it is all based on a similar recipe, which you will see below.   At the very first indication of a cold I always take a jigger of this 3 times a day.  In TCM herbs that warm up the metabolism help to disperse the cold and repel the pathogens. In the case of fire cider, the ingredients help to heat up our metabolism (sweat-inducing) to fight off pathogens, this along with lots of antiviral and anti bacterial properties it can literally kick a cold away.

Fill a mason jar with 

  • 1 part minced garlic
  • 1 part grated horseradish (let it sit for three minutes in a bowl before adding it to the mix.)
  • 1 part grated ginger (no need to peel)
  • 1 part minced onion
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper

Cover with organic apple cider vinegar and let sit for 4-6 weeks or months if possible. Strain and bottle.  I often use this recipe as a base and add other ingredients including turmeric, long pepper and a bit of prickly ash.

yellow-orange-mapleFall is the time to start to readjust our biological clocks, clean out our closest, establish an exercise routine, wear a scarf around your neck, enjoy the fall colors, learn a new skill and most importantly get outside to breathe the fresh crisp air.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Todd
    Sep 16, 2014 @ 17:13:36

    Thanks, Holly. This is stuff I can use. So much to let go of this Fall!


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