By Audrey Barden Rosetti LAc, MAcOM
I think we can all agree that lung health and immunity are on the forefront of a lot of people’s mind’s right now… so how can Chinese Medicine help? As a practitioner of holistic medicine, I believe that the mind, body, and spirit are very closely related. One of the fundamental principles of Chinese Medicine is the common “resonance” between the natural world and the human body.
In Chinese Medicine, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood are known as the Five Elements. These elements occur both in nature and as entities in our bodies–and really, anywhere else you could think of! Chinese medical scientists have used the Five Elements theory to classify the human body’s organs, physiological activities, and pathological reactions. When all of the elements are in balance, one is in a state of health. When one of the elements becomes off balance, then we see disease.
Respiratory health belongs within the Metal Element. The Lung Organ is associated with breathing, sweating, energy production, water metabolism, and immunity. The metal element has its own set of correspondences which help an acupuncturist to diagnose and correctly treat imbalances using Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine.
Here are 5 facts about the Metal Element and some ways we can use them practically in our own self-care routines.
The season of Metal (and the Lungs) is Autumn/Harvest.
During the harvest time, it is important to celebrate what we have accomplished and accumulated over the course of the year. It is also time to take stock of what has been lost, and to ceremoniously let it go. We can understand this concept by thinking about the breath: we breathe in new fresh air, and we exhale old air. It may be hard to believe but having an organized and decluttered home environment deeply affects one’s mental and emotional state and has a direct impact on physical health, but it’s true! So, one way to take care of our lungs during any point of the year is to do some decluttering. If this is overwhelming for you, start with one desk drawer, or just your car to start.
The color of Metal is White.
A lot of “white” foods have tremendous benefit to the respiratory and immune systems, but three of the most legendary are:
- Garlic – It actually physically resembles little lungs!
Pro tip: After chopping garlic, let it sit in the open air for 15 minutes to enhance its detoxing properties
- Apple & Pear
If you cut each of these in half, they each look like lungs too!
The taste of Metal is Spicy.
The lungs are said to be the first defense against external disease. In Chinese Medicine spicy herbs are known for their ability to help promote expelling diseases, mainly by inducing sweating. As an herbalist, I prescribe a wide range of spicy herbs to anyone looking to work on immunity, and also to deal with sadness of any kind.
- Cinnamon is an example of a warming and spicy herb
- Mint is an example of a cooling and spicy herb.
The simple ritual of making yourself a cup of either of these teas at home is profoundly nourishing to the Lungs.
The emotion of Metal is Sadness.
Over the course of life, we all will need to let things go. Whether it is from profound heartbreak or simple daily feelings which we hold onto. It is important that we process these feelings. Writing letters to people (that we often do not send!), saying goodbye to them, as well as forgiving them is another way to actually heal our Lungs. When we do this, we make room for new things to enter our lives.
The tissue of Metal is the Skin.
It is said that “The Lungs do not like dryness”. One way we can protect our lungs is actually by using oils on the skin. If you have any oils at home like olive oil, sesame oil, or jojoba, try adding in a couple of drops of your favorite essential oils and giving yourself a simple arm, leg, or neck massage. Doing this actually helps the body’s lymph system detoxify the body and leads to better immune health. Plus, it feels great!
As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I am passionate about finding ways to heal the body that are not only natural, but the process is actually fun! If you need more information about any of these ideas, or wish to deepen your understanding about your own body from a Chinese Medicine perspective, I would love to hear from you.