Late summer is the shortest season in Chinese Medicine, from late August to the Autumn Equinox in September. It marks that pause or center of the year, as a time to ground and regroup. Late summer is the season of harvest, when we can take the time to rest and reap abundance from our hard work. It also marks the autumn equinox, as the year’s midpoint, with equal light and darkness. Thus, it reminds us to enter our center and find balance, while being peacefully present and rooted in nature. Wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be a helpful guide on how best to cleanse your whole being, attuned to the seasonal cycles. In TCM, late summer corresponds with the spleen/pancreas and stomach, recommending this as the best time to tune-up these organs. It’s also a good time to detoxify the mind and body’s toxic residue from over-thinking and worries, as these patterns correspond with the earth element of the late summer season in TCM.
I. 5 Element System
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rests on a foundation of 5 Element Theory, involving Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These elements are a 5-phase theory of interrelated, organic energies expressed in our body and nature. This pentagram within hosts a flow of energies that depict our personalities, emotions and health imbalances. Everyone has their unique energetic blueprint of 5 elements expressed through health patterns, and this can be a key factor in diagnosing for a TCM Practitioner. While some of this can be deep and complicated, the aim of this blog is to simplify and make information accessible for everyone. This article is part of a 5 element series, focusing on the earth element for late summer. Here is a table that sums up all of the elements and some of their correspondences:
Element Season Organs Emotions Color Tone Sounds
Wood Spring Liver/Gallbladder Anger/ Green E SHHH
Fire Summer Heart/ Joy/Hatred Red G HAWW
Earth Late Summer Spleen/Stomach Worry Yellow C HOOO
Metal Autumn Lung/ Grief/Sadness White D SSSSS
Water Winter Kidney/Bladder Fear Blue/Black A WOOO
The interrelationships follow a flow in which each element feeds the next element and controls the second from it as depicted below. For example, Earth engenders Metal and controls water and so on. And Earth is engendered by Fire and controlled by Wood..
We embody all five elements, however, many individuals express certain elements more strongly. For example, an Earth type would take on more traits of this element being honest, trustworthy, steadfast and resistant to change.
II. Earth Archetype of Spleen/Stomach
The earth archetype of TCM is one of the 5 used in TCM diagnosis, embodying the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the constitution. Being human, we are always out of balance with our own individual blueprints toward our highest nature. Working with and understanding the baseline can give guidance for objective assessments, helping to eliminate judgement and encouraging personal evolution. The earth element in Chinese Astrology is transitional energy, as the last zodiac sign of each season: Ox, Dragon, Sheep and Dog. Earth's symbol is the Yellow Dragon and its direction is Center. Earth types have a yellowish complexion and are round in shape, especially in the face and abdomen. Their personality is to be resourceful, loyal, persistent and predictable, however, they are learning to own their power and embrace more change and leadership for balance. They can tend to overeat and become lethargic and gain weight. So proper diet and exercise can be very empowering for these individuals to feel good about themselves.
Each element is associated with paired yin-yang organs and other emotions. The paired yin-yang organs for the Earth Element are the Spleen (Yin) and Stomach (Yang). From a western perspective, the Spleen equates to pancreas, regulating blood sugar and insulin. TCM’s cultural perspective is different than the Western world regarding emotions. With the exception of joy, from the western perspective, the other 4 TCM emotions of anger, worry, grief and fear would be considered ‘negative’ to most individuals. In TCM, the emotions are a source of disharmony with neutral connotations. All emotions have their place in healthy individuals and should be expressed in a balanced way to maintain health. Even too much joy can be a source of disharmony. In TCM, the emotion worry is associated with Earth and these personality types are learning to balance their tendency to over ruminate and worry by being more present and grounding themselves with nature.
III. Taoist Healing Sounds and Tones/Releasing Worries & Over-Thinking Meditation
In TCM, there is an ancient Taoist concept of the Six Healing Sounds or Liu Zi Jue. Each of the 5 elements and paired organs have a healing sound and tone. Triple Burner is the sixth sound and integrates the other 5 sounds and is explained in Fire Element blog. The tone for Earth Element is C and the healing sound is HOOOO. There is a Taoist Qi Gong exercise where you lean forward, with hands over the Spleen/Pancreas/Stomach area, inhaling deeply into these organs then exhaling while saying the healing sound, HOOOO. The Six Healing Sounds are thought to transform the stagnant energy stored in the organs and meridian pathways into a vital life force. This also includes an exercise, similar to the western modality, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming). In the Spleen/Pancreas exercise, you imagine a person or situation that has given you worry (If it involves a person, separate the person from the worry). Next, imagine both eyes moving down, to your Spleen/Pancreas. While focusing on the worry, move your eyes back and forth, and imagine the eyes in your Spleen/Pancreas moving back and forth, eliminating the worry. This exercise can be practiced with all organs and their corresponding emotion and vocal healing sounds. In addition, you can use color therapy and imagine vibrant yellow light or the sun's rays penetrating the Spleen/Pancreas during this meditation.
IV. Spleen/Pancreas/Stomach Digestion (Solar Plexus) Empowerment
Late summer is a good time to assess your digestive issues of your Spleen and Stomach. Because the Spleen equates pancreas in western anatomy, this can be a good time to evaluate your blood sugar levels. Many of my patients have told me that by just loosing significant weight, they are able to stabilize their blood sugar levels. In addition, there are natural options to consider, before going on pharmaceuticals for diabetes. Bitter Melon (see left photo) is a superfood recognized in Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine for its abilities to lower blood sugar and treat diabetes. When in Nepal, I discovered stir-fried Bitter Melon as one of my favorite tasting dishes. Accessible natural supplements at your local health store to lower glucose levels include bitter melon, chromium, gymnema sylvestre (Ayurvedic herb), fenugreek, cinnamon, and Alpha Lipoic Acid.
More and more research is showing the importance of microbiome or gut bacteria for good digestion and immunity. Especially, if you have historically taken a lot of antibiotic pharmaceuticals, it is important to replenish your “good bacteria” that antibiotics kill off for proper digestion. Fermented foods such as kombucha (see right photo), yogurt and miso soup are good examples of food choices that support a healthy microbiome. Taking probiotic supplements can also be crucial, especially if you recently finished a course of antibiotics for an infection. A sign of a weak microbiome is candida in the body. Coconut Oil is a natural antifungal due to its ingredient, caprylic acid, that kills off yeast colonies. Supplementing coconut oil with probiotics and a healthy diet with minimal sugar (feeds candida) can be a good approach to improving digestive health.
Late summer is a good time to transition your diet from the summer salads and smoothies to more warming and nourishing foods like root vegetables and soups. Aromatic foods beneficial for digestion are ginger, cloves and fennel. Especially earth types can have a sluggish metabolism and retain fluids benefiting from certain foods to relieve this situation, like, adzuki beans, lima beans, kidney beans and mushrooms. Another issue for older adults is a decrease in stomach acid which the body needs for protein digestion. Taking bromelain (pineapple) or papain (Papaya) digestive enzymes can be good supplementation for protein digestion. It is interesting to consider that papain and bromelain are also good for joint inflammation or arthritis? Is poor digestion connected to arthritis?
V. Spleen/Stomach Meridian Therapy
In TCM there are 12 principle meridians that correspond with organs. There are paired organs, 1 yang/hollow and 1 yin (solid) pairs for each element and season, with the exception of the fire element having 2 pairs. The meridians are channels, where the qi (life force) flows, transforming energy to material and vice versa. The acupuncture points used for needling are along these channels. However, there are many ways to stimulate the points without acupuncture needles, using essential oils, acupressure, massage, Reiki or tuning forks. Plus, anyone can support the flow of the qi in the meridians by stretching or doing yoga. When we are stiff, our meridians kink like a garden hose, obstructing our free flow flow of qi. Obstructions can lead to pain or disease from this imbalance. Here is an overview of the locations and benefits of the 2 earth meridians and selected power points emphasized along the channels:
This meridian enters the medial side of the great toe, traveling up the medial foot and inner leg along the abdomen, through lateral ribcage to second intercostal space ending in the auxiliary line in the 6th intercostal space. From its 21 points, I explain the benefits of 5 power points:
3-"Greater White-" Proximal and inferior to the head of first metatarsal bone: Stimulates mental faculties and memory (especially if weakened by excess mental work), treats chronic phlegm in lungs, and strengthens spine
6-"3 Yin Meeting- "Hand's width above medial malleolus: Calms mind, regulates menses, stops pain, treats diarrhea and stomach conditions
8-"Earth Pivot-" Hand's width below Spleen 9: Clears obstructions and pain in channel, dysmenorrhea
9-"Yin Mound Spring-" Lower border of medial condyle , in depression on medial border of tibia: Urinary difficulties, including retention, pain, cloudy; vaginal discharge, edema in legs and feet
21-"Great Whispering-"Mid axillary line in 6th intercostal space: muscular pain throughout body, fibromyalgia
This meridian begins directly below the pupil, down the face and
back up the jaw bone to the hairline, then back down
the lateral neck and ribcage, through the nipples, down the abdomen
and lateral-front legs, over top of the foot, and exiting the 2nd toe.
From this meridian's 45 points, I highlight and explain 5 power points:
6-"Jaw Chariot-"Anterior to angle of mandible: TMJ, toothache,
Trigeminal Neuralgia, grinding teeth
25-"Heavenly Pillar-"2 cun lateral to umbilicus: diarrhea, bloating,
36-"3 Miles of the Leg-"Hands-width below kneecap one fingerbreadth from
anterior crest: gastritis, digestive problems, immunity, hypertension,
gastritis, allergies, asthma, breast abscesses, energy
38-"Narrow Opening-" one finger breadth from tibia crest, midway between
kneecap and ankle: shoulder pain, inflammation, frozen shoulder
44-"Inner Courtyard-"web between second and third toes: acid reflux,
upper toothache, trigeminal neuralgia, frontal headaches, facial pain
VI. Spirit of the Spleen: Yi
The Yi or intellect is the Spirit of the Earth Element. It is our center, balancing the transformation processes of all 5 elements. Yi is our capacity for scholarly achievements, making intentions and digesting thoughts, while keeping us grounded. The Yi is damaged when the mind over-thinks, with a pensiveness that can lead to worrying. A healthy Yi stays fully present in the moment, attuned to the gut brain and solar plexus, supporting healthy digestion. Connecting with nature's earth element is therapeutic for harmony, so the Yi Spirit can sustain a calm, clear mind and listen to the gut brain for intuitive information.
Conclusion/Guided Healing Meditation CD's
In conclusion, this article is intended to simplify and provide an overview of TCM and Taoist principles on the 5 elements. This system is interrelated into a cohesive whole, with this article on the earth element of late summer, being part of a East Asian Medicine 5 element blog/CD series. (See my other Blogs/CD's on Wood, Fire, Metal and Water) As a TCM Practitioner, I offer seasonal healing services with Acupuncture, herbal cleanses, healing sounds and qi gong exercises. In addition, I have written and co-produced guided healing meditations with Eileen Dey, Wurst and Michael Mercker on the 5 Element East Asian Series for each season and its corresponding organs/emotions. Here is a link to purchase Download for the Earth Element and Spleen/Stomach Guided Healing Meditations:
Disclaimer: This article or CD is not intended to diagnose, cure or treat any disease. Consult a health practitioner for any illness. Do not listen to CD while driving or lifting heavy items.