(03) 9459 0122

Autumn, grief & the lungs

By Lauren Pegoli

Autumn sees the arrival of beautiful earthy colours and strong, drying winds. According to Chinese medicine,the cool weather and violent winds of Autumnhave a downward energetic push much like the falling of leaves. We tend to feel the effects of wind on our skin and internally in our chest and lungs.

Heading into the thick of Autumn, it can become more difficult to breathe as the wind snatches the oxygen before we breathe in and then blow dries the little moisture we have left in our airways after the heat of summer.

Heat and dryness caught in the lungs can cause coughs and lung heat.

According to TCM, wind can be a major cause of disease. With all the external wind in autumn, any internal blockages within the body createsinternal wind that disturbs the liver and exacerbates emotional excess.

The function of the stomach and intestines often becomes deficient in autumn. Gastro-intestinal diseases are common at this time so that we need to take particular care and eat well to prevent disease finding its way in via the mouth. Without extra care, the body is often poorly equipped to defend itself against excessive wind in autumn.


We have had a long and dry Summerthathas contributed to a current lack of moisture in the air, leading many people to experiencedry coughs this Autumn.

Tips for dryness:

  • Honey in warm water before bed will ease a dry throat and a dry cough and assist with dry constipation


Common symptoms of dryness:

Dry lips, dry skin, itchiness, wrinkles, a dry throat, a dry cough and constipation.



Moistening foods to support dryness:


Spinach, barley, pears, apples, millet, persimmons, loquat, seaweed,mushrooms, almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, clams, crab or pork, olive oil, salmon

In moderation:  dairy is effective for anyone dry, thin and weak, although it’s important only to consume dairy in small amounts so it doesn’t create damp and mucus in the body.


The Organs of Autumn and Letting Go

The lungs are expansive and dispersing,expanding to take in and hold the air we breathe and then send oxygen all around the body. Strong lungsdirectly relate to the effectiveness in how an individual goes about their tasks and maintains purpose.

The Large Intestine lets go of what is no longer necessary. If there is a healthy balance between the lungs and large intestines this assists a person to be able to honour commitments, but let go when arelationship is over. This balance promotes the ability to experience and then let go of sadness and to keep track of possessions without becoming overly attached to them.

The strength of the lungs equates to the strength of the immune system. The energy from the food we consume, mixed with the qi from the air form our defence system – the body’s protective qi, called Wei qi.Wei Qi protects the skin, nose and mouth (and therefore the lungs) from external attack by viruses, colds and germs.

If Wei Qi isn’t working well, you’ll get every cold and virus that is ‘going around’. When you are well, this is the best time to strengthen the yang of your digestive system and kidneys to strengthen the wei qi.

An important part of building Defensive Qi is to avoid too much sweating and over-exerting oneself.


Grief expressed out aloud, unchoregraphed and honest, for someone or something we have lost is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them.

Grief is praise, it is the natural way love honours what is misses

-Martin Prechtel

According to TCM, the emotion ofAutumn is grief. If grief is repressed, it festers in the body and over time causes the lungs to contract which leads to insufficient qi distribution around the body that slowly clogs up the lungs and our ability to fend off pathogens.

Prolonged grief can lead to detachment and vulnerability and can manifest physically as asthma or chronic coughing unrelated to a cold. Some issues with the large intestines may also be connected with unresolved grief. Along with deep breathing, meditation, counselling and exercise, pungent foods may help clear grief by balancing the lung qi.

The lungs connection with the skin and wei qi means that the skin reflects the condition of the lungs and particularly during Autumn. In Autumn, we can increase the amount of oil we eat to give the skin more protection.


Pungentflavours are yang and ascending – they move up into the lungs to open and clear them. Pungent flavours are excellent for clearing wind from the body too as they encourage movement and flow.

Pungent foods & spices Bay leaves, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, chives, cinnamon cloves, cumquats, dill, fennel, leek, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, safflower, taro, thyme, turmeric, watercress, wheat germ, cabbage, turnip, ginger, horseradish, pepper, onions, garlic, chillies.


Anything done to the body has equal consequence for the mind and spirit also. If you feel good physically, you will be more balanced emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Wong, L., Knapsey, K. (2002). Living with the Seasons. Red Dragon: Australia.

Download this article: Autumn, grief & the lungs