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Feb 25

Late Summer and the Element of Earth

We’ve all heard of the seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – but what about Late Summer? Is this even a season? In Chinese Medicine, this is the season that sits between Summer and Autumn. It is a time past the budding flowers of Spring, past the time of growth and maturation of Summer and into the time of harvest, the fruits of which nurture us as the earth nurtured the fruit. In Chinese Medicine Five Element theory, this time is associated with the element of Earth. We all consist of the Five Elements which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and we’ll see how the Earth element displays itself in us.

Late Summer and the Element of Earth

The Organs associated with the Earth element are the Spleen and the Stomach. These Organs have functions which are physiological but have an equivalent psycho-emotional function.

The Spleen is the Controller of Transforming and Transporting. It converts food and drink into Qi (energy) and Blood, and transports this food essence and fluid around the body. When an imbalance occurs, fluids may accumulate and cause conditions such as oedema, fluid on the lungs, and aching and stiff joints. Mentally and spiritually, when the Spleen is not in balance, this can result in thoughts not being processed and distributed appropriately. Sometimes, there can be thinking that’s not converted into action, poor memory and concentration, or thoughts and worries that can seem obsessive.

The Stomach is the Controller of Rotting and Ripening. Food is taken in through the mouth, chewed, swallowed and enters the Stomach, which continues to break the food down so the beneficial parts of it can be used to create Qi. A healthy Stomach also allows us to digest mentally and spiritually as well, enabling us to take in information, break it down, process it and absorb it. When the Stomach is out of balance, physically, a person can experience symptoms such as nausea, hiccups, vomiting and bloating.

There are times of the day when particular Organs have more Qi and function optimally. The time of the Stomach is 7am – 9am and the Spleen is 9am – 11am. It is best to have breakfast in the hours of the Stomach and then allow the Spleen to digest the food in the hours afterwards. If a person’s Stomach and Spleen are weak, they may find that they have a poor appetite in the morning and are also more tired at those same times in the evening, between 7pm – 11pm.

Enjoy this time of Earth – enjoying this pause between the Yang of Summer and the Yin of Autumn. It is a time of nourishing yourself in preparation for a quieter part of the year.

Sep 8

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival: Mooncake Heaven

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival for 2014!

This is a time of family gathering and giving thanks to them. Traditionally, it is also a time of gathering of the harvest and giving thanks for the abundance nature has provided. It is also a time of big banquets, followed by my favourite once-a-year dessert, “Moon Cake”.


Moon Cakes are a big feature of this festival, their roundness symbolising completeness and unity. The cakes are gifted to each other and are shared amongst family and friends, and this sharing is a show of the completeness and unity that moon cakes represent.

Generally, they are made with lotus seed, which in Chinese Medicine, has astringent, sweet and neutral properties and targets the Chinese Medicine organs of Spleen, Kidney and Heart.

The sweetness supports and nourishes the Spleen, aiding your digestive system as well as any diarrhoea associated with weak Spleen energy.

The Kidneys benefit from the astringent nature of the lotus seed and helps a person to keep their Kidney Essence, which is a person’s vital energy. In men, it can help with weak sexual function and in women, with excessive vaginal discharge.

The seed also has calming properties and can subdue restlessness, palpitations and insomnia, particularly if consumed with the seed kernel.

So, as well as being a celebratory food, Moon Cakes have positive health properties, too, though bear in mind that in current times, there is more sugar in them than traditionally, so do enjoy it but in moderation!