The Seasons – Chinese Five Element Theory: AUTUMN

The Seasons – Chinese Five Element Theory: AUTUMN

Autumn is well and truly upon us, which in Chinese Five Element Theory, is governed by the element of METAL.

The two major organs that correspond to this element are the Lungs and Large Intestines.

It is appropriate that the Taoists associate the lungs with Metal as the lungs can be seen as the body’s energy furnace.

The Lung’s major functions include maintaining healthy immune defences against pathogens, as well as circulating energy (or in Chinese medicine theory – “chi”) and fluids throughout the body.

The lungs also control the skin, pores, and sweat and bring into play defensive chi.

Defensive chi travels from the lungs to the surface of the skin. Keeping defensive chi strong and abundant helps protect you from outside germs and viruses that want to invade the body.

Emotionally and physically, the Lungs (along with its organ partner, the Large Intestines), are responsible for helping you to “let go” of whatever you don’t need, from life experiences to emotions to actual metabolic waste products.


  • The nose is the sensory organ related to the Lung. Runny nose, sneezing, congested sinuses, loss of smell, are all symptoms of compromised Lung function
  • The skin is the tissue associated with the Lung. In Chinese Medicine it is also known as the ‘third lung’ and helps the lungs eliminate carbon dioxide
  • The taste that corresponds to and supports the Lung is spicy and pungent.
  • Sadness and grief are the emotions associated with the Lungs and Large Intestines

Loss of any kind will often trigger the emotion of grief, even if we are not acutely aware of this. Grief, if left unresolved, will stay with us until we decide to deal with it and release it. On a physical level this may manifest as difficult bowel function, as we subconsciously try to ‘hold on’ even to our own waste matter.

When unresolved, grief becomes chronic. As a result, depression and an inability to ‘let go’ of things can develop and oxygen circulation may also become impaired. Since our lungs control the flow of energy in our bodies, it’s important that we give ourselves space to deal with painful events rather than stifling them.

Simple Tips for Everyday Lung Health

  • Let go of things you no longer need and give yourself breathing room. Stimulate your Lung function by throwing out things you no longer need or use, like clothing you haven’t worn in more than 12 months.
  • Many foods have an essence that supports the Lungs and its partner, the Large Intestines, especially spicy, and white foods. So include these flavours/colours in your cooking; these include: onion, radish, mustard greens, daikon radish, scallions (white part), almonds, white meat, white rice, white beans, and white mushrooms
  • This season is notorious for weakening the body so if you tend to catch colds or have allergies in autumn, it’s important to take care of these organs. Keep warm in windy and cold weather, especially your chest and neck – part of the Lung’s job is to protect you from pathogens, so you can preserve Lung energy by covering up your skin.

Just as the trees shed their leaves in autumn in preparation for winter, so too must we shed what no longer serves us so that we can move forward in our lives with courage and determination.