It’s a fresh start to autumn after a summer packed with more than 30 days of more than 30 degrees heat. In fact, it was the second-hottest summer on record in the GTA and one of the driest.
Environmental factors (the four seasons) impact externally on the body.
For example, a change of season causes variation to the rate, rhythm, volume and tension of the radial pulse, which is palpated on the wrist. Changes in environmental qi influence movement of qi inside the body, the same can be said of the food or herbs we take. Chinese dietary philosophy recommends following principles of harmony when deciding the ideal time to eat certain foods, one of the principles is that diet should be chosen according to climatic changes. Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Medicine Classic) has a famous phrase: “nourishing yang in spring and summertime, nourishing yin in autumn and wintertime.”
Traditional Chinese medicine embraces qualitative, holistic concept of yin and yang nature in foods and its influence on the yin or yang constitution of our body. This autumn is especially important to nourish yin after an unusually hot and dry summer. That’s because sweating and dehydration can consume jin (body fluids) which is distributed through the skin, muscles and also enters the blood vessels and has the actions of nourishing and moistening. Dryness is also common in autumn and is most likely to affect the metal phase organs – Lungs and Large Intestine. If you are particularly prone to signs of dryness such as dry skin, itchiness, dry throat, and lethargy then this can point to jin (body fluids) depletion with qi deficiency.
Foods or herbs that tonify or augment the body’s deficiency can be warming so the trick is to tonify without adding to any residual heat left from summer. That’s why autumn is suitable for the ping bu method: using herbs with a neutral and mild character to aid in recovery from general weakness.
For this purpose, I recommend shan yao (dioscorea or Chinese wild yam).
Shan yao is traditionally used as both a food and a herb. Its neutral energy enables it to evenly tonify the qi and nourishes the yin of Lung, Spleen, and Kidney. Additionally it has the property of stabilizing and binding leakage of vital substances. Its importance can be seen in its wide use in tonifying formulas, many of which are relevant to optimizing fertility.
I use it often for my fertility patients and it is also an ingredient in the Chinese herbal chicken bone broth recipe from Mary Wong’s recently published book Pathways to Pregnancy: Personal Stories and Practical Advice for Your Fertility. She wrote “Shan Yao is believed to nourish digestion, and nourish kidney and reproductive energy in men and women, regulate menstruation, lower blood sugar, soothe mood, aid sleep, and benefit overall blood and qi energy.”
It is important to eat right for the season, follow time-tested advice to nourish your yin in autumn and optimize your fertility health in your path to pregnancy!
Mary Wong. Pathways to Pregnancy: Personal Stories and Practical Advice for Your Fertility Journey: Chapter 1 You Are Not Your Diagnosis (2016) pp.19