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Metal & the Season of Grief

Within the ancient tapestry of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the very essence of our existence is woven into the intricate threads of five elements: fire, earth, wood, water, and metal. The significance of these elements can be seen within specific organs, seasons, emotions, tastes, smells, and sounds, revealing our bodies' profound connections with the earth. 

The Metal element is a crucial aspect of the Five Element Theory, representing a dynamic relationship between different aspects of the body and nature. Understanding the Metal element provides insights into maintaining balance and harmony in the body. Metal is associated with the autumn season, the color white, the emotions of sadness and grief, the sound of crying, and a pungent taste. The Lungs, Large Intestine, and Skin are all organs associated with the Metal element

Having generously yielded the harvest, nature embarks on a transformative act of baring it all in the fall. The vibrant foliage transforms, donning a spectrum of hues before gracefully descending to the earth for decomposition. As the old leaves return to the soil, their contribution enriches the earth, paving the way for new growth in the next cycle of the seasons.

As we journey through autumn, nurturing our Lungs, Large Intestine, and Skin, is vital as we begin to embrace a gentler and slower pace, allowing ourselves the grace to unwind and rejuvenate.

The Lungs affect our ability to take in (to inspire), and the Large Intestine is in charge of eliminating that which is impure (to release). We see representations of the Metal element in the rocks and minerals of the earth, in the sweeping mountains that ascend to the heavens. We “see” it in the air that we breathe. Healthy and balanced Metal energy manifests in our ability to take in what we need (inhalation) and eliminate what we don’t (exhalation).

The Lungs regulate Qi (life energy) and respiration. This organ is intricately linked to emotions of sadness, sorrow, and grief. Excessive presence of these emotions can potentially weaken the Lungs.

Grief and sadness, with their nuanced expressions, can represent an array of life changes that one may experience when it comes to loss.

The Large Intestine governs waste elimination in our bodies as it is associated with the concept of letting go, both on a physical and mental level. This aspect gains heightened significance when navigating the terrain of grief and sadness. Drawing inspiration from the natural world in autumn, where trees gracefully shed their leaves in preparation for the next season’s harvest. It becomes an opportunity to reflect on what is no longer essential, urging us to release what no longer contributes to our greater well-being. 

Indications of a metal imbalance are associated with different disharmonies in the Lung and Large Intestine, as the inability to release and "let go" can lead to stagnation, manifesting as symptoms such as constipation or respiratory ailments. Prolonged grief may result in a deficiency of Lung qi, characterized by fatigue in breathing and a weakened immune system.  Viral infections and poor air quality can directly impact the lungs, giving rise to issues like phlegm, weakness, dryness, and toxicity. Moreover, resisting seasonal changes and failing to align with the natural shifts in the seasons can also contribute to disharmony in the Lungs and Large Intestine, affecting both physical and emotional well-being.

Supporting the health of our Lungs and Large Intestines, particularly during the autumn season, requires a mindful and gentle approach. Embracing these emotions is natural, but the excess of those emotions poses a challenge to these organs.

It is crucial to acknowledge and allow the flow of emotions without letting them dominate our lives.

Similarly, letting go is a natural human resistance to change, but it's essential to discern when holding on becomes detrimental. Balancing the delicate dance of emotions and embracing change contribute to the overall well-being of these vital organs.

Food is Medicine - Nourish Your Lungs and Large Intestine

As autumn unfolds its cool and dry embrace, the Lungs find themselves susceptible to the effects of wind and cold. With the chill in the air, colds and cases of flu gain prominence, underscoring the need for immune-boosting foods. When preparing foods during the autumn season, remember to replace your cold or frozen drinks with room temperature water and hot teas. Moving away from raw vegetables and adding more soups and stews into your diet is encouraged, as they are warming dishes and great for your digestive system. Also, the watery viscosity nurtures yin and fluids in the body, which helps address the additional dryness we begin to experience during this season. 

Nutrition plays a vital role in balancing this element. Incorporating white colored foods and pungent-tasting produce will help disperse mucus and eliminate waste. Some foods you may add to your autumn grocery list would be onions, daikon radish, oats, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, egg whites, potatoes, rice, pears, and apples, as they all assist in fortifying the energy of the Lungs and Large Intestine. 

Fire Cider Recipe 

Rosemary Gladstar is a revered herbalist who gifted us Fire Cider as a symbol of her dedication to freely sharing herbal wisdom. The heart of this concoction, a therapeutic elixir crafted with vinegar, comprises a foundational recipe that includes apple cider vinegar, ginger, horseradish, onions, cayenne or other spicy peppers, garlic, and honey. Yet, the magic lies in the multitude of variations, as each additional herb brings its own unique twists and benefits. Adaptations of the base recipe can change with the seasons. Drawing inspiration from your garden or kitchen treasures—think elderberries, rosemary, tulsi, citrus peels, star of anise, cinnamon, oregano, or other immunity-boosting herbs. The final masterpiece is a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and spicy notes that envelop you in warmth from the inside out. 

Movement Practices

Connecting To Your Breath 

Embracing a meditative quality, deep breathing is a calming force for the mind. This simple yet powerful practice can be seamlessly woven into daily life, offering a respite from stress and nurturing a holistic sense of well-being. This daily ritual not only strengthens the lungs but also enhances overall immunity. The Metal element is about refinement and elimination, taking in what the earth gives us, refining it, and then releasing what is unnecessary. (2) 

Ujjayi Pranayama

This pranayama translates to victorious breath and is also known as ocean breath for the soothing sound it produces. Ujjayi promotes the complete expansion of the lungs, and its emphasis on breath awareness contributes to a calming effect on the mind.

Find a comfortable seated position with a straight spine. Inhale steadily through both nostrils, filling your lungs to capacity while maintaining an upright posture. Briefly hold your breath, then gently constrict the back of your throat as if sharing a whispered secret, and exhale slowly through both nostrils. The exhalation produces a sound reminiscent of ocean waves or a gentle rush of air. This exercise can be integrated into your daily routine for up to 10 minutes.

Restorative Practice - Qi gong

Qigong (pronounced chee-gong), a traditional Chinese practice blending physical movement, breathing techniques, and meditation, balances and cultivates the body's vital energy or Qi. Qigong can bring notable benefits to the health of your Lungs and Large Intestine, including improved digestion, Qi flow, balanced emotions, and enhanced blood circulation. This ancient practice combines gentle movements, controlled breathing, and focused meditation to promote well-being. 

For a Qigong practice to nourish Metal

Courtesy of Mimi Kuo-Deemer


Komorebi Center for Healing


(1) “The Elements.” Academy for Five Element Acupuncture, 15 Feb. 2022,

(2) “Breathwork in Lung Season - TCM Wellness Project.”,

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