I hope you are enjoying your summer. As the summer draws near a close, we have also reached the fifth element and final in a series of ‘Five Element’ newsletters centered around health insights, tips and staying on an optimal path of health and wellness, from a Chinese Medicine perspective. In the creation cycle of the five elements, Earth follows Fire (summer), and creates Metal (autumn), thus is in a cycle of change and creation. In another cycle, called the cosmological sequence, Earth is at the centre, and to the north, south, east and west, are the other elements/seasons. In this cycle, the Qi returns to the centre, and is consider the time of the change in seasons, before moving onto the next element/season. Thus, I have referred to the Earth newsletter as ‘Return to Center’. I hope this newsletter reaches you healthy and happy.
Late Summer, or also the change between seasons, is element of Earth. Earth is related to the organ and meridian system of the Spleen and its partnered organ the Stomach. In this season, the Earth energy is predominant, and in our body, like in nature, this Earth element is concerned with generating, nurturing, abundance and the ripening of the life force. On a mental or emotional level, Earth is in charge of ‘digesting’ our thinking and thoughts, and thus governs learning, thinking and analysis. This element and energy system is also in charge of the tissue of the flesh and muscles and the sense organ of our lips or mouth. The goal of this season is to return to our central core, nourish, generate, and continue to ripen our life force or Qi, as the body at this time is most attune with Earth. Take time to take care of yourself, nurture yourself, and remember what is important for you to stay balanced and grounded to Earth. Nurture others as well, but without over-extending your energy as your balanced health is most important. The element of Earth is also associated with the taste of sweet. Eating or drinking (slightly) sweet foods to an appropriate level, nourishes the Earth element, the Spleen and Stomach, and all that the Earth element encompasses. Too much sweet however, can overwhelm and damage the organ and meridian system. Thus, when eating sweets or sugar, do so in moderation. Eating foods that are generally bland, in fact benefit the Earth, Spleen and Stomach the best. Examples are rice, potatoes, yams, yellow peppers, etc.
The Spleen is in charge of absorbing, transforming and transporting, i.e. transforming food and drinks on the physical level to Qi, Body Fluids and Blood. Along with the Kidneys, the two organ systems are key providers of energy, strength and vitality (Qi). Too much Earth, can cause and inability to absorb, transform, and transport, resulting in accumulations that in Chinese medicine are often called ‘dampness’ and ‘phlegm’. On a more physical level, they can sometimes be seen as swelling or excess fatty tissue. On the opposite end of the scale, too little Earth can result in a deficiency of transforming and transporting, which translates to low energy and fatigue, both physical and mental. In addition, this resulting sluggishness of the Qi energy can lead to sluggishness of digestion, lack of appetite, flatulence, and bloating.
Earth, and the Spleen from a mental, psychological and emotional perspective, is integrated with the emotion or energy of the thought or intellect, and hence is responsible for thinking, concentrating, studying and memorizing. In other words, Earth and the Spleen is concerned with digesting our thoughts as well as our food. The highest expression of the Earth element is Empathy, and our sense of community – to hear and be heard. If our Spleen and Stomach are functioning properly, we give or generate thoughtfulness and sympathy in equal amounts to receiving and accepting feelings of care, consideration and community. A weakened or disturbed Earth energy system shows up with signs of impaired or dulled thinking, or on the opposite end of the scale, over-thinking and mental churning. On the more extreme, an Earth imbalance, either weak or excessive, can result in excessive worry and mental confusion. However, as Chinese Medicine does not work solely on one way streets, emotions can also create physical imbalances. Hence, someone that excessively worries or over-thinks, can weaken the Spleen and Stomach energy system, resulting in the many physical symptoms mentioned above. More psychologically, a person with an abundance of Earth is one of empathy and a keenness to provide nurturing and security. An imbalance however, can manifest in an overprotective attitude, and one who continually neglects their own needs. Finally, a different type of Earth imbalance is seen in one who is dependent and needy. In this case, there is an overdeveloped need to sympathize, and this need for sympathy and support depletes ones’ ability to help oneself.
The Pancreas in Chinese Medicine, is associated with the Spleen, and all that the Spleen encompasses both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
If you enjoy using aromatherapy at home, using essential oils is a great way to improve the state of our emotions and promote the free flow of Qi. As essential oils go directly to our Limbic system, they directly affect the physiological responses mediated by the Limbic system of how we ‘feel’ about something. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, essential oils go directly to the head and Brain, which house our Shen (Spirit) and hence can directly affect our emotions. Use essential oils like Lemon, Grapefruit, Thyme, Juniper, Marjoram, and Vetiver help promote the Earth, care, support and sympathy within us Thus the oils can help us think clearly, feel nurtured, supported, and helps us return to center. However, be sure to use good quality, 100% natural oils, as the synthetic, chemical and adultered oils can cause reactions, and there are many essential oils out on the market that are of poor quality. If you are unsure of the quality of your essential oil, please send me an email or give me a call, and I would be happy to advise you.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this brief insight on the season of late summer or return to center, the element of Earth, and the Spleen and Stomach meridian systems. If there is any particular topic you would like me to address and answer, please feel free to email me, and I will try to cover it in a future newsletter.
Enjoy the rest of the summer!