The Chinese 5 element system recognizes 5 seasons. We have dived into foods and herbs that help balance us during the wood and fire element. Now we are in the middle of the Earth element, the transitional season in between summer and fall. In late August, I start to feel the shift into a new season. The transition from late summer going into early fall has a certain feeling about it. If you can feel it too you might be feeling more rooted into the earth. Feeling more peace and stability. The earth energy feels like roots outstretching deep into the earth preparing us for changes that are on the horizon.
The spirit of the Earth represents integrity, intention, clear thought, and devotion. “When the heart applies itself, we speak of intent.” -Neijing Suwen This describes yi, the spirit of the earth element.
As we transition out of the fire element into the Earth element we transition from yang to yin. Earth is a pleasant, tranquil and flourishing season. Activities become more effortless and dreamlike. Finding the rhythms that help make life simple and harmonious is all this time of year is about. Revisit centering practices that connect you to the your mind and body with meditation or breath work. Find foods that nourish this essence.
Foods for The Earth Element
In the Inner Classic it says that the Earth element creates moisture in heaven to create fertile soil on earth. Thus creating the flesh in the body such as the stomach, spleen, and pancreas. Creates the yellow color of the leaves changing. Gives the voice the ability to sing. Forms the mouth and sense of taste. To taste the sweet flavors from the Earth and to ease emotions of anxiety and worry.
When it comes to food for the earth element we can start to focus on slightly sweet foods. Especially foods that are yellow and golden and foods that help harmonize your center. Yellow foods are known to be beneficial for spleen and stomach health. Which is associated with maintaining healthy skin, supporting eye health, and boosting our immune system.
Earth element foods can be millet, corn, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, soybeans, squash, potatoes, string beans, yams, tofu, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, peas, hazelnuts, peaches, apples, and cantaloupe. Preparing your food should be simple during this season too. Avoid over complicating dishes and combining too many foods.
Some of my favorite thing to cook this time of year is split pea soup, millet stuffed squash, stir fry, sweet potato chili, apple crisp, spaghetti squash pasta, falafel, corn chowder, to name a few ideas. What do you like to make with these ingredients?
Season of the Spleen and Pancreas
The spleen, pancreas and stomach are primarily responsible for the digestion and distribution of nutrients. The qi energy and essences are extracted from the digestion and used by the body to create wei qi aka immunity, vitality, warmth, formation of tissues, and mental function.
A balanced spleen looks like a generally hard working, practical, and responsible human. And can also look like a human that likes to nurture themselves and others. They are strong, active and stable. With good endurance, appetites, and digestion. They are orderly, careful and excel creatively with fertile imaginations.
Qi and Spleen Imbalances During the Earth Season
Imbalances in the spleen look like chronic tiredness, physical and mental stagnation, compulsive, “stuck” behavior that prevents them from creatively developing their personalities. They have weak digestion that can look like nausea, poor appetite, dull taste, pale tongue with thin white coating, bloating, lumps in abdomen, loose stool, blood sugar imbalances, weight problems, overeating, or thin and unable to gain weight, with sallow complexions and sloppy appearance. Living in disorder, and accumulate useless possessions. Other symptoms look like weak pulse, nervous indigestion, anemia, chronic diarrhea, dysentery, pain in the upper abdomen.
Deficient qi is associated with a imbalanced spleen and is common among poorly nourished people. Especially when the diet is high in refined and processed foods. The spleen is there to help extract qi energy and nourishment from the food we eat. Intestinal remedies in Chinese medicine are typically for the spleen. Understanding that the spleen and pancreas are there to excrete pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine. Our health is greatly determined by how well nutrients are absorbed.
Dietary suggestions for deficient spleen qi is to add warming or neutral foods and herbs to your diet. Cooling foods weaken the digestive system and extinguishes the internal fire that helps us process food into energy.
Foods for Imbalanced Spleen and Qi
Foods that help correct this is carbohydrate rich vegetables like winter squash, carrot, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, garbanzo beans, black beans, peas, sweet potato, pumpkin. Pungent foods like onion, leek, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg. Sweeteners like rice syrup barley malt, molasses, cherry, and dates can be used in small amounts. Small amounts of animal product in a soup or congee can be helpful as well as butter. But no other dairy products.
Foods that can restrict your body’s ability to offset imbalances are raw vegetables, citrus, sprouts, cereal grasses, cooling foods like tomato, spinach, chard, tofu, millet, amaranth, seaweed, algae, salt, very sweet foods, liquids, vinegar and dairy products. When you are dealing with a deficiency it is important to not push your liver into excess by eating large and rich meals. Avoid eating nuts, seeds, and oils in excess.
Dampness During the Earth Element
Dampness can also become present in the digestive tract. This yin disorder can come from the environment or can be due to a poor diet which can cause organ weakness throughout the body. Including the lungs, heart, bladder and sexual organs. Moist mucoid deposits can look like edema, cysts, tumors, and cancer. As well as, overgrowth of yeast, viruses, putrefactive bacteria, amoebas, and parasites.
Symptoms of dampness can show up in the joints and acupuncture channels. Movement can become difficult because numbness and pain will start to appear. This may include feelings of heaviness, especially in the head, lack of appetite, bloated, and watery stools, with a thick coating on the tongue, and a dirty, greasy external look about them. Dampness can take time to cure so be patient with yourself and seek advice from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.
Some spleen and stomach herbs include: Hawthorne, marshmallow, garlic, goji, ginger, fennel, fenugreek, hops, astragalus, codonopsis, ginseng, licorice, yerba santa, meadowsweet, nettle, angelica root.
The Spirit of the Earth Element
Earth represents the yi which is the energy that helps us feel the Earth beneath our feet. It is no longer enough to know, too intuit, to envision, to dream. It is the season to put our weight into our entire being and the power of our intentions into what is in our heart. When the yi is in harmony we are able to fully commit ourselves into manifesting our destiny and letting the light of our spirit start to illuminate the world around us. it is our chance for our soul to stand by our dreams. Earth is celestial pivot, the transformation between heaven which represents formlessness, infinite possibility, light of the sun during the fire element. and the darkness represents the metal element, the time of density, finite form, and manifestation.
The earth element is also related to the fertile fields and meadows, that represent harvest season. the spirit of this feeling is enlivened by the sunshine, the breezes of heaven feeding the minerals, waters, and essence of the underworld. This energy helps inspire our creativity. Giving us the ability to receive messages from our hearts and shen. Spending time in nature during this time of year helps us connect to these essences.
Natural Movements Through Earth Season
Our capacity for sustained intention, purpose, clarity of thought, alrurism, and integrity is heightened. This relates to our emotions of sympathy which supporting our thoughts of reflection and acts of applying ourselves to our purpose. Giving us the ability to concentrate, study, memorize data, and find clarity. Allowing us to apply our spirit to all forms of creativity.
We are more empower to stand behind our words with commitment and persevering action. Through this movement we are more empowered to stay on our path. and digest experiences, and our impressions turn these moments into usable ideas. Making this time of year a beautiful time to travel and explore. Expanding into unknown worlds and new perspectives. Intent gives us everything to devote what is necessary to plant and tend the garden of our lives. The earth is our ally that helps us bring our dreams to fruition.