Season – late summer

Colour – yellow

Sound – singing

Emotion – worry, pensiveness (overthinking)

Odour – fragrant

Taste – sweet

Yin organ – spleen

Yang organ – stomach

Spirit – Yi (intellect)

Rules – the muscles and the four limbs

Sensory organ – the mouth and lips

Themes – nurturing, nourishment, stability, grounding, abundance, transformation, balance.

Late summer: ripeness, fullness, harvest, bountiful cornucopia

After the intensity of summer comes late summer:

The season of Earth, regarded as the fifth season by the Ancient Chinese. It is harvest time: gathering in the last of summer’s bounty for the winter stores. It is the autumn equinox where the number of daylight hours equals those of the night: yin and yang are in balance. Here we start to focus less on our external resources and more on our internal ones, relying on what we have gathered in times of plenty for times of relative scarcity. In a psychological sense, we reap what we sow.

In our bodies, the earth is represented by the stomach, which receives food, and the spleen, which distributes its nutrients. At this time of year, it is particularly important to look after our digestion. In the Chinese horary clock, the peak performance of the stomach is 7-9 am and 9-11 am for the spleen. It is best to fuel up at breakfast so that you can make good use of the digestive qi throughout the day.

In the Empirical model, the Stomach and Spleen are the Officials for the Stores and Granaries, a very important function in Ancient China. The Earth element is in charge of the gathering and distribution of resources, physiologically and also how we run our lives in a practical sense.

Overall, the Earth has a huge job to do.

All the other elements (Wood, Fire, Earth and Water) are processed in “The Great Yellow Cauldron” ie digestive, nervous and hormonal processes. The Earth (and Metal) are responsible for our post-heavenly qi – how we maintain good health after we are born.

The Spirit of the Earth is the Yi or Intellect: the phrase “food for thought” comes to mind. Much like a healthy digestive tract, a thought or idea should be taken in, processed, then released. So a poor Earth can result in worry, overthinking – and even in unhealthy obsessions.

To maintain a healthy Earth, it is important to keep as healthy a diet as possible

No “damp” or cloying foods such as dairy, sugar, overly spicy or fried foods. The spleen likes to be dry and warm: ideally stick to simple foods such as soups, stir-fries and stews that are not overly rich or spicy. The quality of lives is directly related to the quality of the food we eat: we are what we eat, as they say.

Symptoms indicative of a poor Earth function include poor appetite, tiredness after eating, nausea, bloating, indigestion, loose stools and constipation. Spleen Qi deficiency can lead to “dampness” in the body including oedema (poor fluid metabolism) and joint and muscle aches and pains.

Earth energy is our mothering energy: what feeds, nourishes and sustains us. As adults, we should be able to nurture and care for ourselves just as our mothers did when we were children. Maintaining a stable and healthy Earth is vital in times of transformation and change, so that we may remain steady and grounded in times of transition.

The emotion associated with the Earth element is sympathy, expressed by the healthy individual as empathy and compassion. This means a person with an Earth imbalance can become over sympathetic, indulgently worrying in one’s own problems or another’s. Or conversely, rejecting sympathy and refusing help from others – or feeling unsympathetic to the plight of others.

Earth imbalance signs and symptoms:

  • Over-mothering, smothering
  • Worrying, obsessing
  • Martyrdom
  • Clinging, neediness
  • Lack of sympathy or rejecting sympathy
  • Eating disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Craving overly sweet foods such as chocolate
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Overeating
  • Nausea, bloating
  • Constipation, diarrhoea

Tips for Late Summer:

  • Enjoy the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables at this time of the year.
  • No cold or raw foods or drinks containing ice.
  • Avoid damp-forming or cloying food eg dairy and sugar
  • Stick to warm, simple foods – soups, stews, stir fries

Yellow/Earth/Spleen Foods include

  • Kumara, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, oats, millet, sweetcorn,, taro, yellow pepper, soybeans, egg yolk, bean curd, ginger etc.
  • Add ginger to the diet to resolve any dampness issues eg bloating.
  • Drink liquorice or ginger tea to boost digestive qi.
  • Rejoice in giving and receiving.
  • We reap what we sow: the end of summer is a good time to root out some of our negative thoughts and behaviours and underlying psychological issues.

© Christine Cunningham