(If you’d like to just get right to the dryness remedies, just scroll down a bit as they are closer to the bottom…)
The palpable shift into autumn arrived here in SoCal on exactly the same day as the equinox last month. Living in the midst of what often feels like a world gone terribly wrong, it can be comforting to be reminded that the wisdom of nature’s cycles are still intact. The temps dropped, my lungs gladly welcomed in the clean, crisp air, crackly leaves swirled around the bases of newly bare trees, and my heart swelled with the resonance of my season. (Unfortunately the chill lasted only about a day and half here in LA, but after 6 years of missing true fall weather, I will take what I can get!)
On the Elemental and psycho-emotional front:
As a Metal type, fall is my jam, it’s hardwired into my DNA; the brisk coolness, the shorter days, the apples and pumpkins piling up at the farmer’s market, even (and perhaps especially) the bittersweet, beautiful melancholy of it all…it speaks to me on a deep, profound level. I feel seen and reflected in the starkness and patterns of nature and the impulse to reflect on loss in any capacity, be it seemingly major (the loss of my dad 16 long-short years ago, in the fall no less) or minor (my daughter transitioning into another year of elementary school). Grief and sadness are primary emotional lenses through which I experience the world, and autumn provides an annual opportunity to revisit and deeply explore my relationship to grief. This is not as much of a downer as it might sound; rather, it makes me feel validated in my constant awareness of and connection to an accumulation of losses that simultaneously offer up equal amounts of opportunity for growth. (It took about 15 years for me to get to this place, so if you need some support in your own relationship with grief, check out this meditation as a starting place.)
On the physical and Chinese medical front:
The Metal element corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestine organs – two metabolic workhorses whose primary functionality involves taking in and letting go. This manifests in our ability to breathe deeply and fully, to digest and release waste, as well as to process (or hold on to for better or worse) sadness and grief. The Metal element is about logic and order, fairness and justice, cycles and process, beauty and perfection.
Along with all the loveliness that those initial hints of fall graced us with, the first colds of the season swept through my practice and my house, as well as an immediate and brutal downshift in the humidity level, read: NONE. Autumn is the season of dryness and in Chinese medical pathophysiology, the Lungs do not operate optimally when they are attacked by dryness in our environment, internal or external. I personally felt like my sinuses were immediately affected by this fall’s dryness and my whole sinus cavity and throat were parched practically overnight. I even felt it in my bones. Don't worry, I jumped on an herbal regimen and utilized the below techniques mighty quick :).
One way to stave off and recover more quickly from colds, coughs, and sinus infections is to ensure that the most superficial and external aspects of the respiratory system (nasal passages and throat) maintain an adequate level of moisture. The skin is your largest respiratory organ, so it is important to ensure that this barrier is healthy and intact as well. Dryness precedes and sets the stage for the invasion of respiratory pathogens and the accompanying mucus production, so if we can stay ahead of the phlegm, we can lessen or even avoid those pesky colds and coughs.
Here are a few VERY simple ways to do this at home…
· Coconut oil: topical use of this anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial powerhouse supports adequate moisture in the nasal passages and on the skin.
o You can use a q-tip to apply coconut oil to the inside of your nasal passages as well as on the edge of the nostrils before bed. This combats dryness overnight and supports a healthy nasal microbiome.
o Dry skin is a very common sign that your body needs more support in the moisture dept. If your dryness verges on eczema-like rashes (itchy, red, persistent), you can mix a small amount of powdered probiotics into a small amount of coconut oil and apply topically a few times a day. See below pic for the ingredients I used when I put this mixture on my son’s dry elbows, knees and ankles…
· Up your fluid intake, especially the warm stuff: teas, broths, and soups are all excellent sources of fluids, which are being taxed by the dry environment. See this post for an easy bone broth recipe, which can serve as a base for soup and rice and lentils, and really anything that could use a savory broth.
· Buckwheat or manuka honey are my very favorite, and seriously the easiest, remedies to moisten a dry or sore throat and soothe a cough. Enjoy one teaspoon a few times a day, as needed. This is obviously not appropriate for the under-12-month crowd, but applicable for the rest of us.
· Humidify: simply adding a humidifier to your or your child’s bedroom at night can up the moisture level of the air that you breathe during the most restorative part of the day. Make sure that the amount of steam is able to absorbed by the air over the course of the night (if you wake up to condensation on your windows, then you want to use a lower setting). Another way to modulate the steam is to leave the door open a crack to allow excess steam to escape.
· Neti pot or similar sinus rinse: an Ayurvedic technique, using a Neti pot clears out pathogens (germs) and adds healthy moisture to your entire nasal passage. Make sure to dry out the neti pot completely between uses and to mix the appropriate amount of water and salt to make your saline solution…check out this link for more info: https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/about/press/neti-pot/.