Autumn Approaches

It doesn’t feel like it yet – it’s still warm, humid and cloudy here in Virginia – but fall is coming and before my next issue comes out, the weather will have probably turned just cold enough for some people to start getting sick. It’s worth it now to talk a little about why that happens. It will also give us a chance to talk about a very important element of staying healthy: being able to change. Being able to change with the seasons, and with other natural changes that occur in life, is one of the keys to keeping yourself properly nourished. One reason why so many diets fail is because they are rigid. You may need to eat differently if you move, get a new job, enter into a relationship, exercise more, get sick, etc. Many people change their diet and lifestyle if they themselves want to change ( i.e. lose weight or build muscle), but not many do so because of changes forced on them. It’s not as urgent in this world of air conditioning and oil heating, but having the power to adapt is still very important.

Autumn is getting close to the hibernation time, and although we’re not ready to curl up yet, it’s a period where harvesting occurs and projects should be getting near the wrapping-up stage. At the same time it’s a new beginning for things that weren’t feasible in the summer months. It’s a good period for transition towards more “interior” activity like studying, contemplation, and spending time with your friends and family. Daily exercise is also a very good idea for keeping your body warm and your blood flowing. Sometimes the shorter days sneak up on us and catch us still living a summer lifestyle, i.e. leaving the windows open or walking around in shorts. I’d say, don’t try to endure it: it’s only going to get colder. Make some tea and put a sweater on. And, especially, protect your neck. This is the season when the lungs and the large intestine are the organs most susceptible to both healing and to illness. Many people get mucus-y colds and coughs around this time for two reasons: coldness is penetrating the poorly protected body and weakening its immune function, leaving it susceptible to viruses; the large intestine, in its sensitive state, allows more waste to re-enter the system and weaken the body. The latter is more likely in those who are constipated and/or have a “congesting” diet high in fat, dairy products, fried foods, and refined grains – all of which lack fiber and are very hard for the body to eliminate. Eat plenty of root vegetables (there’s a recipe at the bottom), drink hot tea as opposed to anything with milk or sugar, and if you do get sick, try that magical vampire-repellant: garlic. It wasn’t worn around superstitious peoples’ necks for nothing. Garlic is extremely warming and lethal to bacteria. Its beneficial properties come from the essential oil contained within it, which can be extracted and then rubbed on congested chests or the bottom of your feet to help prevent or reduce colds.

To extract garlic oil: peel and chop enough cloves to fill half of a quart jar. Cover with cold-pressed olive oil to about one or two inches above the garlic and place in a sunlit window for five to seven days, shaking once daily. Then strain it well through a cheese cloth, and you have strong smelling garlic oil. The garlic that was soaking can be refrigerated and used in cooking, and the garlic oil will last months and can be used both internally and externally. (This “recipe” comes from Elson Haas’ book Staying Healthy with the Seasons).

Some general recommendations: Eat warming foods, cut down on damp, fried dairy foods, play sports, read books, think about things, finish up old projects, start new projects, watch classic movies, eat raw garlic, and drink tea. Keep your feet and neck warm, and try to get more sleep. And spend some time looking at the leaves changing color! More than anything else, it may help you get in touch with the natural cycle of the year.