As the days begin to grow shorter and the evenings cooler, thoughts of fall may come to mind. Before we become immersed in the frenzy of the “back to school” season, it may be a comfort to know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine and its foundational Five Element Theory, there is a late summer season that comes before autumn.
Five Element Theory is a system in which associations are made between nature and the five elements of oriental medicine: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. In Five Element Theory, each element is ascribed numerous associations specific to the nature of the element. These associations include seasons, tastes, colors, emotions, and even organ systems. For example, Fire is associated with the season of summer, the sensation of the “burnt” taste, the color red, joyous emotions, and the heart system. These associations can help us better understand not only the world around us but also ourselves.
In Five Element Theory, late summer, or the lost season, corresponds to the Earth element. The lost season is the time to gather and harvest the fruits of the summer, and to experience mental harvesting and reflection. How did you spend your summer months? Did you experience the joy that is associated with the Fire element of summer? Seize the opportunity to enjoy the end of summer before the fall season arrives. Gather your friends and family to share the sweetness of this time of year, such as preparing a meal where everyone can eat the last vine-ripened fruits together. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, like squash or peaches, are the most nutritive and have the ability to strengthen digestion.
Late summer is also the time to nurture your well-being. Whether you choose to indulge in a summer novel or take a quiet walk, it is important to spend some time on yourself, but without going overboard—overindulgence is characteristic of the Earth element. Avoid planning elaborate vacations as a big farewell to the season because this can result in a less-than-restful experience or unfulfilled expectations. Instead, consider staying closer to home and interacting with your core community. By taking the middle road and not overextending yourself, you will be able to fully enjoy this lost season.
Mary Oleksowicz, LAc
Mary Oleksowicz, Lac, is an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences. She has been practicing herbal healing methods since 1994. She graduated from Mercy College with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and obtained her Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 2004. She has practiced Chinese Medicine at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, NY, as well as in private practice. A well-known local speaker, Ms. Oleksowicz has taught classes on various aspects of anatomy, acupuncture, herbs, and living in harmony. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her two children.