Ever since the Summer Solstice on June 21st the sun has been gradually waning. The Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd signifies the middle point of this process. Even thougth the weather has been warm, the yang (the bright, forceful, warm energy of nature) has been slowly moving inward, into the dark womb of the world to hibernate for the winter months. And as the yang of the Northern hemisphere moves inward so do we. These past few weeks have been the dog days of summer, time to bring the harvest in, wrap up summer projects and set things in order. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah began on September 13th to mark the end of one agricultural season and the beginning of the next. A friend told me that one’s house is cleaned for the celebration, which seems a fitting way to mark this transition into the coming season. It’s time to sweep out the hearth before lighting the fires that will carry us through the long night.
My friend and colleague Erin Smith in the D.C. area suggested a great concoction that will help stoke our internal fires for the coming months: Fire Cider. The recipe comes from the Mountain Rose Blog and is composed of a bunch of common household ingredients like garlic and ginger that are steeped for a month in apple cider vinegar. All the ingredients listed in the main recipe, including the vinegar, are warming and many of the herbs are pungent. As the weather gets cold and blustery (and damp in the Pacific Northwest) people tend to get a type of external invasion disease called Gan Mao 感冒 in Chinese medicine. With the Yang moving inward our outer defenses (AKA, our immune system) are a little more vulnerable at this time of year. The Wind (captitalized because I’m refering to a kind of pathogenic wind that is a part of the Chinese medical system) can steal in through our pores, still open from the still warm days, and wreak havoc. This is Gan Mao. In our climate the Wind usually brings with it Cold that causes aversion to cold, fever, achiness, headache, cough, runny nose and a sore throat. Gan Mao is taken very seriously in Chinese medicine because it can be the beginning of serious disease if not attended to properly. In the case of wind-cold type Gan Mao warm and pungent herbs will counter the disease process by opening the pores and promoting sweating to get rid of the pathogens. Mountain Rose suggests taking 1tbsp of the concoction prophylactically and 3tbsp if you feel something coming on. Wrapping yourself in warm blankets and having a good sweat after taking this remedy is a good way to kick a cold before it kicks you. In addition to making yourself some Fire Cider, fall is also a good time to get regular acupuncture treatment to further boost the immune system and facilitate this seasonal transition. Here’s to breaking out the wool sweaters and tall boots!
Featured image by Darren Hester, Creative Commons