Summer is over and you may find yourself sad and maybe even depressed about it, suggested Caroline Colonna, a doctor of oriental medicine and director of Willow Clinic in Taos. But fear not, she said, this quasi seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is actually normal, according to traditional Chinese medicine.
"After the vibrant brightness and heat of summer, the shift to autumn is as drastic in nature as it is in our physical and emotional being," Colonna said in an email about the yearly shift from summer's heat to winter's cold. "While beautiful, the fall season, due to its cooler temperatures and drying winds, can make us more prone to colds, allergies, flu and other respiratory and digestive disorders."
Colds and allergies, sneezes and sniffles are also the main complaints being seen at Taos Herb Store. Co-owner Tina Hahn said this fall's allergy season is extended, what with all the rain and blooming ragweed plants. In particular, Taos still has "fields and fields" of Anil de Muerte (golden crownbeard) in full bloom. "Bloom of death," Anil de Muerte is so named, Hahn said, probably because of the fact it grows on recently disturbed soil, like newly dug graves.
Rob Hawley, co-owner with Hahn of Taos Herb Company, also mentioned the effects on the mucous membranes by the drying air and winds of fall and winter. They recommend rehydrating using humidifiers and drinking teas, especially ginger tea which increases moisture in the mucous membranes.
"People with allergies are at a big risk because they're more vulnerable to a cold due to inflammation of the mucous membranes," Hawley said, adding that good anti-inflammatories are turmeric, the bioflavonoid Quercetin, anti-inflammatory diets high in omega-3 fats and low in carbohydrates and red meat, however, eating wild game is a big plus.
"Wild game is much higher in omega-3 fats than commercial beef," he said, noting, too, that changes in lifestyle and diet are all part and parcel of supporting the body's immune system. "I don't pretend it's only products you buy that are going to make you well," he said, indicating a healthy lifestyle is composed of many factors.
Colonna said according to the 2,500-year-old Chinese medicine theory of five elements, where all phenomena in the universe are the products of the movement and mutation of wood, fire, earth, metal and water - the fall season is associated with the lungs, and the emotions of sadness and grief are housed in the lungs.
"Chinese medicine is based on recognizing patterns of relationship and interconnection, both in the physical and emotional realms," Colonna continued. "Autumn wind for instance, can drive pathogens into our body and stir up existing physical and emotional blockages. Liver regulates emotions, along with heart, and therefore it is also important to support liver, heart and all the other organs at this time of the year.
"The yang (heat) of summer turns into the yin (cold and wetness) of the approaching winter," she noted. "Therefore it is particularly important to support our organs, fluids and blood in the fall, otherwise known as boosting our immune system."
Colonna also recommended that people schedule a change-of-season acupuncture treatment, "where we can also discuss key supplements and herbs based on their specific constitutional needs. So, no need to stress about winter coming - get ready and enjoy this wonderful time of the year."