Natural Support During the Changing of the Seasons
Autumn is a beautiful time in Pennsylvania, full of color and smells and textures. The sunlight is already changing by mid-August, a reminder that at the Summer Solstice, the sun came as close as possible and we began our descent toward Winter. The air changes, becoming dryer and crisper and full of stories about ripening and harvesting and dying. The insects and birds change their tunes, too, and even the thunderstorms seem less enthusiastic without their hot, humid, summertime energy.
These changes outside bring changes to my inside as well, and not all of them are welcome! While ANY drop in the humidity is wonderful, it immediately signals dry hands and lips. Then too, the very fact that the air isn’t oppressive and stifling anymore encourages me to get out and work more, do more, to prepare for the future and to maximize my present.
My birthday is in early September, so I have a clear marker as I think back over the years and see that, consistently, this time of year always brings upheavals, major shifts, and nostalgia to my world.
In the spirit of all these changes, all these signals that time is moving on again after the long, lazy(ish) days of summer, here are my Five Favorite Fall Fixes:
As Miss Celine, Emily’s ancient stylist, shared on Gilmore Girls, “Olive oil on the inside, ahnnnd on the outside!”
Personally, coconut oil serves me well. I like how it tastes, and how it absorbs into my skin. I use it as a deodorant, as a moisturizer, and as a cooking oil because it has a higher smoke point than olive so it’s harder to burn. I also keep a small plastic jar in my shower and oil cleanse my face a few times a month. It'a amazing
Anytime the weather turns dryer, I start upping my oil intake. I’ll add a dollop of coconut to a mug of tea, or make popcorn with it. I splash good olive on all sorts of dishes as a dressing. The local Home Goods sells metal, cylindrical containers of nice, fancy oils like Toasted Hazelnut and Grapeseed, that make their way into all sorts of meals. Good quality fish oils also make daily appearances and do a LOT for me and my mood!
Avocado counts too, and I love to make a quick mash with lemon and Tulsi as a side salad or spread on top of anything that will hold it.
Grounding, nourishing, strengthening- root vegetables give us all the same qualities they need to do their rooty jobs. In Ayurveda, sweet tastes are building, and roots are classic examples of sweet. Plus, they cook up so soft and warm and delicious, in a heavy, substantial way that just isn’t desirable when it’s warmer outside.
In addition to common vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabagas,etc, I like herbal root powders as well. Marshmallow root powder, combined with honey and bananas and coconut butter and sesame seeds is one of my favorite breakfasts. I sprinkle Licorice root powder into hot chocolate, or on a Mediterranean style rice pilaf with raisins and cinnamon. Dandelion root is a wonderful way to nourish the liver, especially as it works harder with denser fall foods, and I keep a jar of Dandy Blend at my desk for when I can’t simmer a proper tea for 10 minutes or so.
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help your body respond to stress and the environment in non-specific ways, rather than hitting one body system directly. They commonly have immune, nervous system, adrenal, and digestive effects that are calming, normalizing, or nourishing.
Many of these herbs are familiar to areas like Northern China and Siberia, so we Westerners are only learning of them recently because, seriously, their research is only recently being translated out of Russian and Chinese! It shows how ingrained the internet is in my understanding of the world, that I was surprised that not everything is available in every language, or at least the major ones. That’s slightly embarrassing... Several of Ayurveda’s popular herbs are also considered in terms of their ‘adaptogenic’ qualities and are expanding the materia medica available to us.
Eleuthero, Rhodioa, Ashwaghanda, Amla, Ginseng, Astragalus, Tulsi- these are all adaptogens. Each has its own personality, there's never "One Perfect Herb For [enter your condition], and David Winston’s Adaptogens is a good starting point for learning about each. Another great resource is Avena Botanicals youTube videos on specific herbs, like Ashwaghanda or Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil).
In my view, quality care, quality lives, and quality slaughter leads to quality animal products, and I shop for my meat, bones, and raw dairy at a local family farm.
Bones, specifically in the form of bone broth, are a wonderful, rich source of gelatine, that softens and protects my digestive system. I traditionally am very dry and cold, so in the winter I suffer even more.
I usually use chicken or turkey bones to make soup, or to cook rice or grains. But in the dead of winter, I will make a beef broth in the crockpot that simmers non-stop. I have a mug straight up in the morning, and at least one more during the afternoon or evening. Every time I take out a mugfull, I add a mug of water back and just keep it going. Usually, I just use water and a shin bone, and it lasts several days before starting to chip and losing flavor. If I have veggie trimmings or a Reishi mushroom piece I will throw them in too. A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar helps pull minerals out of all bones and into the broth, as well.
5. Wool and silk
Fall is a sensory experience! The smell of crisp leaves, ripe apples, frosty mornings, the crinkle of your nose in the dry chill, the whisper of cool breezes on your face, the comforting feeling of a down quilt in the morning.
I knitted a long striped cowl scarf out of some yarns I found in a clearance bin. They are mixtures of merino wool, cashmere, and raw silk, and the smell of those fibers just says AUTUMN! to my nose. A wool jacket, a silk undershirt- I just love love love it.
Fall is a chance for me to really change things “on the inside, and on the outside” and prepare my body and my mind for true winter, true cold and short days and staying in more. Let it serve as an actual transition between the energy and exuberance that is possible in summertime, and the quieter, slower, indrawn resting that marks nature in winter.
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Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
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