Integral Wisdom – Staying Healthy in all Seasons

by Mark Melchiorre, L.Ac.

Act in accordance with seasonal, geographic, and personal factors. This is a statement of fact in traditional Chinese medicine.

Our system of traditional medicine is intimately connected to the ebb and flow of the energy in our universe. Far from being some mystical concept, one can see and feel this energy on a daily basis in the rising and setting of the sun and moon and in their changing trajectory across the sky throughout the year.

Ancient Chinese scholars and philosophers observed the annual changes of the seasons along with their corresponding environmental changes. They noted the onset of growth in the spring, the flourishing of growing things in the summer that then become the harvest of autumn. The harvest is stored for use during winter’s cold months which in time, with the climbing of the sun in the sky, once again becomes spring.

They noted the circadian rhythm of sunrise and sunset. Humankind too has it’s waxing and waning of energy. One is born into a personal springtime, flourishes in adulthood, and, in time, retreats into the winter of life’s journey.

Over time, these observations were codified into a system of correspondences known as the Wu Xing or Five Phases (五行). The Five Phases is just one system of diagnosis used in traditional medicine.

Act in accordance with seasonal, geographic, and personal factors
(yin shi yin di yin ren zhi yi) 因时因坻因人直


The months of spring correspond to the Wood phase and the Liver. This is the period of commencement; “heaven and earth are born, and all living things are flourishing. Get up early in the morning, walk around in the courtyard, loosen your hair and relax your body. By doing so you will generate mental strength and act in harmony with the Qi of spring, thus following the way of nourishing life.”

Take stress off of your liver by dealing with any repressed anger, avoiding unnecessary chemicals and additives. Eat liver friendly foods like dandelion, red beets, parsnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens. Meditate. Practice yoga or tai chi. Get balanced for the season with acupuncture.


The months of summer correspond to the Fire phase, and the Heart. In this season all living creatures prosper. Heavenly Qi moves down to meet the rising earth Qi. As a result, living creatures bloom and bear fruit.

To take stress off of your heart “do not burden yourself with depressing thoughts, do not get anxious about future events that may never happen, do not dwell on things that are well in the past.” Eat moderate amounts of cooling foods like cucumber and watermelon. Drink plenty of water. Beware of air-conditioning. Meditation, tai chi, Qigong, and yoga are good choices for any season.


The months of autumn correspond to the Metal phase and the Lung. In this season all things ripen. The weather cools; winds strengthen; and colors change.

Go to bed early and rise with the rooster’s crow. Moderate amounts of pungent foods like horseradish, garlic, onions, ginger, and mustard are beneficial to the lungs. Now is the time to strengthen your Qi to prepare for winter. Remember, meditation, tai chi, Qigong, and yoga are always good choices for any season.


The months of winter correspond to the Water phase and the Kidney. In this season in which the life in all things is hidden. The weather turns cold. Water freezes. It is a season of storage and quietude.

Go to bed early and sleep late (until after the sun rises.) Keep your mind peaceful and your body warm. Avoid perspiring in the cold. Warm meals like vegetable soups with grains, beans, and root vegetables (e.g. carrots, onions, and turnips) are appropriate. Moderate amounts of garlic, ginger, and cayenne are beneficial when the climate is cold. Conserve your Qi now and you will be healthy in the spring. As always, meditation, tai chi, Qigong, and yoga are beneficial.

There is a time for every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Consider where you are at this moment in time. When you look at your calendar what season is it? If you look at your watch is it the spring of the day or perhaps the winter? And your age… spring, summer, autumn, or winter? To optimize your health, act in accordance with the season.

[Mark Melchiorre, L.Ac. is a practitioner of Oriental Medicine Energetics with over 20 years of experience. Mark uses acupuncture, herbs, cupping, tuina massage, Reiki, and qigong to benefit mind, body and spirit. Mark trained in the USA and in China. He has taught graduate level classes in Oriental Medicine. He is a professional member and certified teacher of the National Qigong Association. Mark maintains a private practice in South Pasadena, CA, USA and provides services as part of the Integrative Medical team at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, CA, USA. He is available for private and group lessons in Qigong and Tai Chi. Mark teaches methods that are adaptable to an individual’s personal health and fitness requirements.]
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