As the autumn days grow shorter and the skies grow cloudier, plenty of Pacific Northwesterners find themselves with less energy.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and healthy nutrition can help you maintain your natural energy during the fall and winter, says Kathleen Lumiere, DAOM, LAc, a core faculty member at Bastyr University who also supervises student clinicians at the University's teaching clinc, Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
Chinese medicine rests on the concept of qi (“chee”), the basic energy force of life, which depends on a balance of yin and yang. Yin is dominant in the winter, which can create an imbalance. “When the days are shorter, there is less yang, and less energy coming from the sun, which fuels all life processes,” says Dr. Lumiere. “What we do in Chinese medicine is find other ways to supplement yang qi.”
The traditional Chinese calendar understands autumn as a time of simplifying and letting go. The festive late-summer season calms down and many people have more success starting new projects and focusing on work in the fall.
“It’s a season of slowing down and paring away,” says Dr. Lumiere. “It’s when people go back to school and when they may finally achieve the resolutions they set for the new year.” The season corresponds with the large intestine, the lungs and other organs of elimination. Acupuncture treatments use the meridian pathways of those organs to help them keep their balance. And that helps patients maintain energy despite the vanishing daylight.
“Acupuncture boosts people’s energy, and it usually has other beneficial effects besides the complaint they came in for,” says Dr. Lumiere.
Chinese herbal formulas offer another way to maintain energy in the winter and fall.
“We can make a prescription to help with any kind of disease,” says Rosey Ma, MD, LAc, an adjunct faculty member at Bastyr Center.
Herbal medicine can also treat seasonal affective disorder (or the winter blues). Dr. Ma saw this condition less often during her medical training in China, where snow and sunshine often come together. But 20 years of practicing in Seattle have given her plenty of experience treating winter doldrums.
“When it’s damp and cloudy, the body holds its energy inside, and people feel tired,” she says. “They don’t want to do anything but stay home. We have many patients like this in Seattle. We can help them feel more energetic.”