Chinese Medicine: Foods for Fall

By | October 25, 2018

Chinese Medicine: Foods for Fall

Lois Denmark, DACM, L. Ac., Dipl.OM (NCCAOM) ,Theory Department Chair, ESATM

The Wu Xing or Five Phases includes the five seasons:

Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn or Fall and Winter.

Category Wood Fire  Earth Metal Water
Season Spring Summer Late Summer Fall/Autumn Winter
Climate Wind Heat Damp Dryness Cold
Organ Liver Heart Spleen Lungs Kidneys
Development Birth Growth Maturity




Complete withdrawal/stasis


Color Cyan Red Yellow White Black (or Dark Blue)

The Autumn or Fall Season corresponds to the Metal Element.

Autumn is the season when the body begins to turn inward to ready itself for the Winter season.

Dryness pervades the environment both when outside as well as when inside because of the use of central heating and wood burning fireplaces.

Dryness contributes to dry skin, dry eyes, and/or to a dry, persistent cough.

We can support our Fall Season health by:

Supplementing the Lungs and Promoting the Production of Body Fluids.

Include these foods for the Fall season:

  • Lily Bulb: Bai He,
  • White Wood Ear: Bai Mu Er;
  • Pear: Li;
  • Pumpkin;
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

As well as substances such as

  • Honey
  • Soy Milk.

 Apples and Lemons will help prevent the loss of body fluids from dryness because of their sour flavor.

Lily Bulb: Bai He/ Lilii Bulbus

Sweet, Slightly Bitter, Slightly Cold

Heart, Lung

Enriches the Lung Yin, Drains Heat from the Heart, Stops Cough, Quiets the Spirit

Lily Bulb is a starchy root vegetable that provides subtle and delicious flavor and has been used in medicinal preparations and formulae as far back as the 2nd century BCE.  In China, they are traditionally gathered in the autumn, cleaned, boiled or steamed, then lightly baked, fried with honey or dried in the sun. The dried form can be reconstituted and used in stir fries; grated and used as a thickener for soups.

In Chinese medicine this herb can be used to moisten the Lungs, soothe coughs, clear heat and calm the spirit.










White Wood Ear: Bai Mu Er/ Yin Er/Tremella fuciformis

Sweet Bland Neutral

Lung Stomach

Enriches the Lung Yin, Treats cough due to Lung Yin Vacuity







 Pear: Li/Pyrus

Sweet Cool

Lung Stomach

Clears Heat, Moistens Dryness, Generates Body Fluids, Transforms Phlegm

Pears are known to address dry cough, constipation and restlessness

Eliminates heat and excess mucus; stops coughing associated with heat in the lungs; moistens the lungs and throat, and moistens dryness in general; quenches thirst resultant from heat conditions. Used for diabetes, injuries to the skin, constipation, loss of voice and gallbladder inflammation and obstruction.

Caution: Contra-Indicated for those with vacuous digestive function. Symptoms will include loose or watery stools, signs of coldness, and a swollen, pale tongue.

Excessive use of pears during pregnancy may cause poor fetal development and miscarriage.






Persimmon: Shi Zi/Disopyros kaki

Sweet Cold

Lung Large Intestine

Moistens the Lungs to alleviate Dry Cough; generates fluids to relieve thirst and dry mouth

Astringes the Intestines to treat Diarrhea or Hemorrhoids







Pumpkin: Nan Gua/Cucurbita maxima

Sweet Neutral Warm

Spleen Stomach

Strengthens Qi

Improves insulin levels and lowers blood glucose







Lemon & Lemon Juice: Ning Meng/Citrus Limonum

Slightly Cold, Very Sour

Stomach, Liver, Lung

Clears Heat, Quenches Thirst, Harmonizes the Stomach, Relieves Coughing









Recipes from

Yuan Wang, W Sheir, M Ono. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen. DaCapo Press. 2010.

Classic Cold Cure, p252 (Serves 2)

“This fragrant spicy and sweet beverage might remind you of chai. The recipe is a classical Chinese medical formula known as ‘Cinnamon Twig Decoction’, one of the most famous and ancient remedies for the common cold, attributed to Zhang Zhong Jing of the late Han Dynasty, around 200 CE. The dried ingredients, including honey prepared licorice root, can be found at Chinese herb stores.”


Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig): 3 tbsp. (9g)

Bai Shao (White Peony Root): 3 (2”) pcs (6g)

Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Prepared Licorice): 4 slices (3g)

Da Zao or Hong Zao (Chinese Dates): 3 pcs

Fresh Ginger: 3-5 thin slices

2 1/2 cups water



  1. Combine the Cinnamon Twig, White Peony Root, licorice Root, Chinese dates, fresh ginger and water in a small pot, cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Quickly lower the heat and simmer, with the lid slightly ajar, over a low heat for 20 minutes.    Do not overcook
  1. Strain the liquid to remove the herbs, and then serve.


Especially good for:

Drink at the first sign of a cold if your symptoms include: chills, fever, slight sweat, runny nose, fatigue, stiff neck, joint pain and body aches; serving to people with weakened immune systems and those with arthritis or poor circulation.

Sip two cups/day for the best results.

For those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine:

You probably know about this formula which addresses an external attack of Wind Cold.

Variations on this formula treat other diseases as well.


Restful Honeysuckle and Mint Green Tea, p246 (Serves 1-2)

“Good for anyone with High Fever, Irritability, Thirst from the Flu, Sore Throat with a burning sensation, thirst, or indigestion; anyone with throat or lung problems; anyone who tends to run warm.”


Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower): 2 tsp

Water: 2 cups

Dried Peppermint Leaves 1 tsp; 1 peppermint tea bag, or 1 rounded tbsp. of chopped fresh peppermint leaves

Green Tea: 1 tsp. or 1 tea bag

Honey or other natural sweetener (optional)


  1. Combine the honeysuckle flower and water in a small pot, and bring to a boil
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered but with the lid slightly ajar. Turn off the heat and add the peppermint and green tea. Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes
  3. Strain out the herbs
  4. If desired: add honey or other natural sweetener to taste.

For those familiar with Chinese Medicine:

This sweet acrid cool tea clears heat, replenishes body fluids & relieves toxicity


Kudzu Tea p247 (Serves 1-2)

“This mild, slightly earthy, therapeutic tea can be taken once a day. Kudzu tea is especially popular in Korea, where it is sold in open markets. Although Kudzu is commonly sold powdered to be used as thickener, this recipe calls for larger pieces of the root, which will be available from a Chinese herb shop.”

Especially good for anyone with a headache & dizziness from hypertension, or who wants to cool down


Ge Gen (dried Kudzu Root): 6-7 thick pieces (1 oz. or up to 30g) dried kudzu root, cut into small pieces

Water: 2 cups


  1. Combine the kudzu and water in a small pot & bring to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes
  3. Strain out the Kudzu root
  4. Let the tea cool before serving


For those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Kudzu root dispels Wind from the Exterior, releases muscles, clears heat & generates fluids.


Flu Season Soup (makes 4 servings) pp96-7

“This may look like a Western soup, but it contains many ingredients used in the Chinese tradition to enhance the immune system and strengthen the body.”



Yi Yi Ren (Coix or Job’s Tears); hato mugi in Japanese, or Pearl Barley: 3/4 cup

Water: 3 1/2 cups

Vegetable Oil: 1 tbsp. (canola or olive oil)

Onion: 1/2 medium sized onion cut into 1/2” pieces

Garlic: 2 cloves garlic, peeled & minced

Celery Stalks: 2-3 celery stalks cut into 1/2” slices

Adzuki, Kidney or Black Beans (hei dou): 1 cup cooked; or a 15 oz. size can, drained

Dried Thyme: 2 tsp.

Chicken or Vegetable Broth: 1 cup

Leek: 1, well washed, cut into 1/4” slices, roots and tough tips discarded

Green Peas: 1 cup fresh or frozen

Pepper: Black or White


Arugula: 1 handful, roughly chopped into 1-2” pieces (about 1/4 cup chopped) as garnish


  1. Combine the barley and water in a large pot; bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the cooking oil in a large pan over medium heat, and then add the onion and garlic.

Cook, stirring, until golden brown.

  1. Add the celery, beans, thyme, and broth to the pan. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Gently stir the beans against the side of the pan to break them open. (If at any point during this or later steps, the mixture becomes too thick or the ingredients threaten to stick to the bottom of the pan, add water.)
  2. Add the bean mixture to the pot of barley, along with the leeks and was, and season with pepper.
  3. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the barley is soft.
  4. Add salt to taste (the amount will vary, depending on the amount of salt in your stock).
  5. Sprinkle the arugula on top of the dish as a garnish.

*If using dried beans, measure out 1/3 cup, then soak for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight. Drain and place them in a pot with about 1 cup of water. Cover the pot, boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Adzuki beans will cook in approximately 45 minutes.

Kidney beans will require approximately 90 minutes.

Especially good for making during Flu Season; serving to anyone with a cold or flu, who wants to maintain general good health, or who is concerned about the effects of aging (such as hair loss, gray hair, and poor memory). p97

For those familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine:

“Because this soup has many wholesome and diverse ingredients, it helps restore balance to the body, strengthening Wei Qi, stabilizing the exterior, and supports the body’s upright Qi and Kidney Qi.” op.cit.

To your Health!


Lu, Henry. Chinese Herbs with Common Foods: Recipes for Health and Healing. Kodansha International 1997.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 2002. North Atlantic Books.

Yuan Wang, W Sheir, M Ono. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen. DaCapo Press. 2010.

Yeoh, Aileen. Longevity, The Tao of Eating and Healing. Marshall Cavendish International. 2004

Bensky, Clavey, Stoger, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica, 3rd ed., Eastland Press, 2004

Scheid, Bensky, Ellis, Barolet, Chinese Herbal Medicine; Formulas & Strategies, 2nd ed., Eastland Press, 2009

 Illustration Sources:

Lily Bulb:

Lily Bulb: https.//

White Wood Ear:





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