Energy from the metal element can help boost our immune system, allow us to prepare for the winter ahead, and give us strength to deal with grief through these challenging times – as Acupuncturist Julie Kelham explains
At the core of Chinese Medicine is the principle that nature is governed by Yin/Yang and the five elements. The five elements are a way of understanding the rhythms and cycles of nature and a way of understanding how the human experience is influenced by these 5 elements and seasons. Each season is associated with a different element and with the energy system of different organs. Each has a different colour, sound, emotion, and odour, time of day, season, and type of weather, taste and seasonal power.
Reaping the fruits
Over the last few months the season has been in transition from late summer (Earth element), into Autumn (Metal element) and it continues to be a transitional time for us all. We have had to adapt to new circumstances, changes and re-imposed restrictions and we are still navigating our way through these ongoing uncertain times.
With the summer long gone we are now witnessing the leaves turning a beautiful mix of russet, yellow and red, the mornings becoming misty and damp, and the days cooler and wetter. This is a time to gather, harvest and ‘reap the fruits’ from the months before: a time to harvest our energies, replenish, reflect and prepare for protection from the coming winter. The clocks have just gone back and the leaves will keep falling from the trees, symbolising one aspect of the Metal Element in terms of letting go. Autumn is the season where the passing of time can often be felt more acutely…..
Grief is the emotion associated with the Metal element and it influences our ability to process our grief and to let go. The grief and loss may be from a loved one’s death, or relationship ending, or the loss of dreams and what we hoped for in life, or the loss of personal items.
We have all experienced loss in different ways this year whether this has been the experience of grief that shapes most of us at some time in our lives or losses that have been associated with the Covid situation. Many of us have had to deal with the loss of loved ones, hugs and physical contact, jobs, income, social contact, connection to others, lifestyle. The energy of the metal element supports us with the process of letting go into this present moment, an acceptance of ‘what is’, right now, rather than what we may have ‘hoped or wished for’.
Appreciation of life
This element is also about appreciating the quality and the ‘golden nuggets’ of life, whether that be the qualities within people or the quality of any given moment or connection.
During the Covid pandemic many of us have discovered a renewed appreciation and gratitude, for frontline workers, for the love and support from friends and family, for the kindness from strangers, for the solace of nature, for the enjoyment of food. The resonance of Metal also influences our ability to fully receive and take in respect from others.
Essence of metal element
Strength, endurance, substance and structure are qualities of Metal, with Stonehenge being a wonderful representation of this. Yet Metal can sometimes be perceived as cold and hard without nourishment. In nature, it can be more difficult to feel the essence of Metal than with the other elements, such as experiencing the water of the ocean, the wood of the trees or the warmth of a fire. Gold is an obvious manifestation of a precious metal but so too are rock pools cradling water and minerals within the earth’s depths.
Metal can provide warmth from fuel, robust and structural building material, networks of communication and connection, or beautiful stones and crystals. Metal rejuvenates the Earth, as the leaves fall to the ground and decompose; the earth absorbs the nutrients providing richness to the soil and nourishment for new plants. The minerals and trace elements in our food are also a manifestation of Metal, some of which are essential for good health such as Chromium.
In Chinese Medicine, the energetic systems of the Lung (Yin) and Large Intestine (Yang) are associated with Metal,. They provide the energy for us to receive and take in food and breath/air, then assimilate and harness that energy and let go of waste products through the large intestine.The Lungs govern Qi, the life force of energy, and the respiratory function influencing bodily systems, such as the rhythmic blood flow around the body. The Lung Qi moves body fluids as well as balancing and regulating the skin with the opening and closing of pores. The internal Qi system is almost like a network that conducts Qi in the same way as Metal conducts electricity, or like water travelling down a rocky network of mountain passageways.
When the Metal element is out of balance, a person may feel an ongoing, overwhelming, deep grief and not be able to move through the different stages of grief. A person may find it difficult to fully ‘let go’ either becoming withdrawn or alternatively putting up a ‘bright buoyant shield’ protecting and disconnecting from the grief as an attempt to convince themselves and others that all is ‘fine’. Physical symptoms such as a tight chest or throat may manifest and a person may seem quite’ brittle’ with their ‘metal guard’ firmly in place.
Depletion of the Metal element can manifest in different ways such as:
catching lots of coughs and colds
weak or hoarse voice
skin conditions such as psoriasis
health issues concerned with the internal structure of the body such as the spine or limbs
Ways to support and strengthen your Metal energy:
- Turmeric is supportive of the immune system and ginger is warming if there is a tendency to feel the cold.
- Fresh coriander and magnesium help to detoxify the body from toxic metals. Soak in a bath of Epsom salts to detox the system.
- Try and reduce foods that can be congesting such as diary, meat and wheat. Introduce more soups, stews, which are easily digestible and supportive of the stomach energy. Try soya, rice, oat or almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Have lots of vegetables, grains and rye bread instead of wheat.
- Brown rice and oats bind toxins and acids to help remove these out of the body through the large intestine. They are also slow release in terms of energy so rice/oat porridge in the morning is a great breakfast food. Try it with fresh grated ginger, flaked toasted almonds, cinnamon, ground cardamom, a spoonful of Blackstrap molasses (blood nourishing), ground nuts and seeds, goji berries, blueberries, grated apple (there are numerous variations).
- Rice, onions and chestnuts are all associated with the Metal element, so these combined with all other varied elemental foods will give you dietary balance.
- Reflect on what gives you meaning and connection in life. Activities that support your connection with yourself and others and with nature will also support your Metal element. Resting the mind as well as the body will help restore your Qi and support your immune system.
Power of acupuncture
Come and have, or continue to have acupuncture treatment, as this can support your Metal element by strengthening your Lung Qi and protective Qi to support the immune system, clear cold and damp from the joints or clear/reduce colds and cough symptoms.
On an emotional level, treating the Metal element can support you energetically in dealing with feelings of loss and grief and help you to feel stronger in moving through these challenging times.
In ancient Chinese texts, doctors believed that grief exhausted the Qi and it can affect the lung’s capacity to take in air and breathe out toxins. Grief can be such an overwhelming emotion and can often impact on the immune system more so than other emotions.
Some examples of acupuncture point names on the Lung/Large Intestine channels illustrate the essence of the Metal element perfectly such as: Zhong Fu (Central Treasury), Yun Men.