By Victoria J. Mogilner
Originally published in Skin Deep magazine, April/May 2007.
Farmers—who plant, nurture, and harvest crops, then allow the ground to lie fallow for a period of rest—know well the significance of the seasons. Practitioners of the principles of Chinese medicine also honor the seasons, understanding that a healthy life is one that follows the seasonal cycle of nature. As we learn about the ebb and flow of the seasons and their intent for us, we learn to tune into our own natural rhythms and adjust our lifestyles in accordance with them.
Each season deals with rejuvenation in a specific context. Spring is the season for new ideas, a time for laying both short- and long-term foundations. Summer is the season to nourish those ideas and watch them take root and grow. Indian summer, which the Chinese view as a season unto itself, is a time to prepare for the rest and reflection to come in the seasons that follow. Autumn is the harvest season, a time for gathering up thoughts and ideas—a time to begin putting our lives in order. Winter is the time to go within, to be quiet in preparation for the new beginning in the next sequence of seasons. As we move through our own cycle of seasons, certain brewed teas can be helpful in harmonizing the change.
Sassafras tea helps purify the blood, which aids the liver. It’s also good for the joints, skin, and kidneys. Dandelion tea is another great springtime healer, since it cleanses the blood and liver. To make either tea, add a small piece of the herb to a stainless steel kettle or pot of water. Soak the herb for ten to fifteen minutes, then bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for twenty minutes.
Peppermint and comfrey teas are excellent cooling teas for this hot time of year. Hawthorn berry tea strengthens the heart. Add two ounces of hawthorn berries to one quart of boiling water, reduce heat, and steep for ten minutes. Drink a cup of this tea once or twice a day.
Chamomile tea stimulates the stomach and calms the nervous system. Other herbs that are good for the stomach include thyme, ginseng, and clove, while parsley, dandelion, and chicory bolster the spleen. Cardamom and fennel tea is also helpful during Indian summer because it aids digestion. Steep for fifteen minutes and let sit for fifteen minutes before drinking. Or try peppermint tea, an old standby for healthy digestion.
Burdock root tea is great in the autumn, as it works as a tonic for the colon. Cascara sagrada tea works as a laxative, cleansing the colon. Coltsfoot and mullen teas act as a lung tonic. Other teas for the lungs include slippery elm, horehound, and yerba sante. Licorice root makes an excellent autumn tea, as it stimulates both the colon and lungs.
Marshmallow root promotes health in the kidneys and bladder and acts as a diuretic. To make it, steep the root for fifteen to twenty minutes. Nettle tea also acts as a diuretic and is good for the kidneys. Fenugreek is another, and it also functions as an adrenal tonic. Juniper berries help to strengthen the kidneys. Combine them in a tea with uvi ursi, an herb that stimulates the bladder.
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It’s important to understand the power of the seasons; as you begin to live in accordance with them, your life will settle into its own natural rhythms. Things go smoothly when you learn not to push against the flow of nature. See how tea can help you reach that goal. Skin Deep