Autumn Season Tips: Staying and Eating Well

Autumn Seasonal Tips

The three months of autumn are in charge of withering and decelerating the movement of growth.” – Gao Lian, poet and medical Scholar

Autumn Seasonal TipsDuring the past two months of autumn, I have wondered a few things – would my tomatoes ever ripen, when would the predictably cool and rainy season in Portland arrive and how do we adapt to these unpredictable changes to our climate as the seasons (are supposed) to change? The tomatoes are still hanging on the vine, the rains have come and, yes, we are adapting to the changes.

Autumn’s sky, cloudy or not, is punctuated with the fire of leaves just before they dry up and fall to the ground. Our vital qi, brightened by summer skies, now begins its movement inward as we ready ourselves for winter. Autumn is a time for gathering ourselves for the year ahead. We move indoors. It is a great time restructure what we do and want to do, creating time and space for reflection and planning. Our intentions turn inward to protect the yang qi we built up over the summer season and nourish our interior and our yin.

 The Pivot from Yang to Yin

Autumn is the pivotal season moving from yang to yin. The days are shorter, moving towards the shortest day at Winter Solstice. We in the West are into autumn, but according to the 24 Seasonal Nodes of the Chinese calendar we are approaching the first seasonal node of winter – Beginning of Winter on November 7th. This is the time to protect our inner warmth and to begin attending to nourishment and hydration that can protect us from the cooler and dryer air of the autumn, as well as the colds, viruses and flu that flourish in this season.

Foods and Cooking Styles

Common sense tells us that we need warming foods to keep our interior warm and active. Raw foods and cold foods and beverages only slow down our digestion and can add to us feeling cold. So, ditch the cold drinks and foods cold from the fridge. Warm your food before eating. Longer and slower cooking brings more warmth (yang) into foods along with hydration. Pull out the crock pots and slow cookers and enjoy the wide variety of soups and stews abundant with earthy root vegetables and wintery greens plus your favorite activating kitchen herbs and spices.

Each season has a flavor that helps us attune to the exterior climate. Autumn’s flavor is sour. The sour flavor activates our internal hydration system, activating our digestive juices and the fluids that bathe all the tissues of our body. This flavor, in small amounts, helps keep our mucous membranes of the nose and throat active, as well as protecting the Lung, the predominant organ of the Autumn season. It is found in combination with other flavors found in the autumnal fruits such as pomegranate, lemons, limes, apples, grapes and pears, some vegetables, fermented foods and herbs such as rosehips and hibiscus. Be sure to include these types of foods in your regular diet.

Porridge and Other Variations

One of the most common dishes that add to warm, aid digestion and hydration is the porridge found all around the world. From oat porridge originating in Central Europe to grits from traditions of the Southern US to the Filipino staple of arroz caldo, polentina (or polenta soup) found in Italy, kasha (buckwheat porridge) of Eastern Europe, to congee (or jook) in Chinese traditions. These long-cooked delicious grain “soups” are warming, hydrating and easy to digest. The beauty of porridge is that they are easily adapted to be sweet or savory.

You can make porridge a simple breakfast or a full meal adding in vegetables, eggs, toasted nuts or seeds, chopped fresh herbs, sea vegetables, pickled vegetables, meat or fish. There is congee for all types of conditions cooked with different types of herbs or bases of herbal tea or soup stock

My memories of visiting China are laced with the delicious and wide variety of congee I ate for breakfast. The deep satisfying quenching of morning hunger for the entire morning long! Below you will find a simple congee adapted to Scatter the Cold for this autumn season. Try it! You might have a whole new way to start the day.

A Congee Recipe from my book – Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine

congee, recipe, nutritional healing with chinese medicine

Scatter-the-Cold Congee

There are infinite variations on congee that can satisfy and support health and healing. The soup like consistency of this dish makes it easy to digest. Here, the addition of green onions and ginger enliven the taste and is perfect when you are feeling achy due to an oncoming cold. Make this congee and then get under the covers; you might break a sweat.

Makes 4 Servings

1 cup sweet (glutinous) brown rice 250 mL (or brown Arborio rice)

4 green onions, finely chopped 4

3 tbsp minced ginger root 4ML


  1. In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups (2 L) water to a boil. Add rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. The congee should have a soup like consistency; if thereis not enough liquid left in the pan, add up to 1⁄2 cup  (125 mL) water.
  2. Stir in green onions and ginger; simmer for 10 minutes, then stir well.
  3. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Warm in a small saucepan over low heat before serving.


Enjoy this congee once a day, like soup with a meal. It makes a savory, satisfying breakfast.


Substitute an equal amount of millet, barley or sweet (glutinous) white rice for the brown rice.

Health Tip

When you’re sick, you can use herbal tea or vegetable broth in place of some or allof the water to cook the rice. Cooking the congee with an herbal tea or broth infuses the dish with healing ingredients, making it truly tasty medicine.


Recipe Courtesy of Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine by Ellen Goldsmith, L.Ac. © 2017 Recipes copyright © 2017 Maya Klein and Ellen Goldsmith Reprinted with permission. Click here to purchase your copy! Makes a great gift.


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Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith

Ellen Goldsmith is a licensed and nationally board certified acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She has been in the field of Asian medicine for the past 30 years, teaching, speaking and working with thousands of people to give them the resources, skills and tools they seek to improve the quality of their health and lives. Ellen is the author of the well respected book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health. She is on faculty at the National University of Natural Medicine’s College of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon.

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