In Traditional Chinese Medicine, autumn is represented by the metal element, which corresponds to the Lungs and Large Intestine. Weakness in this element shows up as ailments in the Lung and Intestines: allergies, asthma and constipation. The remedy can be found in this season's most notable food: the pumpkin or squash.
The pumpkin is round, orange and sweet. It corresponds to the earth element in the five element cycle. Earth is the mother of metal. In Chinese medicine there is a saying: when there is weakness in the child (in this case metal: lungs and large intestine), nourish the mother (in this case earth.)
Weakness in the lungs will show up as:
In Chinese medicine, the pumpkin is known to relieve damp conditions such as dysentery and eczema. It promotes discharge of mucus from the lungs, bronchi and throat, easing bronchialasthma. (1)
Not only does the flesh of the pumpkin benefit the Lungs and Large Intestine, the seeds are especially good for the intestines, easing constipation and acting as a parasite cleanse. Known as nan gua zi, pumpkin seeds are especially known to alleviate tapeworm and roundworm. For this purpose pumpkin seeds are taken by boiling into a strong tea known as a decoction or grinding into a powder to be taken with water.
Nutritionally, pumpkins are high in beta carotene which is converted by the body to vitamin A. Beta carotene protects the mucous membranes of the body and has been shown to protect both the lungs and large intestine against cancer. (2)
Soup is an excellent way to nourish the body this time of year. The following soup can be made with pumpkin or any kind of yellow winter squash. Make sure to save and wash the seeds, which can then be salted and baked at 350 degrees until dry.
Nourishing Pumpkin Soup
- 1 pumpkin or squash, halved, seeded, and baked face down on baking sheet at 350 until soft (1/2 hour to an hour depending on thickness of squash.)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups water
- In soup pot, saute onions, garlic and carrots in olive oil until softened.
- Add water, flesh of the squash scraped from the skin, maple syrup, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Cool and blend until smooth.
- Reheat and serve.
- Pitchford, p.508
- Ibid, p.313
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA.
Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica.Eastland Press, Seattle.
Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine. Acupuncture, A Comprehensive Text. Eastland Press. Seattle.