Summer is ending, stepping aside for autumn in all its red-gold, cosy glory – with its mists, conkers and woolly scarves. So get yourself ready: it’s pumpkin o’clock! As a period of transition, autumn gives us the space to gently drift towards winter. It’s a good time to re-evaluate, take decisions and start new projects.
And it’s the perfect moment to start slowing down, to rest, to breathe and to strengthen your immune system, because unfortunately, autumn also witnesses the return of all sorts of discomforts: coughs and colds, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, bloating, skin problems, negative moods, insomnia, worries, fears and even anxiety. Temperatures drop. We return from summer holidays, which can cause some stress, our immune system weakens and our bodies may find it difficult to cope. It’s a season that is, therefore, particularly hard on our lungs and intestines.
But let us not despair. Naturopathy can help us to pass gracefully through autumn by adapting our diets, our sleeping routines and our physical activity to suit this new season with a few natural tips. So let’s enjoy the delight that autumn offers us through the magnificent colours of our trees, hedgerows and woodlands and bathe in its beautiful golden light.
Choose foods that stimulate the lungs and help the evacuation of mucus. These include: chestnut, leek, mushrooms, celery, spinach, radishes, cucumber, rice, sorghum, millet, tofu, garlic, shallots, olives, honey, apricots, figs, grapes, oranges, pears, apples, lemons, berries, almonds, walnuts and pine nuts.
Also put on your shopping list foods that will support your intestines. These include: beetroot, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, fennel, aubergine, lettuce, pumpkin, buckwheat, sesame seeds, black pepper, nutmeg, bananas, grapefruit and lovely, seasonal rhubarb. Add some fresh ginger and onion to your cooking too, as these will boost your immune system and try to avoid heavy dinners, too much alcohol and refined products, which aren’t good for digestion.
If you feel like you need a bit of a boost, add these two supplements to your daily diet: Vitamin C to improve your immune system and Magnesium (also found in extra dark chocolate) to help you feel calm, aid digestion, soothe muscle aches and help you sleep. Rest to rejuvenate Autumn invites us to sip slowly (and mindfully) on hot cups of herbal teas before a good night’s sleep.
As the season sets in, we can all benefit from a little extra sleep. Try to go to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual to help you feel more rested and energetic in the morning. Opt for lavender, chamomile roman, frankincense and sandalwood essential oils to help you relax. Spray them onto your pillow or diffuse them in your bedroom or living space.
If you have trouble sleeping you might also find it useful to invest in an eye mask and earplugs. While this may sound a little over the top, they can be an effective tonic if you are troubled by insomnia or night waking.
Autumn is the perfect season for long walks, hikes, cycling, running and swimming too. But make sure you don’t take on anything too strenuous, as this is not the time to overwork yourself. Remember: it’s a season of rest. Ideally, add some yoga and breathing exercises into the mix and try to get out of the city whenever you can, as your lungs will benefit from pure air away from pollution.
If September and October offer up some mild, sunny days, grab a friend or the family, pack yourself a picnic and spend a day soaking up some welcome Vitamin D surrounded by nature.
5 simple ways to feel healthier and enjoy autumn
Diffuse essential oils
Diffuse some essential oils in your home: ravintsara is a marvellous antiviral one that boosts the immune system and clears the respiratory system (eucalyptus or pine are also very efficient for this too).
Be a bathing beauty
Have a long, hot soak with Epsom salts and a few drops of sweet smelling essential oils such as jasmine or rose. Just add candles and a good book.
Treat yourself to a massage
Book yourself in for a massage. As well as being calming and indulging, massages improve the circulation of fluids within the body (blood and lymph), helping to get rid of toxins and thereby improving your immune system.
Try a one-day mono diet
A one-day mono-diet can support your digestive system by giving it a break and eliminating toxins. The principle is very simple: you only consume one type of food for a day. You can choose between grapes, apples, carrots, rice or bananas. (Don’t be tempted to try this for longer without taking advice and from a professional nutritionist or dietician.)
Make your own tonics
Indulge in a little white witchery, it is nearly Halloween after all! Take out your teapot and create your own health-boosting infusions to harness the healing powers of plants. Here are a few ideas… just add boiling water:
Immune system booster
Infuse 3cm of fresh, grated ginger with the juice and zest of a lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper and honey to taste.
Infuse dried lavender, dried rose petals and either hawthorn berries or dried or fresh hawthorn leaves.
Infuse fresh mint leaves, lemon balm leaves and cardamom.
Infuse thyme, eucalyptus leaves and plantain leaves. Infuse each tonic for 5-10 minutes.
You can use any of these herbs on their own or get creative and experiment with your own blends. If you find any of the infusions a little bitter for your taste, just add a spoonful of honey.
Pauline is a registered naturopath who lives and practices in Bristol, UK. She is fascinated by nature, especially herbal medicine, which she uses in her naturopathy practice. Read her blog at www.soakupthewild.com.