Strengthening our lungs: self-help and acupuncture

Autumn – the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – is also the time when our lungs need our help the most. Maybe you have a tendency for colds to go onto your chest, or have asthma or other chronic lung disease. Or maybe you just want to stay well and be able to get on with life. For all of us, the following information about breathing exercises and diet will help us understand how to care for ourselves. Self-care, backed up by acupuncture when necessary, is a fundamental aspect of Chinese medicine.

autumn pic 1

My thanks to the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading for the following information.

Breath and the Lungs 

In Chinese Medicine the Lungs are one of the main ways we get Qi, or energy, into the body. They are said to ‘govern’ Qi.
When we breathe in, the Lungs take Qi from the world and bring it into the body. Qi is the active energy needed for all the body’s processes. It is like the electricity that allows the light to shine.
If the Lungs are strong they can take in more Qi and distribute it around the body to maintain healthy and vital functions.
If the Lungs are weak we can feel tired and prone to difficulty coping with loss and change.

Our skin and immunity also reflect the strength of our Lung Qi. Good Qi protects us from external weather and pathogens and allows the skin to release toxins. Weak Lung Qi can make us susceptible to catching colds, flu and asthma. Our sense of smell might be weaker and we might get congested easily.

The Lungs are instrumental in helping us relax and be emotionally balanced. We can deal with loss and grief in a balanced and healthy way.

Autumn is the time our Lungs need our help the most.

Qigong breathing practice

We can breathe when sitting, standing or moving. It takes time to learn to breathe properly so this should be done slowly without strain.

Breathing should be done in a relaxed way and the breath should not be held or be jerky.

  1. Breathe in through the nose into the lower abdomen so that it expands and fills out like a balloon. Be careful that you feel no physical pressure below the top of your pubic bone.
  2. Keeping the breathing smooth exhale and let the balloon in the abdomen deflate.
  3. Allow these breathing movements to be rhythmic, slow and even.
  4. As you practice you can also learn to breathe into your sides and back and kidneys. Later you can learn to breathe into the upper sides and upper back as well.”

From: Principles of Chinese Medicine by Angela Hicks (available from:

Helpful seasonal nutrition

From: Danny Blyth and Greg Lampert, Chinese Dietary Wisdom (available from:
In the autumn and winter, our system needs a richer diet, with more protein, to keep our bodies warm and energised. To help us digest these richer foods, we also need more digestives, such as herbs and gentle spices. Warming cooking methods such as casseroles, stews, roasting and soups should be chosen, and salads and cold foods should be reduced.

Here is a list of foods beneficial and strengthening for the Lungs:

~ Garlic                                     ~ Sweet potato
~ Ginger                                    ~ Onion
~ Cabbage                                ~ Pears
~ Walnuts                                  ~ Black pepper
~ Radish                                    ~ Rice
~ Chilli                                       ~ Cinnamon
~ Cardamom                             ~ Leek
~ Miso                                       ~ Navy Beans
~ Soy Beans                             ~ Almonds
~ Asparagus                             ~ Broccoli
~ Cucumber                              ~ Celery
~ Mustard Greens                     ~ Apricot
~ Banana                                   ~ Eggs

And lastly, from me, if you would like to read the whole autumnal poem that starts ‘The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, here it is

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