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Acupuncture 101: Understanding the 5th Season

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), late summer is a separate season.

But from a Western perspective, it doesn’t make sense.  First of all, it’s a short season—from around the third week in August to the September equinox.  And usually there’s nothing distinctive about late summer weather that makes it different from summer or fall.

Why have a fifth season?

Nature gives us the answer.

TCM is governed by the 5 elements, which represent the cycles of nature.  Every plant and animal goes through the cycle of birth, growth, maturation, harvest and storage.  Late summer corresponds to the “mature” part of the cycle.  Plants are at their peak—fully mature with ripe fruits.  It’s not quite harvest time, but it’s past the peak growing season.

One important quality of late summer is its transition from yang energy (active, hot and extraverted) to yin (reflective, cool and introverted).  This pattern happens naturally.  School resumes.  People refocus on their routines.  It’s a great time to reconnect with home and family.  Even if you don’t identify late summer as a separate season, you probably make this transition anyway.

The earth element guides late summer.  Its organs are the stomach, spleen, pancreas and muscles.  Its color is yellow/orange and its taste is sweet.

Digestion is especially important in late summer.  Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, peaches, dates, apples, cherries, millet, almonds and coconut are all recommended late summer foods.  While these foods have sweet flavors, remember that too much sweetness is not healthy.  A big bowl of ice cream is still not a health food—even in late summer.

Earth guides our ability to think clearly.  An imbalance in earth can lead to worry or obsession, but balance in earth gives a sense of calm, clarity and adaptability.  Late summer is an excellent time to start or recommit to a meditative practice.  By taking time quiet time, your daily activities will be more productive.

The emotions of earth are sympathy, compassion and nurturing.  If you have considered volunteering, late summer is a good season to make that intention real.

Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups


• 2 ½  – 3 cups ripe or slightly over-ripe fruit, peeled and diced

• Sweetener to taste: honey, sugar, agave, etc.

• 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to lowest temperature,
usually 140° – 200°F

Puree the fruit in a food processor until smooth.  Taste and add the sweetener.  Remember—the flavor will concentrate as the leather dries, so be sparing.  Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or a silicone baking mat (don’t use foil, parchment, or waxed paper).  Spread evenly so it is 1/8” thick.  Bake for 6-8 hours until the center is not tacky.  Remove from oven and peel off plastic wrap or baking sheet.  Cut into strips.  Store in airtight container
or freeze.


• Suggested fruits:  plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, strawberries, raspberries, grapes,
or mangos.

• The addition of sugar or honey enhances the texture and makes the fruit roll-ups chewier.

• If using plastic wrap, it will shrink a little as the fruit dries, so leave a little extra around the edges.


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