Nourishing Your Earth Element


Many of us think about the wheel of the year in 4 parts- the 4 seasons.  But in Chinese 5-Element Theory there are 5 seasons, each corresponding to a specific element.  The fifth season many of us miss is the one we are currently in, Late Summer, which is associated with the Earth Element. We'll be in this season until Fall Equinox.

The Earth element= Nourishment.  So this is a time of deep nourishment, when the rewards of self-care can be doubled. And it's a beautiful time, when sometimes time even seems to stand still. And indeed it is the tipping point- the fulcrum- between the outward and dynamic yang seasons of Spring and Summer, and the more inward, yin seasons of Fall and Winter.

So it's a time to regain balance.

The key to taking advantage of this natural seasonal influence of the season is to nourish our Earth Element, and harmonize with this balancing and stabilizing energy of the Late Summer. So how do we do it? Keep reading!


Keywords and Phrases: Center, the middle, balance, simplicity, harmony, tranquility, fulcrum, no extremes, unity, dreamlike, listen to the subtle currents, the tipping point in-between the yin and yang months

Sound: Singing
Color: Yellow
Sense: Taste
Flavor: Sweet
Emotion: Sympathy
Climate: Moist
Direction: Center
Indicator: Lips
Time of Day: Late Afternoon
Time of Life: Adulthood, Parenthood

  • Food Energetics- Avoid complicated dishes. Food should be prepared simply with a minimum or seasonings and ingredients, and should have a mild taste. Moderation in cooking time, amount of water or oil used, and cooking temperature. It's best to share food during this season with community and loved ones.

  • Flavor- Mildy sweet. In 5-Element Theory there is also an organ associated with each element, the Chinese Spleen being paired with the Earth element. These are very different from our classic western anatomical organs, even though they have similar names, and are not actual physical organs in our body, although they each do still play a vital function in this ancient and sophisticated system of medicine. The sweet flavor strengthens the Chinese Spleen and the Earth Element, enhancing our ability to absorb nutrients, and also digest not just the physical, but also the emotional. The Spleen in the main organ of assimilation, and when it is strong nutrients are properly absorbed Qi is created and disseminated to all the other organs in the body. Here's a neat way to look at this- Think about common phrases in our language- "They've really got a lot on their plate," "She bit off more than she could chew," "I just couldn't stomach it," "I'm going to ruminate on that a bit," and so on....

  • Best Foods- We want foods that harmonize our center and help us balance the influences of the other four seasons. To do this favor foods that are mildly sweet (not sugar), round and a golden/yellow color. Good examples include corn, millet, carrots, chickpeas, winter and summer squash, asian pears, cucumbers, sweet yellow tomatoes, sunchokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, rice. Even just having a bowl of these fruits and vegetables as a centerpiece on your table is nourishing to the Earth element.

  • Best Herbs- Not surprisingly, with the theme of nourishment, the best herbs for this season and element are the oh-so-nourishing tonic herbs, which are sweet! These are our powerful adaptogens (a class of herbs that nourish the nervous system, enhance immunity, increase longevity and vitality, and balance hormones), like Licorice/ Gan Cao (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), American Ginseng/ Ren Shen* (Panax quinqefolius) *use organic only NEVER wildcrafted, Astragalus/Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus), and Codonopsis/Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula). Taken now, these tonic herbs can help prepare our bodies for the transition into the cooler months of Fall and Winter, bolstering our systems. Other sweet herbs that are wonderful include Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Fennel Sd (Foeniculum vulgare), Oatstraw & Milky Oat Tops (Avena sativa), Marshmallow rt (Althaea officinalis), and Basil (Ocimum basilicum).


  • Best Lifestyle Practices- The Earth Element is nourished by routine, ritual, time with friends, especially meals. It is also nourished by giving, so a person with a healthy Earth Element often gives much to the community. But in order to avoid burn-out (which Earth types are quite susceptible to) they also have to give to themselves. This is so important! And this is why the Earth Element is so nourished by self-care. This could be extra sleep, yoga, meditation, baths, walks in the woods, time with friends, or even a pedicure or nice hair cut! The point is that you're giving to yourself, with no strings attached.

And here's the kicker.....

Since we're in the Late Fall, the time of the Earth Element, this is the best time time to take advantage of the natural seasonal influence and give back to ourselves, especially if you are an activist, healer, teacher, community organizer, mother or father, care-giver, or anyone who spends a lot of their time giving to other people!

So, enjoy the season and make it a late summer full of self-love and self-care.

References & Resources

The Web That Has No Weaver
By Ted J. Kaptchuk

Staying Healthy with the Seasons
By Elson M Haas

Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Medicine
By Paul Pitchford

Living Medicine
Larken Bunce, Clinical Herbalist

Chris Marano, Clinical Herbalist

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