Yin Restorative Herbs for a Healthy Transition Toward Winter
Autumn is associated with the metal element according to the five element system in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It invites us to descend the way leaves fall from trees after serving them all summer. It is a time for reflection and restoration. Several herbs complement the transition from summer to fall, which is also a time to deeply nourish the yin body.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is yin and yang, which are complementary forces deeply interconnected. For example, there is light and darkness, cold and hot, expansion and contraction.
Yin can be interpreted as slow, quiet, rest, heavy and feminine. Yang can be interpreted as moving, loud, buoyant, forceful and masculine. The fluids in the body are considered yin, while the muscular structure is yang. Obviously, both are equally valuable and needed.
The dominant Western culture is often more accepting of yang energy. Work harder, smarter, faster, and success will be enjoyed, but not if the yin is undernourished. Let’s be wise by nourishing the yin while rising into yang.
Signs of undernourished yin include insomnia, anxiety, feeling hot and thirsty even after hydrating, dry skin and hair, hot flashes, night sweats, vivid dreams and nightmares, some types of headaches and feeling wired despite exhaustion.
Following are some herbs and foods that support yin restoration:
- Adaptogens which help the body repair from stress such as reishi, astragalus, tulsi, ashwagandha, schisandra and shatavari
- Nourishing tonics that restore the nervous system such as milky oats, skullcap and nettles
- Mild sedatives to promote sleep and relaxation such as lavender, rose, linden, chamomile, catnip, kava kava, California poppy and valerian
- Cooling bitters such as mint, dandelion root, burdock root and passionflower
- Healthy fats are necessary for repairing the body from stress and supporting the nervous system such as ghee, coconut oil, fish oil, omega-3s, avocados and nuts. Fat received a bad reputation with the “fat-free” trend; however our brains, spines, joints, synovial fluid and hormone regulation depends on adding equal amounts of healthy fats.
- Foods and herbs that are sweet and bland help build the body’s yin reservoirs such as squash, roots, animal fats, eggs, grains, dairy and sweeteners. According to Brittany Wood Nickerson, author of Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, “They are nutritive and regenerative; they provide all the building blocks for growth and help the body build, repair and sustain energy.”
In addition to drinking herbal teas and consuming foods that nourish the yin, there are also lifestyle changes that invite balance after yang time, or long periods of output. Feeling more tired after slowing down is common. The yin systems take time to restore, generally no less than one month after periods of excessive output.
Take time to rest or nap (especially between 3 to 5 p.m.), read a book, journal, meditate, attend a silent retreat, catch up with friends, practice restorative yoga, get a massage and sip a cup of herbal tea.
Hannah Jacobson-Hardy, founder of Sweet Birch Herbals and Full Moon Ghee, is a holistic health coach and community herbalist devoted to providing the region with high-quality plantbased medicines that are locally grown and sustainably wildcrafted. Jacobson-Hardy is deeply committed to healing our relationships with each other and the Earth through nature-based experiences. Learn more at SweetBirchHerbals.com and at FullMoonGhee.com.