Earth – a time of transformation

Late summer harvest belongs to the Earth element. This is a time of transition from summer to fall, and a time of transformation. Soon the bright colors of summer will fade and we will go into our storehouses to prepare for a slower pace. There is often a stillness and we begin to settle in… summer travels ending… a new school year beginning… anticipation of the next phase. We are still benefiting from the earth’s bounty of crops, including hearty sweet grains. Where brightly colored produce has been the food of summer, grains are the most nourishing foods of the earth element.

Male or female, the healthy earth person is a giver, a nurturer, a comforter. They readily volunteer, and always have something to share. They give and take with appropriate reciprocity. They have a innate ability to transform resources into something useful. They are balanced and centered. This is the person we want to have near when we are in need of comfort.  They often have a song in their voice. A healthy earth person creates community. They bring people together. And they care for their own needs just as they care for others. Everyone around them feels loved and cared for.

The virtue of the earth person is nurturing, integrity, reciprocity, integration, and transformation.  The primary emotion is sympathy and worry. The primary concern is comfort. The color associated with earth is yellow. They likely have a sweet tooth.


For a brief introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, please click here.
For a brief description of each element (phase) wood, fire, earth, metal, water, please click here.

General Pathology of the Earth Element

When an Earth person is unhealthy, or out of balance, they tend to ruminate and worry excessively. The may become needy, and may be lazy and apathetic. They may become takers, expecting too much of others, and have difficulty feeling content and gracious. This can relate to relationships as well as food. They simply cannot get enough to feel satisfied. They may seek sympathy and complain. Martyrdom and selfishness may become an issue. They can become controlling.

Common Health Concerns of the Earth Element

Organs associated with this element are the spleen and stomach. They may experience poor musculature, diabetes, obesity, OCD, chronic fatigue, candida albicans, and issues around food, including sensitivities, anorexia or bulimia, orthorexia, poor digestion.

They may eat too much, particularly sweets, or experience the opposite extreme, eating too little, food becomes a burden to them. They can become overweight even when they are not over-eating.

Optimizing Health (Late Summer, Earth)
Methods for reaching the highest level possible

  • Focus on foods which are nutritional.
  • Avoid foods that are processed and contain chemicals. Avoid fast food.
  • Avoid excess sugar, dairy, soy, and carbs.
  • Eat cooked foods. You may be concerned that some nutrients are destroyed in the cooking process. For some foods, this is true. However, raw foods are difficult for the spleen to process. The earth person will absorb more nutrients if foods are first cooked.
  • Avoid cold foods.
  • Avoid inflammatory foods.
  • Eat proteins first at mealtime to help you feel full.
  • Eat until you are almost full.
  • Focus on your meal. No eating in the car, or in front of the T.V., computer or with other electronics.
  • Make mealtime peaceful. This is not a time for arguing and stress.
  • To the extent possible, eat at the same times each day, at regular intervals. Do not eat close to bedtime.

To assist with cravings for sweets, increase whole grains and beans in the diet. Chew very slowly.

Deliberately make time to care for yourself. Schedule time for those things which bring you peace and comfort. This could be something as simple as a movie or a walk in the park. Whatever it is, purposefully take time for it on a regular basis.

Healing Foods – Per TCM (Late Summer, Earth)

For Spleen Qi Deficiency

Indications may be poor digestion and appetite, indigestion, dull sense of taste, lethargy, dizziness, tired eyes, bloating, loose stools, weak limbs, headache after exersion

Beneficial foods: Whole grains – brown rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, wheat berries, amaranth. Warming foods – ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, black pepper, fennel, clove, nutmeg, hot chiles. Lentils. Root vegetables – carrots, sweet potatoes. Squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, taro, longan, lotus seeds, hawthorne berries. Tangerine peel – use in a tea. Soups. Beef, pork, chicken, eggs.

For Damp Accumulation

Indications may be similar to that of Spleen Qi Deficiency. May also include symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic pain, unexplained muscle soreness. Excess weight.

Beneficial foods: Same foods as for Spleen Qi deficiency. Add Oolong tea.
Follow notes under “optimizing health” more strictly. Do not eat raw foods, or cold foods, do not eat straight from the fridge. Avoid coffee, dairy, sugars, excess carbs.

For Phlegm Accumulation

Stagnate dampness may manifest in lumps, masses, or growths. May be a thick white coating on the tongue. May become foggy headed, lack clarity. May be associated with such disorders as: ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, eating disorders, chronic fatigue, candida, some mental disorders. May be caused by a poor diet, including fast foods, processed foods. When substantial, may also be associated with fibroids, endometriosis, tumors, abdominal lumps, cysts.

Note: Hormones and antibiotics in dairy products likely worsen this condition.

Beneficial foods: Mustard greens, teas – black, tangerine peel, pumpkin seeds, shitake mushrooms, radishes, seaweed

No dairy, no sugar, no coffee, no raw foods.

Build digestive fire with warming foods such as those listed above.


Indications may be feeling tired, worn down, digestive issues, skin issues, weakened immune system, feeling sick all of the time, sinus issues and allergies, strong craving for sugar and carbohydrates. There will be a very thick white coating on the tongue.

Beneficial practice: Follow recommendations for Phlegm Accumulation very strictly. Add probiotics.

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Please note: This information is provided as a general introduction to the principles of TCM. Please consult you physician of choice concerning all matters pertaining to your personal health.

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