White Dew 白露 Seasonal Node

The name of the current Seasonal Node is White Dew (Bai Lu 白露). We are now well into Autumn in the Chinese calendar, and the midpoint of Autumn, the equinox, is only about 2 weeks away. Autumn is one of the two Yin seasons (along with Winter), and in Five Phase theory it is associated with the Metal, the Lungs, and the direction West. The name White Dew is a direct reference to Five Phases, as white is the color of the Metal Phase.

Even though we are in Autumn (a Yin time of year) it is clear that Yin and Yang are still engaged in a closely intertwined dance. During White Dew, the days can still be quite warm. However, evenings are starting to dip in temperature. Therefore, one of the traditional prohibitions this time of year is wearing clothing that is too light or revealing. During the early morning hours or in the evening be sure to wear clothing that affords protection against the gradually cooling temperatures. In some places the weather continues to be fairly warm and thus slightly out of sync with this Seasonal Node. In those places be careful of rapid temperature fluctuations as they may trigger colds or other upper respiratory problems.

Another caution this time of year is overconsumption of cold foods. Eating cold foods burdens the Spleen and Stomach, and this is more so during the Yin and colder times of the year when the body is trying to consolidate its Yang warmth. Thus in Chinese it is said, “bai lu shen bu lu, zhao liang yi xie du" (白露身不露,著涼易瀉肚) – during White Dew be sure not to overexpose the body as cold can easily lead to diarrhea.

The thing to start focusing on during White Dew is Nourishing the Yin (養陰). Now, this doesn’t mean that we should all go out and start taking Yin nourishing herbs such as Di Huang! To understand this we need to think deeply about the real meaning of Yin and Yang beyond the basic correspondences. The Neijing tells us that the sage nourishes Yang in the Spring and Summer and nourishes Yin in the Autumn and Winter (所以聖人春夏養陽,秋冬養陰). Here, Yin means the movement of contraction (收) going towards storage (藏) that are the very meanings of the Autumn and Winter seasons. This time of year we should all start slowing down, going to bed just a little earlier, and taking stock of our lives (i.e., literally moving our minds inward in self-reflection).

In more concrete medical terms, one of the most common problems our patients will see this time of year is seasonal allergies and rhinitis. Here in New Jersey I’ve seen a significant rise in allergy complaints in the last week alone. Patients can be taught simple home remedies such as using a Neti pot to keep sinus passages clear and open. Alternately, they can do a steam inhalation with eucalyptus oil. Since Autumn is the season of dryness, if patients suffer from very dry nasal passageways, they can rub a small amount of coconut oil inside their nose on a daily basis.

During White Dew the foods we eat should gently moisten dryness and protect the Lungs. While the days are still hot we can eat mildly hear clearing foods but again being cautious about eating very cold (or chilled) foods. In order to help build Yin in the body we also can increase mildly sour foods. White Dew is still a season of fresh fruits that fit these guidelines perfectly, such as peaches, apples and pears. Other foods to eat include watery vegetables such as zucchini (although they should be lightly cooked). For those near Asian groceries, White Dew is the time to eat nagaimo (shan yao 山藥 in Chinese) and fresh lily bulbs. 

Rice congees are a perfect fit for White Dew in that they are gently moistening and, taken warm, supportive of the Spleen and Stomach. One of the traditional White Dew congees is Lily Bulb and Pear Congee. To make this take one large Asian pear and slice into bite sized pieces (the peel can be left on). Then take one fresh edible lily bulb and separate out the corms. Cook the pear and lily bulb in a medium sized pot of water and rice (with a rice to water ratio of about 1 to 6). Simmer until the rice starts falling apart and the mixture becomes like watery oatmeal. Finish by adding a small amount of local honey to taste.