The Metal Element

Posted September 27th, 2014 by Erin under Health & Wellness, Recipes, Recommended Materials.


This month Karuna’s 500-hour Five Element Shiatsu training focused on The Metal Element, Jin.  Jin represents Autumn, and much like the harvest season, Jin’s characteristics are of decline but also of substance, strength and structure. The Metal Element is associated with the emotions of grief and sadness and also courage and dignity. In the body the metal element represents the lungs and large intestines. In a post about Autumn and The Metal Element from Elements of Healing,  acupuncturist Scott Molan writes:


“The Metal element has the quality of contraction.  In its natural state Metal is hard and was used as the most exterior part of one’s clothing in the form of armor.  However, if heated up, it could be shaped and molded to make shields, swords etc.  This element is also related to minerals that are born out of the earth and infuses life to water as it flows over the ground.

The lungs and large intestine organs are associated with the metal element according to Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  These two organs in many ways have the same resonance and qualities as described above.  The lungs are similar to a bellows, in that they expand when air is brought in and contract when releasing carbon dioxide.  This is similar to the expansion and contraction that is seen in the element metal.  Likewise, the large intestine contracts (peristalsis) in order to empty, hopefully on a daily basis.  These two organs are considered our armor in many ways and like metal armor, are the most exterior of our organs, being directly connected to the outside environment.

One of the most important lessons that the metal element can teach us is in letting go.  We learn this lesson from the lungs and large intestine.  We can take a breath in and it nourishes us with needed oxygen, but we can not hold the breath for very long.  Eventually we must let go of that air, to make room for more as our body utilizes what it has just taken in.  Similarly the large intestine needs to let go of what it is holding so we can eliminate what we don’t need.”

The transition of the seasons can be quite challenging on our respiratory systems. Supporting faculty Chris Marano of Clearpath Herbals provided information on treatment of lung disharmonies with herbal remedies. Along with herbal supplementation, Chris recommends we:

  • Avoid foods that congest lungs, including refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, dairy, and any food to which there is a food sensitivity;
  • Utilize foods that counteract the energetics of the Lung invasion, e.g. cooling foods for hot invasion, warming foods for cold invasion, mucilaginous foods for dry invasion;
  • Steam inhalation (with herbs and/or appropriate essential oils) are useful;
  • Herbs in general include those lymph tonics, antiviral herbs, antibacterial herbs, antiseptic herbs, expectorant herbs, herbs that drain Damp-Heat (as from Intestines).
  • Important either to use herbs that do not amplify but counteract the energetic nature of the Lung invasion, or to temper the energetics of an herb chosen with others that balance the energetics.
  • Foods that strengthen Deficient Lungs include decongesting proteins and naturally sweet foods, including organically raised, grass fed meats, especially lamb, root vegetables and squashes, high in assimilable complex carbohydrates and beta-carotene, super-foods and mineral-salt rich foods (especially if they have a mucilaginous component), such as sea vegetables, spirulina, chlorella, dark green leafy vegetables and wild greens. Also cooked members of the onion-garlic family, including chives and scallions.

Additionally Chris prepared a lung health tincture with herbs grown locally. Here is a list of herbs that are beneficial to lung health and function.




Adaptogens: herbs and mushrooms that help body and mind adapt to stressors of all kinds, and also replenish the Core (Chinese Kidneys). All help the Lung yin and Lung qi, and many help the Lungs more specifically. Examples include American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Codonopsis, Cordyceps, Eleuthero, Ginseng, Licorice, Reishi, Rhodiola, Schisandra. These are all major Lung medicines.

Andrographis: Clears Heat, Dries Dampness; antiviral, antimicrobial, antiseptic, treats Lung EPI with heat, including wide range of Lung conditions, sore and swollen throat.

Chickweed: Clears Heat, Dislodges Phlegm; demulcent, nutritive, heals tissue, moistens mucosa, loosens hot-dry phlegm.

Chinese Asparagus (Tian men dong): Moistens Lungs, Clears Lung Heat; antibacterial, treats Dry Lung patterns including dry mouth, thick stuck sputum, weak lungs, TB, strep.

Echinacea: Clears Heat, Releases Exterior; treats acute respiratory EPIs, allergies, strep, stimulates surface immune system.

Elecampane root: Redirects Qi Downward, Expels Phlegm; treats hot congested lungs, wheezing, copious clear or white phlegm, acute and chronic illnesses, congested Lungs, wheezing.

Fenugreek: Strengthens Lung Yin, Moistens Lungs, Transforms Phlegm; treats deficiency, wheezing, dry cough.

Garlic: Disperses Cold and Phlegm, Releases Exterior; antimicrobial, treats EPIs broad range, Damp-Cold painful chest distention from congealed cold phlegm, including wheezing.

Ginger: Lungs, Transforms Phlegm, Rescues Devastated Yang; treats Cold Lung disorders with congestion, weakness, lethargy, thin, watery phlegm. Releases Exterior,Promotes Sweating, Disperses Cold, Stops Coughing, Invigorates Wei Qi; treats colds, flu, Cold-Damp Wind-Cold EPIs, sweating with no improvement, cute and chronic coughing (infections and emphysema.

Ginkgo: Astringes Lung Qi, Strengthens Lung, Stops Pain; treats wheezing, cough, “Kidneys Cannot Grasp Lung Qi.”

Golden Seal: Clears Heat, Drains Fire; antibacterial, antiseptic, treats EPIs and chronic respiratory infections, with fever, irritability, thirst, cough, thick yellow phlegm, refrigerant in fever management, antibacterial, including sinusitis, pharyngitis, thrush, bronchitis, strep, tonsillitis, sore throat.

Ground Ivy: Clears Heat, Transforms Phlegm; expectorant, antiseptic, resolves congestion, treats colds, flus, bronchitis.

Horehound: Clears Phlegm; excellent expectorant.

Hyssop: Wind, Clears Phlegm; decongestant, expectorant, antiviral, antibacterial, treats Hot or Cold EPI, allergies.

Irish Moss: Clears Heat, Transforms Phlegm, Builds Lung Yin; demulcent, nutritive, soothes and heals dried, damaged tissue, lung heat with difficult expectoration; swollen glands.

Lobelia: Dispels Wind, Drains Dampness; antispasmodic, stops coughing, wheezing, spastic cough, asthma, also clears floating edema.

Marshmallow root: Moistens Lungs; stops Dry Cough, soothes and heals damaged, irritated, ulcerated tissue.

Mullein: Relaxes and Tones Tissue, Expels Phlegm; astringes and soothes tissue, mild expectorant, treats broad range EPIs.

Nettles: Strengthens Tissue, Nourishes Lung Blood; nutritive tonic, strengthens mucosa.

Ophiopogon/Turf Lily (Mai men dong): Moistens Lungs, Stops Coughing, Nourishes Yin; useful when Lung Yin has been injured, dry cough, thick sputum difficult to expectorate.

Plantain: Moistens and Astringes Tissue, Transforms Phlegm; soothing, mild expectorant, stops bleeding, rebuilds tissue.

Platycodon/Balloon Flower (Jie geng): Disseminates Lung Qi, Expels Phlegm, Specific Harmonizer; treats Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold coughs, Lung abscesses, loss of voice, redirects effects of herbs to lungs and head.

Propolis: Clears Heat, Tones Tissue; antiseptic, astringent, expectorant, treats infections, allergies, strengthens voice.

Slippery Elm: Moistens Lungs, stops Dry Cough, soothes and heals damaged, irritated, ulcerated tissue.

Solomon’s Seal: Moistens and Strengthens Lungs; treats dry, unproductive coughing from Lung Qi and Yin deficiency, wheezing, TB, chronic bronchitis.

Spilanthes: Clears Heat, Releases Exterior; antimicrobial, antiseptic, treats acute respiratory EPIs, allergies, strep, stimulates surface immune response.

Thyme: Clears Heat, Moves Phlegm; antimicrobial, expectorant, antiseptic, treats Cold-damp Lung EPIs, bronchitis, pneumonia.

Wild Cherry: Tones Tissue, Transforms Cough; astringent, antispasmodic, treats coughing, asthma, allergies, weakened tissue.


Eileen Muir provided two recipes to nurture the lungs, detox for respiratory and intestinal health, and to savor in this season of amazing harvest and fecundity:

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup for Nourishment












All ingredients should be organic.

  • ½ head of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large parsnip
  • 1 leek
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 nice, big, fat beet
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 inches of daikon
  • splash olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (to tatse)
  • approx. 10 leaves basil
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 handful thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • approx. 1.5 pints water
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Chop all root vegetables into large cubes.  Splash with olive oil, cumin, and cayenne.  Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.  Bring about 1.5 pints of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add roasted vegetables to pot and cook 5 minutes.  Add all of the herbs to pot and simmer until cooked.  Remove the bay leaves.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pulverize the soup (in a blender, with an immersion blender, etc.).  Eat.  Yum!


Fall Detox Smoothie












All ingredients should be organic.

  • 1 cup green grapes
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 pear
  • 2 cups curly and Italian parsley
  • 5 leaves kale
  • 1 big, fat cucumber
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds (pre-soaked)
  • 1 tsp. hemp seeds (pre-soaked)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pint water
  • maple syrup to taste (I like 1 tbsp.)


Blend all ingredients and enjoy!  Yummy!


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