As the air turns crisp, leaves transform into a vibrant tapestry of warm hues and Earth’s critters prepare for the cold – the environment invites us to turn our awareness inward and slow down. In our fast-paced world, taking time to nurture your mind, body, and spirit is a necessity.
In this blog, we will explore the art of self-care during the fall season, so that you can smoothly transition into the winter months. From Ayurvedic perspectives to aromatic plants and nourishing practices, we'll share tips to help you embrace the beauty of fall and cultivate a deeper sense of well-being. You'll also get a warming body oil recipe you can easily make and use at home.
Ayurveda & Fall Weather
Ayurveda is an ancient system of natural healing that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It is often considered one of the world's oldest holistic medical systems. The term "Ayurveda" is derived from the Sanskrit words "ayur," which means life, and "veda," which means knowledge or science. Ayurveda focuses on promoting balance and harmony within the body, mind, and spirit to maintain and restore health.
Ayurveda observes the world through the five elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From these elements, come the energies of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha – Vata being a combination of Air and Ether, Pitta a combination of Fire and Water, and Kapha being composed of Earth and Water. We can see the three doshas present within the body, and everything in the external world. These doshas determine an individual's physical and mental characteristics. The goal of Ayurveda is to keep these doshas in balance, as imbalances are believed to lead to various health issues.
Through the lens of Ayurveda, fall weather reflects the concept of “Vata dosha.” Vata is essentially the principle of movement and wind. The qualities of Vata are dry, light, mobile, rough, cold, and irregular, just like the wind and air outside during the fall season. Fall is a time of change and letting go. The leaves dry and fall to the Earth in perfect timing year after year, as there is great wisdom guiding the transition from summer to winter – this is Vata. It governs the ever-flowing movement of life.
Many natural healing approaches believe that we humans are a reflection of our external environment, and vice versa. We are intimately connected to the Earth, as we breathe its air and tread upon its surface each day. And just as everything in nature and outside of us is drying, cooling off, and shifting into a new season during fall, so too are things within the body.
The dry, light, rough, irregular qualities of Vata (excess Air and Ether elements) can affect people’s psychophysiology in various ways. As fall season is an expression of Vata, it can be a time when people commonly experience symptoms like dry skin, irregular appetite, gas, bloating, constipation, ringing in the ears, insomnia, sensitivity in the nervous system, and pain in the musculoskeletal system.
To balance the qualities of Vata, we want to think about cultivating warming, grounding, heavy, and slow qualities within our experience. Let’s take a closer glance at what this can look like!
Ayurvedic Diet Considerations for Fall
During the fall, it’s important to eat warm, nourishing, cooked foods. If you live in a dry climate and tend towards dryness in the body, it can also be important to include foods that have more moisture such as soups and stews. Include root vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your meals. Mung beans are a great choice of legume for Vata pacification. Be sure to also soak any legumes overnight before cooking them.
Avoid eating too much cold and raw foods such as salads. If you would like to have salad, include components like cooked vegetables and oil in the dressing to balance the dry, cold, and rough qualities. Also, consider sautéing or steaming leafy greens.
Unctuous foods: Incorporate ghee (clarified butter), sesame oil, and olive oil into your cooking. These provide warmth and moisture to counter Vata's dry and rough qualities.
Spices: Cooking with warming spices can help to support the overall digestive process. Use warming spices like Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Clove. As well as Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, Fenugreek, Mustard, and Ajwain.
Hydration: Stay well-hydrated with warm water and herbal teas. Avoid cold or iced drinks as they dampen the body’s digestive fire. Warming herbal teas like Tulsi, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel are good options.
To keep immunity strong during the fall, it’s important to wear warm, layered clothing to shield yourself from cold winds and temperature drops. Be sure to cover your head and ears when going outside.
An important way to bring balancing qualities to the Vata dosha is to have regularity, rhythm, and a strong daily routine. This includes waking up and going to sleep around the same time each day, as well as having regular mealtimes. This will help to balance the mobile and irregular qualities of Vata.
Maintaining a routine will help to keep your circadian rhythm regular, so that all bodily systems can function optimally. Getting enough rest will also support the immune system, as much of the body’s rejuvenation processes happen throughout the night in deep sleep.
Other ways to boost immunity is to include lots of fresh Ginger and Turmeric in your cooking or in teas. Herbs like Garlic and Oregano can also help the body fight off colds and flus. On the sweeter side of things, an Ayurvedic formulation called Chyawanprash is a tasty herbal jam to support immunity. It can help to avoid colds, coughs, and flus, and maintain the body’s strength and nourishment.
As well, burning incense or diffusing the essential oils of aromatic plants such as Cedar, Myrrh, or Pine can help to neutralize airborne pathogens in the home, since these powerful plants contain volatile oils with antimicrobial properties.
Another great self-care practice to balance the dry qualities of fall is to massage or simply coat your body with oil. This practice is called “Abhyanga” in Ayurveda and can be done with untoasted sesame oil, sunflower, or coconut oil.
If you tend towards more heat in the body, go for coconut or sunflower oil. If you experience coldness in the body, sesame is a more warming oil that can help to regulate your temperature. Practicing Abhyanga can help keep your skin moisturized, nourish the musculoskeletal system, and provide a sense of grounding.
To Practice Abhyanga:
1. Heat up oil in a glass jar in a double boiler.
2. Apply the warm oil from your extremities towards the heart, making small circles on the joints and bigger strokes on the long bones. Apply the oil to the entire body, including the scalp and hair if desired.
3. Let the oil soak in for 10-20 minutes, then take a warm shower. Apply soap only to the hair, armpits and genitals, but allow the oil elsewhere just to rinse off.
4. After the shower, pat the body dry with a towel and put on cozy pajamas.
CAUTION: Before and during the shower, be CAREFUL not to slip. If you oil your feet, put on socks that you don’t care about so that you do not slip and fall. Be extra mindful while stepping in and out of the shower.
Other wonderful Vata balancing practices for fall can include gentle, grounding exercises like yoga or walking. Some asana yoga postures to include are Balasana (child’s pose), Gomukhasana (cow face pose), cat/cow spinal rolls, and any postures that put emphasis on the hips, pelvis, lower belly, and thighs. Taking a yin or restorative yoga class is a great option.
Lastly, taking warm baths or aromatic herbal baths is a beautiful way to keep warm and relaxed in the cold fall weather. Consider adding calming essential oils such as Lavender, Cedar, Sandalwood, or Vetiver to your bath. It's important to note that oil and water do not mix, so it’s generally NOT recommended to add essential oils directly to bath water. To safely incorporate essential oils into your bath, be sure to dilute them first by mixing 2-6 drops of essential oil in some liquid Castile soap or carrier oil, shaking well, and then add the mixture to your bath water. Refer to our Proper Essential Oil Dilution Chart for recommended dilution ratios.
Aromatic Plants For Autumn
Nutmeg is a pungent and heating herb with nervine properties that can help to move circulation and support digestion. Nutmeg can also help to induce sound sleep by relaxing the nervous system. A great way to use Nutmeg is to add a pinch of fresh powder, along with ¼ tsp of Turmeric, Cinnamon, and Cardamom, to warm milk before bed.
Cinnamon is a sweet and warming herb that tastes wonderful in cooking and teas. It supports the circulatory system and has warming digestive properties. Not only does Cinnamon help support the efficiency of the digestive system, but it can also soothe common digestive ailments like gas, bloating, cramping, indigestion, and more. It also can help to reduce menstrual cramping and musculoskeletal pain when applied topically.
In Ayurveda, a common remedy for respiratory ailments like coughs, colds, congestion, and sore throats is to make an herbal steam and inhale the vapor of Cinnamon sticks boiling in hot water. As incense and as a steam inhalant, Cinnamon has been traditionally used to soothe asthma, bronchitis, sinus congestion, and many other respiratory illnesses. Cinnamon essential oil can be diffused in the home, added to tea or cooking, incorporated into an herbal steam, or the essential oil can be properly diluted into a carrier oil to be used topically.
In Ayurveda, Clove is considered to act upon the body’s plasma, muscle, nerve, and reproductive tissues. Its indications are similar to that of Cinnamon, traditionally used for colds, coughs, indigestion, and musculoskeletal pain. Clove’s volatile oils make it a great incense. Its effect on the mind can be uplifting, and burning Clove as incense may be helpful to improve your focus during meditative practices.
Cardamom seeds have both a sweet and pungent aroma and taste. It is commonly used as a digestive stimulant. This herb has an affinity for clearing excess mucus from the lungs and stomach. It can help to soothe a sore throat and reduce wheezing, coughs, or asthma. Cardamom combines well with herbs such as Clove, Ginger, Cinnamon, and Fennel for supporting the respiratory system and digestion.
Clary Sage has a special affinity for supporting the respiratory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. It is warming in nature and can help to ground feelings of anxiety, as well as reduce muscle and joint pain due to its antispasmodic and analgesic properties. Clary Sage can also help reduce tension headaches. Clary Sage essential oil can be diffused in your home or diluted into a carrier oil to be used topically.
Lemon Balm is another wonderful herb that particularly supports digestion and the nervous system. It is most commonly used as an essential oil, herbal tea, tincture or topically, though it can be used in smudge sticks or incense cones. Lemon Balm has antiviral properties that help to protect the immune system, and it can support the mind and provide pain relief to the muscles and joints.
Want to learn more about Aromatic Plants? Join us in the Aromatic Medicine Garden for epic plant deep-dives and hour-long discussions on both herbal and aromatherapeutic uses of single aromatic plants.
warming body oil recipe
8 ounces of organic untoasted sesame oil
6 drops of Valerian essential oil
4 drops of Frankincense essential oil
3-4 drops of Nutmeg essential oil
4 drops of Clary Sage essential oil
3-4 drops of Bergamot essential oil
6-8 drops of vitamin E oil (optional)
1. Combine all of the oils together and store them in an 8 oz glass bottle. Be sure to label it with all ingredients and the date.
2. Shake well before each use. Apply to the body daily or as often as desired.
Article Written By Dawn Gibson
© 2023 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.
*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.