Each one of us is linked to a predominant element or temperament, these have been part of the Western Tradition of Medicine since the days of Hippocrates. Each of the Four Temperaments (Choleric, Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholic) carries certain characteristics relating to one of the Four Elements (Fire, Water, Air, Earth), as does each of the Four Seasons (Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring).
We all have our preferred season, a season we feel more alive in, more able to live with life’s demands. This is the season we feel most at balance in and more attuned with – ‘Our Season’. This may vary depending on our age, the climate we live in, our current situation, but if we question and search, there is usually one season we feel the greatest affinity with.
How then can we bring this feeling of balance to the other seasons? By exploring the season and our temperament that draw us out of balance, but by being mindful about the choices we make in our daily diet we can help ourselves and our families adjust to the seasonal transitions. In time, we can use this mindfulness to adapt and help keep balance during other times of change and the challenges that we may face.
The Fire Element – Summer and the Choleric Temperament
Summer is Hot and Dry, the Choleric Temperament runs Hot and Dry.
The end of summer and the threat of fires shows us the effect of too much Heat and Dryness. A person with a Choleric Temperament may well love Summer, with all its sizzling heat, but too much even for the Choleric, will leave them withered, burnt out and dry. If we are experiencing too much dryness and the Fire Element either through the Season or through the Choleric Temperament, we need cooling and moistening. Cool, Wet foods are called for : Raw Vegetables, Pears, Apples, Summer Fruits, Rice, Fish, Spinach, Cucumber, Lettuce.
Or we may find summer leaving us feeling down in the dumps or overly fluidy in which case we need to look at the indications for the opposite temperament (Phlegmatic) and include more drying foods.
The Earth Element – Autumn and the Melancholic Temperament
Autumn is Cold and Dry, reflected by the Melancholic Temperament.
Autumn brings an inner sadness at the loss of natures vibrancy, it is a time of solitude and quiet contemplation. Our bodies slow down and our minds experience a buoyancy of thought. It is the intellectual season. Our appetite increases to compensate for the cooler weather and to produce an inner warmth.
To help balance the season and the Melancholic Temperament, it is important to introduce warmth to our food – warm soups, stews, ginger and spices. Oats are the grain that brings in the fire – the grain that gives that extra zing to the metabolism. Honey adds a little sweetness and buoyancy. Other foods to eat are fresh bread, soft cheese, chicken, lamb, turnips, chickpeas, olive oil, figs, raisins, dates and nuts.
It is time to leave the cooler foods of summer behind us – the cucumbers, lettuce, salads. Instead get creative with your salads by utilising grains and roast vegetables. When choosing root vegetables look for those that are sweet and bring their own lightness – carrots with their radiant colour and light are ideal. Potatoes and Soy are best left out – they come from the darkness beneath the earth while we are searching for that light to follow through the growing dark. Likewise, meat too can be a heavy burden, it drags us back down to the depths, rather than letting us journey and arrive there slowly.
Hypericum is the herb of the season. Hypericum helps bring in light and warmth – it gives the metabolism a spark to work from. Hypericum baths or a body oil is the ideal therapy for this time of year.
As we feel heavier, slower and more connected to the earth, it is important to introduce moderate exercise – again to provide that much needed lift and an internal warmth.
The Water Element – Winter and the Phlegmatic Temperament
Winter is Cold and Wet, qualities it shares with the Phlegmatic Temperament. A sleepy, drowsy time of year when outer activity is frozen, but much is happening beneath the ground.
What foods can we eat to help balance the season and the Phlegmatic Temperament? Foods that bring warmth and help to dry the abundance of water we find at this time of year. Foods that have stored and harnessed the warmth of summer that they are now willing to release and spread within our inner being.
This is a time of warm soups, hot stews, ginger and horseradish. Warming spices can help dry and warm – aniseed, fennel and cinnamon. The oil found in nuts holds much needed warmth. Other foods to eat freely are hard cheese, garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, cabbage, carrots and parsnip. As the cooler weather brings an increased appetite, we try to produce our own inner warmth. It is important not to overeat and to keep meals small as our outer activity decreases.
Like in Autumn, Hypericum is the plant that will bring light and warmth to this dark time of the year. Use in the bath, as a massage oil or to envelop the body in a warming, protective cocoon, my favourite, Hypericum Sphagni. When thinking of metals and minerals, Iron, Gold and Phosphorous help balance the qualities of the season – Iron gives a spark and strength often lagging at this time of year, Gold is the metal of the Sun and Phosphorous provides a light to guide us through the dark.
Winter is a time to embrace our own inner sanctuaries, to cease excess outer activity and rekindle the space around our home fires. A time to rediscover the simplicities of life, like roast chestnuts, retiring to bed early or relishing the smell of freshly baked bread. Enjoy winter, the light will soon be shining brightly and beaconing us on our way once more.
The Air Element – Spring and the Sanguine Temperament
Spring brings the warmth and airy element, qualities it shares with the Sanguine Temperament.
Annette Batchelor ND RM BT
Naturopathic Consultations in the Spirit of Anthroposophy, Victoria, Australia