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Autumn and the Metal Element

5 elements chinese medicine metal element Dec 14, 2021

“All bodily Qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the Lung’s Qi is clear and straightforward, then there's not a single type Qi in the body that will not obey and fall along smoothly. 

However, if the Lung Qi becomes abstracted and turns murky, then the Qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

- Yu Chung, Chinese Scholar, The statutes of medicine from 1658

Metal Element

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the season of the Metal element and when we’re talking about metal, we’re talking primarily about the lungs/large intestine relationship. We all know how important our lungs are for breath. Breath is life. The lung network is very important within metal.

It's really not possible to talk about the metal element without talking about Qi, because, of course, the lungs and respiratory system are taking in air, oxygen and then they are distributing air and energy to all the different parts of the body.

Wei Qi


A discussion of the metal element would not be complete without looking at the body’s Wei Qi and immune system. Wei Qi is a form of Qi, (there really is only one essential energy Qi but it can manifest in different forms), and Wei Qi or defensive Qi, is one of these forms.  

We can say that Wei Qi or protective Qi is considered the strongest type of Qi in the body. So during the daytime, it is along the surface area of the body in the skin and in the muscles and it’s warming and nourishing all of the outer tissues and outer areas of the body. It’s responsible for circulation, opening and closing of the pores and the sweat glands and then it’s defending the body against disease factors. And at night, the protective Qi is able to go inward a and help to protect the organs of the body.

We know that when the protective Qi is strong then diseases or pathogens from the outside including viruses and weather influences, climatic factors and even emotional factors, will not penetrate into the body. If the Wei Qi is a little bit less strong then the diseases may enter the body but they’re going to stay at an exterior level. And then of course if the body is very, very deficient then the disease factors may penetrate to the interior levels and then that can profoundly affect the functioning of the internal organs and the meridian system. 

Wei Qi and our Immune System

So we know that our wei Qi is directly related to the concept of the immune system and that the immune system has a very essential and important role in healing. It is very much involved with inflammation in the body, with any kind of asthma and allergies, and with skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. And we can say that the metal element and its relationship to the Wei Qi body has its strong role in all of these areas. 

Evidence is growing that immune system imbalances can also be associated with things such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fibromyalgia and many other conditions. So the immune system can become very overloaded through toxins, through stress, through viruses, and other pathogens and through poor nutrition.

Herb tip


There are so many good ways to work on tonifying the immune system but one of the key ways is to work with Chinese herbs or western herbs. And one of the Chinese herbs that really helps to support the immune system which is also used in western herbalism is the Chinese herb astragalus.


So astragalus is considered many things including an incredible Qi tonic because of the sap in the plant known as the astragulocides. And it supports the cells of the body, the integrity of the mucus membranes and the epithelial cells and really works very specifically with the respiratory tract, the whole upper respiratory system through being an anti-oxidant.

Astragalus also contains polysaccharides that are very important in being able to support the immune system. One of the things that makes astragalus really unique as an immune system enhancer is it supports what we call surface immune system as well as the deep immune system. So the surface immune system is the Wei Qi system as we describe being able to keep out the invaders and being able to really strengthen the surface of the body. But at the same time, astragalus supports the deep immune system function by supporting normal levels of immune cells including B cells and T cells and really assisting in the immune system and the immune cells functioning especially when the immune system is stressed out by environmental issues.

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