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Late Summer, the Earth Element and the Color Yellow

Sarica Cernohous

Of the following descriptions, how might you categorize yourself?

  • Balanced in perspective
  • Experience even energy throughout the day
  • Hardworking and industrious
  • Physically able and active
  • Have a healthy appetite with good digestion
  • Responsible and focused affect, with orderly, functional surroundings


  • Feel chronically tired and rundown
  • Have a lack of vitality, both in body and spirit
  • Experience tendencies toward compulsiveness and/or being ‘stuck in a rut’
  • Have a poor appetite, possibly nauseated, with a tendency toward loose stool and often craving sweets
  • Body feels weak-limbed, with poor muscle tone
  • Live and work in surroundings that are disorderly, possibly filled with items of little use

If you see yourself reflected in the first set of options, then you are likely quite balanced in the Earth element of the 5-Element paradigm of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Likewise, more of a tendency toward the second set likely belies weakness in the Earth element.

5-Element theory holds that the Earth element plays a key role in our ability to ‘transform and transport.’ This means a desire and an ability to take in food, transform it into a substance that can be used by our body for fuel and nourishment, and then to transport it throughout our body, energizing, building and replenishing us, and finally to transport the residual waste from our filtering systems and out of our body. If this ability is in any way impaired, we can experience nausea or a lack of interest in food; we can crave sweets as a quick ‘up’ for a system that is not providing good nourishment to the body; we can have loose stools as the filtering systems of our body are impeded and not properly absorbing needed nutrients and water from the food we consume; and, if we aren’t transporting good nutrients throughout our body, then our thinking is muddled and we feel weak in our mind, our spirit and our body. This kind of weakness can lead to poor muscle tone, over-thinking, worry and compulsive tendencies.

Acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle counseling can all benefit a person with weakness in the Earth element. Additionally, changes in diet can be a tremendous boon, allowing one to make positive adjustments that improve health with each meal. Yellow-orange is the color of the Earth element, mildly sweet is its flavor, and its shape is round. Using foods such as sweet potatoes, millet, squashes, quinoa, carrots, peas, garbanzo beans, organic chicken and/or turkey, clarified butter, peaches and apricots can benefit the Earth element. Additionally, using warming spices and herbs has great benefit: Black pepper, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and nutmeg are very good selections.

Seasonally, late summer, and all the ‘shoulder’ periods, adjacent to solstices and equinoxes, are the times of the Earth element. The Earth has a settling energy, being a grounding touchstone to the volatility of movement from one season to another. So, it benefits us in times like these (or at any time when we need to settle down) to eat smaller meals, preferably steamed, or in a soup, or lightly sauteed, consumed more frequently through the day. This eases the burden on our digestive system and gives us a steady flow of energy through calories. Additionally, we should exercise in moderation and allow some time for meditation and reflection.

The following is a very nutritious soup, full of vegetarian sources of protein and B-Vitamins. Its wonderful yellow color owes not only to the yellow split peas, but also to the orange vegetables, yellow curry, nutritional yeast, and turmeric. It’s great as a quick snack, or for a more filling meal, pair with steamed quinoa or millet. Try sprinkling with a few raisins and chopped raw, cashews, to enhance the natural sweetness of the soup’s ingredients.

Curried Yellow Split Pea and Yam Soup

2 cups organic yellow split peas, sorted and rinsed
1 cup chopped celery hearts
1 large carrot, sliced and quartered
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 zucchini, chopped in quarters
1 medium yam, chopped in pieces uniform to the carrots and squash
2 cups spinach
4 fresh garlic cloves, minced
3-4 quarts filtered water
3 bay leaves
3 _ teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 heaping tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon chili seeds
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
2-3 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)

Bring to boil and allow to simmer for 2 hours, or until all vegetables are well-cooked and breaking up into soup, and split peas are mushy. Stir often from the bottom to prevent scorching.

This soup will taste wonderful when finished, and even better the next day, as the flavors have more opportunity to mellow together.

Yields approximately 5 quarts of soup. Store in the refrigerator and consume within 3 days. Any additional soup stores well in the freezer for up to 2 months.


Sarica Cernohous, L.Ac., MSTOM, is a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, living and practicing Japanese Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Counseling in Peoria, AZ.

The information listed above is not intended to treat, cure or prevent illness or disease.

Sarica Cernohous

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