An Herbalist’s Perspective on Autumn Care

Autumn in the northeastern United States means that green becomes gold as plants stop producing chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green, causing the familiar and fleeting warmer pigments to shine through. The trees are preparing for the coldness and darkness of winter. One way they do this is by consolidating and drawing their resources down and inward. Plants also release parts of themselves that cannot be sustained, mostly their foliage, as an answer to Autumn’s call of necessity and discernment.

A time for looking inward -- hands inside a sweater holding a cup of tea beside a book with dried autumn leaves on it.

The transition seasons are beautiful and embody an energy of "bothness." For this reason, Autumn and Spring may require us to spend a bit more attention orienting to time and space, our bodies, daily rhythms, and both the kind of and preparation of herbs, foods, and beverages we have daily. What metaphorical foliage are you called to drop as you move into the quiet and fertile darkness of Winter’s womb? What are you drawing inside for sustenance?

Ideally we match the dry and cool nature of Autumn, seen in curling leaves and the first brisk winds, by focusing on food and herbs that are moistening and warming. Thankfully these are the very ones available to us right now: roots, fruits, and dense greens (Cabbage, Broccoli Brussel Sprouts, Kale, etc). Combine food and herbs with warming and detoxifying spices like Cinnamon, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Ginger, Anise, and Cardamom. Such spices soothe the body and mind, while helping to support a healthy immune function and digestive regularity. Longer, slower, more water-based preparations such as stews, soups, braises, and decoctions are perfect this time of year and become staples moving into winter.

Roots: Think of a plant growing from the soil. A strong root allows them to grow confidently knowing they won’t be blown away. In autumn, much of the energy of a plant is directed to the roots for storage and these resources are called upon when spring arrives. This is why carrots often become sweeter in autumn. Roots as both food and as herbs offer us grounding and confidence, and are deeply nourishing. Burdock is an example of a plant that fits snugly in categories of both ‘food’ and ‘herb’. Other herbal roots to consider in autumn include Dandelion, Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Ginger, Onion, Horseradish, and Garlic. When it comes to food, look towards the seasonal stars, Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Sweet Potatoes, Turnips, and any of your fall favorites.

Pumpkin squash, garlic, ginger, and onion.

Fruits: Until the frost arrives, Autumn is truly the harvest season. Autumn fruit tends to be dense and have a sweet quality. This sweet quality is moistening and restoring to the body. Fruits often bring a sense of “fruition”, comfort, and sustained energy which is why so many have historically been preserved as essential delights for the traditionally sparser winter days. Apples, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Peppers. Pumpkin and Winter Squash. For herbal fruits that bring balance and strength, look to Rose Hips, Schisandra, and Hawthorn Berry. Stew or prepare with spices for extra support.

Happy Autumn!

Susan Staley
Susan Staley


1 Response

Anya Wolfenden
Anya Wolfenden

November 30, 2021

Beautifully written thank you ❤️💜

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