A solar term is a period of about two weeks and is based on the sun’s position in the zodiac. Solar terms form the traditional Chinese calendar system. The calendar follows the ancient Chinese belief that living in accordance with nature will enable one to live a harmonious life. This article series explores each of the year’s 24 solar terms, offering guidance on how to best navigate the season.
Solar Term: ‘Frost’s Descent’
2021 Dates: Oct. 23 to Nov. 6
Frost’s Descent is the last solar term of autumn, when the first frost of the season in the northern hemisphere is quickly approaching, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s the last period of time for things to grow before the weather makes conditions too difficult.
As the last solar term before winter, Frost’s Descent is, symbolically, a time to look within, review one’s life, and make improvements.
The turning point in the weather is caused by cold overnight temperatures that freeze the morning dew and blanket the earth with frost. There was a farmers saying in ancient China, “If there’s no frost during the time of Frost Descent, there will be a famine the following year.” They knew that if the weather didn’t get cold enough during this time, the insects would chomp down the autumn harvest, and the spring harvest, too.
The first frost brings a lot of damage to the tender species of the plant kingdom, but for those that are hardy, a frost is actually beneficial. Chinese cabbage and certain types of grapes used to produce ice wines or dessert wines are notable for getting even sweeter after a frost.
Mulberry is a very important and popular plant in Chinese medicine. The leaves, bark, root, and berries are all used as traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, and they carry different properties to perform different functions. The highest-quality mulberry leaves for therapeutic purposes are suggested to be harvested after Frost’s Descent. The plant moves the essential trace minerals and nutrients to the leaves when frost covers them up, so those leaves that can survive after the tough weather are strong and nutritious.
The same rule applies to tea. Some of the best tea is harvested after the frost, or even after snow. In order to protect the gentle buds and leaves from dying during the extreme conditions, the tea plants work hard. One can even smell the added aroma of the tea in the field right after a snow. After one to two weeks of frost or snow, the farmers can see if the tea trees have survived or been killed. The quality of the tea that survives becomes superb. It’s sweeter and more aromatic, though the overall yield is greatly reduced. These factors have made this type of tea expensive.
Frost-hardy plants teach us that if we can endure the hardships in our lives, we can transform our suffering into wisdom and positive energy.
Impact on People
The majority of our bodily functions—such as appetite and energy—are supported by enzymes. Our enzyme activity slows down with, and can even be impaired by, the temperature drop.
With the solar cycle of Frost’s Descent, and the huge turning point it brings, our bodies have to adjust. During this time, blood vessels tend to contract and tendons may tighten. People with joint problems may experience more aches during this time. Those who suffer from any kind of ulcerations or inflammation are going to feel more uncomfortable now than at other times of the year. Young people may find their acne flaring up if they don’t stick to a healthy diet and routine.
Living in Harmony With ‘Frost’s Descent’
As yin energy starts to become heavier, the coldness and humidity in the air take their toll on our bodies, especially on the lungs and respiratory system.
Stay warm. Those who catch a cold or a cough easily should wear a mask that covers both the nose and mouth.
Ancient Chinese people had a saying: Supplementing food in winter is not as beneficial as in Frost Descent.
Now is the time to nurture the digestive system by avoiding cold foods and spicy foods. Root vegetables, beans, quality vegetable oils, and lean meats are all helpful.
Eating the right diet to prepare our bodies before winter arrives will set a good foundation to protect against diseases that may hit us hardest in the colder months to come.
This period of time is also the best time to make preserved food from vegetables, fruit, and meat. The beneficial enzymes and quality nutrients in these foods promote vitality in the cold winter days until spring arrives.
Seasonal Foods to Eat
The best foods to eat at this time are generally those that are white in color, as well as apples, pears, citrus, cashews, beans, dates, mushrooms, olives, onions, pine nuts, soybeans, and yams. Avoid alcohol, hot chiles, and deep-fried or greasy food.
Seasonal herbs and essential oils that are helpful at this time are aniseed, basil, dill, eucalyptus, niaouli, sweet fennel, and turmeric.
Epoch Times contributor Moreen Liao is a descendant of four generations of traditional Chinese medicine doctors. She is also a certified aromatherapist, former dean of the New Directions Institute of Natural Therapies in Sydney, and the founder of Ausganica, a certified organic cosmetic brand. Visit LiaoMoreen.com