Autumn Rituals

My mother had a ritual around this time of year that I have adopted, which is to wash and fold all the summer clothes and put them in the storage containers for the winter, having already removed all the winter clothes that had been put away last summer. It’s the semi-annual swap of the seasonal clothes! I enjoy this ritual. It is like inviting a new energy in, recognizing and honoring the change of seasons and how it affects our lives. I try on various outfits to see if they still fit well or look trendy enough, or aren’t too worn out and old, maybe even remembering special occasions when I last wore them. Some clothes even feel like old friends coming back for a visit. I have piles of “keep” and “give away” until all the clothes are sorted out. Then I ritualistically hang everything up, or put them into drawers, knowing I am moving into a new my new season’s persona in harmony with the Earth energies. It’s like a rite of passage, albeit a small one, from one season to the next. And because I protect the stored clothes with essential oils, when I open the containers, a wonderful faint waft of aroma comes up. I like using the cedarwood blocks that you can buy to put at the bottom of the plastic storage boxes. But I also like to refresh the blocks with different essential oils. For my sweaters, I might impregnate the block with more cedarwood oil mixed with a little citrus and frankincense essential oils. With my tee shirts and shorts I might add lavender, rose or geranium to the cedarwood block, so that summer scents will already be on my clothes when I open the box in the spring. There are no specific recipes for this; it’s whatever you feel might comfort or amuse you, since all essential oils offer some protection against bug infestation.

Autumn has other rituals. This is the time we are settling back into routine. In Chinese Five Element philosophy, fall is a time for re-establishing boundaries and a return to norm. The summer days of ease and freedom have been packed away with the shorts and sleeveless shirts and a sense of impending hunker-down time is coming. We might mourn the loss of the carefree days and feel sad that we are back to schedules and time constraints. Oils that assist us in moving through a sense of the loss of summer are frankincense, neroli, rose otto, melissa, rose Maroc, and geranium.

One autumn ritual is Halloween - the start of the Sugar Season… For many that’s the first step in a downhill slide into seasonal addictions. We begin with a sugar high from nibbling the left over Halloween candy, which when it’s gone usually leaves us in a sugar slump of depression, making us want more candy for that high again. Fall football games and tailgate parties bring an excess of alcohol and junk food, weakening our resistance and making us want more of the addictive junk food to feel good again. Then we roll into Thanksgiving with that holiday’s overload of food and drink; followed by Christmas parties, Christmas meals, and special holiday goodies. This is then topped off by the excesses of New Year’s Eve. By January 2nd most of us are so sugared out, we fall into a winter depression where all we do is crave comfort foods to keep us warm and content through the cold winter months. Here we generally gravitate towards refined carbohydrates full of sugar for our depression/comfort foods. Face it; this is a difficult time of year! Essential oils can help us out of the slump, keeping in mind of course that essential oils are not be the “be all and end all” of sugar addictions. Alleviating sugar addiction would require a change of diet (junk foods, refined flours, hidden sugars, and sodas would have to be avoided and more whole foods added), with the addition of more exercise and drinking more water. But essential oils can help with the psycho-emotional nature of seasonal addictions as well as some of the physical toxicity.


Oils that help detoxify the body after sugar excesses are:

  • helichrysum,
  • juniper,
  • lemon,
  • garlic,
  • clary sage and
  • fennel oils.

Appetite suppressants that help after over-indulgence are:

  • bergamot,
  • juniper,
  • lavender and
  • celery seed oils.

Oils that relieve bloating and nausea are:

  • cardamom,
  • cinnamon,
  • ginger,
  • chamomile and
  • peppermint oils.

Hangovers, fatigue and headaches can be relieved with one or a combination of:

  • eucalyptus,
  • fennel,
  • lavender,
  • marjoram,
  • peppermint,
  • rosemary,
  • ginger and
  • lemon oils.

And of course along with the sugar roller coaster and impending winter comes a tendency towards depression. Depression when coming down from a sugar high can be turned around with the aid of a combination including: bergamot, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, melissa, lavender, neroli, rose, sandalwood and ylang-ylang. Yet, autumn depression can be an emotional thing, again related to the loss of an easy summer lifestyle. With winter coming on and the promise of shortened days and cold nights, we often feel a low grade, endogenous sense of anxiety and constriction. This could possibly be related to a lack of serotonin and serotonin polymorphisms. Serotonin is the “feel good” hormone in the body and when the uptake of this hormone is challenged by the change in circadian rhythms, then symptoms like depression can set in. Conventional medicine would prescribe an anti-depressant that blocks the uptake of serotonin in the body, leaving higher levels for the brain. But often, conventional medications can have detrimental side effects. And this is where aromatherapy’s essential oils can help for depression! Essential oils, when inhaled, head straight for the limbic system, which because of its relationship to the endocrine system allows for balanced hormone production and release. When we stimulate the hypothalamus part of the limbic system, we return it to “set point” much like a thermostat adjusting hot and cold. Among other things, the hypothalamus regulates hunger, thirst and response to pleasure and pain, which are key factors in depression. Essential oils that can assist in relieving depression are basil, bergamot, chamomile, clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang.

But autumn is not all about doom and gloom because summer is over and winter is coming… Autumn is about harvest and reaping the success of the summer growth and storing away the bounty of a fruitful garden. Autumn is a time of change and there is a natural energy to encourage the storing away of summer bounty (and bathing suits) and the settling into a more uniform life. It is part of the harmonic flow of the earth.