Summer from a TCM perspective
Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom – it’s about adapting to the seasons – eating locally grown foods in season, doing activities that suit your health and lifestyle and it’s important that we wear the right clothes in the right season! Avoiding extremes of any kind is key to a nourishing life and knowing how to keep ourselves in balance. Chinese medicine sees the importance of not just physical health, but also our spiritual and emotional health. TCM is a system that is rooted in prevention – food is medicine and the accent Chinese used food and its healing properties to build up the body when deficient, cleanse it when toxic and release it when in excess.
With these basic principles of eating with the seasons, and an awareness of the organs associated with each phase and their emotions, we can all stay healthy, strengthen our bodies, minds and spirits and live long, happy healthy lives.
Each of the seasons are regulated by an element.
Summer in TCM therapy is regulated by the Fire element and this is related to the Heart and Small Intestine. The Heart is responsible for the emotions of joy and excitement.
Summer in TCM represents the outward expression of energy – it naturally Yang (male and active energy) in nature and is ruled by fire. Life and energies are at it’s peak. The colour associated with summer is red, the emotion is joy and its time for growth expansion, light, abundance and is the manifestation of all we have been cultivating through the spring.
As it is getting warmer – (we can live in hope) we naturally eat more salads and lighter meals, this is time for lots of green leafed veggies. We wear fewer clothes and start to exercise more outside because we can, example of this is swimming in the sea. Lots more varieties of fruits and berries are available that are local to our environment – peaches, strawberries etc. and it’s becoming brighter and people are naturally in better form because of the light. I know this resonates with myself, I look forward to summer all year round, the weather is warm, sun is shining, this improves mood, my body’s Qi and vitality is at its peak.
Tips to help you make the most of the summer season:
- Drink plenty of water and herbal teas – important to stay cool and hydrated – Peppermint & Green tea are recommended. Avoid ice and ice-cold foods as these actually require more energy from the body since it needs to be heated up to body temperature before digestion and assimilation can take place. This can slow down digestion and metabolism, leading to symptoms such as bloating, heaviness of the head, stomach pain, or even diarrhoea.
- Wake up early in the morning and go to bed a little later – benefit from the suns nourishing rays.
- We should live our lives and go about our activities with joy, passion and laughter – this is how we know our heart energy is balanced.When the heart energy is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested.
- Rest at midday/lunchtime – restorative yoga practice, yoga Nidra, sitting outside with no devices or lying on your bed for 20 mins, meditation.
- All foods in TCM have temperature and energetic properties, so in summer, we should eat cool, yin foods that are nourishing to balance the heat. Summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads, full of raw veggies – cooling and hydrating for the body. These foods are also very beneficial in the summer months – apricots, watermelon, strawberries, tomato, lemon, peach, cucumber, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, celery, spinach, watercress, seaweeds, herbs – coriander, mint, dill, duck and fish and seafoods are cooling in nature.
- Refrain from anger – keep calm and even tempered – anger can cause and exacerbate heat!
Cautions for the summer season – we do need to be wary of getting overheated as this can lead to dehydration and fevers. Also we have to be mindful that the our yang energy (fire) does not come into excess and this can effect our mind, body and spirit as these are ruled by the fire element. We tend to love to play, party and have fun more in the summer, and we can burn the candle at both ends. If you’re not careful, excess fire energy/heart imbalance can consume your body and lead to overheating, nervousness, confusion, breakouts, irritability, digestive issues, heartburn, and insomnia.
If you feel your heart energy is out of balance you can give yourself an acupressure session.
Acupressure – this is a technique of applying pressure to key points along the body – it is another way to effectively cool down. Below are some points that can dispel heat from the body and ease irritability. Hold down the point for four breaths, then release for one breath, and repeat for one to two minutes at a time daily or whenever you feel overheated.
Large Intestine 11:
This point is at the end of your outer elbow crease as you flex your forearm. It’s thought to cool heat sensation and help manage inflammatory reactions in the body.
With palm facing up, curl your fingers into a loose fist. The point is where your little finger lands, on the palm between the fourth and fifth metacarpal bones, is Heart 8. This point is thought to calm fiery symptoms such as agitation, vivid dreams, insomnia, skin rash, and itchiness. Heart heat, if you have a red tip on your tongue you should use this point.
Reference: Nourishing Life the Yang Sheng Way – Deirdre Courtney