Summer: The Season of the Fire Element
The season filled with abundant energy, long days and sunshine. Summer is the season of yang, a time when the body undergoes vigorous metabolic (body energy) processes. Several thousand years ago, The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor put forth the principle that one should cultivate the yang energy in spring and summer, while protecting the yin energy in autumn and winter.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we have a healing methodology called the 5 Phases (Elements). Summer is ruled by the Fire element and is expressed in nature as well as in the body. Growth, joy and spiritual awareness between the heart and mind are the focus during this season. Summer-heat belongs to the element of fire and is predominant during the summer season. Thus, top priority should be given to the heart, mind, and spirit for staying healthy in summer.
The heart’s main function is to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. But, in Chinese medicine, mental activity is associated with the heart and therefore our memory, thought processes, emotional well-being, and consciousness are also attributed to the heart and fire element. This is a time to nourish and pacify our spirits, and to realize our life’s greatest potential as we find joy in our hot summer days and warm summer nights. When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm and sleep is sound.
When the fire element is imbalanced, we may either lack joy (depression) or have an excess of joy (mania). Symptoms of summer heat are excess body heat, profuse sweating, parched mouth and throat, constipation, and heart palpitations, agitation, nervousness, heartburn, and insomnia.
Consider a healthy, nutritional diet and getting good quality sleep and moderate exercise as this can keep our physical form at its best, always. Consider Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal medicine or homeopathic medicine and these tips for better health in the summer months.
Tips for Summer Health
To prevent summer ills and remain in harmony with the environment of summer, ancient Chinese physicians advised:
- Awaken earlier in the morning.
- Go to bed later in the evening.
- Rest at midday.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Add pungent flavors to your diet.
- Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered.
In summer, indigestion can easily occur, so a light and less-greasy diet is strongly recommended. It is the perfect season to introduce some cool, yin foods into your diet. Chinese nutrition classifies food according to its energetic qualities of temperature, taste, and ability to moisten and strengthen the body. Food with cool and cold properties can clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate body fluids. In general, cooling foods tend towards the green end of the spectrum – lettuce, cucumbers, and watercress are some of the coolest. Few vegetables are warming. Fish and seafood are also cooling, while most other meats are warming.
These fruits and vegetables will help your body adjust its temperature and protect you during the long, hot summer days: Watermelon, Apricot, Cantaloupe, Lemon, Peach, Orange, Asparagus, Sprouts, Bamboo, Bok choy, Broccoli, Chinese cabbage, Cucumber, White mushroom, Snow peas, Spinach, Summer squash, Watercress, Seaweed, Cilantro, Mint, and Dill.
Stay away from dairy, heavy, greasy, and fried foods.
Beware of Heat Exhaustion
The summer heat can sneak up on you and not only zap your energy, while you are outdoors, but it can cause dehydration, sunburn and actual exhaustion! Children under four, people over 65, and those who are obese, already ill, or taking medications can especially be affected very easily. Prolonged exposure to heat and insufficient body fluid can result in heat exhaustion. Its symptoms can include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness headache and nausea or vomiting. Here are the best remedies for heat exhaustion:
- Carry water with you and sip it throughout the day. Dehydration can set in and we don’t even realize it until we begin to feel thirsty!
- Pace yourself when working outdoors, exercising or just having fun. Those who participate in regular exercise over time, allowing their bodies to adjust to hot conditions, may better tolerate exercise on hot days.
- Replace salts and minerals with electrolytes such as those found in Electrolyte Synergy. Avoid drinks with large amounts of sugar. Dehydration can stress the heart and impair the kidneys’ ability to maintain the correct level of fluids and balance of electrolyte. Electrolytes are charged elements—like potassium, sodium, phosphorous and chloride—essential for the normal function of every cell in the body. Keep a pitcher of water with slices of lemon and cucumber with you and sip it throughout the day.
- Wear lightweight clothing the lighter the colored clothing (white, being ideal) the more sunlight is reflected away from you. Darker colors absorb the light and heat.
- Seek air conditioning, cool breezes under the shade and/or take cool showers in order to bring down your body temperature.
- Sunburn can happen very easily if you are not careful. Dilute one part Tea Tree Oil with ten parts of olive oil or coconut oil and spread freely over the affected areas. This is soothing and pain-relieving and to reduce blistering and peeling. People have also applied tea tree oil full strength to sunburn.
- Use common sense. Schedule your outdoor activities to avoid the hottest parts of the day, and use a buddy system if necessary to keep watch on those at high risk.
- If you feel dizzy and/or stop sweating, quit all activity and get out of the sun fast. Drink cool, not cold water with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in it. The vinegar helps to replace electrolytes and minerals like sports drinks do.
- In ancient Egypt, China and the Far East, watermelon juice and its seeds were traditionally offered to thirsty travelers, and they are still important today in times of drought or water pollution. This flavorful fruit is one of the best remedies for dehydration and summer heat symptoms, which include thirst without desire to drink, band-like headache, nausea, low appetite, heavy, weighted body sensation, low motivation, sluggish digestion, increased body temperature, sticky sweat, surging pulse, and red tongue with thick white or yellow coating. Watermelon cools and cleanses the system, clearing summerheat and acts as a natural diuretic.
- Take a cool bath. Run a cool bath and relax in the water for 15-20 minutes. Try to submerge as much of your body as possible.
Supporting the Heart and Mind with Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been found to be helpful with all types of emotional and mental disorders, from stress and anxiety to schizophrenia. One Acupuncture point often used for such treatments is Yintang, which is located between the eyebrows – sometimes referred to as “the third eye.”
The Chinese translation for the acupuncture point, Yintang, is “hall of impression”. “Hall” is defined as a corridor or passageway, or the large entrance room of a house. An “impression” is defined as a strong effect produced on the intellect, emotions, or conscience. Thus, Yintang is the entrance or passageway to the mind and is an appropriate name for this powerful point, which is used to calm the mind, enhance one’s ability to focus, soothe emotions, promote sleep, and relieve depression.
Strengthening the immune system should be a part of any seasonal ritual! Any tonic formula that strengthens the essence, nourishes the Qi and regulates the heart is appropriate. Remember, the best form of medicine, is preventative. Learn how to heal with the seasons and how Traditional Chinese Medicine can bring your body back into balance!