Tuning into the Summer Season, by Jade (JO) Oswald, R.TCMP.!

As the days get longer and the temperatures start to increase into the double digits we are well on our way to the hottest and brightest time of year, SUMMER!

Here in the northern hemisphere summer is often recognized as starting at the moment the sun is farthest north or the “Summer Solstice” around June 20-21. The Chinese seasonal calendar recognizes the 4 seasons plus transitional time as we shift between seasons based on the location of the sun in relation to the earth. Though we often consider summer to begin with the solstice, the Chinese seasonal calendar marks the beginning of May as the transition to summer and the end of May as the start to summer with the summer solstice as the seasonal midpoint.

According to Chinese medicine theory spring and summer are considered Yang seasons. Yang represents the energy of growth, expansion, and outward movement. The movement of Yin and Yang are reflected in our seasons, with spring the amount of Yang energy begins to gradually increase and we meet the maximum amount of Yang energy at the summer solstice. We then begin our transition back to the Yin seasons of fall and winter.

The Yang energy is reflected in the environment with longer warmer days and an abundance of growth in the natural world. Humans too can feel this Yang energy at this time of year and the outward expansion is often reflected with more time spent outdoors enjoying summer activities, later bedtimes, seasonal foods and warmth in the body!

The Summer season is associated with the Fire phase or “element”. And the Heart & Small intestine organ systems. During summer we can support overall health by trying to mimic this Fire/Yang movement of nature, but we need to be cautious to do so just right. Both too little and too much can divert us from health.

Seasonal suggestions according to TCM

One of the main principles of Chinese Medicine is living in accordance with nature and harmonizing as best as we can with the season and our surrounding environment. Doing so can help to support your health & keep illness at bay throughout the year.

Please take note that these are general guidelines and are recommended as in anything based on what is attainable and feels good for you and your body! In TCM we look at seasonal guidance alongside individual constitution & current state of health. If ever looking for specifically tailored suggestions talk to your local acupuncturist / TCM provider.

Enjoy the sun in moderation

Be mindful of heat exposure & excessive sweating!

Spending a lot of time out in the heat can damage the qi & cause excessive heat in the body. This can present with symptoms such as fatigue, depletion, fever, thirst, irritability, skin conditions (rashes, acne, redness), excessive sweating, insomnia, hyperactivity, and increased inflammation.

Stay hydrated!

Adequate fluid intake. Small sips throughout the day goes a long way!

Consuming warm/hot beverages – warm beverages can actually reduce the amount of heat stored by opening the pores and allowing sweat (and heat) to escape while also protecting your digestion.. However if you are already sweating a lot you may want to reach for a more neutral temperature drink or enjoy a cool beverage from time to time.

Consuming drinks such as herbal teas, electrolyte rich drinks, or even water with a splash of lemon and a little sprinkle of salt can help to retain fluids and keep you more adequately hydrated.

Try making a hydrating cold infusion

Herbal infusions can be delicious and a fabulous way to hydrate during the summer!

Materials needed:

  • Glass jar or vessel w/ lid
  • Water
  • Fresh or dried herbs — this could be freshly picked from your garden, responsibly harvested or purchased from a local herb shop such as Green Muse Herbs. This method is best for aromatic plants whose volatile compounds do best with less heat.

Generally speaking, 5-8 tsp of herbs to 4 cups of water.. However you can adjust this based on how light or strong you want your brew. Put the plant material in water and let it remain overnight at room temperature. Or if making during the day can let soak 2-10 hours, give a shake occasionally. Then strain and enjoy!

Infusions are best to consume the same day but can be placed in the fridge and consumed within two days.

Some great herbs to use in cold infusions include mint, lemon balm, rose petal, hibiscus, borage, Tulsi, chamomile, green tea, & raspberry leaf. Lots of these herbs can help to clear heat & reduce your body temperature while also being rich in vitamins & minerals to keep you hydrated! I also love to add fresh fruit or citrus or a little sweetener to make it a yummy herbally lemonade. Fresh raspberries are a favorite of mine. Have fun and experiment! There are so many fun options to make.

Consume seasonal foods

There are two basic approaches to eating in the summer. A preventive approach that harmonizes the body with the basic Yang nature of Summer, and a remedial approach that cools the body when there is over exposure to that Yang/heat.

General guidelines include:

  • Taking advantage of the seasonal & local produce — what’s in season is usually best!
  • Enjoying lighter fare and incorporating some raw fruits and veggies.
  • If your digestion is sensitive or compromised it may be best to lightly cook.
  • Incorporating some cooling foods that tend to be full of moisture and can help balance body heat such as: cucumber, fresh greens, melon, zucchini, celery, cilantro, sprouts, mint etc.
  • Balancing all the fun and yummy cool temperature treats like smoothies, ice cream, and iced drinks with warm water or tea to help to protect your digestion. Ginger tea is a nice one!

Fun movement & frolicking

Exploring movement that is joyous and feels good in your body!

A little dip in the lake, stroll in the park, bike ride or some stretching in the grass. Whatever works for you!

This is the best time of year if you can, to increase your activity level. A little sweat and blood pumping to get your circulation flowing!

Pausing and allowing for moments of joy and beauty

In TCM the emotion of the heart and season is joy… now I know this is easier said than done…

Especially as we bear witness to genocide and all the horrors and struggles of the world and life. But trying to find some sense of joy / simplicity / beauty in the small or large moments of life.

Get outside & take a moment, carving out time to feel the sun on your skin & the breeze in your hair & feel the lightness & joy that can come out of it. Watch a seagull soar, coo at a dog at the park, smile at a stranger, watch a bumblebee suckle nectar, look at a pretty flower, read a book under a shady tree… whatever makes you SPARKLE.

Take a deep BREATHE and let it OUT!

Acupressure for heat clearing

Some gentle stimulation & pressing of these points can be helpful to clear heat & moderate your body temperature. Helpful for excess heat related symptoms! These points are commonly needled for fever and would be excellent for sun stroke!

Grab a buddy or do some acupressure on yourself. Aiming to massage & stimulate each point for a few full deep belly breaths.

LI11 QŪCHÍ – a point located at the elbow. The easiest way to locate it is to bend your arm and look for the end of the crease on the outer side of your bent elbow.

UB40 WĚIZHŌNG – located at the back of the knee in the crease! Smack dab in the middle.

SJ5 WÀIGUĀN – the point lies on the back of the forearm between the ulna and radius bones, approximately 3 fingers width above the wrist where it bends when flexed.

Gua Sha (scraping) & Cupping

Did you know Gua Sha & Cupping can be used to clearing heat & aid in circulation? Some gentle Gua Sha applied to the neck and shoulders or arms can help to vent the heat in your system.

Some commonly used objects for Gua Sha include spoons or jar lids, or if you have a Gua Sha tool!

For more guidance and advice about Gua Sha,  contact us and maybe even book in for a Cupping & Gua sha treatment at H&H! My hours at H&H start this July 2024!

Wishing you a vibrant, healthy & safe Summer season!

Jade (JO) Oswald, R.TCMP.

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