Summer Health and Chinese Medicine

May 29, 2015 Updated: June 19, 2016

Summer has arrived! Here in the north country the warmth and light make me want to dance in the streets, linger in outdoor cafes, and wander around the many lakes spread across our landscape like so many gold coins. The fiery and active nature of summer feels good for a number of reasons.

As we near the summer solstice, we are approaching the longest, most Yang time of the year. Like the sunny side of a hill, Yang is light, bright, and active. In Chinese medicine, summer is associated with the element of fire, and rightly so. Fueled by the wood element of spring, the fiery summer months are when everything in nature has expanded to its peak–flowers bloom, vegetables ripen, birds nest, and we humans just naturally want to go outside, move, and soak up the warm sunlight that we missed all winter long.

beach couple jumping of joy
In Chinese medicine, each organ system is associated with an emotion, and for the Chinese Heart, that emotion is joy. (andresrimaging/iStock)

 

Summer and the element of fire is associated with your Chinese Heart, which is the organ system responsible for warming and moving things: blood through your vessels, the activity of your mind, and the warmth of your body, which animates you as a human being.

In Chinese medicine, each organ system is associated with an emotion, and for the Chinese Heart, that emotion is joy. It reflects the potential for happiness, brightness, and activity. In addition, your Heart is also home to something called the Shen, which encompasses your mind, memory, consciousness, and spirit. We know rationally that these activities are attributed to the brain, but we also know that the Heart is an organ of great feeling. When you say you feel something with all your heart, feel heartsick, or have a broken heart, you are acknowledging that your Heart is an emotional organ system.

While the fiery element of your Chinese Heart has the capacity to engender great joy and brightness in your life, there are also some pitfalls when it becomes out of balance. The joyful giddiness of the Heart can run wild and become mania; and a disturbed Shen can give way to anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. In addition, the warm nature this fire element can make you susceptible to heat conditions. Flushing, hot flashes, inflammation, infections, an overall sensation of heat, and even dryness can be caused by too much Heart Fire.

(leungchopan/iStock)
Cucumbers, beans, melons, lettuce, and berries are all cooling foods that help balance the heat of the season. (leungchopan/iStock)

Here are some simple steps you can take to honor the season of summer, nourish your Chinese Heart, and keep the fire element in balance:

-Celebrate the season by spending time outside. Look for natural settings like parks, wooded areas, and gardens that reflect the natural beauty of the season.

-Find ways to bring joyfulness into your life. This can be difficult when you are working, caring for others, and tending to daily chores and routines. However, if you can find moments for yourself and activities that you like to do–things that bring you joy–you will be nourishing your emotional Heart.

Eat foods that are in season now. Cucumbers, beans, melons, lettuce, and berries are all cooling foods that help balance the heat of the season. In addition, the color red is associated with your Chinese Heart, so go for tomatoes, red bell peppers, a little (very little) red meat, and red wine. Yum! 

(styf22/iStock)
Nourish the Shen aspect of your Heart through connections. (styf22/iStock)

-Summer is the time to eat good food with good friends outdoors, because food that brings you joy also feeds your Heart. Meals that have been prepared with love, foods you love to eat, and gathering with friends or family for a meal are all Heart-nourishing. Being able to eat outdoors makes the meal even better!

-Stay cool. While the expansive and active nature of this season makes us want to move, too much activity has the ability to create more heat. Balance the fire element by drinking plenty of water, soak in a pool or lake, and eat very moist foods like melons or gazpacho.

-Nourish the Shen aspect of your Heart through connections. Connect with your sense of purpose through journaling and self-exploration, connect with others in social situations, and connect to the divine through meditation or prayer. In addition, time spent in nature is the perfect way to connect with the warmth and light of the season, so go outdoors!

This article was originally published on acupuncturetwincities.com

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