Oh, how we love SUMMER!
In Chinese Medicine, living in harmony with nature and the seasons is a recipe for good health. The summer months bring long days, sunshine and abundant energy. It is the season for growth and maturation, where we can enjoy the fruits of our labour – literally!
According to Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with an organ system in the body.
Summer, is associated with the Heart.
Here are some tips to help nourish your Heart energy and stay cool and healthy during the warm summer season.
1. WAKE UP EARLY to take advantage of the longer days, warm weather, and nourishing sunshine. Put this extra energy to good use by bringing projects to fruition, accomplishing your goals, and letting your best self shine through.
2. EAT LIGHT MEALS rich in fruits and vegetables, especially bitter greens. These foods have cooling properties and are easy for the body to digest.
Avoid heavy, fatty foods and cut back on red meat. These foods will heat you up and weigh you down.
3. DRINK TEA. Substitute your morning coffee (heating) for peppermint or green tea (cooling).
4. GET OUTSIDE! Be active! A healthy heart requires daily exercise.
5. STAY HYDRATED by drinking ample amounts of liquids. Avoid excessively cold food and drinks. Their extreme cold can restrict the movement of Qi in the body, causing aches, pains and digestive upset.
6. HEALTHY PLAY. Summer is a social season. Enjoy time and activities with family and friends. Be mindful of alcohol consumption and other stimulants. They can add extra heat and dampness to the body, causing agitation, irritability, and sluggishness.
7. COVER UP. Keep protected from the elements by avoiding over exposure to sun, heat, wind and damp. Cold can be a problem in air conditioned environments. Dress accordingly.
8. MAINTAIN A JOYOUS, PEACEFUL HEART by balancing your action packed summer, with calming/grounding activities:
-Quiet walks in nature
-A good night sleep
These help to nourish “yin” (cool, rest, rejuvenation), and are a healthy way to balance the “yang” (heat, movement, energy) of summer.
9. REGULAR ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS support optimum wellness and vitality. Add Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to your self-care routine for a happy, healthy summer.
Every organ system in Chinese Medicine has a specific task to do, to keep the body healthy.
The Heart is considered the Monarch
– ruling all of the other organ systems. Its role is so crucial, that the other organs will give up their energy to protect the Heart. Why?… because the Heart houses the “Shen”.
What is the Shen?
The Shen can be thought of as the energy that animates the body, enabling consciousness, awareness, and intellect. It allows us to observe, reflect upon, and relate to ourselves and the world around us, with clarity and vitality.
In TCM, the Shen consists of two main aspects:
2. Mind/Thought Processes/Intelligence/Memory
In one of the oldest known Chinese Medicine texts (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic), it states: “If Shen is strong, the body will be strong; if we lose Shen, the body will perish.”
So how do we keep our Heart and Shen healthy? Let’s explore Traditional Chinese Medicine further…
The tongue is the sense organ related to the Heart.
A Chinese Medicine Practitioner will ask to look at your tongue, to assess the health of your internal organs. Specific locations on the tongue, and certain qualities observed (size, shape, color, coating, etc.) reveal important diagnostic information. A healthy tongue is pink in color. If there is insufficient blood in the Heart, the tongue may appear pale. Too much heat in the Heart may cause a red tongue tip. Blood stagnation may cause the tongue to look purplish in color.
Sense of taste is also a reflection of Heart health, enabling us to taste and enjoy all of the flavors of our food.
Problems with speech might be a signal that the Heart or Shen is out of balance (for example, talking incessantly, speaking very quickly, stuttering, not making sense).
Blood vessels are considered the “tissue” of the Heart.
The face has many blood vessels, therefore, the complexion reveals much about the state of the Heart. Similar to the tongue, a pale complexion can indicate insufficient blood, and a red face can indicate excess heat.
Bitter is the flavour associated with the Heart.
Foods that taste bitter can help to regulate and nourish Heart energy (for example, broccoli rabe, bitter greens).
The Heart represents the fire element and its associated colour is red.
Heart fire is what keeps the body warm. It is kept in check by Kidney water.
Blood, which is red in colour, is the fluid pumped by the Heart to warm and nourish every cell in the body. Consequently, it makes sense that red coloured foods and herbal medicines nourish the blood and support Heart health (for example: Chinese red dates, ginseng, goji berries, tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, beets).
Perspiration is the “fluid” of the Heart.
Sweat comes from body fluid, which is controlled by the Heart. Excessive perspiration, or the inability to sweat, can be a sign of imbalanced Heart energy. Care should be taken in very hot weather, or when engaging in strenuous activities which make you sweat a lot, as this loss of body fluid can weaken Heart Qi.
The emotion of the Heart is joy.
As stated earlier, the Heart “houses” the Shen/Spirit, and is therefore deeply affected by emotions. Changes in your Shen can signal imbalances in Heart energy, long before the physical heart becomes diseased. Anxiety, fear, depression, obsession, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, forgetfulness, and poor concentration, are some of the symptoms of an unsettled spirit.
An important saying in Chinese philosophy is “everything in moderation”.
While lack of joy can be damaging to the Heart, excess joy or over-excitement can also be harmful.
So, live a calm, joyful life, with fulfillment and purpose. Cultivate a supportive community by developing meaningful connections to yourself, others and the natural world. Live gently, in moderation, with peace of mind.
To The Point
Welcome to the summer, and all of its glorious fun… outdoor activities, socializing, and fresh delicious food! It’s no wonder that Pericardium 6 is a very useful point to keep in mind during this action-packed season.
In Chinese, Pericardium 6 is called Nei Guan 內關 (Inner Pass).
- This amazing acupuncture / acupressure point is famous for its ability to treat nausea, seasickness, motion sickness, vomiting, and epigastric pain. Perfect for those hot and hazy days of too much sun, ice-cream, boating and BBQ!
- It is very calming. Massage Pericardium 6 to help you settle down for a good night’s sleep, improve your memory, curb anxiety, nervousness and stress.
- PC6 also Opens and relaxes the chest, to relieve chest tightness, asthma, angina, and palpitations.
To massage Pericardium 6, locate it 3 finger breadths from the wrist crease, between the two tendons.
Herbs For Health
Watermelon (xī guā 西瓜 ) has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Its sweet, cooling properties make it the perfect food/herb for conditions caused by excessive heat.
On hot summer days, we readily grab a tasty slice of this juicy, delicious fruit. But did you know that the flesh, seeds and rind of watermelon have medicinal properties, and are consumed in summer soups, salads, pickled, or as tea?
Watermelon clears heat, generates fluids and promotes urination – perfect to relieve summer symptoms including excess thirst, heat stroke, summer fevers, sunburns, inflammation, dry heaves, scanty urination, constipation.
There is too much of a good thing, however. Overconsumption of this cold and refreshing fruit can cause an upset tummy (cold and damp in the Spleen and Stomach).
This summer, when you feel irritated, restless, frustrated, hot and bothered… how ‘bout a tall cool glass of watermelon juice? Ahhhhh… doesn’t that feel better?
You Are What You Eat
This massaged Kale salad is a yummy way to eat your greens. Chock full of nutrients, colourful, refreshing, it is a perfect addition to any summer meal.
Cranberry Orange Kale Salad
1 bunch of Kale
2 tbsp. orange marmalade or raspberry jam
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 orange (sectioned)
2 tbsp. orange juice
a large handful of roasted nuts or seeds (I often use roasted sunflower seeds or walnuts)
a large handful of dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and dry the Kale. Remove the stems and spines. Chop into bite sized pieces. Place into a large salad bowl.
Cut the orange in half and section (like a grapefruit). Put the orange sections aside.
Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, marmalade, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the kale. Massage the kale with your hands, until it looks like it has been lightly sautéed.
Add the orange sections, cranberries, nuts/seeds, and gently toss.
As always, it is a pleasure to be able to share the wonderful healing art of Traditional Chinese Medicine with you.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” -John Lubbock
Enjoy every moment of the glorious freedom that summer has to offer.
Yours in good health,