Welcome, Summer!

by Johanna Utter, L.Ac., FABORM

Davis Sunflower, Susan Miller

Summer is one of my favorite times of year. The school year is over, the days are warm and long, the pace is more relaxed, the garden is growing abundantly, and there's usually vacation to look forward to!

One of the things I've always loved about traditional Chinese medicine is its connection with the natural world and its emphasis on living in harmony with nature and the seasons. Below are some ideas to help your life remain in balance this summer.
              Photo by Susan Miller               
Summer belongs to the Fire element.  It is the most Yang time of year.  The quality of Yang energy is to spread upward and outward, animate, and transform, so summer is a season of warmth and activity.  It is a time of expansion, abundant growth, and flourishing life, when things both planned and planted begin to come to fruition.  This is the best time of year to put your ideas into action. 

The Fire element is associated with the Heart in Chinese medicine, the center of human life.  Characteristics we associate with the Heart, such as warmth, connection, intimacy, compassion, and joy are to be celebrated now.  Unlike during the winter when we often want to retreat indoors, summer is the perfect time to get out of the house, be active, work in the garden, get together with friends, and enjoy life!  Joy is the emotion associated with the Heart and Fire element, so it is particularly important to do things that make you feel happy, cheerful, and relaxed.

What happens when there is an excess of activity, Heat, or Fire?  While essential for life and growth, too much can be destructive, causing us to become parched, feverish, and exhausted.   Physically this can present itself as fevers, infections, rashes, inflammation, palpitations, insomnia, hot flashes, hot hands/feet, and flushed cheeks.  Mentally and emotionally this can manifest as information overload, overstimulation, overcommitment, agitation, anxiety, and even burnout.  For this reason, it is important to balance the activity of summer with quiet, coolness, and rest - qualities that are associated with the element of Water and Yin.

As the weather permits, be more physically active in the summer.  The main thing to watch out for is being overheated, so take care to exercise in the morning or early evening, when the weather is cooler.  Water sports are an ideal way to maintain physical activity, yet cool the excess heat of Summer.

Foods that are especially good to eat in the Summer are those that are light and easy to digest.  It is also important to drink plenty of fluids, although preferably room temperature to avoid chilling the digestive system.

Melons
Tomatoes
Strawberries
Summer squash
Cucumbers
Mung beans
Lettuce
Stone fruits (cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines)
More vegetables and fruits than at other times of the year
White fish
Fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, mint, cilantro

Foods to avoid are: 
Dairy, heavy, greasy, and fried foods

Summer is a wonderful time of year.  If you feel that you are suffering from any of the side effects of Heat, acupuncture and herbs are a wonderful way to help bring your body back into balance.

I would love to hear from you!  

What do you love best about summer?  Was there anything in this article about the traditional Chinese perspective of the season that either resonated with you or was a surprise?  Please post in the comments below!