Countering Summer health conditions with the Water Element
In the system of Chinese Medicine, each season has a primal element. It’s clear to see the association between the fire element and summer. Summer is bursting with virtues, delicious produce, more social activity and more physical activity which can be stimulating, exciting, and clarifying. We spend more time outside which in turn gives us more energy, increases productivity and to a certain extent improves our mood. There is an ease to summer, no school, more vacationing, no snow storms to deal with, the bar seems to be lower in terms of work expectations. It’s easy to see the nature of Summer because it is a Yang season, and Yang is typically superficial, easy to spot. On the flipside, very Yang materials don’t have much depth to them, and can be easily upset. Think of the terms 'hotheaded’ meant to describe an overly aggressive person or someone over-reacting, ‘blowing their top’, these are the not fun aspects of Fire in Summer.
By mid-August in my acupuncture clinic, I begin to see the results of Summer Fire gone out of balance in my patients. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and what to do about it.
Let’s start by answering the question what do the Chinese mean when they talk about the fire element? In Meridian theory, the Heart and Small Intestine organs and meridians (called Zang-Fu) become primary. What this means is we use acupoints on these meridians more in the summer and we also expect more issues of these meridians in the summer. In terms of medicine, the Fire element presents in specific ways. These conditions or symptoms present quickly and most times originate in the upper part of the body or move up the body. Sometimes, they come with a red color such as a red and hot skin rash, or a red hot sore throat, and are surrounded by a lot of intense emotions.
Examples of common conditions in summer; sleep disturbance, heart palpitations, irritability, rashes, lower body and limb swelling, infections causing burning or itching, fever, constipation, poor appetite, depression or anxiety.
Using Food for treating and and preventing Summer- heat conditions at home; drink WATER to be like WATER. Eat a variety of well COOKED tender, plant-based foods whose essence is Yin. For example oatmeal, millet, mung beans, peas, artichokes, asparagus, sweet potato, tomato, yams, zucchini, sprouts, string beans, potato, most fruits in moderation, sesame seed, walnut, and all beans, and tofu. A symptom that I see at the end of Summer is bloating, diarrhea, gas and belly pain, this is a consequence of eating too much raw juice or undercooked fruits, and vegetables.
Acupressure; conceptions vessel 12; located midway between the navel and the soft spot right under the xiphoid process. The xiphoid process is basically the base of the sternum. Apply moderate pressure in a slow clockwise direction with your finger for a minimum 30 seconds once or twice a day. According to Chinese medicine this point strengthens the spleen and pancreas, helps with bloating, digestion, and can assist the body in properly managing fluids and preventing swelling. From a holistic point of view keeping the stomach balanced is important for more than just digestive health. Good health begins in the gut and long-term stuck Chi here can cause problems above it and below it in the body. Here’s a diagram.
Balancing emotions, working on mindset and taking a spiritual approach; this can be a game changer for our physical health. Summer can be a great time to learn to be like water. “ Water is the softest and most yielding substance. Nothing is better than water for overcoming the hard and rigid because nothing can compete with it.” ~Lao Tzu, Father of Taoism. Taoism is the philosophical framework of the five element theory which gives Chinese medicine it’s unique mind-body approach and it’s deference to Nature. Water is the essence of Yin, the counterpoint to Fire’s Yang energy.
Water is flexible, extremely resilient, and adaptive. Furthermore, water goes with the flow and nurtures whatever it encounters with its life-giving nourishment. When heated, it evaporates, when frozen, it becomes solid, in the ocean it becomes waves. Water has the power to erode the hardest materials like rock or metal.
Spiritually and emotionally, love is the essence of Yin. Yin lets the soft overcome the hard. Think about it. Like water, love has the power to erode the hardest of hearts, it doesn’t force, it is receptive to other people’s opinions, it is willing to change. This Summer along with drinking our water and playing in water let’s be like water. Let’s try to be a little more tender with ourselves, our heart and other people’s hearts.
Stephanie at TOTEM Acupuncture
Summer nourishing tea
36 ounces of water
One cup of red Jujube dates
A half a cup of Goji berries/wolfberries
3-4 green tea bags or loose tea equivalent
Place water, dates, Goji berries in a slow cooker for three hours on low heat. Add loose tea if using. Strain. Or add and steep tea bags then remove. Drink warm or store in fridge for chilled. This tea is already slightly sweet and nourishing to the heart meridian.