According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), each season is associated and ruled by one of the following five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Each element is viewed as a complex system that includes a pair of organs (an organ system), an emotion, a body fluid, and an area of the body. Imbalances associated with each element can create issues within the corresponding organ system. TCM advocates that special care should be given during each season in order to maintain stability within these complex systems.
Summer corresponds to the Fire element, and is the most Yang (bright, active, energetic) season of the year. Its associated organs are the heart and small intestines, the emotion is joy, the fluid is sweat, and the area of the body is the tongue. Another important relationship to mention is that between the Heart and the mind, or Shen. The Fire element is Yang in nature, and its blazing heat has an affinity for creating disharmony in these areas.
When Fire is out of balance, a person’s level of joy tends to be affected, which can manifest as either too much or too little. You might be wondering what that looks like. Well, excess joy can cause manic behavior, nervousness, agitation, anxiety, a feeling of chaos and even insomnia. Too little joy is the opposite end of the spectrum: depression, melancholy, disinterest in life, and low energy. Another more obvious way that Fire can affect us if it’s blazing out of control, is by making us over-heat, especially in the upper areas of the body. This can cause a feeling of heat in the chest and head, possible tongue ulcers and excessive sweating, and even a tendency to get irritated or angry.
The Water element helps to balance the Fire element, so taking advantage of Water energy, not only by drinking enough water to stay hydrated, but by spending time in and around water whenever possible is hugely beneficial (but don’t forget the hat and sunscreen). Carry water with you at all times!
Luckily, there are a lot of little changes that we can make to live in harmony with the Fire element. In order to keep our Hearts and minds balanced during the hot summer days, TCM recommends that we should embrace the longer days (of sun exposure) by getting up a little earlier in the morning, going to bed a little later at night, and trying to rest at mid-day. This makes sense here in the desert, because if we want to spend any time outdoors, it is best done early in the morning or after the sun goes down. Staying hydrated is also crucial, especially in the desert, as is eating lighter meals and cooler foods. Try to steer clear of heavy meals, hot and spicy foods, a lot of red meat, and fried or heavily oiled foods. You might notice that your cravings and tastes naturally shift in the summer to more fresh fruits, salads, seafood, and lightly cooked vegetables. Your body has an innate intelligence, as does nature in providing these foods abundantly during the summer season.
Last but not least, summer is an ideal time to focus on and implement positive changes in our lives – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Fire is the ultimate Yang and symbolizes activity and vigorous metabolic processes. It’s the perfect time to do more robust physical activity, spend time outside in nature, and be more socially active and outgoing. Embrace the sun’s energy and feel the joy that it brings to your life!
Tips for Summer Health:
- Wake up slightly earlier in the morning
- Rest at mid-day
- Go to bed slightly later at night
- Drink plenty of water, better yet – drink cucumber water to hydrate & cool down
- Spend time in and around water
- Eat lighter meals & cooler foods (see below)
- Be physically and socially active
- Embrace joy!
Chart information from Helping Ourselves – A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics by Daverick Leggitt
By: Jessica Deahl, L.Ac., LMT, MSTCM