The summer season is upon us…
Even though the Bay area doesn’t quite have summer like the rest of the country, the energy and properties of summer still apply!
Summer is a yang season and is associated with the Heart, Pericardium (“the Heart wrapper”), Small Intestine and the Triple Burner (a Chinese organ that closely resembles the 2nd, 3rd and 4th chakras). Summer is a period of luxurious growth. To be in harmony with the atmosphere of summer, awaken early in the morning and reach to the sun for nourishment. Summer offers abundant variety and the diet should reflect this. Minerals and oils are sweated out of the body, and their loss can cause weakness if they are not replaced by a varied diet. To be more comfortable, drink hot liquids and take warm showers to induce sudden sweating and to cool the body. Summer heat combined with too much cold food (Ex. salads and raw fruits, remember moderation!) can weaken the digestive organs, coldness causes contraction and interferes with digestion. Iced drinks and ice cream actually contract the stomach and stop digestion.
Use plenty of brightly colored summer fruits and vegetables. Cook lightly and regularly, add a LITTLE spicy, pungent, or even fiery flavor, but not too much! When sautéing, use high heat for a very short time and keep in mind, olive oil is an unstable oil and under high heat can cause free radicals, try some new stable oils, like coconut (great for the thyroid and detoxifying the blood), canola and rice bran oil. Also, steam and simmer foods as quickly as possible. Use little salt and more water. Cooling fresh foods for summer are salads, sprouts (mung, soy and alfalfa), fruit, cucumber, tofu (not too much if you have estrogen dominance!), flower and leaf teas (mint, chrysanthemum and chamomile), watermelon, lemons and limes.
The hot flavored spices are also considered appropriate in the warmest weather, at first their effect is to bring warmth, but ultimately they bring body heat out to the surface to be dispersed. With heat on the surface, one’s body mirrors the summer climate and therefore will be less affected by it. Red and green hot peppers, cayenne red pepper, fresh ginger, horseradish, black pepper are all ideal for this purpose, but if you are allergic to nightshades, do not use peppers. However, if too many dispersing foods are taken, then weakness and loss of yang will result, and the ability to stay warm and vital in the cooler seasons is lost.
CALMING AND FOCUSING THE MIND…
The Fire element rules the Heart in Chinese Medicine. This, not only, includes the organ itself but also the concept of the Heart as a mental/emotional center. Those with healthy hearts are friendly and humble. Clarity is a central attribute, they seem to see effortlessly through problems to arrive at brilliant solutions. Symptoms of a heart imbalance are: scattered and confused mind, excess or no laughter, confused speech, depression, loss of memory, poor circulation, insomnia, headache, irritability, palpitations/irregular heartbeat or excessive dreams.
We of the ‘information age’ tend to have mental hyperactivity. Energy from excessive thought and worry races through the head while the heart is impoverished. A simple diet with occasional light fasting goes a long way. Avoid VERY spicy foods, refined sugar, alcohol, coffee, late night eating and large evening meals.
The following reduce nervousness, treat insomnia and improve mental focus:
Oyster Shell (Oyster shell calcium), whole wheat, brown rice, oats, mushrooms (esp. Reishi), oatstraw tea, cucumber, celery, lettuce, quality cow and goat milk, ghee (clarified butter), mulberries, lemons, Chia seeds, dill, basil, chamomile, catnip, skullcap and valerian.
Of course, for insomnia, the classic remedy…drinking a cup of milk warm before bed works wonders.
Christina Martin, L.Ac.
Tao to Wellness