Summer is the time of expansion, growth, lightness, brightness, outward activity and creativity. Its when the energy around us is most superficial, abundant and available. Just look outside and see everything in full bloom.
In Chinese Medicine the summer is the time of the element of Fire and the meridians most active pertain to the Heart and Small intestine channel. Perhaps because the energy is so available this season has another organ pair active as well: the pericardium and triple warmer.
When you think of summer here is an easy cheat sheet. I’ll get into the specifics below
Color: Red Taste: Bitter
Emotion: Joy Meridians: Heat/Small intestine and Pericardium/Triple Warmer
Element: Fire External Factor: Heat
Opens to tongue Controls Sweating
The main function of the heart/small intestine system is circulation just like what you would think about in western medicine. In Chinese Medicine the heart also houses the mind, spirit and controls sleep and memory. Pericardium is said to be the master of the heart as well as its protector and because of this carries the same functions as the heart.
The small intestine has the job of separating the turbid from the clear for both the food we eat for usable energy and also for our thoughts.
The Triple Warmer protects the organs of the body on the outside as well as controls the “waterways” of the body which helps with distributing energy throughout the body. My teacher would say that the triple warmer is a concept looking for an organ. There are three warmers: upper, middle and lower that divide the torso in a certain respect.
The tongue is an useful diagnostic tool in Chinese Medicine. It is the only organ that is both internal and external. We look at the tongue as a way to see how the body is functioning internally. The shape, size, color and coat all tell a story. The tongue is also where the heart energy opens to. If you have trouble sleeping, are feeling restless/anxious take a peak at your tongue chances are the tip of your tongue will be redder than the rest of the tongue body. If you find a center crack on the tongue that can indicate stress in the body or can be constitutional deficiency of the heart energy. When stress recedes in our lives typically the center crack will as well even if it doesn’t go away completely. Balanced heart energy means you have an easy time communicating your thoughts. Trouble finding words or getting “tongue tied” can indicate an imbalance with the heart. Forgetfullness is also a sign of heart energy imbalance.
The emotion of the summer is Joy. Like any emotion it should be balanced. We often associate joy as being a positive emotion that you can’t have “too much of.” An example of too much joy would be shock. A woman was once thrown a surprise party. When she walked into the room and saw all of these people she started to scream uncontrollably. This is an example of the excess joy taxing the heart. Another example of excess joy would be overstimulation. You might think of burning that candle at both ends as overstimulation. All fun and no rest is damaging to the heart energy of the body. Manic energy is also depleting.
Especially in the Midwest it can feel like we wait all year for summer. It can feel like such a short season and we might feel compelled to get the “most” out of it. As a way to keep Joy balanced this is a perfect season to practice mindfulness.
The heart energy also controls sweating in the body. The heart energy can be damaged by too much heat. If you find yourself sweating excessively or feeling hot or stuffy especially in the palms, feet and chest this can indicate a heart yin deficiency, essentially your body needs more coolant. Acupuncture, herbs and diet changes can help rectify this.
The taste of the summer is bitter. This is often referred to as the most under utilized flavor in western cuisine and perhaps for good reason. In nature typically bitter plants warn us of the plant’s poisonous nature. However the bitter flavor of foods helps to increase saliva which in turn helps to improve digestion which allows the body to absorb more nutrients from the foods we eat giving way to our ability to have more usable energy. The bitter flavor also clears away heat and drains dampness which can make our bodies feel heavy and lethargic, not how you want to feel in the summer!
Examples of bitter foods include: celery, dandelion, burdock, yarrow, chamomile, hops, Echinacea, alfalfa, romaine lettuce, rye, asparagus, papaya, quinoa and citrus peel. Coffee and dark chocolate are also bitter.
Digestive bitters are also another great way to incorporate the bitter flavor into your diet. Take a teaspoon or so of bitters before a meal to help prime the body for digestion. If you indulge in a heavy meal that leaves you feeling full, bloated or gassy taking bitters after a meal can help assuage your symptoms. The digestive bitters that are included in the summer self care package are custom made for the summer and include cherries or strawberries (the color of summer), citrus peel (bitter element) and peppermint (aromatic and cooling). You can also use bitters mixed with some fruit and sparkling water for a low alcoholic beverage that supports your body rather than deplete it.
I find that the bitter flavor also leaves me craving more water which is a great way to keep the body hydrated in the summer months.
I’ll leave you with this here and get into the diet of summer in the next post so its not so overwhelming and then will have 2 yoga sequences for you to use through out summer as well. Stay tuned! There are still a few self care packages available for purchase as well, let me know if you would like one. 🙂