For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year the theme is long days, short nights and celebrating the intense power of the Sun.
Traditional Chinese Medicine relates each of the seasons to an element – and it should come as no surprise that summer is the time of year associated with Fire. Long, warm days energize our bodies and create a time in our life cycle of “peak power.” It is a time of year well-suited for cardiovascular exercise, engaging social activities, new experiences and adventures. The Fire element is one that embraces the new and exciting, leaping, engaging and devouring the fuel that summer activities provide.
Ayurveda teaches this is the time of year to be mindful of our Pita dosha – the energy deep inside that drives metabolism and all of our basic life forces as it can easily get out of control as we race to keep up with summers bountiful schedule.
Physical Pita/Fire imbalances seen this time of year typically involve sunburn, hot flashes, exhaustion, acne, and diarrhea. Emotionally, excess pitta can manifest as anger, jealousy, and impatience.
In Chinese Medicine the Fire Element is closely related to both the Small Intestine and the Heart making it extra important to embrace those physical/cardiovascular activities that strengthen the Heart and nutrient dense foods that the small intestine can use effectively to fuel the body.
Interestingly enough, traditional medicine practices views the Summer Solstice as an additional time of year to deeply nourish, strengthen and prepare run down bodies for the change of seasons that lie ahead – the same way deep nourishment in the winter prevents spring pandemics, embracing the rich abundance of herbs and vegetables available in the Summer months can ward off autumnal respiratory viruses that plague those that tend to fall ill as the seasons begin to change.
Not coincidentally, much of my summer clinical work is helping individuals with hot flashes – the hot summer temperatures, additional activity and longer days often tip the scale that sends many an unsuspecting individual into days of hot flashes and occasional (or regular) night sweats.
Using herbs and foods to nourish the yin, clear heat, anchor the Yang, pacify Pita and balance hormones can all help to bring relief to these sufferings. Combinations based on TCM classic formulas such as Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, Er Xian Tang or even Ba Zheng Tang with added help from Ayurvedic powerhouses like Ashoka, Shatavari, Ashwaganda and Western favorites like Motherwort, Vitex and Black Cohosh can bring much needed relief.
Acne, diarrhea and exhaustion all find multiple avenues of treatment and relief through Traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western herbalism and also tend to flair their lovely heads this time of year. Cooling, clearing and gently tonifying is the name of the game. Favorite remedies include watermelon, Hibiscus, Lemon Balm & Red Clover tea, and light summer meals abundant in fruits, roasted vegetables and lean proteins.