Balance during the summer season in Chinese medicine
In every new season we have an opportunity to renew and rebalance. If you are welcoming the open path of the summer season of 2021 like I am, despite the unbearable relentless heat here in the Pacific Northwest, this summer is filled with possibility.
What are those possibilities for you? Are you reinvigorating your body and soul under the warm summer skies and cooler starry nights? Are you getting outside more? Are you processing the grief and trauma of the last 16 months? Wherever you are is just right. There are opportunities and possibilities in all states of being.
Activities during Summer
The summer season in Chinese medicine is considered the most yang and active time of the year. It is a time of exuberance and abundance. It is a time to open to and receive the vibrant energy of the sun. It is time to be more physically active in whichever way you are comfortable: new physical adventures, being outdoors or rising with the light. This is a great time to take in and feast on the bounty and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available.
The summer season in Chinese medicine is a time of the heart.
In Chinese medicine each season has an affinity for an organ system. Summer is the season of the heart.
In Chinese medicine, the heart is considered the empress of the body, in charge of all the internal organs, responsible for pumping and circulating blood to all the tissues and organs throughout the body. The heart is the center of our being and home of circulation.
Our heart energy is also an expression of our joy, affection and love. In Chinese medicine The heart is the home of shen, which represents our spirit. The shen corresponds to the mind and signifies the entire sphere of mental, emotional and spirit. The state of our heart health depends on our physical, mental and emotional well being. We can nourish our heart in so many ways – being together with loved ones, eating together, languishing by the sea, in a cool lake or pool, or taking in a You can think of summer as a time to care for our hearts in order to help nurture our bright light and spirit to get us through the rest of the year.
How to create balance in summer
As much as we want to shine our light outward and participate in this wonderful time of year we also need to balance it, so we do not feel too scattered or tired out. We can balance out the heat, the activity of summer with the bounty of flavor in food that summer offers. Summer requires a delicate balancing act of flavors to support internal balance helping us to feel cooler inside while not losing all of our fire.
Here are some recommendations:
- Eat foods that are pungent in flavor but not too heating. Don’t add hot sauce to everything, but a touch of chili or hot pepper is ok. Have cooling pungent foods such as radish, daikon, spicy leafy greens, peppermint, lemon balm and lavender are some lovely cooling herbs to add into your diet.
- Add the bitter flavor in your meals. Bitter foods are very cooling and according to Chinese medicine help to clear heat build up. The bitter flavor stimulates digestion and excretion. It is a great flavor and antidote to grilled foods and alcohol. The bitter flavor is found in; artichokes, all chicory greens (frisee, escarole, dandelion greens, endive, romaine lettue (particularly the stems and hearts), bitter melon and green tea. (Coffee, chocolate and liquors have a bitter flavor but they are too warming.)
- Partake in the fruits of summer: The fruits of summer are great sources of hydration, as well as abundant vitamins and minerals. Summer fruits are sweet and sour. The sour flavor in Chinese dietary therapy is important for activating the body fluids and helping support hydration and counter the heat of summer. Berries, peaches, apricots, plums, rhubarb (even though a vegetable) are all slightly sour. Enjoy their fresh vibrant flavor. You can also be sure to include lightly fermented foods in your meals – such as sauerkraut and quick pickles.
- Eat foods and cook in ways that are hydrating. Cucumbers, watermelon, lettuces, are just some of the foods that will keep you hydrated if you are not a big water drinker. Lightly steaming, blanching, poaching or including more raw foods in your diet will help to keep you cool too. Avoid too much grilling, roasting, or frying which only make us hotter inside.
- Find pleasure in the simple things. Being outside in nature, under the sun and sky is deeply nourishing. Find ways to explore and be outside whether it be in the middle of large city or the country.
A recipe for the summer season
The beautiful watermelon originating from Southern Africa was thus named for the capacity of this fruit to hold water. It has journeyed far, up to Egypt where seeds and paintings were found in tombs, to Greece and Rome where medicinal properties were recorded, to India where it was first cultivated as early as the 7th century, to China to the southern Iberian peninsula and then to the Western world via the slave trade. It was known to have been grown by North American indigenous peoples from Florida to the Mississippi valley as early as the 1500’s and in the gardens of Thomas Jefferson.
Today it is one of the most commonly associated fruits for summer and in Chinese dietetics is used in the humid heat of summer as a diuretic and extremely cooling food. In Italy, Anguria (Italian for watermelon) Stands are found throughout Italy where you go to pick your bobbing watermelon out of a small fountain. The pr63oprietor cuts iit up into and slices and then you sit with friends under the lights and eat your big slice of Watermelon, with a knife and fork on long stainless steel tables to cool down in the heat and humidity of summer.
Be;ow you will find a delightful way to drink your watermelon mixed with lemon zest, pomegranate juice and a splash of rose water for delightful fragrant refreshing summer drink. This recipe can be found in my book, Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Seasonal Recipes for Optimal Health. You can read more about the book here.
Fragrant Rose – Watermelon Cooler Recipe
Summer is not summer without magnificent, cooling, sweet watermelon. Here, it’s given a gentle floral aroma by rose water and bit of acidity by pomegranate juice. On the hottest of summer days, this beverage is very elegant and cooling.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
- 4-cup (1L) canning jar
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 strip (6 inches) lemon zest
½ tsp. rose water (the amount can be more or less, depending on your preference)
- In blender, combine watermelon and pomegranate juice. Blend until smooth
- Twist lemon zest to release essential oils and place in jar. Add watermelon mixture and rose water. Seal with lid and shake to combine. Refrigerate for up to 3 days if desired and shake to recombine before serving.
- Pour into glasses, discarding lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Watermelon is cold in its thermal nature and, of course, oh-so-sweet. It is beneficial for people who are feeling hot and dried out, or those who seat profusely in the summer.
Watermelon acts like internal air conditioning, quickly cooling you down and quenching your thirst.
Watermelon is extremely cooling, so avoid it in all seasons except summer, when it is in season. Likewise, if you suffer from poor digestion, don’t eat large amounts of this fruit, as it has a very high sugar content and cause digestive distress.
Recipe from the Summer chapter of recipes in Ellen Goldsmith’s book: Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: + 175 Recipes for Optimal Health©
To your good health,
Ellen Goldsmith, Licensed Acupuncturist
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