The Season of Utmost Yang
Updated: Nov 30, 2021
In Chinese medicine, summer is the season of utmost yáng. Like noon, yáng is at its zenith during the summer months. Everything in nature is growing and blossoming. While spring is about birth, summer is about growth and maturation. Plants and animals begin to mature, and fruits appear in abundance. The Huángdì Nèijīng 黄帝内经 (Yellow Emperors Classic of Medicine), compiled over 2000 years ago, tells us that humans can go to sleep later and rise earlier to follow the sun, the embodiment of yáng. One can remain more physically active, and aim to maintain a happy, easy-going disposition so the qì can flow freely.
The Season of the Fire Phase
The summer season is dominated by the Fire (huǒ 火) phase. In spring we had the birth of the Wood (mù 木) phase which allows for the maturation of the Fire phase where things come into bloom. This is the time when heavenly qì descends and earthly qì rises to merge together and result in a maturation of animals, fruits, and flowers; things in nature are expressing their full potential. The sun is the embodiment of the Fire phase; the sun is life-giving and all life is oriented toward the sun. Without the warmth of the sun or Fire phase, cold predominates and physiological functions slow and contract. The Fire phase has a yáng nature that is a catalyst for transformation, however too much Fire (utmost yáng) can burn, scorch, and parch, therefore it must be controlled by the Water phase (utmost yīn).
The Season of the Heart and Small Intestine Organs
The Fire phase is all about connection and corresponds to the Heart and Small Intestine organs. Aspects of the Heart include joy, love, the capacity to connect, and responding spontaneously to situations. The Small Intestine is about clear perception and truthful communication; the Small Intestine is like filtration system, sorting out what is pure from impure, getting to the heart of the matter. The sensory orifice of the Fire phase is the tongue; it has to do with speech and communication - think of expressing your Heart through clearly speaking your truth. In these warmer summer months, human beings are compelled to let their Heart-flower blossom and warmly connect with other human beings. We engage in our relationships more and come together to celebrate, experience joy, and express love; all attributes of Fire.
The Season of Summer-Heat
In Chinese medicine there are several different causes of disease, one of them being the "six external pathogenic factors" (liù yín 六淫) which refers to weather becoming a cause of disease. This occurs when the state of balance between the body and environment breaks down, such as the weather being excessive, unseasonal, or when the weather changes very rapidly so the body does not have time to adapt. One of the six external pathogenic factors is called Summer-Heat (shǔ 暑). As a yang-natured pathogen, it has the nature of extreme heat, affecting the upper parts of the body, and an upward and dispersing direction which causes headaches, dizziness, a red complexion, and sweating. It also consumes body fluids resulting in dark coloured urine that is reduced in quantity.
Oftentimes to counter the heat our diets change in the summer months, turning more to cooling and hydrating foods such as raw fruits and salads. With the heat waves we have been experiencing here in the Okanagan Valley, our beautiful orchard fruits and cooling vegetables such as cucumbers are welcome reprieve to the heat. This is called eating with the seasons, and is a wonderful way to harmonize yourself with the natural world by eating the foods that nature is providing for you. However, we are not always living with the natural world. What if we wake up in an air conditioned home, drive to work in an air conditioned car, and work in an air conditioned office - are we really experiencing the heat of the season and needing cooling foods to restore balance? Or what if you experience bloating after eating, lethargy, abdominal pain or discomfort, feelings of cold, and loose or watery bowel movements - in this case cooked and warming foods and spices throughout the summer may best serve you.
Raw and cold foods are considered to be damaging to the major digestive organs in Chinese medicine, the Spleen and Stomach, whereas foods with a pungent nature, such as ginger, will help to release heat through the surface of the body by promoting sweating which is one method that the body uses to cool itself. If you are spending a lot of time outdoors in the heat and feel that increased amounts raw fruits and vegetables have been great for your body during these increasing temperatures, that is excellent! If you are spending less time outdoors and more time in air conditioning but have been consuming more summer fruits and salads but also experiencing looser bowel movements and abdominal bloating, consider trying more warming cooked foods and see how you feel! Digestion and diet is highly individual, and never one-size-fits-all. An acupuncturist will be able to discuss Chinese dietary therapy to suit an individuals unique constitution and where they are in the present moment.
In health and happiness,
清 惲冰 花卉圖 册页 Flower Study by Yun Bing during the Qing Dynasty
Disclaimer: Any information on this website or blog post should not be used for self-diagnosis or substitute for medical advice. Please always seek advice from a qualitied health practitioner for any health concerns.