The summer solstice is on June 21st. This date marks the beginning of the warmest months of the year, and is also the day of the year with the most sunlight which gives us the opportunity to expand outwards into the world and find clarity of mind. The opposite of this time of year is the winter solstice, when the night is the longest, and we stay inside for hibernation, our energy going inwards.
In Chinese medicine, each season relates to different organ systems. Summertime is the season of the Heart and the Small Intestine. Unlike western medicine, these organ systems are not only defined by the physical biomedical processes they perform, but also by the emotional and spiritual components they possess. When the organ name is capitalized, I am referring to the latter of these definitions.
The warmth of the Summertime sun brightens our Hearts. The emotion of the Heart is joy, so some of us may be feeling very excited, anticipating new possibilities or giggling with loved ones out and about in the world.
I find this season is a good time to take stock of how I’ve been growing through the last six months (in my relationships, personal expansion, and artistic vision) and then give thanks for these lessons. It is also a time for me to consider how I would like to spend the next six months of the year. I like to ask myself what I would like to harvest in autumn and this helps me decide what to put my energy into growing over the next months. This sorting and decision making is the emotional ability of the Small Intestine. It takes in nutrients or ideas, sifts through what is useful to the body and spirit, and then moves what we do not need away to the Large Intestine to be released.
Chinese medicinal theory believes that weather can enter the body and sometimes cause disharmony. Summer is the season of Heat. Heat rises, causes redness, feelings of heat within, and dryness. During the summer we have the challenge of red faces, sun burns, heat stroke, and constipation. Heat can also make us feel irritable and give rise to mental restlessness. This restlessness may also cause sleep disturbances.
To combat the Heat, we can look for seasonal foods at the grocery store to cool us off. The energetics of the food we should be ingesting are bitter and cooling. The first I can think of is watermelon! Full of juiciness, some sweetness, plus electrolytes, watermelon is a perfect food to cool us down in these hot months. Cucumber water is another favorite of mine. You could also try a yummy, cooling salad with cucumber, apples, pear, celery, and a lemon vinaigrette. Lemon is bitter and sour which helps keep fluids in the body. Some grains that cool us down are barley, millet, and wheat. Tofu is a cooling protein.
Foods that Chinese Medicine considers hot can amplify heat internally, and therefore can be avoided if you are dealing with heat symptoms. Chilies, ginger, and red meat (especially lamb) warm the body. Turkey is also hot, which is why we eat it during cooler months like November. Pork is neutral in temperature and a good alternative. Coffee and alcohol are stimulating, and therefore considered hot, so please be mindful of these, especially when the sun is bearing down on your skin.
This summer, if you feel too hot in your body, are having difficulty sleeping, or are unable to find joy in the sun, please come in for acupuncture where we can cool you down or give you an energetic reset! I hope everyone has a wonderful summer!