Summer Heat in Chinese Medicine

The ancient Sages/Shamans who were practicing Chinese medicine, strongly believed that the climatic, environmental factors have a strong effect on us humans.

They differentiated 6 climatic factors, which they also called the ‘6 Evils’. Because they understood that excessive climatic factors can lead to disease.
Although the Sages did not have technology and Science, yet they were much wiser than people nowadays. They understood that they have to live in harmony with nature, the changing of seasons and Qi (energy).
They were also aware of that ‘Evil Qi’ only attacks people if their immune system (Protective qi) is deficient due to disease of poor lifestyle.

Picture depicting the five phases in chinese medicine, including the 5 seasons
5 Phases in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine also has an understanding of the seasons according to the 5 Phases (some people call them elements) which are not only a representation of they climatic factors, but also our internal organs and much more.

We are currently moving away from Fire (Summer) into Earth (Late Summer) phase. Which means that the major climatic factors currently are ‘Summer Heath’ and ‘Dampness’ (please read my previous article describing Dampness in regards to Diet).

Heat is a simple concept. The hot weather makes us sluggish, sweaty, tired and possibly irritated.

So what can we do about it?

1. Cold drinks – No No

First off: although I looove and iced latte (with oat milk of course) in Summer, I also understand what a bad choice it is. Introducing cold internally actually harms our digestive system (Earth) which is meant to provide us with metabolic Fire. It does not only brings cold (and Dampness) into the digestive tract, it also cools down the Lungs (Metal).

The Lungs are responsible for managing the pores and thus keeping them open when needed. Drinking an icy cold drink cools down the Lungs, which in return closes our pores and may actually pull in the External heath even further into the body.

It is well known that perspiration cools down the body. Open pores allow sweat to be released. The body releases heath through the sweat, which in return further cools down the body. Isn’t that what we want?

2. Hot drinks and spicy food

Instead of ice, try some spice!
Having a moderate amount of spice in our diet as well as some hot tea will actually help to keep the pores open and to cool down the body quicker. Green tea is especially good as it has a cooling quality.

Of course make sure not eat too spicy, as you do not want to fight heat with fire.

3. Keep hydrated, right?

Yes! But also no.
Drinking plenty of fluids is useful as we loose a lot through sweating. However the body receives most of its hydration from the food we consume.
Thus eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and the least processed foods (raw, gently stir-fried) are the best to be consumed at this time.

4. Diet, diet, diet

Diet is not just about what you eat. It is also about when, in what environment, how much and so on.
It is best not to overeat in summer and also to avoid heavy, oily food. Try to have light meals. However also pay attention to your own digestive system. Some people with weaker digestion may not benefit from too much fruit and cold/raw food. Keep attention!

5. Exercise

Exercise should be minimal and it should be avoided in the peak hours 11-2 pm.
The heart is already more challenged by the heath, which dilates the blood vessels and thus lowers the blood pressure. Which in return often spikes up the heart rate.

On the other hand, doing Qigong exercises -specifically working on the Heart and Digestive region- can be extremely helpful. It helps to release excessive ‘Heat’ qi by gently opening up the body (joints, tendons, muscles) and relax the mind (to keep it relaxed).

6. Waking early

Waking up with the first light, followed by some meditation is an excellent way to follow the natural rhythm. Likewise, it is appropriate to go to bad later. Which should be not much later than sunset.

7. Detox

As the weather is now in the Earth Phase (Yang Earth according to Chines Astrology), it is an especially good time to balance the excess in our digestive system with some form of detox.

When I say detox I do not mean any special diet. Simply taking off the load from the digestive tract. Leaving all the ice-cream, fried foods, alcohol, sugar, ultra-processed ingredients behind. Having a bland meal maybe once a day or once a week already helps to take a load off from our Stomach and Spleen

We can also do some intermittent fasting (if that is suitable for you personally) or to do an even gentler fast where we drink nourishing herbal tea instead of a meal (preferably dinner).

According to my very kind teacher (Anita Eredics), it is a perfect time to drink Mint (which is cooling and calming for the digestive system), Lavender (calming for the mind and cleansing for the bowels) and Calendula (reduces inflammation, clears heat and tonifies our Earth organs).

8. Meditation

Although the qi has started to descend, the environment is still very hot. Thus the qi has a tendency to rise to the head and get stuck there. Which may result in headaches, absent mindedness, floaty sensation, irritability, anxiety and insomnia.

We can counterbalance it with simple daily meditations where we bring our focus back into our body. Sitting and focusing on your lower abdomen (for man) and your heart centre (for the ladies) even for 5-10 minutes daily can help to centre ourselves

9. Astrology

According to the Earthly branches of Chinese Astrology we are currently in Yang Metal (Monkey) which represents reaping the fruits of our labor/year and slowly bringing our focus down back to the body.

Thus it is a great time to enjoy holidays. To relax and bring our focus back onto ourselves.

It is especially a good time to implement mental detox and meditation into our daily habits. As the energetics of the month and the year are opposing each other. Which, being supplemented by the monthly associated hexagram of I Ching (12, Pi, Blockage), further warns us about possible confusion and disorder in our lives.

Therefore, meditation and finding our centre is strongly encouraged.

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