In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with one of the five elements and specific organ systems, and those organ systems have their own pathways of energy and information.
Summer is associated with the fire element and the Heart and Small Intestine organs. The role of the heart is to house the mind and circulate the blood (that alsocarries consciousness) throughout the body. The small intestine has the job of sorting and processing the food broken down by the stomach. It also contributes to the clarity of consciousness by energetically separating the pure from the impure. The pathways that enable Qi and information to go to and from these organs travel along the arms.
Summer is unique in that it has two additional organ systems that play supporting roles in the balance and maintenance of the fire element in the body. These are the Pericardium and the Triple Burner. Not considered traditional organs in western medicine, the pericardium is the protective membrane that surrounds and protects the heart. The Triple Burner, while lacking a western medical analogous structure, is more a functional concept that helps to define the body in terms of 3 spaces (the upper, middle and lower ‘burner’) while integrating the organs within those spaces. Both the Pericardium and Triple Burner organ systems are involved in the regulation and circulation of warmth in the body and have pathways along the arms as well.
While there are other channels that run along the arms (namely the lung and large intestine meridians, associated with the metal element and Autumn), having all 4 fire element channels coursing through the arms is more than enough reason to focus some attention on this part of our body in the summer.
What you can do to activate arms meridians?
Before we talk about specific pressure points to manage your personal fire energy, remember that simply stretching and moving the arms is an easy way to awaken and energize these channels for seasonal health!
Stretch your hands all the way to the tips of the fingers (where the channels begin, end and connect). Stretch your arms and body to feel the stretch throughout your chest, back and shoulder joint, activating your small intestine and triple burner channels. Get on the floor and relax in a star shaped stretch and make sure to feel the opening of energy in your armpits where the heart and pericardium channels travel through. Check our next blog for acupressure points to help with summer heat.
While a soup may seem like more winter-appropriate, sipping a warm soup can help the body stay hydrated and induce gentle perspiration to keep the body cool. You can add slightly cooling (in nature not temperature) foods and herbs to the soup to balance the warm temperature.
Here is a simple summer soup to assist the heart in blood circulation and Qi dispersion while helping to eliminate excess heat.
Prepare the beets and carrots into cubes and stew in the stock for 15 minutes. Cut the corn off the cob and palace the Carthamus flowers in a sachet. Add the corn, Carthamus sachet and sesame oil and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
The Great Yang season is upon us. Yang energy is bright, fiery and hot like the midday sun. Yang is the counterbalance to Yin. Yin is expressed in the cooling, calming energies of life. Together, Yin & Yang, like night & day, represent the dynamic balance between the opposing, but complementary forces that make up all of existence. These forces are ceaselessly intermingling in a sacred dance of life’s cycles. The cycle of the seasons is a perfect demonstration of this balance in motion, and as we turn the corner into summer, we reach a pinnacle in the cycle, the summer solstice. Summer is known as the “Great Yang” season because of this peak in the yang energy: the sun (ultimate yang energy) is closest to the earth and the day (yang time) is the longest at this time of year. We, as humans, are part of nature, so these forces exist in us just as in our environment. With each changing season, Chinese Medicine offers lifestyle guidance to tune our own energy cycles to the world around us so that we can live in health and harmony. One of the branches of this ancient medicine and health philosophy is dietetics. There are several simple things to consider when adjusting your diet to the energy of the Great Yang season.
In Season Fruits/Veggies/Herbs: Time to hit the farmer’s market! It’s vital to interact with your natural environment through the food it offers. Summer is full of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that help to keep you hydrated, and to disperse your Qi to match the light, ascending energy of yang. Nature knows best so pay attention to what is growing well in your area as it may be exactly what your body needs to be more aligned with the energy of the season.
Heart and Small Intestine Considerations: The heart and small intestine are the paired yin and yang organs associated with summertime and the element of fire. The heart houses the mind, and its job is to perfuse the body with blood while the small intestine’s job is to sort and process the food received from the stomach. Blood tonifying foods like dark leafy greens and lean meat are important to ensure a blood-rich safe haven for the mind to rest, as well as enough blood to carry that energy of consciousness throughout the body. Red foods like cherries, strawberries, goji berries and tomatoes support the fire element and it’s no coincidence that these foods are rich in antioxidants credited with cardiovascular benefits. Also, have a heart when considering the important sorting job of the small intestine. We can alleviate stress on this organ by not overloading it with nutrient-deficient, over-processed food. Keep it fresh!
Timing is Everything: 11am-1pm is heart time according to the 24-hour cycle of energies in our bodies. Lunch time, the time when the energy is strongest in the heart meridian is also a time when our digestive fire is strong, so enjoy a mid-day meal! 1pm-3pm is small intestine time, this is the time to sort and absorb food, rest, and allow your body to process the nutrients.
Presentation of Food: Be mindful of aesthetics when serving yourself or others food in all seasons, but especially summer, as beauty pleases the heart. What feeling does your food stimulate before you even eat it? Consider garnishing your dishes with a little extra love like a sprinkle of sesame seeds or a fresh edible flower.