Living with the Seasons - Summer
By Emma Suttie, D.Ac.
There are 5 seasons in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), corresponding
to the 5 elements (Fire/Earth/Metal/Water/Wood). Winter, Spring, Summer, Late Summer
Summer represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement,
and activity. It is the most yang of the seasons and is ruled by fire. Life and
energies are at their peak. Summer, according to TCM, is the season associated with
the heart and the small intestine. The colour is red, the emotion joy, and it is a
time for growth, expansion, light, abundance, and is the manifestation of all we
have been cultivating throughout the spring.
Many look forward to summer all year round. The weather is hot and the sun is
out, improving people’s moods. Many are drawn outdoors to participate in all the
activities they have been longing for all winter. Plants grow quickly, people are
full of energy, and the body’s qi and vitality are at their peak. It is a time to
cultivate the yang energy (fire), while making sure that it does not come to excess.
In TCM, the heart, mind, and spirit are ruled by the fire element, so priority
should be given to these important aspects of ourselves in the summer season.
Rising early in the summer allows us to benefit from the suns’ nourishing rays.
Being up early enables us to get all of the suns’ nourishing energy which is the
most bountiful at this time of year. In summer, our work, play, and relationships
should be filled with joy and should instill in us a feeling of happiness and delight.
We should live our lives and go about our daily activities with joy, passion, and
laughter. This is how we know that the heart energy is balanced in us.
Physically, when we are properly balanced, the heart circulates oxygen rich blood
throughout the body, and assures proper assimilation in the beginning stages of digestion
in the small intestine. In Chinese medicine, mental acuity is associated with the heart,
therefore, memory, thought processes, emotional well being, and consciousness are also
attributed to the heart and the fire element. This is a time to nourish our spirits,
realize our life’s potential, finding joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights.
When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested.
When the heart is imbalanced, we may lack joy (which manifests in depression) or have
an excess of joy (mania or manic behaviour). Some indications of a heart imbalance are
nervousness, insomnia, heartburn, confusion, red complexion, poor memory and speech problems.
Emotionally, because the heart is connected to our spirits, summer is the best time to
heal emotional wounds that we have carried with us from our pasts. Healing these wounds frees up
space that we can fill with love, joy, and happiness and ensures that we will not carry our old
hurts with us into the future.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of the summer season:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids
- Wake up earlier in the morning
- Go to bed later in the evening
- Rest at midday
- Add pungent flavors to your diet
- Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered (anger causes and exacerbates heat!).
Summer is about abundance and this is definitely the case with foods. Fruits and
vegetables abound in summer and we are lucky to have a multitude of choice when it comes to
what we eat. Because it is the season of maximum yang, it is important to stay cool and hydrated.
There are many foods that are beneficial to eat during this season. All foods, according to
TCM, have a temperature and energetic properties so that, in summer, we eat cool, yin foods
that are moistening to balance the heat. Many raw foods are seen to be cooling in nature, so
summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads, which are full of raw vegetables, very cooling,
and hydrating to the body. Eating more foods with pungent flavours and reducing bitter flavours
help to strengthen the lungs, which are responsible for sweat. Foods with cooling properties also
clear heat, can reduce toxins, and help to generate body fluids. Generally, most vegetables and
fruits are cooling. Eating them raw makes them cooler still and many seafood are also cooling in
Here is a list of foods that are beneficial to eat in the summer months:
Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom.
It was based on living in harmony with nature and one’s environment. TCM is also a
system that is rooted in prevention. Food is medicine and the ancient Chinese used
food and its healing properties to build up the body when deficient, cleanse it when
toxic, and release it when in excess. With these basic principles of eating with the
seasons and an awareness of the organs associated with each phase and their emotions,
we can all stay healthy, strengthen our bodies, minds and spirits and live long,
happy healthy lives.
About the Author:
Emma’s love for Chinese Medicine began as a teenager when, like many
people, western medicine failed to solve the underlying health issues she
faced. Her doctors proposed only surgery or a lifetime of drugs. However,
after a few months of acupuncture treatments and herbs those problems were
resolved. From that moment forward she was committed to extending this gift
of health to others.
Emma received a Diploma of Acupuncture from the Institute of Traditional
Medicine in Toronto in 2006. Immediately after graduating, she started her
first job treating postal workers and seeing up to 20 patients a day! Over
the next several years she worked at 5 other multidisciplinary clinics
throughout Toronto developing her skills and technique while working
collaboratively with other health professionals, including medical doctors,
to restore health to her patients holistically.
Today she specializes in gynecology, pediatrics and treating emotional
issues and mood disorders through her own practice,
Ukiah Clinic. She also shares her experience and
enthusiasm on her new website, Chinese Medicine Living
that explores ancient Chinese
wisdom for better living in the modern world.