Summer is all about connection. We connect with Nature through the wind, sunshine, and beautiful flower blooms. It inspires us to go out and immerse in a cool pond of water, to walk in a forest with the sun filtering through a hat of leaves provided by tall trees, to lie in the grass on a warm, sunshiny day or warm night and watch the stars. Time seems to go a bit slower giving us the opportunity to savor the sunshine and to be still for just a moment longer. Our bodies are meant to harmonize with summer heat. In summer, we easily connect to Nature and it heals something within the body. Only we know what true wellness is for our own heart, our own body, in our own life. Nature is all around, supporting us in our journey forward and inward. That still, quiet peacefulness is a breath of fresh air in a busy, chaotic world. Take a deep breath and allow the tranquil days of summer to rejuvenate.
According to the Five Element Theory, the heart corresponds with summer. The heart, according to Chinese medicine, is the king of all organs. All the other organs will always give their energy to help the heart maintain its balance.
The Heart performs many energy functions that are vital to the health of the entire body, mind and spirit. According to The Five Element Theory, the liver is the “mother” of the heart. When a person is under constant stress, liver energy becomes compromised because one of its energetic functions is to smooth and regulate emotions. So when chronic stress or excessive emotion is experienced, the liver cannot provide proper support to the heart. The heart system ensures a smooth flow of blood and qi throughout the body. When the heart experiences imbalances in Qi, Blood, Yin, and Yang, it affects one's complexion, sleep habits, circulation, and energy. Heart related imbalances of summer are related to a build-up in heat or a deficiency of yin. This can cause insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, mouth sores, movie-like dreams, abnormal sweating, and discomfort in the heart or chest region.
When focusing on cardiovascular health, it’s crucial to take care of the digestive organs, the liver and the stomach. When balanced, all the organ systems will have an adequate flow of blood to perform their functions.
Without a peaceful heart the entire body cannot function in harmony. As the body flows into warmer summer weather, reconnect to nature. Take time to give your spirit a boost and to help the heart function at its highest potential. Help the entire body reach a state of peaceful balance. Sleep will be restful, and it supplies energy throughout the day.
Rest can provide a healthy, vibrant complexion with clear, sparkling eyes.
Due to the important relationships described by the Five Element Theory,
each organ has a time of dominance throughout the day. Heart time is between 11am and 1pm. A daily practice of heart harmony is highly recommended during this time. Close your eyes and bring feelings of love to the surface. Continue to feed the body these messages. Eventually, the ability to replace feelings of sadness with those of love and peacefulness will be easier and come more naturally. This is a great time for meditation and/or Qi Gong practices.
TCM’s Five-Element theory correlates the Heart organ-system with the color red. Natural/whole foods that are red in color have pigments called anthocyanins and are usually beneficial for heart health. Red foods are known to:
Protect cell membranes
Maintain blood vessel elasticity to maintain healthy blood flow
Have anti-oxidizing properties
Bitter taste is associated with summer. Bitter foods help with draining dampness and clearing heat. The Heart and Small Intestine are predominant during summer, so including foods that help heal this organ pair can build the health of your whole body all year round.
Foods that boost Heart Qi:
broccoli cherries lily bulb
broccoli rabe beet root honeysuckle
plum tomatoes adzuki beans chrysanthemum
In addition, red apples, red grapes and pineapple are beneficial to the Small Intestine. Their mild and warm essence helps this organ function more efficiently, which improves metabolism.
“Cooling” foods should also be part of summer eating. An ancient secret for beating the heat is to eat foods that are “cool” in essence rather than cold in temperature, like watermelon. This superfood gently cools the body without shocking the immune system and taxing digestion with extreme temperature changes. It is important to remember and be aware that going too far in the opposite direction can unbalance us.
Cooling foods include:
apricots cucumbers spinach
peaches mung beans eggplant
berries asparagus cilantro
oranges bean sprouts mint
watermelon watercress bamboo
avocados bok choy
Watermelon juice is a famous remedy to beat the heat. Watermelon has been included in Chinese herbal textbooks for centuries. It has an incredible ability to cool summer fevers, soothe sunburns and heal inflammation.
The Heart is more likely to be overactive in summer. Give yourself an outlet for stress by working exercise into daily routines but keep it moderate and do it early as to beat the heat. Exercising too intensely or sweating too much will damage the heart’s yin. Balance between cardio and yin-type exercises like yoga (not hot yoga), Qi Gong or swimming. What can balance all of that activity? Peaceful rest. When the heart is peaceful, that feeling translates to the mind and spirit.
Summer is ruled by the Fire element. Summer is a time of vibrant activity, movement, and growth. It is energetically associated with the Heart and its corresponding emotions are love and joy. Fire is the mother of Earth. It provides warmth, cooks, nourishes soil, and provides light. Without it, we could not have many of the tools we use in our daily lives. Life would wither and die without the fire of our sun, freezing from lack of warmth and light.
Along with the Heart, other fire organ systems such as the paired Small Intestine and the Pericardium also need a little extra support this season to keep them in balance.
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“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.” — Hippocrates