Living in Season According to Chinese Medicine

Part One: Summer

Introducing the Five Elements

Much of acupuncture and Chinese medicine theory is centered around the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Each of these elements corresponds with a season of the year: metal represents fall, water represents winter, wood represents spring, fire represents summer (of course!), and earth represents a fifth season known as late summer. These connections become even more layered as you delve deeper into acupuncture meridian theory, in which each element also pairs with a meridian system that is named for one of the body’s vital organs.

In Chinese medicine, the seasons are not only used to discuss the external environment but also when considering a person’s internal health and wellness. According to The Tao of Nutrition by Maoshing Ni, “The five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, connect in that sequence for what is called the creation cycle. This cycle occurs in nature as well as in our bodies,” (Maoshing Ni, p.12). When you visit an acupuncturist, they feel your pulses and look for other indications regarding which of these elements/meridians might be “out of balance,” thus causing illness or pain in a particular area of the body. Acupuncture points along certain meridians are chosen to restore balance and resolve pain or disease.

Summer, Season of Heart and Fire

We are in the summer season of the five element system. On June 21st, summer began with the longest day of the year. Summer is governed by the heart meridian and the element of fire. Because summer is ruled by the heart, it is a time of mental/emotional awareness and growth. If the heart becomes out of balance in the summer, you might experience symptoms such as feeling overheated, restless sleep with vivid dreams, heightened anxiety, heart palpitations and constipation.

To balance the heart and fire element in summer months, it is helpful to eat plenty of cooling foods, like cucumbers, fresh in-season veggies, and watermelon. Meditation can also help balance the heart and mind. And, this goes without saying, but if you are spending a lot of time outdoors, make sure you are drinking plenty of water! With the allure of the sun and warm weather, it is easy to get overheated and dehydrated without realizing it.