By Pauline Sok Yin Hwang, R.Ac R.TCMP
One of my fondest memories of Taiwan is sitting down with a friend to read a Chinese version of the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing). Her knowledge of ancient Chinese was much better than mine, while I had more knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Together we distilled some of the great lessons from this millennia-old book, one of the oldest known medical books in the world.
In the Huang Di Nei Jing, self-care guidelines for “nourishing life” (living long and living well) are outlined for every season. The summer season is one of abundance and flourishing of life. Out of the five elements (earth, metal, water, wood and fire), summer represents the Fire element.
Fire is the ultimate mover and shaker of the body’s functions; at the same time, too much Fire can also create what is known in Chinese medicine as “Toxic Heat” or sometimes “Damp Heat”, which can cause problems. This overabundance of certain elements can be a factor in chronic illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, skin issues, respiratory problems, allergies, etc.
Cooling Down: Balancing the Fire
Fire is associated with joy, activity, and when out of balance, too much Fire can mean excessive agitation, anxiety or insomnia. We can keep our physical and emotional cool in the summer by drinking plenty of, and using cooling foods such as watermelon, lemon, lime, cucumber, mint, and chrysanthemum tea. We can cook in a more cooling way by doing light stir-fries or steams (as opposed to baking and roasting). A little bit of bitter taste helps to balance the heart.
Don’t Overdo Ice & Raw
For many people with digestive issues, ice cold food and beverages can be too shocking to the system. Overeating the raw food can similarly be too difficult for some people (if you get stomach upset, bloating, or bowel movement issues when you eat too much raw food, you know to lay off). Salads are fine for most people in moderation, but you may want to eat them room temperature instead of straight out of the fridge. Blending your raw vegetables into a juice is another way to make raw food easier to digest.
Get Abundant Rest, Sleep, and Mental Quiet
When the Fire element of the Heart is not balanced by the cooling Water of the Kidney meridian, the Heart cannot calm down. It results in a mind that is agitated, nervous, anxious, or irritated. Sleep can be disturbed. While summer is by nature a more social time of the year, we can keep our Fire nourished by building time for nature walks, meditating, stretching, yoga or other calming activities. Click here for our article about sleep hygiene, for example.
Finally, COVID-19 brought many of us new challenges in connecting with loved ones. With the warmer weather, it’s now easier to have outdoor hangouts, while still maintaining our social distancing guidelines. Remember to wash your hands frequently and try not to share utensils or dishes. But with these in mind, cherish those special times with your friends and family, and find joy however you can. Tap into the abundance of nature by spending time near a flourishing tree, pond, or fruit bush. Finally don’t forget to give an outlet for all that abundant joy and energy – laughter is the best medicine!
If you have further questions on your Fire element, or your Heart & Small Intestine meridians, please call 416-890-7770 or click here to book your free 15 minute consultation with us!