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Summer Loving: Tending to the Heart

Summer is a time of abundant energy, long sunshine-filled days and warmth. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), summer has many different associations that help define it. The element of summer is fire, the color of summer is red, the emotion of summer is joy and the governing organs are the heart and the small intestine. 

The TCM system relies heavily on the five elements and how they work and interact within the body, providing multiple levels of description. The first is that of yin and yang. At the most basic level, yin is like water and yang is like fire. Fire is the element of summer and fire is yang in nature, which means it is symbolic of maximum activity. During the summer months, everybody and everything is more outgoing or outward in nature. Since the heart is the main organ associated with the summer season, it requires close attention and nourishment to remain healthy. 

The heart’s main function is to circulate oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. In TCM, mental activity is also associated with the heart. This is known as “Shen” in Chinese medicine, and while Shen is sometimes compared to our mind, it is actually more intricate and encompassing.  The Shen includes our thought processes, our memories, consciousness and emotional well-being. Summer is the most appropriate time to calm the Shen and provide it with enrichment to last throughout the whole year. When the fire element is balanced, the mind is calm, sleep is sound and the heart organ is strong and healthy. If the fire element is not balanced, there may be depression or an excess of joy, which manifests as mania.  Symptoms of an unbalanced fire element include heartburn, insomnia, agitation, nervousness, digestive upset, rashes, palpitations and excessive perspiration.           

There are many ways to keep the heart and fire element balanced during the summer months.  Meditation and deep breathing are easy to do; they require no expensive equipment to perform and can be done anywhere. Going outside and engaging all of your senses is another easy way to nourish heart health. A technique known as “earthing” has been gaining popularity over the past decade and science is showing it to be very beneficial to health. Earthing refers to the discovery that bodily contact with the Earth’s natural electric charge stabilizes the physiology at the deepest levels, reduces inflammation, pain, and stress, improves blood flow, energy, and sleep, and generates greater well-being.  All you have to do is stand in the grass while being barefoot, and the vibrational energy from the earth actually interacts with your body via the skin.  Taking time to listen to the sounds of nature, from the bird songs to the whispers of rustling leaves, as well as the sound of rain and sometimes the thunder that can accompany it; notice the fragrance of the grass and flowers, and the pungency of the fertilized soil in the garden – all of these have a calming effect on the body and the mind.   Remember those days of walking barefoot along the shoreline, listening to the ocean waves, and feeling such a sense of peace and contentment?  That was earthing – you’ve been doing it all along!!!  

Two of the most important things you can do for heart health during the summer months is drink plenty of fresh water and eat cooling foods. No matter what season of the year, water is vital and it is recommended we recommend at least 80 ounces per day. Cooling foods like fruits are good at keeping fire under control, which is healthy for the whole body. 

If you find yourself experiencing a heart or fire imbalance, consider adding acupuncture to your routine. Acupuncture is very good at reducing or increasing the body’s yang/fire, depending upon your individual needs. 

Three Teas to Keep You Cool During the Summer Months

As summer moves on and the warmer days continue, you will find yourself seeking ways to beat the heat. Herbal teas are a great way to cool both the body and mind. Cooling herbal teas can alleviate symptoms of excess heat and have you feeling your absolute best during these heat-intensive summer days.

These three herbal teas will help you stay cool and refreshed:

  1. Mint, Elderflower and Rosehips Tea

The combination of mint, elderflower and rosehips makes for a soothing herbal tea. Rose hips provide a much-needed boost of vitamin C, the elderflower lends its immune-cleansing benefits and the mint finishes off the tea with the cooling touch of menthol.

  1. Lemon Hibiscus Tea

This is an herbal blend just as good cold as it is hot. Regardless of the way this tea is poured, it provides specific cooling benefits to the body. Hibiscus is high in vitamin C and combats against high blood pressure, liver disease and other ailments. Lemon has a kick of vitamin C too, but more importantly it is cleansing and a natural diuretic. This tea combination is both cleansing and cooling. 

  1. Green Tea with Lemon and Mint

The perfect summer refresher. The combination of these three ingredients work together in perfect harmony in order to cool the body down. Packed with vitamin C, menthol and antioxidants this tea will get your constitution headed in the right direction.

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