Chinese medicine for the four seasons: Summer

Advice from Dr. Katie Molloy on how to make a healthy transition from spring to summer.


Eastern medical philosophy teaches that summer is the most Yang of the four seasons. Days are long, fruit and flowers flourish, animals and birds are busy and abundant. Continuing the surge of growth that began in spring, this is a time for expansion, activity and creativity.

For a healthy, seasonal transition, make the most of the extended daylight hours. Walks after dinner are wonderful this time of year. Go to bed later and rise early as the sun does. If you can, take a rest in the middle of the day. Be active in the outdoors: walk, run, dance, swim and stretch. Allow the sunshine to invigorate your body and heart.

As the weather is warmer, keep also warm in spirit. Practice relaxation and meditation. Avoid feelings of resentment or bother. Instead, let the Yang of summer lift your spirits, especially on days of extreme weather when anger or frustration might surface.

On very hot days eat small and light meals, incorporating some cooling foods such as: watercress, cucumber, bean sprouts (especially mung, soy and alfalfa), tofu, apples, watermelon, lemon and lime.

Enjoy the quality and variety of summer’s fruit and vegetables – a colourful plate is a healthy plate. Stock up on seasonal fresh produce and think about energising your body for the year ahead. Cook lightly and often, with small amounts of pungent spices such as fresh ginger, cayenne pepper, horseradish and black pepper. This cools the body by bringing heat to the surface and dispersing it.

Make a conscious effort to eat in moderation. Overconsumption of sweets, cold, raw, greasy, fried and spicy foods can weaken digestive energy and make it more difficult to cope in the heat.

In summertime, health imbalances may present as heat accumulation inside the body. You may be prone to pimples, mouth ulcers, cold sores, nosebleeds, rashes, insomnia, agitation, irritability, UTI, cystitis, fever or thirst. If your system is retaining phlegm, you may also find asthma, allergies or colds and flu flaring. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can treat these conditions and help maintain the balance of good health. See a registered practitioner for more information.

Did you know?

A cup of warm water or green tea is more beneficial on a hot day than an ice-cream sundae. Cold causes contraction, holds in sweat and can interfere with digestion. Avoid ice-cream and cold drinks on hot humid days, especially if you tend to feel nauseated, bloated, foggy-headed, heavy or lethargic. In Chinese medicine, these are signs of a weakened spleen or digestive energy. Sugar and dairy put extra pressure on this system, which may result in the accumulation of internal ‘dampness,’ phlegm production and a lesser ability to cope in hot and humid weather. Instead, opt for green tea – which is cooling in nature, and a warm shower to encourage gentle sweating and cool down naturally.

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