Ancient Chinese remedies so you can keep calm and carry on in Hong Kong’s hot weather!
Summer is all about finding fun ways to beat the heat: family holidays, fun on the beach and lots of ice cream. But is it really good for your body to cool down with ice cream and chilled beverages? After a rise in sugar, you might experience a rise in excitement followed by fatigue and low energy periods mainly due to the heat. How else can we survive the heat of this summer? Read on to find out what ancient Chinese medicine has to say.
At Oriental Health we believe that a healthy life requires us to live in balance with nature. When it comes to seasons, it’s important to understand the character of the season to leverage its force and minimise imbalances.
The Nature of Summer
Summer – Season of Yang
Summer is a Yang season, a time for expansion, with the energy moving up and out with a lively brightness. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends cultivating Yang energy in spring and summer, whilst protecting Yin energy in autumn and winter. Summer is characterised as a time when the body undergoes vigorous metabolic (body energy) processes.
Summer belongs to fire, which is an element characterised by high levels of activity and Yang energy; a time of heat, outgoingness, and moving outward in nature and in our lives. In human anatomy, the heart, mind and spirit are ruled by the fire element, so priority is given to nourishing these facets of one’s being for staying healthy in summer.
The Organs of Summer: Heart & Small Intestine
The heart’s main function is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. In Chinese medicine, mental activity is associated with the heart, making this organ central to many psychological aspects of our being including our memory, thought processes, emotional well-being and consciousness. This is a time to nourish and pacify our spirits, and to realise our life’s greatest potential as we find joy in our hot summer days and warm summer nights.
Managing Internal Heat
During the summer, it is important to regulate heat in the body, not allowing the body to cool down excessively. We are often tempted to consume cooling drinks and foods (especially ice cream!), however such things can have a cooling effect on important organs such as the spleen digestive system, which regulate the kidneys and Yang energy, our crucial energy in summer. It is for these reasons that we should try to keep cool naturally by consuming seasonal cooling foods, resting during the hottest periods of the day and not exposing ourselves to the sun directly.
Tips for Summer
When the fire element is in balance, the heart is strong and healthy, the mind is calm and sleep is sound.
When the fire element is imbalanced, we may either lack joy (depression) or have an excess of joy (mania). Indicators of an imbalance in the fire element include agitation, nervousness, heartburn and insomnia.
Action Plan: In Balance with Summer
Awake earlier in the morning and go to bed later in the evening. Rest at midday to stay energised.
Exercise your heart: Practice elevating your heart rate with exercise in order to strengthen it. Complement vigorous exercise with meditation and/or deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate in preparation for a good restful sleep.
Refrain from anger: Keep calm and even-tempered during times of difficulty.
Feel the joy. When you experience the emotion of joy, you nourish the heart. Seek out people and things that bring you joy; give unconditionally, as this helps us to connect with others and bring more joy into our lives. Remember to practice compassion with yourself as well, and to allow yourself to receive.
Avoid too much exposure to the heat by resting during the middle of the day and saving rigorous activities for the morning or evening.
Summer is the season to feel hot and sweat a bit. In moderation, sweating is good for you, helping to grow yang and remove toxins from the body. Let it be in a natural way; while you can use air conditioning, try not to expose yourself excessively to artificially regulated environments.
Diet Plan for Summer
So, what are some of these good foods that beat the heat during summer?
Grains: barley, millet, quinoa, wheat
Vegetables: asparagus, aubergine, cabbage, celery, cucumber, lettuce, lotus root, lily root, potato, seaweed, turnip, bitter melon, rhubarb
Fruit: apple, avocado, banana, blueberry, cranberry, fig, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mango, melon, pear, papaya, plum, watermelon
Beans: kidney, mung-bean, yellow, soy, tofu
Fish: abalone, crab, fresh and salt water clam, octopus
Herbs and spices: Fuling (China root), goji (wolfberry), liquorice, purslane, tamarind
Beverages: China Pearl tea, chrysanthemum tea, dandelion root, elderflower tea, peppermint tea
Sounds like a good time to eat salad
There’s nothing better than a cooling salad when the weather is scorching hot – if you’re lucky enough to be living in such a place. However, did you know that eating salads can be quite a drain on your energy levels? You should consider whether you have the energy to spare since salads must be well chewed and your digestive system takes more effort to break down raw foods. A more suitable choice for you would be to lightly stir-fry some vegetables before eating them.
One thing we strongly recommend is to make the most of seasonal foods. Foods in season bring us all the essence that nature can offer, and are an effective tool for keeping us balanced. Of course they also taste great! Eating seasonal foods is a way of reconnecting with the organic cycle that nature intended for us. For this post we will take a look at the apricot.
Apricots: The Chinese Medicine Perspective
– Nature: slightly cool, sweet and sour
– Benefits: regenerates body fluids, clears heat, detoxifies, and quenches thirst
– Conditions addressed: dehydration & summer coughs
Check out this great recipe featuring apricots by Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times. Read it here.
Follow these tips and enjoy the rest of summer with a focus on health and well-being!