Here comes … Summer!
You’re probably familiar with the solar calendar (used widely today) and the lunar calendar (from many ancient cultures) – but have you heard of the Solar Terms?
The 24 Solar Terms, or Seasonal Nodes, based on both solar and lunar calendars, are biweekly divisions that reflect significant shifts in nature. People in East Asia have used the wisdom of Seasonal Nodes to guide agricultural and human activity from the 17th century BCE to the present day.
Understanding the Seasonal Nodes can help us “swim with the current” of nature – in other words; we can harness the vast forces of nature to optimize our well-being and enhance the outcomes of our endeavors. This seasonal series will explain the Seasonal Nodes as organized into the four seasons we are already familiar with.
- Beginning of Summer (May 6-20: Taurus)
- Yang energy continues to rise, initiating the next three months of summer
- Grain Buds (May 21-June 5: Gemini)
- Seeds of summer crops begin to plumpen
- Grain in Ear (June 6-20: Gemini)
- Crops fully ripen, and planting season begins
- Summer Solstice (June 21-July 6: Cancer)
- The sun’s Yang energy reaches its zenith with the longest daylight hours of the year
- Minor Heat (July 7-22: Leo)
- Warmth infuses the earth as atmospheric temperatures climb to their peak
- Major Heat (July 23-Aug 7: Leo)
- The grand finale of Yang activity, with the highest temperatures and biggest thunderstorms. Yang soon folds into Yin as summer slowly gives way to autumn.
Building off the rising energy of Spring, the Summer season is the flourishing glory of Yang, which manifests as maximum sunshine, heat, movement, growth, and expansion. In Chinese medicine, Summer is also associated with the Fire element and Heart organ, as well as laughter and joy.
Here are some tips to align with the vibrant, active energy of Summer
As with anything, moderation and balance are key!
Lifestyle and Emotions
- Late to bed and early to rise – with a midday siesta. You may find that you have more energy with less sleep during the summer. Just as the sun sets later and rises earlier, so can we. When the heat bogs you down, however, a midday rest is a great way to recharge.
- Find what brings joy. The emotion and sounds associated with Summer are joy and laughter. Laugh with joyful abandon, play like a child, pursue pleasure and fulfillment, and let your heart and mind connect with those around you. If exploring is your thing, choose your own adventure!
- Nourish your creativity. While Spring is the time to start new projects, Summer is the time to nourish them. Harness this atmosphere of growth and expansion to take your creative endeavors to a new level.
- Key takeaway: flow freely – play, laugh, grow, and explore!
- Increase cooling foods in your diet. The summer heat depletes the body’s Yin and fluids, so be sure to replenish with water-based foods like vegetables, mung beans, barley, watermelon, yogurt, seaweed, and fish. Mint, chrysanthemum, and green teas are great for venting heat. As always, try to consume lightly cooked foods whenever possible or balance raw foods with warming spices like ginger and cinnamon to prevent indigestion.
- Stay hydrated. This may seem obvious, but dehydration may sneak up on us before we even feel thirsty. If you divide your body weight in half, that is how many ounces of water we should aim to drink each day.
- Decrease hot and dry foods. Since summer weather is already hot and dry, foods like coffee, peanuts, lamb, alcohol, and excessively spicy or fried foods may cause heat imbalance in the body. Best to consume them in moderation, so try swapping your daily coffee for matcha instead.
- Include some bitter flavors in your diet. The bitter flavor descends Qi, balancing the upward blazing fire energy of summer. Dandelion greens, green tea, grapefruit, bitter melon, and asparagus are great examples of foods you can seek out.
- Key takeaway: Emphasize cooling and water-based foods, and decrease coffee and alcohol consumption
- Cardio for the cardiac. The Heart is the organ associated with Summer, so get it pumping! Keep in mind that exercise should invigorate, not deplete, so if you feel exhausted after working out, it may have been too much. On the hotter days, simply taking an afternoon walk is enough to get our hearts pumping and our pores opening.
- Key takeaway: Emphasize cardio and break a (light) sweat
A note about Late Summer
- In Chinese medicine, Late Summer is sometimes considered its own season, when dampness and heat fuse in a way that is unique to the “Dog Day Afternoons” or “Indian Summer.”
- At this time, our bodies may feel heavy, sluggish, and tired, perhaps with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, joint pains, diarrhea, and an overall heavy and achy sensation in the body.
- It is important to aid digestion by eating simple cooked foods and limiting ‘damp-producing’ foods, like excessively sweet, fried, or greasy foods. These are taxing to the digestive system and would exacerbate the heavy lethargy of Late Summer.
These are just several ways we can align ourselves with the season to realize the best versions of ourselves. For more personalized advice according to your unique constitution, please consult your practitioner. Seasonal transitions are the perfect opportunity to rebalance yourself with acupuncture and herbs!