Summer Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Ancient Chinese lived according to the seasons and in harmony with nature. They rose at sunrise, retired at sunset, and ate what they grew each season. These and other practices allowed them to stay healthy and live longer lives.

Based on the observations of nature, the Chinese came up with the Five Element Theory. There are five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element is associated with a season, an organ in the body, a color, an emotion, a taste, and a stage in life.

Summer pertains to the Fire element. It is a period of growth, joy, and expansion. It is the time to travel, work, play, laugh, and be active.

In Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM), the heart is the organ that belongs to the Fire element. The heart is the emperor of the body, governs blood, and is in charge of the mind.

When the Fire element is in balance, the heart is strong, the mind is calm, and we sleep well.

When the Fire element is out of balance, we can suffer from depression, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, excessive sweating, palpitations, and insomnia.

Here are some tips for maintaining the Fire element in balance for a great summer season

  • Wake up early and go to bed later. If possible, rest at midday.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Include flower and leaf teas such as mint, chamomile, and chrysanthemum.
  • Find time to play, laugh, and have fun.
  • “Eat the rainbow,” include a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet. Eat salads!
  • Cook lightly. Saute at high heat for a short period of time, steam, and simmer the same way. Use less salt and more water.
  • Add a little (but not too much) of hot spices to your meals (cayenne, black pepper, hot green and red peppers, and fresh ginger). It may sound contradictory because the pungent flavor is hot in nature, but it can promote cooling thru sweating when added in small amounts.
  • Eat cooling and bitter foods. Bitter is the flavor associated with the Fire element. Bitter foods are cooling, helpful for inflammation, and some of them can also relieve constipation.
  • Eat less and lightly on hotter days. Avoid heavy foods such as meats, eggs, excess nuts, seeds, and grains.
  • It is tempting to have ice drinks and ice cream; however, TCM recommends staying away from them since cold affects digestion.

Some recommended foods for the summer months

  • Apple
  • Watermelon
  • Limes and lemons
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Cucumber
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Mung beans

Mung bean soup (Chinese Green Bean) is a traditional soup in China used during the hot summer because of its cooling nature. Here are two links for recipes; one is a more modern recipe, and the other is traditional. Can’t wait to try them both. Let me know if you like them.

Summer is a great time to be active, but here in the valley, it is also a great time to rest and relax because of the extremely hot weather.

Stay cool, and enjoy the summer. Rest, relax, and rejuvenate!


Pitchford Paul. 2002 Healing with Whole Foods. Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books.


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