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July 8, 2023

Staying cool with TCM-inspired foods and movement this summer

Summer sunshine, warmth, and longer days are finally here! In East Asian Medicine (EAM), summer is associated with the fire element, which makes sense given the warmer temperatures, longer time that the sun is out, and our overall warmer feelings in our body. Summer is also the most Yang time of the year, meaning it is the time that is most bright, active, warm (compared to winter, which is the most Yin time of year, meaning it is dark, slower, cooler). With all of this in mind, it is especially important to be taking care of our bodies in a way that keeps the fire in balance, not too much, or not too little. According to EAM, there are many ways you can care for your body during summer by balancing and supporting the fire element. This looks like managing heat to stay cool, staying hydrated, and moving the excess heat out of your body. Here are some food recommendations (with a yummy summer-inspired recipe!) and forms of simple movement that can help you keep your cool this summer!

Foods that are good for you during summer

The flavor associated with summer or the Fire element is bitter. The bitter flavor is good at clearing heat, especially in the organs associated with the Fire element (the Heart and the Small Intestine!). With this in mind, bitter foods, such as kale, bitter greens, radishes, cabbage, and even coffee or chocolate (without sugar), support a healthy balance during summer. Foods that also have high water content, such as watermelon, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, peaches, and other fruits and vegetables can help with cooling your body down during summer.

Try out this yummy summer salad, that you can easily find all the ingredients to during summer, and better yet, at your local farmers market!

  • Tomato
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Radishes
  • Lettuce
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon
  • Mint, dill, or any other fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Movement to help clear heat

In Qi Gong, there is an exercise called “Pulling Down Heavens” that may appear simple, but has profound balancing, cleansing, and descending effects on the body. Depending on your intention there are minor variations on the exercise, but generally this practice gathers earth and heavenly Qi, and then washes over and down the body. This exercise is a great way to start the day by gathering Qi for the day, or even close the day, bringing energy down and let go. Pulling Down Heavens can be a great part of any daily routine, but could help to descend and clear heat or excess energy during summer. Here’s a video tutorial on how to do Pulling Down Heavens, and describes three variations you can try!

A Note on Global Heat

You may have seen the headlines that this week the world experienced the 4 hottest days ever on record. While it’s important to know how to say in good health during hot days and beat the heat, the issue of rising temperatures is not an individualized one; the world is poised to see an increase in epidemics and climate refugees in the coming decades. We encourage everyone to do what they can to take action against climate change. For inspiration about how you can help and to read a Chinese-medicine inspired take on climate change, check out this article about Environmental Activist & AIMC Berkeley professor Dr. Nishanga Bliss, DSc, DAIM, LAc.

About the Author

Molly wears a checkered dress in front of a wood panelled backdropMolly Pilloton Lam is a first-year Master’s student at AIMC with a background in working with BIPOC communities in education, educational leadership, public health, and trauma-informed youth mental health program settings. She is interested in expanding education and equitable access to acupuncture and EAM in BIPOC and communities, particularly to support people with the impacts of trauma. She is excited to be a student at AIMC for her pathway to acupuncture, and looks forward to uplifting its traditional practices and other BIPOC practitioners’ voices.

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