summer: the time of fire

Chinese medicine teaches that summer is the time of the fire element, the spark from which all life derives. As a transition from spring, summer transforms the newly created energy and expands it to its maximum potential. Yang energy is flourishing with heat and outward movement. Summer illuminates one’s inner being in the external world. One is drawn to the sun for light nourishment, stimulating growth and a harmonious connection to self and the environment.


The Five Element Theory tells us the fire element is associated with the emotion of joy, the sound of laughter and organs of the heart, small intestine, pericardium and triple warmer meridians. Heart energy regulates blood circulation and controls consciousness, spirit, sleep, memory, and houses the mind. It is said to be the supreme monarch responsible for maintenance of peace and harmony.

The pericardium serves as the energetic protector of the heart, only allowing positive energies to enter and barring pathogens into the heart’s inner sanctum. The small intestine is known as the sorter of the pure from the impure – physically separating nutrients from the waste in food eaten. It also serves to eliminate negative interactions from our consciousness in relationships. The triple warmer regulates internal body temperature and is the only organ that has function, but no structure. Acupuncture received as the cycle of summer approaches targets the free flow of the energetics of all of these fire vital organs.

The color of the fire element is red, thus wearing bright colors and making colorful flower displays nourishes the heart. Lots of laughter is the character of the fire of summer – as one seeks out and spreads positive energy to benefit heart health. Summer is the time to run, jump, and play – putting one’s heart into activities and relationships that bring joy. Blossoming maturity and personal joy power is discovered in the hot days, warm nights of summer.

Maintaining balance of mind, body and spirit is essential during this joyous time. Otherwise, the forthcoming yang energy with hot temperatures can be disruptive to one’s energetic stability. Chinese medicine treatments such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs clear heat, reduce toxins, and generate fluids to maintain balance, energy, coolness, and comfort all summer long. Summer is said to be the best season for preventative acupuncture treatments, combined with dietary, lifestyle and behavior adjustments to build resistance s and strengthen immunity - to avoid discomfort of colds and flus in the upcoming winter.

Introduction of some cooling foods into the diet is appropriate; however, be careful to eat them steamed or sautéed when possible because summer heat combined with too much cold food weakens the digestive organs. Moreover, coldness leads to contraction, retains sweat and heat. Iced drinks and ice cream contracts the stomach and hampers digestion, so best taken in moderation. Eating less and lightly on hot, bright days is a healthy practice. - a period of growth and harmonious connection to self and the environment.

Eating brightly colored fruits and vegetables adjust body temperature and provide protection during the long, hot summer days. Snow peas, asparagus, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, sprouts, bamboo shoots, Chinese cabbage, corn, celery, cucumber, zucchini, lettuce, carrot, pear, plums, watermelon, cantaloupe, cranberry, peach, and orange keep the body cool and balanced all summer long. The taste of the fire element is bitter, therefore bitter greens such as mustard and watercress are nourishing for this time of year.

Seaweed, tofu, mung beans, millet, rice, potato, lamb, and some seeds and nuts are also recommended during summertime. Chrysanthemum, mint and licorice teas are favorites for cooling the body to reduce excess heat accumulation. If feeling dehydrated, a tea made with watermelon rind helps hydrate the body. Sprinkling foods with pungent, spice flavors like cilantro, mint and dill are recommended to nourish heart energy.

Sip water with lemon or lime slices throughout the day to remain hydrated and to dampen summer fire. Water is necessary for proper digestion, waste removal, and adequate hydration. Dehydration slows blood circulation, the brain becomes less active, concentration becomes difficult, and fatigue sets in. Water is pure liquid refreshment and accounts for a large part of the body, whereby the average 150lb. adult body contains 40-50 quarts of water which is almost 2/3 of a person’s body weight.

The best advice is to listen to the particular needs of one’s body in terms of their need for water. Simple purified water without chemicals at a steady dose of 8 glasses per day (ideally ½ body weight in ounces of water) improves energy, increases mental performance, peaks physical performance, removes toxins and waste products from the body, keeps skin health and glowing, helps with weight loss, promotes optimal digestion, reduces headaches, relieves dizziness, and keeps the body more alkaline.

As summer begins on the longest day of the year, enjoy the sunlight and the warmth of this time of the year. Follow these Chinese medicine recommendations to keep fire dampened, and energy flowing throughout the body. Cultivate creative projects that came forth during springtime. Take many moments for deep connection to self and others, enjoying the wholeness of life achieved during this fiery cycle of nature.