Heat, lush gardens, fresh food, bare feet and outdoor living. There’s nothing like it!
As with every season, summer brings with it it’s own unique blend of gifts. Our gardens and markets are filled with fresh naturally ripened foods. Social calendars are filled with patio or dock time and the time to play is upon us. Summer naturally lends itself to passion and inspiration. And that sunshine and warmth can feel like medicine after the cold winter and rainy spring season.
However, not all of us thrive in the heat. Anxiety and that hot and bothered kinda energy can pop up for many in these summer months. Luckily, nature has a way of balancing us out when we listen. Foods naturally grown in the summer season – crisp lettuces, cool cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and the ultimate summer refresher, Watermelon – all have the natural ability to cool us down and replenish the moisture lost through the heat.
With all the heart-full joy, energy and warmth that comes with summer, the natural slowing down and lounging that happens is a perfect balance to the active energy. The yin to the ultimate yang energy which is summer.
In Eastern Medicine, we’re always looking for balance: warm to balance the cool, moisture to balance the dry, activity to balance the rest or more importantly the rest to balance all the activity that we’re so fond of in our busy modern culture.
For some naturally prone to anxiety, the summer extroversion and stimulation can make things worse. These folks are best to structure a lot of cooling downtime and including foods that have a calming and cool nourishing effect. Lettuce, celery, aloe, and gelatinous seeds such as chia have a naturally calming effect on the nervous system as they include silcia and properties that calm the nervous system. Avoiding coffee and too many stimulants can be helpful for these folks.
For those who have robust constitutions and tend to over heat easily adding in cooling and moistening foods such as watermelon, spinach and summer fruits can be helpful to replace the moisture lost and cool the steamy heat of summer. Hot peppers can also be used to help clear extra heat from the body. Just think spicy jerk chicken or spicy curry that causes brows to drip but an ultimate cool down as sweat is a natural way the body cools itself down.
Note: hot peppers are not great for the frail or deplete person or those who suffer hot flashes or night sweats that have dry skin, eyes or too little body fat as they will ultimate deplete the mixture these folks actually need. They would be better with the cool and refreshing aqua fresca thirst quenchers listed below.
The natural flavour associated with this time of the year is bitter. This isn’t a flavour we get to experience much in our modern world as it’s drilled into chefs and our sweet salty obsessed fast food world to avoid bitter at all costs. But bitter has it’s benefits! We start to see some bitters making it back into the cocktail world and there are many fresh summer foods that have a natural bitter quality to them which can help to balance out the summer heat.
Bitter is consider to be a Yin (in the yin-yang world of TCM) flavour and is considered to be naturally cooling. The bitter flavour causes energy to descend and help brings the heat levels down in the body. This is great for those who overheat easily or those who are prone to water retention in the summer months as it brings energy/fluids downward into the bladder where they can be cleared from the body.
Naturally bitter foods include: lettuce (particularly romaine), rye, alfalfa, watercress bitter moon, dandelion greens and aloe juice. some mildly bitter and also pungent foods include: citrus peels (add some orange peels into your iced tea or grate into your salad for a hit of bitter zest), scallions, turnips and white pepper. Bitter sweet options include: asparagus, celery, papaya, some lettuces and quinoa
Note: if you are naturally cold or feel really depleted or rundown, avoid or just have bitter in moderation as it may be too draining for you if used in large amounts regularly.
Summer is associated with the Heart system and it is all about passion, joy, connection and PLAY. This is a great time to connect with your desires, dreams and inspirations and start to put them into action. Reaching out to those who are aligned with your vision. Spending time putting your plan into motion or just spend time immersed in things that open your heart and bring you deep joy. The summer energy is all about full throttle energy so if dive in and enjoy it if you’re called. But remember, it’s possible to have ‘winter in summer’ too.
If you’re run down or in need of some serious R & R, nature has the perfect balm. Plant yourself in the shade of a tree on a blanket or hammock or under an umbrella on a dock or with feet dipping in a river and allow yourself to BE for a bit. Let nature grow and buzz around you but soak up the cool calm that comes from simply being for awhile. We can only DO when we’ve built up enough of that BEing energy that comes from rest.
If you’re one who likes to explore your inner world and use the energy of the season to prompt some exploration, here are a few questions to explore with the summer energy:
Where do I get joy in my life? what am I most enthusiastic about or get excited just thinking about?
How do I play? Do I laugh regularly?
Am I able to fully express myself in a way that has meaning for myself?
Do I suffer from anxiety or often have manic energy?
Do I rest well? Am I able to calm and relax myself, particularly in the evening or night hours?
Am I able to let go of control to enjoy the fruits of life? Am I enjoying too many fruits and need to balance my play with some order?
Life is the ultimate balance of work and play, activity and rest, heating up and cooling down. We navigate and understand our inner selves and inner world, so that we’re able to share that out in the world and receive all the unique gifts that others have to offer. When we take the time to know ourselves (winter season) then we are better able to express ourselves (summer season) when the time is right.
So this summer, I wish you deep connection to yourself, to your loved ones, glorious time in the beauty of nature and a belly full of fresh summer food!
For some natural beat the heat cures be sure to check our our aqua fresca recipes and cooling summer salads. And if you’re the cooler type who runs cold or has poor digestion, be sure to read the ice drinks articles for some suggestions to help balance you out.
I wish you all a joyful, fun and replenishing summer season!