Late Summer: Chinese Medicine’s Fifth Season

Anyone who’s been outside over the last few weeks knows one thing: summer is here, and it’s here with a vengeance. Thankfully for us, especially for those without great air conditioning, the heat may almost be over – Late Summer is about to arrive, and with it, a time to recenter. 

Late Summer refers to the additional season that sits between the fullness of summer and the beginning of autumn. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it is a time to reorganize one’s self before commencing the surrendering and grieving process that begins in the fall.  

In TCM theory, there are 5 elements that are a representation of the cycle of life in the natural world and within the human body.  Each element relates to the other and controls its various excesses; there is no beginning or end. This cycle is a map of time and the natural rhythm of the universe, through the different phases of the seasons and the elements linked to them.

Late Summer relates most closely to the spleen organ system. The spleen, and its corresponding element, the Earth, enjoy routine and regularity. Late Summer, then, is a good time to streamline your current routine in order to ensure that it works best for you – or to create a new routine entirely.  During this transitional time, it is a great idea to get rid of clutter, as well as removing oneself from any situations that no longer interest or nurture you. It is also important to make sure you are not overworking yourself, or overextending yourself in an effort to care for others. If possible, you should avoid excessive worry and over planning, and from structuring your life in a way that might create imbalance. Cultivating trust and patience would be ideal to help create better harmony.

When transitioning from summer to fall, there are certain habits to keep in mind. It is  good to introduce cooked meals into your diet, and move away from raw fruits, salads, and ice water.  Since the spleen prefers to be warm, it is beneficial to stick to room temperature or hot water when transitioning into Late Summer. Foods that support the spleen and increase spleen qi include lentils, quinoa, oats, root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash, and orange peels. Most importantly, you should stick to whatever’s in season – a great excuse to try out that local farmer’s market! In addition to monitoring the types of food you eat, you should make sure to stay active, get enough sleep, spend time in nature, and meditate; regular acupuncture treatments can also help support and strengthen your immune system.  

Whether you love summer or are counting down the days until Labor Day, summer is slowly drawing to a close. As fall approaches, think about the ways you can prepare your body for this change in season.  Besides buying yourself some new sweaters, consider monitoring and modifying your habits to ensure that your body can center itself for the new season ahead.

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