Spring Has Quickly Turned to Summer

Estimated read time... 3 minutes
Summer is here!

I hope everyone is taking it easy, not overdoing it, and resting so that you’ll have the energy to do all that needs to be done over the coming months! At the same time, I hope you are enjoying the warmth and light that this season brings!

I wanted to briefly introduce you to Akebia quintata (shown above, and below), also known as Mu Tong in pinyin.  My grandfather planted them on what is now my parents’ property (and what is my childhood home.)  This plant has basically taken over one whole area of their property, and it making headway into taking over as much of the other bit of their 3-ish acres as possible.  This particular Akebia vine has made its home in a holly bush.

While this is not an herbal monograph, for those interested:  Akebia is typically used to “drain dampness”.  It is slightly cold in temperature, it is bitter and is directed towards the Bladder, Heart, and Small Intestines.  This plant’s flowers have a gorgeous heady perfume.  I wish I could have bottled some!  Perhaps next year I’ll know how to capture flower’s fragrance and perfume!

The temperature of herbs indicates how it affects the body – “cold” temperature herbs/foods cool the body down (like mint tea, or watermelon.)  This is much like what an air conditioner does to a hot house, or ice cubes do to water.  “Hot” or “Warm” temperature herbs/foods heat the body up, and stoke the body’s internal furnace and heat generating ability (like cayenne pepper, cinnamon and ginger, curries and other spicy foods.)

When you are outside for long periods of time, in the extreme heat, your body becomes invaded by the heat of the environment.  Too much heat when it is hot out exhausts your body’s cooling abilities and makes you sick (think of Heat Stroke), too much cold foods when it is hot out creates “dampness” (like condensation on a glass of ice water on a hot day – but that’s what happens to the inside of your body!)  In TCM, all of this is called Summer Heat (that scorching hot feeling, or heat from overexposure) or Summer Heat with Dampness (the heat feelings from a hot and humid climate.)

Here are some things you can do, and some things to not do, to protect yourself from suffering from Summer Heat this season:

1.  Avoid: overeating cold raw foods, ice cold foods/drinks, juices/smoothies, melons and too much fruit
2.  Drink: hibiscus, lemon balm, rosehips, and chrysanthemum teas cool, not cold
3.  Avoid (or limit/restrict) red meat, alcohol and caffeine – except green tea which cools the body
4.  Eat: spicy foods and hot teas in moderation – they promote sweating, which in turns cools the body
5.  Avoid citrus juices, soda, sports drinks, sugar, honey, agave, etc – except Stevia – they create what is called Heat and Dampness thus aggravating what you are experiencing
6.  Eat: fresh vegetables, salads and fruits in moderation; legumes, white meats, mung beans, watermelon (in moderation), soy bean sprouts and room temperature herbal teas.  Balance fruit intake by eating the seeds or piece of the peel with the fruit – as always, eat organic and local!
7.  Drink: water with slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, berries, mint leaves, etc in the glass.
8.  Do try to keep the indoor temperature as close to the outdoor temperature as possible, or at least cover up in the chilly air conditioning.  The extremes in temperature leave the body vulnerable to all sorts of invasions (think: summer colds/flus) – limit your risk by wearing a scarf and sweater inside, and removing it when you get outside.