Summer. The word alone stirs up thoughts of campfires, flip flops, popsicles, swimming and long sunny days. However, for many people it also means sunburns, mosquito bites and excessive sweating. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to deal with all of these issues. Sipping on some refreshing lemonade or munching on a slice of watermelon are some traditional ways to cool off. But Traditional Chinese Medicine has some other less common ways of treating summer ailments.
TCM utilizes a methodology based on the five elements. Summer is ruled by the fire element. The summer months are a time of growth, joy and spiritual awareness. Something commonly seen by TCM practitioners during the summer season is a phenomenon called summer heat. The symptoms of summer heat include excessive body heat, sweating, constipation, dry mouth and heart palpitations. Despite the fact summer is a season of warmth, the body still needs to be prepped for the seasonal changes. Any transition from one season to another should include the boosting of the body’s immune system. Therefore, herbal formulas that strengthen the essence and nourish the body are very important to have on hand as summer rushes in.
Herbal formulas are an integral part of TCM. In fact, most scholars believe herbal formulas preceded the development of acupuncture, another vital modality utilized by TCM. One herbal formula that is a must must-have for somebody showing signs of summer heat, is known as Qing Shu Yi Qi Tang. This formula will clear away summer heat, promote bodily fluids and benefit the Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is the energy or life force that keeps all living things alive. When Qi becomes deficient or depleted, the body shows signs of disease.
Another herbal formula that can be beneficial during the summer months is known as Liu Yi San. This formula clears summer heat, resolves dampness and tonifies Qii. This particular formula can be used in severe cases of summer heat or heat stroke, as it can help stop any nausea or vomiting associated with heat exhaustion.
Not all herbal formulas are comprised of multiple herbs. There are some individual herbs that can be very helpful to have around in case somebody becomes stricken with summer heat. For instance, chrysanthemum flowers (Ju Hua) are frequently steeped into a refreshing tea during the warm summer months. Ju Hua clears heat from the lungs and is cooling to the body.
Mung beans can also be used to fight off summer heat and heat exhaustion. Mung beans can be steeped into a tea and sipped during an attack of summer heat. This tea can prevent and decrease the symptoms of dehydration, headaches, abdominal bloating and decreased urination.
There are also many other herbs that can be added to food or steeped into teas or used topically that can help with summertime ailments. Lavender is good for stress relief, as well as skin problems. Got a bug bite? Try applying some diluted tea tree oil. Elder flowers can assist with upper respiratory congestion that is sometimes common. Dandelions can be steeped into a tea that will help reduce a fever.
There are many ways herbs and herbal formulas can help during the warm summer months. Many of the single herbs can be found already made in teabags at the local grocery store. For the herbal formulations, you should check with a licensed TCM practitioner or herbalist in your area. So raise a glass of lemonade or iced tea to the season of summer. And don’t forget to add the Ju Hua.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.