By Brigitte Mars
After a long cold winter, its hard to imagine we would be bothered by heat. Summer is the season of growth and maturation when sunlight brings the abundance of flowers and fruit. Summer correlates to the Fire Element and is the most yang, masculine and active of seasons. The Fire Element corresponds to The heart, “king of all organs” and is home to the Mind, (Shen / Spirit) and aspects of consciousness including intelligence, creativity, thought, sleep and memory. The emotions associated with this season are joy, over excitement or lack of joy. The Fire element also governs the small intestines. Summer is also the time when excess heat can cause discomfort, lethargy and irritability.
To keep our cool in summer select lighter fare such as leafy greens, salads, fruit, melons, asparagus, broccoli, corn, long grain rice, tofu, smoothies and yogurt. Cucumbers, mulberries and watermelon are especially cooling. Lotus seed, lily bulb and longan fruit are oriental cooling herbs available in some health food stores or oriental markets. Enjoy local fruits and visit the farmer’s market to enjoy the most freshly picked produce to see just what does grow in this region. By learning to identify some of the local wild foods that offer their flavor and nutrition freely such as violet leaves, malva and lambsquarter you enjoy health, freshness and save on your grocery bill.
The flavor associated with the Fire Element is bitter, which in general has a cooling effect and this flavor can be enjoyed through greens such as endive, escarole, watercress and dandelion. Pungent seasonings such as cayenne, and curries actually help one perspire, thus feel cooler during times of oppressive heat. Enhance the flavor of food with lemon juice, parsley, basil, cilantro and other fresh herbs. Flowers bring delight and beauty into any meal. Learn to use organically grown flowers to decorate food such as borage, marigold, roses, sunflower petals and nasturtiums. Victims of heatstroke are often deficient in potassium so be sure to include potassium rich foods such as bananas, cantaloupe and potatoes.
Heavy animal foods are best kept to a minimum during the hot season, with fish and chicken being lighter than dark meats. Minimize cheese, milk and breads to make life easier for the small intestines. Raw is the coolest, lightest way to eat during the summer. Steaming is a preferable method of food preparation over fried. Any cooking is best done in the morning. Avoid overeating and eating too late at night. Being overly full when the weather is hot is especially uncomfortable.
Consuming more liquids help keep us cool. A squeeze of lemon or lime in pure water, helps quench thirst. Make your own sodas by adding a few spoons of fruit juice concentrate then filling the glass with natural sparkling water. Herbal iced teas can provide a wealth of trace minerals. Nature provides herbs that can relieve internal heat, are cooling and nourishing during the heat of summer and can be enjoyed as cool beverages.
- Hawthorn leaf and flower (Crataegus species) strengthens the heart and aids digestion.
- Yellow chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) cools the body without cooling digestion.
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) cool the body by gently dilating the pores so heat can escape and provide luscious lemon flavor.
- Red clover (Trifolium pratense) cools the body and improves circulation.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and peppermint (Mentha piperita) are both considered refrigerants in that they help lower body temperature.
- Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and strawberry leaf (Fragaria vesca) are mineral rich and have a flavor similar to black tea.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) makes a tart refreshing pink tea that cools and provides vitamin C. Sun tea can provide flavor and coolness without heating up the kitchen. Make sun tea by placing four heaping teaspoons of herb in a quart glass jar filled with spring water in a sunny place for three hours. Strain, flavor with honey or lemon if desired. Select room temperature and cool drinks, as iced beverages can inhibit digestion. Avoid heating alcoholic beverages such as brandy, rum, whiskey and red wine. However a bit of beer is okay on occasion.
- Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), is considered an adaptogen and can help one adapt to extreme changes in climate.
Water is the most yin of elements and can cool heat through external use during this season. Make a spritzer by filling an 8 ounce spray bottle with spring water, 2 teaspoons of witch hazel and 10 drops of lavender and 10 drops of peppermint essential oils. With eyes and mouth closed gently spray face and neck to cool off. Soak in a warm bathtub to which five drops essential oil of peppermint, which provides an icy chill.
Wake up earlier to enjoy the coolness of the morning. Slow down activities. Take a nap during the hot part of the day if possible when you are likely to feel low in energy. Exercise early in the day but avoid anything over strenuous. Yoga is excellent. Sweating enough to release internal heat helps one better adapt to their environment. Go for a walk after sunset.
Wear loose fitting light colored cotton or silk clothing. Cooling colors are white, light blue and green and purple. Red, yellow, orange and black will make you feel hotter. Use a ventilated hat with a brim and make sure arms and legs are protected when in the sun.
Air conditioners can cause colds and chills and stress immunity. If you must use an air conditioner, keep it at a temperature that closely matches the air outdoors. Fans that are hand held may have gone out of fashion, but are still a good idea. Tempers can run hot during the Fire season. When needing to discuss hot topics, do it in the morning or evening rather than during the heat of the day.
Enjoy the radiance and smell the flowers!