Staying Healthy in Summer According to Chinese Medicine

As Summer Solstice Approaches, Health Is Where the Heart Is

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Welcome to Summer

Summer solstice on June 21 marks the beginning of the season of abundance. Through the lens of Chinese Medicine, it is the most yang day of the year–the apex of summer. It’s time to enjoy crisp watermelon slices, barley tea, and other foods to soothe and aid in cooling the body. With the many hours of daylight, the energy and bounty of summer is the ideal time for socializing, nurturing creative projects, and making time for exercise outside.

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Observing the cycles of nature can provide a dynamic reflection of our own health. Engaging with the environment’s seasonal transitions is an insightful way to get in tune with ourselves and the world. Chinese Medicine believes that when treating disharmonies in the body, there is greater benefit in a seasonal approach and treatments may vary based on time of year because the body is affected by, and a reflection of, the environment around us.

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The Season of the Heart and the Fire Element

Holistic Treatments

Summer is a great time to continue or start Chinese medicine treatments that are uplifting or tonifying for yang, qi, and blood. It is also a time when heat and fire patterns can be suffered in a more pointed or aggressive presentation. When the Heart is in balance, it is a kind leader but out of balance, people may experience:


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Summer Nutrition

As an age old health model, Chinese medicine is generally not supportive of fad diets and health trends. Luckily for the foodies, it’s a medicine (and culture) that loves food and regular eating habits.

According to Joerg Kastner in his book Chinese Nutrition Therapy, the heat of summer “feeds on body fluids and harms yin. It is recommended to take in predominantly cooling, yin foods to disperse heat and build up body fluids. The bitter flavor corresponds to the fire phase, and mostly bitter–cool as well as bitter–cold foods in moderation should be consumed during the hot season.” In general, choose lighter foods to avoid indigestion (per the Heart’s relationship to the Small Intestine). Diet suggestions for summer include:

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As late summer and autumn approach, this would be an appropriate time to make fitting diet changes and support patients that choose to do cleanses.


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Summer Self Care Practices

If you are in San Francisco we experience a later summer than most of North America, but the general cycles of nature still sustain. To optimize your health during the next three months, remember that this is a time for growth and expansion. Allow yourself to stay out a little later, socialize with people who bring you joy, make time to play, experience life and go on an adventure or two but be sure to balance it with plenty of water, downtime, and relaxation.


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The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) at CIIS offers nationally and regionally accredited master’s and doctoral degrees in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. ACTCM’s merger with CIIS expands our ability to re-envision integrative health through collaborations, multimodal approaches, and a broader community to take on today’s most pressing health issues.

Our ACTCM on-site clinic offers acupuncture, herbal medicine, and body work in Potrero Hill. Request an appointment here.


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