Late Summer: Chinese Medicine's Fifth Season
As we transition through the summer season and find ourselves in late summer, we can often sense the shift with sensitivity. While some are focused on grabbing those last-minute summer vacations with friends and family, others are gearing up to go back to school or their regular work schedules. The freedom and expansive feeling of summer begin to fade, and it seems time to settle into routines and responsibilities. During this transitional time, we must honor our bodies and make accommodations for the waning energy that comes with shorter days. Instead of pushing through any sadness that we feel at the loss of summer, we can give thanks and gratitude for another safe summer with memories made, and begin to acclimate our bodies to late summer, upcoming autumn, and in preparation for winter.
Chinese Medicine for the Late Summer Season
One of the most amazing aspects of Chinese Medicine is the focus on the changing seasons. Rather than using four distinct seasons of summer, autumn, winter, and spring, Chinese Medicine also incorporates late summer as the fifth season. The fifth season begins around the third week of August and runs through the Fall Equinox. Late summer is a time when the yang (warm, hot, dry, and active) energy begins to fade ever so slightly. Rather than staying at peak energy, we start to transition into a late summer that is both energetic and appreciative. This is a time of reflection on the yang energy of summer and all the accomplishments and experiences that have come along with it. If summer is a time of boundless yang energy, of long days and late nights, then late summer is the period to ease us out of summer and usher us into autumn – letting us down a little easy into more mellow energy.
Late Summer Nutrition Tips
During this transitional summer season, we can nourish our bodies in many ways, bringing balance and bolstering our bodies for the upcoming cooler weather. The Earth element is associated with late summer and encompasses the spleen and stomach. It is an especially important time to support and nourish the Spleen and Stomach for better digestive and immune support. We do this by decreasing the amount of raw and cooling foods and increasing the amount of warm, cooked vegetables. These foods often have a mildly sweet flavor, are yellow and orange, and help nourish the body. We do this by decreasing the amount of raw and cooling foods and increasing the amount of warm and easily digestible foods. When it comes to nutrition, we always recommend choosing organic and locally grown produce that is in season.
Foods to Nourish your Spleen and Stomach
- Root Vegetables and Winter Squash: Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Chinese Yam, Acorn Squash
- Lentils and Legumes: Adzuki Beans, Lentil, Garbanzo Beans, Mung Beans, Black Beans
- Whole Grains: Pearled barley (Job’s Tears), Rice, Millet, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Farro, Amaranth
- Nuts & Seeds: Pumpkin Seed, Hemp Seed, Chia Seed
- Meats: Chicken, beef, lamb
- Soups and Stews: Most soups or stews, but we especially like to include local and organic root vegetables and recommend avoiding those with dairy.
Promoting Immune Health
As sunlight begins to lose strength in late summer, we want to be sure we are supplementing our sunshine levels with vitamin D3 and K2. Hopefully, we have accumulated some of these vitamins in our body during the summer, building up our tenacity for the cold and flu season. When late summer comes, we can start to prepare the body for a cooler season with shorter daylight hours. This is also a great time to receive acupuncture to bolster the immune system and provide healing energy that supports the seasonal shift. Easing digestion during this time can be done with ginger, garlic, turmeric, fennel, curry, coriander, and other slightly warming foods. Herbs like cardamom, clove, and nutmeg are great aromatic spices that can be added to foods to stimulate and improve digestion. Mildly sweet foods can bring balance to these spices through the addition of honey, dates, or other sweets that nourish the middle burner: the spleen and stomach.
Chinese Herbs for Late Summer
One late summer herbal supplement that can keep you cool while nourishing the body for the season is calendula. This herb is a bright summer flower that comes from the chamomile family. This herb is a soothing anti-inflammatory that can be used in oils, teas, topically, or otherwise. It soothes rashes externally while calming inflammation internally. This flower can be dried from freshly picked flowers and used all season. This yellow medicinal herb captures summer sunshine and lengthens the season of summer by providing mellow yang energy and stimulating the body slightly.
Acupuncture in Late Summer
Acupuncture is a gentle but effective treatment to receive all year round. In the late summer season, some points can be used to ease the transition. Stomach 36 is one of the most used acupuncture points in Chinese Medicine. This point is located on the lateral side of the lower leg and is one of the strongest points to support the immune system, especially during the Earth, or late summer, season. Stomach 36 relieves feelings of depression and helps smooth digestive issues and upset. This point can help us discover where to find nourishment during shorter days and can prepare us for the coming seasons when we will retreat and retract our energies from exuberance. Another important point during this time is Spleen 6. This point is located on the inner calf, a few inches above the inner ankle bone. This point stimulates the blood and the lymphatic system, thereby raising immunity. This point can help to drain excess edema and relieve swelling. It supports the Earth element and allows for gentle support of blood and circulation. Acupuncture in late summer helps us receive and release.
Honoring the Late Summer Season
During late summer, we have a chance to begin to slow down and support ourselves. Any energy that has gone wild during the summer can now begin to be contained within the body. We want to begin to draw our energy back into the body so we can support ourselves as we enter a colder season of yin hibernation. The late summer season is a time of reflecting on the yang summer and noticing where we need nourishment that can carry us through the autumn reflective times that are coming next. Nourishing our middle allows us the strength in digestion and immunity to come confidently into a new season. Nutrition, herbs, and acupuncture can all support this process, leading to a seamless transition.