Monday, July 7, is the beginning of the next seasonal node – Minor Heat (Xiao Shu 小暑). This important time period marks a major transition in the movement of Qi in the natural world. Summer Solstice (Xia Zhi 夏至) began the transition from Yang-expansion to Yin-contraction in the environment. Therefore, Minor Heat is the first seasonal node in the Yin time of the year. That said, it is still hot out! Even the name of this seasonal node acknowledges this. Although we are transitioning into the Yin time of the year, weather change happens slowly. Think of it like a train barreling ahead at high speed. Once the conductor decides to stop the train and put it in reverse, he first puts on the breaks. Even though the breaks are applied, it takes several hundred feet before the train actually stops. Only then will it very slowly start moving in reverse. The movement of the seasons is just like this. Once we have flipped the switch from Yang to Yin, the weather still continues to warm for some time before the very slow movement in the opposite direction begins.
The most important “to do” during this time is to nourish the Heart by maintaining an optimistic outlook. Why is this? June and July are the months associated with the Fire phase. Also, if we overlay the 12 time periods of the day with the 12 months of the year (i.e., the 12 two-hour periods of the day that each correspond to one of the primary channels), June is the time of the Heart channel and July the Small Intestine channel. Both are Fire phase channels. Since this is the time of year of the Fire phase, it is the time of the Heart Zang. We nourish the Heart by keeping a calm mind and being optimistic. Pessimism or other negative emotional states can lead to patterns such as Liver stagnation, which in turn can transform into heat and harass the Heart. Modern research has shown that positive attitudes are beneficial to health. For example, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that pessimistic people have a much higher risk of developing dementia in later life, and the risk is even higher for people with a pessimistic personality and anxiety (click here to read more about this study).
During this seasonal node, the first 5-day period is known as Wen Feng Zhi (溫風至), - Sultry Winds Arrive. This certainly describes what is happening in the weather right now, especially in the Northeastern United States! The weather has been very hot, and very humid. Therefore, we also need to be careful about environmental dampness damaging the body. As clinicians we should be sure to instruct patients who are prone to damp patterns on how to eat, dress, etc… In this light the main “to avoid” this time period is undue exposure to cold and excessive consumption of cold items (both cold temperature and cold thermal nature). While it may seem logical to be in cold places in cold weather, there is certainly a problem in the west with, for example, using air conditioners to cool rooms to temperatures lower than we’d feel comfortable with in winter! Recently in our clinic we’ve seen quite a few patients with summer colds from frequently going between very hot and very cold environments. Furthermore, the overconsumption of cold food and drink, especially cold and very sweet food and drink damages the Spleen leading to more damp accumulation. Instead, we should drink beverages that are cooling as well as either bitter (to drain) or acrid (to move). This will cool the body without developing damp stagnation. This type of drink includes chrysanthemum and mint, or even green teas. For example, in China summer is the season to drink green teas such as the famous Dragon Well – Long Jing Cha 龍井茶.
In the next post we look at some diet recommendations for Minor Heat.
Stay dry and cool (but not too cool!)