Today, May 21st, begins the next Small Fullness Seasonal Node (Xiao Man 小滿). Small Fullness is the second node of Summer, and the eighth node of the year. The name “Small Fullness” is an agricultural reference, and in particular, to the harvesting of winter wheat. Winter wheat is usually planted in late Autumn, and then harvested around May or June. Thus “Small Fullness” refers to the fullness of plants at this time, as well as the fullness of wheat as it approaches harvest. The three smaller periods contained in Small Fullness are: Sow Thistles in Seed (Ku Cai Xiu 苦菜秀), Shepherd’s Purse Dies (Mi Cao Si 靡草死), and Minor Summer Heat Arrives (Xiao Shu Zhi 小暑至). The alternate name for the last of these three time periods is Wheat Harvest Arrives (Mai Qiu Zhi 麥秋至).
Typically during Small Fullness there is more dampness and heat in the environment. In many parts of Asia Small Fullness is the middle of rainy season, and even here in the northeastern United States early June is the traditional beginning of hurricane season. Thus, in Chinese there is a folk saying that goes “Xiao Man, Xiao Man, Jiang Man, He Man 小滿小滿，江滿河滿” – Small Fullness, Small Fullness, the rivers are all full. Clearly there is more moisture in the environment. Since this time of year sees increased dampness and heat (although today we wouldn’t know that in New Jersey!) the appropriate thing to focus on to stay healthy is expelling internal heat and expelling disease evils such as dampness.
Although we are beginning to see dampness and heat increase, we are not yet in the middle of Summer when heat is clearly the dominant weather pattern. During this Seasonal Node we still have a mix of hot and cold days, and evenings in particular can be chilly. Tonight the temperature in NJ is expected to drop to 50°F (10°C). Cold, being Yin, invades the lower extremities and so our wind-damp-bi patients may notice ups and downs in pain levels. As we discussed in the previous post on Beginning of Summer, May is associated with the Spleen. During Small Fullness, when cold from below mixes with damp and heat from above, these evils may all bind in the middle burner leading to digestive disorders. Lately in the clinic I’ve been seeing quite a lot of digestive disorders along these lines with patients complaining of intermittent and ongoing diarrhea, nausea, poor appetite, and fatigue.
The traditional “to avoid” during Small Fullness is widely fluctuating emotions/moods. As we move into Summer, the time of the Heart, it is important to maintain a happy but stable mood. We should all try to engage in more leisure activities, especially outdoor activities, while the weather is good.
In terms of diet, we can focus on foods that percolate dampness and gently clear heat. These include corn, adzuki bean, mung bean, peanuts, winter melon, celery, cilantro, lily bulbs and osmanthus. If patients present more with cold and vacuous middle burners then these foods are still permissible in conjunction with foods that gently supplement the Spleen such as yams, sweet potatoes, and small amounts of beef or beef broth. An excellent daily food for Small Fullness is Job’s Tear Barley made into congee. This can be taken as breakfast as it strengthens the Spleen and percolates damp, and is mild enough for just about any constitution. The foods to avoid during Small Fullness are foods that are very warm and damp forming such as deep fried foods, warmer meats such as lamb, or other greasy meats such as goose.
Happy early Summer!