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Keeping Cool in the Summer with Chinese Medicine

Posted Jun 30 2008 6:02pm

The warmth of summer can feel great, especially after a long New England winter and a beautiful, but slow, spring. Some people, though, feel worse in the heat, and find that hot weather aggravates certain health conditions.

One central aspect of Chinese medical diagnosis is the differentiation between illnesses caused by cold in the body, and those caused by heat. Many people feel much, much better in the summer; everything from joint pain to depression to menstrual cramps eases in the warm weather. People with internal heat, however, often struggle with the hot season.

Common conditions that may be aggravated by heat include hot flashes, skin rashes, irritability, and excess sweating. People with a warmer constitution may also notice an increase in other symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, body pain, or fatigue. And, many people simply feel yucky all over when it’s too hot.

To cool down your system and restore balance, try these things:

  1. Check out the list of cooling foods below, and incorporate them into your diet (watermelon is actually listed in ancient texts as a medicinal substance for a condition called “summer heat,” which is similar to sunstroke or heat exhaustion)
  2. Drink plenty of fluids, of course
  3. An ice pack behind the knees can do wonders to cool the whole body; one of the main acupuncture points for clearing heat is located there
  4. Get up earlier, stay up later, and rest at midday if possible (you can tell your boss I said so!); Chinese medical texts suggest this as a way of living in harmony with the season. See the Boston Globe article at highly technical guidance on optimal napping technique!

If you’re still having trouble, there are great herbal formulas and acupuncture points to release heat and restore a more neutral body temperature. Summer can be the best time to treat heat-related conditions, both for immediate relief and lasting effect.

Cooling Foods for Summer

  • Apricot
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Lemon
  • Peach
  • Orange
  • Asparagus
  • Sprouts
  • Bamboo
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • White mushroom
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Watercress
  • Seaweed
  • Mung beans
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
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