Start of Summer Lì Xià 立夏 May 5
Start of Summer Lì Xià marks the beginning of summer and the mid-point between the spring equinox and summer solstice. This yang time is a period of expansion and energizing. We can see this in nature as sunlight dominates darkness and flora and fauna return to blossom and birth. What happens in nature, also happens in our bodies. As the seasonal heat increases, our bodies tend to become warmer, and the body fluids circulate both within and on the surface, providing hydration and producing the sweat needed for thermoregulation. The days are long and it is a great time to work and play hard.
(Since the winter solstice, the influence of yang energy has been growing.)
Summer and Heart Health in Chinese Medicine
Summer is associated with the fire element, the emotional qualities of joy, peace and order, and the heart organ-meridian system. In Chinese medicine the heart is described as the monarch or emperor and controls blood circulation (as in western medicine), controls the other organs, and is said to house the mind-spirit. Heart-qi manifests in facial complexion and "blossoms" in the tongue (classic Chinese medicine terms are so poetic!)
Signs that heart-qi may be asking for attention
There are many imbalances of heart-qi in Chinese medicine which can be nuanced and complex. Some common heart signs are dream-disturbed sleep, insomnia, and anxiety. Heart palpitations (when you feel your heart beating inside your chest) and a red tipped tongue are other common signs.
Summer Time Foods
The primary flavors of summer and the heart are bitter and sour. Chinese dietary practices also advise us to continue to eat "lighter" and easier to digest foods during this time and to avoid greasy or excessively heavy foods. Summer foods include berries, stone fruits (plums etc.), cucumbers, corn, greens, greens, and more greens! Berries of the Bay Area include strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, raspberries, and tayberries. Try a berry congee! (Follow the instructions for jook and add your berries in the last 20-30 minutes). Kale, chard, dandelion, and broccoli rabe are all great heart-qi loving greens.
Foods to nourish the heart
Any calming tea such as chamomile, mint, catnip, poppy, or valerian can be soothing to heart qi. Hawthorn is a very common herb used in both Chinese and western herbal medicine for heart balance. If you're able to venture out for some more interesting grocery shopping, try lily bulb, longan or lotus fruit, or adzuki beans, as they are used to nourish and calm heart qi.
Red foods are also thought to benefit the heart qi system, especially if they have a sour or bitter flavor. Cherries, rhubarb, pomegranates, tomatoes, red apples, red dates, whole wheat, and red beans are also foods with an affinity for the heart in Chinese medicine.