We all are very familiar with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter but why does Chinese Medicine include a fifth season and where does it fit on the calendar? According to TCM theory, the fifth season is that important time between the seasons, where we ‘return to center’ so we can ‘pivot’. About 2-3 weeks before the beginning of each season is a time of transition.
Each season correlates with an elemental energy. Spring belongs to the wood element, Summer to fire, Fall to metal and Winter to water. The transitional time between the seasons rightfully belongs to the earth element as this is the time when the seasonally dominant energy returns to the earth to be transformed into the next seasonal energy.
The Earth Element is generated and managed in the body by the spleen and stomach. These organs are in the business of metamorphosis. As digestive organs (according to TCM), they transport and transform the food we eat into nutrition to build our blood and nourish our cells. The spleen governs the muscles and is important in the free movement of the body. The associated orifice is the mouth and spleen Qi manifests in the lips. The Spleen is also known for housing the intellect (yi) and is involved with the thinking aspect of spirit. The color of the earth element is yellow, and the taste is sweet.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar sets the start of the seasons earlier than our Gregorian calendar, so if we are following the seasons according to Chinese medicine, we can anticipate the start of Fall this year around Aug 7th. The period about 18 days prior to that date (beginning around mid-July) is called late summer, and this is the time to pay special attention to the energy of transition.
The benefit of nourishing our earth element during this time is to gain balance and stability for periods of change. The earth element represents our wide center stance from which we can safely assess the next move (picture the slow smooth movements of tai chi). The importance of core stability rings true whether we are talking about physical activity or more subtle energy dynamic.
DIY TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR EARTH ELEMENT
1) Diet: Avoid damp cold food such as ice cream as it can put a burden on the spleen that prefers warm, dry conditions. Eat breakfast between 7-9am which is stomach time according to the Qi clock. From 9-11am is spleen time. Some gentle activity is ok but as the spleen converts food to Qi, try to take it easy so you do not disrupt digestion. Avoid processed sugar while enjoying the natural balance of sweetness from the earth with foods like apples, carrots, dates, and sweet potatoes.
2) Release Worry-Patterns: The spleen houses the intellect and is responsible for thought but can be weighed down by overthinking. This will slow its ability to transform our food. We can all think of times when worry led to unpleasant digestive experiences. So, find ways to shift patterns of over-thinking and worry. (Cue the serenity prayer...)
3) Yellow: Stimulate earth energy with its color and brighten up someone’s day by wearing more yellow. Notice the yellow colors in nature, stop and absorb their frequency. And eat yellow foods: bananas, yellow peppers, lemons.
4) Earthing: You know what to do. Connect direct! Get those bare feet on the ground (pesticide-free please).
Another amazing way to make your earth element get stronger is acupuncture treatments with tuning forks. Call us today and make an appointment.
Research has shown that acupuncture can improve the health of patients who experience severe heart problems by dramatically reducing the activity in the sympathetic nervous system that regulates heartbeat and blood pressure.
The study conducted through the Los Angeles School of Medicine suggests that acupuncture can be used “successfully with long-range results in improving hypertension, and it may also be beneficial in lowering sympathetic nerve activity.”
Overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system is common with patients who suffer from heart problems. Over time, this may cause the heart to work harder, forcing blood to flow through blood vessels that are constricted due to heightened nerve activity. The study showed that sympathetic nerve activation was significantly reduced in those individuals who received acupuncture care compared to those who only received a placebo. The lead physician in the study, Dr. Middlekauff, suggests, “that more study is needed before acupuncture can be recommended, but acupuncture has been used successfully and with long-range results in improving hypertension, and it may also be beneficial in lowering sympathetic nerve activity.” Middlekauff HR. Acupuncture in the treatment of heart failure. Cardiol Rev. 2004 May-Jun;12(3):171-3
Summer is a time for long, sunny days, warm weather, and brightly blooming gardens. But the season is also significant in another way. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body’s Organ systems are most accessible during specific times of year. During the late summer, the Spleen and Stomach are most active and most open to influence both positive and negative. The Spleen and Stomach are associated with the Earth element, as well as certain colors, sounds, times of day, and other correspondences. The Earth element is related to security, feeling grounded and the natural rhythms of life. The Spleen- Pancreas performs many functions, including:
The Stomach is paired with the Spleen meridian and helps to digest food and transform it into energy. When the Spleen and Stomach are in balance and Qi (“life energy”) is flowing freely through them, the body will have physical energy and vitality, good muscle tone, a healthy appetite and good digestion. The Spleen and Stomach can be affected by many factors, including poor diet, and eating habits, lack of exercise, excessive concentration, worry and stress. If your Spleen and Stomach are out of balance, you may experience uncomfortable symptoms (see table on front). Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, it’s an especially good time to receive preventive acupuncture care.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine provide a natural approach to restoring and maintaining balance. When we strive for optimal balance, we achieve good health throughout the year.
By allowing Qi to flow freely, acupuncture can help your body heal itself and help you make the most of all the energy and fun of summer!