Summer in Chinese Medicine

Natural Cycles

Chinese medical texts have a long history – over 2000 years old – reflecting on the nature of what it means to be human, on psychology, on the art of attaining longevity or nurturing life (yang sheng).

In these early texts, the seasons were considered as a pattern for all natural cycles. They show that life is a process of cyclical change. They describe how we can best preserve and maintain our qi by regulating our behaviour, according to the qi or movement of the four seasons.

Each season was described as having a specific type of qi – warm or cool, misty or clear, damp or dry. Spring and Summer are the yang months. The qi awakens and growth begins in spring. There is flowering and fruition in the summer months. Autumn and winder are times of contraction and decline – the qi moves within, and the potential for life is buried within the ground.

So how can we maintain our qi for the summer?

While in the winter it’s necessary to conserve qi and in the spring to move and stretch it, the summer is about abundance in the qi – the yang qualities of warmth, light, heat and a rising movement. Think of the summer solstice – the time of maximum light, when the warmth of the sun allows crops to ripen and plants to flower and the fruit.

And life requires the correct sustaining light and warmth. Too much heat is destructive, and not enough means the various transformation processes occurring within the body could become sluggish and ineffective.

So in the summer, as well as moving and warming, we would benefit from relaxing and being careful not to overheat.


And what about ‘summer’ eating?                                                                                    

As summer is the season of full yang, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated. A cooling diet is high in fruits and vegetables, low in fried and fatty foods. Steamed vegetables, soups and boiled food are favoured over other heating methods.

Try eating foods that are moistening and cool in nature to help to keep you hydrated. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cooling fruit and vegetables – apricots, cantaloupes, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, lemon, peach, cucumber, orange, asparagus, sprouts, bamboo, pak choi, broccoli, corn, white mushrooms, spinach, squash, watercress, seaweed, duck, fish
  • Add cooling herbs and spices to your food – coriander, mint, marjoram, nettle and tamarind
  • Add mint or cucumber to your water
  • Avoid greasy or fried foods

And make the most of the summery yang qi – relax, dance and enjoy!



Sandra Hill Chinese Medicine from the Classics (2014), Monkey Press

Daverick Leggett Helping Ourselves (1994) Meridian Press