With summer already in full swing, it is time to use summer’s warmth to strengthen your body, increase Yang, remove interior cold and dampness that lead to the common cold, and improve your constitution.

Below is an introduction to the summer warming method written by my Shanghai TCM doctor that I translated for her.


补在三伏 Regimen in Summer

Survive the Hottest Days of Summer

“Take a tonic in winter” is commonly followed advice; unfortunately, many people don’t place the same importance on taking care of his/herself in summer.  Summer is the time of year when the body’s metabolism is at its fastest.  As the weather becomes scorching hot, the body seeks to consume more blood and water, sleep time is reduced, and physical rest becomes inadequate.  At this point, the already tired body suffers from the following symptoms: fatigue, poor appetite, dizziness, and restless sleep; these are signs your body needs more care and nourishment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that spring and summer are for nourishing the body’s Yang element, while in autumn and winter Yin should be tended “春夏养阳,秋冬养阴”.  The ancients placed great importance on recognizing the changing seasons and their affect on the body and its balance. Summer is the best time to nourish and encourage the body’s yang to improve health. Symptoms of chills, damp, cold, and weak “寒、湿、冷、虚” indicate illness, and summer is the best time to remedy this to get cold out of the body.

With what symptoms does Chill-damp-cold-weak syndrome present itself?

Asthma, Allergies, Chronic Cough, Edema, Eczema, Arthritis, (periarthritis, arthritic knees, etc), or other inexplicable illnesses whereby it is easy to become weak, the body feels heavy, the spirit is weak or low, colds are frequent or cold symptoms last long (> 7 days), hands are freezing, and cold feelings easily penetrate the body.

What methods do we have to dispel cold and nourish Yang?

1) “三伏天穴位敷贴” One of the simplest and most effective methods for nourishing Yang is to apply a patch to certain acupuncture points through the hottest days of summer.  During the hottest days of the year, when the body’s Yang is the strongest, applying Chinese medicine to specific acupuncture points can dispel cold and strengthen Yang.  By passing through the skin, pores, and sweat glands at the specific points, the medicine enters the blood stream, tonifies Qi, and connects with the meridians to produce the desired results: Yang is strengthened, dampness and cold are expelled, and the immune system is bolstered.

In general, TCM approaches diagnosis by considering the individual on a case-by-case basis while looking at their illness history; this is done using the ‘four diagnostic methods’ (inspection, auscultation and olfaction, inquiry, and feeling the pulse). After the investigation, 5-8 acupoints are chosen, and a patch is placed on each point: adults wear the patches for 2 hours, while children do so for 1 hour. The patch is applied once every 7-10days and a course consists of 3 to 5 times.  (Note: For a day after the patches are applied you cannot go swimming.)

This year, the hottest days of summer, and therefore the optimal time for applying the patches, are from July 7th to mid- to late-August.  (The best time of day to apply the patches is around noon, as the sun as it’s at its highest and bodily Yang is the strongest).  As the herbal medicine is limited, please call the clinic ahead of time to confirm availability and make an appointment.

2) According to TCM theory, in summer you should eat ginger.  Ginger is well-known to dispel cold and can be used in a large variety of food and drinks.

3) Chinese medicine commonly uses 黄芪 (Huang Qi / membranous milk vetch / Astragalus membranaceus) and American ginseng to nourish qi, while 茯苓 (Fu Ling – Wolfiporia cocos / Poria, an edible fungus), and 山药 (Shan Yao / Chinese yam) are effective at removing dampness in the spleen. But it’s important to recognize the difference between food and medicine: medicine must be taken purposefully and treated with care and respect lest it turn poisonous and become harmful.

On the hottest days, can the body experience internal fire?

When presenting with chill-damp-cold-weak symptoms or illness, a deficiency is apparent; summer is the opportune time to remedy this.  If you’re one of those people who feel they must spend all day in air-conditioning, drink only cold drinks, and feel the cold seeping into your body in summer, you should take the opportunity to improve your well-being.

To nourish the body in the summer and in the winter are completely different. Listen closely to your body, it will tell you which part needs special tending and care. When you have signs such as, high fever, bad breath, cold sores or mouth ulcers, constipation, hot flashes, irritability, etc, then you must take precautions to avoid overheating and enlist a Yin nourishment course.

You Care, I Care, We Care

臻田中医诊所  周臻妤 医师

Dr. Vivienne M. Zhou