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The 5th Season: Late Summer

Mom and daughter at harvest

Thousands of years ago, the Chinese had a deep understanding of the Laws of Nature, and lived according to these natural laws. They observed that all of Nature is comprised of five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Air (which they later called Metal) and Water. They realized that each of these elements has distinct qualities, related to a different season of the year.

Modern society typically accepts that there are four seasons in a year. So how did the ancient Chinese discern a fifth season? They closely observed Nature, and noted subtle differences in climate, growing season, and the power of Nature in the time of the year located between summer and autumn. The Chinese call this fifth season “late summer”. Other indigenous peoples also consider this time of year a distinct season. Native Americans call this time of year “Indian Summer”.

The ancients observed how the climate became more damp and humid in August and September. Southerners refer to this effect as the “dog days” of August. The ancient Chinese noticed during the summer growing season that the crops mature in the fields. This is followed by a different stage of growth when the fruits and vegetables ripen in preparation for the autumn harvest. The plants become heavy with fruit, as if Nature becomes pregnant with its bounty. The ancients also observed that the power of Nature rises during spring into the summer, later reaching a tipping point during late summer when the energy begins to decrease as autumn and winter approach. They ascribed all of these late summer qualities to the Earth element, making Late Summer the season of Earth.

Just as in the cycle of the seasons, so the energy in Nature transitions from one Element to the next. The ancient Chinese called these transitions from one element to the next the sheng or “creative” cycle. When you live according to the natural laws, you stay healthy through the cycle of the seasons.

When the energy in Nature shifts from summer (Fire) to late summer (Earth) right around the beginning of August, your own energy naturally makes a similar transition. Your Fire energy decreases as your Earth energy increases. If your Earth element is balanced, you make this transition effortlessly. But if you don’t feel as well in the heat and humidity of late summer, your Earth element may be out of balance. A change in your energy level, sleeping patterns, body temperature, emotions or attitude could be your body warning you that you need to balance your Earth element for the late summer season.

The emotions related to Earth are sympathy and worry. When Earth is in balance, you are able to sympathize and worry in proper degree to each situation. When Earth is out of balance, you may tend to sympathize or worry too much. Many people with an Earth imbalance will put the needs of others first, and take care of their own needs last. It is important to restore this balance so you don’t emotionally drain yourself.

The organs associated with Earth are stomach, spleen and pancreas. These organs and their associated meridians of energy play a key role in digestion, and also how you assimilate and concentrate on thoughts. The Earth organs, through their digestive processes, make the vital energy for your entire being − body, mind, and spirit. If your Earth element is out of balance, your stomach, spleen and pancreas energy will be weak. Carefully choosing the foods you eat can help support a healthier Earth element, and a healthier you.

Earth supporting foods are naturally sweet, but are not processed with added sugar. The key to supporting your Earth element is to enjoy sweetness in moderation, so the healthy choice is whole foods. Extreme sweetness such as in foods with added sugar will actually injure the spleen and pancreas energy.

Fruits such as apples, pears, berries, peaches, apricots, cherries and papaya contain a moderate sweetness, as do vegetable roots that grow inside the earth like carrots, beets, yams and sweet potatoes. Whole grains that nourish your Earth element include whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa and corn. Nuts that support your Earth element include almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconuts and walnuts. Also include legumes in your diet, because beans and lentils are mildly sweet. If you eat animal products, consider moderate portions of organic free range meats and wild caught fish. Eating local fresh foods is a good idea in every season and, in late summer, look for foods that are harvested in the season you’re in.

Besides eating the right foods, you may need to assist your digestive organs by breaking down the foods before you eat them. Rather than consume the foods raw, it can help your Earth element to mostly eat foods that are cooked. Also, chew your food carefully before you swallow to aid your digestion. Take a pancreatic enzyme supplement when needed, which can give your digestion a huge boost.

Last, but not least, balance your stomach, spleen and pancreas energy during the fifth season by treating yourself to an acupuncture treatment during late summer. Your Earth element will respond better to acupuncture treatment during late summer than at any other time of year. When you balance your Earth element in its own season, it creates fertile ground for you to reap your harvest of better health all year round.

You can find more information about Five Element acupuncture HERE.

Call the Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center in Jacksonville at (904) 296-9545 to schedule your late summer tune up!

By Michael Kowalski A.P., Dipl.Ac. (NCCAOM)