Summer is a time of abundant energy and long-sun-filled days, making it a season of joy and vitality. In Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), each season holds unique associations that help us understand how to stay in balance with nature’s cycle. The transition to summer is related to the Fire element. The heart and small intestine organ systems are predominant during this time. TCM recognizes that the internal organs are not only physical structures but complex systems involving aspects of the mind, emotions, and spirit, all interconnected with the flow of vital energy, or Qi. Embracing the Theory of Five Elements, an ancient system integral to TCM theory, we can align our habits and diet to support our heart and overall well-being during this energetic season.
In this season, it is essential to pay attention to the health of our heart and small intestine. The heart is not only a physical organ, but is believed to house the Shen, or spirit, of TCM. Moreover, nurturing your heart is not only of physiological importance but also includes emotional-wellbeing. Similarly, the small intestine plays a vital role in absorbing and distributing nutrients, impacting digestive health and overall wellness. By exploring the Summer TCM Grocery list, we will be able to discover a range of foods that resonate with the bodily focuses of the summer season that nourish our body, mind, and spirit.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), seaweed, also known as "Hai Zao," has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Early Chinese herbalists and healers observed the wonders of seaweed as it thrived in the vast ocean waters, and they couldn't resist tapping into its healing potential. Seaweed is considered to be a cooling food with a salty flavor, recommended to clear heavy and dispersed accumulation. Eating seaweed can reduce inflammation, detoxify blood, increase energy, support thyroid function, and aid hormonal balance. There are many ways to cook with seaweed including salads, with a variety of recipes in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cookbooks. Known for its ability to clear heat and resolve dampness, seaweed offers some of the broadest range of minerals in any food. They contain iodine, vitamin K, magnesium, iron, calcium, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. Additionally, sea vegetables are rich in lignans, a cancer-protective plant compound.
During the scorching summer season, cucumber is a cooling food that shines in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Known as “Huang Gua,” cucumber is known for its cooling properties as a yin-nourishing food. By nurturing the yin energy, cucumbers help restore balance within the body, which can easily be disrupted during hot weather. Beyond its cooling effects, cucumbers are believed to offer skin benefits as well. Their ability to reduce inflammation and soothe irritation makes them a sought-after remedy for summer skin care. Additionally, cucumbers are thought to promote lung health, contributing to a clearer complexion and overall well-being. In TCM, cucumbers are commonly used in treating conditions that exhibit heat signs, stagnation, and fluid imbalances. Their hydrating nature supports the body in maintaining proper fluid levels, making them a valuable ally during the hot summer months.
The unassuming radish has long been considered a superfood in Asian cultures. The daikon radish is a white root vegetable with spicy and bitter flavors. Its healing essence falls between late summer and fall, making it beneficial for the intestine and stomach. When eaten raw, daikon can cool heat found in the lung. When cooked, it supports the digestive system. These radishes are readily available in most Asian markets and some supermarkets as well. Daikon is a common ingredient in Asian cuisines because it is plentiful all year round. It can be used in soups, stews, and pickles. It exerts its effects on the lungs and spleen, clearing phlegm, suppressing coughing, promoting digestion, facilitating the downward movement of stagnant qi or energy, alleviating internal heat, and hindering/preventing the development of cancer cells.
Chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China in the 15th century BC, becoming a symbol of nobility and integrity. As a food, it can be boiled as a tea itself or added to your favorite morning green tea and evening chamomile tea. Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends drinking and eating foods that cool the body and heart. Chrysanthemum tea is popular in Asia because of its cooling properties: it is helpful for headaches, dizziness, high blood pressure, chest pain and also fevers. It can also be steamed, boiled, and eaten in salads. Its leaves have been popularly used in Asian vegetable side dishes. Chrysanthemum is rich in vitamin C, warding off symptoms in the early stages of disease like headaches or a rising temperature. Its cooling properties extend to providing relief for heat stroke or various internal temperature imbalances. As we grow older, experiencing a rise in body temperature becomes a natural occurrence. For instance, women going through menopause may encounter highly uncomfortable hot flashes. This beverage can aid in naturally and safely dissipating this excess body heat.
Unlike winter squash, which comes with tougher skin, summer squash has thin edible rinds and higher water content. The most commonly known variety is zucchini, which can be readily found and available in an assortment of colors. This delightful vegetable is packed with a plethora of health-boosting goodies that your body will love. It is a rich source of antioxidants, with vitamin C taking center stage, working its magic to support your heart health. Summer squash comes with a host of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and phosphorus – all vital for keeping your bones strong and healthy. It is truly a nutritional powerhouse. Alongside those heart-loving antioxidants, you'll find omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, B vitamins, folate, potassium, zinc, iron, and niacin, all working in harmony to nourish your body and keep you feeling your best. In the realm of traditional Chinese medicine, squash emerges as a potent remedy, boasting an impressive array of health benefits. This incredible vegetable takes on various roles, from detoxifying the body to quenching thirst and soothing irritability. It doesn't stop there – squash works wonders in alleviating skin lesions, easing urination difficulties, treating edema, and providing relief from the discomfort of summer heat.