In Chinese medicine, six types of “evil” qi (pathological, atmospheric influences) exist that can invade the body leading to symptoms of disharmony in the body. The external evil qi that can affect mankind are the following: wind, cold, damp, heat, dry and summer heat. Since we are in the middle of summer currently, the focus of this post will be summer heat pathology.
Summer heat is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures in the summertime. The Western biomedical condition that most closely resembles summer heat is sunstroke, but they are not necessarily equivalent, as summer heat patterns can include other symptoms and conditions besides just sunstroke. According to the theories of Chinese medicine, summer is a yang season and heat is a yang pathogen. Meaning, the symptoms will often first manifest on the outer and uppermost parts of the body since yang qi tends to spread up and out once excessive in the body. This meansit is likely to first shows signs and symptoms in the face and head and skin of the body since those are technically the upper and outer most regions. Symptoms can include thirst, red face, headache, sweating of the skin, blurry vision, exhaustion and/or even loss of consciousness in extreme cases since the qi and fluids are exiting the body at an alarming rate. The excessive sweating also leads to dark, concentrated urine, as the fluids are condensed due to an insufficient supply remaining.
When summer heat combines with dampness due to humidity and overconsumption of sugary drinks, candy and/or starchy wheat products such as bread and pasta, the Spleen organ network can also be affected since it is the primary organ that rules over the late summer season and is also in charge of crucial digestive processes, according to Chinese medicine theory. The Spleen works with the Stomach to produce blood and qi from the food we eat. When the Spleen function becomes impaired, dampness is often created from the food we eat instead of blood and energy. General signs of dampness in the body can include a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, bloating, fullness, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Treatment of summer heat is complex depending on the organs and additional pathogenic factors involved. Usually, herbs are used that clear excess heat from within the body along with herbs that moisten the interior. Some common foods that are very effective in the treatment of this pattern are watermelon, barley, bitter melon, broccoli, mung beans, summer squash, lemon and limes. Useful herbs for summer heat and dampness are patchouli, lotus leaf, chrysanthemum flower, chamomile flower, peppermint leaf, ginger root, ginseng root and other herbs that aid in cooling the body and drying dampness.
In summary, here are symptoms to look out for that indicate summer heat and summer heat with dampness:
- high fever
- thirst with strong desire to drink
- can go up and affect the head
- blurred vision
- scant yellow urine
- profuse sweating
- Tongue: dry, red
- Pulse: surging
Summer Heat combined with Dampness
- loose stools or diarrhea
- poor appetite and fatigue
- phlegm can rise to head
- heavy head
- foggy thinking
- suffocating feeling in chest
- tightness in chest
- sweating, but not as much as summer heat without dampness
Avoid summer heat by limiting your exposure to the sun. Wear sunscreen and a hat during hot weather, stick to the shade and be sure to stay well hydrated. If necessary, cool the body down by going in a body of water such as an ocean, lake, bath, or use a fan or air conditioner if you are concerned of falling ill during a heat wave.