Late Summer: One of the Five Seasons

Late Summer is one of the five, not four, seasons recognized in the foundational theory for Chinese Medicine. Late Summer corresponds to the Earth element, with Spleen and Stomach as the affiliated organs. It is the time of harvest, when fruits, which have been ripening during the summer, come to fruition. Stomach and Spleen, are referred to as "the Official in Charge of Rotting and Ripening Food and Drink" and "the Official of Transportation and Distribution." This transformation of nutrients occurs on all levels: body, mind and spirit.

Usually we look at nourishment from a physical level. Do we have enough food? In our culture, disease is often not a question of having enough: we are a culture of excess. Look at the soaring rates of obesity and adult-onset of diabetes.

Are we getting the right balance of foods? Chinese medicine looks for a balance of five flavors - sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and bitter - relating to the five seasons, relating to the five organ systems. Too much sweet, the flavor of Late Summer, is one of the chief reasons for the increase in Type II diabetes. Sweet comes not only from pure sugar, but also too much bread and pasta (which easily break down to simple sugar), excess wine, or fruit juice (to say nothing of soda) instead of water.

Are we digesting it properly? If not, you might experience bloating and gas, diarrhea or constipation, low energy, lack of concentration, even cold hands and feet. Earth's taste, sweet, can be cloying. This can cause accumulation or "dampness." Since the Spleen is in charge of distribution to all organs, this dampness can show up as cysts, lung congestion, cloudy urine, discharge, clogged arteries and heart, even infection. The brain can also be affected. Have you ever been talking with someone who just stares back with a blank look?

This brings us to the need to nourish on all levels, not just the physical. The mind wants nourishment. Remember how it feels to be fully engaged, to really sink your teeth into a project? If you find a subject fascinating you have no problem devouring the material, chewing on ideas for hours. If you're bored it may take forever to study or prepare for a presentation.

Turning our attention to the spirit, if all you do is work, never giving time to nourish the soul, your spirit will scream and cry. Unfortunately, people are sometimes so numb they don't even hear the screams from within. Both obsessive eating and anorexia are often tied to the spirit in crisis. Whatever fulfills you (going to church or temple, a walk in the woods, singing in a choir..), make it a weekly, if not daily routine.

Earth loves routine. It thrives on rhythms. When Earth goes off balance, your internal cycles may suffer. Women's menstrual cycles are often affected. Sleep can be disturbed. In Chinese medicine, we suggest people go to bed at a regular hour, usually by 9 - 10p.m. It's good to eat at regular times every day, allowing our bodies to have clear digest and non-digesting times. Grazing and late night consumption are not optimal. Having time off from eating, work, even from socializing or caretaking, is essential to the balance of body, mind and spirit.

Earth is often represented by the mother. If your Earth is happy and properly mothered, you'll feel secure within yourselves, with a sense of belonging, grounding, centeredness. When your Earth is off balance, you may feel needy, even compulsive toward food, attention, seeking sympathy, or entertainment. Taking care of your Earth allows you to feel your own harvest, to finish projects, and to feel fulfilled with exactly what is, not needing anything more or anything different. With a healthy Earth you feel at home in any situation.

So enjoy your home and garden, the fruits of your labors and the space in which to love, relax, and nourish self, family, and friends.


Original article by Judy Pruzinsky Copyright 2008.

Judy Pruzinsky, L.Ac writes articles about acupuncture and health that are published in online and print publications.