It is difficult to pinpoint the timeframe of season "late summer" in TCM. Some sources say that it dominates the last month of each season, while others - that it dominates the last month of the summer and incorporates the fifteen days surrounding each of the two equinoxes and two solstices. (1) Nevertheless they all agree that the last month of summer falls under the term "late summer" and in order to keep things simple we will focus on this month.
To Element Earth relate the color yellow and the organ Spleen.
Note: In Traditional Chinese Medicine the concept of the Spleen largely differs from the understanding of the spleen in Western medicine. In TCM the symptoms of an imbalanced Spleen point to imbalance in the digestion. So in order to avoid confusion whenever we refer to the Spleen we will think about the collective work of some organs and systems that participate in the digestion rather than what we know about the spleen from Western science. We have discussed this in more detail in the material “The Spleen in Traditional Chinese medicine” in the Physiology chapter.
Yellow-orange foods have different effects on the Spleen. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, figs all tonify the Qi of the Spleen enhancing the Spleen’s transformative function, thus enhancing the body’s tonus and energy. Apricots, pears and peaches have tonifying and overall cooling effect on the body. Corn dries dampness and harmonizes the center; melon clears summer-heat. (1)
When the digestion is not working properly the transformative function of the Spleen is disturbed, leading to Qi deficiency and further on to "internal dampness". Symptoms include poor energy, poor appetite, sluggishness, gas, bloating, loose stool, etc. The Spleen likes warm and dry foods and dislikes cold and moist (because they slow down the digestion and lead to damp accumulation). Therefore during "late summer" is appropriate to choose foods with neutral to warm nature. Potatoes, carrots, corn, rice, peas, and squash are such foods. Fish and chicken are appropriate animal proteins for that season as they have neutral and warming nature and are relatively low on fat as fat should be avoided in the hot "late summer" month. Foods with cooler nature may be slightly cooked or baked to warm their temperature, for example baked apples and bananas. Honey is a great yellow food that tonifies the Spleen and dries dampness.
Foods should be prepared simply with minimum amount of spices to keep the work of the Spleen uncomplicated.(1) As the Spleen governs the muscles a good way to tonify the function of the Spleen, clear dampness, and gain energy, is to do some light exercise.
(1) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books
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