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Summertime Problems

Summertime! The blissful season of sunshine, long days, and holidays – a time to play, relax, and enjoy all good things.

The theory of Chinese medicine says summer is the time of the Fire element. Its associated organ is the Heart. It is through our Heart system that we radiate ourselves into the world around us. This radiance is seen in the eyes, the complexion, and the gestures of the hands. When our Heart system is healthy and balanced, we are alive and vibrant.


Summertime – and the living is easy. The time we’ve looked forward to for so long has arrived at last, long days and warm weather. In Chinese terms, it’s the time of Yang. We wear fewer, brighter clothes, eat lighter food, and seem to have more energy and be more outgoing.

However, we still need to remember the basic underlying principle of balance in Chinese medicine. When we don’t know when the next sunny day will be, it’s tempting to stay out in the sun for hours. Don’t do it! Even in this country, excessive exposure to sun can lead to dehydration, sunburn and even sunstroke. Skin cancer is also a possibility. You can compromise by being outdoors in the warmth, but staying in the shade during the hottest hours.

In hot weather we all enjoy ice creams, lollies and cold drinks. There is an increasing trend to put more ice in cold drinks. A lot of cold puts a strain on our digestive systems, which need heat, not cold, to process our food. Try cool, rather than cold drinks – you get more taste, too!


LASSI Mix plain yoghurt with 3 times the quantity of water. Add a few drops of rose essence and honey. Beat up with a whisk or fork or in a blender.

SMOOTHIES Mix plain yoghurt with an equal quantity of water and the same amount of soft fruit, strawberries, raspberries, bananas. Everything is in season, so experiment with whatever takes your fancy!

SUMMER COOLER This is a cooling, refreshing tea, perfect for a hot summers day. It is also helpful during feverish illnesses. Take1 teaspoon peppermint, 2 teaspoons rosehip, 1 tablespoon concentrated apple juice, 1 pint water, lemon juice to taste. Pour boiling water over the herbs and brew for 5 minutes. Pour in the concentrated apple juice just before serving and add lemon juice to taste.

Damp is a major cause of imbalance in Chinese terms. A hot dry summer still has plenty of opportunities for Damp to penetrate. It’s easy not to dry thoroughly after a bath or shower when it’s warm. It’s also easy to stay in a wet bathing costume. Read the section on aches and pains to find out how you can end up with some seriously painful conditions if you don’t take some basic precautions.

Summer is also a real opportunity to think ahead and have some preventative acupuncture treatments to improve our health for the winter. If you suffer from frequent colds and flu, read the section on seasonal treatment for building immunity.


At some time or another in life, pain, stiffness, soreness, or numbness of the muscles or joints will affect most of us.

Known as “painful obstruction syndrome” in Chinese medicine, the pain is caused by blockage of Qi (energy) and/or Blood resulting in the muscles becoming stiff and tense.

Such a blockage can come about in many ways. A perennial example is wrist pain due to constant use of the computer mouse.

A particular hazard of summer weather is “invasion” of wind, cold or damp. A common example of this is the stiff neck we might get after sleeping under a fan. Wearing short tops with a gap around the waist area at the back can leave the lower back particularly vulnerable and not drying properly after swimming and then sitting around in a wet swimsuit makes the body even more vulnerable to an “invasion”.

The surge of energy many of us feel in summer may encourage us to take more exercise. Strenuous exercise like running and tennis can put strain on the spine and other muscles and joints. If we are not used to exercise and don’t build-up gradually, we can end up with backache and strains.

People often find they have suddenly started to get pain in an area that was injured years ago but has not given much trouble before. Such injuries cause local stagnation of Blood and Qi, which can be permanent. This underlying problem means that these areas are more susceptible than others to invasion of cold, damp or wind.

Cold invasion results in very severe joint or muscle pain with limitation of movement, usually affecting one area only. It is worse in the morning, gets better as the day goes on and a hot bath or hot water bottle will ease it considerably – hot weather will also improve the condition.

Damp in joints or muscles, causes a dull pain, soreness and swelling and limitation of movement, often with a feeling of heaviness and numbness in the limbs and will be worse in damp weather.

Wind invasion causes pain that is not fixed in one place but moves around the body from joint to joint.

Acupuncture treatment for this type of ache and pain is usually very successful, if treatment is sought immediately, and can seem almost magical, giving immediate and dramatic improvement. When one of the above conditions goes untreated for a long time, it becomes harder to treat and may also turn into a hot condition. This is characterised by severe pain, a feeling of heat and redness of the joint and limitation of movement.

Are you prone to catching colds throughout the year?

Did you have flu last winter?

Would you like to improve your resistance to these ailments?


It may seem odd to be thinking of colds and flu when we are in the midst of summer. Yet, in Chinese medicine, late summer is best time for preventative treatment!

Such treatment is designed to build the body’s resistance to pathogens, or to strengthen the immune system. This treatment is intensive, you should expect to have between one to three treatments a week for a month. The best time to have these treatments is in the months of August and September.

So, if you would like to avoid suffering from the discomfort and inconvenience of colds and flu next winter, consider booking a series of appointments with your local acupuncturist. It is an important investment in your wellbeing next winter.



Hayfever makes summer a misery for many people. In Chinese medicine, hayfever is seen as being due to a combination of weak defensive Qi and a history of frequent colds. Hayfever often starts in early childhood, but it may start in later life as the Kidney energy (which is partly responsible for our defensive Qi) declines. In later life the situation is often complicated by mucus production, which has its roots in digestive energy weakened by a working lifestyle – too much fatty, sugary food eaten in a rush to meet a deadline!

Treatment with acupuncture will address the distressing symptoms of sneezing, nasal discharge, cough, headache, etc.

This may give some immediate relief, but it is essential to have further treatment once the pollen season is over to treat the root of the hayfever and build up the defensive Qi. If you are unlucky enough to react to dust, fur and other allergens all year round, acupuncture will be used to simultaneously address the symptoms and the root cause.

 Credit East Anglia’s Complimentary Health Care Clinic

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