The Energy Pathways of Summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine man’s connection to the earth was the blueprint for living a healthy life. To be healthy one rose with the sun and went to sleep with the rising of the moon. The seasons in nature were associated with five earth elements: water, wood, fire, earth (soil) and metal. The Fire Element is associated with summer.

“Fire is our ability to have relationship, to feel safe, to feel in control, to be intimate, to have fun, to laugh and be excited.” The energy pathways of summer are heart meridian, small intestine meridian, pericardium meridian and triple warmer meridian.

Today I want to discuss the Small Intestine Meridian. This energy helps us to separate the pure from the impure. The color associated with it is pink; it is most active from 1pm – 3pm. Physically it takes partially digested food from the stomach absorbs the nutrients and sends the waste to the large intestine. The psycho-emotional aspects include mental clarity, powers of discernment and judgment. The ability to make decisions with clarity separating the relevant from the irrelevant is attributed to the Small Intestine Meridian.

Imbalances include: insecurity, difficulty assimilating ideas, indecision, forgetfulness, restlessness and difficulty expressing emotions. Some physical imbalances include: profuse sweating, tinnitus, pain around the ear and in the abdomen when pressed.

There are four energy pathways associated with the summer season. I’ve spoken in detail of the Heart Meridian and the Small Intestine Meridian. Today I want to discuss the Triple Warmer Meridian.

The Triple Warmer or Triple Burner Meridian is a concept unique to Chinese Medicine. There is no corresponding organ related to this in western medicine. This meridian has to do with the body’s temperature and includes three areas: the upper, middle and lower burner.

The upper burner is associated with the heart and lungs and is located above the diaphragm; the middle burner includes the area below the diaphragm to the belly button. The organs associated are the spleen and stomach. The lower burner is located below the belly button. The organs associated are: liver, kidneys, large intestine, small intestine and bladder.

The function of the Triple Warmer is to provide the energy or fire to transport the fluids, blood and food which pass through each area. In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine the functions of the three burners was described this way, “The upper burner acts like a mist. The middle burner acts like foam. The lower burner acts like a swamp.”

The way the energy is dispersed in the upper burner, the heart and lungs, is compared to a mist. Think of the tender tissues of the lungs and the importance of keeping the heart and lungs hydrated for smooth functioning. In the middle burner the function is digestion. The foam represents the digestive churning. The lower burner separates the pure from the impure and excretes the waste similar to a swamp breaking down plant matter.

“The triple burner is the controller of the entire circulation of body fluid” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine)

Some symptoms of Triple Warmer dysfunction are: edema (retention of fluid in the tissues), difficulty urinating, abdominal distention, tinnitus, pain in the throat, eyes, back of the ear, the shoulder and upper arm.

TCM Five Element Theory- Metal Element

The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine speaks of the connectedness of all things and how the different aspects of nature interact with each other and with man. It also details how the different structures and systems in our body are connected to each other and to the natural world. The connection and interactions present humans as part of nature and the universe at large.

Today I want to discuss the Metal Element. The associations of the Metal Element are: the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians

  • The nose
  • Skin and hair
  • The emotion of grief
  • Crying
  • Autumn
  • Dryness
  • The color white
  • Spicy flavor
  • Direction- west
  • 3am-7am

“The Lung’s major functions include maintaining healthy immune defenses against pathogens, as well as circulating Qi and fluids throughout the body.” The Lung and large Intestine Meridians help us to let go of that which no longer serves us, whether it’s mental emotional or physical.

Possible symptoms of Lung imbalance are:

  • Runny nose, sinus congestion, sneezing, loss of smell
  • Catching colds easily in the fall and fall allergies
  • Difficulty processing grief and loss, easily brought to tears
  • waking between 3-5am and having difficulty going back to sleep

Tips for supporting the lung:

  • eat spicy foods , fresh vegetables, tofu, beans, white meat and vegetables
  • deep breathing ,especially outdoors in nice weather
  • let go of that which you no longer need ( clean out your closets)
  • keep warm in cold weather, especially your chest and neck
  • practice qigong or tai chi, these exercises stretch the lung meridian and get the energy moving
  • have your energy balanced

The Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine was based on an observation of man in his environment. In early times Chinese doctors identified patterns of continuous change and transformation in the universe and how these changes also occurred within the human body. The concept of qi , the vital energy of the body and the yin yang theory, which views the relationships between things as complementary to the whole, are integral to the master blueprint of the Five Element Theory. This blueprint organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns in nature.

The five groups include: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of these elements includes many “ categories such as a season, a direction, climate, stage of growth and development, internal organ, body tissue, emotion, aspect of the soul, taste, color, sound …” the list is seemingly endless. This theory gives a template to show “how nature interacts with the body and how the different dimensions of our being impact each other.” It gives a multidimensional view and provides a diagnostic framework to identify where imbalances lie.

We are in the season of spring which is the Wood Element

  • The Liver and Gallbladder are associated organs
  • Eyes and tendons are associated body parts
  • The emotion of anger
  • The color green
  • Wind
  • Calling sound
  • Sour taste
  • East is the direction
  • 11pm-3am time

When the Wood chi is weak indecision and a feeling of being stuck can occur. People who have a strong wood energy have clear goals and vision and are able to manifest their goals. Planning and decision making are their forte.

The Five Element Theory presents a blueprint which organizes all natural phenomena into five master groups or patterns in nature. This theory attempts to show the interaction of nature with the human body and how the many facets of our being impact each other. The Five Element Theory provides us with a diagnostic tool to help identify where imbalances lie and illuminates the interconnectedness of all things. The structures in our body are connected to each other, to our environment and to the natural world. It represents man as part of nature and nature as part of the cosmos.

The Elements are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. We’ve already spoken about the Wood Element of spring and its many associations. Today I want to discuss the Fire Element.

The Fire Element is the next phase of the Five Element theory. Its associations are:

  • Heart and Small Intestine Meridians & Pericardium and Triple Warmer Meridians
  • Blood vessels
  • The tongue
  • Joy
  • Summer
  • The color red
  • Bitter taste
  • Heat
  • Laughing
  • Direction –south
  • Most active 11am-3pm

People with strong fire energy excel at communication and socialization. They can be charismatic and inspirational speakers. If the Fire Element is weak anxiety, restlessness and insomnia may occur. Stuttering, nervous laugh and rapid speech patterns may develop.

Some illnesses associated with this element are: hypertension, palpitations, heart problems and mouth and tongue sores. Walking is beneficial and the bitter flavor of dark green leafy vegetables. People with weak fire energy can be susceptible to heat exhaustion.

Chinese Medicine Causes of Disease- Revisited

Ancient Chinese Medicine had no knowledge of viruses or bacteria as causes of disease. It identified instead climatic conditions which can create disharmony in the body if a person is exposed to them over an extended period of time. These conditions include: cold, heat, wind, dampness, dryness and summer heat. These weather conditions can invade the body and cause disharmony.

We‘ve already covered Chronic Cold, Chronic Heat and Dampness Conditions. The last three conditions are usually found in combination with one of the former.

Dryness is many times partnered with heat. Heat creates warmth and redness but dryness causes dehydration and evaporation. When this condition invades the body asthmatic breathing, dry cough, acute pain and fever may occur.

Summer Heat is oppressive. It can invade the body after exposure to extreme heat and can cause high fever and lethargy. It is often accompanied by dampness.

Wind is usually combined with cold when it invades the body. Symptoms of wind include: tics, twitches, stuffy nose and headaches.

Chinese Medicine would treat these conditions with a combination of dietary therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, herbal medicine, heat therapy (moxibustion), exercise (qi gong, t’ai chi) and meditation.