Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Heat

This week, a friend saw a UPS delivery person drop to the sidewalk. During a day’s peak heat, I saw a backyard power line worker shakily kneel, vomit, and sweat profusely. He also complained of dizziness and weakness. Our 100+ degree temperatures take their toll!

Here are some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques that go beyond more familiar First Aid measures to help someone deal with the disorder called Summer Heat:

  • With water or oil on the skin, use the tip of an upside‐down porcelain soup spoon (sold at Asian grocery stores) to lightly stroke down and away from the spine. This includes the neck, shoulders, armpit, the spinal column (very lightly here) and  between the back ribs. Continue until you see purplish red skin.
  • With two fingers repeatedly (100‐300 times) rub:
- The line in the center of the inside of the forearms, moving only from the wrist to the elbow.
- The inside line from the end of each little finger to the elbow.
- The circle on the palm of each hand. Its radius is 2/3 the distance from the center to the crease at the base of the middle finger.
For headache in the forehead, lightly rub 50‐100 times, thumb to thumb, from the center to the edge of the face. Start at the midpoint of the eyebrows and go up to the front hairline.

Seek treatment by a TCM practitioner, if possible. Acupuncture and the right herbal formula are powerful interventions for someone in the midst of Summer Heat. Because the affliction has long-term effects, use of these modalities after a crisis helps one return to full health.

Of course call 911 if the victim is unresponsive or has other signs of severe distress.


I have to work outside. What can I do to prevent heat exhaustion?

Patchouli got a bad rap from hippie days but it is the main herb in a regular summer beverage that is a preventive measure. It works especially well for someone who has nausea and/or vomiting with the Summer Heat. Pour four cups of boiling water over these leaves, steep for about five minutes and drink one or two cups a day:

Huo Xiang / Agastache / Patchouli       6 grams
Pei Lan / Eupatorium       6 grams
Bo He / Mint       3 grams
No self‐respecting TCM practitioner advocates iced drinks. They deplete energy/Qi from the digestive system. It’s better to drink room temperature beverages.

That delicious hibiscus‐mint tea, which you can prepare (sold at Wheatsville Co‐op and other “health food” stores) or request at many Austin restaurants, cools and  astringes. The latter function helps us retain needed fluids.

Keep a wet bandana or kerchief over the base of your back neck. It cools key energetic points that help regulate body temperature and release heat.

Food as Medicine

n TCM, every food has an energetic quality or temperature. Overheating bodies improve with moderate use of cooling foods. These include apple, asparagus, bamboo shoot,  roasted barley tea, clam, coconut milk, cucumber, egg white, grapefruit, lemon, lettuce, millet, mung bean (try a soup with Tamari soy sauce), mung bean sprout, pineapple, potato, salt, summer squash (yellow or zucchini), rice, tofu, and watermelon.

In acute cases, combine cooling food with a pungent flavor that is cool or neutral. These include peppermint, marjoram, elder flowers, white pepper, radish, turnip and kohlrabi.

Summer Heat commonly has a Damp (TCM term) component. Some foods worsen this condition. They include dairy products, pork and rich meat, roasted peanuts, concentrated juices (especially orange and tomato), wheat, bread, yeast, beer, bananas, sugar, other sweeteners and saturated fats. Alcohol is a sugar.

Effective foods to counter Damp include aduki bean, alfalfa, anchovy, barley, celery, corn, daikon radish, garlic, green tea, horseradish, Jasmine tea, Job’s Tears, kidney bean, kohlrabi, lemon, mackerel, marjoram, button mushroom, mustard leaf, onion, parsley, pumpkin, radish, rye, scallion, turnip and umeboshi plum.

In summary, TCM strategies empower us to cope with summer’s extreme heat.  May you be happy and healthy for the rest of the summer!

Janet Lee Cook
 Licensed Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Prescriptions

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