In Chinese medicine, the summer is related to the heart. The heart is thought to be the fire organ of the body (each organ gets an element), and the heart fire will easily ‘blaze out of control’ when certain conditions arise. Heart fire blazing in Chinese medicine could be one of many conditions, such as palpitations, tachycardia, insomnia, anxiety- with or without a reason, mania, and worse cardiac conditions. The summer is often when various heart related conditions will show up.
If you are someone that regularly suffers from mild palpitations that your primary care physician has ruled as benign, then it is important to prepare for the hot summer weather to protect your heart. If you have regular skipped beats, regular palpitations, tachycardia episodes, then please go see your physician. Get a cardiac work up and make sure there is not anything more seriously wrong with your heart.
This aim of this article is to help mitigate the effects that the heat of summer can have on individuals with mild heart conditions or who are already being treated for their active heart conditions.
Things you can do in your kitchen:
When the temperatures rise, and you feel yourself drifting towards more anxious thoughts and a sense of mild palpitations, this is a sign of heart fire starting to blaze. Foods that will help cool the heart fire are bitter flavored foods, such bitter greens—arugula, collard greens, mustard greens, pak choi, beet greens, celery, and cucumbers (yes these are considered to have a hint of bitter-but they also have a high water content).
You also want to eat foods that are considered naturally cooling (this does not mean eat everything raw, in fact, you still want to cook the majority of your food, according to Chinese medical food therapy). Foods that are considered naturally cooling are: hormone and antibiotic free pork (thing pork loin, pork chops), cucumbers, watermelon (you can grill watermelon for a delicious watermelon salad), apricot, lemon, peach, broccoli, sprouts, mung beans, mint, cilantro, snow peas, spinach, and asparagus.
Green tea is also considered cooling, while coffee can stoke the heart fire. You may want to lessen your coffee intake and add in a cup or two of green tea throughout the day, if you are someone prone to developing heart fire.
Another Easy, Cooling Tactic:
Keep a flavored waters in your fridge or in a waterbottle near you at all times. You can flavor your water by adding in some of the above cooling fruits, vegetables, and herbs, such as:
Watermelon infused water — cut 1 inch cubes of watermelon about 1 cup, and add it to a pitcher of water to keep in your fridge
Cucumber water — peel and slice one whole cucumber into ¼ thick slices, add to a pitcher. Or just add 3 slices to a glass of water
Lemon water — keep wedges of lemons on hand to add a wedge or two to glasses of water
Mint water — use a sprig of fresh mint for each glass of water. Gently crush the mint leaves with your hand or by pounding with the blunt end of a butter knife before adding it to your glass of water. Or use several springs for a whole pitcher.
Each of these flavored waters adds some nutrients to the water as well. Not a tone, but if you can taste the flavor, you are adding somethin’ nutritionally extra to your water.
If your kitchen tips do not help with insomnia, mild palpitations, anxious feels, then…
I would highly recommend looking into acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. These tools ideally step in when your own kitchen and self care do not suffice to mitigate your symptoms. There are a plethora of Chinese herbal formulas that address heart fire symptoms, and are traditionally used the most during the hot summer months.