Honoring the Energy of Fire this Season

Honoring the Energy of Fire this Season

Fire is undoubtedly essential to our existence in many ways, including for warmth, cooking, and even habitat regeneration. However, when imbalanced or improperly tended, Fire can be quite a destructive force—as seen through the increasing prevalence of “fire season,” characterized by raging wildfires beginning in the summer months. This powerful element demands respect, and we can learn so much about truly honoring Fire from the wisdom of TCM. Considering the focus on interconnectedness in TCM, there is reason to believe that learning to cultivate inner balance and harmonious relations with the Earth’s energetic forces can positively influence our external environments.


Through the Five Elements framework of TCM, we are supported in understanding the mirrored relationships of the external and internal, highlighting just how much nature’s dynamic forces influence and penetrate into our own biology. According to this framework, Fire is the element that corresponds not only to Summer, but to its associated organ pairing of the Heart and Small Intestine. Indeed, Fire is responsible for powering the Heart organ-meridian system, our body’s emperor, which governs the Blood and houses our Spirit / consciousness. Fire is likewise crucial to smooth digestive function in the form of Digestive Fire, which powers the Small Intestine in its task of separating pure and impure substances for absorption and elimination, respectively. Through their synergistic functions, the Heart and Small Intestine work together to maintain a balance of heat and energy in the body.


Since balance is the foundation of vibrant health in TCM, deficiency or excess in any energetic force will be revealed through symptoms. Imbalances in the Fire element can express in both Heart-related and Small Intestine-related symptoms. For example, excessive Heart Fire can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and palpitations, while Small Intestine issues might manifest as abdominal pain or constipation. Conversely, deficient Fire can affect the Heart through compromised quality and flow of Blood and other fluids, while for the Small Intestine it can express as sluggish digestion and bloating. Simply put, too little Fire results in excess fluids and too much Fire dries out our internal fluids.


Dampness, characterized by excess fluids, is one of the six pathogens of our external environment that can invade the body and disrupt its internal balance. Since this is a highly common and disruptive one of the “six evils,” TCM prioritizes the prevention and relief of Dampness, which obstructs the flow of Qi and causes stagnation, where it most often originates—through eating. By efficiently metabolizing our food through Chinese dietary principles, we receive the nutrients we need without clogging up our systems with excess waste that does not get properly eliminated. Thus, TCM advises to limit raw and cold foods, as warm and cooked foods are more easily broken down and digested. Seasonal eating is also encouraged, making space for raw and cold foods depending on season and strength of Digestive Fire, generally promoting moderation. A movement practice that promotes circulation as well as warming herbs like ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and Eleuthero can be especially supportive in clearing Dampness.

Excess Heat is another one of the “six evils,” that’s most common during the Summer season, characterized by intense and rising heat that causes inflammation and over-accelerates bodily functions. Symptoms include high fever, redness in the face, irritability, thirst, dark urine, red tongue, rapid pulse, sores, and rashes. When Fire presents in excess, it is advised to incorporate more cooling foods, while avoiding foods that are spicy and greasy, as well as minimizing caffeine and alcohol, all of which increase internal Fire. It’s also extremely important to nourish Yin with adequate rest and proper hydration—enjoying foods like watermelon, cucumber, and celery, while also incorporating electrolytes, contained in mineral-rich herbs like Stinging Nettle, Pearl, and Pine Pollen. 


Summer Heat is an external pathogen that’s exclusive to this season, as a combination of Heat and Dampness. It is characterized by many of the same symptoms as excess Heat, as well as heat stroke, profuse sweating, fatigue, dizziness, heartburn, and gastrointestinal disturbances. Rebalancing requires draining Dampness and clearing excess Heat, which can be efficiently done with acupuncture and further aided with balancing herbs like Schizandra and Rose. Because weak Defensive Qi is also indicated, Astragalus can be very supportive in protecting us from external disturbances and replenishing depleted Qi. In terms of lifestyle, minimize time spent in the direct sun and avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day. 


TCM wisdom for tending to internally balanced Fire helps us understand the importance of harmonious elemental exchanges on a wider scale, as well as some of the patterns of imbalance that can be mirrored from the internal to the external. Perhaps most obvious, over-productivity—or dwelling too much in fiery Yang energy—can lead to burn-out, not just personally but also collectively and environmentally. Can you think of any other ways that TCM wisdom for balancing Fire internally can be applied externally?