TCM Tips for Late Summer: The Fifth Season - Root + Bones

TCM Tips for Late Summer: The Fifth Season

As we quickly approach the Late Summer season that corresponds to Earth in the Five Elements framework, it’s time to begin the deceleration process signifying the transition into the Yin phases of our yearly cycle. The invitation for this beautiful interlude of a season is to pause, ground, and integrate – both practically and energetically. On a practical level, Late Summer is associated with the organ-meridian channels of the Stomach and Spleen, so there’s a focus on digestion and the assimilation of Qi. Energetically, we can focus on recentering, reflecting, and starting to synthesize the lessons and medicine of the year so far. 


Looking for inspiration? Here are a few tangible tips to help you embrace Late Summer. 


  1. Tend to your digestive health because the Earth element is all about nourishment. The Spleen can complete its mission of metabolizing energy from food into Blood and Qi best when fed easily digestible nourishment, which, according to TCM means: cooked or lightly steamed vegetables; warm or room temperature beverages; ripe and seasonal stone fruits and berries; whole grains like rice, oats, and quinoa; and lighter proteins like fish, eggs, chicken, and red meat in moderation. Ice cold elixirs and smoothies, raw vegetables, excess sugar, and fried foods hinder optimal digestion, potentially creating dampness that prevents the transformation of Qi. Chew thoroughly and be present while eating, too!
  2. Move your body in ways that are gentle and also support the mind-body-spirit connection. As the temperatures begin to decline, especially in the mornings and evenings, this is a wonderful time of year to prioritize being active in the great outdoors, which helps balance the Earth element and nourishes Shen (spirit). Walking or jogging are great examples! Meditative movement that focuses on the breath (like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga) is especially beneficial during Late Summer to promote energy circulation, facilitate relaxation, and nurture the Spleen and Stomach. 
  3. Adjust your herbal regimen as with each seasonal change, our needs and even bodily constitution can change, as well. During Late Summer, we are advised to incorporate herbs that are warming and support digestion, like ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom – such kitchen staples can be a great way to bring balance to anything on the cooler side, like salads or cold drinks (if you must). Herbs with sweet and warming tastes especially favor the Spleen and Stomach, and are generally supportive in this season; these include Astragalus, Deer Antler Velvet, Reishi, He Shou Wu, and Pine Pollen. Pine Pollen is one of my favorites during this time of year for it is nutrient dense, mineral rich (supporting proper hydration, which nourishes the Spleen), and like many of the other suggestions, lends that extra support to our immune system – always beneficial during seasonal transitions that can throw us off balance and increase our susceptibility. 
  4. Have boundaries with the information you receive as digestion isn’t just limited to the gut. Excessive information-seeking and screen time can cause both stress and digestive upset, as these habits can prevent us from entering the “rest and digest” state of the parasympathetic nervous system. Interestingly, Late Summer and its organ-meridian channels also correspond to the TCM concept of “Yi” or our thoughts and intentions. Being present, moving through our days with purpose, and practicing gratitude all nourish the Earth element, as well as the Spleen and Stomach. Unsurprisingly, many of the other tips above, like spending time in nature and engaging in meditative movement, also support balanced Yi. 
  5. Take inventory of the year so far by making time to journal or engage in art projects that help you digest the events and lessons of the year to date. Reflect on all that has transpired and ask yourself what you have learned, what intentions you have for the remainder of the year, and what you’re ready to let go of. You can bring ritual into this by, for example, making art and releasing into fire or moving water! This is also a really opportune moment to choose some affirmations that you can speak regularly in order to give power to your voice, rewire negative thought patterns, and amplify the intentionality of Late Summer.