top of page

BACK TO SCHOOL: Gifts of Late Summer in Chinese Medicine

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Five Element acupuncture is based on the laws of nature, and the energetics of each of the five seasons. Although we learn that there are four seasons in the year, in Chinese medicine, we count five. So what is this fifth mystery season? It’s Late Summer. The dog days of summer. It feels different from the summer of June and July. Unique in its humidity, its harvest, the way the heat and the thick air make us walk slower, the way we savor our food and eat it slowly. It’s about lying in hammocks, eating juicy and dripping fruits that have been growing and ripening all summer. Maybe we show our neighbors we care by sharing some of our garden’s bounty with them. Maybe we are pulling our children in tighter and hugging them for longer, knowing that just around the corner, they are off to school again… but while they are here in our arms we can savor the smell of their hair and sweat, knowing that as long as we hold them, we can keep them safe.

The energy of Late Summer is about slowing down, recognizing our bounty and all of our blessings, caring deeply for our selves and others. Late Summer is associated with digestion… of thoughts as well as food. What happens with the digestion of food, so happens with the digestion of thought. After churning our food and thoughts in our stomachs or minds, are we then digesting them? Or are our thoughts and our food churning in our stomachs and minds, causing bloating and overthinking?

woman in hammock

The season of Late Summer is the Earth element, and it is associated with the organs of the Spleen and Stomach. These organs work together to churn the food in our bellies and the thoughts in our mind, and then transform them into something our body and our mind can use. Disharmony of the Spleen and Stomach can lead to symptoms such as bloating, nausea, heavy head and limbs, lack of energy, brain fog, circular thinking, excessive worry, loose stool, “caregiver’s syndrome” (the burnt out state of chronically giving care to someone else while sacrificing care for one’s own self), pain or weakness in the muscles, tendency to gain weight, and lack of appetite. On the other hand, a healthy and balanced Earth element may show up in a person as strong muscles, healthy boundaries, clear thinking, efficient digestion, and adequate energy.

There are many practices to nourish the Late Summer energy within ourselves. Take time to experiment with and observe your own Earth element. Try some of the following:

  • Eat yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, especially sweet potatoes and pumpkins.

  • Avoid multitasking, especially while eating. Be present with your food. Eat slowly.

  • Show someone you care by sharing something from your garden, or a dish you prepared for them. Late summer is the season for “a way to a person’s heart is through their stomach”!

  • Sing aloud, particularly ballads and lullabies.

  • Practice hugging someone so that the hug is evenly divided… there is no “giver” and “receiver” of the hug.

  • In a moment where you want to jump in or provide your opinion, simply listen and try to understand where the person is coming from. Observe your body in this moment.

  • Take the time to acknowledge all the bounties of the harvest of your own life. In the last moments before the flurry of back-to-school, take stock of all that has come into fruition in your life.

An acupuncture treatment to nourish the Earth element during its own season of Late Summer can be particularly powerful. Curious about the state of your own Earth element? Make an appointment with your acupuncturist today.

At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!


This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.



bottom of page