Summer is the climactic season of the year when the sun is at its peak, bringing the most heat and daylight. This is a conducive time for a cleanse, as the warmth brings on more activities and sweating to facilitate detoxification. Wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be a helpful guide on how best to cleanse your whole being, attuned to the seasonal cycles. In TCM, summer corresponds with the heart and small intestine, recommending this as the best time to cleanse these organs. It’s also a good time to detoxify the mind and body’s toxic residue from emotional hatred or perfectionism, and cultivate love and joy as these aspects correspond with the fire element of the summer season in TCM.
I. 5 Element System
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) rests on a foundation of 5 Element Theory, involving Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These elements are a 5-phase theory of interrelated, organic energies expressed in our body and nature. This pentagram within hosts a flow of energies that depict our personalities, emotions and health imbalances. Everyone has their unique energetic blueprint of 5 elements expressed through health patterns, and this can be a key factor in diagnosing for a TCM Practitioner. While some of this can be deep and complicated, parts are simple and easy to recognize for anyone. This article is part of a 5 element series, focusing on the fire element for summer. Here is a table that sums up all of the elements and some of their correspondences:
TCM 5 Element Table and Correspondences
Element Season Organs Emotions Color Tone Sound
Wood Spring Liver/Gallbladder Anger/ Green E SHHH
Fire Summer Heart/Small Intestine Joy Red G HAWW
Earth Late Summer Spleen/Stomach Worry Yellow C HOOO
Metal Autumn Lungs/Large Intestine Grief White D SSSSS
Water Winter Kidneys/Bladder Fear Blue-Black A WOOO
The interrelationships flow so each element feeds the next element and controls the second from it as depicted below. For example, the fire feeds the earth (think of the fire dispersing seeds) and controls (melts) metal and is controlled by water.
We embody all five elements, however, many individuals express certain elements more strongly. For example a Fire Type may be passionate, energetic, creative and intuitive.
II. Fire Archetype of TCM-Heart/Small Intestine and Pericardium/Triple Burner
The Fire archetype of TCM is one of the 5 used in TCM diagnosis, embodying the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the constitution. Being human, we are always out of balance with our own individual blueprints toward our highest nature. Working with and understanding the baseline can give guidance for objective assessments, helping to eliminate judgement and encouraging personal evolution.
The fire element is the most yang of the elements. It corresponds with the 3 earthly branches of summer: Snake (May), Horse (June), and Sheep (July). Its direction of south on the feng shui ba-gua is associated with fame and name. Fire types are passionate, energetic, creative and intuitive. Their signature emotion is Joy, so these individuals seek pleasure and gratification with desire as their compass. If the fire element is in excess, the person may have issues with insomnia, anxiety, inappropriate laughter or problems with their heart or small intestine. If the fire element is deficient, the person may lack enthusiasm, confidence and persistence.
Each element is associated with paired yin-yang organs and other emotions. heaThe paired yin-yang organs for the Fire Element are the Heart (Yin) and Small Intestine (Yang), corresponding with joy and ‘separating the pure from the impure,’ respectively. The fire is the only element with 2 extra meridians: Pericardium (yin) paired with the Triple Burner (yang). TCM’s cultural perspective is different than ours in the West regarding emotions. With the exception of joy, from the western perspective, the other 4 TCM emotions of anger, worry, grief and fear would be considered ‘negative’ to most individuals. In TCM, the emotions are a source of disharmony with neutral connotations. All emotions have their place in healthy individuals and should be expressed in a balanced way to maintain health. Even too much joy can be a source of disharmony. A heart pattern with excess fire may manifest as nervous and inappropriate laughter, along with an imbalance of grandiose tendencies toward excessive joy that ignores mundane realities.
III. Taoist Healing Sounds and Tones/Love & Joy Meditation
In TCM, there is an ancient Taoist concept of the Six Healing Sounds or Liu Zi Jue. Each of the 5 elements and paired organs have a healing sound and tone. The tone for Fire Element is G and the healing sound is HAWWW. There is a Taoist Qi Gong exercise where you lean to the right with arms and palms up, inhaling deeply then exhaling while saying the healing sound, HAWWW. The Six Healing Sounds are thought to transform the stagnant energy stored in the organs and meridian pathways into a vital life force. This also includes an exercise, similar to the western modality, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprogramming). In the Heart exercise, you imagine a person who you feel hatred towards, then separate the person from the hatred. Next, imagine your eyes move down into your heart. While focusing on the hatred, move your eyes back and forth, imagine the eyes in your heart moving back and forth, eliminating the hatred. This exercise can be practiced with all organs and their corresponding emotion and vocal healing sounds. In addition, you can use color therapy and imagine vibrant red light penetrating the heart and small intestine this meditation.
Triple Burner (TB) is the sixth sound, HEEEEEE, integrating all 5 sounds. The Triple Burner is an organ system, unique to TCM used as a collective term regarding the 3 burners in the body: Upper above the diaphragm, middle between diaphragm and umbilicus, and lower below the umbilicus. This system is considered the passage of heat and water, with acupuncture points along its meridian used to regulate heat in the body and invigorate the immune system. It has been compared by some to the western lymphatic system. The meditation for TB is done lying down on your back with the vision to even out the heat in the body that often rises to the upper body with cold feet and hands. In this meditation, one imagines a big roller moving down the front of your body, starting from the head. As it moves down, imagine any congested heat being redistributed to cold areas and evened out throughout the body.
IV. Heart and Circulation Cleanse
There are many natural remedies and supplements for the heart and blood vessels. Hawthorn Berries, along with its leaves and flowers, have been used for centuries for the heart and blood vessels in both Europe and China (“Goji Berries”). It’s best to combine the whole plant as a tea or standardized supplement. This plant treats both high and low blood pressure, lowers the trigylcerides and LDL cholesterol, atherosclerosis, widens blood vessels and enables the heart to pump more blood for circulation. Other accessible foods for the heart and circulation are garlic and cayenne pepper, while western herbal medicines include horse chestnut and butcher’s broom. Additionally, in TCM the flavor of summer is bitter and bitter greens (kale and mustard greens) and herbs are also a good source to tonify the heart.
It is vital to include modern day discoveries, such as C0-Q10 (Ubiquinol) and fish oils for heart health. Co-Q10 is an antioxidant, present in every cell, converting carbohydrates and fats into ATP, one of our most important energy sources in the body. The active ingredient for CO-Q10 is Ubiquinol, making it the most bio-available form, with a name that describes its ubiquitous nature in every cell. For heart health, the ubiquinol works as an antioxidant in the blood, where it prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol and prevents atherosclerosis. In addition, it is important to realize if you are on a statin-cholesterol lowering pharmaceutical, the statins deplete ubiquinol. Ubiquinol deficiency can lead to heart attacks. As we age, Co-q10 levels decline and it becomes more difficult to absorb the Co-q10, unless it is the active ingredient form of Ubiquinol, which is available as a supplement in most natural health stores.
The Omega-3 Fatty Acids in fish oils are an accessible option for improving heart health. Many experts now believe that heart disease is an inflammatory disease, with cellular inflammation that causes the build-up of atherosclerotic lesions and their rupture that leads to heart disease. Fish oils are anti-inflammatory and have shown to lower tryglycerides and blood pressure.
V. Small Intestine Cleanse
From all of the detoxification regimes you read about, the Small Intestine often gets overlooked. Afteral, how do you cleanse the Small Intestine? First, it is important to understand the brunt this organ takes from the western diet with dairy, farmed meats and processed foods, along with antibiotics (pharmaceuticals and meat/dairy). This overwhelms the digestive system, causing a breakdown of the stomach’s ability to kill bacteria and break down protein. The Small Intestine reacts by building up a mucoid lining to protect itself. This cascades into undigested proteins and bacterial overgrowth or SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth), ultimately inhibiting nutrient absorption. Mullein is an anti-inflammatory herb that has been used for centuries to help mucus membranes, acting like an expectorant that breaks down mucus lining in the digestive and respiratory tracts. Mullein works better when used in combination with enzymes, such as bromelain (pineapples) and papain (papaya) for protein digestion in the stomach or stuck in the Small Intestine.
VI. Meridian Therapy: Heart/Small Intestine and Pericardium/Triple Burner
In TCM there are 12 principle meridians that correspond with organs. There are paired organs, 1 yang/hollow and 1 yin (solid) pairs for each element and season, with the exception of the fire element having 2 pairs: Heart/Small Intestine and Pericardium/Triple Burner. The meridians are channels, where the qi (life force) flows, transforming energy to material and vice versa. The acupuncture points used for needling are along these channels. However, there are many ways to stimulate the points without acupuncture needles, using essential oils, acupressure, massage, Reiki or tuning forks. Plus, anyone can support the flow of the qi in the meridians by stretching or doing yoga. When we are stiff, our meridians kink like a garden hose, obstructing our free flow flow of qi. Obstructions can lead to pain or disease from this imbalance. Here is an overview of the locations and benefits of the 4 fire meridians and their power points along the channels:
Heart Meridian: This originates in the heart and spreads through the heart system, passing through the diaphragm, connecting to its yang-paired organ, Small Intestine. On the more exterior level, it passes from the heart, through the lungs emerging into the arm pits and down along the inner bicep and forearm and hand, exiting out the tip of the little finger. From its 9 acupoints, 3 are worth knowing for self-acupressure or the like:
5-Connecting Interior (1 *cun from wrist crease above pinky): loss of voice, stiffness of tongue, palpitation
6-Yin Cleft (Half *cun from wrist crease above pinky): Night sweats, cardiac pain, palpitations
7-Spirit’s Gate (Inner wrist crease above pinky): Insomnia, anxiety,memory
Small Intestine Meridian: This originates on the lateral side of the small finger, moving up the along the lateral side of the hand wrist, and up alongside medially the elbow up the triceps through the shoulder blades, up the side of the necks and cheek, ending in front of the ears. From its 19 acupoints, 4 important ones’ locations and indications are explained:
3-Back Stream (on side of hand, with loose fist, where transverse crease puckers): pain/rigidity in neck, malaria, lumbar pain/stiffness, epilepsy, manic psychosis, deafness, eye congestion
(excellent for neck and back when combined with Bladder 62)
11-Celestial Gathering (center of subscapular fossa): shoulder/arm pain & stiffness, mastitis, asthma
17-Celestial Appearance (on neck, posterior to angle of mandible): swelling and neck pain, tinnitus, ear pain
19-Hearing Palace (Anterior to ear, in depression with mouth open): tinnitus, deafness, toothache, jaw pain
Pericardium Meridian: It originates in the chest, entering the pericardium and descends to the abdomen, connecting with the Triple Burner. Another branch emerges at PC-1 a cun lateral to the breast nipple, flowing down the arm on the medial biceps border down through the middle of the inner forearm through the palm of hand out exiting out the middle finger. From the 9 acupoints, 2 are explained:
6-Inner Gate (2 cun up from wrist crease in center of forearm): chest congestion, nausea and vomiting, cardiac pain, irritability, insomnia, epilepsy, palpitations
8-Labor Palace (center of the palm, between the 2nd and 3rd metacarpal bones; when a fist is made, the point is where the tip of the middle finger touches): canker sores, halitosis, hand fungal infections
Triple Burner Meridian: It originates in the ring finger traveling up the back of the hand, up the outside center of the forearms and triceps, side of neck around perimeter of ears, ending at lateral sides of eyebrows. From the 23 acupoints, 3 significant ones are explained:
3-Central Islet (dorsum of hand between 4th and 5th metacarpal bones): tinnitus, deafness, earache, eye pain
5-Outer Gate (on dorsal side of forearm, 2 cun from wrist crease): augment immunity, fever, hot flashes, deafness, headache
6-Branching Ditch (on dorsal side of forearm, 3 cun from wrist crease): constipation, hypochondriac area pain, irritability
*Cun: Approximately 1 thumb width of person being measured
VII. The Spirit of the Heart: Shen
Shen can be translated as the Spirit or Mind and encompasses our mental functions and health, consciousness, memory and vitality. Shen is the spirit inside that shines, emanating into the world and giving us spiritual dimensions. It contributes to our wisdom, tranquility and connection to the world around us. Shen lives in the heart, where it sleeps during the night. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be insomnia.
The Shen’s state is said to be visible in the eyes. A healthy Shen creates bright, shining eyes that spark a connection with others. Trauma or shocks can disturb the Shen, diminishing the vitality of the eyes. A disturbed Shen dulls the eyes, with the sense that there are curtains in front of them and no one behind, inhibiting connection or healthy eye contact.
Disharmony of the Shen can manifest as anxiety, insomnia, inappropriate laughter or chatter, forgetfulness, lackluster eyes, unclear thinking or mental illness. In TCM, it's said that through Acupuncture, herbal medicine and meditations with qi gong or tai chi, the Shen can be harmonized with increased vitality.
VIII. Conclusions/Guided Healing Meditation CD
In conclusion, this article was intended to simplify and provide an overview of TCM or Taoist principles on the 5 elements. This system is interrelated into a cohesive whole, with this article on the fire element of summer, being 1 of a 5-part series (see other blogs on Wood, Earth, Metal and Water). This article is especially beneficial to consider in the summer, however, anytime you have imbalances with the heart/small intestine or their associated emotions of joy and hatred, this can be helpful to read and apply. As a TCM Practitioner, I offer seasonal cleansing services with individuals, using Acupuncture, herbal cleanses, castor oil packs, and qi gong exercises. In addition, I have written and co-produced guided healing meditations with Eileen Dey, Wurst and Michael Mercker on a 5 Element East Asian Series for each season and its corresponding organs/emotions. Here is a link to purchase the Mp3 download for the Fire Element and Heart/Small Intestine Guided Healing Meditation:
Disclaimer: This article or CD is not intended to diagnose, cure or treat any disease. Consult a health practitioner for any illness. Do not listen to CD while driving or lifting heavy items.