In addition to the four seasons with which we are all familiar, traditional Chinese calendars break down the year into roughly two week periods of time. These are called the Seasonal Nodes, or Jie Qi 節氣. By knowing what is happening in the natural environment at any given time of the year, we can understand how to take care of our health.
This Friday, June 6, 2014 is the beginning of the Bearded Grain (Mang Zhong 芒種) seasonal node, the ninth of the year. Bearded Grain is the last node just before the Summer Solstice, the Solstice representing the most expansive and Yang time of the year. The name, ‘Bearded Grain,’ is a reference to crops. The word Mang (芒) refers to the maturing crops, especially the winter wheat, which is harvested about this time of year. The word Zhong (種) is a reference then to the new rice crops that are planted at this time. This gives us the image of one thing coming to maturity (as in the growing Yang of the season) so that it can eventually perish (i.e., be harvested), then allowing a new crop to be started. The image of transfer and renewal is characteristic of the transition period of the solstice that is fast approaching.
During Mang Zhong there are several things traditionally recommended for healthy living. The first is taking a siesta – in other words an afternoon nap (in Chinese, Wu Shui 午睡). During this time of year damp and heat evils in the environment start to predominate. In Chinese medicine the Spleen is susceptible to dampness, the disease evil associated with the Earth phase. The Spleen governs the flesh and the four limbs. Damp evils encumber the flesh of the four limbs making them feel heavy and weary, leading our body feeling fatigued and without strength. Napping is a way to recuperate vitality, especially when done during the most Yang/hot time of day. Napping traditionally allowed people a rest from the summer heat and dampness, and offered a way to support the Latter Heaven (hou tian 後天) of the Spleen.
The second recommendation is to regularly clear toxins. Toxins in this case refers to both heat toxins and water toxins, since, again, this is a time of increasing dampness and heat in the environment. In much of Asia, this time of year is the rainy season. Although this week in New Jersey the weather has been just about perfect in temperature, hotter and more humid weather may just be around the corner. During this Seasonal Node it’s important for us all to be sure we stay cool and dry inside. Be cautious of overexposure to the heat, especially during the middle part of the day. People who are prone to internal damp conditions should be reduce salt or other similar dietary intake that can lead to accumulation of fluids and swelling.
Our next admonition is both a “to do” and a “to avoid.” First, Mang Zhong is the time of the year to really keep our environment sanitary – this is to help us avoid things around us developing molds. Warm, humid, and rainy weather is the perfect combination for toxic molds to start growing. Keep your houses clean and dry, and quickly patch up any areas of water leaks that may lead to mold growth. Natural products such as Tea Tree Oil and even plain white vinegar are effective anti-mold cleaning agents and patients should be encouraged to make use of them! This is important for just about everyone, but especially so for people with various environmental sensitivities, breathing difficulties, or damp patterns.