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THE SUMMER WANES

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Sunday, August 21, 2011

The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus wrote that nothing is constant in this universe, that all is ebb and flow.  The Moon waxes, and then wanes in Her monthly cycle, and so do the seasons of the year, as the Sun’s light and heat first waxes, and then wanes.

Summer, which once seemed so blazingly hot and overpowering, is now on the wane – at least in the northern hemisphere, where I and most of the world’s population live.  The seasons are doing a critical shift, which presents us with some new health challenges as the organism strives to adapt.

In the middle of Summer, the heat was overpowering, and never really went away, as scorching days turned into warm and sultry nights.  The body was geared to hot weather full time, 24 / 7.  Appetites waned in the peak heat of Summer, because blood flow was diverted away from the digestive organs in the body’s interior to the capillaries and sweat glands at the periphery.  In addition, care had to be taken to adequately hydrate the body, to protect it from dehydration.

But now, the days are growing noticeably shorter, and the nights longer.  Although the days can still be intensely hot, the nights can be, by contrast, quite cool, especially after midnight in the wee hours of the morning.  And so, the body must struggle to adapt to these more extreme swings and fluctuations in temperature.  You can go to bed with your bedroom window open and wake up with some sniffles and a scratchy throat because it got quite cool at night, after you had thrown the covers off.

Or, you may hike up to a mountain top, or even to the top of a high hill, offering a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.  It may be quite warm and sheltered down in the valley, and you dress very lightly.  As you do the long hike up to the summit, you sweat quite profusely, and your pores open at full throttle.  But then, when you reach the summit, where the cool breezes blow, you may catch a chill, which could precipitate a late Summer cold.

This may not yet pose critical or extreme challenges for your health, as the more severe cold snaps of Fall will.  But if the necessary changes are made to adapt to the milder cooling of mid August, or early fall, the body will be more prepared for the bigger climactic challenges to come.  This is not too difficult if you follow a few sensible guidelines.

The first guideline is this:  Eliminate or greatly reduce your intake of ice cold drinks, and cooling foods and beverages. Don’t eat ice cold foods straight from the refrigerator.   Most people in our modern world are totally unaware of the full extent of the insidious damage and injury to our bodies and their vital functions by excessive or indiscriminate cold.  Ice cold drinks, ice cream, and the like may feel very good in the heat of midday, but they make you more vulnerable to colds and chills when the cool nights come.  Cold can linger in the body, and not be noticed, for a lot longer than most people realize.

The ancient Greek physician – philosophers reasoned that Hot or heating influences on the body were inherently less risky to the organism and its homeostasis than were Cold or cooling ones because Cold is basically contrary or inimical to Life.  Living bodies all generate heat, whereas dead bodies are cold.  And so, it is especially important that we do not overindulge in cold, especially when the seasons start to change.

The ancient Greek philosopher – physicians also categorized all foods, herbs and medicinal substances as being either heating or cooling in nature.  Heating or warming foods and herbs add to, or build up, the inherent metabolic heat, energy and vitality of the body, whereas cooling foods and herbs disperse it, and thereby deplete it.  The prevailing seasonal changes that are taking place are moving towards increasing coldness, which will require increasing inherent metabolic heat and energy to withstand.  In accordance with the prevailing direction of seasonal change, we must abandon an overindulgence in Cold or cooling foods and herbs, and concentrate on warming, or at least neutral or temperate, foods and herbs.

Start to rebuild the nutritional status of the organism, and its immunity. The constant, overwhelming heat of mid Summer is now gone, that oppressive heat that stifled the appetite and digestion, and we are now free to eat more copiously of heavier, more nutritious foods, especially in the cooler evenings.  Luckily, Mother Nature has provided us with some great foods and herbs for rebuilding our bodies and their immunity:

Pumpkins, squash and yellow vegetables: These are all rich in carotenes and vitamin A, which increases the health and immune resistance of the body’s mucous membranes in preparation for the coming Fall and Winter.  They are also a rich source of caloric energy and complex carbohydrates.

Whole grains: These are also harvested in the late summer or early Fall, and are an excellent source of high quality nutrition, with B vitamins, vitamin E, and plenty of fiber.

Dark Forest Berries: These include Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Grapes and Black Currants.  They are rich in flavonoids and antioxidants to strengthen vascular and connective tissue and, with their rich vitamin C content, to boost circulation and immunity.  Whereas mid Summer has dilated and expanded the peripheral capillaries, the mildly astringent nature of these dark forest berries restores their normal tone and equilibrium.

Lately, there has been a lot of scientific research into the health benefits of red grapes and red wine for maintaining cardiovascular health.  This is primarily due to the influece of a flavonoid pigment that red grapes contain, called resveratrol.

In closing, I wish to leave you with a couple of beneficial herbs to use to boost immunity for the coming Fall and Winter.  These are both herbs that are native to Greece and the Balkans, and healing plants that date all the way back to Hippocrates and beyond.

Olive Leaves (Olea europea): The powers of the leaves of this ancient tree of Greece, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land to boost immunity and fight infection are legendary.  Due to the action of Oleuropein and other flavonoid antioxidants contained in the leaf, Olive leaves have a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity against many types of bacteria, molds, yeasts, fungi and viruses.  Olive leaf tea can be drunk freely instead of water, and is quite pleasant tasting, somewhat like Green Tea, only more aromatic.  Or, you can go to your local health food store and get capsules of Olive Leaf Extract, which provides the essence of the herb in its most concentrated, and tasteless, form.

Besides building our immune resistance to infections, Olive Leaves are also quite useful for relieving other health conditions.  The flavonoids they contain dilate and tone the blood vessels, protecting against hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  The beta Sitosterols in the leaves help to lower blood cholesterol.  The flavonoid compounds in the Olive Leaf also have a hypoglycemic effect that lowers blood sugar in those who have problems with high blood sugar.  And finally, they have a beneficial protective effect against upper respiratory tract infections and allergies.

Sea Buckthorn berries and oil (Hippophae rhamnoides): The late Summer and early Fall is also the time of year when the Sea Buckthorn berries ripen.  Mother Nature, recognizing this as the season for building immunity, has made the Sea Buckthorn berry a nutritional powerhouse to do just that, packing them chock full of important nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, flavonoids, vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols, B vitamins, Iron, and much, much more.

Sea Buckthorn berries can be taken in many forms.  You can take the juice concentrate or syrup, or the oil.  Or, you can grind the dried berries into a powder in an electric coffee grinder, and mix them with honey to make a delicious medicinal paste, or electuary.  Any way you take them, Sea Buckthorn berries provide wonderful nutritional and immune protection against the coming cold season.

Mother Nature, in Her infinite healing wisdom, practices preventive medicine by providing us with the foods and herbs we need, all in the right time and season, to prepare us for what lies ahead.  All we need to do is to partake of Her healing bounty.    

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