summer tcm watermelon cucumber seasonal herbs

Summers seem to be getting hotter and hotter so staying cool – and keeping your cool – can be more difficult. But don’t fret! There are many fabulous herbs, some even easy to find or grow foods, that can help you cool off during such hot summer days.

These herbs also help with what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) calls “Summer-Heat,” a particular acute condition that arises from over-exposure to hot conditions. This is very similar to heat exhaustion with symptoms of profuse sweating, fever, irritability, diarrhea, dysentery, sunburn, sunstroke, exhaustion, and extreme thirst. The TCM herbs that treat such symptoms most resemble refrigerants in Western herbalism. They possess a strong cooling and often refreshing nature. Usually they have diuretic, diaphoretic or alterative properties. In Ayurveda (East Indian traditional medicine), they help ameliorate Pitta and Kapha, but may increase Vata.

So what are these cooling herbs and foods? Watermelon and cucumber are high on the list! I will cover both of these here and then give you more in weeks to come.

Watermelon fruit, rind, and fresh juice (Citrullus lanatus, C. vulgaris, formerly known as: Curcubita sativus) clear strong feelings and signs of heat, particularly Summer-Heat. Watermelon also generates fluids treating symptoms of strong thirst, dry heaves, irritability, fever, dark, scanty urination, jaundice, and hepatitis.

The rind is not as cooling as the fruit and is more diuretic. It is used for edema from Summer-Heat and jaundice with dark urine. Watermelon seeds are used as a diuretic. Watermelon “frost” is sold in Chinese herb pharmacies as a cheap and effective topical treatment for red mouth sores, severe sore throat, canker sores and ulcers since this product has a very cold energy.

Take caution using watermelon if you have gas, bloating and feel cold, as this cold food can aggravate such conditions. It is best to eat watermelon during the heat of the day rather than cooler evenings or during the winter months.

Cucumber fruit and seed (Cucumis sativus) counteracts the Summer-Heat symptoms listed above as well as clears the skin and promotes fluid elimination. Its high silicon content helps connective tissues and hair growth. In the past it was used externally for sunburns as well as a cosmetic emollient and wash to heal and soothe irritated or rough skin and acne.

The typical dose is 15-30 grams raw cucumber (about ½ ounce) or 1 cup of the fresh juice. Include in salads or make cucumber water and drink throughout hot days.

1 Comment

  1. We are in a LONG stretch of 90°+ days and am reminded of my foster grandfather, who ate his watermelon pulp, seeds and rind. He said you have to “eat the whole, to benefit the whole”.

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