Oriental Medicine Journal Late Summer-Earth 2010
The snake slips off the warm summer rocks into the autumn camouflage of yellow, orange, and
brown sticks and leaves lying on the ground. It is the qi of the Earth Element that flourishes in
Late Summer, characterized by the yellow and orange tones of oblique and waning sunlight, ripened
crops, and root vegetables. The golden End of Summer is also a good time for sitting meditation, which
is said to strengthen the Earth Element.
Earth, the season of Late Summer, represents the Center in the Traditional Chinese Medical system
of the Five Elements, familiar to most practitioners of Oriental Medicine. TCM started out with a Four
Element system, in much the same way that ancient Greek medicine had Four Humours (blood, yellow
bile, phlegm, black bile). Ayurvedic medicine has Three Body Types (Vata – air and space, Pitta – fire
and water, and Kapha – water and earth), and Tibetan Medicine has five different elements from TCM
(Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Space).
Conceptually, the Greek, Ayurvedic, and Tibetan systems simply use these categories as names, in
no particular order. The categories allow one to group together patterns or characteristics that are
helpful to keep in mind when diagnosing a problem; but the categories have no consistent relationships
to each other.
In TCM, on the other hand, the Elements are not simply the names of categories. They have an order
that is very important to understanding the categories; and they have meaningful relationships in which
one category flows into or opposes another, giving the order as well as the categories meaning. If you
know where you are, then you know where you have been, where you are going, and how to get back.
The Center, Earth, has meaning in a system such as this. The Center is the hub around which the
other Elements revolve. It is a stopping-off point between seasons that provides us the opportunity to
pause and prepare for the transformation from Light, Heat, and Energy to Dark, Cold, and Rest. Hence
the Four Elements became Five Elements. In the Five Element diagram, Earth originally was physically
located at the Center. For ease of use, it was eventually relocated to one of the five points of the star and
assigned to the season of Late Summer.
Late Summer is a good time of year to be reminded of Centeredness. We have survived the heights
of yang energy, but we are nowhere near the depths of yin energy. We are suspended between pure yang
and pure yin, much like the equinox that is observed in Late Summer. The equinox is a “stillpoint,”
another form of the Center. We seem to need reminding about Centeredness more in the Autumn than
we do in the Spring, perhaps because the yang energy of Summer is so much more arousing than the yin
energy of Winter. I like to think that this is the reason the Earth Element, the Center, was placed in
Late Summer when it was incorporated into the rhythm of the seasons.
Our Late Summer issue covers a wide range of topics. We begin with a discussion of how and why
to use flower essences, which are a perfect way to preserve the energy of summer flowers for
use throughout the seasons. Elaine Wagner shares with us her experiences and clinical insights for
integrating flower essences into an acupuncture practice.
Jeff Nagel discusses a different type of cultivation and centering, self-cultivation. He explains
for us the Taoist Elixir Style of the Yellow Dragon Monastery, differentiating Shen Kung, the art of
self-healing, and Nei Kung Chi Liao medical qi gong, used to heal others.
Don Rabbit Skonieczka presents another timely topic, how to treat the bites of poisonous snakes.
As we move into Autumn, snakes become more difficult to see when the ground becomes covered with
leaves and sticks. It is important to know what to do if someone is bitten by a poisonous snake.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa focuses on the teeth and gums, drawing on Ayurvedic, Oriental, and
Western herbs for keeping the teeth, and particularly the gums, healthy. This is an appropriate topic for
Late Summer, since the Earth Element governs the Spleen and Stomach, which open into the mouth.
We end our issue with practice-building advice from Honora Lee Wolfe. Although this is a topic you
will not typically find in the pages of OMJ, we are providing this information as a service to our readers,
as everyone is affected in one way or another by vicissitudes in the economy.
I encourage you to take some time during this Late Summer to find your Center, your balance point,
your stillpoint. Personal activities and world events over the Summer have been stimulating for most
people, and we will soon be moving into a different type of stimulation as students begin their new
school years and people prepare for the winter holiday season. Now is the opportunity to collect your
thoughts, to evaluate where you have been, and to look ahead to where you are going. We hope you will
find the articles in this issue helpful in this regard. Sweet!