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  • Writer's pictureToronto Integrative Medicine Centre

Moxibustion for the “dog days of summer”

Traced back thousands of years to the days of the Roman Empire, the “dog days of summer” refer to the dates from July 3 through August 11. The 20 days prior and 20 days after the star Sirius rises, and falls in conjunction with the sun. Because it is the brightest star in the constellation Sirius is known as the “Dog Star,” Canis Major (Large Dog). ‘Dog days’ are the hottest and the most humid days of summer. In Chinese Medicine, this time period is divided into three phases, as “Yi Fu” “Er Fu” and “San Fu”. “Fu 伏” means “force to hide”. Yi, Er, San, means “first” “second “and “third”. As the numbers increase, the hotter the weather should become.

During the “San Fu”, Yin energy is suppressed and hidden underground by Yang energy.  The hottest period of the year is also the time when the human body's yang energy is at its strongest.

Yellow Empire Inner Medicine suggests,  "Treatment of winter diseases in summer" , since Yin/Yang energy flow is synchronized to the flow in the nature, Yang should be nourished during seasons with ascending energy, like spring and summer.  So a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor would advise to conduct moxibustion in “San Fu”, the hottest days in summer, to boost Yang energy to prevent or treat certain diseases occuring or aggravated by cold in winter.

In winter, Yang energy in nature is restored, just as Yang energy in our body is inactive. If we encounter severe yin or cold evils at this time, some acute or chronic cold syndromes will easily be triggered, such as bronchitis, bronchial asthma, allergic cough, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rhinitis, chronic diarrhea, rheumatoid arthritis, frozen shoulder, etc.

"Sanfu moxibustion" is performed when the Yang qi is at its strongest, which can cause dual yang qi to penetrate into the meridians. Promote the body's qi and blood, warm the meridians and unblock collaterals, activate organ functions, maximize the use of heat to treat cold, thereby improving immunity.

In addition to moxibustion, applying other self care technique during summer is also very important. We suggest acupressure, meridian tapping, or foot bath for home health care.

Acupuncture points such as: ST 36 Zusanli, CV 4 Guanyuan, and CV 6 Qihai can supplement Yang Qi; ginger and mugwort can be added into water when soaking your feet. Please note that the water temperature should not be too hot; as long as you can soak until feeling a light sweat, that would be good enough.

Maybe you are wonder, it is already so hot in summer, will it be too much to soak in hot water? Actually, during the dog days when the temperature is the highest and it’s humid and stuffy, the pores are open, and the sweat increases, which often leads to excessive release of Yang Qi, or excessive internal cold due to excessive eating of raw and cold food to prevent heatstroke, resulting in the deficiency of Yang Qi in the body. Therefore, soaking feet can make the body's Yang Qi grow, which is in line with the theory of "nourishing Yang in spring and summer" in traditional Chinese medicine, so as to achieve the effect of preventing and curing diseases.

You can also replenish Yang by sunbathing your back in the summer, but avoid the noon in case heatstroke occurs.

Let’s take advantage of the “dog days of summer” to regulate your body, get boosted for a happy winter.

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