Many climates throughout the world have five seasons; late summer, or Indian Summer, is usually the fifth. Associated with the Earth Element in traditional Chinese medicine, late summer is a time of stability and rootedness, qualities that nourish and balance so we can withstand the changes of upcoming Fall.
At this time we are fully assimilating our year's experience from the initial planting to its full growth, associated with the Spleen and Stomach, which rule digestion and assimilation. The quality of late summer is transformation, symbolic of digestive functions and our shift from warming spring and summer into cooling fall and winter.
Late Summer Ailments: Ailments associated with Dampness easily occurs now (as seen externally in monsoons or heavy late summer rains), causing digestive problems, diarrhea, fluid retention, lethargy, gas, bloatedness, cough, allergies, poor appetite, malnutrition or weight gain in late summer and mucus in fall. If the Spleen isn't functioning in top form, this is often a time of year when people gain weight and have trouble losing it.
Late Summer Diet: The sweet taste (corresponding to the Earth element) strengthens digestion and includes complex carbohydrates and protein. Add more of these foods along with plenty of vegetables into the diet now.
As Fall is just around the corner, it is best to limit intake of juices, salads, fruit and raw foods. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of internal Heat (manifesting as feelings of heat, red face, mouth sores, excessive thirst or hunger, red tongue, etc.), eating melons, cucumbers and other cooling foods within reason is a appropriate now so that the heat is cleared from the body and not trapped there for the rest of the year.
Late Summer Herbs for Balance: Use general tonic herbs now to strengthen and improve digestion and follow diet, herbs and lifestyle activities for Fall. Herbs that are sweet and strengthen the Spleen's digestive functions include ginseng, codonopsis, dioscorea and fu ling. Other beneficial herbs at this time are hawthorn, licorice and carminatives such as citrus peel, cardamom and ginger.