Brace for major summer heat

Dashu, or Major Heat, is the hottest days of the year andis welcomed by enjoying rich diet incertain parts of the country, butTCM practitionersurge caution in overindulging.
Brace for major summer heat
Zhang Ciyun / SHINE

Dashu, or Major Heat, is marked by the arrival of the hottest days in the year with strong sunshine and highest average temperature.

It usually occurs on July 22-24 when the sun’s elliptical longitude reaches 120 degrees. This year it will arrive on July 22. Residents must prepare for the hottest days.

A Chinese proverb describes the days after dashu as the “three periods of waitings” — waiting for fireflies that are born on the grass, waiting for the earth to turn damp, and waiting for frequent heavy rains.

Regardless of frequent thunderstorms, strong sunshine and temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius cover most regions in China during this time, especially the lower reaches of the Yangtze River including Shanghai.

On dashu, fishermen in the coastal areas of Zhejiang Province make a “Major Heat boat” and send it out to the sea as a form of sacrifice. It has been a tradition for hundreds of years. 

The boat is made of a real baroque but is smaller in size — like 8 meters long and 2 meters wide. Filled with various offerings, it is taken around the streets on men’s shoulders, accompanied by drums and firecrackers before reaching the dock. 

After prayers at the dock, the boat is lit and put into the sea, carrying the villagers’ wishes to the gods.

Apart from that, people in different regions enjoy a rich diet on the day.

Eating mutton

Eating mutton and having mutton soup on the Major Heat is a custom in southern Shandong Province where farmers enter a short slack season.

Most rural households invite their married daughters to join them for a family gathering of mutton and buns made of new flour.

Eating hot-energy mutton on the hottest day is said to have health benefits as it helps to dispel toxin through sweat.

Brace for major summer heat

Fresh lychees

Eating lychee

Fresh lychee on dashu is believed to be as nutritious as ginseng by residents in Putian in Fujian Province. They keep the lychees in a cool well and take them out on the special day.

Putian residents also offer mutton and fermented rice as gifts on dashu.

Eating Chinese mesona

Chinese mesona is called xiancao, literally “fairy herb.” It is a popular dessert in Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan. A popular saying goes that eating “fairy herb” on dashu will always keep one as young as a fairy.

Dried out stems and leaves from Chinese mesona is carefully processed into black jelly together with starch. It helps dispel pathogenic heat and keeps people fresh in hot days.

Regardless of the colorful diet, it is still not an easy season for most people. The summer heat as a pathogenic energy easily tires people out, makes them irritable and causes various discomforts.

A regular lifestyle with sufficient sleep and healthy diet is recommended to protect people’s health, according to Dr Xiao Shuyun, associate chief physician at the Geriatrics Department of Yueyang Hospital. Residents are also advised to get some sleep for an hour or two in the afternoon.

As pores usually stay open during hot days, avoid direct exposure to air-conditioner as the pathogenic heat can cause headache and dizziness, diarrhea and even stroke, or numbness in limbs or facial paralysis.

Avoid outing at noon and cut down on intense exercises, especially on hot days.

Eating less but more frequently should be the principle for diet, according to Dr Xiao. Fresh vegetables and fruits like watermelon, tomato, cucumber and celery are recommended to dispel pathogenic heat, make up for the loss of water and improve appetite

Various congees with ingredients like mung beans, pearl barley and lotus seeds are highly recommended as they can be easily digested. Dr Xiao advises adding some garlic and vinegar in the congees to improve digestion.

Do not eat icy foods regardless of the hot temperature as it slows down the blood circulation in the digestive system and leads to intestinal spasm. Having lots of sodas may also aggravate inflammations in the stomach or intestines.

Herbal teas are particularly good in the season to help relieve some common discomfort in the hot summer apart from relieving thirst.

Brace for major summer heat

Huoxiang (Ageratum) drink

Brace for major summer heat

Bitter cucumber

Food, drinks to beat summer heat 

Huoxian (Ageratum) drink

Ingredients: Huoxiang leaves (20g), sugar as needed

Preparation: 1. Cook herbal soup with huoxiang leaves and filter it.

2. Add sugar as needed to sweeten.

3. Drink 2-3 times a day.

Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic heat, and relieve sunstroke, frequent thirstiness and irritable mood.

Bitter cucumber tea

Ingredients: A fresh bitter cucumber, green tea leaves

Preparations: 1. Chop the bitter cucumber in half and get rid of the seeds.

2. Fill the bitter cucumber with green tea leaves and dry it in cool airy place.

3. Chop the bitter cucumber fine along with the tea leaves.

4. Pour 10g of the mixture with boiling water each time.

5. Drink it often as tea.

Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic heat, and relieves sunstroke and irritable mood.

Heat-dispelling and energy-reinforcing soup

Ingredients: American ginseng (3g), shihu (dendrobe stem,10g), maidong (lilyturf root, 10g), bamboo leaves (6g), unprocessed liquorice (3g), rice (30g), watermelon peel (500g), sugar

Preparations: 1. Make a juice of the watermelon peels.

2. Cook decoction with shihu, maidong, bamboo leaves and unprocessed liquorice, and filter it.

3. Add rice to the filtered decoction and keep cooking.

4. Add American ginseng and the watermelon peel juice when the rice is almost done.

5. Add sugar to sweeten.

6. Drink often as tea.

Benefits: Helps dispel pathogenic heat, reinforces energy, and relieves discomforts like long-term fatigue, sense of suppression in the chest, short of breath, frequent thirstiness and irritable moods.

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