On the 4th of February was the official beginning of spring according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Though we are in the middle of the Israeli “winter,” we can truly feel a change of energy inside and around us.
In Chinese Medicine each season has its own unique set of qualities, interacting with one another on a daily basis, creating balance and harmony or the complete opposite expressed in our body by a wide range of symptoms.
While winter was a time to conserve energy, stay inside and reduce activity, spring is a time of new beginnings as the days get longer and the sun starts getting warmer. Seeds begin to sprout and push upward to the sun. A time for regeneration, cleansing, growth, renewal, activity and movement.
Let’s dive more into what spring has to offer us:
Into the Woods
Spring is the season of the “wood element” whose corresponding organs are the liver and gallbladder.
One of the main roles of the liver in Chinese Medicine is the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) throughout our bodies and is associated with planning for the future. Its companion organ, the gallbladder, is all about making decisions and judging wisely.
When the liver and gallbladder Qi move freely, it is easy to engage with the growth and change of springtime, but equally easy to feel stuck and frustrated if the affected organs are blocked.
The Liver and Gallbladder work together to move blood and bile and play pivotal roles in supporting spleen and lung health that affects immunity and susceptibility to seasonal allergies.
Difficulties during Spring
While this busy activity may make it seem like Spring is the season for optimal liver functioning, it actually means that the liver is most susceptible during this time of year, which can raise different issues in our body and soul.
As we transition into this new season, allergies, headaches, muscle tension and tendon problems also tend to arise.
If “wood energy” can’t express itself properly it can result in what is called “stagnation of qi” – the flow of vital energy – that gives us a hard time in managing emotions like anger, irritability, depression and mood swings.
As the eyes are the “opening” of the liver, according to natural law of Chinese Medicine, eye issues can arise if the liver’s function is compromised in any way, resulting in blurry vision, dry or itchy eyes.
Digestive issues are also common in springtime. The liver has a very close relationship with the stomach and can impact the digestive process. In addition, poor sleep, migraines, pain, tension, worsening of PMS symptoms and skin flare ups can arise.
Supporting the Liver in Spring
So what can we do to keep our liver balanced in springtime, and keep our Qi flowing?
The colour associated with the liver is green, so when it comes to food, it’s all about increasing the consumption of green leafy vegetables like spinach, mangold, broccoli, string beans, kale, lettuce as well as wild herbs like nettle, dandelion, chicory and mellow that can be found in abundance in nature during springtime.
These are all fast growing foods that have an ascending and expansive energy that help our liver in doing its job and keep the Qi flowing.
Photo by Heather Barns on Unsplash
When it comes to movement, exercising is a great way to encourage the smooth flow of Qi and keep the liver happy. Movement helps to circulate the Qi in our entire body, but remember the massive change of the season affects us energetically and physically. So there is no need to go extreme – walking and gentle exercises like Yoga or Tai Chi support overall wellness during this time.
How does Spring taste
While it might seem obvious, the taste of food is a critically important aspect of healthy eating. Chinese medicine understands the relationship between the flavor of a food and its inherent nature as a functional way to meet human physiological needs.
The main taste of the spring foods is sourness. Sourness has a contracting quality which works to counter the expanding quality of spring. This property assists in reducing symptoms resulting from excess movement of “wood” in this season to keep the liver’s Qi moving smoothly.
However, in spring sour foods are meant to be consumed in small amounts. Excess sourness can cause overstimulation of the liver and, in turn, cause “Liver Qi Stagnation,” depriving us from the natural seasonal movement of spring in our body. Many kinds of diseases or illnesses are related to liver Qi stagnation, such as depression, digestive problems, pain-symptom’s diseases, menstrual problems.
Foods that are sour as well as sweet, like many fruits, can be eaten in larger quantities.
Sweetness, in contrast to sourness, regulates the movement of “wood energy” and can support organs of the digestive system that are the most vulnerable during this season. According to Chinese Medicine, sweetness in foods slows down processes and softens the movement of “wood energy” in a pleasant way.
When the quality of “wood” is not sufficiently expressed in the patient, adding spiciness can be helpful, assisting with conditions like depression, phlegm accumulations and fatigue can arise.
One of the primary actions we associate with bitter taste is detoxification. It activates the liver and stimulates the release of digestive secretions. Its downward movement and draining quality is used to treat conditions of excess heat, liquids and mucus and reduces toxicity. However, it is advisable to avoid excessive use of bitter tastes in spring, and use it only in excess movement of spring and liver manifest in extreme clinical situations like severe sinusitis, migraines, skin rashes and digestive issues.
The body is designed to maintain proper balance, but we tend to not pay attention to the warning signs until we experience pain or illness. Acupuncture is one of the major tools of Chinese medicine to keep the body balanced and help with an easier transition from winter to spring. It helps improve the overall health of your liver, treating stress, seasonal allergies, improving immunity, managing pain, and many more.
It is highly recommended to get seasonal “tune-ups” to help the body adapt to changes in the environment.
If there’s one thing to remember, springtime is full of potential, which is exciting and, sometimes, overwhelming. Embrace what is going on in nature and in our bodies. It’s a time for birth and new beginnings, after all, which makes it a good time to think about what we want to embody and how you want to grow and expand on a physical, mental, and spiritual level.
Spring eating should also follow the aforementioned principles in selecting food. However, it is necessary to be flexible using these principles according to one’s body constitution, age, and overall health.
Start by incorporating small changes into your daily routine and take extra care of yourself during these seasonal shifts to ensure that you stay in alignment with the natural flow, and stay healthy and vibrant to enjoy the beauty of spring.
- Sour Flavors: How taste can rinse out winter
- The Spirit of Renewal: Spring and Traditional Chinese Medicine
- A Healthy Body for Spring
- Spring Nutrition – Eyal Springer
- A Chinese Medicine Perspective on Diet & Lifestyle for the Spring
- How does Chinese medicine view spring?