By: Amanda Gawrysz, L.Ac, MSOM
In Chinese Medicine, emphasis is placed on living in tune with the seasons in order to experience wellbeing and prevent disease. Each season is related to an organ network or meridian which contains its own unique associations that can be seen both in the external natural world and also within our bodies. The energy of true spring occurs in the midst of what we still consider to be winter. It may feel as if the two seasons are pulling us in different directions. Winter is a time of yin energy where it is best to rest and nurture our bodies. During this transitional time, this deep yin energy from winter is trying to emerge to the more superficial layers of the body. There is an energy within us that is moving up and outward like a crocus flower emerging from the earth as snow still lays on the ground.
In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with an element, organ, and its own energy (Qi). Spring is the quintessential time for creating, cleansing, movement, growth, and renewal. Spring is associated with the wood element, the Liver and Gallbladder organs/meridians, and emotions. The energy of the Liver in Chinese Medicine is especially associated with emotions rooted in anger, resentment, and frustration. It is a time to focus on releasing emotions that no longer serve us well. The Liver helps move blood and Qi smoothly throughout and when unbalanced this movement begins to slow down or even becomes stagnant. Just as the energy of the crocus pushing its way through the ground, so does Liver Qi in your body. If this energy is unbalanced, our bodies also feel unbalanced as spring arrives.
These imbalances in the Liver network will manifest as physical and emotional symptoms. Symptoms may include headaches at the top of the head, depression, anger or irritability, dizziness, digestive disorders, eye issues, high blood pressure, and menstrual disorders. By shifting our awareness and taking simple steps we can help harmonize our Liver with expanding energy of spring and experience better wellbeing.
So what can you do to help support your Liver and make a smooth transition into spring?
Exercise. This is important all year long, but especially important during this time of year. Whether it is taking a walk outdoors, starting a yoga or tai chi practice, or joining a gym, movement helps soothe the Liver energy. Your routine does not have to be intense. Walking in nature for 20-30 minutes 3-4 times per week can make a major beneficial shift.
Diet. In Chinese medicine, green is the color associated with spring and green also charges up the energy for this season. Leafy greens like dandelion, chard, lettuces, watercress, asparagus, kale, and collards should be consumed. Rich, greasy foods should be avoided. Pungent foods like garlic, onions, basil, peppermint, rosemary, dill, and fennel also help with supporting the upward and outward energy of spring. Lemon and apple cider vinegar with their sour tastes helps move bile especially when taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Sour is also the taste associated with spring and Liver energy.
Alcohol. All that heat-producing alcohol we consumed during the cold winter should now be consumed in moderation to preserve your Liver’s energy and give it a break.
Emotions. It is the season to let go! Anger and resentment constrain the Liver energy. Try journaling, meditating, or writing intentions for releasing. It is a time for forgiveness more than ever. Staying calm and peaceful is important during this time.
Sleep. In Chinese medicine, each organ is associated with a time of day where its energy is at its strongest. The gallbladder organ is the liver’s pair organ with its peak time of day being 11pm-1am. Liver energy is strongest from 1am-3am. It is crucial to be in bed no later than 11pm so that these organ networks can focus on eliminating toxins while the rest of the body is at rest.
Attire. Spring is seen as a transitional season. In order to maintain optimal health, think of this time as keeping one foot in winter and one foot in summer. In Chinese medicine, the pathology of wind is associated with spring and Liver energy. It is important to remain covered with a scarf while outdoors as it starts to warm up. Areas of the body that are prone to wind attacks include the upper back, neck, and head. Once a wind attack occurs, symptoms may include common, cold, headache, nasal obstruction, itching, allergies, or rashes. Keep in mind that after an acupuncture session it is also important to cover up the head and neck; certain points as well as the pores in the body are more open and more susceptible towards this wind invasion.
Nature. Walking barefoot to get grounded and reconnect with the season is one of the best and most simple ways to get back in touch with Mother Nature. Walk through nature and listen to the birds sing. Get your hands dirty and start an herb or vegetable garden.
Relax. While spring has a tendency to become a busier time, it is important to remember to schedule in downtime in order to let your energy gradually build as we move out of winter.
Detox. Enjoy a sauna, steam, or bath with epsom salt and baking soda. Far-infrared saunas are great to utilize during this time. The infrared light penetrates deeper into the body. A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air which in turn warms your body. An infrared sauna heats your body directly without warming the air around you.
Acupuncture. Getting regular treatments are a great way to help support your efforts to cleanse and detox. Acupuncture stimulates the meridians, smooths the flow of Qi, and clears out stuck energy. Acupuncture can also decrease mood swings, depression, and irritability that may be amped up at this time.
In addition to the foods listed above, the following are springtime foods for detoxification, balancing Liver/Gallbladder Qi, and supporting emotional healing:
Arugula, basil, bay leaves, beet, black sesame seeds, broccoli, cardamom, carrots, celery, chives, diakon, dill, grapefruit, green tea, legumes, lemon, lettuce, mint teas, oranges, radishes, sea vegetables, seeds, spring onions, watercress
Spring cleaning our bodies and preventative care truly starts from within. To summarize what was mentioned above:
Focus your attention on your Liver/Gallbladder organ/meridian with respect to diet, stress, and lifestyle tips mentioned above.
Keep warm and protect yourself from the wind. A light coat and scarf will do the trick in most climates.
Focus on the color green, sour tastes, and seasonal foods to help support Liver/Gallbladder health.
Allow mental awareness, mindfulness, and to be emotionally flexible.
Schedule an appointment with a local acupuncturist for a seasonal support session.