Spring in Chinese Medicine

April 26, 2008 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

In Chinese medicine, each season is associated with one of the 5 elements (add “late summer” to make 5 matching seasons — more on that in a few months!) Spring, not surprisingly, is paired with the wood element, as plants and trees start showing signs of new life.   

Wood exemplifies the energy of growth, change, and pushing through obstacles. It’s a very active energy that allows for a lot of movement and progress, both internally and externally. When thwarted or constrained, it is also the energy of frustration, anger and stress. At this time of year, we may have more energy to get moving on projects (hence the classic “spring cleaning”); at the same time, areas of stuck-ness and frustration can be especially apparent. Spring is a really good time to work with these blockages, and get things moving so we can have access to all that great energy.   

In Chinese medicine, the organ system that represents wood is the Liver. The Liver governs the muscles and tendons, the eyes, and the fingernails, and plays a key role in the functioning of the reproductive system. In the body as a whole, it is responsible for the smooth flow of mental and physical energy, and assists all the other organ systems in functioning properly. Liver qi allows for the appropriate movement of emotions, and has an especially strong connection with the feelings of anger and frustration.   

As the Liver qi starts to flow more easily in the spring, problems that bothered us in the winter often start to feel better, and we find we have more energy and vigor. Sometimes, though, the transition can be a little rocky, and people feel more stagnant and pent-up for a little while. Spring can be a hard time for health issues that are related to qi stagnation. Examples include depression, muscle tightness and pain, digestive disorders, migraines, and menstrual difficulties. Don’t be discouraged if these symptoms feel a little worse, just when the weather is starting to get better. Spring is also a really good time to work with these conditions, because the patterns are most accessible and responsive to lasting change. Try the suggestions below to make the most of this season!   

Suggestions for Spring

  1. Get outside. Outdoor air helps the qi flow, as does exercise. If you find yourself feeling irritable, lethargic, or stuck, find some time for an outdoor activity. Hiking, gardening, golf, bicycling – whatever suits you!
  2. Express yourself!  Dancing, cooking, writing, making art or music… Any form of creative expression helps nourish and channel Wood energy in a healthy way.
  3. Eat green food. Not surprisingly, green is the color that goes with spring, wood, and the liver. Green, leafy foods are especially helpful to the liver qi. If you can find in-season baby greens, that’s the best!
  4. Add sour tastes. Sour foods also help soothe and smooth the liver qi, and can ease the transition into spring. Add lemon to your water, pickles to your sandwich, vinegar dressings to your salad.
  5. If you have allergies, take care of them. Allergy symptoms can make an otherwise lovely time of year quite unpleasant. For suggestions, see the posting on allergies.
  6. Stretch. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver stores blood during rest and releases it to the tendons and muscles in times of activity. Taking a few minutes to stretch or do yoga in the morning can help you move more fluidly through the day.
  7. Get a seasonal acupuncture “tune-up”. Even if you only have acupuncture a few times a year, the change of seasons is a good time to do it. Treatments are designed to harmonize your body, or internal environment, with the season, or external environment. Especially if you are feeling stress, anger, or frustration, which are associated with Liver disharmony, just one session can help you start the season out right.





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