Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us – human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole, and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments, and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring – The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive – moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) – excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am – this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time – it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity – drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of internal environment – physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We’ve all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we’ve all seen that. And it is most of our instincts’ to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn’t make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body’s filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body – and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver’s responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body’s resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • Sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a “lump” in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women – pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy – in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash

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If you would like a downloadable sheet on how to live in harmony with the Spring season according to Chinese Medicine, you can get one here – Spring Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to share with patients, then please visit here – Spring Season – Professional.

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