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

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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

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The Liver and Anger

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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.

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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.


Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash