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 your 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
  • A 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
  • Diarrhoea
  • 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.


Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash


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Spring Recipe - Stir Fried Chicken and Goji Berries

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Spring Recipes

Spring is the season of new growth, the season of wood and the season of the liver. It is the season of wind and rain and very unstable weather. It marks the beginning of a new growing season including bacteria and viruses. People can easily catch cold/flu and infectious diseases in spring. Wind-injuries can be characterized by rapidly changing and moving symptoms such as a stuffy and runny nose, coughs, fever, body pain, sneezing, and dizziness.

Our livers are most vulnerable to wind-injury in spring. It is important to invigorate the liver by eating warming and pungent food to defend and expel wind evil. Foods that are sweet in nature such as dates, goji-berries, animal's liver and leek can benefit liver health and help to promote liver qi. Sour can nourish liver and promote blood. Salty taste can promote sour.

Spring tonics emphasize on light and healthful foods such as spinach, celery, onion, lettuce, leaf mustard, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, peanuts, onions, cilantro, bamboo shoot and mushrooms. Soybean, bean sprout, egg, and tofu are rich in protein and can promote liver health and healthy growth of tendons.

Chrysanthemum Flower

Chrysanthemum flowers are very effective in lowering liver heat and calming the liver. They can be used as a tea or cook with other ingredients to make soup or entree dishes.

Dandelion

Dandelion is everywhere in spring. It is bitter and sweet in taste, cold in nature, and attributive to liver and stomach channels.

Pick dandelion leaves from your garden or from a wild field where there is no chemical pollution to make a detoxification tea for yourself and your family in spring. It is diuretic, clears damp-heat and toxic material, and benefits liver health. You can repeat this once again in late summer when you see them bloom again. It is the most inexpensive and effect detoxification tea that you can give to your body.

Stir Fried Chicken & Goji Berries

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Benefits the liver and eyes.

INGREDIENTS

  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 - 30 gm
  • Goji-berry / Chinese Wolfberry (gou ji zi) 枸杞子 - 15 gm
  • Chicken breast - one piece
  • Cucumber - one
  • Cooking wine - 2 spoonfuls
  1. Rinse astragalus and put with 2 cups of water in a pot and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then bring water to a boil and lower heat to medium-low to cook down to 1/2 cup of water left. Strain and keep aside.
  2. Wash and shred chicken and cucumber.
  3. Season chicken with salt, pepper, cornstarch and 2 to 3 spoons of astragalus water.
  4. Soak goji-berries for 20 minutes and rinse. Season goji-berries with some astragalus water.
  5. Warm one spoonful of oil in a wok and stir-fry chicken for a few minutes. Then sprinkle in cooking wine and the rest of the astragalus water, and stir.
  6. Add cucumber and stir for a few more minutes, then add wolfberry and stir for a couple of minutes more and is done.

USAGE

No restrictions.

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Photo by Tim Chow on Unsplash


Happy Spring-Time!

Written by Michael Margulis, Ac.

Just a few words about the spring season according to Chinese medicine.

The spring is a time of upward and expansive movement of creativity, planning a brighter future, vision and perspective; our goal as always, is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the prevailing season. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and the Gall-Bladder correspond to the spring and are charged of the smooth flow of energy throughout the body, storing and detoxifying the blood. Our activities should be geared towards creativity, determination and the expression of our inherent mental, emotional and spiritual intelligence. Much in same way that many of us engage in an annual spring cleaning of our external environment, our bodies do the very same thing within our internal environment; physically and emotionally.

We are now nearing the time of year when we will see the newly formed buds on the trees doubling in size daily, this is nature's expression of determination and creativity associated with the spring. Similarly, we too should engage in activities that put our determination, creativity and innate intelligence into motion. In Chinese medicine we always look at nature for insight to the energetic momentum, and strive behave similarly. Just as the buds on trees are sprouting and doubling in size daily we should also be pushing our self imposed boundaries and seek personal development and growth. We should engage in uplifting and creative activity that expands our energy and consciousness, this is why we have been blessed with the spring, the season of creativity, growth and renewal.

This is the perfect time of year to let go of stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs, as the expansive, stimulating movement of the spring gives us that boost naturally. We can also take advantage of this natural boost of energy to begin to exercise moderately on a daily basis, this too helps us to feel alive and refreshed. By shaking off the “cob webs” of the dormant season (winter), sweating out toxins, stimulating serotonin and dopamine in the brain, and revitalizing our energetic, blood and lymphatic circulation.

According to Chinese Medicine the Liver houses the aspect of our spirit that never dies from one lifetime to the next and therefore contains our reason for being. This is why the Liver has the capacity of determination and vision and planning; this way we can spring into action, express our greatest innate qualities needed to realize our spiritual destiny.

The name of the game during the spring is; to face everything and avoid nothing that stands in the way of our evolution; to hide nothing from ourselves; repressed desires, emotional needs and pain should be gently extracted from our depths and brought to the surface so that we may consciously release them (spring cleaning). This is the most propitious time of year to stop procrastinating and face the challenges that emerge from deep within our being or in our day to day lives that can impede us from our primordial spiritual evolution (the summer). In order to do this we must have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual clarity and cleanliness.
Most of the pain we experience have a tendino-muscular or a neuro-muscular component and according Chinese medicine all pain involves some sort of stagnation; be it of the blood, energy, body fluids, emotion or mental. According to Chinese medicine, the Liver and Gall Bladder govern the muscles, tendons and the nerves, by promoting proper heath and functioning of the Liver and Gall-Bladder we can keep the body, mind and spirit harmonious and pain free.

The positive mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Baldder are;
Compassion, patience, acceptance, benevolence and honesty (both within and without).

The negative mental-emotional attributes of the Liver/Gall-Bladder are;
Anger, frustration, resentment, irritability and belligerence.

Just as the body is a microcosm of our world, the body is also equipped with acupuncture points that resonate with the spring equinox and have the power to harmonize us with this very powerful time of year. They synchronize us with the ambient movement and expression of positivity, determination, expansion creativity and cleanliness that is proper to the spring.

These points and they are very often of the most important acupuncture points to stimulate on the spring equinox or during the week of the spring equinox. It's best to stimulate these points starting with Gall-Bladder 41 and ending with Liver 1.

Gall-Bladder 41 (GB 41)

Liver 1 (LV 1)

Wishing you a beautiful and abundant spring full of health and happiness!

Straight ahead!

Michael Margulis, Ac.
Clinic GEM
514-271-3963

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Spring Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Spring Season in Chinese Medicine.