Swollen with the late rains of spring, on the cool, jade-green grass the golden sunshine splashes.
–Liu Tzu-Hui Sung Dynasty, A.D. 960-1278
The cosmology of Chinese Medicine embeds us as a microcosm within the whole universe. The same cycles and workings found in all of nature are within us. Consequently, as the world has entered Spring, so have we internally. How in sync and harmonious we are internally with the external Spring is a matter of health.
Each season is related to the one prior and contributes to the one that follows. If we enter Spring having been in sync with the dynamics of Winter, we are thoroughly ready for Spring. A harmonious Winter would have found us resting and keeping warm during the darker and colder months… waiting for the quickened activity of Spring, its growth, light and warming sun. Life pushes up from the soil and from the trees branches just as we push up from Winter’s slower and darker time.
But, what if we haven’t rested and kept warm during Winter? What if our Winter wasn’t harmonious?
Unfortunately, it is the case for many of us. We are stressed and always just out of step. As a new season approaches, we will still be out of sync unless we correct the imbalances. Spring needed Winter’s rest, for example, and if we didn’t have it, we won’t be as vibrant in Spring as we could be.
In Chinese Medicine, we look to the Liver which is tasked with the chief workings of our internal Spring. It is the organ that shares characteristics with this season. The Liver prompts movement and arousal as the season does. Like tree sap, our blood rises up and spreads throughout the system, regulated by the Liver.
Imbalances can manifest in various ways–lethargy instead of quickening, for instance. Sluggish thinking instead of refreshed invigoration… We might be irritable or angry instead of expansive and optimistic… Harmoniously entering Spring, we would be energized mentally, physically and emotionally. If not, it’s time for an internal Spring cleaning and tune-up. In Chinese Medicine, that means tending to the Liver which is responsible for the flow of our vital energy, qi, and our blood.
Since the Liver has hundreds of functions, Liver problems can cover a wide range. Liver functions include detoxification, metabolism, and nutrient and hormonal processing, among many others. Liver qi stagnation would imply that some of these functions are not at optimal performance.
Unfortunately, many of us have lives that create a stagnant qi in the liver. Common causes of stagnant Liver qi are caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, stress, chronic pharmaceutical use, overall poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and poor sleep. Some of the many symptoms we can experience are fatigue, depression, mood swings, anger/irritability, tension, stress, hormonal imbalances, poor digestion/elimination, inflammation, muscle and joint aches and pains, headaches, allergies, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, constipation and/or diarrhea, nausea, frequent colds and flu, and skin breakouts.
Helping the Liver
Here are some ways to get your internal system up and running in sync with our world’s Spring:
- Hydrate–halve your body weight and drink at least that number in ounces of water per day. If you weigh 140, drink at least 70 ounces, for example.
- Eat Lean and Green–the Liver loves anything green with chlorophyll, and especially dark green. Eat your veggies with large doses of dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard and turnip greens.
- Reduce or Eliminate sugar, refined flour, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.
- Eat What the Season Brings. Check out the farmer’s market. Some typical Spring foods are:
- butter lettuce
- collard greens
- morel mushrooms
- mustard greens
- snow peas
- Swiss chard
- Add a Taste of Sour. Citrus, vinegar, sauerkraut… Switch out your salt and sugar for these flavors that boost the Liver.
- Move Around in the Sun.
- See Your Chinese Medicine Practitioner for a Spring Check-up and Tune-up.
Jeffrey Russell, Abacus Chinese Medicine, 502 299-8900