Powerful forces are at work during the Spring season. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) of which acupuncture is a part, has since antiquity aligned its healing strategies with nature’s rhythmic cycles.
Spring is the best time to lighten up, release negative habits, detoxify your liver, lose weight and increase physical activity.
Hopefully you took advantage of the “Yin” Winter months by resting more and aligning with your quiet inner being. Following Winter’s wisdom in this way prepares you to more fully enjoy the lively creative, “Yang” expression of Spring.
The Nei Jing, a classic Chinese medical text circa ~300 B.C., reminds us that now is the time to “rise up early with the sun” and “take brisk walks.”
With Spring comes an intense wave of energy awakening strong forces in Nature whose spirit seeks expression through form.
The magic of Spring is apparent all around us. Vibrant shades of green dominate the landscape. Fragrant blossoms open while primal urges spark wildlife into intense courtship rituals. Plants push upward seeking the warm sun – a classic expression of Yang energy.
The Nei Jing also tells us that the ubiquitous springtime color of green nourishes the soul through the eyes, naturally reducing the appetite for food. Spring is the perfect time to begin shedding unwanted pounds and unhealthy attitudes.
Certain emotional states associated with Liver imbalance may surface during Spring. Note: although they share some commonalities, “Liver” in TCM encompasses much more than the physical liver in Western medicine. Anger, irritability, impatience, frustration, resentment, violence, rudeness, arrogance, stubbornness, aggression, and impulsiveness and/or explosiveness are all examples of a stressed out Liver system.
The arising of such emotions are gifts with a purpose! They signal us to tend to our health before certain disease states take root and become chronic.
The good news is, these are the very symptoms, attitudes and habits that are most easily transformed during the months of Spring through acupuncture and TCM.
Acupuncture therapy along with specific foods, self-expression and plenty of outdoor activity helps balance the Liver energy that is associated with the season of Spring.
Other TCM Liver-related health issues that may arise for healing during Spring include eye disorders, strokes, tendinitis, herpes, migraine headaches and menstrual difficulties.
Treating Liver imbalances will also help heal the organ systems that are associated with the other seasons. It is well understood in TCM that the health of every organ effects the balance of all other organ systems.
Spring’s Healing Foods
This season provides the best opportunity to attend to the Liver and Gallbladder. The diet should be the lightest of the year. Ancient classics on Chinese herbal medicine recommend that we create a personal Spring within by enjoying the expansive, rising Yang qualities of sweet and pungent flavored foods.
Food preparation becomes simpler in the Spring. Raw and sprouted foods can be emphasized. In Ayurvedic medicine, these foods are termed vatic, meaning “wind-like,” because they encourage quickness, rapid movement, and outward activity. They are also cooling and cleansing.
Cooked foods should be prepared at higher temperatures for a shorter time than during cooler months. Quick stir-frying and light steaming are best during Spring.
Because Spring is the first season of the year, it represents youth. The more youthful stages of human development (before the use of fire) can be accessed through the consumption of raw foods. All stages of human development are genetically encoded within us. Going back through the layers of our evolution to more primal biological states is necessary for renewal to be complete.
Foods to Enjoy: Young plants: Fresh greens, onions, sprouts, immature wheat or other cereal grasses, young beets, carrots, and other sweet, starchy vegetables (anything which would be thinned from a spring garden). Pungent cooking herbs: Basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, lemon balm.
Complex carbohydrates: Grains, legumes, seeds (these all have a primarily sweet flavor that increases with sprouting).
Herbal teas: Mint, licorice root, dandelion, chamomile, lemongrass (try sweetening your tea with stevia, made from the leaves of a South American plant and found at natural food stores).
Foods to Avoid: Salty foods, soy, miso, and excessive meat. These all have the quality of “sinking the Qi” (life-force energy) and are best limited in Spring. Too many heavy foods clog the Liver and can result in symptoms mentioned previously.
Winter compelled us to rest and restore. Now Spring beckons us to eat lightly, get plenty of fresh air and outdoor exercise, and express ourselves creatively.
May you be nourished by the gifts that Spring has to offer!
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