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Spring: A New Path Forward

by Sharon Gordon

Spring is unpredictable. One day we're walking around in flip-flops & shorts - the very next day, there's 6 inches of new sleet on the ground. Spring's constant change is its' hallmark. Lately, I see patients with symptoms that range from allergies, pain and exhaustion to laryngitis and symptoms that move from place to place with no definite pattern.

In Chinese medicine these symptoms mimic wind in the body. From the perspective of the Chinese system of medicine wind is associated and spring is the manifestation of the wood element. Wood is represented by the Yin/Yang Officials of the Liver/Gall Bladder.  These officials have the job of creating a master plan (Liver) and make carrying them out (Gal Bladder) at the level of the body, mind and spirit. 

The strength of the wood within each of us is to create our own vision. On a mental and spirit level we are able to have insight, hindsight, and foresight. Your creative spark may manifest between 11pm – 3 am since the wood element peaks as this time. This burst in energy may leave us exhausted if we don't temper it with rest. 

Transitioning through spring can be tricky because we are leaving the stillness (yin) of winter behind and surging forth with lots of upward moving energy. The Liver meridian opens to the eyes and on a physical level we can experience blurry vision or dizziness (also wind) if there is an imbalance in the wood element. If you find yourself having a difficult time planning ahead or making decisions or your anger shows itself at inappropriate times – think “liver tonic”.

Perhaps a Thai massage or an acupuncture treatment to balance the Liver/Gallbladder energies. There is even an acupuncture point on the liver channel called “Gate of hope” that helps with depression. Spring is the perfect time to set goals and make plans.  Begin a log and jot down your creative ideas. Start a list of things you want to accomplish this week, this month, this year.  You may not get to everything, but that's ok.   Putting your ideas down on paper leads to taking action. Take in a live music performance, volunteer, call an old friend, and seek out new friends and adventures.

Spring’s motto is Carpe diem! Seize the day!

Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being. As spring is represented by the wood element and includes the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime cleansing and health regimens.

Element: Wood

Color: Green

Nature: Yang

Organs: Liver, Gallbladder

Emotion: Anger

Spring is ruled by the wood element, which is associated with the liver. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver an organ with an incredible capacity for regeneration, is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. The liver filters over a liter of blood every minute. It is responsible for detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing blood. It also acts to energize the blood by releasing stored sugar, and it recombines amino acids to create the protein our bodies need to grow and repair tissue. Anger, irritability, and frustration are all signs that our Qi is NOT flowing smoothly. This is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation, one of the most common imbalances treated by Eastern medicine practitioners in the United States. When searching for the underlying cause of disease, practitioners of Chinese medicine often look first to the liver.

These foods help Liver Qi stagnation -Milk Thistle, Tea, Garlic, Turmeric, Cherries, Chicken, Tofu, Mustard seed, Squash, Sweet potato, Red and black dates, Caraway seed, Spearmint, Oregano, Red bean, Sweet basil, & Saffron

Stretch - The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. Try yoga or tai qi. Do more outdoor activities - Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking or take up golf. For optimum health this spring, move your Qi!

Eye Exercises - The liver opens into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises.

Eat Green - Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants - fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses - can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.

Taste Sour - Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver's qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. Garnish your sandwich with a slice of dill pickle.

Milk thistle & Dandelion helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.

Receive Acupuncture treatments- Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration which are often associated with liver qi disharmony. Seasonal acupuncture treatments just four times a year can serve to tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.

Call Sharon Gordon, L.Ac., M.Ac. to schedule your “Rite of Spring” tune-up.   (207) 482-0725