Living with the Seasons – Spring

Spring is the beginning of the year, the time when the earth awakens and new life bursts forth. This season stirs the uprising of vital energy. We begin moving out of Winter’s cocoon with renewed life, new possibilities and ideas. It is a time of planting seeds, physically and mentally, and for the year’s creative endeavors.

This is the season of the Wood element, the Liver and Gallbladder in Chinese medicine. A healthy liver is like a young tree sapling growing strong yet flexible and bending. The energy is clear, flowing and solidly rooted. As such, the Liver is responsible for the smooth movement of energy throughout the body which gives grace to our movements and cleans and stores the blood.

When the Liver is aggravated, it is susceptible to irregular movement, called Wind. This causes tension, stiffness, spasms, tics, clumsiness, numbness, headaches, allergies, convulsions, itching and pains which change location. The Liver then becomes congested, which can result in anger, frustration, irritability, stiff neck and shoulders and hypertension.

Therefore, Spring’s new growth must be nurtured and allowed to occur slowly according to your own individual energy and needs. If you suddenly change from Winter’s quietness to full outward activity, then you can feel ungrounded and uprooted. On the other hand, if you don’t allow new ideas or activities to grow or push through rigidity and ineffective emotional or behavioral patterns, then the energy can become stuck. Balance the focus between your inward and outward energies in Spring and pace yourself. Since regulating your habits also keeps the energy flowing smoothly, set routines for eating, sleeping and exercising and keep them with regularity.

Although we feel warmer air in Spring, our body’s fires are only beginning to rise from being deep inside during Winter. As the outside temperature rises, so does our internal body heat begin to move toward the surface. Yet there is still a sensitivity to cool air. This is true even though it may be the same temperature as in Fall when you needed fewer clothes and could keep the windows open at night. If your body is sluggish, it doesn’t effectively make this change, and Spring fevers and colds can result.

Until our “fires come up” in Spring like sap in a tree, it is best to remain well wrapped up when outdoors, even when the urge is to throw off heavy clothes. Otherwise, we expose ourselves too early to the elements and sickness sets in. This is particularly true of the back of the neck and shoulders where the wind most easily penetrates the protective energy of the body. What we call “colds” and “flu” the Chinese fall “wind chill” and “wind heat,” or the wind penetrating the body’s resistance.

Likewise it is best to continue eating warm foods well into this season. Add more green vegetables, steamed greens and some salads to the diet as these help overcome any sluggishness. Limit raw fruits, or eat them stewed or baked. Avoid heavy rich foods, fats, oils, nuts and dairy as these all congest the Liver. Limit meat eating to 1-2 times/week to lighten the diet. From this, the body will adjust better to temperature changes.

The Liver is most active between 11 PM-3 AM when it is at the peak of its functions. Directing the Liver’s energy into creativity during this time diverts it from its physical function of cleaning and renewing the blood. So resist the urge to be a “night owl” and go to bed by 11 PM.

Cleaning the blood is a way of housecleaning, the traditional ritual in springtime. Herbal “spring tonics” and fasting help cleanse the blood and assist the Liver in releasing stored toxins. Herbs which are gently stimulating, pungent, bitter and sour are particularly good for Spring. Sorrel, dandelion, nettles, watercress and other young green leaves provided by nature then are a perfect balancing food for the Liver. They help strengthen by thinning the blood and releasing toxins. They also help attune the body to Spring’s growth and prepare it for Summer. Dandelion, gentian or barberry cleanse the liver, bowels, and strengthen digestion.

Bold words are herbs available at Remedy.

this blog is an excerpt from The Herbs of Life by Leslie Tierra, L. Ac., Herbalist