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Spring Phase in 5 Elements of TCM Theory

In the five phases of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Spring manifests in the wood element, highlighting the peak time for the organ meridian pair of Liver and Gall Bladder, it arises from the potential of the water element, which is the winter phase we are moving from. In spring as the trees begin to awaken, their watery sap begins to flow once again bringing the tree out of its deep hibernation and bursting forth with fresh life.

As we are walking around watching all of nature sprouting to life, little green shoots begin bursting out of seemingly nowhere into full-blown blossoming greenery and flowers, tantalizing our senses with fresh and delightful scents. I have been enjoying walks in the forest from the sleep of winter into the miraculously seeming appearance of spring. It is also exciting to walk in the city and watch people come alive and bright with possibilities again, buzzing with life and excitement for warmth after a long cold closed in winter. A welcome sense of renewal and creativity is everywhere.

The liver governs our will, vision, and self-responsibility, so cleansing and bringing balance to it by supporting the liver system in spring, at a time when we are bursting through with creativity and expression, will help us in our direction and path for the fruitfulness of our purpose.

It is a time of free expression and creativity, the moment when seeds are sprouting into possibility, not to be blocked because if blocked it could give rise to frustration, anger, jealousy, and stagnation. Nourish your spirit by finding inspiration in being creative, start to work on the physical manifestation of ideas you planted in the winter as inklings of thought and get creative in giving them their first steps of coming forth and engage in creative acts of kindness.

Spring is the time to wake up from the deep sleepy yin time of winter, to burst up and out and shake up the stagnation. The Liver and gallbladder rule the movement of Qi(energy) in the body and in spring we must align with and reflect what nature is doing, waking up and sprouting! So we become more active and eat foods that help us transform from the winter hibernation. These cycles of nature that are reflected within us if we are living in a harmonious state with the natural rhythms we are designed for and this is why being mindful to shift your diet and how you cook your food and what you eat helps your body stay strong and increases vitality and longevity. Our appetites ease as our bodies natural need to store energy in the colder winter months begins to change. Wind is also an aspect that is quite strong in spring and Liver is very susceptible to it particularly in spring when Liver is most sensitive. In the Chinese medicine concept of wind, if you have an internal manifestation of it, it can show up as pain that comes a goes, itchiness, dizziness, cramps, tremors, seizures, ringing in the ears, dryness of the skin in the upper body, or pulsing headaches. On an emotional level wind can cause emotional turmoil and nervousness. So even when the weather is warming up out, if it is windy, stay bundled up to nourish the growing yang energy so that it may reach its full potential for summer.

You hear of many cleanses, spring cleaning, mind, body and soul. This is also reflected in what nature provides us with at this time. The flavor of this season is sour. A small amount of sour helps strengthen the liver and has a yin, cooling effect. Helping strengthen the tendons, tonify bladder control, diarrhea, sagging skin, and hemorrhoids, but too much sour will overstimulate the liver and imbalance between organs. Sour foods like lemon, lime, schizandra berry, hawthorn berry, rosehips, sour apple, sauerkraut, vinegar, aduki bean, sumac berry and wood sorrel (which are delightful to find on the spring forest walks).
Early spring also include cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, foods that are still warm, for mid spring pine nuts, shiitake mushrooms, peas, mung beans and tofu. Also fennel, rosemary, bay leaf, dill, whole grains, legumes, spring onions, ginger, horse radish chamomile and pepper. Eat lots of fresh greens like dandelion, arugula, wheat grass, spinach, radish sprouts, all sprouts are great, seeds and nuts  all help nourish the liver.  Engage in physical activity to help get things flowing and aid in cleansing the liver.  Go for walks, bike rides enjoy the fresh air.

Foods that are great for including in your spring menus are

  • Grain: wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat
  • Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, cucumbers, celery, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress
  • Beans and Pulses: mung, Lima, green lentils
  • Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince
  • Herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, chelidonium, gynostemma leaf, spirulina, turmeric
  • Chinese Tonic Foods: Reishi mushrooms, Lycium berries (Goji), Schizandra berries

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