Spring is a time of rebirth, cleansing, and renewal. In Chinese medicine, Spring is the time of the Wood element, or ‘Liver’ energy system (TCM ‘Liver’ is not the same as your physical liver organ).
The ‘Liver’ circulates energy (Qi) and blood around your body and is responsible for clear vision and direction in life, creativity, assertion, calm, and regular menstruation. A balanced Liver is pivotal to the maintenance of good health, and one of the most susceptible to emotional stress.
Taking care of it preventatively can help avoid or reduce many chronic imbalances. In the face of life’s challenges and injustices, it is common to experience “Liver Qi Stagnation”, which feels like:
• body pains, stiffness and tension (especially neck, back and hips)
• digestive problems, e.g. bloating, heartburn, reflux, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, etc.
• PMS (premenstrual syndrome), breast distention, painful/irregular periods
• difficulty rising in the mornings
• a “wiry” (tense-feeling) pulse
• feeling frustrated, irritable, angered, negative, or depressed (if we suppress our anger)
• emotional ups and downs
• difficulty expressing ourselves or addressing conflicts constructively
• feeling stuck, uncreative, inflexible, or without a clear vision and purpose in life
A Quick Liver Stagnation Remedy
If you experience many of the above signs, this recipe is great to quickly stimulate the Liver out of its stagnancy.
If you have heat signs (red face, red, dry eyes, splitting headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, dry constipation, etc.), replace the vinegar below with lemon or lime juice. This recipe is helpful in the short term but shouldn’t replace making longer-term dietary or lifestyle changes you want to make (for your Liver’s sake)
• 1 tsp unrefined vinegar (e.g. apple cider, brown rice, rice wine vinegar)
• 1 tsp raw honey
• 1 cup warm water
Keep a Happy Liver
The Liver is one of the most involved organs in emotional processing. How emotions affect our physical health and vice versa is an exciting area of research and exploration these days. Check out this article I wrote about emotions and your body.
So, how can we keep our ‘Liver’ (not the anatomical liver, by the way) systems happy this season?
• Laugh! Prioritize fun, relaxation, and enjoying the moment (meditation helps with this!)
• Find friends & safe spaces where we can assert and express ourselves (creatively too)
• Practice being thankful for what we have now, focusing less on what we are dissatisfied with
• Seek support/ways to let go of, move through, or find peace with old emotions. Remember that spring is a time of new beginnings, and the Liver gets stuck with holding old grudges.
• Yoga, tai chi, expressive movement, acupuncture, herbs and massage all move stuck Qi
Nutritionally, many people gravitate toward cleansing during the Spring. Speak to your TCM practitioner about what kind of cleanse would work best for your body type. Also ask about personalized herbal formulas that can help.
Eat Your Greens
Green is the colour of the Liver and Spring (according to Chinese Five Element theory).
Enjoy plenty of young plants, greens, sprouts, mung beans, radishes, and lightly cooked foods. Use less fats, salts, processed foods, and strong spices in cooking. Honeymint tea and herbs such as basil, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, fennel, chamomile, chrysanthemum, dandelion root, milk thistle seeds, peony root, lemon balm, peppermint, etc. are all helpful to balance the Liver.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables ready for harvest in the spring. See below for delicious seasonal recipes to help your Liver Qi flow:
1. Warm Asparagus Salad with Basil + Mint Pistou
Enjoy! For a personalized Chinese medicine assessment, nutritional and other recommendations, contact me.
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