Chinese medicine scholar Lorraine Wilcox reminded us that yesterday, February 4, 2016 was the first day of spring, or Lì Chūn 立春. Chinese medicine tells us that if we adjust our diet and lifestyle to each season we increase our health and prevent disease. Spring is the season of the Wood element and the liver and gallbladder organs. It is the perfect time for “spring cleaning”, detoxification, being outdoors, and starting new projects.
Signs of a Healthy liver/gallbladder organ system = compassion, decisiveness, flexibility, courage, regularity
Signs of an Imbalanced liver/gallbladder organ system = anger, depression, trouble making decisions, stiffness, feeling stuck, irregular digestion, hormonal imbalances
If you wood element is strong, following this advice during spring will help you stay that way. If your wood element is imbalanced this is the perfect time to heal it.
- Weather is warm and windy.
- Rising and expansion.
- New projects.
- Move more. Eat less.
- Get up early, go to bed later.
- Cleansing, especially liver and gallbladder.
Chapter 2 of the Huangdi Neijing Suwen (trans. Unschuld) states:
“The three months of spring,
they denote spreading and display.
Heaven and earth together generate life:
the myriad beings flourish.”
“Go to rest late at night and rise early.
Move through the courtyard with long strides.
Dishevel the hair and relax physical appearance,
thereby cause the mind to orient itself on life.”[Wood energy is athletic, active, and on the move. Let yourself get messy.]
“Give life and do not kill.
Give and do not take.
Reward and do not punish.
This is correspondence with the qi of spring and
it is the Way to nourish life.”[Generosity and compassion are the positive qualities of the Wood element, and expressing these character traits benefits our liver and gallbladder system.]
“Opposing it harms the liver.
In summer, this causes changes to cold, and
there is little to support growth.”[When we do not expand and growth; express compassion and generosity during the spring we fail to nurture our wood element. We weaken our liver and gallbladder systems. This means there is no wood to feed the fire element of summer and sets us up for imbalance in the next season.]
- Shorter cooking times
- Raw, lightly steamed
- Fresh greens
- Limit heavy, salty foods
- Pungent herbs
Light foods and a plant-based diet are perfect for spring. Include young foods such as new potatoes and immature beets and carrots. Herb/foods such as milk thistle, dandelion greens and roots, and burdock root are especially helpful to cleanse the liver. Make sure to add a little pungent flavor like mustard greens, mint, onions, and broccoli.