Detox and Harness the Energy of Spring
At the core of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the principle that nature is governed by yin and yang and the five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each season is associated with a different element and the energy system of different organs. Each element has a different colour, sound, emotion, odour, time of day and type of weather, taste and seasonal power.
Ancient Taoist doctors regarded the transition from winter to spring as an important time of renewal both in our bodies and mirrored to us by nature. As we wake from the slumber of Winter, the energy in all things begin to rise. Our energy increases and awakens a desire to be outside, spring clean and move our bodies more. the longer, lighter days and the vision of growth and rebirth after the depth and introspection of winter fills us with hope. A sense of renewal gives us the vision and inspiration to bring our goals and creative energy to fruition.
Springtime is associated with the wood element, known for its strength and flexibility and is linked with the colour green. Like the new plants pushing through the earth, the energy of the wood element is forceful. It is about expansion and the rapid build-up of pressure, the drive to start setting goals and making plans for the year.
The wood element represents the liver (yin organ) and the gall bladder (yang organ). The liver function is said to be like the general of Strategic Planning, its main role is to keep everything flowing and thereby avoid stagnation and friction. It is said in Chinese medicine that the liver rules “flowing and spreading,” which means that the liver is responsible for keeping the free and easy flow of blood, energy, and emotions throughout the body, mind, and spirit.
The liver is the body’s largest organ, in which nourishment for the entire body is stored and distributed. The Liver has hundreds of essential functions, including the formation of blood and the cleansing and filtering of blood to help the body eliminate toxins and ensure its continued vitality. It also filters our hormones and governs our sense of vision, our eyes are linked to the liver, so an imbalance in the liver can affect our hormones and eyes. The liver rules the muscles and tendons, which connect imbalances to all manner of disorders involving muscles, ligaments, and tendons—bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia
Its companion, the gall bladder, gives the ability to make decisions and judge wisely. An imbalance in this organ can be indecision. When these organs are in harmony we can see both new possibilities and the wisdom of the past, to see the clear and appropriate course to take. Without wood’s vision and plan, decision and direction, no movement is possible – if this element is out of balance it can cause frustration and irritability.
Different organs store emotions, the liver emotion is anger and resentment, and the sound of shouting, someone with a constant raised tone can be a sign of liver imbalance. Compassion and forgiveness help heal the liver. In its balanced state, anger can be a healthy emotion, for it can be understood as a natural reaction to stress, frustration, or injustice. When expressed with control, anger acts like a thunderstorm that clears the air; controlled anger can dispel tension and restore balance. An imbalance in wood, however, often has the quality of out-of-control anger, and results either in excess or depletion. An excess, or pent-up quality of wood, expresses itself as volatile outbursts, irritability, and the tendency to judge others or ourselves too quickly or harshly. The converse, deficient wood, often expresses itself as suppressed anger. Swallowing your anger, you become anxious, resentful, and tend to blame yourself when things go wrong. The feeling that ‘everything is against me’ can also be a sign of imbalance in this element.
Statistically the suicide rate in spring is the highest of all the seasons (with the exception of the week between Christmas and New Year). With people feeling more frustrated, anxious and even depressed. These feelings are normal in these early stages of spring as the pressure of energy builds up within. Nature uses this energy to help plants burst through the earth to bloom and does the same within us, leaving us with a profound sense of pent-up pressure that does not yet know how it will fully manifest.
The power of wood is gentle, persistent, and filled with creative potential. Trees are a perfect depiction of the wood element. A healthy tree flourishes, is well rooted and has strength and flexibility. This is such a destabilising time so whatever supports us to stay ‘rooted’ or grounded in life is crucial.
The wood elements power is experienced most intensely between 11:00 pm and 3:00 am and issues of sleep around this time can mean an imbalance in the liver or gallbladder. It is best to be lying horizontal at this time so the liver can filter itself effectively.
Signs of Potential Wood Imbalance:
· The odor associated with this element is rancid so this smell can be a sign of imbalance.
· Muscle tension, prone to have tendon and ligament injuries.
· Headaches, especially migraines.
· Irritability, arrogant, over controlling behaviour and outbursts of anger.
· Tendencies to be workaholics or have addictive personalities.
· An imbalance in this organ can manifest as an issue with time management, either being late or too rigid with time.
· Visual disturbances.
· Menstrual irregularities, PMS, painful periods, and heavy bleeding. Uterine fibroids may be related to imbalance of the Liver meridian as well.
· Digestive disturbances, including heartburn (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, bloating, gas, alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
· High blood pressure, with tendency toward atherosclerosis.
· Common signs are dry, brittle, thickened nails and pain just below the ribs.
· Sinus problems.
How to Harmonise and Work With the Wood Element During Spring:
Move – Get up and out! The Liver needs movement and so do you. Get outside and take long walks in nature, observe the changes going on all around you, and invite change in. Join an exercise, tai chi, qigong or yoga class. Begin your day early, with a brisk walk. 20 minutes brisk walking a day is enough to move your liver qi, for example.
Spring clean – Clear clutter in your house, Feng shui and organise your inbox.
Forgive and cultivate compassion – Let go of old resentments and start fresh. Grudges and resentments are indigestible and can damage the Liver energy. Let go! Try Ho’oponopono the Hawaiian forgiveness prayer.
Make some noise – Scream into a pillow or when you are in the car to release pent up anger and frustration. Anger when channelled appropriately can be a force for change and transformation.
Try something new – Try a new class, hobby, course, routine and be playful.
Connect and cultivate intimacy – Interact with friends more and focus on relationships. In this season, we want to especially take advantage of opportunities for growth through the observations and insights that come from others as well as from ourselves. It can be painful to see ourselves through different eyes, particularly blind spots. Similarly, it can be difficult to convey an unpalatable truth to others. While the energy of spring supports and challenges us to grow and change, we may feel discomfort from these processes. Nourish yourself with the warmth and support of friendship.
Make a garden – Plant some seeds to feel connected to nature’s cycles.
Plan – Start journaling fresh ideas and inspiration.
Acupuncture – To support the liver and gallbladder.
Power nap – Have a lie down when possible for half an hour between 1.00pm and 3.00pm (the time of the day when the liver energy is at its lowest) this will support the liver Blood.
Detox – Start a healthier diet to flush out toxins so that the liver can do its job more effectively. Begin by eliminating foods that stress the liver, such as fried or very fatty foods. Sugar, dairy and white flour should be eliminated or minimized, and foods with chemical preservatives and food colouring should be avoided. Donʼt overeat. Try to eat slowly, savour the flavours.
Foods that benefit Liver and Gall Bladder:
· Sour and bitter flavours.
· Green foods – plenty of young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses (i.e. wheat grass). Green foods correspond to the colour of the wood element.
· Sun Chlorella, a green algae, is an amazing supplement to take at this time of the year to detox the body from heavy metals and toxins. It is the richest source of chlorophyll than any other plant, so the ultimate way to get your greens. With high fibre it mops up excess hormones and toxins in the body. It supports your digestive system and feeds your friendly bacteria as it is a prebiotic whilst nourishing you with its abundant nutrients.
· Basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, and bay leaf are pungent cooking spices desirable for spring.
· Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and fermented foods are good too.
· Lime, lemon juice or cider vinegar in warm water is particular cleansing for the liver. Drink lemon water every morning to support the liver, this has a great effect on stress, skin and circulation. Lime juice can also assist the gall Bladder in the breakdown of fats.
· Olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne pepper can be made as a salad dressing to gently stimulate the liver qi.
· Nettle tea is a lovely combination of blood nourishing qualities and cleansing properties.
· Dandelion greens, in particular, are a good source for detoxification, which ultimately strengthens the liver and gallbladder meridians.
· Cleavers help move lymph.
· It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, excess energy can be harmful to the body. It can potentially increase headaches, insomnia and anger. Hybrid Herbs does a delicious coffee alternative with medicinal mushrooms, that negates the negative side effects of coffee and offers many health boosting properties.
For further nutritional support you can book a naturopathic nutrition session with me.