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wood element

Spring – Self Care With Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Welcome to my first blog! An appropriate time to talk about Spring, as Spring represents new beginnings.

The seasons affect us all, from the way we go about our day to very subtle shifts in the body. With the change of each season I will talk about how to adapt to each season to enhance your health and wellbeing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the seasons correspond with the Five Elements; Wood/Spring, Fire/Summer, Metal/Autumn and Water/Winter. The theory of the Five Elements plays a significant role in the foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The fifth element Earth, does not have a season as it is the centre to which the seasons spin. The Earth corresponds to the late stage of each season, towards the end of each season their energies go back to the Earth for replenishment.


The Wood Element

The Wood Element over winter is at rest, storing and concentrating its energy. Winter is often a time for quiet introspection. As the days become warmer and brighter, nature emerges from winter’s slumber and the new growth and birth of Spring appears.

If we have followed nature’s way and rested over winter, we too emerge into Spring full of energy. Spring is the time to act. We make new plans and have a sense of purpose. Just like planting seeds for a future harvest, we determine our direction for the coming year.

The Wood Element is all about this upsurge of energy after the dormancy of winter. You should feel enlivened after a period of deep, wintry rest (assuming you allowed yourself to do so). Feel full of energy and vigor, wanting to do so much more.

But what happens when all our energy is stifled or our plans are thwarted? We can become angry, frustrated and want to shout. These are the signs of the Wood element becoming imbalanced. If we are not flexible like the wood of a Willow tree bending with the wind we can’t readjust, adapt and begin again.

Spring energy also supports and challenges us to grow and change. With this we may feel periods of unease, growing pains, from these processes.


The Liver

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Wood Element strongly corresponds with the Liver.

The mental-spiritual aspect of the Liver influences our capacity of planning our life and finding a sense of direction. That is why vision, aims, projects, inspiration, creativity and ideas tend to spring to mind in Spring!

If the energy of the Liver is weak the mental-spiritual aspect of the Liver is affected and we can experience a lack of direction in life and mental confusion.

The Liver has many functions that will be discussed in a future blog. The most important function of the Liver is ensuring the smooth flow of our energy throughout the body. Think of it as a vital aspect to maintaining the smooth flow of all our bodily processes. The impairment of this function is one of the most common patterns I see in the clinic.

The Liver is easily affected by anger, resentment and frustration. These emotions block the energy of the Liver, thereby impairing its function. It is common for the Liver energy to become imbalanced in Spring with the sudden upsurge of energy.

Strong flowing Liver energy can be encouraged and maintained during Spring by permitting ourselves to express our anger appropriately as it arises (shouting in the forest, journaling, expending pent up energy) as well as beginning new projects and spending more time outdoors.

Acupuncture is wonderful at unblocking stuck energy, regulating its flow and restoring balanced emotions.


Caring for our Liver in Spring.

During Spring we need to foster the Liver.  Conditions associated with the Wood Element/Liver may become more noticeable as we enter Spring.

Common signs of an imbalanced Liver:

  • Anger, frustration, shouting, irritability, mood swings, stress, resentment, arguing
  • An inability of forward movement and personal growth
  • Lack of vision or purpose
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Inflexibility to change, lack of ability to adapt
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual problems
  • Brittle nails
  • Headaches
  • Bloating and Indigestion, including irritable bowel syndrome
  • Stiff joints
  • Muscle cramps
  • Eye irritation
  • Eczema, psoriasis
  • Feelings of heat
  • Neck and shoulder tension

How to take care of the Liver:

  • MOVE! In Spring people should rise early with the sun and take brisk walks” – Nei Ching.  Have you noticed when you are feeling stressed how a little exercise makes you feel better?  That’s because you are moving your Liver energy.  To prevent it from becoming stuck take frequents breaks at work.  Enjoy the outdoors, surround yourself with green, the color of Spring and the Liver.
  • A gentle Liver cleanse is ideal. Eat light, avoiding rich fatty foodsGive your Liver a break by eliminating all packaged, canned, processed, fried foods, gluten, sugar and alcohol.  Add foods into your diet to help cleanse the Liver; mung beans, mung bean sprouts, celery, lettuce, cucumber, water cress, mushrooms, radish and leafy greens.
  • Eat green foods to nourish the Liver. Green corresponds to Spring and the Liver.  Eat young fresh green vegetables.  Leafy greens (parsley, spinach, kale, dandelion), broccoli and sprouts are great for the Liver.
  • Eat sour foods to regulate the Liver’s energy. Start your day with a glass of lemon water, an easy and simple way to add some sour to your day!
  • Stretch those tendons. The Liver controls the tendons.  To avoid stiff joints, keep your tendons flexible and nourished.  Start a morning and evening stretch routine.  Try yoga, qi gong or tai chi.
  • Acupuncture is wonderful in regulating and nourishing your Liver. To help you embrace Spring try an Acupuncture treatment.  If you have any of the above signs of a Liver imbalance, Acupuncture can really help you treat them anytime of the year!
  • Begin new things – at home, at work and within yourself. In Spring nature reinvents itself, we can too.  Let new tissue grow over old hurts.  Grow and change to realize your potential!
  • Practice forgiveness – the opposite to Anger. The ability to forgive ourselves and others keeps our Wood Element healthy.  This allows us to move forward and grow, instead of being stuck with resentment and bitterness on situations of the past.