Spring brings sunshine, warmer days, and renewal. It is also a time of transition, when the weather can alternate between extremes. Similarly, we too can experience swings, one day feeling energized by warmth and sunshine, and the next day discouraged by strong winds, cold rains, and, if you live in Chicago, even snow! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers help for navigating these seasonal changes more smoothly, with less disruption to our nervous and immune systems.
TCM classifies things differently than our modern Western culture does. In TCM, there are five seasons (winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall) and each season has its own unique set of properties and associations. These provide the framework for how TCM helps us maintain health and well-being in harmony with seasonal conditions.
Spring is associated with the wood element. The wood element governs the liver and the gallbladder and their energetic pathways. (Remember that in TCM, what’s being referenced is an energetic system relating to the organs, not just the organs.)
- The wood element embodies the properties of a tree – for a tree to live a long healthy life, it must be flexible, bending and adapting to changes in its environment, while staying rooted and strong. These are qualities we can also cultivate in ourselves, with the right nutrition and physical activity, and spring is the ideal time to do so.
- The liver and gallbladder are associated with the tendons. Tending to our tendons will help us stay flexible and strong (like the tree). In TCM, the tendons also play a key role in ensuring the flow of energy and blood throughout the body. Being drawn outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities on the warm days of spring helps strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies. Simply being in fresh air also invigorates and improves the liver and gallbladder functions. An added benefit is that the negative ions produced in nature and by moving water have been shown to have a calming effect and help decrease stress.
In TCM, green is the color of spring. Fresh greens are not only abundant in spring, but beneficial for cleaning the liver. Dandelion greens are especially good for liver detoxification and strengthening the liver and gallbladder meridians. Other diet recommendations for spring include sour drinks and foods, which are thought to stimulate the liver’s healing abilities. So go ahead, add lemon slices to your drinking water, use vinegar and oil on your salads – it’s good for your liver! For more, see Eating for the Season: TCM & Spring and Springtime Liver Cleanse.
This is just a sampling of the ways that TCM works holistically with the seasons and seasonal changes, among many other factors, to help you achieve and maintain optimal health.
If you think you might benefit from a “spring tune-up,” call us to set up a complimentary 15-minute phone consult with Teri Calandra to explore the possible benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.
We also invite you to join us in the South Loop for our monthly FREE Acupuncture & Reiki Relaxation Hour!