Wake from Winter and Spring into Spring
Small buds start to shoot, the sun starts to rise earlier in the morning and the days start to get longer. From grey and brown tones, fresh green starts to emerge, as plant life grows upward and outward. Such is the energy of spring! In Chinese medicine the Liver and Gall Bladder system dominate this season. It is a time of self-awareness and self-expression. It is also a time to cleanse the Liver and Gall Bladder of the heavy, fatty and salty foods of winter, as well as cleansing the mind and soul of negative thoughts, impatience and anger.
Foods that are Yang in nature
In spring we naturally have a desire to go out, exercise more and eat less. As this season is a time of growth and expansion, we should emphasize foods that are ‘Yang’ in nature, i.e. ascending and expanding foods. Examples of this would be young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, wheat and cereal grasses. Salty foods like soya or salt in general, should be avoided as they have a descending quality, which counteracts the movement of spring. Foods that are heavy clog the liver so avoid rich, fatty foods.
Foods that are expansive in nature are those that are slightly sweet and pungent. Think of the sweet pungent taste of mint. There are also many herbs with similar characteristics:
• Basil • Fennel • Marjoram
• Caraway • Dill • Rosemary
• Bay Leaf • Anise Seed • Ginger
• Turmeric • Fennel Seed • Coriander
It is important to eat complex carbohydrates like grains, legumes and seeds, especially if they have been sprouted. Such vegetables, grains and proteins in this group include:
• Beets • Onion • Dandelion • Oat
• Carrots • Asparagus • Broccoli • Ocean Fish
• Starchy Veg • Horse Radish • Barley • Quinoa
• Watercress • Celery • Millet • Rice
• Rye • Chicken Liver • Turkey
Foods in this season should be lightly cooked and at a high temperature. They should be sautéed or steamed. One should be careful not to eat foods that are too fiery, foods such as chili, or drink too much alcohol. Both can have a negative affect the Liver energy.
Why You May Be Tired in Spring
The Liver/Gall Bladder system is the one most affected by today’s indulgent society. It becomes blocked by the fat, chemicals, toxins and denatured foods that we consume which the liver must break down and eliminate. In Chinese medicine the Liver is responsible for the free-flow of energy throughout the body, which gives us our clear and creative thoughts. When this is in disharmony we are nervous, irritated and unable to make decisions. This can also lead to depression and/or mood swings.
In order to bring balance back to the system and to free the Liver energy, lifestyles must be reassessed. One must look at changes in diet as well as seeking personal inner peace, through meditation, yoga, tai chi or whatever style of sport or movement that makes you feel liberated. External help is also beneficial, like a series of acupuncture treatments, which helps to unblock stagnant energy and bring internal balance as well as treating any core issues that may be causing digestive problems.
Fasting in Spring
Spring is also an ideal time to detoxify with a fast. Fasting allows the body to quickly cleanse the organs of toxins. As the word states, a ‘fast’ is a way to quicken the eliminating process. It allows the digestive system to concentrate solely on disposing of waste products. It is also a time for the individual to transfer focus to the mind. There are many different types of fasts one can embark on. From half a day, up to a week, from solely grains or vegetables/fruits or juices or even simply air. The type of fast that is suitable for the individual, depends on the strength of one’s own body and what the desired effect should be. Pure juice fasts are not recommended as they contain far too much sugar. Raw vegetable or fruit fasts are not recommended for those that are thin and prone to feeling cold. Seek advice before throwing yourself into a fast that is perhaps not suitable for you.
Spring is the time to make changes and to start your own personal spring clean. It is a time of rebirth and regeneration. Use this time to bloom. This will give you clarity of mind, strengthen your body and be a balm for your soul.
*When in capital letters I am describing the Liver in Chinese medicine: The whole system includes the liver and gall bladder, it’s function in Chinese medicine.
*When in small letters I am talking about the liver in western terms: The liver as an organ.