By Dr. Lauren Dulberg DACM, L.AC
Spring is all about the energy of rebirth and renewal. It’s a force that is breaking its way out of winter and anticipating summer like a flower whose bud’s makes its way through the cold winter earth. This is the same idea with the concept of “Qi” in Chinese Medicine, which rises up in Springtime and surges through our bodies in its splendor.
With this, comes an energy of immense growth and the motivation to push through and forward into planning and projects, that may now come into fruition. There is also an underlying feeling of restlessness with all of this movement that also occurs naturally.
In Chinese Medicine, we take these seasonal changes as opportunities to help us increase our health and prevent illness. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, we are in fact reflections of nature and our bodies are like microcosms of the universe. Which is why in Winter, we may feel more inward, conserving our energy and stoking the internal fire. We are encouraged in winter to eat warm foods, decrease our physical activity and increase our internal activity such as meditation. In Spring it is the time to move, be motivated and create.
Spring in Traditional Chinese Medicine is related to the Liver and Gallbladder. Every season in TCM is connected to a different organ, emotion, energy, color and sound. This is all based off of the philosophy of the 5 elements and how as in nature, our own bodies reflect these 5 aspects or elements of the natural world.
When the liver Qi is flowing as it should, we feel at ease and in good balance but when it is blocked we feel stressed, irritated, uneasy and sometimes angry. Anger is not always a negative thing or is being stressed, but usually a response to something that does not agree with you or something that you do not resonate with, can make these feelings arise. Sometimes this is the catalyst we need in order to change and move forward. Anger can actually end up being very constructive and motivating. Of course when we experience too much of any emotion and are overtaken by that emotion, our mind/body/spirit feel out of alignment and illness can arise.
Going from one season into the next, can cause stress on the body and a lot of times, sickness occurs or outward manifestations of imbalance both physically and emotionally. In Chinese Medicine, we avoid this by preparing the body the season before, by following certain health principles.
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, to help this transition and give balance to seasonal changes and concurrent illnesses. The medicinal thought that goes along with acupuncture, is one of a preventative medicine whose strength is not only curing the root of disease but curing the disease before the disease occurs.
There is an old story, about how the local doctor in a village would get paid from the families of the village, as long as they were healthy but not when they were sick. This is because Chinese Medicine is stellar at keeping people healthy and preventing illness from developing by observing certain patterns and adhering to nature’s changes. With this idea we look at all aspects of health including lifestyle, diet and other practices which may increases one’s potential towards optimal health for the seasons to come.
Spring + Chinese Medicine
The Big Picture
Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
Voice/ Sound : Shout
Flavor : Sour
The Wood Element
Wood gently penetrates the earth to bring forth water, the source of all life. Drawing from our roots, we find the energy to push forward with strength and firmness of purpose, always remaining supple, yielding, and true to our nature. Wood is gentle, persistent and filled with creative potential
The Liver Meridian
Emotion : Anger / Out of balance emotions : Explosive Anger, moodiness, bitterness, irritability
Function : Stores the blood, responsible for smooth flow of Qi + Blood throughout the body, regulates the secretion of bile, connects with the tendons, nails and eye
Liver Qi when flowing smoothly through the body : ( picture a flowing river or stream) allows for our emotions to feel at ease and good balance. When they become blocked or “stagnant” we call this Liver Qi Stagnation.
When liver Qi gets blocked : We feel easily irritated, stressed and angry. This can then lead to physical manifestations and various illnesses associated with this pattern. Bottled up Liver Qi a.k.a Stress has become such a norm in modern day life. We have learned to function with it everyday = SELF CARE.
Self-Care has become such a buzz word because modern life has created this constant need to find balance to harmonize our stressful lifestyles. There is great importance of being aware of stress since it has been connected in both Eastern + Western medicine to various diseases. We have acupuncture points and herbal formulas that specifically release stress and move Liver Qi and actually change how your body responds to stress. Chinese medicine has been proven to rewire the brain since acupuncture puts the body into a deep state of Theta and Beta waves and changes the receptors that normally get overstimulated in the brain when the body is under a deep state of stress.
Anger - The Emotion of The Liver Meridian
Anger which is another aspect of the Liver and the emotions associated with it, is not always a negative emotion. Sometimes it is the catalyst needed to move forward and take charge and create change.
Anger and frustration can be very constructive and motivating providing the energy needed to move through certain times in our life. Too much anger and outbursts in Chinese medicine, can lead to physical manifestations. When we have too much anger this can lead to unhealthy forms of reactions and violence. Of course this is the extreme end of Anger but we need to look at our anger and learn to work with it or release it. This is unhealthy anger vs. healthy
Working with the emotion of anger has been part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years. There are actual points and various herbal formulas associated with different aspects of anger. We also recommend meditation and therapy to get to the root of your anger and releasing it.
The Spirit of Spring
Chinese medicine has 5 different aspects of the Spirit. The Hun Spirit, which is the Spirit of the Liver and the ethereal soul, resides in the liver. It is understood as the spirit that doesn’t die and goes from one life to the next .
The hun contains our reason for being, our purpose and our path. As it is reflected in nature the Spirit of Spring uncovers what has been kept under the ground for months. Now with the energy of Spring, we have the yang qi to face all that comes in our path and to avoid nothing that stands in the way of our growth and expansion.
Spring is the time when we need to excavate and extract what is needed to be cleared out from our depths and bring all to surface for a conscious spring cleaning, of what may need to be released.
Just as the leaves on the trees are expressing themselves, Spring is the time to hide nothing from ourselves and to allow what needs to be expressed be FULLY expressed.
Rebirth + renewal - We are a reflection of nature breaking our way out of winter + anticipating summer like a flower bud making its way through the cold winter earth. This is a time of rebirth of the soul and renewal of the spirit.
Surge of Yang Qi - making a time for immense growth and expansion Creation - Bringing ideas into Fruition
Courage + Willpower - the Gallbladder governs this energy to follow through on dreams and goals. During Spring we have the momentum of courage and willpower to made dreams become reality.
Physical Manifestations of the Liver + Gallbladder
Muscle tension, prone to have tendon and ligament injuries
Sciatica (radiating pain from lower back into buttocks and down the leg)
Headaches, especially migraines
Irritability and outbursts of anger
Menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids
Digestive disturbances, including heartburn (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, bloating
High blood pressure, with tendency toward atherosclerosis
Some Patterns of the Liver + Gallbladder
Nutritional Therapy For Spring
There are specific flavors and taste that correspond to each organ. There are flavors that nourish and flavors that can cause more imbalance. Food is seen as medicinal with specific properties, temperatures and actions. While certain foods can be used as medicine, others can do the opposite and make certain imbalances worse. Food is understood in Chinese medicine in very detailed and powerful way and when applied to season health, nutritional therapy and food medicine is key. Below is some Chinese Medicine Nutritional therapy specific to Spring.
Sour is connected to the liver so in Spring we recommend reducing sour and increase sweet nourishing the Spleen and calming the liver. Sour can affect the liver and increase it’s yang, impairing its function.
Eat Sweet and Pungent foods
The taste of “sweet” in Chinese medicine is actually not sugar but the sweet taste in rice. Sweet enhances Qi in spring . The Yang Qi in spring becomes dynamic and vigorous. Qi movement in the body tends to be upwards and outward which is why we suggest eating a lot of Pungent Foods!
sweet vegetables such as carrots and potatoes,
sweet cereals such as corn, rice and millet
Physiological changes in the human body correspond with this natural diversity. Local and in season is what is best for your body in any season, In Spring so many foods and herbs are starting to grow. Eating those foods are key. Go to your local farmers market and
Avoid Foods Cold in Nature
In Chinese medicine the Spleen is a cold wet organ and unless it is hot outside, we advise not eating cold natured or too much raw food because it can damage the Spleen Qi and Yang Qi which leads to array of health imbalances from gynecological to digestive and various other issues. Since Spring is the time with Yang Qi starts rising to be in full force in the summer, eating foods that are cold can damage yang which can then create health issues in the months to come. Instead of your morning smoothie, have eggs or oatmeal. In Asia, breakfast is always soup. Keep it warm, to help the body maintain health Spleen Qi which in Western medicine = a healthy gut.
5 Tips on Staying Healthy This Spring
Since spring is a time of renewal and rebirth it is also a time to let go of any stagnation you may have in your life. A good way to do this is through exercise. It’s a better time than ever to start a routine. Exercise also allows the Liver Qi to flow as it should which is why most people feel great after a good yoga class or run.
2. Make A List Of Ideas – Then Do It
Remember all of those little projects you were thinking of starting, that letter you needed to write, how you want to stop smoking, start writing more or work on that dream you have been putting off for some time – Now is the time to start. Springtime is a moment when after a long Winter, where the energy is more inward and Yin, the Yang comes back around and is infused into our daily energy (back to the flower breaking through the cold winter soil). The Gallbladder governs courage and the willpower to follow through on goals, dreams and decision making. With strong Gallbladder Qi we can put that first foot forward and jump right in.
3. Eat Your Greens
Green is the color of Spring – this is no coincidence. And it is also no coincidence that the green edible plants that grow during spring can greatly help course the Liver Qi such as mustard greens, dandelion greens, sprouts, celery, cilantro, mint and spinach.
Spring is the time to cleanse – both physically and emotionally. Winter is not the time, according to Chinese Medicine to eat less or cleanse since we need to stock up. Spring is when we can cleanse with a healthier outcome. Take a week or two, to cleanse the body of wheat, dairy and sugar (what I call the 3 evils).
Most people have a hard time in modern life to do more extreme cleanses such as juice cleansing ( I recommend soup cleanses instead), listen to your body if you do decide to do this and be aware of how you are feeling throughout the cleanse.
Detoxification of the mind is also ideal for this season. When I say “detoxify”, I mean – release. Take some time to go within and try and see what you may be holding onto and what you are ready to let go of. To Marie Kondo the mind. When we internalize our emotions and hold onto them for a long period of time, disease can occur. Through meditation, acupuncture, herbal medicine and yoga we can help ourselves release and let go of things that are causing these blockages – wishing them good riddance. Ciao! Hasta La Vista!
5. See Your Acupuncturist For A Seasonal Tune-Up
Seasonal change comes with its own fair share of issues. Since we are always trying to go from imbalance back into balance and achieving a harmonious equilibrium, just as in nature, we easily fall out of sync and have our own versions of storms, volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. We see these imbalances through injuries, irregular sleep patterns, digestive issues, gynecological issues, emotional issues, allergies, colds and stress – to name a few.. Seasonal acupuncture or regular acupuncture treatments help keep you in harmony and prevent issues even if you are not experiencing any. When we keep our Qi flowing as nature intended, harmony and equilibrium is achieved and health is a constant state of being.
Seasonal Acupuncture can also help during seasons you have a harder time with. Such as if you are someone who suffers from allergies in Spring. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have both been proven to alleviate and treat even the worst seasonal allergies.
Dr. Lauren Dulberg DACM, L.Ac
Dr. Lauren Dulberg is the owner of Two Rivers Acupuncture & Wellness in Nyack, NY which is located in Rockland County, where she specializes in Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Emotional Health and Internal Medicine. She is a Board Certified Herbalist and Rockland County’s first Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine