Welcome to spring! It is a busy time of year, and we all feel energized and awakened after the dark of winter. The sun is up earlier and it stays light longer giving us all a little boost. Spring is the time for change, growth and movement. If you need to make a big change in life, then the energy of the season supports you!
Spring is ruled by the wood element. The choice in spring is to harden and become rigid or to be flexible and adaptable. Depending on the situation, either one could be appropriate. The color associated with spring is green, and appropriately so. All around us the trees are budding with new green growth and green shoots are sprouting from the ground. Notice the energy of the plants at this time of year and how that energy supports breakthrough and growth. It is a time to take action, new beginnings and ascension.
The organs that relate to the wood energy are the Liver (yin) and Gall Bladder (yang). Spring is a good time to cleanse your body, especially the liver. Eat lots of greens, eat lighter and decrease the intake of salty and fatty foods to give your body a break. Sour is the flavor of wood, so enjoy sour foods more. Also, enjoy more sweet and pungent flavors because they have a rising energy mirroring nature at this time. Herbs that support your body in the spring are basil, fennel, bay leaves, dill, marjoram, dill, rosemary, and caraway. It is a good time to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates (legumes and grains). They give quick energy for when you are on the go and they have a sweet nurturing essence for the body. Eat more sprouted and raw foods to help with renewal and reminding the body of growth and youth. Not everyone can handle a lot of raw food, so cook your food for a shorter amount of time.
Make sure to take good care of your Liver in the spring. In Chinese medicine this means deal with your emotions. Not dealing with emotions can interrupt healthy function of the Liver in Chinese medicine. Spring is the best time for cleansing your body to improve liver function. Exercise is of utmost important to Liver health, so get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather and play!!
Welcome to the darkest and coldest time of the year. It is the most yin time. A time of rest, recovery and recharging. The energy of winter is water energy. Water rules the Kidney and Urinary Bladder in Chinese medicine. The color is dark blue, and it is the Kidney is the deepest organ in the body. It is the deep, calm energy that is the darkness and stillness of the depths of the ocean. We transform the fear that plagues the Kidney into calm and quiet stillness. The water energy rules, the ears, bones and brain/nervous system, the fatty tissues in the body. It rules the reproductive system and joints along with the skeletal system. The weather of the winter is dark and cold, the kind of weather that makes one want to be inside and rest more, an appropriate reaction to the season!!
During winter months we can build and store our essence by having more yin practices. It is a good time for meditation, be more receptive and to refine ones spiritual essence. One’s ability to listen clearly can be enhanced during the winter time. The more one can quiet the mind, then the more one will hear.
Salty is the flavor of the water element. Salty and bitter flavors are good for the body in the winter. Salty has a a singing and centering quality which assists in the body’s storage abilities. Salt has the ability to cool the exterior of the body by drawing warmth inward. The cool surface helps the body to adjust easier to the colder environment. During the winter warm hearty soups, whole grains, roasted nuts, dried fruits, small dark beans and steamed winter greens are all appropriate foods for winter. Lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, rye, oats, quinoa and amaranth are also foods that support the body during the cold white month. Bitter herbs that strengthen the Kidney in winter are chicory root, burdock root, horsetail and chaparral. Some nourishing sources of salt are miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, and millet. Do not overdo it with the salt, it can overwork the Kidneys. Balance is always important with the five flavors. Of course, seasonal foods are always best enjoyed, so rooted vegetables and wintergreens are perfect.
Remember that winter is a time of rest and storage. Many mammals spend most of the winter sleeping for survival reasons. Tune into the deep parts of the elf and take advantage of energy that can help support one’s meditation practice, inner spiritual growth and refining listening.
Leaves fall from the tress covering the earth with fiery oranges, reds and golds. Autumn is here and the earth is changing her disposition. the air has turned from the hot and heavy heat of summer to the cool and crisp of fall. As the planet shifts our bodies must follow suit. Fall is harvest time, a time to reap the hard work of the year and preparing for the dormancy of winter. The days are getting shorter to let us know that it is time to transition from the utmost and outward yang of summer to the most inward and yin time of winter. This makes fall the time of lesser yin, an important time to transition.
The element of autumn is metal. metal is the element that can be both malleable and rigid, so it is a good time for self-examination for these personal traits. Do I give and bend to easily or am I too rigid and can break with an adjustment? somewhere in between is the healthy balance. Money and intellect are also associated with the metal element. Interesting that it is the time of year that school traditionally starts and it is the time to store the efforts of one’s hard work. Take advantage of the energy and take a class, read an educational book or look into investment plans to save for the future.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the metal element rules the Lungs and Large Intestine. Dryness is the disposition of winter, so dryness will harass these organs at this time. It is common for one to experience dry mouth, nose and lips. Drink beverages, especially warm ones to stay hydrated. Fall allergies are common and the chief complaint will be dryness. If ones has the tendency toward constipation, it can also become predominant with the fall weather. The flavor of the metal element is pungency, so pungent foods can help to open the orifices effected by the dryness. These warming, pungent foods can help to stimulate and awaken the senses at this time of year.
The body has the desire to contract and go inward at this time of transition, so sour food will help to support this natural process. Favor things like sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles and other fermented and/or vinegary foods. Leeks, adzuki beans, salt plums, sour apples, lemons, limes and grapefruits will support the system. Also, dairy is moistening for the body, so eat cheeses and yogurts that can support the mucous membranes to strengthen for the coming winter months. Other foods that counter dryness are soy, barley, malt, rice syrup, pears, persimmons, loquat, mushrooms and nuts. Cook with less water on lower heat, so start up the crock pot for fall slow cooked meals. Add salt to your food to release the moisture from it and help the body to transitions to winter.
More energy is needed from goos as you prepare your body for winter in the fall months. It is a time to reap and restore in preparation for the restful time of winter. Enjoy the crisp air and the beautiful fall colors.
Fire rules the energies of the Heart and the Small Intestine. In Chinese medical theory, these organs relate to discernment. The Heart is the Emperor of the body, so it is the ultimate decider. The Small Intestine is counsel to the Emperor and has the the ability to separate the pure from the impure. Thus, together their energies help one the follow his/her heart.
Fire is a yang element. Summer expresses the characteristics of yang. Summer is the time for expansion, growth, lightness and brightness. It is a time for outward activity and creativity. It is a great time to get outside and enjoy your community. Awake in the morning and reach to the sun for nourishment.
In Chinese medicine, one can embrace the energies of the season for health and growth. One way of doing this is by syncing yourself with the season through diet. Fruits and vegetables are bountiful in the summer, so it is the best time to enjoy them in plentiful amounts. Cook lightly and enjoy spices in the summer. Spices relate to the fire element and are pungent to help promote sweating. Sweating is a way that the body can vent the excess heart that builds internally during the summer. It is tempting to overindulge in cold foods such as iced drinks and ice cream during the summer.However, to much cold causes contraction which opposes the natural energetic flow of the season which can create disharmony in the body. Thus, during the summer when kids eat too much watermelon and ice cream while swimming at the pool, they then are later complaining of stomachaches. Some foods are cooling and are good during summer, just not in excess. Most of the year, I discourage my patients from eating salads and tofu. During the summer it is a good time to eat salads, sprouts and tofu. Fruits are also refreshing and cleansing. The best ones for gentle internal cooling are watermelon, cucumber, apples, lemons and limes. These are fruits that tend to cool the body and move the Qi without being intensely cold and contracting like ice cream and excessive iced drinks. Warm beverages can also be internally cooling. Teas such as chrysanthemum, mint and chamomile are cool in nature and help to disperse internal heat like spices can, but without the sweating.
Enjoy the summer! Embrace your seasonal garden fruits and vegetables. Reach up to the Yang energy of the sun for growth and nourishment. Get out with your neighbors and friends for barbecues and good times. The more you can sync with nature, the more it will support your health.