Welcome to Spring!

When does Spring really begin? For most Western cultures, we correlate the start of spring with the spring equinox, around March 20-21st.  But all of us know that spring has been well underway by the time the equinox pops up. If you look at the seasonal correspondences in Asian medicine’s (Chinese medicine’s) Yin/Yang theory, the winter solstice marks the depth of winter, yet as soon as we reach maximum Yin (the shortest day of the year), Yang and light start to return – literally, spring is on its way.  A quick look at the lunar calendar can also help us understand why spring seems to come early or late from one year to the next.  The Asian New Year heralds the start of the Spring festivals and planting seasons.  This holiday falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, sometime between the end of January and the middle of February.

Our bodies feel seasonal changes, and when we are in harmony with these shifts we can delight in the blessings of the season.  However, the transition from winter to spring is perhaps, the most tumultuous transition. It’s a battle between the quiet and restive inward energy of winter into the strong, upward ascending of Yang energy – and its energy can be big!  The season of the Wood element, spring is a time of tremendous energy, and excitement in the world and in our bodies.  It’s a time of change and growth.  Our bodies want to move more, we have more energy within us and we want to get up and go!  In disharmony, we resist the changes and encounter difficulties.  During the spring this can result in agitation, angst, restlessness, feelings of being stuck in a situation and the inability to see any solutions. From an Asian medicine perspective we see a lot of Liver Yang Rising (energy moving up too quickly) causing high pitched ringing in the ears, headaches, bursts of anger and angst.  Wind is also a culprit in the spring and can appear as tearing of the eyes, twitches, allergies, Bell’s palsy, tick and even strokes. If you suffer from some of these patterns the best thing to do is act now to prevent flare-ups.  But, I’m jumping ahead, again.

Spring Correspondences

Season Spring
Element Wood
Color Green! Everything green
Sound Shout or lack of shout
Climate Wind
State of growth Birth
Odor Sour, goatish – think of goat cheese
Flavor Sour
Yin organ & time Liver 1-3 am
Yang organ & time Gall Bladder 11pm -1 am
Body tissue Tendons, ligaments, sinews and nails
Sense organ Eyes
Emotion Anger
Soul Hun
Vice Inflexibility, inability to see opportunity and plan, rigidity
Virtue Flexibility, planning and vision, benevolence and patience

A bit more detail…

Season – Spring – which may be early or late. Watch for spring to start bursting forth in starts and stops anytime from February through April and May.

Element – Wood.  In harmony we bend like bamboo in the Wind and can see opportunity. Out of harmony we are brittle, inflexible, closed minded and have a lot of anger issue.

Color – Green.  All shades from the youngest pea sprouts to the deep mosses and nettles.  Add lots of greens to cleanse and cool an overly hot and congest system.  Find out about chlorophyll.

Sound – Shouting or a lack of shout – you know, when you are saying things through gritted teeth when you want to shout it out.  Liver Qi stagnation will also present as a lot of sighing

Climate – Wind. Wind moves rapidly and ‘rustles the tops of the trees’–meaning we see it affect the head easily.  It can come and go, moving from area to area, and flitter over the skin causing itching, tingling and ticks.  It easily invades the Bladder and Lung, Liver, Gall Bladder, Small Intestine and Triple Warmer channels as well. Think allergies, colds, twitches, twinges, spasms and seizures. Allergies?  The less congested the Liver and Gall bladder the less you will suffer.

State of growth – Birth and infancy.  Think of how fast and erratically plants and children grow. There’s a lot of energy going in all directions.

Odor – Sour or goatish. Think goat cheese and sour milk…..

Flavor – Sour.  The sour flavor stimulates bile, moves Qi, stagnation and clears congestion–exactly what our Liver and Gallbladder needs after a Winter of eating rich, heavy and fatty foods.

Yin Organs – Liver. The Liver is the most congested of all the organs in modern society.  Too much fat, chemicals, intoxicants, and denatured food all disrupt the hundreds of intricate biochemical processes of the Liver.  A healthy Liver will establish a smooth and even flow of energy through the whole person, in both mind and body.  When the Liver is in harmony stress and tension are negligible and can be moved through.  People with vital Livers and Gall Bladders are calm and have unerring discerning skills.  They are are naturally effective as leaders and decision-makers.  When obstructed, stagnant, or overheated, the energy flow in the Liver and throughout the body is hampered, resulting in myriad physical and emotional problems.  The Liver loves movement so get up and move.

As mentioned the Liver is one of the most congested organs in our culture.  Fortunately, it is one of the organs that most easily recovers and can regenerate itself, given the opportunity – which often means addressing long standing emotions of anger and resentment, lightening up the diet and getting appropriate exercise.  Find out more about stagnation and the Liver here.

Yang Organ – Gall Bladder.  Liver’s Yang counterpart, the Gall Bladder channel is one of the longest in the body. Running down the coronal plane (side) of the body it separates the front from the back of the body – and it can be a tender channel on many people.  Like the Liver being easily congested the Gall Bladder often becomes over taxed or congested when we have overly indulgent diets.  The organ is easily bothered by excess. Too many fats, sweets, greasy, spicy and hot foods weigh it down, especially if we never take natural breaks from the foods.  Spoiler alert – the foods of Spring all lighten and decongest the Liver and Gall Bladder.  Liver’s mental job is to help us plan and envision a life path. Once this is done, he hands it down to the Gall Bladder for refinement and to discern what is just in the plan.  If this aspect of the Gall Bladder is out of balance – well, we plan but may never have the gall to act on our plans.

Tissue – Spring rules the tendons, ligaments and the nails.  If the organs of the element are out of balance they will fail to moisten the sinews which will become dry and stiff.  Now you are tightening up and losing flexibility.  The person may also become rigid and afraid of change.  We see this disharmony show up in patterns of stiff neck and shoulders. Chinese medicine also uses observation of the condition of the finger nails for assessment of health.

Sense Organ–The Wood organs are responsible for keeping your peepers pretty, keeping them moist and clear as the Liver is responsible for generating tears (nope, no western medicine translation for this function).  A deficiency of Liver Blood will  cause dry gritty eyes. Liver Yang ascending will cause red blood shot eyes.  Chronic heat can singe blood vessels of the eyes.   Many headaches around the eyes and excessive tearing are patterns of Wood disharmony.

Emotion–Anger and resentment are the emotions that most impact the Liver and Gall Bladder.  Think of Spring rage, burst of anger, compulsiveness, irritability, frustration, hatred, seething and loathing.  Not a pretty picture.  These emotions in excess generate heat causing it to rise in the body and creating headaches, ringing in the ears, diaphragm stagnation and depressive states.  When we are in harmony.  We have patience even in the midst of our excitement to act on plans.

Soul–Meet the Hun!  The Hun gives us clear insight, planning, direction, vision and the ability to act on our life plans.  It helps us discern what is just and helps us plan our futures in meaningful ways.  The Liver’s role is to help us create a vision and plan out our future.   Once the Liver has made a plan it hands it over to the Gall Bladder who decides what is ‘exact and just’ in the plan before we move forward. When out of balance, we will experience indecision, frustration, and lack of planning or initiative, or flawed action such as repeating harmful behaviors or choices.  So…where are you going?

Virtue and Vice – Vision, flexibility and planning.  The Liver gives us the ability to set a path for our lives, it then hands over this path to the Gall Bladder to discern how to move forward with goals, visions and dreams.  So an inability to plan and set goals is a Liver pattern, whereas figuring out how to move forward is often the Gall Bladder. In vice we indulge in anger, frustration, resentment, possible violence and an out of balance sense of justice.

Spring Conditions – Patterns of Disharmony

Any Liver pattern – Liver Yang can rise too rapidly creating excess heat and congestion in the diaphragm, chest and head.  Look for anger, irritability, high blood pressure, hypertension, headaches and ringing in the ears. Deficiency patterns may appear as scanty periods, exhaustion and depression. Liver patterns also affect the digestive system including GERD, IBS, Crohn’s, gas, bloating and blood sugar imbalances.

Any Gall Bladder pattern – Inability to process fats, nausea, hives, allergies, chronic phlegm patterns,  IBS, Crohn’s, Celiac and other bowel issues. One of Gall Bladder’s biggest patterns is the Xiao Yang patterns, basically a pathogen that wasn’t fully treated becomes stuck half in the interior and half in the exterior – these patterns seem to come and go.  One might get a severe cold or infection that isn’t fully treated and a few weeks or months later if pops back up.  Mono and post viral patterns like chronic fatigue and shingles into this pattern.  These can difficult patterns to treat and take time, but they are very treatable.

Any Wind pattern – Allergies, colds, flus, viruses, stiff necks and shoulders, headaches, eczema, hives, shingles and skin conditions.

Check out Spring – Eating With The Seasons.