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Living in Health with the Seasons: Chinese Medicine and Spring

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SoupWhile winter was a time to conserve energy and reduce activity, spring is a time of regeneration, new beginnings, and a renewal of spirit.  Seeds sprout, flowers bloom, and the sun warms the earth.  There is a sense of renewal and new life all around.

Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being.  As spring is represented by the wood element and includes the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for springtime cleansing and health regimens.

  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Green
  • Nature: Yang (expanding, rising, warming)
  • Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
  • Emotion: Anger, irritability
  • Taste: Sour

Spring corresponds to the ‘Wood’ element, which in turn is conceptually related to the liver and gallbladder organs. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi (energy) throughout the body. When the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. So, for optimum health this spring, move your Qi with acupuncture!

Stretch – The liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine. Try yoga or tai qi.

Eye Exercises – The liver opens into the eyes and is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and try the following qi gong exercise:  Rub your palms together vigorously for 10-20 seconds while breathing deeply.  Immediately place your palms over your eyes and rest your cheek bones and forehead in your hands.  As you breathe in, imagine your eyes breathing in the warmth and energy from your palms.

Eat Green – Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants – fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and cereal grasses – can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.  Other green foods that are beneficial are kale, parsley, and collard greens.  Enjoy plenty of green onion/scallions and leeks. All of these have a stronger medicinal effect in the spring than at other times of the year, and can boost the liver function and enhance one’s energy level.

Taste Sour – Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver’s qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water; use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing.

Do more outdoor activities – Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try hiking or take up golf.

Ginger and Scallion Miso Soup

This recipe is a variation of a traditional Chinese home remedy for colds and runny noses.  If you are feeling slightly run down with a cold, it may induce a light sweat.  To keep healthy during spring, try to have this soup 1-3 times a week.

1 2-inch knob of ginger

6 cups water

2 cups loose shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped in half1 bunch scallions

1 cup kale (about 3 leaves)

2 heaping tablespoons miso paste

Make the ginger broth by grating the knob of ginger with a cheese grater and then putting it into a pot with the 6 cups of water. You should have about 2 tablespoons of grated ginger to infuse.    Bring the water to a boil and simmer slightly for about 15 minutes. Let it sit for another 15 minutes if you can, but you are welcome to go along at this point.

Drain the infused ginger broth of the grated ginger and bring the liquid to a boil.  Add in the shiitake mushrooms and scallions and simmer until soft, and then add in the kale and simmer until cooked through. Turn off the heat.

Now, place the miso into a small bowl. Pour in some of the soup water, and soften the miso. Pour everything back into the pot and stir until the miso is well integrated into the soup.

Living in Health with the Seasons is a wise – and a fun – way of renewal; of moving forward, and regenerating and sustaining good health.

One thought on “Living in Health with the Seasons: Chinese Medicine and Spring

  1. Soup is terrific!

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