Spring into Action: The Liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine By Anna Totzke, R.Ac.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the seasons have an important relationship to the body including the internal organs, emotions, and the spirit. For an individual to be in balance, it is believed that one needs to be attuned to the seasons.
Spring is related to the wood element, the liver and the colour green in TCM. During the spring plants (wood) starts pushing up through the earth and everything starts growing and moving outward including our own spirits. These upward/outward actions are also reflected in the function of the Liver in the body. The liver is in charge storing the blood and also controlling the smooth flow of qi (energy) and blood in the body. When in balance, there is flexibility in the muscles and tendons (like nourished wood), the mind and spirit are calm and relaxed, the eyes are clear and see clearly.
“When the Liver is healthy, judgement, and decision making are sound, vision is clear, and action is resolute. Strengthening the Liver develops drive and adaptability, enhancing our capacity to cope with the vicissitudes of life.” (Between Heaven & Earth by Beinfield & Korn )
Signs the Liver is out of balance:
If the wood element is out of balance in the body, qi and blood will not flow smoothly which often manifests as moodiness – anger, frustration, impatience, uncontrollable crying, depression, and also eye problems, PMS, hormonal imbalances, menstrual difficulties, indecisiveness, seasonal allergies, and stiff muscles… to name a few!
What Causes the Liver to go out of Balance?
– Unhealthy food on a regular basis
– eliminate unhealthy fats, chemicals, alcohol, processed foods
– Holding onto unhealthy emotional patterns eg. repressing emotions
– Lack movement or exercise
– Irregular sleeping patterns
Bringing the Liver Back into Balance:
Cleansing on all levels As Spring approaches, there often is a sense of anticipation and expectation. To fully embrace the Spring season, it is important to resolve emotional issues which also show as disharmonies in the body, and eating food that is in season. The spring is a great time to do a cleanse, internally and externally; a time to get rid of things that we have been holding onto like fears, things that no longer serve us, and to try new things.
Ways to help re-balance liver energy:
-Do a longer gentle cleanse with simple foods including steamed greens and other vegetables, green soups, whole foods only
-Eat less- this cleanses the body of the fat and heavier foods of winter
-Drink enough water/herbal teas
-Meditate, do yoga, stretch, exercise
-Get enough sleep
-Mindfulness- be aware of old patterns of fear, anxiety. Practice patience.
-Let go of the old to allow room for the new! eg. 1. emotionally – let go of relationships and habits that are unhealthy 2. environment- clean your house 3. Beware of your environmental impact – make changes to make more environmentally aware decisions
-Get organized and plan trips – plant your seeds for the coming seasons!
-Make time for creative projects, adventures, outdoor time
-Get an acupuncture treatment, massage, herbal therapy. These all help bring the liver energy back into balance!
Have fun and be a child again! Embrace this beautiful season of birth and renewal.