Albeit in its classic, bipolar, northeastern form, it seems even relatively less so this year that spring has sprung! We might collectively shout it from the proverbial rooftops, which for many of us may express in the form of a long-awaited vacation or just seeing loved ones for outdoor dining.
In Chinese Medicine spring corresponds with the wood element, the liver and gallbladder channels, and our emotions of anger, resentment, decision making, and initiative. The former two of which might seem ironic, as the warm-weather months tend to imbue our collective consciousness with a great sense of joy, especially in the northern regions where we’ve been all but hibernating for longer than most of us care to remember.
Recall that the “liver” is referring to our cortisol/stress hormone and how it impacts the body’s overall circulation. “Cortisol” has reached the point of sounding almost like a derogatory word in the medical community, as if necessarily a bad thing, but some degree of cortisol is actually quite healthy, quite functional, a delightfully motivating hormone without which we would fail to say, make important decisions or take any initiative.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, a very “yang” hormone, and the nature of yang, as goes the nature of heat, is to RISE in the body. Simply look to nature to observe the most primary Chinese medical principle, which is that we are its microcosm. Just as the plants and flowers are sprouting, growing upwards, the energy within us moves accordingly. This is a good thing, but like any good thing potentially challenging for some, all to varying degrees.
For those of us with sedated, “yin-like” genetic constitutions, “liver yang energy rising” will pose very few side effects. These people need all forms of rising, as their Achilles heel is one of lethargy, feeling cold and/or depressed. For their opposites, those of us who tend more towards feeling over-heated, angry, or anxious, an increase in cortisol is a potential threat worthy of our disciplined consideration. Some of the ways to “soothe the liver” this Spring are:
- Sour foods, such as sauerkrauts, pickles, and lemon water, of course still alongside warm, cooked foods, so as to not harm the gut. You can also begin adding a sprinkle of lemon juice to your sauteed kale or collard greens, but be sure to dress with a good olive oil for best flavor.
- More exercise—still not to the degree we recommend in summer, but more than winter
- Hot peppermint or spearmint tea. Friendly reminder to NOT get your tea from local supermarkets if possible. To get the true medicinal benefits of tea (and food) it is important to buy top grade, such as from Arbor, Mariage, or Harney and Sons.
- Acupuncture is great for reducing the effects of cortisol and increasing circulation. The ancient texts instruct us to use more “luo (Lew-Oh) points” in the spring, which are be indicated for preventing latent pathogens from entering deeper into the body until the body’s qi is robust enough to expel it. This bears logic, as most of our bodies feels most robust in the summer season to follow. Additionally, I am that much more apt to employ liver and gallbladder points as indicated between now and June.
- Herbal medicine, such as bupleurum root, are excellent to manage stress and allergies this time of year, but as always only in the appropriate body types. This is not allopathic medicine with 1:1 symptom-prescription correlates. Bupleurum root has a raising and drying effect, which for many will feel like the greatest massage of their lives—for others like an uncontrolled panic attack. That, my friends, is medicine.