Spring Notes // Portland Apothecary // 2013
Spring is bursting forth. The rising sap is evident in the unruly growth all around us. Heart melting blossoms are covering the witch hazel and plum trees, and the cottonwoods are heavy with sticky resinous buds that smell amazing, heralding the riot of growth the forests are about to put forth. Spring is a transition season from the deepest recesses of Yin during Winter, to the height of Yang which is Summer. Spring represents the Yang within the Yin. The stirring of Spring’s ultimate frenetic energy within the dreaminess and conservation of Winter. The plants are readying themselves for their cycle of growth, flowering, pollination and seed; the animals are stirring from slumber, searching for mates and stretching out their bodies in the sun that is beginning to warm the earth again. Where does this leave us? Although perhaps more subtle then in the flora and fauna that we share this earth with, we too are feeling the effects of the season. Our hearts may lift at the sweet pink clouds of blossoms on the cherry trees, or smile at the bright yellow forsythias, our eyes scan the slumbering earth for bulbs determinedly pushing up to meet the sun. We too are ready for movement and to stretch our limbs out and move forward with the dreams we’ve schemed during the long winter months.
Spring is the time of the Wood Element in Traditional Chinese medicine, which in turn is associated with the Liver, Gallbladder, the color green, the wind, tendons, sour taste and the emotion of anger. The Liver is the second largest organ in the body (second only to our skin) and its functions are numerous. In general terms, the Liver is responsible for filtering blood that comes from your digestive tract, metabolizing nutrients, alcohol, medications, environmental toxins, etc. The Liver ultimately filters any substance that passes through your body. It also manufactures proteins and produces bile where it works in conjunction with the gallbladder in preparing foods for digestion and in the breakdown of fats. The Liver also has its hand in producing glucose, our bodies fuel, and in hormone production. When our Liver is stressed or overloaded by toxins in our bodies it can cause many of our systems to go haywire causing hormonal imbalances, headaches, achy muscles and joints from toxic buildup and so forth. It’s a good idea to give our Liver & Gallbladder support, especially during the Spring when the energy is already leaning in that direction.
As with any change in the seasons we must take care to observe that we are in the middle of a transition. How we move through this time can determine how our health will be during the entire season. If transitions are not approached with a slow and steady hand it can leave us more susceptible to catching passing colds, or in the case of Spring, pulling a muscle, having increased allergies, headaches, fatigue or restlessness. As we take the steps from Winter towards Spring, the following suggestions will help you maintain optimal health:
** Eat Green & Pesticide Free: For many of us the farmer’s markets are beginning to open again and it’s a great time to take advantage of all of the young green leaves on offer. Mustard greens, lettuce mixes, chard, nettles and kale are all rich in chlorophyll and the vital energy of Spring. Search out fresh asparagus stalks, pea shoots, sprouts and green onions. Since this is a transition period, it is a good idea to still lightly steam your vegetables as opposed to eating raw salads that are more cold in nature. Herbs like cilantro and parsley are also great allies in cleansing your body and are easily made into pestos that are easy to incorporate into your diet.
** Eat Light: We are leaving Winter’s need to conserve and store, and entering Spring with a need to awaken, circulate and take action. It’s a good time to trim some of the excess of Winter and start substituting simple and fresh foods again to allow your body to take a rest from the denser Winter fares. Pare down on your intake of dairy, sugars and alcohol and give your Liver a little rest.
**Stretch: Spring is associated with the tendons and movement. It is time to get back into your body and gently begin stretching it out. It is a perfect time for going outside for hikes in the awakening forest and to immerse your self in all of that bright green color of new growth. Movement + nature + engaging the senses will do wonders for your spirit. Take it slow in the beginning, most acupuncturist and massage therapists see an uptick in business during spring due to all of the injuries, sprains and strains from people taking on too much, too soon. Consider tai qi, qi gong and yoga for a gentle stretching routine that helps keep your qi running smoothly.
**Dry Brushing: Your lymphatic system needs you to move in order for it to move! So of course that means getting regular exercise, but it also highlights the value in getting massages, or in adding a simple routine like dry brushing to your daily activities. Dry Brushing not only helps slough off old skin cells but also stimulates the lymph to move. Before showering, brusquely brush over skin with a soft natural bristle towards your heart to promote circulation, you’ll notice a soft rosy glow! Follow this with the salt scrub from this share and you’ll be feeling great!
**Keep calm: Anger is the predominant emotion of Spring. Seems strange doesn’t it? But if you think about colloquial terms like ‘Spring Fever’ it may begin to make sense. With yang beginning to stir while yin still has us in her spell we often become restless. Unchecked restlessness easily can lead to irritation, causing subsequent bursts of anger. Being aware of this potential can really help a lot. By eating light, getting outside to move your body and connecting with nature, you can help keep your qi running smoothly. It is also a great time to check in with your acupuncturist and let them get your channels all running freely again. If you find yourself getting edgy, simply check in with yourself and alter your course!
** Allergies: This is a really difficult time for some people who have seasonal allergies. If you suffer from allergies immediately begin making strong infusions of nettle leaf tea. And by strong, we mean infusions of over 4 hours! Alternately you can also take freeze dried nettle capsules to help stave off symptoms. Adding local honey to your routine can also help with symptoms. Working with an ND, Acupuncturist or Herbalist on treating your individual symptoms can be highly beneficial and also help you avoid taking medications and steroids.
** Eye Health: In TCM it is taught that the Liver ‘opens to the eyes’, and is a major contributor to their function. Remember during this season to give your eyes breaks from the tasks you are performing. If you are doing close up detailed work like computer work, sewing, etc make sure you take the time to look away. Ideally you will step away and look up towards the sky, relaxing your eyes and changing your posture. Also goji berries combined with chrysanthemum flowers make a nice soothing tea to benefit your eyes.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Spring!
Kristen & Elie