No season brings more anticipation than spring … enjoying watching the plants grow and seeing how nature is slowly waking up. I know it is not everybody’s favorite season but I personally get very excited about spring. It is miraculous how the scenary quickly changes from snow and mud to lushous greenary. We can finally sit outside, eat fresh plants and wear lighter clothing. I feel that spring gives my creative energy a nice boost …
Spring is an important transition time of the year when we are moving out of the cold of the winter time into heat of the summer time. It is true as they say spring comes in as a lion and leaves as a lamb. If we prepare our body, our immune system will be able to handle the changes easier. In addition, it is important to work with this transitional season so we can cope with its harshness easier and can enjoy the heat of the summer later.
In Ancient Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with a natural element so spring is associated with Wood element. Also, each element has corresponding western organs. The western organs of the Wood element are the Liver and the Gall bladder along with the organs that they control: the Eyes and the Ligaments. (I capitalized the organs because in Chinese Medicine, it is more like an organ is considered to be the organ itself and its energetic functions).
However, Chinese Medicine is not just concerned about the physical body, it believes that our spiritual health is also important. The health of our Wood element can greatly effect this higher self and vice versa. It enables us to make plans, have a clear vision and allows our energy to move freely in the body. In other words, eating well during the spring can have an effect on the spiritual aspect of a person.
Our body should be flexible like a tree in the spring wind both mentally and physically. A healthy tree can easily yield to any wind and not fall over. We try to create this in our body by nourishing the liver and giving our body a break from all heavier, fatty, denatured foods, chemicals and intoxicants.
The energy of spring is more ascending and expansive like the new shoots on the plants. In a similar fashion, the liver’s energy tends to move upwards and is more active. To create this outside climate inside our body, Chinese Medicine recommends that the diet be the lightest of the year and to eat more sweet and pungent flavored foods. More complex carbohydrates like grains, cereal grasses, legumes, seeds, young beets, carrots along with all new spring foods are great sweet foods. Pungent cooking herbs like basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaves are great to help the liver’s active energy.
As I mentioned earlier, we need to give our liver a break from heavier foods. As spring comes, we naturally tend to eat less. In fact, people have been traditionally doing their fasting early spring to make a smoother transition into spring and be able to cope with summer’s heat easier. Many cultures do their annual fasting in the spring that is around what is known today as Ash Wednesday in Christianity until Easter or around the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox. The detoxifying process can be a very spiritual experience.
The bitter, sour and detoxifying foods can help this fasting process. Bitter foods are burdock root, dandelion root/leaves, artichoke, lettuce, spinach, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish, citrus peel. Foods that detoxify and cool the liver are mung beans, celery, seaweed, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, tofu, millet, chlorophyll- rich foods, mushrooms, rhubarb stem/root. Also fresh ginger, oats, sage, fennel, pine nuts, flax seed oil are also beneficial for the liver. In addition, small amount of vinegar or lemon have all three properties. For instance, people often drink a little lemonade in the morning with maple syrup or sugar (but not honey!) and cayenne pepper to get the liver ready for the day. (Caution: do not take too much vinegar or lemon, as you can achieve the opposite effect). The juice of one lemon is great.
Our eating and cooking habits should change as spring moves in. Food should be cooked quickly at higher temperatures in other words the quick sauté method is preferred. Also, it is best to eat dinner earlier than during the winter months. I would say dinner should be done by 6-8pm. According to Chinese Medicine, Liver time when our liver is the most active is between 11pm and 1am so our food should be digested by this time so the liver can do its jobs more efficiently … and it has 100+ jobs that it does regularly …
Spring is definitely the time when we eat less and eat lighter foods. In general, the liver likes to be cool and well nourished. We should be minimizing salt, fats, meats and eggs and eat more vegetables, legumes and grains. Of course, all over-processed foods should be avoided. Just like we do spring cleaning in our homes, we need to ‘clean’ out the inside of our body.
- Paul Pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
- Art: Unkown