Spring according to Traditional Chinese Medicine and the five element theory
The flow of qi and balance of yin and yang can be described in five distinct stages. And each stage is associated with its own time of year, element, organ system, colour, emotion, and many more qualities. With each stage, there are sets of general guidelines to follow to help the body deal with the environmental qualities of that stage, and also to help with the transition into the next season.
Spring, in particular, is associated with the wood element, the Liver organ, the emotion of anger, and the colour green. When you think about it, it makes sense. Spring conjures up images of plants sprouting and leaves budding on trees, and what colour are most plants and leaves? That’s right, green! And since green is the colour associated with spring, eating more young, leafy green vegetables during this time of year is especially good for the body. Also, the taste associated with the Liver is sour, so you can incorporate some sour elements into your diet such as using lemon in cooking or drinking lemon-infused beverages. Be careful not to over-indulge in sour foods though, because too much of the sour taste can, conversely, have an adverse effect on the Liver.
The Liver, the organ of the spring
The Liver in Chinese Medicine is responsible for the smooth flow of qi throughout the whole body. When the Liver runs properly, physical and emotional activity also function smoothly. The Liver also controls the tendons. So a good activity to do in the spring is to stretch. Stretching can increase blood flow and circulation to the muscles and tendons, which is another one of the Liver’s other main functions- to store and distribute blood when needed. Activities such as yoga, jogging, and taichi are great things to do in the spring.
However, since weather during springtime is somewhat unpredictable (warming weather mixed with sudden cold fronts), we need to be careful about our exposure to wind and cold. Spring also corresponds to wind environmentally, and the Liver is very susceptible to the effects of wind, which can bundle with other pathogens such as heat or cold and cause symptoms like the common cold.
An old Chinese saying states “春捂秋冻、不生杂病: chun wu qiu dong, bu sheng za bing”, which translates to “bundling up in the spring and keeping cool in the fall prevents you from getting various illnesses”.
When transitioning from winter to spring, the body needs to gradually get used to the warmer weather. Since spring is the season for growth, this also refers to the Yang (or hot) energy gradually growing and building up. However, since the Yang is still rising and relatively weak to the unpredictable coldness of the environment that can appear without warning, we need keep bundled up so that the Yang energy can be nurtured and pathogens can be kept out.
Acupuncture for this season
Getting acupuncture is a good way to prep your body and help with the transition into spring. Using TCM theories, acupuncture can help balance the body, improve the overall health of the Liver, and help deal with emotional issues such as anger, stress, or frustration which are commonly seen in Liver qi disharmony.
Acupuncture treatments can harmonize the inner organ systems and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems. See an acupuncturist or TCM practitioner to see how acupuncture can help you stay healthy this spring!
Dr. Yangyang practices acupuncture and other TCM modalities at Integrated Therapies. If you would like to have more information: