Spring is finally here bringing forth a transition from the cold, dark, hibernation of winter into the transformative rebirth of a new season and new possibilities. The first signs of warmth and green bring a sense of renewed vitality and energy as the world becomes alive again with the budding of fresh, green, growth.
Traditional Chinese medicine encourages us to live in alignment with the seasons and nurture the energy of the corresponding organ. The liver is the wood element represented by the season of spring and also the colour green. On a physical level it promotes movement of energy and blood throughout the body and on a mental/emotional level it offers direction, motivation and determination. The liver is also associated with youthfulness which brings with it an excitement and urgency for spring to arrive.
The liver is responsible for the free flow of energy and when it is not functioning properly this energy may become stagnated. Stagnation creates physical issues such as headaches, migraines (especially around the eyes and side of the head), eye problems, pain around the neck and shoulders and a general tightness or inflexibility within the body due to a lack of nourishment to the tendons which are controlled and nourished by the liver. For women a stagnation of energy may manifest as cramps, PMS and many other gynaecological issues. The most prominent emotions associated with the liver are anger and irritability, even over minor stressors. There could also be depression or simply a lack of direction in life. Frequent sighing is the liver's attempt to release pressure building up within the body when emotions are out of balance. If these emotions are allowed to build up they may erupt into irrational and perhaps explosive fits of rage.
To prevent stagnant liver energy spring is the perfect time to focus on rejuvenating the body by taking advantage of outdoor activity. Gentle exercise such as walking, cycling, tai chi or yoga are excellent ways to get energy moving and thirty minutes a day is beneficial for the body, mind and emotions. In addition mindfulness practices such as focused breathing or meditation help to calm the mind and release repetitive or negative thoughts that tend to build up when we are feeling stuck.
The associated colour of the liver is green and the flavour is sour so it responds well to fresh green foods with sour, bitter tastes. Think of vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, dandelion tea, green beans, asparagus and fruits like green apples. The liver plays a vital role in detoxifying the blood so limiting the consumption of alcohol and unnecessary pharmaceutical use as well as the consumption of processed foods will alleviate any extra burden. Consider choosing organic food options whenever possible to further reduce the detoxification workload.
The Liver functions at it's peak performance between the hours of 1:00am to 3:00am. It is during this time that the body and blood are rejuvenated. It is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule and be asleep by 11:00pm (the time of the Liver's paired organ the Gallbladder) to ensure proper rest and restoration of both the body and mind. If you find yourself restless or waking during this time it is another sign that the liver is out of balance.
In addition to ensuring we are well nourished, well rested and getting adequate activity acupuncture is an effective way to move and balance liver energy. It may work on the physical and emotional level to reduce physical pain and illness, improve sleep and create a calm, peaceful mind.
By bringing awareness to the body and how it responds to the change of season we can enjoy optimal health and live in harmony with spring energy.
Jeanette is a Registered Acupuncturist and Reiki Master at Trinity Registered Massage Therapy located at Huron Crossing and Sage Naturopathic Clinic in Kitchener.