Spring is a new beginning. According to the ancient Chinese medical text, the Huangdi Neijing or Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, yang (daytime) activities, reflect the ascending and active nature of spring.
It is the time of year to rise early with the sun, take brisk walks, and generally enjoy the outdoors. The sun warms the earth, seeds sprout, and flowers bloom. Incorporate breathing exercises, stretching, or light cardio into your daily routine. There is a sense of renewal and new life all around. Not only will you find it easier to lose those extra winter pounds, exercise can elevate your mood and will increase your energy.
Spring is the ideal time for cleansing and rejuvenation for overall health and well-being. As spring is represented by the wood element which is associated with the liver and gallbladder, these two organs are usually the primary targets for “spring cleaning” or “detox” health regimens.
A “Spring Menu” is the lightest of the year and contains foods which emphasize the yang (ascending and expansive) qualities of spring.
Green is the color of the liver and springtime. Eating young plants – fresh, leafy greens, sprouts and immature cereal grasses – can improve the liver’s overall functions (filter, nourish, and store blood) and aid in the movement of Qi. Many heavy (i.e. meat) or salty foods (soy sauce, miso) have a “sinking” quality (you feel the need to rest after eating) and will clog the liver.
The quality of sweet and pungent flavored foods is expansive and rising. Pungent cooking herbs – Basil, Fennel, Marjoram, Rosemary, Caraway, Dill, and Bay Leaf are great choices to add to food. Most complex carbohydrates (such as Grains, Legumes and Seeds) have a primarily sweet flavor which increases after sprouting. Young beets, carrots and other sweet starchy vegetables, fresh from the garden, provide a refreshing sweet flavor.
Food preparation becomes simpler in the spring. Raw and sprouted foods can be emphasized in your diet. They stimulate movement and cleanse and cool (detoxify) the body. Raw food also brings about renewal. If cooking food, cook only for a short time and at high temperatures- sauté, don’t fry. When cooking with water, light steaming or minimal simmering is ideal.
To keep your liver (and the rest of your body) healthy, eat green, incorporate exercises into your daily routine, and go hiking. Outside air helps Liver Qi flow.
By Sigal Meyuhas, L.Ac.
Sigal has an Acupuncture practice in Los Angeles, Valley Village, CA. She specializes in Traditional Chinese Medicine.