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Spring: Thriving in the Liver Season

by Dr. Amber Hincks LAc

If you tend to discuss your Chinese Medicine diagnosis with your provider, there is a good chance that the Liver has come up.  While the body requires all the organ systems to function in harmony, we see the Liver's function as central to the smooth flow of Qi.  The Liver is the General, directing the function of all the other organs, making sure that systems function with a regular rhythm and processes flow smoothly - from menstrual cycles to digestive processes and sleep rhythms. 

Springtime is the season of the Wood element, whose corresponding organs/channels are the Liver and Gallbladder.  Beyond the specific physiology of these 2 organ systems, Chinese Medicine associates some broader patterns with the Wood season.  It is a time of growth, awakening and movement.  Ideally we have rested more through the winter and have been gathering our energy and intentions for the year ahead.  Now it is time to move and make those changes happen.  We can turn that introspective energy outward, clearing out what we are ready to move on from, and starting fresh.  It is time to actively move out of confining emotional states like anger, stress and frustration and release emotional and physical tension.  

Process.  Release.  Grow.

Spring: Thriving in the Liver Season, Amber Hincks Acupuncture in Beaverton, OR

Problems that often show up in the Springtime are allergies, skin issues, digestive imbalance, insomnia or hormonal issues.  There can also be a building energetic and emotional tension, as we are ready to see a change, a shift.  When the Wood element is out of balance this can show up as anger, agitation, reactivity or a stuck feeling.  This is the body saying it needs something to move.  Movement itself can be the best medicine, especially something that makes you feel free, alive.  Dance, run, jump, breathe deeply, make love, stomp through the forest. 

Listen to what comes up.  What makes you feel stuck?  What still needs to heal?  What toxic nonsense are you ready to be done with?  What new thing are you ready to begin?

Spring is a great time to focus on eating fresh foods, especially plants.  Young plants are full of Qi and many mountain herbs are harvested in Spring.  While Chinese Medicine is not aggressive about detox (our bodies are not toxic cesspools!), it can be good time for a gentle cleanse.  Focus on hydration, eat more leafy bitter greens, vegetable soups, add sprouts to everything.  Get creative with salads, adding carrots, fennel, grapefruit, radish, asparagus, citrus peels, asparagus, chive, vinegar, grapes.  Sour, bitter and slightly pungent foods can help support the Liver Qi.

Some specific herbs that can benefit the Liver are  Bupleurum (Chai Hu), White Peony (Bai Shao), Scutellaria (Huang Qin), Nettles, Milk Thistle, Dandelion (Pu Gong Ying), Mint and Chlorophyll.  Many of these herbs are slightly cooling which calms inflammation, and some also help to circulate lymphatics, which helps with congestion and sluggish Qi.  Dandelion and Nettles are also both rich in Vitamins and minerals.

In Chinese Medicine, the Liver system will also thrive more if we nourish Blood.  Blood is the nutritive foundation that supports the Liver system.  Along with the common Springtime ailments like allergies and skin issues, with blood deficiency, we might notice more dryness, eye irritation, light periods, chronic muscle tension, and light sleep.  (We also look for a thin pulse, pale tongue and brittle nails.). Nourish blood by having a regular sleep rhythm and eating good sources of protein and fats in the diet such as avocados, cleanly-raised meats, organ meats, lentils.  Try to limit caffeine and alcohol - you will sleep better too.

Acupuncture and Herbal medicine is here to support you as well.  May you listen to your body and the rhythms of nature and find yourself in the flow.

  • Gather some fir tips for a tasty Vitamin C rich infusion (Spruce and Hemlock can be used also.)
  • Or take advantage of the abundance of stinging nettles (gather with gloves on!) and make an iron rich nettle soup.
  • Movement snacks:  incorporate short bursts of movement into your day with a quick routine or some Shaking Qi Gong.