March 5th marks the third seasonal node of spring - "Insects Awaken" (Jīnzhé, 驚蟄). As the name implies it is the time of the year when the temperatures start getting a little bit warmer and we can see the awakening of nature as hibernating animals are getting active, plants starting to sprout and trees begin to blossom.
Despite the warmer days ahead, temperatures are still very inconsistent and fluctuate greatly. As the warming Yang energy of the body is still relatively new and weak, it is recommended to protect it by dressing appropriately and maintaining a warming diet. Inner Classic of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tells us to follow the principle of “in Spring and Summer nourish Yang, and in Autumn and Winter nourish Yin.”
In the previous seasonal node we discussed how warming diet in spring differs from diet recommendations during the winter season. Cold winter weather calls for heavier protein and fat meals that are hearty and filling, while during the spring there is a necessity to protect Spleen & Stomach by heeding a lighter diet. Eating warm foods during the spring months means to have pungent or acrid foods that soothe Liver Qi (the governing organ of the spring season) and warm the meridians and collaterals preventing depression. Try Including scallions, fresh ginger, chives, and radishes into your diet. Sprouted greens are also a food of choice during this time of year. According to the theory of five elements Liver belongs to the wood element. The flavor of the wood element is sour and it is therefore beneficial to have citrus fruits in March. Alcohol is also recommended in moderation for the individuals without any internal heat signs. Alcohol helps to open up the channels and improve Qi and Blood circulation in the body. It gets things moving after the constricting nature of winter cold.
Exercise is another way to promote flow of Qi and Blood. We are all familiar with the rush back to the gyms during these months to get in shape for the summer season. One thing to keep in mind is that workouts should still be on the lighter side and is best done outdoors in the morning.
Morning is when Yang Qi is rising mimicking the natural transformation of the spring season. That’s when Covid-19 restrictions to outdoor training come in handy and we are all forced to spend more time outdoors soaking in much needed Vitamin D.
“Upon waking take a walk in the courtyard, loosen the hair and relax the body, thus focusing the will on life.” ~ Huang Di Neijing.
The Liver is associated with anger and feeling irritable. It is therefore of great importance to control your temper. Focus on positive thinking, meditation and restorative yoga classes at the park. Any de-stressing activities of your choice will do, just set some time aside to practice them regularly.
Acupuncture points that are particularly useful during this time of year are Ling Gu & Da Bai. If you are or ever have been treated by me chances are you are very familiar with 2 points in between a thumb and an index finger. Those “Ouchy” spots are very good at moving Liver energy and are very effective for all the problems of the head including headaches and TMJ. They promote smooth menstrual cycles and improve digestive issues such as bloating and IBS. ST36 is still recommended to strengthen one’s constitution through improving digestion and immune system. It is an easy point to practice acupressure or moxa on at home. Do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need some guidance.
The herbal go-to is Chai Hu type formulas that are beloved by Acupuncturists around the globe for their abilities to treat stress, Liver depression and cyclical issues related to hormones like monthly headaches, mood swings, breast distention, etc. It is clear why TCM providers prescribe these formulas so much!
Finally, I’d like to give a green light to my patients that were asking about weight loss regimen. It is finally getting warm enough to be able to fast without harming your overall health. I recommend a gentle 3 week fasting when you start off by eating light vegetarian meals while transitioning into a complete fasting for the second week and coming out of it during week 3 by having steamed rice and eventually reintroducing more foods.
Happy Spring, Everyone!