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Staying Healthy In Springtime

healthy in springtimeThe season of spring is fast approaching with days getting longer and glimpses of warm weather here and there. It’s time to review the recommendations of Traditional Chinese Medicine for optimum health in springtime. TCM is based on a holistic approach of man (woman) as an integral part of their environment and nature. We are greatly influenced by changes in weather both directly and indirectly and have to adapt in order to maintain good health and live harmoniously.

The practice of eating foods according to the season would help man to remain in balance with nature and adapt better to seasonal changes. When we are in harmonious balance with our environment we experience good health.

Spring is the time of year of new growth and birth in nature. It is represented by the wood element and liver and gallbladder meridians. In springtime the yang energy (chi) flows outward; we are more active with the weather getting warmer. In order to stay healthy, we need to support and replenish the yang energy.

Foods which support liver and gallbladder energy are:

  • Onions
  • leeks
  • Chinese yam
  • dates
  • wheat
  • cilantro
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • Fresh green leafy vegetables
  • sprouts

Keep consumption of frozen, raw and fried food to a minimum. We can build excessive heat in our bodies during winter by inactivity and overeating. Foods which help to clear excessive heat from the body are:
Bananas, water chestnuts, pears, celery, and cucumber.

Traditional Chinese medicine – www.shen-nong.com

Living In Harmony with the Season of Winter

“The wise nourish life by flowing with the four seasons and adapting to cold or heat by harmonizing joy and anger in a tranquil dwelling, by balancing yin and yang ….. So it is that dissolute evil cannot reach the man of wisdom, and he will be witness to a long life.”

–Huangdi Neijing Suwen

yin yangThis quote is taken from Traditional Chinese Medicine Classics. In the season of winter the associations are:

Element: water
Nature: yin (slow moving, inward energy)
Organs: kidney, urinary bladder, adrenal glands, ears, hair
Taste: salty
Emotion: fear and depression

Kidney energy is important for maintenance of vitality and to prevent premature aging. It also governs energy reserves which allow adaptation to life’s constant changes.

In our present-day world, multitasking and constant stress are common occurrences. These conditions break down kidney energy creating exhaustion and a predisposition to hypertension. A major life challenge for all of us is adapting to change and maintaining body-mind balance.

Things you can do to maintain balance are:

  • Manage your to-do list
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Find ways to relax on a daily basis,( i.e. deep breathing, yoga, meditation)
  • Eat warming foods (cooked) and local fruits and vegetables

Chinese Medicine during Winter

The winter solstice is fast approaching and with it the beginning of the winter season.  In nature, the trees and plants have pulled their energy back into their roots to survive the colder weather. The season of winter in nature is cold, damp, and inactive.  The ancient Chinese believed that in order to stay healthy humans should live in harmony with their natural surroundings.  The cold and shorter days of winter signal us to slow down, reflect on our health, conserve our strength and replenish our energy.

Winter is a time for rest and introspection.  We conserve our energy to be prepared for the burst of energy needed in the spring.  Winter is represented by the water element. The associated organs are kidney, urinary bladder, adrenal glands, ears, and hair. The emotion associated with kidney is fear.

Foods which help to support the kidney energy are:

  • Soups and Stews
  • Root vegetables
  • Beans
  • Miso and seaweed
  • Garlic and ginger
  • Black beans, black rice

Emphasize warming foods and avoid raw food as much as possible. Go to bed early, get plenty of rest, stay warm and minimize stress to stay healthy during winter.

Chinese Medicine and the Season of Autumn

In autumn the expanded energy of summer slowly begins to contract. The earth’s energy is pulled back from the leaves of trees and plants to go deeper into the trunk and roots to survive the winter. Within Chinese Medicine, humans are regarded as microcosms of the natural universe; subject to the same cycles that occur in nature. The cold signals us to prepare for winter ahead by bringing out warmer clothing. It is a time of gathering in, stocking up, mingled with a sense of loss as the light begins to fade and the air chills. It is a time to eliminate what is unnecessary and become aware of what is essential.

Autumn is associated with the element of metal which is represented by the organs of Lung and Large Intestine. The Lung pulls in and refines the Qi, (energy) sending it downward to nourish our roots. The lung rules the skin, the outer layer of the human body, protecting against external invasion and safeguards internal resources. Since autumn is a dry season, we need to protect ourselves from cold air evaporation of moisture from our skin.

Large Intestine is associated with letting go; not just on a physical level but also of thoughts and emotions that no longer serve us. The metal element nourishes our capacity to be analytic, critical, methodical, efficient and disciplined.

The emotion associated with the metal element is grief or sadness. We are leaving the warm abundance of summer and preparing for a quieter, reflective time of year. Keeping our energy balanced helps us to release the past and create space for things to come.

Nurturing foods for this time of year include:

  • white rice
  • white beans
  • pears
  • radishes
  • sea vegetables
  • potatoes
  • cabbage
  • turnips
  • parsnips

The flavors of metal element are spicy or pungent.

Dr. Frank Lipman

Chinese Medicine Tips for Autumn

The Lung and Large Intestine are the two energy pathways most active in fall; both organs eliminate waste. The Large Intestine eliminates digestive waste and the Lungs eliminate respiratory waste. The Lungs also control the skin and sweating. Sweating helps to cleanse the skin and detoxify the body but excess sweating can deplete our bodies. It is important to stay hydrated especially when exercising.

Foods that support the Lungs and Large Intestine are: pear, radishes, daikon radish, cauliflower and cabbage. Immune support for the Lung energy includes reishi mushrooms and astragalus.

If you develop a fall cold or flu with fever you can bring on a sweat at the early stages of infection to help detoxify the body. Spending time in a sauna or hot bath and eating spicy food will help.

Living in Harmony with Nature during Autumn : Traditional Chinese Medicine

As the days begin to get longer, leaves begin to change color and earth energies begin to slow and cool; we turn our attention to more serious pursuits. The season of fall is associated with the Metal element which governs order, organization, communication, the mind, setting limits and protecting boundaries. It is a time to finish projects and clear out that which no longer serves us. We begin to organize our lives for the colder weather ahead.

The internal organs associated with autumn are Lung and Large Intestine. The emotions related to these organs are sadness, grief and letting go.

This is a good time to begin a practice of meditation, yoga or any exercise that helps you to control your breath. Control of the breath can promote, physical vigor, mental clarity and emotional tranquility.

Some tips for the change of season:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Dress for the change in weather- too many people get sick holding on to summer attire too long
  • Protect your lungs- moderate amounts of pungent foods : garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger and mustard are beneficial.

Chinese Medicine and Indian Summer


Late summer or Indian Summer is associated with the earth element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is a time for slowing down the activity of summer and observing the abundance we’ve created in our lives. We reflect in order to move forward again with awareness. Earth is the balance point it is a time to temporarily stop our doing and just be. Earth is stability. “The process of procuring, absorbing and converting the food into our body, is what the earth element represents.”

The earth element provides us grounding and a center.

When we have a center, we are able to see what we need and what we are lacking. When we can acknowledge our own needs, we are able to be sensitive to the needs of others. Earth element is central to all the elements. It is the transition time at the end of each season when we reflect before we begin anew.

The emotions associated with this element are sympathy, empathy and worry.

If we are in balance we can be empathic to our own needs and those of others. When we lose our balance, we become consumed with worry and often obsessive compulsive thinking. The other end of imbalance is aloofness, inability for empathy and the inability to connect.

Some symptoms of earth imbalance are:

  • Excessive mucous in nose, throat and mouth
  • Craving sweets
  • Heavy feelings in body with achy arms, legs and head
  • Metabolic problems, including hypoglycemia and diabetes
  • Bloating and indigestion
  • Lethargy
  • Chronic worry

Indian Summer in Traditional Chinese Medicine is a time for slowing down and gathering in the abundance we’ve created in our lives so we can move forward with awareness. This time is associated with the earth element which brings balance and grounding into our lives.

When we are in balance we can clearly see our own needs and also be sensitive to the needs of others. The emotions of earth element are sympathy, empathy and worry. When our earth element is balanced we feel empathy for another. When earth is imbalanced we take on the pain of another, are preoccupied with worry and obsessive compulsive thinking. The alternative side of this earth imbalance is the inability to feel empathy, aloofness and incapacity to connect with others.

To support earth element:

  • Find time to reflect on your life and meet your own needs.
  • Get out in nature and connect to mother earth.
  • Nourish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Pericardium Meridian – The Final Energy Pathway of Summer

The Pericardium Meridianis known as the heart’s protector. Though not considered an organ in western medicine, in reality it is the protective sack which surrounds the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is considered an organ meridian which pairs with The Triple Warmer. The Pericardium Meridian functions to protect the heart both from physical damage and emotional excess generated by other organ meridians. These emotions include: fear from the kidneys, sadness from the lungs and anger from the liver.

In TCM “extreme outbursts of the Seven Emotions are regarded as powerful disruptors of internal energy balance and major causes of disease.” This meridian also regulates blood flow in the major blood vessels surrounding the heart. Emotionally it joins the physical and emotional aspects of sexual activity; the loving feelings of the heart with the raw sexual energy of the kidneys.

Associations are:

  • Color – purple red
  • Peak hours-7pm-9pm
  • Mental qualities- love, sex
  • Physical branches- blood, tongue, throat sweat, facial complexion

The Energy Pathways of Summer

In Traditional Chinese Medicine man’s connection to the earth was the blueprint for living a healthy life. To be healthy one rose with the sun and went to sleep with the rising of the moon. The seasons in nature were associated with five earth elements: water, wood, fire, earth (soil) and metal. The Fire Element is associated with summer.

“Fire is our ability to have relationship, to feel safe, to feel in control, to be intimate, to have fun, to laugh and be excited.” The energy pathways of summer are heart meridian, small intestine meridian, pericardium meridian and triple warmer meridian.

Today I want to discuss the Small Intestine Meridian. This energy helps us to separate the pure from the impure. The color associated with it is pink; it is most active from 1pm – 3pm. Physically it takes partially digested food from the stomach absorbs the nutrients and sends the waste to the large intestine. The psycho-emotional aspects include mental clarity, powers of discernment and judgment. The ability to make decisions with clarity separating the relevant from the irrelevant is attributed to the Small Intestine Meridian.

Imbalances include: insecurity, difficulty assimilating ideas, indecision, forgetfulness, restlessness and difficulty expressing emotions. Some physical imbalances include: profuse sweating, tinnitus, pain around the ear and in the abdomen when pressed.

There are four energy pathways associated with the summer season. I’ve spoken in detail of the Heart Meridian and the Small Intestine Meridian. Today I want to discuss the Triple Warmer Meridian.

The Triple Warmer or Triple Burner Meridian is a concept unique to Chinese Medicine. There is no corresponding organ related to this in western medicine. This meridian has to do with the body’s temperature and includes three areas: the upper, middle and lower burner.

The upper burner is associated with the heart and lungs and is located above the diaphragm; the middle burner includes the area below the diaphragm to the belly button. The organs associated are the spleen and stomach. The lower burner is located below the belly button. The organs associated are: liver, kidneys, large intestine, small intestine and bladder.

The function of the Triple Warmer is to provide the energy or fire to transport the fluids, blood and food which pass through each area. In The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine the functions of the three burners was described this way, “The upper burner acts like a mist. The middle burner acts like foam. The lower burner acts like a swamp.”

The way the energy is dispersed in the upper burner, the heart and lungs, is compared to a mist. Think of the tender tissues of the lungs and the importance of keeping the heart and lungs hydrated for smooth functioning. In the middle burner the function is digestion. The foam represents the digestive churning. The lower burner separates the pure from the impure and excretes the waste similar to a swamp breaking down plant matter.

“The triple burner is the controller of the entire circulation of body fluid” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine)

Some symptoms of Triple Warmer dysfunction are: edema (retention of fluid in the tissues), difficulty urinating, abdominal distention, tinnitus, pain in the throat, eyes, back of the ear, the shoulder and upper arm.

Staying Healthy During Spring with TCM

In ancient times people patterned their lives in accordance with nature to maintain good health. They rose with the sun and went to bed with the beginning of night. They didn’t overeat and meals followed a regular schedule. Daily activities were also at set times and they never overworked. “In this way, they could maintain both in the body and in the spirit substantiality, and were able to live to the old age of more than 100 years.” This quote comes from The Huang Di Nei Jing one of the principal medical books of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Times have changed but living according to the changes in your environment is still a good idea to promote health. In spring the direction of energy is upward and outward. The element of spring is wood and the associated energies are liver and gallbladder. The liver and gallbladder also relate to our tendons and joints. The activity of Gallbladder Meridian is decision making and Liver Meridian is responsible for planning. In this way they give us “a connection to the future and the flexibility to plan and design in all areas of our lives.”

Since the liver helps the body to neutralize toxins it can become overheated with the increased activity of spring. Signs of an overheated liver are: dry skin, hair loss, headaches, high blood pressure, migraines and indigestion. Emotional symptoms of an overburdened liver are: anger, depression, mood swings, irritation, belligerence and impatience. A consistently overheated liver creates a burden for the heart.

The remedy for the liver in spring is :

  • Gentle exercise—yoga, light weights, meditation, light cardio, deep breathing
  • Outside air improves liver qi flow, exercise outside whenever possible
  • Eat smaller quantities and lighter foods
  • Steamed or raw foods- fresh greens, sprouts( basil, marjoram, rosemary, dill are good spices)
  • Eat fresh seasonal ,local foods
  • Spirulina, chlorella, apple cider vinegar and honey, omega 3-fatty acids and B complex vitamins are good for cleansing and support