With the Chinese new year spring festival officially past the energy of things are shifting once again! The dormant inner stillness of winter is beginning to give rise to a new kinetic energy containing the potential to burst forth into it’s annual cycle of the wood element of spring. This is associated with the life cycle of birth in Chinese medicine. Contained in this element is the great potential for new beginnings, opportunities, growth, and fresh starts.
Although extreme growth and personal leaps are possible here, like all season changes there is also a potential for pathological forthcomings and negative manifestations. To grasp the highest potential that this season has to offer we must first be aware of the wisdoms of living during this elemental cycle of the year, and how to operate smoothly and intelligently during this time.
Did you know that most acupuncturists are most busy during the changing of each season into the next? This is because along with environmental external influences such as temperature and humidity of climate, there are also internal adjustments which should be made to acclimate the body to these new changes.
Spring Dietary Philosophy
In the spring season, in order to shed our baggage and be reborn it is beneficial to slowly eat less thick and heavy foods and begin to choose foods that are lighter, more crisp and dispersing. It is of great importance to lessen the dietary intake of sour foods which may damage the wood element and liver. Sour foods functionally astringe and consolidate things, the exact opposite action of dispersing. Over eating sour foods, especially in the spring can cause a blockage of qi within the liver channel, resulting in the symptoms of depression, irritability digestive problems, and menstruation problems. Some examples of foods to limit or avoid are lemon, grapefruit, pomegranate, black plum, unripe tomatoes, and unripe oranges. In addition, foods with possessing a cold nature may suppress the yang Qi.
Cold foods include watermelon, bamboo sprouts, pears, fruits stored in refrigerators, and raw foods, which in moderation are beneficial in the spring but with mindfulness to temperature and individual constitution. The dietary focus should be on foods which harness an element of sweetness. This is not a justification to binge on processed sugars but more of an invitation to source mother nature’s large variety of delicious sweet foods. The essence of reasoning behind this is that sweet foods have the action of strengthening Qi, by balancing the function of the stomach and spleen the source of where all energy is produced. By eating more sweet tasting foods we remain in harmony with the energy of growth, new birth, and overall increase in environmental life energy which takes place in spring. Sweet foods provide the brain and body with a quick energy source that is able to keep up with this increasing energetic momentum of new life. This is where fad diets like the paleo diet, fall short in their understanding of addressing the energetic properties of foods and how they may create health or disease depending upon the constitution of the person, time of year, and current condition of that person.
Some examples of sweet tasting foods are raw local honey, sweet fruits, nuts, yams, sweet vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, and sweet grains such as oats, rice and millet.
In addition to sweet foods it is of value to eat the correct amount of foods with a pungent/acrid (spicy) taste. Pungent foods will aid perspiration and promote the movement of Qi upwards and out. Pungent foods include scallion, onion, garlic, ginger, radish, daikon, leek and chives. Once again this doesn’t mean dumping hot sauce all over everything but rather a modest portion of culinary mindfulness while choosing your seasonings;)
A quick recap of the best foods for spring according to traditional Chinese medicine.
Grains and legumes: Rice, millet, oatmeal, sorghum, soybeans, black gram, adzuki bean, red kidney bean, broad bean.
Meat, poultry and fish: Chicken, turkey, rabbit meat, shrimp, crucian carp, eel, chicken egg, goose egg.
Vegetables, seaweeds, and mushrooms: Potatoes, onions, carrots, chives, scallions, radishes, daikon, broccoli, asparagus, lettuce, cooked spinach, coriander, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, eggplants, Chinese cabbage, wax gourds, yams, sweet potatoes, celery, common mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, white wood ears, black wood ears.
Fruits and nuts: Apples, Dates, lychees, longans, walnuts, chestnuts.
Herbs, spices, condiments, oils: Perilla leaf, peppermint, dandelion, honeysuckle flower, basil, parsley, wolfberry, fleece-flower root, licorice root, astragalus, rhubarb, ginger, pepper, honey, sesame oil
Here is an herbal tea recipe inspired from Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner Yuxiang Wang for reducing cholesterol and losing unwanted winter weight (2 servings).
The only modification we made was increasing the serving size from 1 to 2 as for a general health tonic the dosages can be overly strong for many individuals, and replacing He Shou Wu root with our He Shou Wu extract because it’s the cleanest source we know!
Shed Winter Baggage Recipe:
Function/Indication: Strengthens liver and kidney, treats excess weight, hypertension, high cholesterol.
Ingredients: Rhubarb 5 grams, Astragalus root 15 grams, Lotus leaf 8 grams.
Hyperion He Shou Wu Extract 1-1.5 Tbs (added to strained decoction at end)
- Place Rhubarb 5 grams, Astragalus root 15 grams, lotus leaf 8 grams ingredients in a pot with 4 cups water,
- bring to boil, and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain out herbs and add to serving cups.
- Add 1 -1.5 tablespoon Hyperion He Shou Wu extract to each cup.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
Hopefully this gives you a nice blue print to reference for the shift from winter to spring.