In Chinese medicine, we talk of the elements and their associated organs in order to understand their intricate relationships with each other, ourselves, and the outside world. It is a way of storytelling, that lends beauty to the often dry world of anatomy and physiology.
I often liken the way acupuncturists speak about 'the elements' in Chinese medicine to learning a new language, a new way to talk about health in relationship - not the silo approach we often see in Western medicine. With that said...
It is Springtime, and we are deep in the throws the Wood element. The Element associated with the Liver and Gallbladder. Spring is a time where earth absorbs all the water and sunshine it can and gives birth to new beginnings. This is the time to align your Vision (Liver) and Execute (Gall Bladder) that vision. It is also important to honor the spirit of the Liver or Hun - which is in charge of Dreaming and Active Imagination.
If not cared for, the Liver can become easily stagnated, impacting the entire digestive system. Factors that can impact the Liver physically include, recreational and prescription drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, illness. Emotional etiology includes, anger, repressed emotions, resentment and apathy. And on a spiritual level, you may see people who lack direction and vision in their lives or the inability to execute their dreams.
Some Simple Self Care for the Liver
Eat Foods the Nourish the Liver Blood by focusing on green and seasonal.
Every day have one or more of these delicious veggies.
Artichokes, Asparagus, Dandelion, Chard, Celery, Basil, Peppermint, Parsley
High quality grains and protein are also essential building blocks to liver health.
Avoid: Alcohol, Recreational Drugs
Care for Your Belly
I find abdominal massage to be a wonderful way to nourish and move the Liver Qi. I use a 1% dilution in carrier oil of Lavender, Peppermint or Bergamot. Work the oil up under the right ribcage, around the solarplexus and massage around the belly in a clockwise direction. Gently recognize and massage any tender areas until they dissipate. Breathe deeply as you do this.
Begin a mindful practice where you begin to express emotions in a healthy and constructive way. One of my favorite authors who captures the interplay of the body and emotional health beautifully is Thich Nhat Hanh - check out any of his books. They are all truly wonderful.
Begin to keep a Dream Journal. This practice can take time to work with. But just starting the process can be incredibly rewarding.
Hug a Tree!
Spend time in nature. Embrace the blooms and growth around you. And seriously give your favorite tree a hug, If you're not ready for that, try a picnic with loved ones under a favorite tree.
I hope through incorporating even one of these practices, you begin the process of honoring the Wood element and all the Growth, Vision and Dreams it can bring to your life.
Catherine Craig L.Ac.