Spring and the Wood element in Traditional Chinese medicine
Spring is the season of the Wood in element in Chinese medicine, a time of year when the forces of creation and growth are most apparent both around us and within us. As we emerge from the long hibernation of winter, many people feel a new burst of life as the days get longer, the sun shines, and new leaves and flowers appear all around.
However not all will feel like this, it can be a difficult time of year for those whose Wood energy is out of balance. A time of increased frustration, irritability and depression, of feeling blocked and unable to take action, or having difficulty making decisions and moving forward. Physically there may be pain and stiffness, menstrual difficulties, insomnia, headaches, eye problems, digestive issues, allergies and inflammation. Imbalance in this element is especially found if we have not had enough time to rest during winter – a common situation in our busy lives today – meaning we may not have to reserves to burst forth into the fresh creativity that the season call us to.
Acupuncture can help by moving Qi (often translated as ‘energy’) that has become stuck thus helping bodily processes and emotions to flow more freely. Treatment can also strengthen Qi that has become weak and deficient, renewing energy and providing stability from which to grow. During this season it can also be helpful to start eating more lightly, increasing green vegetables and shoots, and cutting down on alcohol, coffee and heavy fatty foods that are harder to digest. Adding small amounts of naturally sour food such as sauerkraut and lemons to your diet is also helpful.
When in balance the Wood element allows us to gently bend to our ever changing circumstances, being neither too rigid nor too flexible with stable roots beneath the surface. When we have a vision for our future that is filled with hope and excitement we can know our Wood element is thriving.
Jenny Tune LicAc BSc MBAcC
Traditional Acupuncturist at the Oxford Community Heath Hub
Looking forward from Spring to Summer
by Laura Hancock
- Avoid spicy, fried and processed foods.
- Substitute red wine for sparkling white (or a gin and tonic)
- Avoid red meat
- No more coffee! Try a herbal tea – such as mint or camomile – instead.
- Don’t miss a meal – for your sake, and everyone else’s…Pitta’s can feel quite angry if they don’t get to eat on time…
- It sounds counter-intuitive – but ice cold drinks aren’t helpful for any dosha, even the fire-fueled Pitta. Try to stick to room temperature drinks.
- Favour white fish such as cod and haddock – avoid salmon.
- Coconut anything is generally great for pitta….cooking with coconut oil, and coconut milk, and drinking coconut water.
- Treating yourself to ice cream every now and again is one of the perks of being Pitta 🙂 Kapha-pitta, pitta-kapha types need to be careful not to aggravate Kapha with too much though…
- Meditation is (I know I always bang on about it) a truly invaluable practice…especially for Pitta types. If the ten day Vipassana course I’ve recommended in the past feels a bit much…take a look at some of the local groups. The Magic Cafe does a mindfulness session on Tuesday evenings; the Buddhist Centre on Abingdon road meditate every evening; Inner Space in the centre of town is always advertising meditation sessions. And if that’s too much commitment, then simply practice Anapana meditation. Focus on the breath and the sensations on your upper lip. Start with a few minutes a day, and build up over time. A strong meditation practice cultivates tolerance, love, kindness and acceptance. One of the reasons a PItta type will have such strong opinions and judgments of others is because of the pressure and judgment they have of themselves. Making peace with who you are – as you are – moment to moment, will invariably improve your relationship to others and awaken a greater appreciation for the differences…no matter how flighty and disorderly…in those you love.
- Try and temper the competitive streak by balancing rigorous exercise with something calming and cooling – such as Yin yoga, or swimming. Matthew Sweeney has created a beautiful sequence called the Moon Sequence which is an ideal practice for high pitta types. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPd-aXT3XBQ
- This shouldn’t be too much of a problem here in the UK – but avoid being in direct sunlight for too long. Vata-Pitta, Pitta-Vata’s will find this confusing….the vata in you will want to sprawl out on a rock like a lizard….and the pitta – after some time will flare up. Listen to your body and find some shade if you begin to feel irritable.
- Walks in nature are pacifying for pitta…and just generally slowing things down. Have you ever noticed how slow things are in tropical climates? It’s because it’s hot! Rushing about and getting flustered when temperatures are beginning to soar will, without question, flare up the fire in you. If you feel yourself getting flustered and hot, just stand still for a moment, feel the ground beneath your feet….breathe…slowly, steadily….and take a look around you. Stepping outside of yourself for a moment helps to regain perspective.
- Rose and sandalwood incense is great for Pitta!
- Blues and greens are cooling colours. Red and orange will aggravate.
- Have some fun! Carve out time each day to break from work and responsibilities and have a laugh. Be silly, and child-like. Introduce some spontaneity and go with the flow. Pitta types feel comforted by control and order, and one of the biggest, and most necessary challenges they face in finding balance is letting go, and learning to surrender.
Spring Time Herbs
by Sascha Collen
With the arrival of the snowdrops, aconites and emerging bulbs, we are reminded of the excitement of new growth and renewal that comes with the dawn of spring! A period when after the frosts subside, the sleepy roots send forth their energy for sap to rise, bejeweling the forest floor and roadsides with emerald green and floral colour. This natural rhythm is mirrored in our response to the seasons, the period of dark nights and mornings where we feel lethargic and the need to hibernate, our bodies become more sensitive to pathogens if we push ourselves too hard, and often phlegm builds within our system, but as the weather warms, our bodies change and begin to attempt to eliminate toxins accumulated during the winter months. Many ancient systems recognized this as a time to detoxify the body. A period when the herbs that grow in readiness are our greatest companions and healers.
Traditionally the top 3 herbs to look out for and their uses are:
No.1. CLEAVERS Galium aparine- this fantastic herb grows in abundance. A great lymphatic cleanser, helps sinus to clear, removes phlegm and may help allergy sufferers.
No.2. NETTLE Urtica dioica -these grow anywhere and everywhere! Excellent for allergy sufferers, cleanising the blood by aiding organs of detoxification. Also full of iron and essential minerals.
No.3. DANDELION Taraxacum- leaves, roots and flowers can all be eaten. Leaves act as a diuretic, removing excess fluid from the body without eliminating potassium. Roots are a tonic for the liver.
RECIPE: cleavers and nettle infusion.. fill a coffee percolator with freshly picked cleavers and nettle leaves, poor over hot/cold water and leave over night, drink in the morning when water has turned emerald green! Add fresh ginger if in need of a little heat! Full of cleansing goodness!