It’s spring! Time to clean house and detox, making space for new growth and vision.
-Angela Mentink L.Ac., Dipl. O.M., ABT
In Chinese Medicine’s 5 element theory springtime is associated with the element wood. Wood is strong and resilient, while also remaining flexible and pliable. It is associated with the liver and gallbladder meridians and organs as well as the eyes and nails. Anger, shouting, wind, sour taste, the direction east, and expansion are also related to the wood element. In the paragraphs to follow I will explain why these relationships are important along with tips on how you can balance the wood element in your life to transition into spring with ease.
When the wood element is balanced…
People who have a balanced wood element are are able to plan strategically for the future and are able to make decisions wisely. They have good judgement, a healthy structure of time, and a sense of purpose. Typically they are well-muscled and enjoy movement and exercise, yet are also flexible and enjoy stretching and meditation techniques like yoga, tai qi, and qigong. On a physical, emotional, and spiritual level they have strong roots to keep them grounded, yet the ability to bend and move as they experience the changing winds of life.
When the wood element is not so balanced…
Due to our high-stress lifestyles, toxic environment, and poor dietary and lifestyle choices, many people in our society have some sort of wood imbalance. Any indication of this imbalance is usually worse in the corresponding season (spring). Signs and symptoms that may reflect an imbalance include indecisiveness or a feeling of being “stuck” or without a sense of direction or vision. People with a wood imbalance also tend to be controlling and may suffer from an addictive personality. They may be prone to outbursts of anger or lack the ability to express anger. Worry, doubt, and depression are also signs to watch for.
Physically they may have rigid and tense muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Since the wood element is closely related to the eyes and wind, we see allergy issues such as dry, red, itchy eyes, sinus issues, and blurred vision. The imbalance is also visible in the nails resulting in dry, brittle, nails, fungal infections or discolorations. Digestive issues ranging from gas and bloating to heartburn to IBS, and menstrual issues ranging from PMS to endometriosis all show signs of an imbalance. Because of the pathways of the liver and gallbladder meridians ribcage pain, sciatic pain, tinnitus, and many migraines are related to the wood imbalance as well. A person with a wood imbalance is rigid and unwilling or unable to roll with the changes.
How to get the wood element back into balance…
First and foremost- Clean House! It’s time to get rid of the old and make way for something new! I mean this in all aspects of your being. Go through your house and donate any unused items. Ask yourself “Is this still serving a purpose?” If not, let it go. Now do the same with your emotional baggage. Forgiveness is the opposite of anger and is a great tool to balance the wood element. Starting a spiritual practice such as meditation or a gratitude journal will help to clear the old beliefs and ideas to make way for the new. Since this element is all about expansion, and now you’ve got newly opened space, take a risk and try something new!
Make sure you get ample physical exercise that builds both strength and flexibility. Taking a brisk walk first thing in the morning as the sun rises in the East is a great way to encompass the very essence of spring and bring you into harmony with the wood element. Exercises that move the ribcage like dance or boxing keep the liver and gallbladder meridians flowing smoothly.
Detoxing the body is also vital in the springtime. Personally, I love to begin the season with delicious homemade soups with nutritious bone broth and seasonal vegetables. The color associated with wood is green, so dark leafy greens are a must, especially baby greens and sprouts. Since the flavor associated with would is sour, foods with a sour flavor are important to incorporate into your diet. Some examples are as follows: citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits (if you can find organic make a tea with the peels), plums, elderberries, raspberries, currants, rhubarb, lemongrass tea, vinegar and other fermented foods. Asparagus, radish, mint, artichoke, beets, dandelion, and milk thistle are also great springtime foods to eat. Drink plenty of water and avoid refined flours and sugars, alcohol, greasy foods, chemicals, and artificial coloring and flavoring. I like to start my day with a warm glass of lemon water with the organic peel grated into it, then a brisk walk with the dogs. I end my day with warm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar and some gentle stretching, meditation and entries in my gratitude journal.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are also great tools to help bring balance into all 5 elements. It is important to recognize the synchronicity and synergy in the world around us and to try to live in harmony with it. Understanding of the 5 elements is a tool I am happy to share with all of you in hopes that you may find a more harmonious flow in every aspect of your life!