Eating with the Seasons: Springtime

Spring has sprungA large part of Chinese Medicine is about getting things to act in harmony and balance with each other, whether that is getting your emotions to play nice with each other, balancing your diet to complement your body type, or even syncing your body with our environment. The five element system that is used in Chinese medicine was created through observation of the natural world and human beings as a way to understand and explain the ways that our world, and by extension, our bodies are balanced and how they can become unbalanced. Each of the different elements has a large amount of correspondences that are attributed to each of the five elements, each one has colors, seasons, sounds, body organs, tastes, emotions, directions and many others. These correspondences are often taken beyond their surface meaning in Chinese medicine diagnosis, but the basic ideas can be used in everyday life to gain an understanding of how an element is interacting with the other elements in the system.

Spring time is a time of expansion, new growth, and high energy as the world shakes off the cold of winter and new shoots push out of the ground to reach for the sun. It is not a surprise then that spring is related to the Wood element in traditional Chinese medicine. Spring time is also associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, which relates to the tendons and the eyes, anger and frustration, sour flavors, and shouting. I have noticed that I can tend towards the emotional aspects of a season, for example, this spring I have lots of energy to get things done, but sometimes there are tasks that require a long time to complete or have certain aspects that are out of my hands and require me to wait. This can, and has, resulted in some stress and frustration over my inability to continue to move forward with this surge in energy. In the spring I like to go for walks or bike rides, activities that can use up some of that energy, while giving your senses a visual feast as we see all the beauty spring brings to us.

So, how do you attune yourself with the seasons? One of the best ways is through diet, as this is something that you do several times a day, every day. Diet can be one of the best medicines in your toolbox to take care of yourself and your family. So springtime is a time when we naturally start to eat less after the winter, clearing the body of the fats and heavy foods that we have eaten to get us through the winter. Besides eating less, some raw foods or new growth foods should be included into the spring diet. Look for young plants and fresh greens, salads, or immature wheat and sprouted grains to eat. However people with digestive problems should limit the amount of raw foods they consume as they can exacerbate the problem. Sweet and pungent flavors can complement the expansive nature of spring so using herbs like basil, rosemary, marjoram, dill, bay leaf, and caraway are excellent to use in the spring. Mint Tea with Honey is a great springtime beverage that combines both the sweetness and pungency. Look also for young carrots, beets and other starchy vegetables to add to your meals. When cooking foods in the spring time, you want to use a shorter cooking time with a higher heat, ideally a quick sauté or a light steaming, not allowing the interior portion of the food to be cooked as thoroughly. You should however follow common sense guidelines as far as cooking meats, eggs, fish, and poultry thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.

By eating with the season, you can help your body become more in alignment with the world around you, hopefully allowing you to take all the new energy and growth of the season and run with it!


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Christopher Shiflett L.Ac  M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

Christopher Shiflett L.Ac M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

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