10 Tips for Liver Health in Spring from Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Published on: 01 May, 2015
- Last update: 03 November, 2020
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), each season represents one of the Five Elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. And since we mirror nature, each of these elements corresponds with an organ system in the body.
Fire = summer | the heart + small intestine
Earth = late summer | the stomach
Metal = autumn | the lungs + large intestine
Water = winter | the kidneys + bladder
Wood = spring | the liver + gallbladder
We’re now feeling the warm sun of spring and watching the world bloom around us. Since we are undeniable part of that world, we are also experiencing changes within our bodies.
As Lily likes to say, “We are all just mini universes. To be healthy we have to follow what’s happening in nature around us.”
This is why in TCM, you’re supposed to eat your largest meal of the day when the sun is burning the brightest in the sky; for this signals us that our ‘digestive fire’ and metabolism are also ‘burning’ strong. This is also why the earth gives us specific seasonal foods to strengthen our organs through the changing weather!
Warming, orange foods (pumpkin, squash, sweet potato) grow in autumn/winter to nourish our kidneys and keep us protected from the harsh cold. Sweet, cooling foods (cucumber, strawberries) grow in the summer to balance and cool the ‘fire’ outside and keep ‘heat’ out of our hearts. (Have you ever seen someone get angry or agitated due to the heat? Give them some fruit!)
What about spring?
Spring is a time of rebirth, sudden growth, and rapid expansion. This sudden burst of activity can stir up confusing, tumultuous feelings. We now find the will to initiate and execute projects that have been contemplated, but not yet begun. Spring is creative, volatile, and powerful and so are we as we enter this phase in our annual cycle. The organ that represents this season is the Liver, tasked in TCM with the job of instigating movement and arousing the mind by allowing tension and pressure to build. If the liver is out of balance, we can feel angry, irritable, frustrated, and stuck.
If your liver is not healthy (i.e. it’s clogged/stagnant) you will have spring allergies, since it’s the corresponding season! Makes sense, huh? Anyone who has seasonal allergies OR just allergies in general (to food or chemicals) has the root problem of a clogged liver. Most doctors still do not know this.
Have you ever seen red/orange ‘tomato skins’ or ‘carrot pieces’ in your stool when you didn’t eat them? Those are liver fluke parasites clogging your ducts. There are also liver/gall stones playing a part in our stagnant livers.
The eyes are the sensory organ related to the Liver, so it’s no wonder they get irritated when liver-based allergies arise. If you have any eye issues, including blurry vision, red or dry eyes, itchy eyes, it’s a sign that deep down that your liver is not functioning smoothly.
10 Tips for Liver Health in Spring
1) To combat this root problem of liver stagnation, a liver flush can be very helpful. Andreas Moritz wrote a book on how to perform an easy one at home using apple juice, grapefruit, olive oil, and epsom salts.
2) Spring is the perfect time to add daily liver detox tools to your regimen. Milk thistle and burdock root tea, high doses of Vitamin C to open up Phase II liver detox pathways, glucaronic acid, NAC, beet root and zinc are my favorites.
3) The flavor that supports the liver according to The 5 Elements is “sour.” Be sure to include lemon, high quality vinegar, garlic, ginger, green apples, grapefruit, mung beans, green grapes, scallions, and onion.
4) Green is the color of the liver and of spring. Green vegetables (broccoli, string beans) and all green leafy vegetables, especially if the plants are young, cleanse and freshen the body.
5) There is a very special reason dandelions sprout up everywhere during spring. They are anything but weeds! Dandelions are some of the most powerful liver detoxifiers known to man. You can juice dandelions (especially the root), brew a tea, and even put them in your salads. The earth always sends us plants that will benefit whatever is plaguing humans. Right now, humans are suffering from extreme liver clogging (poor food, greasy food, pharmaceuticals, constant chemicals, anger, etc). Dandelions are a gift to us.
6) Sprouts from seeds such as beans, mung beans, and radish are extremely valuable to eat right now for liver and full body repair.
7) Stretch! The liver controls the tendons. In TCM, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining health and flexibility. Incorporate a morning stretch into your routine.
8) Although you should be doing this all year, eat at least one raw carrot every single day. They contain a special fiber that binds to toxins and removes them from the liver.
9) Using a hairbrush, hit your legs up and down the insides of your thighs and calves, starting at the ankles, for about five minutes. This gently stimulates your Liver meridian and relaxes it.
10) If you’re frustrated (the emotion of the liver), scream at the top of your lungs to let all of your anger and tension out. Afterwards, have a good cry to bring the energy back down and release remaining stress.