New Growth of Spring
The garden is alive at this time of year. New growth surrounds us.
Springtime is represented by the wood element in Oriental Medicine. The organs that relate to the wood element are the liver and the gallbladder.
In addition to growth, this time of year represents change and the possibility of new beginnings. It is also the time for several common symptoms to surface. After a long winter, I regularly see patients complaining of dry skin, weight gain, aches and pains from stiff bodies, and depression from long, cold, and dark days.
Such was the case of Greg, a retired attorney in his seventies, referred to my clinic by his Pilates instructor. Greg presented with chronic low back pain, and dry, itchy, peeling skin, with small dry sores over most of his body. He was feeling generally low-level depressed.
The liver controls the flexibility of tendons and ligaments. Since the liver circulates blood, it controls much of the flow of qi, (i.e., life force) blood, and oxygen throughout our bodies, nourishing the lymphatic system, tendons, ligaments, and organs. This consistent flow softens the sinews in our body, keeping them supple and pliant.
Upon closer examination, Greg’s tongue was quite red and purplish with a yellow coating, indicating stagnation and heat within his body. Purple on the tongue is always a sign of stagnation, showing a lack of free-flowing movement of qi and blood in the body. Ideally one’s tongue should look like a fresh piece of meat.
With stagnation, there will always be heat since energy builds from lack of motion. Movement within the body is essential. Think of a running river; when stones, rocks, and other debris build up, the flow of water is impeded. The water must find other ways to move freely. When there is stagnation within our body, energy, blood, oxygen, qi, and lymphatic fluid are not able to do their jobs properly and we experience dis-ease and pain. Stagnation is also often the cause of PMS headaches.
Based on Greg’s symptoms I immediately started to treat him with acupuncture, targeting his liver to move qi, blood, and oxygen to reduce his pain. I also targeted his internal body heat to cool his skin by the placement of needles on his body, legs, and arms. This type of treatment served to balance his emotions as well.
While acupuncture is very effective in the movement of qi and blood, we also needed to talk about ways to improve Greg’s mostly healthy diet. I learned that his food choices lack in fatty acids and recommended he add coconut oil, flax seeds, and avocado to his daily diet. I suggested that Greg use coconut oil on his skin, face, and scalp every day, after his shower and before bed. To his amazement, within three months Greg reported significant improvement in his back pain and his once dry face, flaky skin, and hair. His slight depression had lifted. Greg was able to resume his Pilates lessons and create and maintain a regular pain-free walking routine. His skin was much less itchy and he was sleeping much more deeply—improved sleep is often a wonderful side effect of acupuncture.
Springtime represents new life at its most powerful, surging with the EnerQi of growth.
Is there something you want to accomplish or change in your life? Now is an ideal time to focus on your goals and what you need to do to get yourself there. Look honestly at your family life, work life, physical shape, health, and your relationships. Can you take positive action to improve any of these areas of your life?
Many choose springtime or summer to cleanse with organic foods, juices or commit to a program of balanced healthy eating. Since the days are sunnier, outdoor walks, increased exercise, and stretching routines are a more realistic commitment. Look for ways to embrace change in your life. It can be something as simple as cleaning out your closet, rearranging your desk, recycling old magazines, getting out in the garden to dig up the earth, trying a new class with friends, your partner or alone.
Commit to a regular meditation program, even if you begin by simply practicing slow, deep, belly breathing in your bed before sleeping or upon waking. Remember, starting with small steps is better than doing nothing. Meditation calms and opens our minds to receiving insights and intuition. Through stillness, we become receptive conduits to ideas and inspiration we may never have otherwise missed if our minds are buzzing with constant thoughts.
Relaxing moments of pure tranquility in the quiet oasis of one’s mind are available for all who want to discover them.