You know it’s healthy to eat seasonal foods and to be “in tune with the seasons.” What does that mean and why is it important? It means we don’t look for fresh corn on the cob in January, and that hearty hot soups don’t appear on restaurant menus in July. It’s why we sit inside by a fire on cold nights, and look forward to biking and beach time in the summer.
It means there is a rhythm to life and how it expresses over the course of a year. When we flow with that seasonality, we have an opportunity to feel our best and enjoy the present moment. We are a microcosm of the universe.
That’s why acupuncturists talk a lot about your Liver (or Liver System) in the Spring. It’s why April is a good time to drink Earl Gray Tea and eat asparagus. It’s why people that shout sometimes also have red eyes. In acupuncture theory, these associations all organize around the Liver System.
One of the models of acupuncture theory is referred to as Five Elements or Five Phases. It describes a constellation of relationships that explain various harmonies as well as patterns of disharmony. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The Five Phases are Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Fall and Winter. The Greeks, by comparison, have Earth, Fire, Water, Air and aether.
Because it’s Spring, let’s take a closer look at the Liver System and why you want yours to be happy.
We talk about the Liver as being the General, making plans and keeping life moving along. When Liver Qi becomes stuck, tasks go undone, depression might appear, pain occurs in the body and frustration may express as anger or a hot temper.
One of the classic herbal formulas prescribed to help keep Liver Qi moving is called “Free & Easy Wanderer”; it helps Liver Qi flow with ease, allows for open-mindedness, and is often used to relieve PMS symptoms (although it has a multitude of indications).
Liver’s paired organ, Gallbladder, helps us make decisions, so it is an important support to the General. Interestingly, the Gallbladder’s 44 points run along the side of the body; the only acupuncture channel to do so (all are either on the front or back of the body). Some of the points are more forward, some are more towards the back. So Gallbladder can move in either direction. In pathology, Gallbladder symptoms alternate, such as chills and fever. Emotionally, it can manifest as indecision or a low startle reflex. Even some of the names of Gallbladder points suggest it’s role in decision-making, such as Sun & Moon (Gallbladder 24, which refers to a quick and decisive mind), Five Pivots (Gallbladder 27, near the waist), Bright Light (Gallbladder 37, a point to brighten the eyes so one can “see” what’s ahead), and Brave Stream (Gallbladder 43, noted in earlier texts as having to do with bravery to support willpower).
One of the strongest points about acupuncture (pun intended) is that in order to achieve optimal health, all organ systems must be working together in harmony. Each must perform their function properly in order for the other organ systems to thrive. So when one system is healthy, it optimizes the chances for the other organ systems to be healthy. And when one system is low-functioning, it, too, negatively impacts the whole.
This is why your acupuncturist suggests scheduling a seasonal tune-up: so you can flow with the rhythms of the season. If your particular life rhythms are complicated or stressed, then more frequent treatments may be needed to give you the support you need to maintain your vitality, to make great plans and execute them well.
When you create healthy circumstances for your Liver System, you pave the way for a healthy Heart System, which we’ll explore in the summer.
Call me to schedule your Spring tune-up.
And enjoy your Spring wanderings with ease!