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Oct 5

Spring and the Element Wood

Chinese character for "Wood

Did you know that even 5000 years ago, the Chinese knew that Spring was time to get things done! Still to this day, they believe that all of nature and us as human beings are made of up 5 fundamental energies – the 5 Elements. These 5 Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In my training as a 5 Element Acupuncturist, I could learn more about people and the flow of life by watching the 5 Elemtns as they produced the 5 seasons of the year than any of my textbooks.

Let’s look at the element Wood. It creates the season of Spring; this is the beginning of nature’s cycle, a time of new beginnings and growth. Wood is the energy that pushes the new grass through the snow, produces new branches from old wood and the new leaves of the year. Spring bursts forward with hope and optimism, offering renewal after the quiet still time of Winter.

The ancient Chinese also believed that there are 12 main acupuncture meridians in our bodies and likened these meridians to officials in a kingdom, each official in charge of a part of our personality as well as our physical being. Wood energy can be found in two of these meridians: The Gall Bladder, known as “The Upright Official who Excels in Judgement”; and the Liver, known as “The Official in Charge of Planning”.

So what are these Wood meridians doing in us? They are helping us look toward the future, making plans and take decisions. Wood is the part of us that sets boundaries with others and helps us have a healthy relationship with anger and assertion – it is also the part of us that senses what is right and wrong.

When our Wood energy is not working, we can feel a little hopeless, have trouble making decisions or even seeing what the future has in store for us. Poor Wood energy can lead to procrastination even when we know they are the things we really want to do.

Spring is the time of the year when these meridians are at their best, ready to wake us up from the quiet time of Winter. Like the new green buds on the trees, we can be bursting with new ideas, ready to make plans and have the energy to make them happen. It’s Spring, so let’s get going!

Thank you to Gye Bennetts, my teacher in Classical 5 Element Acupuncture

Sep 29

Springtime Foods

If you look about you and see what is going on in nature in Spring, you’ll see a lot of growth, which tends to have an active and ascending nature. Your body functions best when it is in harmony with nature so these same characteristics of growth correspond to the type of food that is good for you in Spring.

In Spring, it is natural to eat less and cleanse the body of the fats and heavier food consumed in Winter. In Chinese Medicine, Spring is the season of the Liver and Gallbladder. One of the main functions of these organs is to ensure that the energy in your body is flowing freely. In our society today, it is very common for this function to be hampered due to poor diet and stressful lifestyles.

If the flow of energy is blocked, you may find yourself getting irritated or angry more easily, having PMS if you’re a woman, feeling depressed or having a feeling of a lump in your throat. This blockage can lead to other complaints such as digestive problems, headaches, migraines, dizziness and high blood pressure. However, not to worry because you can help yourself and allow your Liver and Gallbladder be happy and free!

The Liver and Gallbladder need to be cleansed and nurtured during this season, and the foods to eat are very light, with that upward and expanding nature.


1) Green sprouting foods: young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, and immature wheat or other cereal grasses.

2) Raw foods: are beneficial for cleansing and cooling the body when eaten in moderation but only if your digestive system is strong and you don’t experience digestive complaints such as bloating, indigestion or diarrhoea.

3) Pungent foods: is the food taste that has the rising and expansive nature needed for Spring. Some pungent herbs include: basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, horseradish and various mints. For that extra hit of pungency, onions and garlic can be used.

4) Bitter foods: rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, alfalfa, radish leaves and citrus peel.

5) Complex carbohydrates: young beets, carrots and other sweet starchy vegetables, as well as grains, legumes and seeds that are generally sweet in flavour. In moderation, this will support your digestive function, which is very closely linked with the Liver.

6) Cooking method: cook at high temperatures for a short amount of time, so the food is slightly uncooked on the inside. If cooking with water, simmering or steaming lightly is the best.

7) Spring beverages: add one teaspoon of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice and one teaspoon of honey to one cup of warm water, or for a more exotic feel, go for a mint tea with one teaspoon of honey.

8) Avoid heavy foods: including dairy, fried foods and excessive amounts of nuts.

I hope that you enjoy the lightness that is Spring – get that Liver energy moving with some exercise and some deliciously uplifting foods!

Pitchford, P. (2002) Healing with whole foods: asian traditions and modern nutrition, 3rd ed., North Atlantic Books, California.

Sep 8

Spring to Life

Spring Blossoms

Spring is here – the bite in the air is gone, there is finally warmth you can actually bask in, the leaves are returning and the flowers are blooming. It is a season of birth and rejuvenation and in Chinese Medicine, for optimal health, it is best to live in accordance with these natural principles, both physically and emotionally.

Physically, wear loose comfortable clothing and exercise more often, much easier to do when the temperature is no longer in the single digits. It is also a good time to do more stretching to loosen up the tendons and muscles, and be supple like the new plant growth you see around you! Waking up early and going for a walk to take in this fresh invigorating energy and retiring early to allow your body to regenerate will see your body abound with energy.

Emotionally, equanimity is the goal. The Liver is the dominant Chinese Medicine organ in Spring, and becoming excessively angry, frustrated, depressed, sad or having an excess any other emotion, can damage the Liver. Sometimes, it is easy to get caught up in moments, both past and present, and react strongly but if you can be aware of this, take a step back and just appreciate the vibrant nature around you, the health, family and friends that you have, and perhaps you can realise that it’s not as bad as all that!

The energy of Spring is exciting and full of promise, so everyone please enjoy!