Changing with the Seasons using Chinese Medicine

Spring Wildflowers

Spring is the time of new beginnings, rebirth and renewal. It is when nature comes back to life — dormant plants and animals wake from their wintery slumber, flowers bloom, animals are born, and the landscape comes alive.

Most of us urban dwellers are used to living seasonless lives where it is difficult to observe the changing seasons. With modern technology, we can eat the same foods and do most of the same things year round. But just because we can enjoy these conveniences doesn’t necessary mean they are good for us. They ignore our body’s need to make adjustments with the seasons to maintain good health and prevent illness.

In Chinese medicine, the seasons affect us in many different ways — physically, mentally and spiritually. For your health, Spring is a great time to eat a lot of green foods. Sprouts and baby greens are especially good, as are dark green leafy vegetables. Head to your farmer’s market to see what’s in season. Spring is also the best time for green tea. The best quality green tea leaves are the first leaves of the season. In China, people pay upwards of hundreds or thousands of dollars to enjoy a cup of spring’s first batch of Dragon Well green tea grown in Zhejiang Province. A portion of the best is reserved for ranking government officials and visiting heads of state.

Spring is associated with the wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder. Wood represents progress, growth and overcoming obstacles. It is the most yang, or active, of energies. This makes it a great time to start new projects, especially major ones. Right now you’ll have more energy, focus, and drive to accomplish difficult tasks compared to, for example, the winter.

At the same time, be aware of the challenges of Spring. Spring is the emotional energy of anger, stress and frustration. When blocked or constrained, it is easier to feel these emotions or see them expressed by others. Take care of these emotions constructively by keeping yourself centered, staying balanced, maintaining good communications and being patient.

What you can do:

  1. Exercise. Exercise is important to help get or keep things moving. Hike, garden and play sports. If you want to take a more holistic approach, take a medical Qigong class. There are a number of simple and effective medical Qigong exercises that help soothe the liver, reduce stress, as well as strengthen your clarity and resolve. Regardless of what you decide to do, doing it outdoors would be best. The sun and fresh air helps when you feel stuck. Seeing all the beauty of nature will raise your spirits and inspire you to get moving on your life’s projects.
  2. Diet. Eat your greens. No, not green M&M’s or gummy bears. Sprouts, baby greens and green leafy vegetables are what I highly recommend. Your best source will be your local farmer’s market where you don’t have to second guess what’s in season.
  3. Treatment. Come in for an acupuncture tune-up, herbal prescription and/or nutritional plan. Chinese Medicine is designed to harmonize your body, mind and spirit with the changing seasonal energies. Like taking in your car for a regular oil change, your body will appreciate preventative treatments to maintain good health. You’ll stay healthy, maintain high energy levels and be more productive so you can continue doing what you love. If you’re stressed out or can’t sleep, just one treatment will go a long way to help start this season on the right foot.

Henry’s Spring Tea Recipe

  • Green Tea such as Dragon Well tea (Chinese: Longjing Cha)
  • Chrysanthemum Flower Bulbs (Chinese: Ju Hua)
  • Mint Leaves (Chinese: Bo He)
  • Steep in hot water – Boiled water that is then cooled to 175 F recommended.

If you are near Highland Park, this tea will be available at Antigua Coffee and Tea

Dragon Well green tea is high in vitamin C and amino acids. It also has one of the highest concentrations of catechins and can reduce the risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. Chrysanthemum and Mint both help the liver and the sense organ of the liver, the eyes, in different ways. The best chrysanthemum are the unopened flower bulbs. All of this can be found at one of your better stocked Chinese Herbal shops. In Los Angeles, Wing Hop Fung in China Town and Monterey park comes recommended. If you have some extra cash and appreciate good quality green teas, check out the Ming Qian Dragonwell Panan Supreme 2010 from Red Blossom Tea in San Francisco. They do mail order but it is $400 a pound. They have some more affordable grades that I also recommend. An ounce ($28) or two will last you a while and, unlike some other types of teas, Dragon Well doesn’t do well sitting on the shelf for a long time. Newer is better so don’t stock up.

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