Seasonal Cycles and Your Body: Springtime is for Liver Strengthening

With spring upon us, it is my hope to offer you a great healing resource that is relevant to this season of growth and renewal. As intelligent beings, humans have developed strong and variant ways to heal our bodies as we take on the art and struggle of living. Our developed world today comes with quickly advancing technology and continuously updated research, which shows itself in modern Western medicine. We continue to find new ways to address many different illnesses and diseases if they find their way into our bodies. 

This important form of medicine also has an important complement to ancient medicine. Since developers of ancient forms of medicine did not have access to advanced medical technology to treat disease, they had to utilize the natural world around them to help their bodies be well and prevent diseases that could be difficult to treat. One form of medicine that has truly withstood the test of time, with more than 2,000 years of practice is Traditional Chinese Medicine. Since it draws great influence from the earthly seasons and elements, it allows us to connect and live in harmony with the Earth’s cycles since those cycles are strongly reflected in our own bodies.

The Chinese calendar consists of five seasons, each of which has an associated earthly element and vital organ. Each season, element, and organ association has deeply interconnected properties and functions, which exemplifies the strength of our relationship to the earth. For example, wood represents new growth and all things living in spring. During the springtime, the Earth is concentrating its energy on utilizing the nutrients of the soil to grow anew from the darkness and cold of winter. Thus, the renewal of spring is associated with the liver as it is responsible for cleansing the blood via filtration, removal of toxins, and storage and distribution of nutrients to the body. 

The fire element represents heat and transformation in the warm summer months. The long, warm days energize our bodies and represent a time of peak power within the seasonal cycle. We can see the transformative quality of fire in the small intestine as it converts our digested food into nutrients and sends them directly into the bloodstream. The heat of blood circulation via the pumping action of the heart also embodies the element of fire. 

After a climb toward long, warm days and summer, the Earth reaches a more stable period during late summer in preparation for the harvest of fall and darkness of winter. The stomach and spleen are organs associated with cultivating nutrients from food in the initial stages of digestion, a foundational process in nourishing the body. Thus, these two organs are clear representations of the Earth element. 

Autumn, which is associated with the metal element, is a time of organization and order for the harvest. This is when we collect everything that is pure and necessary and rid ourselves of anything unnecessary or a waste of energy. The lungs, which take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, share this same process with the colon, which absorbs water and eliminates waste. So, the refinement of pure minerals into the finished product of metal is also a representation of the autumn season.

Water symbolizes the fluidity and tranquility of winter, a time of darkness and turning inward. Our entire bodies are great representations of water since this element is the foundation of our physical makeup in the blood, fluids, and organs. We embody water especially in kidneys and urinary bladder which function to filter our body’s fluids and purify them by expelling waste. 

The strength of the connection between the Earth, its elements, and our bodies is also apparent in the herbs and foods naturally available during each season. For example, as we enter the season of spring, the sprouts and greens popping up around us are ideal for cleansing the liver. This is the largest organ of the body, its master laboratory, and storage site for essential vitamins and minerals. Thus, the high mineral content of spring greens makes them an ideal resource for a liver cleanse. The liver cleanse takes place over an eight-day cycle with seven days on and one day off. 

During this time, the practitioner consumes no meat with the main food source being an ancient Indian-influenced dish, called khichuri, of sprouted greens or lentils and warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and garlic. Throughout the liver cleanse, the practitioner also takes tea with herbs that provide a high mineral content such as nettles, dandelion leaves, and milk thistle. Since the liver cleanse utilizes greens with relatively small particles and low toxicity, the body can easily digest and process them. The warming spices help further stimulate digestion while the herbs target and heal the liver specifically by helping to detoxify it and replenish mineral storage. 

In order to assist the liver cleanse process, the practitioner can also take mineral baths with warming herbs like yarrow, ginger, elderflower, or basil. Ginger especially can draw a strong healing response by stimulating a low-grade fever, which can help the body rid itself of old waste and latent illness. The practitioner can deepen the liver cleanse further by receiving lymphatic or deep tissue massage, which has detoxifying effects.

After the initial seven days of the cleanse, the practitioner takes one day “off” on the eighth day by fasting, consuming only vegetable broth, and beet or carrot juice. After the eighth day, it is time for the practitioner to finally break the fast, but gently! It is best to start with a small, clean-ish meal, even though the craving for a greasy burger and fries may be strong.  Cleansing the liver in this way can have profound healing effects, especially if the practitioner adheres strictly to the food and herbal prescription. However, great liver healing can still take place when the practitioner simply finds a degree of the cleanse during spring that suits their own needs and availability. For example, simply incorporating the buffer tea and mineral baths during spring can be simple yet strong ways to find liver healing. Both of these resources are available for your own exploration at Mind & Body Connection. 

As with springtime and liver cleansing, we can also take the herbs and foods that are naturally available during the other seasons of the earthly year. By taking each season’s unique and naturally occurring offerings, we can address the healing of each vital organ of the body. This technique of the ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine practice exemplifies the profoundly strong connection we have to our Earth and its seasonal cycles. Working through this connection gives our bodies the ability to protect themselves from possible disease, be well and strong, and live fully in this one precious life. 

For any questions concerning seasonal cleanses and the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, you are welcome to contact the Mind & Body Connection, and we will do our best to assist you in your own unique explorations of self-care and healing.

Emily Larson, Licensed Massage Therapist, Private Yoga Instructor, Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology & Human Performance, Co-teacher of Anatomy for massage therapy students at the Bio-Chi Institute, mother to Noah.

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