Self-Care in Spring with TCM

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

After the hibernation and introspection during winter, we know that spring has arrived when the flowers start blooming.

Being the first in the season cycle, spring is the time of renewal, growth, progress, a new beginning, optimism, vitality, hope, offering changes from the quiet still winter. A season to bring our aspiration for the new year to fruition.

Nature of Spring

In spring, the yang (warm) qi rises, the yin (cold) qi disperses; life for all living flourishes so it is all about generating. The qi that was hidden and stored in winter spreads out. Spring gives birth to all kinds of beings and manifests their beautiful appearance. Hence, the nature of spring is dispersing and manifesting. The growth and new vitality of spring is promoted by the energy of the wood element (one of the five element) - new leaves grow, new branches grow out from the old, and fresh green grass push through the soil, the green colours fill the branches and the trees with new life and growth rising upwards. The energy of the wood provides nature the nourishment it needs to flourish. (For more about wood and its characteristics, see What your chinese element means)

In the chinese medicine classic Huang Di Nei Jing, it is stated that the east wind is generated in spring, and easily enters the body through the neck. Also as yang qi rises or grows stronger during the spring, "diseases in the head" are caused, so conditions such as nosebleed, headaches, hay fever are commonly seen.

Meanwhile, wind is said to be the origin of one hundred diseases.

Correlation of spring and our body

The energy of spring and wood element corresponds to our liver and gallbladder zangfu (the visceral organs) and meridian. The liver governs the flowing and spreading of qi in the body: The liver adjusts and ensures the smooth movement of qi, blood and body fluids, and spreads these substances to the entire body.

As liver governs the flow in the body, it balances the emotions as the emotional wellbeing depends on the harmony of qi and blood. This means when the liver is able to keep the qi flowing freely and smoothly, a relaxed and harmonious internal wellbeing would be provided and the emotions would be stable; while the liver is dysfunctional and not able to govern the qi properly causing stagnant liver qi, then depression and anger can occur or vice versa (the emotions resulted from our thoughts and perceptions can also affect our flow of qi and our liver functions and have impact on our physical body).

The energy in the liver meridian flows and opens to the eye orifice; blood is stored in the liver, and is related to the emotion shock.

The liver rules the tendons and is manifested in the nails. The blood stored in liver nourishes the tendons (which attach muscle to the bones) and nails. When the liver blood is insufficient, this will give rise to symptoms such as spasm, stiffness of muscles and difficulty to bend and stretch; nails would become brittle pale and thin.

The flavour that could nourish liver when taken in moderation is Sour - the nature of sour is astringent and would help to govern the uprising and outgoing energy of liver.

Excessive intake of sour flavour would cause the liver qi to overflow and injure the spleen qi (counteraction of the five element of wood to earth).

Correlation of spring and our mind & spirit

Wellbeing in traditional Chinese medicine is based on idea of holism & oneness, encompassing the three levels of body mind and spirit. While there are corresponding body organs to the five elements, it also includes the 5 virtues that humans inherently possess already.

The virtue in spring that corresponds to wood element (energy) is compassion - which is very straightforward as spring give rises to all living beings, new life, new born, new plants flourishes in spring, it makes sense that in spring nature reminds us that we should be compassionate towards all beings, just as nature is to us, providing all beings a new chance, hope and rebirth.

We should try to practice love, compassion and empathy to all that's around us.

The idea of 'Yang Sheng' (Yang: nourish; Sheng: life or vitality) is to nourish the life, nourish to live.

So while we nurture & show our compassion and love to those around us, it will also reflect on our physical body, allow free flow of liver qi and blood.


Go to bed later at night and get up early, do more exercises that helps you to relax. In spring, all signs of living are only just starting to move and grow and so people tend to feel sleepy, body feels weak and tired easily and lack of energy as the yang qi are only just starting to rise within the universe.

Avoid overeating as this would loosen the muscles and sinews in the body; when the intestine are overfilled with food and muscles and sinews are loosened, it would result in diarrhea.

Also avoid excessive drinking as it would cause the stomach and intestines to be too full and cause diarrhea.

Cover up the neck and wear a scarf when going out to protect the neck from wind invasion.

It is said in Huang Di Nei Jing "If one acts contrary to the qi of spring, then the minor yang (as the yang qi is only starting to grow in spring) does not promote generation. The liver qi changes internally." (Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen)

When the yang qi does not rise, because it is suppressed internally in the liver, then it mixes with the liver qi, then it will change and is liver qi becomes harmed.”

Opposing the way of spring will harm the liver and when the wood is harmed, it cannot produce fire. Hence, in summer, which is the time when fire is in command, when there is not enough fire due to liver or wood energy being harmed and not able to generate fire (summer), it will not be able to provide growth and the body will coagulate more cold; there will be disease in the chest and limbs.

Food as medicine:

In spring, food or herbs should be taken to nourish the liver and brighten the eyes, promote free flow of qi and warm the spleen and stomach (digestive system). Have more green vegetables, less meat (less killing to act according to the regenerating, nourishing and life-flourishing nature of spring).

Chrysanthemum Goji Berry Tea:

5g of dried chrysanthemum

3 Red Dates (JuJubes)

8-12 Goji Berry

  1. Wash and Rinse the herbs with cold water

  2. Pour all the ingredients and simmer in about 800 ml of boiled water for 6-10 minutes and then leave to steep for 10 minutes before drinking.

  3. Amount of water can be adjusted to preference of taste (ie. lesser water for stronger flavour)

Note: If you do not have dried chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum tea bags from the supermarket can also be used as a replacement.

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