Spring cleaning suggestions to boost liver chi.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) each season is associated with a pair of bodily organs. Spring’s organs are the liver and gallbladder. For Alex and I, the transition to Spring coincides with Lent. Neither of us is religious but we do try to observe Lent, taking 40 days to detox and cleanse, particularly the liver.
In TCM the primary function of liver is to promote circulation, detoxification and to store blood. The liver is vital to maintaining our health and is particularly important for women whose cycles rely on the supply and circulation of blood. Our modern lifestyles with high levels of toxins can really tax the liver and cause imbalances in the chi. Spring is the time of year that Liver energy begins to rise and move outward. This is what helps us be more active and energetic. But, any imbalance in Liver energy is likely to be made worse at this time of year. Symptoms such as migraine headaches, hay fever, vertigo, anxiety, joint pain, fatigue, anaemia and PMS / menopause can all get worse. You may also notice yourself feeling a little more short tempered than usual or having sudden bursts of anger.
Lent for Alex and I tends to be a combination of giving up wine and reducing our sugar intake, whilst also boosting liver enhancing foods & activity. Here are some of the things we use:
1/ Fruit and Vegetables
We really beef up our intake of fruit and veg throughout Lent. I’m a huge fan of juicing, so a typical morning will start with the following:
2+ inches of Ginger
1 head of Celery (including leaves)
We try to eat more raw veg than usual and make sure each meal is heavy on dark greens which the liver is said to love. We try to buy organic as far as possible but it’s expensive. If we have to choose, we always go organic on the fruit and veg that is mostly water (cucumber, tomatoes, courgette etc).
2/ Bitter is best
The liver loves bitter things. Despite the bad rap that coffee gets, black coffee is actually beneficial to the liver (within limits of course). If you’re struggling to give up booze, then try tonic water or alcohol free Martini or Gin – works a treat!
I usually mix up a big jar of herbs to support the liver during Lent. This year my mix includes nettles, dandelion and burdock, schizandra berries, milk thistle, gotu kola and red clover (sourced from Indigo Herbs and Neals Yard). To brew put 1 heaped teaspoon per person in the pot PLUS one for the pot, pour over boiling water and leave to steep for 10-15 minutes. Add a silence of lemon to each cup. We don’t drink this every day as it will tax the liver and defeat the object – every 2 or 3 days is fine.
Run, shake, walk, garden, dance, whatever you fancy – get the blood pumping and sweat it out. And don’t forget to drink water to help flush out the toxins and restore water levels.
5/ Acknowledge your anger
If you’re feeling irritable, frustrated or angry, acknowledge it and work out why. Your emotions are the body’s way of talking to you and you would do well to listen. The shades of anger are all indications that something’s not right and you suppress it at your peril. Once you’ve uncovered the root and taken steps to put it right, discharge the stored anger energy by punching, beating the floor (a la Kundalini Yoga) or primal screaming!
6/ Yoga, Qigong and Meditation
There are loads of yoga poses, Qigong movements and meditations to help you work with your liver and / or anger. Check out this month’s yoga pose to help boost liver chi. You might try meditating on the 3rd Chakra – the space between the belly button and the nipples. You could visualise building a bonfire in the space, or see the area flooded with bright yellow or gold light. Or just observe the type of energy you hold there.
Place the heel of the right hand on the side of the body under the rib cage, and just above the hip bone. The fingers should point straight across the body. Pressing firmly, move the hand slowly across the body to the middle of the belly, ending with the hand over the navel. Repeat 10-15 times.
In TCM the liver is said to regenerate and cleanse the blood between 1 and 3am. Getting sufficient sleep is vital to assist the liver rather than draining it.