Spring and the Wood element

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"SPRING is a time of year for movement after the stillness of winter, and the natural world manifests and promotes that in us in numerous ways."

- Andrew Jones

Everything goes through phases of growth, fruition, maturity, decline and completion; Spring is naturally the growth phase of our annual cycle. This is a time of year for movement after the stillness of winter, and the natural world manifests and promotes that in us in numerous ways.

Element: Wood Colour: Green

Spring is associated with the appearance of new buds of growth, and the return of green leaves. We can see the power of this energy in the way plants can push through concrete to reach the sun. Growth and energy is part of our lives too, and in balance we respond to the awakening of the outer world ourselves with extra energy, activity and creativity.

Organ: liver and gall bladder

The liver is responsible for the movement of qi in the body. It is a very large and busy organ and anything that demands its time will divert resources from this movement, potentially leading to the emotions associated in Chinese medicine with liver imbalance: frustration, anger, or depression. The liver has an effect on a large number of physical processes and as a result you can affect the liver’s ability to move qi and store the blood in a number of ways, but the two most obvious are excessive alcohol or intoxicants and immoderation in eating.

Body part: Tendons and sinews | Time: 1-3am

The liver is said to store the blood, and to be responsible for keeping the tendons and sinews soft and pliant. If you suffer from tightness you might therefore consider being kind to your liver and being moderate in eating and drinking, minimising alcohol and stimulants and not eating too late. Eating earlier will allow you to sleep more deeply and also permit the liver to function optimally at its most active time, 1-3am.

Emotion: anger, determination | Action: imagining, planning

Spring is a time of year to imagine what may come, and plan as best we can. In ancient Daoist thought it is the spirits that relate to the liver which are active when we dream. In the waking world, dreams and imagination are a precursor to planning, organising and setting your direction for the year. Without consciously planning and imagining, we can find ourselves being dragged along; frustration and anger can result. Take some time this spring to consider what’s to come, what your goals are, and how you can best move towards them, making each step conscious. Flexibility is always required, and you can review and change as the year goes on; but this initial step will help to point you in your desired direction.

Here are a few ways you can be kind to your wood element and liver this spring:

Be moderate in eating and drinking, eat a variety of foodstuffs, and avoid eating late.

Avoid eating whilst watching television, or when you are experiencing strong emotions, particularly anger.

Minimise stimulants, especially later in the day.

Exercise in a way that creates a healthy flow rather than an intense stop-start; tai chi and yoga are ideal ways of learning this kind of movement.

Get involved in creative activities: art, music, or movement according to your preference; express emotion healthily rather than holding it in.

Take some time to consider what your goals are this year, in the longer term, and how you can move in that direction. Be flexible with yourself and your goals, and remember to be aware of both opportunities and difficulties in planning.

All of the elements are all present all year round, but become more pronounced at their associated time of year. For example, migraines, dry eyes or irritable bowel symptoms can all point to a liver-related diagnosis in Chinese medicine and any of these conditions starting or worsening in spring points the finger even more strongly to an imbalance in the liver and gall bladder and their associated meridians. However these problems can happen all year round, and if they do you might find following a few of the above recommendations can provide some relief, whatever the time of year.


Photo credit: Aaren Burden


Andrew Jones MBAcC

Andrew is a fully qualified acupuncturist and massage therapist and member of the British Acupuncture Council.  

His training involved a knowledge of both Western and Chinese physiology, and of how different conditions are understood in Western terms.

Andrew practices tai ji, qi gong and meditation and also helps to run a Buddhist practice group. He tries to bring the presence, wisdom and compassion that imbues Buddhist teachings into his treatments.

He believes that Chinese medicine is a language which gives us greater understanding of life and how to live healthily, harmoniously and peacefully.

Find out more about Andrew on his website.


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