Spring Time in TCM – Plus, 5 Plants You Can Forage

It almost feels like if you say it out loud, you’ll jinx it.

But the weather is starting to change for those of us in areas of the country where our seasons are markedly different.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the winter is marked by the “fear” emotion – this year’s extenuating circumstances notwithstanding – and the water element, which makes sense, evolutionarily. 

We didn’t always know that we’d have enough to make it through the winter… And the way human gene encoding gets passed down through generations, it tracks that as the weather gets colder, we feel heavier and more inclined to close ourselves off and conserve our resources (both external and internal.)

So if you’ve made it through the winter in one piece, congratulate yourself! Fear is natural and necessary, and if we can learn to metabolize it rather than avoid it, we build our resilience much more efficiently.

Moving into spring… you may be surprised to learn that the dominant emotion associated with this season is the “anger” emotion.

Stay with me here…

Up and Out, Wood and Frustration

Springtime brings up certain cultural rituals that we often take for granted.

Why do we reorganize our closets? Deep clean our homes? Rejoin the gym and revitalize our workout routines? 

It’s because we want to cull ourselves from the dormant energy we’ve guarded so closely during the winter, when we might’ve hoarded feelings, objects, habits, and other ideas that no longer serve us. It’s time to reassess what resources we no longer need, and start the process of getting rid of them.

To do that we utilize the vibrational resonance of spring

Like fear, anger is a useful emotion, when applied responsibly and with intention. 

In TCM, anger has a very specific range of motion – Up and Out.

Think about what flower buds and blades of grass do… What you’re doing when you deep clean or set up a yard sale… What farmyard animals and other critters are doing when they have their spring babies…

It’s all the same “anger” energy – the up and out – to push through barriers and into new worlds. 

And what happens when you aren’t able to decongest, to cleanse, to break through the membrane we spent the winter creating?

Frustration, resentment, anger

Organ-izing Our Feelings

Anger is associated with the liver and gallbladder the most. The liver is a yin organ. Its responsibilities include regulating both blood and emotional flow. 

The gallbladder is a yang organ, and its responsibilities include storing and then removing bile.

The liver is associated with planning – think of it as the overarching goal. The gallbladder is what you use to get you from point A to point B –  overseeing decision making, idea generating, articulating dreams, and setting them into motion. 

That means that one of the best ways to proactively support yourself is to support these two organs.

When those two organs are healthy and in balance (along with the other officials), you’ll feel forgiveness and empathy, steadfast assertiveness, fulfillment, joy, passion, evenness of temper, inspiration…

Conversely, you’ll feel stagnant, angry, depressed, irritated, and unable to make decisions when you haven’t cleared those organs.

Luckily, nature provides.

5 Edible Plants You Can Forage in Spring

Dandelions: Weeds? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely. You can eat the greens in salads, use the roots to make a pseudo-coffee, or munch on the greens as a snack. And their polysaccharides are excellent for supporting the liver and helping it to produce bile and filter out toxins.

Garlic Mustard: This weed, often found along roadsides and near creeks, is bitter-tasting, which means that it also supports gallbladder function and the production of bile! 

Wild Violets: Using the upper part of the plant, people have been using wild violets to treat respiratory ills for ages, but they’re also known to be antiinflammatory, antioxidant, and a blood cleanser – great for both liver and gallbladder!

Chickweed: This plant with pointy, oval-shaped leaves is usually heralded for its soothing effect on rheumatoid disorders and skin conditions, but it also can help decongest chests, blocked kidneys, and gallbladders. Try it as a spinach replacement!

Milkweed: The long and tender shoots of this plant have long been cooked and eaten to treat gallstones, as well as being brewed into a tea to help soothe asthma, arthritis, bladder infections, and several other common ailments.

The Earth gives us what we need to support our bodies as they transition through the seasons…

Do a little bit of research about your local edible flora and fauna, and use the powerful energy of spring to get yourself going!

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.