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The Wooded Spirit of Spring:
A Traditional & Classical Chinese Medicine Perspective

Consider the word "wood." What is it that you think of? Do you think of wood for building a house? Wood that is burnt in a fire for warmth or cooking? Perhaps you think of wood in the form of trees growing, seeking the light of the sun for nourishment? Have you ever leaned against a tree for support when you are fatigued on a hike or after a run? Do you have memories of splinters gathered from old, ragged wood? Have you ever carved anything out of wood? If you have, perhaps you are familiar with the twists and turns of wood made significant by knots in the wood. You may find it interesting to take a little time to journal about your associations with wood.

In Chinese Medicine, the Wood element is associated with springtime and the new growth that accompanies it. Wood correlates with the Liver and Gall Bladder organs and the emotions of anger and frustration. Wood relates to the sinews, or tendons and ligaments, as well. It is said that the Liver controls the volume of blood circulating in the body. Thus, when the wood element is thriving, blood circulates smoothly to the keep the muscles , ligaments, and tendons well-nourished and moist. If wood grows dry and stagnant, then the body becomes tight, rigid, and inflexible.

In Western Medicine, the liver cleanses the blood. When the blood contains toxins, such as excess alcohol, environmental toxins, pharmaceuticals, and other drugs, the liver is forced to cleanse these toxins out of the blood. If the liver becomes overwhelmed by toxins, then health problems ensue. Pain from stagnant blood may develop. Headaches and skin diseases are possible outcomes of liver toxicity. An unhappy liver can lead to digestive disruptions, such as nausea, vomiting, and belching. Chronic anger, erupting with yelling, red face, and intensity, is associated with an imbalance in the Wood element and liver. For this reason, the focus of many eastern meditation practices seeks to calm, cleanse, and create a happy liver!

The sinewy, lean strength of Wood reminds us to stretch our bodies and our minds. It reminds us of how very important it is to develop flexibility so that we can flow freely with the twists and turns of life. When we grow rigid, it becomes impossible to adapt to the challenges and curve balls life throws at us. Likewise, our bodies become excessively tight and prone to muscle, tendon and ligament injuries. On a mental or spiritual level, when our wood energy is undernourished, we may find ourselves stuck in a rut of depression and frustration; we will feel that we have no options and that any current predicaments may never change. Healthy wood focuses our attention and gives us the determination and vision to make changes on our path and reach for our goals.

This spring, I encourage you to bring fresh energy and life to your wood element. Cleanse your liver of toxins with sour flavored foods, such as lemons or limes; however, do not consume these foods in excess, as this flavor can become excessively astringent and create deficiency. Be sure to include generous leafy greens in your diet, as well. Incorporate healthful stretching and invigorating exercise into your routine. And take time to vision for your future, set some goals, and plan for your future. Do everything you can to maintain flexibility, so that you may best adapt to the life before you.

May peace be upon you!