22 Apr How to Have a Healthy Spring with Ancient Medicine
PART 1/6: SPRING SEASON INTRO + EMOTIONS
Spring has sprung! We’re actually nestled right into it but with all that’s going on right now, I admittedly barely took a beat to notice as I usually would. So, here I am, human as can be, reminding myself (and you reading) to enjoy this season’s energetic pulse while taking care of yourself through the challenges amidst us.
Spring is a time of movement, growth, rapid expansion, expression, and all-things-fresh.
Do you feel it? Even with the uncertainty around us, nature has her way of flowing through unapologetically. It’s up to us to embrace the waves and reflect on how we can embody this resilient strength, too.
INNER AWARENESS + OUTER GROWTH
New beginnings are springing from the fertile soil that was harnessed in seasons past. We shed the old, grow right from it, and are receptive to the new—no matter how long the process has been churning. Transformation is especially accelerated at this time. Nature facilitates this; thus, change is easier. After-all, we are a microcosm of the universe we dwell in. Let’s use this energy/qi to press forward changes that are meant to help us bring forth our best selves. What does that look like for you, especially now?
According to Traditional East Asian Medicine, the Liver/Gallbladder systems and the Wood element are especially active during this time. Detoxification on all levels—from your gut to your closet—is essential. Spring cleaning is so-coined for good reason. And with this upward pulse of renewal, other lingering feelings may surface. Observe them. The emotions of anger, resentment, irritability, and agitation may uncoil during this time. It’s normal. Recognize all-the-feels and give yourself space to heal. Processing through motion (E-*MOTION*) and diaphragmatic awareness breathing is especially helpful.
PART 2/6: MOVE LIKE IT’S SPRING!
Social distancing and largely staying at home may activate your inner sloth while sitting in bed all day BUT springtime calls for a lot more action than that. 🌿
This isn’t a more restorative, restful, quiet time like we experienced in the autumn/winter seasons as I’ve written about before. Despite the #stayathome pandemic we’re in, now is a time to be more solution oriented ~ thinking of the future in a optimistic yet practical way.
This is a time to process our emotions through movement and allow for expansiveness.
Move with your meditation.
Be especially deliberate about your exercise routine.
Don’t sit for more than 1.5 hours (max) without at least stretching for a bit.
Your muscles are craving action and mobility.
Remaining stagnant at this time is especially toxic. To prevent premature calcification of your precious joints and sinews, move them in ways that they we’re Designed to as human beings.
Consider the following:
✨ Short bursts of mobility exercises throughout the day.
✨ Use isometric static tension by holding a position with tension and then releasing to build stability and strength.
✨ Stretch. It. Out.
✨ Dance ~
✨ Moving meditation. Meditation is a wonderful practice and there are various ways to practice it. Consider picking up Tai Chi / Qi Gong as a way to flow with your meditation actively. The Islamic prayer with various prostrations is a beautiful form of moving meditation.
✨ Move with intention. Even if you’re cleaning the house or getting up from your seat, embody a moment of awareness before every move. This is a useful mindfulness practice and prevents injuries at the same time.
✨ Check your posture. I always have to remind myself of this. I used to walk around campus trying to balance a book on my head whenever I noticed myself slouching too much. Tall people + mothers need to be especially mindful of this as we don’t have a lot of natural stretch opportunities throughout the day 😅 Who can relate?
✨ What would you add?
PART 3/6: SPRINGTIME HERBS + FOOD AS MEDICINE 🌿
Classic herbal teas for the spring season are fresh and aromatic as well as anything that brings clarity to the eyes. Mint, lemon balm, fennel, and florals are wonderful. Enjoy chrysanthemum tea with soaked goji berries (if you can tolerate nightshades). I have an excellent recipe for chrysanthemum-goji tea that nourishes the eyes on the blog.
Stews and warmer foods should still remain dominant for women who are menstruating, especially during the last week of the luteal phase and week 1 of flow + early postpartum BUT more fresh foods are increasingly called for now.
Swap some of your dry herbs for their living counterparts. Consider cultivating a small culinary garden; even the tiniest apartments can house these mighty plants. My favorite essentials are: cilantro, chives, dill, sweet basil, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, mints, and thyme. It’s time!
Pungent foods like leeks, onions, coriander, ginger, radishes, and mustard leaves are great.
Pucker up, too! The flavor of this season is: SOUR. Sour foods stimulate bile production and aid in digestion. Squeeze a little more lemon or lime in your morning water (see previous hydration posts) and let vinegar dance in your salads. Enjoy pickled and fermented veggies; these will help you far more harmoniously overtime than general OTC probiotics in most cases.
And, if you feel that you’ve overindulged in the chillier months prior (which is very common 🖐️), you’ll want to consume more foods that “drain dampness” and excess heat such as celery, bamboo shoots, artichokes, water chestnuts, and cucumbers.
Jump starting weight loss is actually much easier in the spring than it is in the winter as the elements conspire to make it happen naturally so long as we are tuned in with nature. So, if that’s a goal, use it for-you! 🍃
PART 4/6: FASTING = INNER SPRING CLEANING
During the warmer months, not only is it best to practice eating simpler and lighter seasonal meals, it’s also very beneficial to extend the window between the last and first meal of the day. You can do this by simply having an earlier dinner to start or repeat religious fasting more frequently during the month. Schedule this in or if intuitive eating works better for you, experiment as you see fit.
Fasting truly is spring-cleaning for your body. After the liver’s sugar stores (glycogen) are depleted, which typically occurs about 12-16 hours* after the last bite, the process of autophagy begins to take place.
Autophagy is the body’s natural and intelligent cellular “clean-up” system that breaks down and recycles old damaged parts. This process assists in our cellular, and therefore full body, renewal. There’s good reason why the discovery of autophagy won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016! The benefits of understanding this process are ever-unraveling.
*Fasting for 12-16 hours (or more) is best as an overnight fast to unregulate autophagy, however, there’s a concept called “inter-meal” autophagy, which is basically a mini clean up that happens when you avoid unnecessary snacking; the “hours” aren’t set in stone.
I’ve also spoken about the MMC pathway that activates when you allow your stomach to remain empty a little longer. This is basically a second empty wave of contraction that happens through your intestines, which moves out residual debris + microbes out. Fascinating, right?
Do you incorporate fasting in your lifestyle? What does it look like for you? And, who’s ready for #Ramadan (Islamic month of fasting) coming soon? 🙏💞
NOTE: As always, talk with your doctor/therapist about fasting and your individual health. Fasting can be a trigger for those who have a history of eating disorders and this shouldn’t be taken lightly. This post along with all my posts are for inspiration and to seed curiosity for your own further exploration. ✨
PART 5/6: SPRINGTIME SUPPLEMENTAL SUPPORT
While the blooming flowers are glorious, the allergies with high pollen count that comes about may not be so…
I’ve gathered some of my most common general recommendations** that you can keep in your natural-remedies-pantry. Talk with a qualified herbalist, naturopathic doctor, and/or functional medicine clinician trained in herbal medicine for assistance with your individual concerns. **This and all posts are for educational purposes to inspire your own further research. This is our clinic online dispensary if you’re looking for a reliable shop for your supplemental needs.
◘ ADAPTOGENS: This is a broad category that deserves chapters of discussion but briefly, adaptogenic herbs have withstood the test of time through extreme environmental conditions and have a mimicking resiliency when consumed. Animal behavior analysis has offered great insight into the strength these mighty plants offer. While their role in traditional herbalism is non-specific, these herbs are more-so intended for regulating / balancing, tonifying / strengthening, and fertility / longevity.
Adaptogens I especially like for the spring season include: Cordyceps (respiratory strength), Shilajit (fatigue-buster), Reishi (unwind in the evenings), Holy Basil + Lion’s Mane (mental clarity), and Ashwaganda (stress-relief + a dose of iron).
◘ QUERCETIN is a powerful plant polyphenol that enhances the production of our potent antioxidant, glutathione. It can be taken with NAC, bromelain, and vitamin C to reduce allergic responses and inflammation to environmental triggers while supporting immunity. A good supplement option is D-Hist or D-Hist Jr (kid-friendly).
◘ BEE POLLEN (preferably local) can be found at most farmer’s markets or your local health food’s store to help build resistance to local environmental triggers.
◘ GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT can be used as an anti-microbial to clean surfaces. This is very strong. Dilution is necessary. Read instructions carefully. I personally prefer to reserve this for cleaning purposes alone + only took it internally when traveling abroad and unsure of water quality.
◘ EYEBRIGHT TEA is excellent for watery eyes and runny noses that come with hay fever.
◘ STINGING NETTLE TEA is rich in nourishing minerals and protective antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the sinus cavities. Nettles have been used to support the immune, musculoskeletal and lymphatic systems. Nettles are especially useful to strengthen the upper respiratory tract during high pollen season. This herb requires an *herbal highlight* of its own and it easily one of my favorite herbs.
◘ HOMEOPATHY: At on-set of early flu-like symptoms since this issue can still linger in early spring symptoms consider Boiron Oscillococcinum – 1 tube dissolved in mouth 1-3x/day.
◘ ELDERBERRY is a great *preventative* immune supporting herb for both adults and children. There’s controversy about taking this herb once symptoms have began. Talk with a qualified professional.
◘ TRIPHALA. Get things moving! Don’t be stuck with constipation. Gut support as bowel movements are critical, especially in the spring. An ancient Ayurvedic formula, triphala, can help support healthy GI motility among other benefits.
◘ NETI POT (see previous post). For allergy relief, use a sinus neti pit and/or nasal relief spray for adults and kids – as needed.
◘ AROMATIC MENTHOL BALM. Use topical cough/decongestant relief – as needed.
◘ WATCH OUT FOR THESE: absolutely avoid foods with artificial colors (especially Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 2/40, vanillin, monosodium glutamate, BHT-BHA, benzoates, annatto, and benzaldehyde… they hide in labels–including supplements believe it or not.
◘ INDOOR AIR: Assess your home environment for mold, dust build-up, mildew, etc. Sometimes indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor ap. Look into HEPA filters for home if you don’t use one. Indoor air plants are also great (Snake Plant has some good research behind it)
PART 6/6 SPRING SERIES CONCLUSION
“This outward spring is a reflection of the inward garden.” — Rumi, 13th-century Persian poet.
So far, we’ve covered these 5 healthy-living topics specific to the spring season:
1. SPRING INTRO + EMOTIONS
2. MOVE LIKE IT’S SPRING
3. FASTING = YOUR BODY’S SPRING CLEANING
4. SPRING + FOOD THERAPY
5. SUPPLEMENTAL SUPPORT
Revisit any topic that interests you + share with your loved ones. 💞
When you tend to your inner garden, the outward will inevitably show / you’ll feel better and be able to do more good. And the thing with taking care of any garden is: there’ll always be caretaking to do 🙂 Nourishing the soil, watering, de-weeding, pruning, and overall attentive tending is an ongoing process. It’s therapeutic.
What does tending to your (inner) garden look like, especially these days?
I’m going to end this with another Rumi quote:
“How should Spring bring forth a garden on hard stone? Become earth, that you may grow flowers of many colors. For you have been heart-breaking rock. Once, for the sake of experiment, be EARTH!”
And so, what does this sort of softening mean to you? What does it mean to be earth? We came from clay and we’ll return the same. To be malleable is an necessary component of growth.
WISHING YOU A HAPPY HEALTHY AND VIBRANT SPRING ~
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