Spring is the season of rebirth, growth, blooming flowers and sunshine. Just as the environment is coming out of its state of winter passivity, so is the human body. TCM calls this a transition from a Yin (cold/winter) to a Yang period (hot/summer). Yin and Yang are opposites and complement each other. To be healthy and feel good, the body and soul have to be balanced within the environment. To reach this state of balance, Qi (energy) and blood have to flow properly throughout the body.
After a long, cold winter, the body is generally weak and vulnerable to external factors such as the wind. As the body adjusts to changing seasons, certain common health issues arise. Emotions can also be affected and spring awakening can come with emotional turmoil, anxiety and depression.
Headaches and Migraines
During spring, the liver, which organizes the flow of Qi, plays an important role. It is responsible for releasing the Qi which has been stored during the winter – when the body is supposed to fight against cold weather and stay more passive.
The liver may become overburdened and result in a Yin deficiency, with symptoms like excessive emotions and body heat, high blood pressure and headaches. Therefore, it is common to see an increase in complaints of headaches and migraines, often coupled with tension and pain in the neck and shoulders.
Treatment Options: The overflow of Qi and the blood deficiency need to be controlled in order to release tension and restore a free flow of Qi and blood, especially in the head. Acupuncture, herbal medicine and food therapy are effective natural treatments.
Acupuncture works to restore the flow of Qi and relieve the pain by placing needles on the meridians associated with the liver and head. Several studies have confirmed these results and this treatment is now commonly covered by medical insurance.
Herbal medicine decoctions are created according to the diagnosis established by the TCM doctor’s evaluation. Scorpions – in dried, powder form - are one of the main ingredients used to cure headaches because they neutralize the liver Qi. As they can be extremely toxic, they must be taken strictly according to the prescription of an experienced TCM doctor. Another Chinese formula that releases headaches and migraines is Yan Hu Suo (延胡索), made of a combination of Bai Zhi (白芷) - angelica root - and Chuan Xiong (川芎) - ligusticum wallichii. Its bitter quality calms down the liver, helps the Qi to move and soothes the pain.
Lifestyle modifications can help prevent headaches and migraines. Try to favor cooling foods like seasonal green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, peas, broccoli, etc.) or sprouts. Avoid warming items like spicy food, red meat and alcohol which can worsen the Yang excess. In order to calm the liver, it’s a great time to do a spring cleanse and supply your body with detoxifying herbs (such as dandelion). Enough sleep and sufficient physical activity (especially outdoors) will help your body to adapt to the new season.
TCM interprets allergies as a disharmony in the body, often diagnosed as a “wind” disease accompanied by another pathogenic factor like dampness or heat. Additionally, allergy sufferers are often thought to have an underlying weakness of the lung or spleen system. These weaknesses make it difficult for the body to adjust to the environment (changing weather, blooming plants and flowers).
Treatment Options: TCM tackles allergies with a combination of herbs, diet and acupuncture. These treatments can help you reduce medication use. A TCM doctor can evaluate your overall health to create a customized plan.
Specific herbs can help eliminate the wind from the patient’s body, clear the nasal passages and sinuses and soothe itchy eyes and skin. Herbs help with the flow of Qi (typically deficient/stagnant when spring allergies occur) to put the body back in balance.
By targeting acupoints along the body’s energy channels (meridians), acupuncture increases the protective Qi in the lungs, strengthens the immune system and calms the body’s overreaction to the allergens. Several studies, including one reported on in the Annals of Internal Medicine done at Charité-University Medical Center in Berlin, have shown that allergy sufferers who received acupuncture required less antihistamine medication.
Allergies are often related to an excessive mucus production. A healthy digestive system may reduce allergy symptoms, since mucus is controlled by the spleen (digestive) system. Minimize sweets, dairy, chicken products and cold foods, which increase mucus. Certain foods soothe the lungs and can provide relief, such as almonds, pears, honey, and loquats.
If you are experiencing difficulties transitioning through seasons and would like to explore natural ways to resolve them, contact Body & Soul to schedule a consultation. Stay tuned as we will share more about a common seasonal issue in our next post: depression.