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Spring and Tree Energy in Chinese Medicine

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

The arrival of spring brings a new energy into nature and into our lives. Spring is a time of rebirth after the quiescence of winter; new growth cycle begin, and our adaptability and motivation are challenged.

For those feeling heavy and without energy, the sap springing all around can be sometimes too much to bear. Spring is a revitalising time for many people, but for those whose Liver or Gall Bladder Ki is out of balance, it can bring discomfort and some physical symptoms.

Let’s look at the energies, foods, organs, colours… that are associated with this season according to Oriental Medicine.

Spring is associated with the Wood Element or Tree Energy. Plant life has an incredible urge to reproduce and establish itself. It is the energy of a blade of grass which pushes up through the asphalt, or of the tree which grows sideways out of a wall, it is the same energy that produces the exuberance of the rainforest. Plant energy is almost impossible to destroy. It can lie dormant for years and burst into life again. The primal strength of the urge to live and grow is the characteristic of the Wood Element, and its representatives in the human being, the Liver and Gall Bladder.

When many plants are found together there is a strong sense of community and cooperation, as well as competition. Plants can live harmoniously together because of their adaptability. Trees can send roots hundreds of feet into the earth to seek for water, or grow upwards to compete for light. Any plant will change the direction of its growth if it meets with an obstacle. A tree is flexible because it is alive; and it is also alive because it is flexible. The ability to plan and make decisions is a facet of the Tree Energy in the human character; it represents the choice of the optimum direction for growth. But it is essential that the plans and decisions adapt to changing circumstances. We, too, have to be flexible, or our plans lose their living purpose.

Tree energy allows us to attain our maximum potential for self-expression, if we use it well. We may not know what our individual purpose on this earth is, but the gift of the Tree Energy is to urge us to strive equally for our own well-being and for that of other life-forms which share or create our environment.

1. Self-expression and creativity

Self-expression and creativity are essential when we are talking about Tree Energy. There is something unique in each one of us that wants to be expressed, that needs to be expressed. We can say this is our ‘soul-personality’, or what the Chinese called 'Hun', which is housed in the Liver. When we have a good Liver energy and Liver as an organ is functioning well, we will be supported to express ourselves in life through our actions and decisions, to move towards our purpose. Good nourishment can support the Liver in its functions in our body, therefore help with our mission in life. Sometimes life experiences block our capacity to express our soul, there could be emotional and mental implications, it is not always a question of the foods we eat. However we can always support our life providing appropriate nourishment; and if we add other forms of support then we can develop and thrive even more.

2. Anger

Anger is the characteristic emotion of Tree Energy. Why is that? Partly it is because of the strength of this energy, as with the blade of grass than can push through asphalt in the city. Sometimes this urge for self-expression is so strong that it cannot bear obstruction.

The question could also be: Am I guiding correctly this urge for self-expression? Am I aware of my needs in this regard? The more aware I can be, the more I can guide my energy without getting lost in useless battles where I throw my anger.

I may also ask myself : Are there any obstructions? Am I feeling repressed? Where is the force of repression coming from, external or internal?

As you can see we can open a very interesting discussion about anger, its value, repression, expression, direction…

3. Colour: Green

Green is the colour of the plant kingdom. The colour of the foods that benefit the Liver. When there is a disharmony in Tree Energy the person might have certain blue-green or olive skin tone around the eyes or mouth.

4. Sound: Shouting Shouting is the tone we adopt when we want to draw attention to what we have to say, or to what we want. We can ‘shout’ by amplifying our voice or by clipping and shortening our words. When these become a permanent feature, it usually indicates an imbalance in the Tree Energy.

When we repress our anger, we do also repress any tendency to raise voice or be assertive. This would also be a sign of disharmony.

5. Sense organs :Eyes Our sense of sight allow us to seize the scope of the situation before us, in order to choose a course of action, to ‘see a clear way forward’. This is true on many levels, practical, physical, intellectual and intuitive.

Problems affecting the eyes often indicate a disharmony in Tree Energy.

6. Taste: sour The taste associated with Tree Energy is the sour taste, which is contracting. This is the taste that stimulates the liver and if doing a Spring Diet we will include this taste.

7. Season: spring It is also associated with all times of beginning. Each morning is the beginning of a new cycle, and people who feel out of sorts at this time may be experiencing a Liver or Gall Bladder disharmony. The beginning of a project, of a relationship, the birth of a baby…

8. Element Climate: wind Wind is the aspect of the weather that most resembles Tree Energy, in its force and ability to change direction. Trees respond to wind, which shakes, strips, prunes and strengthen the strong ones. Wind is the most dynamic and penetrating of the climatic influences. It can also affect our moods; the general incidence of depressive illness rises sharply after a prolonged bout of strong wind. Symptoms when there is Tree Energy imbalance can also mimic wind and they may move around confusingly, appear and disappear and change without warning. When the body shows tremors, tics or spasms can also indicate an imbalance in Tree Energy.

9. Element time: 11 pm to 3 m The Tree Energy determines how we face the beginning of the day. However the specific times of Liver & Gall Bladder organs according to Chinese Medicine are 11 pm to 3 am. When there is a Tree Energy disharmony the individual is wakeful at these times. The tendency to stay awake late, combined with malaise in the morning, often leads to the sense of being a ‘night person’.

I hope this has open your understanding of Tree Energy, Liver and Gall Bladder, and its implications to our health. If you would like to know more, if you think there is an imbalance in your body and would like some nutritional support, I will very happy to assist you.

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