In the winter, everything stagnates. Our world and our bodies go dormant for 4 month in order to rest, repair and regenerate. The liver gets especially lazy in the winter. The liver is one of the main detoxification pathways in the body so in spring, it is essential to use herbs, foods and activities to bring the liver back to life.
By cleansing and detoxifying your liver, you will improve Qi (universal life force energy) and therefore have steady moods, even thinking, easy bowel movements and clear communication. If Qi is stagnant, you will feel anxious, frustrated or depressed, have pimply skin, a poor appetite or even bouts of anger. The liver governs the emotion of anger.
Here are some easy tips to bring your liver back to life:
Eat Green Leafy Vegetables
Young leafy greens, wild leeks, dandelion green, mustard greens, and sprouts all help to detoxify the liver and give it strength and vitality. These foods improve liver function and circulate Qi. One of my favorite springtime activities is harvesting wild leeks in maple forests. Afterwards, I make a strong leek pesto (with parsley, olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon). It is an excellent springtime cleansing food. *Note: Not date-appropriate as it will give you strong, stinky, garlicky breath.
Eat Sour Foods
Most of us don’t eat a lot of sour foods. However, sour tastes stimulate the liver’s Qi because it acts like an astringent. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use apple cider vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing or garnish your sandwich with a slice of unpasteurized dill pickle, sauerkraut, or kim chi. These days, I am eating a ton of raw grated horseradish, brown and wild rice, turmeric, ghee, tamari, apple cider vinegar and sprouts and greens. It is my favorite springtime snack.
After months of hibernation, it is time to get outside to move and shake your body. Outside air helps liver Qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, go for a walk, toss a ball around, place your feet on the earth. Any outdoor activity will smooth liver Qi stagnation.
Drink Milk Thistle tea
Milk thistle helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, like alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals. The liver is the only organ that truly regenerates itself (providing you give it the right herbs and restrict destructive habits).You can get milk thistle at the health food store or at any herbalist. It is quite mild in taste. Steep covered for 20 minutes, strain and serve. Drink 2-3 cups a day for at least 1 month.
What is the first thing a bear does when it comes out of hibernation? He stretches. Moving will bring the body back to life. Also, the liver controls the tendons. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver will store blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Incorporate a 15 minute morning stretch into your routine for a healthy liver and better overall flow.
The liver is connected to proper eye function. You can check your liver health by looking into your eyes. Are your eyes yellow or clear? Are they bloodshot or have small raised lesions? Take breaks when looking at your computer for extended periods of time and do eye exercises by rolling your eyes in all directions. Stretch and hold them for 10 seconds. Additionally our eyes were made for long distance. Try to stare out into the horizon as often as possible to strengthen your eyes and promote eye and liver health.
Get Acupuncture treatments or Energy work
Acupuncture and Energy medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration, which are often associated with liver Qi disharmony. I recommend my clients come for 3 sessions at the beginning of each season to jumpstart their health and maintain vitality throughout the seasons.
Please check with your health care provider before starting any new health care regime.