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Spring - The Wood Element

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

The Colour Green, a Sour Flavour & the Liver! A Basic Guide to Nature's Spring Principles

The Five Elements is a conceptual philosophy within Chinese medicine and practices. It was used for describing the relationships between phenomena, that of our bodily organs and nature's cycles. Each season was dedicated to an Element, such as Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal; with Spring being under the element of Wood.

In energetic terms, energy rises up our back and down the front during Winter; a time when we naturally turn inward and go into semi-hibernation state. At the Spring Equinox the energy patterns reverse. Energy comes up our front and down our back; the rising energy leads us to take action just like the new shoots that arise from the land.

The dormant seeds and bulbs awaken and transform into shoots. The shoots push up through the earth moving obstacles out of their way and shed their outer shell. Our actions as humans follow nature closely - we come out of hibernation and take action. New opportunities are presented and we instinctively have a spring clean - shedding the old to make room for the new!

The Physical Body

We often make New Year's resolutions and fail dismally because this is really a time of dormancy where we naturally want to hibernate. Instead those resolutions of getting fit and healthy are much more suited to Spring. This powerful, uprising energy provides an opportunity for the body to release built up toxicity from the Winter months. Cleansing is a natural and healthy process. Our skin, lungs, urinary system and digestive system are the organs of elimination which ignite at Spring and manifest as coughs (lungs), spots (skin) or even mild stomach upsets as a way of removing toxicity. In our Western society we tend to view symptoms negatively, yet, when managed appropriately 'acutes' actually help to cleanse the body which is beneficial; we can think of such temporary symptoms as the body having its own Spring clean.

Symptoms are a form of communication highlighting the areas of the body which need support. If we don't actively support our cleansing processes we can become stagnant, with the body often storing toxicity in fat cells and leaving us susceptible to dis-ease. We can support this time of natural elimination by increasing hydration, detoxing or doing naturopathic techniques such as liver packs and skin brushing. And, look around the garden at this time - you will see plenty of 'weeds' such as dandelion, plantain, chickweed, cleavers, violets; they were all used by our ancestors to help cleanse the body. Our ancestors were in tune with the land trusting nature to provide the nutrients and herbs they would need throughout the year.

Tree Lessons and their Reflected Emotions

In nature, trees which represent the Wood element; symbolising grounding energy, renewal, planning and adaption. Trees plan a full cycle each year, becoming barren and then renewing in the Spring which is why they are symbolic of planning; in the human body the liver is the planner of the body and why it is associated with the Wood element.

Trees symbolise renewal. They let go of their leaves during Winter and bring fresh growth in Spring. They let go of what no longer serves them - they don’t hoard their leaves each year. This action teaches us to live in the present instead of the past. Trees are great at adapting to their environment, they bend rather than break and they grow around obstacles and adapt to the changing seasons. If we refuse to bend like the tree or remove obstacles in search of light, we can become ungrounded, disconnected and feel weighted down by our emotions.

The role of the liver and gallbladder is to remove waste. If one's liver is too overwhelmed it can not let-go or plan correctly and this stagnant energy can manifest into our emotions. The wood element is very much about letting-go of emotional and physical toxicity - otherwise we live ‘under the weather’ of wood.

Emotionally we are supposed to let-go of what no longer serves us. Spring is a time to create new boundaries. When we are stressed we often can't see 'the wood for the trees' and this could be a sign your liver needs a cleanse too.

Manifestations of Dis-ease

The emotion associated with the liver is anger. For some, the Equinox and the coming of the Wood element can affect us emotionally, especially if we have stagnant liver energy. Stagnant energy can display as frustration, anger, irritability and anxiety. Depression can be viewed by bearing the weight of the past and holding on to those leaves. If a tree refused to adapt eventually it would weaken and break; long-term negative emotions can penetrate our body and often imbalances in wood energy can reflect as joint and bone stiffness.

Physically, if you suffer from headaches, migraines, disturbed sleep, cramps, poor skin and/or appalling hangovers then it might be worth a little detox. The liver cleanses around 2-4am so if you wake up during this time this can be a sign your liver is feeling the pressure.

Ways to Balance Wood - Eat the Element

You can support your wood element by eating the ‘sour’ taste. Sour foods help to dry up damp and mucus formed during Winter; cleanse our tissues, digest stored fat and boost our good bacterias for optimal gut health. Some examples include: citrus fruits, pickles, fermented food and cranberries; don’t go overboard, just have a little taste and see how you feel.

Whilst sour tastes stimulate our digestion and increase bile production (removal of waste) they can be excessively cooling for weak bodies or cold constitutions - in this case you can combine them with bitter foods. As time progresses into the Summer months we move into the bitter taste; foods like quinoa, lettuce, kale, asparagus which can be used to balance Wood and bring in Summer energies.

Celery, carrot, orange and green foods are great as juices or smoothies and naturally cleansing they are great for the liver. Why not make a green smoothie on a morning? There are many recipes available online or join our course ‘Health on a Plate’, to find out more. Eating more vegetables in general is a great way of healing the body as they contain beneficial antioxidants. Drinking a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in the morning is also valuable to support liver function.

The ‘weeds’ in our garden that we kill and take for granted are actually perfect to cleanse our body. Those such as dandelion, viola & plantain. Riverford Organics sell dandelions when they are in season and I love adding a leaf or two to my salads. I also love dandelion flower risotto! Viola flowers can be used in baking as a decorative flower or even a violet flower infusion, however, you should do your own research before taking any herb, make sure you can identify correctly and check that is is right for you or seek further advice at Leaf Retreat!

Wood Element Recipe

Why not try making a Dandelion dip? To make it you need a cup of dandelions (the baby leaves are best as they are less bitter). Add a cup of cashew nuts, half a cup of sunflower seeds, a little oil, a little turmeric, salt and water in a blender until you get the desired consistency. It is always best to soak seeds and nuts first to make them more digestible too. I also include two lovely links for making dandelion flower risotto and kale crisps.

Kale Crisps

Detoxing Activities

Mentally it is a good to remove the old so you can begin new and exciting challenges. Tidy up or organise any outstanding jobs, such as admin, outstanding payments, odd jobs etc. Organise whatever needs to be organised - you will feel much better!

Have a good spring clean! Clean your home and remove anything you have not used in the last year. Can you make someone happy by giving it away and sharing some Spring energy?

Use Easter to become aware of your thoughts. Have you listened to your own thoughts? You would be surprised to hear what is in your head. Try and reduce some of the mental chatter by journaling and creating positive small goals and create new boundaries so you do not become overwhelmed.

Don’t forget to celebrate the youthful energy that is around at this time. Laughing releases emotional toxicity. The bees are very sociable visiting the flowers at this time of year making it a great time to catch up with friends and family.

Enjoy long walks in the countryside or at the beach - either way get some sunshine. Vitamin D is a powerful hormone that boosts our immunity. Relax and learn from nature. Sit by a tree and ground yourself. What lessons does nature have to teach you?

And, if you are feeling stuck or a little low, surround yourself with other Wood element friends. We each have an element and there are many online tests to work out what your Element is. You can guess your Wood friends quite easily as they love planning and are great organisers. I bet your Wood friends have been busy Spring cleaning and already planned a decadent Summer and a plan to make that happen! Motivation and happiness is catching...

Have a lovely Spring and keep detoxing, clearing, letting-go and building until Summer when I will be updating the blog for the Fire Element. As a final word, please bear in mind this blog is written for healthy readers. Any symptoms mentioned can be a sign of something more serious and therefore you should speak with their doctor; this blog is not intended as medical advice but rather to share ancient wisdom of observation.

I hope you found this article interesting and wish you a lovely Springtime!

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