This past Monday, April 20, 2015, was the beginning of the Grain Rain (Gu Yu 穀雨) seasonal node. Grain Rain is actually the last seasonal node of Spring, as early May marks the beginning of Summer in the Chinese calendar. Considering today was a particularly chilly Spring day here in New Jersey, it feels odd writing that Summer will begin in just 2 weeks. However, the seasons in the traditional Chinese calendar are tied in more with the changes of day length more so than actual temperature. Believe it or not, in only about 2 months from now the days start getting shorter again – so even though it’s still chilly outside get out and enjoy the sunshine!
Grain Rain is the 6th step of the 24 seasonal nodes thus corresponding roughly to the 3rd watch of the day (7-9am). Furthermore it is the time of transition from Spring to Summer correlating to the Earth phase (the Earth phase is the transition between seasons). Thus, Gu Yu is the time of year associated with the Stomach channel. The general movement of Spring is the movement of Liver-Wood. The Earth phase is in charge of movement and transformation. Thus, this time of the year we need to ensure that Qi and Blood are moving smoothly. Watch for signs of Qi stagnation in yourself and in your patients. This is why one of the basic recommendations for this time of year is performing regular self-massage.
One of the easiest points to massage for the average person is the collection of points known as the Shi Xuan 十宣穴. These points are located one at the tip of every finger and every toe. The word “Shi” means 10 – there is a point on each finger and toe adding up to 10 total. The word “Xuan” means to spread or diffuse. Since all the channels of the body connect to the fingers and toes, these points together can spread or move all the Qi in all the channels of the body. Thus, they can be massaged as a general way to prevent and treat stagnation in the channels. To massage simply squeeze and rub the tip of each finger and toe in succession. Repeat throughout the day, but preferably at least once each morning and once each evening.
As the weather does get a bit sunnier and warmer it is important to increase outside activity – consider walking or gardening. However, since Spring is a time of temperature ups and downs, be careful to dress appropriately as dictated by each day. This is the tail end of the cold season, so pay attention to preventing colds, and seek treatment as soon as any cold or allergy symptoms start. Gu Yu is a time when Lung Heat is thought to be a potential problem (many allergy sufferers manifest with Lung Heat signs and symptoms). Consider needling (if you’re an acupuncturist) or massaging (if a patient) Da Zhui DU-14 this seasonal node. Other points include needling or massaging Chong Zi 22.01 and Chong Xian 22.02 from the Tung lineage.
Back to the idea of stagnation, it is vital that during Gu Yu we prevent stagnation in the Stomach (since this is the time of Stomach channel). To this end, the traditional thing to avoid this time of year is overeating or overdrinking. Similarly, this is the time of year to avoid oily and greasy foods. Other foods to avoid are very cooling fruits (such as a lot of citrus).
Start eating lighter and easier to digest items and in-season vegetables such as asparagus. Other foods to emphasize should help boost Qi and Blood, and gently strengthen the Spleen and Stomach (since the Yang of the Spleen/Stomach is still fragile now, especially with the prolonged chill) – rice or rice congee, Bian Dou, yams, nagaimo (Shan Yao in Chinese), peanuts, and cherries (a slightly warming fruit). If you didn’t know, this is also egg season. Yes… Eggs have a season! Most chickens naturally lay eggs only when day length is about 10 hours or more (commercially grown eggs are available because farmers trick chickens with strong artificial lighting year round). One of my favorite early spring recipes is steamed asparagus with scrambled eggs – delicious and light, and good for you too!