This year the Vernal Equinox fell on this past Monday, March 20th. In the western calendar we celebrate this as the beginning of Spring. In Persia this day was traditionally revered as the beginning of the year (called Nowruz), and Rosicrucian mystics count Vernal Equinox as the new year as well. However, in the Chinese calendar the Vernal Equinox is the midpoint of Spring. Why? Because we are now at the balance point of Yin and Yang. If the height of Yang is the longest day (Summer Solstice), and the height of Yin is the longest night (Winter Solstice), then the midpoints and points of balance are the Equinoxes. Even though we’ve had some significant ups in downs in temperature, the days are slowly warming, and all around plants are starting to bud.
The three 5-day periods in this seasonal node are Swallows Arrive (xuanniao zhi 玄鳥至), Thunder Starts Resounding (lei nai fasheng 雷乃發聲), and Beginning of Lightning (shi dian 始電). In Yijing (I Ching) theory the Thunder Trigram (Zhen Gua 震掛) is a Wood trigram, linking thunder and lightning, yang activities of the heavens, with Spring. Zhen Gua is composed of one solid yang line on the bottom, with 2 yin (broken) lines above. This is the image of yang emerging from underneath, continuing to grow up and out. Spring is exactly that time of year – the time when Yang of the natural world is slowly starting to push itself up and out of the Yin of Winter.
The main thing to focus on during this 15-day period is “Nourishing the Liver” (yang gan 養肝). One of the ways we nourish the Liver is to ensure normal Liver function. For example, this is the time of year to really ensure our patients' Qi is freely coursing (one of the main functions of Liver is to ensure normal coursing of Qi). Patients who tend to Liver stagnation can be encouraged to perform regular acupressure on the Four Gates 四關 (i.e., He Gu LI-4 and Tai Chong LR-3).
The second “to do” during this time is to “both Clear and Supplement.” This means that when the Liver is hot or hyperactive, clear and sedate. When it is vacuous (e.g., has Blood vacuity), then supplement. Since any pattern of disharmony in Liver will impair some of its major functions, when we see Liver patterns during this seasonal node they must be treated.
As mentioned already, the Vernal Equinox is the time of balanced yin and yang. It is appropriate at this time to also have balanced mind states. Thus, one of the “avoids” during the Vernal Equinox is extremes of the Seven Affects. Chapter two of the Su Wen says that Spring is the time to not be angry. We should try to relax, and not allow our emotions to run too far in any direction. The second thing to avoid during this seasonal node is overdoing “bedroom activity.” Since sex stirs the yang to mobilize jing-essence, to keep an overall balance in health we need to seek a balance in sex. As this time of year is a time of balance, too much sex may deplete the yin-jing. That said, no sex at all can lead to stagnation in the circulation of Qi and blood.
Diet for the Vernal equinox should mimic the balance that is present in nature at this time. In general, the continued use of mildly acrid foods such as ginger and scallions help ensures normal coursing of Liver qi. This is especially useful for patients with Liver depression patterns. Patients who tend more towards vacuity patterns, especially Liver blood insufficiency, can increase consumption of sour foods such as pickles or vinegar.
A simple tea most patients can consume during this time is rose bud tea. This tea is made by steeping Mei Gui Hua 玫瑰花 in hot water. Mei Gui Hua is warm and sweet and is found in the Qi regulating chapter of the Materia Medica. It courses Liver as well as gently quickens the blood. It is especially useful for our female patients who have menstrual irregularities due to Liver stagnation. In the Baijiquan 八極拳 system of Chinese marital arts, Mei Gui Hua tea is used as a general Qi and Blood moving tea for injury.
One traditional dish for Vernal Equinox is Stir Fried Pig Kidney with Eucommia (杜仲豬花). Here’s the recipe:
- Organic pig kidney ¾ to 1 lb
- Eucommia bark (Du Zhong 杜仲) 6-9g
- 1 scallion, 1 piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb or a little larger), 1-2 cloves of garlic
- Cooking oil, salt, soy sauce
- Cook Du Zhong in about 1 cup of water by bringing to a boil and then simmering until only about ½ cup of liquid is left
- Cut kidneys into thin slices and then score one side of each slice; peel and slice the ginger, slice the garlic, and slice the scallion
- In a pan, add a small amount of cooling oil, and start by cooking the garlic and ginger just until fragrant and / or the garlic is transparent. Add in the kidney slices and cook for several minutes. Then add a small amount of salt and soy sauce.
- Add in the Du Zhong liquid, and cook down in the pan with the kidney. Add scallions. Cook until kidneys are thoroughly cooked through.
- Optionally can add Gou Qi Zi (i.e., Goji berries) at end as well before liquid has cooked down, cooking until slightly plump.
This recipe supplements the Kidney, boosts essence, and nourishes the Liver blood. It is good for lower back pain, knee pain, declining visual acuity, or other symptoms of Liver and Kidney vacuity.
For a vegetarian recipe associated with the season please click here to see last year’s post on the Vernal Equinox.