Due to some recent travel out to teach for OCOM’s doctoral program as well as the end of my semester here in New York, I was remiss in getting out the last seasonal node update. About two weeks ago we hit Clear and Bright (Qing Ming 清明). This seasonal node is also a traditional holiday in much of East Asia – the Qing Ming Festival. In Okinawa, where I lived as a graduate student, the day is called Shimi in the local Hogen (indigenous Okinawan language). Qing Ming Festival is a time for Asians to visit graves and pay respect to the ancestors. Thus it is a time to remember the past while at the same time starting the new Spring, showing the beautiful integration and connection between Yin and Yang in all phenomena. This is also the time of year for cherry blossoms. The photo on this blog is one I took last weekend in Philadelphia when their cherry blossoms were at peak bloom.
This coming Saturday is the beginning of the Grain Rain (Gu Yu 穀雨) seasonal node, and true to the name we are expecting some rain these next few days here in the Northeastern United States. Grain Rain is actually the last seasonal node of Spring since early May marks the beginning of Summer in the Chinese calendar. In only about 2 months from now the days start getting shorter again – so get out and enjoy the sunshine!
Grain Rain is the 6th step of the 24 seasonal nodes thus corresponding roughly to the Chen (辰) 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, but the Earth phase is also in charge of movement and transformation. Because of this, during Grain Rain 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 a good basic recommendation for this time of year is performing regular self-massage to ensure smooth circulation of Qi and Blood in the body.
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 spread or move all the Qi in all the channels of the body, and 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. For both allergies and colds consider using Tung’s Mu (木穴; 11.17) point. Located on the palmar surface of the proximal digit of the first finger, this point is also call the common cold point of the hand (手感冒穴).
Getting back to the idea of stagnation, it is vital that during Grain Rain we prevent stagnation in the Stomach (since this is the time of Stomach channel). With acupuncture treatment this means making frequent use of Men Jin (門金穴; 66.05), the Tung point overlapping the Shu-stream point of the Stomach channel. It is also important to generally avoid overeating, and in particular the overconsumption of oily and greasy foods.
During Grain Rain start eating lighter and easier to digest items and in-season vegetables such as asparagus. Other foods to emphasize are those that boost Qi and Blood, and gently strengthen the Spleen and Stomach; the Yang of the Spleen/Stomach is still fragile now, especially since Liver-Wood can over-control Earth. These foods include rice or rice congee, Bian Dou, yams, nagaimo (i.e., Shan Yao), 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!
Here’s a traditional Chinese herbal formula for Spring:
Chrysanthemum Powder – Ju Hua San 菊花散
Ju Hua, Qian Hu, Xuan Fu Hua, Shao Yao, Xuan Shen, Fang Feng each 30g
Grind all herbs to a powder; take 6-9g at night with wine (or rice water)
This recipe is from the Zun Sheng Ba Jian (遵生八箋) – the Eight Treatises on Following the Principles of Life. Written by a scholar by the name of Gao Lian at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the text is an almost encyclopedic collection of all manner of Nourishing Life (養生) recipes, techniques, theories, etc… Ju Hua San is indicated for the treatment of Wind Qi and Heat Toxins attacking above, and the Zun Sheng Ba Jian specifically recommends it for treating allergies in the elderly patient.
Happy Spring, and a Happy Passover and Easter this weekend to all!