Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a framework to understand our place in the web of life, drawing connections between Earth and the body’s life force that can be seen as a magnificent and all-encompassing dance. The Five Elements Theory is a prominent part of this tradition, linking each element with specific seasons, organs, emotions, climates, and tastes. Spring, which we are in varying phases of transitioning into depending on our location, is associated with the element of Wood, the Liver and Gallbladder organs, the emotion of anger, the climate of Wind, and the tastes of Pungent, Sour and Bitter.
When it comes to our health, this is a very important time of year as the Liver is responsible for the smooth and harmonious flow of Qi throughout the body, and its optimal functioning governs our felt sense of wellness in a wide variety of ways. Spring marks the time of the Liver’s increased susceptibility to Wind, which can agitate our Liver energy and cause flare-ups of health issues that are related to this fundamental organ. Interestingly, ancient Chinese medical texts theorized that illnesses are carried by “perverse” winds, highlighting the connection between the Liver and immunity. Schizandra is both considered a hepatoprotective herb (meaning it has actions that are beneficial for the Liver’s health) and helps support robust immune function, making this a wonderful herbal guardian as we travel the changing winds toward Spring.
In TCM, the Liver is also considered the organ most susceptible to the effects of stress, which causes Qi stagnation, commonly expressed as anger. In this dance, the energy flows both ways and holding onto anger also stagnates Liver Qi. Enter: Schizandra’s classification as a true adaptogen with the power to help regulate the effects of stress (physical, psychological, environmental, etc.) and its bidirectional balancing actions on the nervous system. Schizandra is also exceptionally unique in that it has all five tastes; as we emerge from the heaviness of Winter, we may be carrying baggage that’s ready to be released—this can include anger but certainly not exclusively. Bitter and Sour tastes facilitate a detoxifying action in cooperation with the Liver and stimulate our elimination pathways. Meanwhile, pungent tastes can stimulate the Liver and bring warmth to the body, two properties that are incredibly important for our overall protection in the transition to Spring. This is an expansive, exciting time of rebirth and renewal—energies we can harness and embody when we are properly attuned and resourced. Whether Schizandra is a friend you haven’t visited with in a while or an outright stranger, don’t hesitate to call upon this incredible ally for support this season.