Foods and the Four Directions

Foods and the Four Directions

Humans are a reflection of the universe. All cosmic energies are mirrored in us—as the Qi of Heaven and Earth circulates in seasonal, planetary cycles it also is moving in natural patterns within us. In Spring the energy comes up through the abdomen and into the chest; in Summer the energy moves to the head and the extremities; in Autumn the energy retreats toward the trunk; and in Winter the energy moves down and inward to the body’s core. This seasonal circulation of internal Qi can be enhanced by eating specific foods.

The physical traits of plants (what herbalists call the “doctrine of signatures”) support this movement within us. Green, sprouting food is best in Spring. Flowers and leaves that grow outward are best for Summer; downward growing vegetables for Autumn; dense, concentrated grains, seeds and nuts are best for Winter. Natural eating habits, like eating from a garden, tend to emphasize the appropriate type of food for the season.

The Liver is the organ that corresponds to the season of Spring. We can nourish it and enhance the Rising Yang energy that naturally emerges during the Wood Phase by eating foods that have specific actions. Sour is the flavor for Spring. It has an astringent action that releases stagnation from the Liver and moves Qi. Excellent sources for the sour flavor are rhubarb, citrus fruits and yogurt. Here are some other foods that will have particular effects on the Liver:

Relax the Liver and Move the Qi: asparagus, bupleurum (the major herb in Relaxed Wanderer herbal formula), cabbage, lemon, basil, black pepper, cayenne, celery, coconut milk, dill, garlic, ginger, safflower oil.
Detoxify the Liver and Purify the Blood: Dandelion, milk thistle, bupleurum, alfalfa, echinacea, angelica, yarrow, ginseng.

Lemon Liver Cleanser
This delicious drink has lemon and cayenne to move qi stagnation and
maple syrup to embody the rising yang qi of spring.

Mix one tablespoon of pure maple syrup, the juice of one lemon, and about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne into 8 ounces of warm water, stir. Enjoy 2–4 times a week.

Our ancestors developed a method of agriculture and trade that enabled them to eat a wide variety of foods regardless of season or weather. This, in turn, allowed the early healers to study and develop a profound understanding of what food does to us. This resulted in the growth of such healing arts as herbal medicine and dietary therapy, which depend on our ability to eat a diversity of foods and herbs.
While we should increase our consumption of sprouting seeds, young greens and other seasonal foods this Spring, we should also eat those herbs and foods that have been shown to, regardless of the season, stimulate the flow of Liver Qi and detoxification of the Blood.

In Chinese medicine there is a family of herbal formulas that are used as constitutional tonics for each of the Five Phases. These herbal recipes are for nurturing those aspects of body, mind and spirit that are specific to each Phase. Relaxed Wanderer is the recommended tonic for Spring.