Spring Aromatherapy: Did you know you can use aromatherapy to tame the seasonal imbalances of Spring?
Last year, I published three articles in my series on Classical Chinese Medicine and aromatherapy. In the first article, Essential Oils for Late Summer, I give a brief explanation of Five Element Theory in Classical Chinese Medicine. Here’s a quick refresher before we get into aromatherapy for Spring:
Classical Chinese Medicine recognizes five steps in the transformation of matter (Yin) into energy (Yang) and energy back into matter. Yin and Yang are primordial forces that together form the basis of everything that exists and their ceaseless transformation from one into the other is what creates and destroys everything around us, including our health. This process of transformation is reflected in the cycles that we see all around us, including the cycle of birth, growth, and death as well as the cycle of the changing seasons.
These five phases correspond with the five seasons: Spring, Summer, Late Summer, Autumn and Winter. Each season relates to a specific element, specific bodily organs, specific emotions and other factors that are briefly described, in part, in the accompanying infographic. According to this traditional system, each season presents characteristic challenges to our health and psychospiritual well-being and an understanding of seasonal challenges can help us maintain states of well-being throughout the year.
Those of us in the Northern hemisphere are now well into the season of Spring. This is when our hot, bright, active Yang energies are beginning to rise and our cool, dark, passive Yin energies are starting to lessen. This is the season of pushing, rising, expanding energy and exuberant new growth. Now we are called on to shake off the sleepiness of our winter hibernation and hit the ground running. It’s important to take advantage of Spring’s opportunities for new growth but equally important to avoid overdoing it. This is where Spring Aromatherapy can be quite beneficial.
In Classical Chinese Medicine, Spring is considered a challenging time because the sudden surge of Qi can cause or aggravate imbalances and blockages. My Chinese acupuncturist, who is the third generation of his family to practice Chinese Medicine, describes Spring as “a very dangerous time” because not only are all living beings experiencing the surge of Qi, the climatic influences are also unstable and the characteristic winds and temperature fluctuations of the season demand flexibility and adjustment at all levels of body, mind and spirit. Spring is a time when any constitutional weaknesses may be especially aggravated by both the weather and the dietary and life-style choices you make. It’s wise in Spring to accommodate to windy conditions and fluctuating temperatures by maintaining appropriate attire and eating a well-balanced diet that is appropriate for your constitutional type. Inappropriate diet, over-work, and substance abuse of any kind are especially likely to have negative health consequences during Spring. Ironically, the typically drunken Spring break festivities that many college students engage in typify some of the worst things you could do at this time of year in terms of nurturing your health and wellbeing for the coming cycle.
The element associated with Spring is Wood. The organs for this element are the Liver and gallbladder. In Chinese Medicine, these organ systems are said to be responsible for circulating Qi, storing and directing the blood, harmonizing digestion, directing body movement, and ensuring the flow or release of substances and emotions at the proper time. These functions have far-reaching effects in the body and common physical symptoms of disharmony in these organs include spasm, constriction and pain (especially in muscles), digestive problems, menstrual issues, headaches, sleep disturbance, allergies and skin problems.
The core emotion associated with the Wood element is anger and the aspect of Spirit that especially comes into play in this season is the Hun, or so-called Ethereal Soul. The Hun represents that part of the soul that survives the death of the body and that connects us to the collective unconscious. It governs dreams and visions and imbues us with a sense of purpose and “direction” in life, as well as cognitive and emotional movement and adaptability. In Spring, we may be more vulnerable to anger and irritability and to feeling that we lack purpose. Just as living in harmony with the energies of the season can help prevent physical symptoms, it can also help reduce or prevent some of these emotional and spiritual conflicts.
Each element is also associated with specific herbs and essential oils that are said to belong to that element and are believed to help maintain and restore balance in that element.
Essential oils that have been said by practitioners of this ancient system to belong to the Wood element include the following:
Essential oils of other elements that may also be helpful during Spring include:
- Orange (sweet)
- Rose Otto
As you move into the Spring season, use this time to nurture your dreams and visions in order to connect with your purpose in life. A dream group, led by an experienced dreamwork facilitator, can be a great avenue for exploring what your dreams are trying to tell you. As long as you don’t have any medical contraindications, this is a great time to take a gentle yoga or Tai Chi class, as these practices will help you avoid or release blockages and keep your body moving, supple and flexible. Pay attention to and honor your body’s normal cycles (especially in terms of the cycles of wakefulness/work and sleep/rest). As you become more active after winter’s relative rest, ensure adequate intake of fluids to support proper elimination of stored toxins and wastes. The tradition of “Spring house cleaning” is based on the fact that getting rid of the clutter that has accumulated over the winter, opening things up, and getting better organized will clear the way for growth and help you manifest your dreams and visions in a practical way. Just as it is in the rest of nature, Spring is our time for resurrection and rebirth at all levels of body, mind, and spirit – allow the awakening in nature to inspire you to make the most of it.
In the next article, we’ll take a look at the Classical Chinese Medicine take on Summer and the essential oils that can be useful in that season.