Use TCM to Welcome the Vernal Season Safely



Spring is the season of growth, and a new beginning to the year. The movement in the air seems like a rebirth of our mother earth. To accustom our way to the spring is to sleep later and wake earlier, to take walks with our hair flying in the wind, to wear loose clothes, to allow an open and joyful outlook to life. Instead of killing, let growth happen. Instead of stealing, give abundantly. Instead of punishing, reward by teaching. This is the way of the Dao.”

《黄帝内经》, “Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine”


Time to venture out in the cold.


Forget about sleeping late in the morning! As spring arrives, the sun peeks its head out earlier and sets later in the evening. And yes, unfortunately, as an extension of mother earth, we humans should do the same. Get up and inhale China’s fresh air. You might even taste the morning dew in the wind.


Wear Clothes


Yes, definitely wear clothes. Sometimes, when we see the sun peeking out from the horizon and sprouts of greens stirring in the soil, we get so excited that we automatically wear less. But spring weather is never predictable. A ripple of wind or a sudden drop in temperature will bring on the goose bumps, which may feel tingly, but isn’t such a good thing. In winter, our pores are closed up, to guard from the cold and to keep our yang in storage. In the spring, the pores open up, freeing the yang. Freeze the pores, and they’ll quickly close up again, leading to excess internal heat, or shanghuo, which can lead to common spring ailments such as mouth ulcers, acne, migraine headaches, and insomnia. So do keep warm, and never question wearing a scarf around your neck.


Eat Plants and Herbs


During springtime, daylight starts to lengthen, eruptions start to break through earth, and before you know it, vegetation has announced its arrival. Buy Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, tender herb-like vegetables, or any in-season greens. One seasonal vegetable in the north of China that I love is a fragrant herby vegetable, xiangchun (香椿), used to make xiangchun tofu. In TCM, this vegetable is considered a gift, known to treat stomachache, lethargy, and constitutions with high body temperatures. It’s also high in protein, fiber, iron, vitamin E, and calcium. Only around for the two to three months of spring, the best time to try xiangchun is March, so keep it in mind the next time you venture into a local restaurant!


I know I am getting sleepy trying to finish writing this article. Naps are AWESOME during the springtime. There is an old expression in China, chunkun (春困), which translates to “spring drowsiness.” Our vernal season excitement overrides the body, which is just waking up from hibernation. This internal clock of ours wakes up earlier than it did in wintertime, full of excitement, planning, thinking, OH MY! Listen to your body and take naps if necessary. Enjoy outdoor activities without overwhelming the physical body. Or just eat more xiangchun.


The Art of Patience


This is a hard art to learn. A plant does not grow to maturity overnight, nor does a flower blossom in a day. Spring is a time to de-clutter, refine, redefine, and renew your positive outlook. Refrain from frustration and anger when things don’t run as anticipated. Give time and space for situations, and even for your own body and mind, to grow and heal.


If you fail to follow these guidelines, the Yellow Emperor makes his warning perfectly clear. “Your liver will be imbalanced. The coldness will seep in when summer comes. And there will be limitations in both abundance and growth.”


Frances Ren Huang is a Beijing-based TCM consultant and yoga teacher, with a master’s in clinical acupuncture. For more information, you can reach her at


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