The Wood Element in Spring: Herbs for the Liver and Gallbladder
In the Traditional Chinese system of medicine (TCM) there are 5 elements, each of which is associated with a season. The element associated with spring is wood element: the upward rising energy of new growth, new beginnings, and renewal.
The wood element governs growing structures like the trunk and limbs of a tree or the spine and joints of a human body. It also governs metal structures like ideas and planning, organization, and decision making.
Each of the elements, and seasons, is also associated with a pair of organs. The organs for spring and the wood element are the liver and gallbladder. These complex and essential organs may need extra support and care in the spring.
You may already be familiar with the idea of a spring cleanse. One of the best ways to take advantage of the natural energy of the season is to choose herbs for your cleanse that support and tone the liver and gallbladder. Of these, some of my favorites are: Turmeric root, Burdock root, and Dandelion leaf and root. All of these are readily available to buy as bulk herbs, in capsules, or as liquid extracts. Burdock and Dandelion are incredibly easy to grow in our area and can be found growing wild in most neighborhoods. The Turmeric, which is a semi-tropical plant from India, can be grown indoors in large pots.
For a more in-depth look at a gentle and effective spring cleanse, check out Tom’s article here.
For the liver and gallbladder, let’s look closer at these three herbs.
Turmeric, Curcuma longa
This slightly bitter and spicy herb is best known as the golden color in many curry powders. Commercially in the West it is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory used for arthritis, allergies, menstrual pain, and digestive discomfort. But it is also a specific tonic for the liver, supporting the liver’s essential work, including flushing stored toxins and balancing hormone (including thyroid) function. Turmeric is also helpful in breaking down fats and dissolving gallstones.
It can be difficult to get a full dose of this herb just by eating curry powder. Instead, it can be taken as a capsule or tincture, drunk as a tea, taken in the form of Golden Milk (see more here on Golden Milk), or used as a broth for vegetables.
To support your liver and gallbladder in the changing season, take about 800-1000mg (about a quarter of a teaspoon) of the pure powder two to three times per day with food. Some people find liver detoxification to be an intense experience. You can start with a lower dose and work your way up gradually.
Burdock root, Arctium lappa
A large and vigorous plant, Burdock has a wide variety of medicinal uses, and is also a valuable food plant. The root can be used fresh or dried, and is an excellent tonic for the liver and kidneys. It is a cooling alterative and is a favorite for spring cleansing of the whole body. It is also used to treat skin problems of all kinds, especially those influenced by a too-heavy diet, allergies, or excess heat in the body. Burdock root, taken as capsule, tea, tincture, or eaten as a vegetable, can ease skin eruptions, cool and soothe redness and rashes, insect bites, and other skin irritations. For liver, kidney, and gallbladder support in the spring, a generous amount can be taken. 1000-2000mg upto 3 times daily depending on personal tolerance (it’s always best to start low and work your way up) or 1-2 quarts of strong decoction. It can also be eaten daily in soups (a great recipe here).
Dandelion leaf and root, Taraxacum officinale
Another well-known and vigorous “weed”, Dandelion has a multitude of uses. The tender greens grow early in spring, and are a favorite bitter tonic for the whole digestive system. They are also a natural diuretic, and are high in potassium, which is usually depleted with pharmaceutical diuretics. Dandelion leaves can be eaten as soon as they come up, and the bitter taste can be gentled somewhat with apple cider vinegar, also an excellent tonic for the digestion. The older the plants, the more bitter they become, so most people don’t eat them once the flowers have started to form.
The root of the Dandelion is tonifying to the liver and gallbladder and promotes healthy breast tissue. It can be used as a spring or fall tonic for the gut, for deep-rooted skin disorders such as boils, to ease constipation and for digestive discomfort of all kinds. It makes a pleasant, rich, nutty tea, especially when roasted. For general liver and skin support it can be taken with Burdock and Yellow Dock roots, in equal parts, boiled twenty minutes and strained. Dandelion root can be taken as a capsule, 400-800 mg twice daily, as a tincture, or as a tea to support a healthy spring cleanse.
A strong and happy liver is essential to good overall health. Springtime is an excellent time to give your liver a little extra love and support. These simple herbal remedies, added to a sensible diet and lifestyle, will help you to feel like a healthier, more vibrant you! Now is a wonderful time to refresh your health by aligning yourself with the rising Wood element energy of Spring!
In good health!