Written by Beth Bloomfield, L.Ac., MS
Spring is (almost) in the air
If you’ve found that your New Years resolutions have gone by the wayside, not to worry! In Chinese philosophy, the springtime is an even more harmonious time of year to start new routines. With spring starts the “wood phase” of year— a time for growth, change and expansion. Stirring from the dark rest of winter (“water phase”), it is ideal that we rise from our winter respite, well-rested and ready to go.
However, for some of us, the prospect of blooming plants brings drippy noses and itchy eyes. Many allergy sufferers are on allergy medications year round for chronic rhinitis, leaving few options once spring hits.
There are a few things you can do to lessen your allergy symptoms:
- Dairy is a well known aggravator of nasal congestion, whether you have dietary sensitivity to milk products or not. Avoid it whenever you are having issues.
- Using a neti pot daily helps mechanically remove allergens and mucus secretions from the nasal passages.
- Especially if you find that you wake up in the morning with worsened nasal symptoms and itchy eyes, make sure you wash sheets in hot water and do so frequently (at least once a week.) Dry your laundry indoors where it won’t pick up pollen.
- Keep your bedroom windows closed during pollen season, and leave your shoes at the door so you do not track pollen into your home.
- You may choose to invest in an air filter to remove airborne particles. HEPA type filters will screen out pollen particles.
- Regular acupuncture improves allergy symptoms by calming the immune system, which is hyperactive during the spring season.
- Your natural health provider may also suggest trying an herbal formula. For instance, freeze-dried nettles can be just as effective as an over-the-counter medication and are best started just before the trees sprout and symptoms begin.
Seasonal Eating for Spring
Spring also brings a wide array of green leafy vegetables popping up at the farmer’s market.
Bitter greens are beneficial to incorporate into your diet, especially while they are fresh and in season. They are vitamin packed (A, K and C, plus minerals like potassium and magnesium) and a good source of fiber. Whether you should eat them cooked or raw depends on your preference and digestive integrity—eat them cooked or blanched if you find you have problems breaking them down fully. If you aren’t crazy about the idea of eating them on their own, they can be added to stews, used in place of lettuce in sandwiches, or eaten raw in a salad.
You may hear that greens are a “detoxifying” food. Detoxing has become a bit of a natural health buzzword. But what does this mean really? Firstly, the fiber in greens helps physically clean out any buildup in your intestines. Bitter taste stimulates release of bile and enzymes, which aid in proper digestion. Eating these foods during the spring (wood phase) of the year, in which they are freshest and the liver is at it’s energetic best, may give your body an extra boost.
Whether you go for arugula or amaranth, chard, escarole, or dandelion greens, try to incorporate leafy green vegetables into your diet a few times every week this spring.
Spring Recipe: Sautéed greens
This “recipe” will work for most green leafy vegetables and is ready in under 20 minutes start-to-finish. It is a delicious way to eat chard, spinach, kale or mustard greens.
There isn’t a lot of measuring or timing involved, and it comes together quickly. (This is how I make them in a pinch, hope you enjoy!)
What you’ll need:
1 bunch greens
1-2 cloves garlic (depends on preference)
cooking oil of choice(olive or coconut work well.)
lemon juice to taste (start with half a lemon or 1 tablespoon)
salt/pepper to taste
water (about 1/2 cup)
Wash 1 bunch greens thoroughly. Cut out tough cores and chop the cores widthwise into roughly half inch pieces. Leaves may be left whole or cut into smaller pieces. Keep separate. Chop up garlic. Either minced or sliced is okay. Lightly coat bottom of pan with oil of choice, warm over medium heat. When pan is hot, add garlic and chopped stems. Cook, stirring, until stems are somewhat softened. Add greens, then add approximately 1/2 cup of water. Cover pan immediately. Cook until greens are soft, usually around five minutes. Uncover, and cook, stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon juice on top and serve hot.