The creation and arrangement of the Five Element is a unique system, produced by ancient Chinese sages, that helps us to understand the limitless connections that affect every aspect of life in man and his environment. To understand the five elements and the way they operate, helps us to be aware of how these boundless energies of nature relate to the human body and the person as a whole. Each of the five elements are linked with internal organs, body parts and emotions of the human body/soul. The elements in nature have further connection to us in terms of seasons and their influence, color, taste, direction and flavors of food. See the Five Element Chart
If we want to use food as medicine for dietary healing, we need only a working knowledge of a few but important principles of seasonal correspondences and the preparation of food according to the seasons.
The ancient Chinese believed that the seasons had a profound effect on human growth and well being over the cyclic effects of time. And if that’s not enough, we are also influenced by climatic changes and should try to live in accordance with them as well. But knowing how to prepare foods according to the seasons keeps our bodies functioning better. Intuitively choosing foods that are both in harmony with the seasons and good for our particular body type can be easily done when the person is balanced. Unfortunately many of us have repressed our instinctual awareness and don’t always make the correct food choices. This is partially because people like to eat for pleasure and tend to choose the foods hey most enjoy. Only when we develop practices that bring us in harmony with Nature do we begin to hear our inner voice more clearly. These practices gradually become “second nature “ so over time we can learn to trust our intuition again and confidently “know” what is correct for us at any given time.
To seasonally attune to summer, for example one must become more yang or expansive, like the summer energy, by using more (but not excessive amounts of) hot spices. This causes cooling through opening the pores and sweating. This is different from the specific therapeutic use of bitter herbs that cool over-heated conditions that can occur in the organs.
Spring is a time of new beginning it is a time to raise early with the sun and “seize the day”. It is a good time to engage in yang activities, such as taking brisk walks that emulate the ascending and active nature of spring. In spring, we naturally eat less or even fast to cleanse the body of the fat and heavy foods of winter. The spring diet should consist of a lighter diet of young plants, fresh greens, bean sprouts and other cereal grasses. Heavy foods taken in spring tend to clog the liver (the organ that correspond with Spring), resulting in fevers and allergies. Salty foods such as soy sauce or sodium rich and fatty meats are also best limited during the spring season. The thermal quality of sweet and pungent foods has an expansive and rising quality is harmonious with this time of year. Here is a partial list of spring herbs and foods; basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill and bay leaf. Most of the complex carbohydrates such as grains, legumes and seed primarily are sweet in flavor and increase in sweetness when sprouted. Other vegetables from the spring garden include young beets, carrots and other sweet starchy vegetables like snap peas and radishes. In spring, it is best to cook foods for a shorter time but at higher temperatures. In this way, the food is not over- cooked and retains the thermal nature and healing properties of the food. Light steaming with water or minimal steaming is ideal.
“The sages follow the laws of Nature and therefore their bodies are free o f strange diseases. They do not lose any of their natural functions and their spirit of life is never exhausted. “– Inner Classic