The leaves have turned their colors, storm windows have replaced screens, and an extra blanket has been added to the bed. In other words, everything and everyone around has started preparing. Preparing for what? For winter and its holidays, cold weather, family visits and illnesses. It's hard not to resign yourself to thinking that with all of the changes this upcoming season brings that you'll most likely catch a cold or other "holiday" sickness. It's as if "the holidays" are the fifth season--six weeks wedged in between sweet fall and stark winter. But the approach of this weary and beloved season doesn't mean you have to resign yourself to anything, much less getting sick.
Having a strong, healthy spirit and body is the trick to not just surviving this time of the year but truly celebrating the holidays. There is no one magic key that unlocks the mystery of your health's vibrancy, rather there are many keys that help keep it all in balance. One of the more neglected keys is the liver. You may hear practitioners of various health modalities say, "It all goes back to the liver," when talking about any number of health issues. If they aren't saying that, then they should! The liver has hundreds of vital functions that support health. I won't begin to list them all, as it would take up this entire magazine! But to name a few relevant to staying healthy during this fifth season, I will mention these: healthier skin, clearer eyes, better attitude and more balanced weight.
Think of the images of fall: leaves turning color, plants hovering nearer to the earth, and bees staying closer to the hive. This is the time of year to root yourself down as well. It makes sense, then, that there are so many roots that come into season this time of year that are beneficial to one of the body's root organs: the liver. Garlic, ginger, onions, burdock, yellow dock and dandelion are a few. Even nourishing root foods like carrots, turnips and beets are beneficial to include in your diet now. Confucius reportedly refused to eat any meal that did not include ginger in some form!
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the liver grounds us by storing the body's blood and working with the heart to distribute it throughout the body. The medicinal herbs mentioned above assist the liver in digesting fat, breaking down excess hormones, and producing enzymes. Sour and bitter flavors are elemental in liver health, so you'll find that a...