I've been sharing on Instagram about skin for the past month because Springtime in Western Herbalism (and other traditional medicine systems that I can't speak to as well) is when we should tend to the liver, and by extension, the skin. If this is a new idea for you, stick with me for a moment.
Humans have long lived their lives in unity with the earth's daily, monthly, and seasonal rhythms. We largely ignore or deny that now. Western Herbalism's ideas, however, are built around this elemental understanding.
In spring, as the earth awakens our bodies come alive too. We typically move much more, stretching and walking our way out of our cold-weather tendency for being more sedentary. We hike again, we choose to walk or bike instead of drive, we prepare the gardens. We also reach for lighter fare to eat since our bodies aren't bracing as much against the cold.
The liver is ready for support as we move more and increase our blood flow. It is also beginning to move out and process the excess of androgens (hormones) or environmental chemicals that can build up without enough movement. And after the benign neglect of a long season of heavier or blander foods it's ready to some stimulation and support.
When the liver isn't working as well as it should, every system of the body is affected. A good clinical herbalist who is addressing chronic issues of digestion, reproduction, skin, circulation, brain fog, or even emotion often start with liver support. Or they at least include it.
(I mention emotion and I want to say something specifically about that before moving on. The liver is typically associated with anger. I learned from herbalist Kat Maier and somatic practitioner Kimberly Ann Johnson that repressed / unacknowledged anger in women+ is often experienced as depression. This is a sidenote but I think more people need to know it.)
When the liver needs tending (in spring or anytime) it can show up as issues with digestion, as anger, sluggish circulation, painful/ irregular periods, difficulty with conception.... or skin congestion or skin eruptions. The skin is one of our major channels of elimination. When the liver isn't working up to snuff it most obviously affects our digestion and our skin, our two major channels of elimination.
- Take bitter tinctures and include bitter foods on your plate. The sensation of bitterness on the tongue stimulates the liver and gets it working. This improves digestion and improves the liver's ability to function in all the ways I mentioned above.
- Eat sour foods. Their astringency is cleansing. The sour flavor also helps to promote digestion.
- Move gently. Walk and stretch. Again, see above for information on how movement is related to the liver.
- Eat green foods. The early spring greens were typically what our ancestors were able to eat after a long winter of meat, root vegetables, and preserved foods. (For my ancestors it would have at least been nettles, alliums, and sorrel.) The spring greens are full of the nutrients our bodies crave at this time.