As we pass the Spring Equinox, Yang energy is on the rise. Shoots are sprouting and bulbs that have lain dormant over winter are bursting forth with colour. This is the upward energy of the season.
But perhaps you are left with post pandemic exhaustion. Emotionally burnt out after two years where there was little or no control over every day life.
Or perhaps you developed Long Covid with symptoms similar to that of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome where every time you get the energy to move ahead with new plans, you are floored with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath, brain fog or muscle and joint pain?
“There is growing evidence*2 that fragments of the virus, such as protein molecules, can persist for months, disrupting the body functions even even if the virus is not infecting cells.”*1
In Chinese medicine, the Wood element is linked to the time of spring, when new shoots begin to emerge and wind their way up to the light. The organs of this element are the Liver and Gall bladder which ensure the detoxification and smooth flow of blood and emotions. In Western Medicine this also includes the metabolism and distribution of energy.
Usually we work to clear the liver and aid toxin elimination to encourage the upsurge of spring energy by using sour foods such as lemons, limes, vinegar, Umeboshi plum, rhubarb, plums and gooseberries. This would also encourage flexibility through the tendons, sinews and joints but if this isn’t working and you are still experiencing lethargic dragging energy, stiff joints, sore cramping muscles, cloudy foggy thinking then it’s time to look deeper.
In the Five Element cycle of Chinese Medicine the Kidney/Bladder system is the mother of Liver/Gallbladder. By treating this energetic system we can build energy so that any lingering pathogen or virus can be expelled either by the Liver, or by pushing it out to the exterior gates of the body.
The Kidney/Bladder system is related to winter and hibernation, where the soil humus is being prepared for the new spring growth. If the ground is depleted the seeds cannot sprout. If the Kidney energy is weak the Liver will struggle to flourish, detoxifying and energising the body.
In our modern lifestyle we can all too often deplete the Kidney energy through overwork, over-achieving and competitiveness. Kidney energy “can be described as determination, our will to survive, our will to succeed, our will to procreate and leave our mark on the world. Fight or flight, thrive and survive; These are basic instincts and they are all governed by the energy of the lowest organs in the body, the bladder and kidney.”*4
Kidney will power is amazing, completing projects, building houses, planning cities and creating families but if it is driven by fear, our Kidney energy will soon become exhausted and we may experience some of the other symptoms of Long Covid and Fibromyalgia such as hot flashes and anxiety.
Depletion of Kidney energy creates a knock on effect of not supporting the Liver in expelling the heat and toxins from the body. So before we begin manipulating the body or pressing the acupressure points to move the energy we need to nourish and build the roots of the body by supporting the Kidney.
The Kidney loves the salty flavour with foods such as seaweeds, spiriulina, oysters, oats, miso, tamari and of course because Kidney is of the water element ensuring hydration with plenty of water is key. But not all water is equal. In my previous blog post I share one of my favourite recipes for supporting and building Kidney energy – Barley Water. (scroll down for ingredients and instructions or watch video)
When a stress response happens in the body either created by an external pandemic or an internal virus, the body tissues can become acidic. This stress response is perfectly normal and the acidity can help to kill or expel the internal bacteria, pathogen or virus. However if the stress response, acidity and inflammation remains prolonged, conditions can become chronic.
Studies suggest that “lingering inflammation and/or virus-induced damage to the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) or immune system might be to blame”*3 for the symptoms of Long Covid, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.
On a physical level, Barley water can help to alkalize the urine and maintain the pH balance in the bodily fluids. Energetically it slightly salty flavour supports the Kidney/ Bladder system, hydrating, moisturising and lubricating; restoring the cool, calm Yin balance and preparing the ground for the Yang energy to rise.
Save the cooked barley to use in some of the other recipes from my Good Food Cookbook such as Avocado Salad or Chilli Con Barley.
Throughout the month of April I will be sharing Kidney & Liver foods, guiding with gentle Qi Gong exercise movements that open the body and release viral fragments and other old patterns that can become lodged in the body causing pain and fatigue.
We will spiral the energy through the meridians smoothly with Chi Flow with Jo exercises, hold and tonify points, work with the deep marrow essence of the body and remember; All action comes from stillness. There is a time to be still and a time to move. In Chi Flow with Jo you can find both.
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Barley Water Recipe
- 2 large handfuls or 50g of Organic wholegrain pot or pearl barley
- 2 Litres water
- 1/2 Lemon
- Pinch of Salt
- Sprinkle of Wakame or Dillisk Seaweed (optional)
Barley Malt or honey to taste
Place the barley into a heavy-based saucepan with a good fitting lid. Pour in the water, add the half lemon and pinch of salt. Bring it to the boil and simmer for an hour, make sure the lid is on firmly. After an hour of a slow simmer, use a fine mesh sieve and strain the barley from the water. Using the back of a spoon push on the barley into the mesh to get as much of the white gloopy mixture into the water. This water can be kept in a jug or a bottle in the fridge for about 5 days. Shake or stir the barley water before use as the sediment will fall to the bottom. I usually make a batch from which I take a measure in the morning and in the afternoon.
A measure for me would be 1/3 barley water, poured into a mug topped up with 2/3 hot water. You can use agave or honey to sweeten if you like. Its best to drink first thing in the morning, before eating to clear your system. Treat it like medicine because that’s what it is.
- *3https://creakyjoints.org/living-with-arthritis/coronavirus/long-haul-covid-shares- fibromyalgia-symptoms/
- *4 Good Food: Better Sex – Joanne Faulkner www.joannefaulkner.ie