Jan 31, 2014 is the start of the Chinese Year of the Wood Horse. The horse is fundamentally a fire creature, so this year the elements of Wood and Fire will be highlighted. Wood and Fire relate primarily to the Liver and Heart in Chinese Medicine.

So how can you best look after your health this year?

The Wood archetype is the Pioneer who seeks challenge and pushes to the limit; they love action, movement, and adventure. Is it any wonder then that the Liver is in charge of the smooth flow of energy (qi) throughout your body?

Emotions are essentially energy in motion so when the energy is not flowing as it should, the Liver qi is stuck, then emotional flow is disrupted. This can lead to feelings of irritability, frustration or anger which can then send your blood pressure up. Similarly these emotions can disrupt the appropriate flow of qi and cause havoc with other organs, since everything is connected, leading to ‘stress related problems’ such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Premenstrual Syndrome. Regular gentle exercise is one of the best ways to keep the qi flowing smoothly.

The liver is associated with the storage of blood as well as the flow of qi which means it is an important organ to consider in regards to the timing, comfort, quality and quantity of a woman’s menstrual cycle and thus her fertility.   The ‘health’ of your liver blood is also reflected in symptoms such as dry eyes and skin. As the Horse is a fire sign be particularly wary of dryness and dehydration this year, keep your blood nourished by eating well and stay hydrated.

The Liver is said to control the tendons and during exercise blood is released to nourish your tendons and muscles. Tightness, inflexibility, spasms or the propensity to muscle and tendon injuries can be reflecting the health of your Liver. The Wood meridians, or energy lines, flow through your neck and shoulders and down the sides of your body so tightness in these areas or headaches, both tension and migraine, are a typical indicator that the qi is not flowing appropriately. As you have probably experienced stress restricts not only the flow of qi but also of your breath.   Take a deep breath, drop your shoulders and let it go.

The liver is said to open into the eyes and so it is connected to proper eye function. Chronic eye problems, weak or blurry vision can usually be traced to liver issues. The Liver is often described as the strategist in Chinese Medicine so how can you see where you are going in life and plan your route to get there if your Liver is struggling?

Some great ways to support your wood energy this year is to keep your coffee and alcohol intake to a minimum as these substances will put extra stress on your liver. Make sure you are eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, organic if possible, and add some goji berries into your porridge or other dishes. Drink Dandelion tea, lemon water and plenty of filtered water throughout the day. Try to be in bed by 10.30pm most nights as when you sleep can be even more important as how much you sleep.   Acupuncture and Herbs are also great ways to help you restore the proper function of your mind, body and spirit.

The Fire archetype is the Wizard who imbues the mundane with the extraordinary, and brings the transforming power of light, love, and awareness into the world. They relish excitement, are keenly intuitive and passionately empathetic, they love sensation, drama, and sentiment.   Do you know any big hearted people like this?

In Chinese medicine the Heart is considered the residence of the mind and spirit and so is most often involved in psychological imbalances. Properly nourished and balanced, the heart maintains our innate wisdom, contentment, and emotional balance as well as mental function and memory. When the heart is not performing appropriately poor memory, insomnia, restlessness, depression or anxiety, or a tendency to be “spaced out” or “in the clouds” can result. So this is a good year to increase joy and happiness and use humor and laughter as medicine to nourish your heart.

The heart controls the blood and blood vessels. When your heart is healthy, it pumps blood through the vessels to all parts of your body, nourishing your organs and maintaining vitality.   When your Heart is disturbed this can lead to circulation and blood problems, palpitations, strokes or heart attacks.

The heart controls speech. If someone you know is withdrawn and has a quiet demeanor then perhaps their heart is in need of nourishing.

To look after your heart health this year definitely follow some of the wood advice above since in Chinese medicine the Liver energy is the mother of the Heart energy so being kind to your liver will certainly help your heart. As such eat a healthy whole food diet, organic if possible, with plenty of fish for the good oils that you need. Cook with only a small amount of good quality celtic sea salt, try not to add it at the table, and stay well hydrated. If you are going to eat chocolate make sure it is dark, not milk, and eat it with restraint if you can.   Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake and remember that today is the best day to quit smoking. Make fitness fun with some regular gentle morning exercise to keep your heart pumping well and be sure to have a good night’s sleep. Of course the most important thing you can do for your heart is to nourish your friendships and remember to love yourself. Coming for some regular acupuncture treatments is also a great way to nourish yourself.

Enjoy a wonderful year and big hugs all around.