Saturday April 5, 2013 was the beginning of the Clear and Bright (qing ming 清明) seasonal node (jie qi 節氣). Clear and Bright is the node just after the Vernal Equinox and the next step in the progression of Spring. As I sit here in northern New Jersey, the weather is a bit chilly although the Spring warming has certainly started. Trees are setting buds, and the tree peonies in my yard are starting to grow. The sky this morning is crisp and clear, reminding me of the name of this seasonal node – Clear and Bright. The character for “Ming” 明 in the name is written in Chinese with the characters for both moon 月 and sun 日 next to each other. The basic definition of the character is “brightness.” Certainly, the combination of moon and sun together demonstrates the idea of bright illumination. That said, the characters of moon and sun also represent a Yin-Yang pairing. The Spring, even though it is a time of expanding Yang in the natural world, also is a time of balanced Yin and Yang. It is one of the times between the Yin-Cold of Winter, and the Yang-Warmth of Summer. So, I think a character that combines moon and sun is especially appropriate at this time.
The “avoids” for Clear and Bright are related to diet. First, Chinese medicine recommends that patients avoid very acrid and spicy foods. While somewhat acrid foods and herbs are appropriate to Spring (such as leeks or scallions), overly spicy foods may potentially either stir internal Yang or dissipate internal Qi. The second type of food to avoid is very sour or greasy foods. Both sour and greasy foods create stagnation internally, and thus inhibit the normal coursing of Qi. Since Spring is the time of Wood-Liver, it is important to keep Qi moving internally.
In general the diet for Clear and Bright should reflect the name of the seasonal node. Light and clear foods that neither block the Qi mechanism nor overly stimulate it are appropriate. Gentle movement and easy to digest should be the focus. As more vegetables become available, patients should increase consumption of fresh produce. Traditionally this is the time for greens such as spinach and mustard greens. In the west certainly April is the season for fresh asparagus. All these greens are beneficial to the Liver.
Patients who are somewhat Qi deficient, or patients with seasonal allergies can try making Jade Screen Chicken at home.
Jade Screen Chicken – Yu Ping Ji 玉屏雞
- 1 whole chicken (about 2 lbs.)
- Huang Qi 60g
- Bai Zhu 20g
- Fang Feng 20g
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse and clean chicken
- Take herbs and stuff inside, close chicken to retain herbs inside the cavity
- Place chicken in a slow cooker and cover with water, allow chicken to cook for until done
This can take a long time to cook in a slow cooker, but I think it will yield the best results. I suggest this be set up overnight and put on the low temperature setting. By lunch the next day it should be done as cooking can take 8 hours or more. Patients can both consume the meat as well as drink the resulting broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The recipe helps nourish Qi, secure the exterior and expel cold.
Happy Spring everyone!