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Wind, the color green, and spring. What link is there?

When we think about March, typically green and St. Patrick's Day come to mind, and perhaps the beginning of spring. Interestingly, there is a link between green and spring in Chinese thought.

Most people are familiar with the 4 elements described by Aristotle, which is Wind, Water, Fire, Earth. Chinese 5 phase or 5 element theory is a little bit different. It does not have Wind and adds the Wood and Metal elements instead.

Both springtime and the color green are categorized under the Wood element. In addition it is associated with growth, expansion, and the east direction. In Traditional Chinese medicine thought, it is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder organs.

If we want to be especially nit-picky, the green color associated with the wood element is not quite the one we associate with St. Patrick's day decorations. The Chinese 青 “Qing” is sometimes used to describe the color of aged bronze. This color actually comes from the “rust” that forms when copper reacts with oxygen in the air. Some translations call it “azure” or “blue-green”, and sometimes it is depicted as being more "blue" than "green" in color. The color of the Statue of Liberty in the United States is an example of “Qing”.

A reaction of copper and oxygen gives the Statue of Liberty its unique green color.

While there is no wind element, wind is categorized into the Wood element in Chinese thought. One explanation I have heard before is that wind can be thought of as “the movement of wood [trees]”. This is an interesting and natural explanation based on observation. Obviously someone can tell if it is windy or not if someone is standing outside. Otherwise we likely look at the branches of a tree to see how violently they are shaking to tell how windy it is outside.

Something that I did not notice much until learning TCM was how windy it can get around March and April during the early springtime. It is also around this time where people often get head-colds and allergies. The theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that the human body reflects the universe around it. Wind is light in nature and has a tendency to rise, allowing it to easily affect the upper parts of the body, such as the head. When Wind affects the nose and eyes, it mostly presents as an itching sensation, which translates into the symptoms of itchy and watery eyes and runny nose of allergies. I also believe that part of why people get sick so easily during March and April is that the weather has not stabilized yet. There can be large swings in temperature and when combined with the windy weather, Chinese Medicine theory suggests that it is easier for diseases to penetrate the body’s natural defenses and cause illness. Many of us are often caught off-guard on an especially windy and cold day, and can quickly feel ill a few days later.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember to cover up and stay warm until the weather becomes consistently warmer and the wind is not as harsh!

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