As our culture becomes increasingly fast paced, stress and frustration are becoming more common. Unfortunately, the liver is highly sensitive to stress and frustration and evidence of liver imbalances are frequently seen.
According to many centuries of Traditional Chinese Medicine, liver imbalances lead to dizziness, dry eyes, blurry vision, frequent anger or irritability, insomnia, migraines, irregular menses, bloating, and breast tenderness. The ancient Chinese physicians observed that the liver rules the flowing and spreading of Qi throughout the entire body, much like a commander of an army guides troops. When the commander was lethargic, they observed the troops (other bodily organs) running amok.
Many of the liver disharmonies mentioned above are related to stagnation of Qi (which roughly translates as vital force). Long term Liver Qi stagnation characteristically develops into liver heat and eventually into liver fire. Liver fire ascends to the eyes and head if there is no moisture to contain it, with a tendency to fly off the handle or express inappropriate anger (a common occurrence in our stressful society). The liver, because of this relation to moisture, is very dependent on its yin aspect. The liver also stores blood, which is the major yin substance and has the important role as “mother of Qi.
Throughout the twenty four hours of each day, every two hours each of our twelve organs experience an abundance of Qi, known as the Qi cycle. The time of day associated with an abundance of liver Qi is 1-3am. In order to nurture our liver, and allow it to fulfill its function of storing the blood at night, 1-3am is the best time to be still. For this reason, staying up late at night (the yin time of day) has a detrimental effect on the liver. It needs this time to regenerate and replenish itself.
The liver meridian begins bi-laterally at the inner big toe and runs up the inner legs and thighs, around the genital region, up the sides of the breasts and an inner meridian travels to the eyes and crown of the head. An acupuncturist will insert acupuncture needles into this meridian if there is an imbalance, in order to encourage the liver Qi of the body to realign itself. It is also helpful to practice some gentle inner leg stretches before going to bed, to prevent the liver qi from becoming stagnant.
Spring is the season related to the liver, the element is wood, the taste is sour and its colour is green – imagine the first shoots of a cherry blossom tree sprouting after a long, cold winter. This is the reason it is especially beneficial to give the liver a rest (from caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants) and clean out (plenty of filtered water and fresh greens) during spring.
Foods which nourish the liver
Lemon, Dandelion root, Licorice root, Cumquat, Grapefruit, Kale, Carrot, Celery, Broccoli, Rocket, Beetroot, Oranges, Jasmine tea, Green tea.
The liver thrives on exercise as it moves the Qi around the body. A daily walk is ideal to keep the Qi flowing, and in balance with our other organs. Exercise is especially relevant in regard to our modern sedentary lifestyle, so get up from that chair, turn off the computer and move your Liver Qi!