The Liver in Chinese Medicine
It is said in Chinese medicine that when energy is flowing smoothly throughout the body, we have no pain or disease. The Liver is the organ that is responsible for ensuring that energy, or Qi (pronounced “chee”), flows smoothly throughout the body – in all organs and in all directions. The function of the Liver of regulating Qi, is extremely important to both our physical and emotional health.
The Liver is the most important organ in the body for storing Blood. By virtue of this function, the Liver plays a huge role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. When the Liver is working optimally, women will experience regular menstrual cycles with very little discomfort.
The Liver is also responsible for regulating the volume of blood throughout the entire body according to physical activity. When the body is active, blood flows to the tendons and muscles. At night, blood flows back to the Liver. When this function of the Liver is working harmoniously, we have good energy during the day and feel rested and revitalized when we wake in the morning.
The Liver controls the sinews and tendons. A healthy Liver will moisten and nourish these parts of the body that affect our ability to move our joints fluidly. In Chinese medicine, the nails are also considered a by-product of the sinews. Strong, healthy nails are a sign that the Liver blood is plentiful.
The Liver is said to open to the eye. When the Liver is healthy, our eyes are moist and vision is good.
The Liver, a yin organ, is paired with the Gallbladder, a yang organ. The Liver has a powerful affect on the digestion because not only does the Liver control the proper functioning of the Stomach and Spleen Qi, but also on the secretion of bile.
Because the Liver oversees the smooth flow of Qi of all the organs in the body, it has been compared to an army general, responsible for planning all of the body's functions. For this reason, Chinese medicine believes that the Liver plays a part in our ability to plan our life and make decisions.
Each organ in Chinese medicine is related to a specific emotion. The Liver is related to anger, especially repressed anger or frustration. When the Liver energy is stagnated or rebels upwards, a person is prone to depression or irritability. Ironically, this works both ways. Stress in our lives, leading to anger and frustration will be the biggest factor in causing a Liver imbalance.
Though, the Liver is anatomically located on the right side of the body, Chinese medicine believes that the Liver is related to the left side of the body in many ways. The left side of the tongue reflects the health of the Liver. The Liver pulse is taken on the left wrist.
In a healthy body, the Liver Qi rises upwards and spreads in all directions to nourish the entire body, similar to the rising of sap in a tree. Hence, the Liver is equated to the element of Wood in five element theory. In five element theory, there are many other relationships that are used in Chinese medicine diagnosis. Each organ is associated with a color. The Liver's color is green. With a Liver imbalance the face color will often have a greenish cast. Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with a particular season of the year and Spring is the season for Wood, or Liver. Symptoms of a Liver imbalance are often aggravated in the springtime, especially by wind.
Spring is a great time to ensure that your Liver is in balance!