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Hi, I’m Your Liver. Have We Met?

When most adults think about their liver, they think about alcohol- anyone over 30 can attest to the fact that their livers don’t work like they did in college. But the liver is a magnificent organ that does much more than make bile, clean the blood, and process toxins. TCM calls the liver “The General” for its important role in regulating your mood, assisting with circulation, and helping you maintain clear vision.

The liver also has some very specific attributes that you’ll want to know more about. Here they are:

Infographic of the Wu Xing, (五行 / wŭ xíng), the five elements; wood (木 / mù), fire (火 / huǒ), earth (土 / tǔ), metal (金 / jīn), and water (水 / shuǐ).

Season: Spring
Color: Green
Emotion: Anger/Frustration
Body Part: Eyes
Taste: Sour

You’re not angry. You just have liver qi stagnation.

If you’ve ever been in a committed relationship, you know something about frustration. 🙂 You also know what it feels like when someone cuts you off on the freeway. That quick burst of anger causes you to shorten your breath and sometimes stop breathing all together. Lack of oxygen causes stagnation of both qi (oxygen) and blood to your organs and over time creates dysfunction like impaired digestion, headaches, and PMS.

How bad is your PMS?

The Liver oversees blood, so it makes sense that it would play a big role in your menstrual cycle as well. If things are working perfectly, the cycle begins on time, with little-to-no pain. Mild backup of the liver causes mild PMS symptoms- both physical and emotional- while significant liver stagnation causes more severe cramping and dysphoria. The good news is that both acupuncture and herbal medicine easily treat both PMS and PMDD. One of the most commonly used for this purpose is called Free & Easy Wanderer.

Free & Easy Wanderer

A whole host of herbs have beneficial effects on the liver, with the most commonly prescribed formula being Xiao Yao Wan or Free and Easy Wanderer. As one on my Chinese professors was fond of saying: “You Americans have too much qi stagnation: Needle Liver 3 and give Xiao Yao Wan!” This formula acts as a combined tonic and blood mover so it helps relieve PMS and support energy.

The Liver & Infertility

To become pregnant, a woman needs a well-functioning endocrine system as well as enough overall strength to carry and nourish the baby. From a Chinese medical perspective, this means she needs strong kidney qi (conception) and plentiful liver blood (nourishment). In my clinic, I often see depletion as a key issue with conception. Many women are just not strong enough to conceive while other conceive, but frequently miscarry. When infertility has been officially diagnosed by a woman’s doctor, I typically recommend 6-12 months of strengthening with herbs and acupuncture before trying to conceive. Nourishing or building liver blood is a key component to this therapy.

Apple Cider Vinegar for the Detox

Honey mixed with apple cider vinegar (sour) has a particularly beneficial effect on the liver and can assist from a detoxifying standpoint. From a digestive standpoint, apple cider vinegar can affect and support the pH of the stomach and stimulate digestion.

 

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