Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine

Spring is here, and with it, after a long winter of hibernating, comes new life, and the growth and activity of plants and animals. In the clinic, it’s my experience that during spring we seem to have more birth and pregnancy announcements.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the Liver is associated with new growth and expansive energies. Just as the plants around us are stretching out and springing up, reaching for the sun, so do the energies relating to our Liver. Spring is the best time to support the Liver, eating fresh green foods and being mindful to express our emotions.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is represented by different aspects:

Yin Organ – Liver
Yang Organ – Gallbladder Season – Spring
Colour – Green
Direction – East
Flavour – Sour

One of the functions of the liver is the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. In TCM, illness or disease is seen to be a blockage of the flow. When things, like Qi, are not flowing properly, this will cause disharmony in the body. So, the Liver’s function of keeping Qi moving in the body is important for our overall health and wellbeing. A blockage of the flow of Qi is central to almost all Liver disharmonies and is one of the most common patterns seen in clinical practice.

To help the liver and free flow of liver Qi, we begin by eating less than we did in winter, consuming lighter foods and cleansing the body of the excess fats and heavier foods have eaten. Spring is a time of renewal and growth, a time of expansion and expression. Spring is when we introduce newly grown greens and sprouts, salty foods and pungent herbs which support the liver and help to cleanse the body.

Cleansing the body is especially beneficial in spring not only because of the liver’s function of filtering toxins, but emotionally as well – emotions like frustration, impatience and anger are associated with the liver and a cleansing of the body and emotions allows us to clear out old residues and enables us to see more clearly and move forward in life with renewed passion and purpose.

The best way to keep the Liver happy, healthy and able to do its job is through a nutritious and seasonally focused diet, observing our emotions and releasing them healthfully as well as trying to ensure you get to bed by 11 pm.