The Liver in Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine the Liver is the organ that governs the smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole person, in both body and mind. To be in a good state of health – physically and emotionally – the body needs to have a smooth, uninterrupted flow of energy. When the energy flows continuously and in the proper direction the body organs function properly and the overall body state is harmonious.

The Liver is responsible for overall planning of the body’s functions by ensuring the smooth flow and proper direction of Qi, and is therefore compared to an army general. Just like an army general at the battle field, the Liver is the strategist in the proper advancement of body functions, charging forward or retreating, moving in all directions as needed. Thus it is said that the Liver is also the origin of courage, confidence and determination, and governs our capacity to plan our life. People with a healthy liver are good leaders and decision makers, they are calm and confident, and have faultless judgment. On the other hand people with a stagnated Liver are chronically stressed, impatient, angry and/or depressed.

The Liver functions are:

Stores Blood

A major function of the Liver is to store and regulate the blood volume in the bodyaccording to physical activity. When the body is at rest the blood flows to the Liver to restore energy. Whenever the body is active the blood flows out and nourishes the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints that enable movement.The regulation of blood has an important influence on a person’s level of energy and also indirectly influences our resistance to external pathogenic factors.

The Liver function of storing Blood has a marked influence on menstruation.Depending on how it stores blood and if the Qi flows uninterrupted, women’s menstruation manifests as healthy or pathological.

Ensures the smooth flow of Qi

The Liver ensures the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body, in all organs and in all directions, so that all the other organs and tissues (especially muscle, tendon and ligament), are energized and nourished.

The smooth flow of Qi has a deep influence on the emotional state. If this function is normal, there is a smooth flow of the emotions and a feeling of harmony, as seen in young children, when joy, anger, fear, sadness and envy alternate swiftly without repression and do not last long. In adults on the other hand, one might get stuck on a certain emotion for days and sometimes for years, resulting in Liver Qi stagnation or caused by it.

The liver likes to be motivated, to accomplish goals, to grow and develop, to move forward in life in a creative and dynamic way, manifesting our will power and desire. This function is impaired whenever desire does not fit within reality, and our ability to either change the desire to comply with reality, or change our reality to comply with desire, is weak due to lack of mental flexibility. Our mental view over life will determine how we feel. When our mental view is fixed and does not accept flow and change, the result is stagnated Liver Qi, emotional frustration, depression or repressed anger. Anger and frustration emerges when our way forward and our sense of freedom is thwarted. The liver is the organ system most affected by repressed emotions.

The smooth flow of Qi is also responsible for normal digestive function.

Controls the ligaments and Tendons

The ligaments and tendons capacity for contraction and relaxation depends on the nourishment and moistening of the Blood from the Liver.

Manifests in the Nails

If Liver Blood is abundant, the Nails will be moist and healthy.

Opens to the Eyes

The nourishment and moistening of Liver Blood gives the Eyes the capacity to see.A good, healthy vision mirrors a healthy Liver, while poor vision and any problems with the eyes such as poor or blurry vision, night blindness, glaucoma, cataracts, dry and itchy eyes, red eyes, floaters, etc. indicate Liver pathology.


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