What does Spring have to do with your Liver and Anger?

spring flowers

According to traditional Chinese medicine, Spring is the time of the liver and gall bladder and is considered the most yang season. The emotion most closely tied to the liver and the quality of Spring is anger. Anger is the most yang of the emotions and is therefore congruent with Spring time. Other emotional difficulties related to anger that may bubble up are impatience, frustration, resentment, rudeness, edginess, arrogance and aggression. If you find yourself becoming easily angered over trivial matters or frustrated and short on patience, you can incorporate simple techniques and remedies to help clear the liver of the congestion that is creating those annoying (mostly to other people) emotions. Spring is a beautiful time of year, a time of new beginnings, new growth and a time to blossom. In this Spring issue we will talk about how acupuncture, herbs, exercise and food can balance your liver Qi (energy) so you can blossom into spring instead of exploding into it.

How Acupuncture can Resolve Congested Liver Qi and Dissolve Anger


According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body. Smooth flowing Qi soothes our emotions and keeps us sane, even in stressful situations. Anger, frustration and irritability are all signs that our Qi is not flowing smoothly. This is referred to as Liver Qi Stagnation, one of the most common imbalances treated by Eastern medicine practitioners. There are a group of 4 acupuncture points called the “four gates”, one on top of each foot and one on each hand. Together these four acupuncture points strongly circulate Qi and blood throughout the body, helping to clear blockages and release tension. These 4 points also have a strong calming affect which helps to dissolve anger. Other points can be added depending on the individual. Some people also need grounding points to help them feel more centered or points to calm the mind and quiet the mind chatter. We often include a point referred to as Yintang, also known as the “happy point” that is inserted in between the eyebrows for a truly relaxing magical

experience. After your session you are guaranteed to walk out of the office a nicer, calmer, happier person.

 Herbal Remedies to Soothe and Heal the Liver 

herbs for anger Herbs have properties that can move liver Qi in much the same way acupuncture can but with the added benefit of nutritionally supplementing the liver. Herbs actively help the liver remove toxins as well as nourish and regenerate the liver. The liver is the main organ to filter toxins and keep us from being poisoned. Without it, we would surely die so it’s important to keep it functioning properly. In the process of trying to keep us healthy, the liver often gets overloaded and burdened with toxins and when that happens we develop liver Qi stagnation.

Here are some of the other symptoms commonly associated with liver Qi stagnation:

  • Pain or discomfort along the sides of the body
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sighing
  • Hiccups
  • Sensation of a lump in throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Stomachache 
  • PMS with irritability 
  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Poor appetite
  • Churning sensation in stomach
One of the best known Chinese herbal formulas used to treat any of the above symptoms is Xiao Yao San. It comes in both tea and pill form and can be very helpful in naturally decongesting the liver. Often available in health food stores and always available from your local acupuncturist.
Other well known herbs and spices that can be incorporated into your diet and used to clear and heal the liver are turmeric, milk thistle, garlic, sweet basil, peppermint, spearmint, saffron, and oregano to name a few. 
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can incorporate an herbal liver cleanse. Spring is absolutely the best time to cleanse the liver. Many liver cleanses are difficult to do and just plain nasty and unpleasant to do. I know. I’ve tried them and because I like you, I would never recommend them to you! Fortunately, I have recently found a gentle liver cleanse that is very easy to do, it doesn’t include awful tasting herbs or crazy concoctions that are difficult to ingest. Healthy Healing carries an easy to do Liver Detox Kit. I have done this one myself and find it to be quite easy and pleasant, yet gently effective.

 Foods that Decongest the Liver 

salad Rather than beating yourself up and everyone else with whom you come in contact, you may want to consider eating foods that will help decongest the liver. Chinese medicine teaches that the liver is the organ that is most susceptible to congestion. What we choose to consume every day is either going to add to this congestion or begin the process of cleaning it out.

The first step to relieve the liver is to simply eat less. Overeating, no matter what the food, can cause liver congestion. Overeating heavy foods or processed foods places a HUGE burden on the liver. Eliminate your intake of highly processed foods and increase your intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Here is a list of foods/beverages commonly known to benefit the liver:

Apple cider vinegar: One of the most common and widely praised methods of liver cleansing is the use of apple cider vinegar (ACV). It’s a powerful remedy for resolving liver stagnation and indigestion. ACV’s combination of vitamins, minerals and alkalinity help rid the liver of harmful substances and help keep the body’s pH levels from becoming too acidic. Use one to two tsp of ACV in 6 to 8 ounces of water and drink two to three times a day before meals. ACV can also be used in salad dressings.

Grapefruit: High in both vitamin C and antioxidants, grapefruit increases the natural cleansing processes of the liver.
Lemons and Limes: These citrus fruits contain very high amounts of vitamin C, which aids the body in synthesizing toxic materials into substances that can be absorbed by water. Drinking freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice in the morning helps stimulate the liver.
Beets and Carrots: Both are extremely high in plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene; eating beets and carrots can help stimulate and improve overall liver function
Green Tea: This liver-loving beverage is full of plant antioxidants known as catechins, a compound known to assist liver function.
Leafy Greens: One of our most powerful allies in cleansing the liver, leafy greens can be eaten raw, cooked, or juiced. Extremely high in plant chlorophylls, greens wipe up environmental toxins from the blood stream. With their distinct ability to neutralize heavy metals, chemical and pesticides these cleansing foods offer a powerful protective mechanism for the liver. 
Avocados: This nutrient-dense super-food helps the body produce glutathione, a compound that is necessary for the liver to cleanse harmful toxins.
Apples: High in pectin, apples hold the chemical constituents necessary for the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract. This in turn makes it easier for the liver to handle the toxic load during the cleansing process.
Cruiciferous Vegetables: Eating broccoli and cauliflower will increase the amount of glucosinolate in your system, adding to enzyme production in the liver. These natural enzymes help flush out carcinogens, and other toxins out of the body.
Walnuts: Holding high amounts of the amino acid arginine, walnuts aid the liver in detoxifying ammonia. Walnuts are also high in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which support normal liver cleansing. 
Cabbage: Much like broccoli and cauliflower, eating cabbage helps stimulate the activation of crucial liver detoxifying enzymes that help flush out toxins. Try eating more kimchi, coleslaw, cabbage soup and sauerkraut. 

The Magic of Exercise 


Since the health of the liver, in large part, determines the health of the rest of your body we know it is important to take good care of it. Thankfully we’ve just learned many ways in which we can do this, and now we can add exercise to that list. Simply increasing physical activity such as brisk walking, biking,swimming or jogging helps tremendously to reduce liver qi stagnation.

This one is easy. Not much explanation necessary. Just get out there and find an activity you like to do. Vigorous exercise moves liver qi incredibly well, improves circulation all around and definitely improves mood. It’s a great way to relieve frustration, anger and any other pent up emotions. But that’s not all it does. Exercise has been shown to improve memory and increase learning ability, it slows down the aging process, increases brain cell growth, and protects against heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s as well as many other diseases. And the best reason? It just feels good!

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