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The Liver and Liver Qi Stagnation
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

The Liver and Liver Qi Stagnation

Spring is ruled by the wood element, which is associated with the liver, an organ with an incredible capacity for regeneration.

When searching for the underlying cause of disease, practitioners of Chinese medicine often look first to the liver. The health of your liver reflects your overall health and well-being.

The liver filters over a liter of blood every minute. It is responsible for detoxifying, nourishing, replenishing, and storing blood. It also acts to energize the blood by releasing stored sugar, and it recombines amino acids to create the protein our bodies need to grow and repair tissue.

Liver Qi Stagnation

According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body and smoothing our emotions. Anger, irritability, and frustration 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 in the United States.

Acupressure Points for Moving Qi

A popular treatment for the stress, anger, and frustration associated with Liver Qi Stagnation is known as the "four gates." The four gates are the right and left side acupuncture points Lv 3–Liver 3 (Taichong) and Large LI 4–Large Intestine 4 (Hegu).

Together these four acupuncture points are thought to enhance the circulation of Qi and blood throughout the body and have a calming and analgesic effect. They are also used to alleviate pain.

Large Intestine 4 is located on the padded area of your hand between the thumb and index finger, between the first and second metacarpal bones. Massage this point with your thumb on both hands for approximately 30 seconds.

Liver 3 is located in a hollow on the top of your foot below the gap between your big toe and the next toe, between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones. To stimulate this point, place your right heel in the juncture between the bones that attach to the large and second toes and gently knead the point for approximately thirty seconds. Then switch sides to stimulate Lv 3 on your other foot.

Liver Qi Stagnation Signs and Symptoms
Here are some of the symptoms commonly associated with Liver Qi stagnation:
  • Pain or discomfort anywhere along the sides of the body
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sighing
  • Hiccups
  • Frustration
  • Inappropriate anger
  • Sensation of a lump in throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Stomachache that improves after massage
  • Stomachache that worsens with anger
  • PMS with irritability or swollen breasts
  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Poor appetite
  • Churning sensation in stomach

Foods Used For Liver Qi Stagnation
These are just some of the foods that are believed to help Liver Qi stagnation:

  • Milk Thistle Tea
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Cherries
  • Chicken
  • Tofu
  • Mustard seed
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Red and black dates
  • Caraway seed
  • Spearmint
  • Oregano
  • Red bean
  • Sweet basil
  • Saffron