Spring Time and Your Liver
Our liver is an extraordinary organ. It effects so many functions in our body. I would like to share with you the Chinese understanding of Spring time and its relationship with the functions of the liver.
Spring as an expression of the Wood Element:
In ancient times, the Chinese were observers of nature within and without. They reached deep realisations about the relationship between the outer enviroment and its effect on internal processes within the body-mind. They also understood that in order to be healthy there needs to be harmony between the human being and the environment. They divided all phenomena in nature into five different vibrations called the ‘Five Elements’ or ‘Five Movements’. The Five Elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) are five different frequencies or vibrations which exists in nature. Every thing or every phenomena in creation can be associated with one of the Five Elements. Spring time is the time of the Wood Element. The quality of Wood is movement - a movement which expands outwards, upwards and in all directions with great power. It is a movement forward; a creative force. So every thing and every process which has movement in it, has the quality of the Wood Element. For example: the season of spring; the direction of east; the liver; the Gallbladder; the quality of assertiveness; thinking ahead; the process of sprouting and rejuvenation; anger; the colour green; tendons; muscles; wind; the planet Jupiter – all share the same frequency of Wood – they all have the same vibration. It is the same energy that is physically expressed in different ways.
In our life we must attune ourselves with the movement of nature. Spring is the time to come out of the meditative, inward process of winter and start excercising, stretching, liver cleansing, eating more fresh foods, sprouts and green leafy salads, start new projects and bring the quality of Spring, Wood, of renewal, of new beginnings into your life. When you flow with the river, there is no conflict. If you move in your life with the flow of nature you will find greater harmony. So take the time to look at nature and you will see that it behaves just like you. When you watch the strong winds in spring, you will see that it is similar to the constant anxiety that you feel when there are too many things on your mind. It is like a wind inside you that doesn’t allow you to be quiet. Catch the wave of Spring to cleanse your liver, and to bring into manifestation dormant ideas and plans which you may have set aside.
One of the most important Wood organs is the Liver. In our society the liver has a great load to deal with and Spring is the most accurate time to support and cleanse it.The liver has the most extraordinary quality of being able to regenerate itself. That is an expression of the Wood Element. The functions of the liver are many. Here is a list of the main ones both from a western medical point of view and from the Chinese energetic view point:
Liver function from a western medical point of view:
Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, clearing of drugs, hormones and toxins, production of bile and transferring bilirubin from the blood into the bile, storage of some vitamins, minerals and Iron in the form of ferritin, glucose storage as glycogen, breakdown of blood cells (phagocytosis) Activation of Vitamin D.
The liver is of vital importance in support of internal organs and their functions.
Liver function from a Chinese medicine view point:
The role of the liver is described in the ancient texts as follows:"The liver holds the office of General of the armed forces, assessment of circumstances and conception of plan stems from it." 1*Yes it is poetic, and here is some clarification:The liver is seen as the General of the Army. It requires qualities of the wood element such as commanding, decision making and strength of thought. With the consideration of past knowledge and experience, the liver has the ability to assess and plan for the future so everything moves smoothly. Although these are described as mental qualities, they are also expressed physically, for example with having a strong assertive immune system (which is controlled by the liver).
So, when the Chinese described the liver, they did not mean the liver organ alone. The concept of liver also includes an aspect of immunity; the free circulation of energy and blood, the balancing of emotion and menstrual cycle; controlling sleep, muscles, tendons, ligaments, mucus membranes, the ability to purify emotional, mental and physical toxins and the ability to store blood. It is also known that the liver is expressed in the nails and ‘opens’ to the eyes.When the Liver is in balance these mental qualities and bodily functions are in harmony. The person has clarity of thought and direction in life, decision making is easy and emotions are balanced. There is an abundance of energy, digestion works well and the skin is clear and healthy looking. In a woman, the menstrual cycle would be flowing freely without pain. It would come at the right amount/length and at the right time. When the liver is well nourished, sleep is deep and without dreams.
There are two kinds of movement and the liver needs both: External movement – sport and exercise Internal movement - meditation. I would like to suggest that coffee, alcohol and other drugs do bring movement, but they also harm the liver. Instead, drinks like chamomile, chaga or dandelion tea - both are liver herbs and would be helpful.Spring time is a wonderful opportunity to cleanse and support your liver! You may give your liver a bit of a break by simply reducing consumption of fatty and sugary foods and drinking a barley grass drink twice a day on an empty stomach. Barley grass is available in powder form and it oxygenates the liver (the liver is one of the prime consumers of oxygen in the body). Generally, all leafy greens, sprouts (better at the start of the sprouting process) and all chlorophyll rich foods have the quality of the Wood Element and are appropriate for this time of the year. If you wish to deeply cleanse your liver this year, there are many liver cleansing diets that are available. These diets usually include specific drinks, supplements and herbal support.
Acupuncture is a wonderful and powerful tool to balance the energy of the liver! The reason you feel very calm after an Acupuncture treatment is because the energy of your liver moves smoothly. This feeling of ease is natural when your Liver is in balance - So I do recommend Acupuncture for liver imbalances. I also recommend an Acupuncture treatment to allow a harmonious flow in between the seasons. At spring time it is appropriate to have a ‘tune-up’ around the time of the Spring Equinox (September 21st) in order to enter the Spring without any ‘wintery influences’.
*1 Larre & Rochat 2003 "The secret treatise of the spiritual orchid" Translation of the Nei Jing Su en chapter 8, Monkey Press.
When observing nature during Spring we can really see the quality of the Wood Element clearly – new leaves and sprouts appear, flowers blossom, birds are courting and new babies are born, animals awaken from their winter hibernation, the wind blows and the sun is warming the earth more and more – the whole of creation is filled with the excitement of new life and regeneration! The Wood Element in our body appears where movement and regeneration takes place. For example, the movement of the bowel and the villi in our mucus membranes, the regeneration of skin, blood and other tissues; the circulation of blood and energy through out the body, the movement of our muscles and tendons and the protective power of our immune system.
The organs that are related to Wood are mainly the Liver and Gallbladder, but also the Heart, Bladder, Colon and Lung are 'Wood organs'. The tissues that are related to the Wood Element are the muscles, tendons, ligaments and mucus membranes. When the Wood Element is in balance, the tendons, ligaments and muscles are supple, immunity is strong, emotions are balanced, energy and blood flow effortlessly and freely.
When the Liver is out of balance, there can be much confusion and no direction which can often lead to frustration and anger (Anger has the same movement of the Wood Element but perhaps it is the ‘negative’ expression of it). Emotions in general may be out of balance and the person may be stressed, anxious or depressed. Physically there can be symptoms of inflammation in the digestive system, respiratory system, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system. There may be symptoms of inflammation or dryness of the skin and hair, menstrual imbalances, muscle cramps and twitching, headaches, low immunity, burning eyes, constipation and more. Supporting the liver is continuously working to cleanse our body of emotional, mental and physical toxins and to allow a free flow of energy and emotion. Unfortunately, our busy urban lifestyle creates the complete opposite and the load is heavy on our poor liver. What the liver needs is more Wood Element! That means movement.