Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on Five Element Theory. Each element (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) corresponds with certain seasons, environments, tastes, directions, tissues and organs.
In Chinese medicine, the wood element is associated with spring and the liver. Imagine bamboo trees and plants shooting up straight out of the earth. The wood element is associated with new life and growth and truly captures upward momentum and the energy of spring.
When I say “the liver,” I’m referring to the liver organ network or the liver organ energy system – not just that little brownish-red organ that sits on the right side below diaphragm. The liver organ network includes all of the elements that are associated with the liver, such as the gallbladder, eyes, tendons and the emotions of irritability, depression and anger.
The two wood organs, the liver and gallbladder, are coupled together as yin and yang. These organs rely on each other, interact mutually and balance each other. The general characteristics that I’m describing about the liver apply to the gallbladder as well.
Since the wood element is associated with the liver, this means that springtime is a great time to turn your attention to the liver. The liver is always working really hard to carry out the many physiological tasks that it is responsible for. In the spring, the liver is more susceptible to falling out of balance, so it is a really good time to focus on supporting the liver and its ability to carry out its natural detoxification responsibilities.
Liver-related Conditions that Surface During Spring
In the spring, the liver is prone to liver qi stagnation. In other words, it has a tendency to become stuck. It is really important to avoid this, which is why it’s a good time to detox the liver. When you detox, you restore balance in the liver and avoid liver qi stagnation, which will help you feel better mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. When the liver is out of balance, the following conditions tend to emerge:
- Allergies: Another condition related to the liver that typically surfaces during spring is allergies. Allergies are more prominent in the spring because one of the liver’s functions is to cleanse the blood. If that process is compromised, allergies are more likely to be present.
- Wind-Heat Invasion: There’s also a lot of wind in the spring, which carries pollen. People who are prone to allergies are also prone to wind-heat invasion, which has a tendency to cause the common cold and swollen glands. So, it’s really important to wear a scarf to protect your neck and your thyroid because of the wind.
- Irritability, Anger and Frustration: We tend to do too much in the spring because we’re so excited about all of this new spring energy. Often, this leads to feeling overwhelmed, irritable and frustrated. These emotions are associated with the liver. When the liver is out of balance, people tend to experience all of these emotional symptoms. When the liver is balanced, you should feel happy and compassionate – not irritable and angry.
- PMS Symptoms: During the spring, women often experience moodiness, irritability, breast tenderness, and cramps around their periods because the liver is working really hard to move qi and blood throughout the body.
- Headaches, Migraines, Dizziness and Hypertension: When the liver is out of balance, the upward energy and movement of spring becomes too much and energy rises to the head causing headaches, migraines dizziness and hypertension.
- Digestive Disturbances: Another tendency of the liver is to overact on other organs, such as the spleen (in Chinese Medicine, we call this “wood controlling earth” because the spleen is the earth organ), which can cause various digestive disturbances.
- Exercise-induced Asthma and/or Lung Issues: We’re also prone to issues with our lungs in the spring, when the liver tends to overact on the lungs. People often experience exercise-induced asthma, which is another example of the liver being out of balance.
Every organ system has a time of day when the body’s energy especially moves through that organ system, which is referred to ‘high tide’. The liver is in high tide between 1 AM and 3 AM. If your liver is out of balance or is struggling, you will tend to wake up or struggle with insomnia at this time of the day.
Have you experienced any of the liver-related symptoms above? Share your experience in the comments section below.