Spring into Health - Harmonizing with the Seasons - Liver

In the Chinese healing modalities of Medical Qigong Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the internal organs are viewed differently than from the perspective of Western Medicine.

In Medical Qigong Therapy and TCM, the organs are seen as pools of energy which vibrate at different frequencies. These can only be correctly understood when viewed in relationship to the body’s overall energy anatomy.

The organs have a wider area of function and influence than found in Western Medicine, as each organ has distinct responsibilities for maintaining the physical and psychological health of the individual. In fact it is more accurate to view them as interconnected spheres of influence on the body, rather than the distinct and separate physical organs as described by western science.

If you are a healer, it can prove helpful to have an understanding of the Chinese energetic healing theory and associated harmful emotions that can be related to each organ, both from a diagnostic and therapeutic perspective. For example, anger is associated with the liver, and grief with the lungs. If you are someone interested in improving your health and well being, then this information is for you as well.

From a western perspective, the physical liver is a very important organ that stores blood, processes toxins and poisons and aids in our overall immunity. However from the perspective of the Chinese healing arts, the Liver has a far greater influence and responsibility:

Qi circulation: The Liver is a very important organ. It has a major influence on a person’s overall wellbeing as it is responsible for the smooth and effective dispersal of life force (Qi) throughout the body. When something blocks this energy flow throughout the body the Liver gets agitated, which can cause a variety of different symptoms often referred to as "Liver Qi Stagnation." 

If the Liver Qi is already somewhat blocked, these symptoms will manifest and flare more strongly this time of year as we put additional strain on our Liver Qi. (Later in this blog, in the section “Spring”, I explain the reasons why this is the case.) Some of the most common symptoms of stagnant Liver Qi include the following: headaches, particularly migraines; PMS and menstrual cramping; tight shoulders; depression; anger; frustration and irritability.

Stress: Our nervous system also reflects the health of our Liver and, in our Society, one of the most common causes of stuck Liver Qi is stress, particularly stress that is chronic, extreme, or unexpressed.

When this happens, our Liver is constantly being challenged and our energy flow continually impeded. It gets more and more difficult to undo the damage. And the more stuck our energy becomes, the more easily stress affects us -- and so it becomes a vicious cycle.

Qi and Blood: The Liver stores the Blood and aids in the proper circulation of Qi and Blood during movement. It regulates the tendons, ligaments and small muscles, and its health reflects in our ability for movement and in our flexibility. A dysfunction here can result in muscle spasms, joint or tendon problems, and numbness in the limbs or menstrual issues.

The nails: If the Liver is healthy, the nails will be strong and moist, rather than thin, brittle and pale.

The eyes: The Liver is also said to ‘open into the eyes’. This means that the appearance and health of the eyes can be an indicator of Liver health or, if there are problems with the eyes, it points back to the Liver as an important part of your treatment protocol.

Emotions: The Liver is associated with the emotions of anger, irritability, blame, resentment, and jealously. An excessive expression (or repression) of these emotions can indicate and/or foster a liver system imbalance. When the Liver is in good health, kindness, benevolence, compassion, and love are easily expressed.

A Liver dysfunction will tend to result in someone being overly emotional, unstable and highly sensitive. They will also tend to ‘get stuck’ in their life. An example is someone who holds on to anger for years, or is completely inflexible in his or her approach,

When the Liver is balanced and functioning well, then we can exercise effective control over the events in our life. We can then respond to sudden changes in a considered and flexible manner.

Spring: In the Chinese healing arts, including Medical Qigong Therapy, each of the four seasons is associated with an internal organ. Spring is the time of year associated with our Liver energy and our health in Spring is influenced by the health of our Liver and the energy it provides.

As we transition to Spring, that inward energy of Winter starts to move to the surface and becomes more active. You can see this in the environment as plant life awakens from its Winter dormancy, and begins to push upwards and out of the dark, quiet ground into the sun. You can feel it in your body, too. As the days become longer and the weather warms up, we emerge from our homes, eager to go out in the world. When our Liver energy is balanced in Spring, we feel uplifted with a sense of inner ‘softness and kindness’. When the Liver is out-of-balance, a ‘revved-up and restless’ feeling — inside and out — is common.

In April and early May, Liver energy is at its pinnacle. If you’ve been plugged-in full-time to this Spring energy socket, you may now be feeling a bit worn down. And anyone who felt fatigued at the end of Winter (and didn’t read and act on the information in my blog, Kidney Vitality, Harmonizing with the Seasons-Winter) and then overindulged in Spring/Liver energy, may end up feeling utterly exhausted and worn out!

This month, I'd like to offer some tips to keep your Liver energy flowing smoothly and to help you feel your best as we leap into spring.

Smooth Flowing Liver: Tips & Strategies

So what can you do to keep that Liver flowing smoothly in the face of all of our everyday life stresses?  Here are some suggestions:

1. Exercise: The very best way to get your energy moving is to move! Different types of exercise are better for different people. Some people's constitutions do really well with vigorous exercise. Other people are much more suited to slower, gentler forms of movement such as yoga, walking, or Tai Chi. I have personally found Qigong to be exceptionally beneficial and can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Listen to your body, do what feels good, and don't try anything new or extreme without consulting your healthcare practitioner.

2. Diet: In spring, the season of regeneration and growth, it is important to eat foods that will cleanse and improve the function of the Liver, as well as prepare the body for summer’s heat. Sour flavors like lemon and vinegar are helpful to your Liver. Also there are foods that help invigorate your Qi and ones that help clog it up.  Dairy, greasy, and deep fried foods are cloggers. Also, too much salt, including a lot of miso and soy sauce, as well as too much meat both have a sinking energy, and will work against the rising energy of this time of year. Leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens, Swiss Chard, and lettuce and upward growing vegetables like asparagus, all help move Qi. 

ARTICHOKES TO YOUR LIVER’S RESCUE! It goes without saying that if we want to live far into the future, we need Livers that function properly. Most people have livers that are burdened by chemical overload and do not function optimally. Artichokes can help. This delicious vegetable is a powerful Liver protector because it contains a flavonoid called silymarin, a strong antioxidant. Studies on animals have shown that silymarin may be helpful against Liver toxicity and cancer. When they are in season, steam and eat artichokes regularly to keep your Liver performing at its optimum.

Sprouts and pungent herbs/flavors (basil, fennel, rosemary, dill, garlic, and ginger) will help support your upward and expanding energy of this season and also help keep your Qi flowing smoothly.

3. Medical Qigong Therapy: The immediate effects that people feel right after a Medical Qigong Therapy treatment (calm energy, relaxation, improved mood, pain relief and a greater sense of well being and vitality) can often be the result of stuck Liver energy having been moved and balanced.


Receiving a Medical Qigong Treatment is a great way to start the Spring correctly. A ‘wellness treatment’ is a great way to energetically detox; de- stress; get your Qi moving, and experience deep and harmonizing relaxation.

Also, as part of the treatment ‘homework’, I recommend easy-to-learn Qigong exercises to break up stagnant Liver Qi, and vitalize and harmonize your Liver.

Spring is also a good time to address those long-term health complaints or those recent nagging pains that seem to have followed you around through the Winter.

So if you have any of the symptoms listed above, working to improve the functioning of the Liver system is in your best interest. With a free flowing Liver system, your joints will be smooth, your eyes bright, and the energy in your body (both physical and emotional) will flow freely. Liver Qi Stagnation in particular, is a very common imbalance found in our modern western society. Being aware of the more mild signs of the imbalance and working now to correct them can avoid more serious issues later and help us to live better in the present.  

These tough economic times and the global sense of fear and worry that pervades society right now are an additional strain on our Livers.  While for many of us, it might be hard to justify an additional expense to do something for ourselves, self-care is especially important to remain healthy and balanced to face the challenges ahead. The more balanced we are as individuals, the more balance we can contribute to bringing about on a global level.  So, whether it's a Medical Qigong Therapy healing treatment, yoga classes, organic food, massage, acupuncture treatment, or your gym membership, don't completely cut out things that nourish and balance you. 

Consider how you wish to make ready for your summer harvest. Spring does not last forever. Use its bountiful energy wisely, so that the crops you sow - again, with yourself, in your work, and in your life - are those you wish to harvest.

Wishing you good health and abundant Qi!


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