In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we believe our bodies are a microcosm of the natural world, with each organ system being related to a season, an aspect of nature, a cognitive function, a body tissue, and an emotion. March and April marks the beginning of spring and the season of the Liver and Gallbladder in TCM.
The Liver and Gallbladder represent a larger idea than the organs with those names. They represent a meridian, or a channel that traverses the outside of the body and goes internally to connect with different organs and body structures.
For instance, the Liver meridian goes from the inside edge of your big toe, up your inner leg, onto your abdomen, and then shifts internally below your sixth rib. The internal channel curves around the stomach, travels through the liver, lung, throat, and ends at the very top of your head. Movement of energy along the Liver/Gallbladder meridians is important for the functions listed below.
The Liver and the Gallbladder are a dynamic duo. Along with their springtime affiliation, they are noted to bring the body vigor and life force, like new foliage bursting forth out of the ground. Think of crocuses punching through the frosty earth. Not surprisingly, the Liver and Gallbladder are linked to the natural element of ‘wood,’ meaning plant life.
In health, plants grow persistently towards the light, are limber and flexible enough to survive windstorms, and are adaptive. In human behavior, the wood element represents planning, decision-making, strategizing, and bringing ideas into fruition. The orifice of the liver is said to be the eyes, where it can look out at the horizon and plan accordingly to encounter events seen off in the distance. Joints and any part of the body that pivots are governed by the Liver/Gallbladder, as pivoting allows you to take in all horizons at once.
The emotion associated with the Liver/Gallbladder duo is anger. Anger gets a bad rap, but has a healthy manifestation. The healthy expression of anger is the type of anger that fueled the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage. In this light, the Liver and Gallbladder have a strong relationship to justice.
The body tissues of the Liver/Gallbladder pair are the tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues. The energy of the Liver also makes sure the blood vessels are clear to provide smooth circulation of blood throughout the body. In this way, the liver is in charge of making sure the connective tissues get adequate nourishment. If this process is hindered in anyway, our tendons can become dry and brittle like a desiccated tree that can easily break.
When the Liver meridian and organ are not functioning optimally, certain emotions tend to occur. If the liver meridian still has too much oomph to it, the more energetic emotions of unhealthy anger, rage, and frustration will begin to occur, and can slowly increase in frequency until health returns to the Liver meridian.
If, on the other hand, the Liver meridian is lacking energy, then depression and apathy set in. These emotions are often one of the first signs that the Liver meridian is not functioning optimally. Other signs include: pain along the Liver and Gallbladder meridian, difficulty making decisions, pain in our joints, insomnia, stressful dreams, and easily injured tendons and ligaments. These are all signs that your body needs a little help getting back on track and, in the springtime, the liver/gallbladder energy can be particularly feisty. Certain foods and flavors can help mitigate these symptoms.
The flavor that soothes a cranky Liver/Gallbladder is sweetness. This is often why we crave sweets when stressed. The sweetness that soothes is the sweetness of grains, root vegetables, and mild fruits. Refined sugar in pastries and candies will actually make everything worse after a brief moment of bliss.
The sour flavor is the flavor of the Liver meridian and small amounts of sour can help move some gentle irritation or a feeling of being ‘stuck.’ Use the sour flavor sparingly in the spring, because too much can act detrimentally during this season.
One of the best recipes for someone suffering from being easily irritable or even exploding into a rage is Borscht. The beets have the perfect sweetness to soothe the liver, and adding a dollop of sour cream adds a hint of sour. If you cook it the traditional way with beef broth, the minerals aid in keeping the quality of your blood strong, thus nourishing your tendons and ligaments. Borscht is a favorite Eastern European dish and googling a recipe can get you many delightful arguments of what is the traditional recipe.
Working with you to understand your body in Spring, is just one of the many ways Traditional Chinese Medicine is different but complimentary to Western Medicine.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an Acupuncture or Herb treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.
Excerpts from original article by L Thompson.