Chapter 3. Liver and gallbladder
The liver plays a major role in the regulation, production and circulation of the resources that all our energy is created from. Consequently, when the liver ceases to function normally, this tends to produce powerful physical symptoms.
The Nei Jing authors noticed that when the liver function stagnates, this causes the patient to experience signs and symptoms from the following list. Not all these would be present at once, but most patients would experience a good selection of them.
discomfort at the front or back of the torso at the level of the liver (the hypochondrium ), frequent sighing or hiccups;
feeling of irritability, with outbursts of angry shouting;
muscular spasms, cramps, twitching, stiff neck;
a feeling as though something were stuck in your throat;
fluctuations of mood, melancholy or depression, paranoia;
migraines or headaches with pain on the top or sides of the head or associated with the eyes, visual disturbances;
dizziness, vertigo, hearing high pitch ringing sounds (tinnitus), insomnia;
strong pain, stiffness or discomfort anywhere along the liver or gallbladder meridian, particularly on the head, neck, hips, outside of the legs;
(in women) irregular periods with cramps, tender breasts, either scanty or absent menses or, alternatively, heavy flow with clots, and emotional fluctuations and irritability in the pre-menstrual phase (PMS); and (in all patients)
effects on other organs, producing constipation, or the alternation of constipation with loose stools and other digestive signs. Causes of stagnated liver function
Stagnated liver function (called "Liver chi stagnation" in Chinese medicine) is extremely common in developed countries, since the condition is primarily caused by mental and emotional stresses of the kind that are rife in such societies.
Chinese medicine has always recognised the connection between our thoughts and organ functions. In the body, the liver's main role is a regulatory one; and when this function is used to process our thoughts, this produces our tendency to organize the world around us. But problems result when the world declines to obey our "rules". That is, when people do not do things the way we would like, or break etiquette rules, or things are not organized as we would like. This blocks the flow of our liver-related thoughts, which the liver feels as though the physical substances in the body had stopped flowing as they should. The liver produces a powerful reaction to try to correct this blocked flow, and this is the feeling of irritation or anger that we feel when our "rules" are broken. However, our usual tendency is to suppress our anger. We may perhaps sigh, but do little else. But since the situation in our life is not resolved, the liver continues to behave as though the flow of substances and energy in our own body were also still blocked. And it is this that produces the many powerful symptoms in us.
Female, aged 32. This patient sought treatment for issues related to her menstrual cycle, primarily acne but also PMS and painful periods. All these issues were addressed by the treatment, which focused on alleviating her stagnated liver function. See the full case history on page ref .
Traits of a liver-dominated person
When our liver function is habitually stagnated, our mental activity would tend to be dominated by the "concerns" of our liver, causing the following traits to become excessive.
We would tend to over regulate our environment. At the simplest level, we may find ourselves frequently (almost unconsciously) adjusting the position of objects: straightening a picture on the wall or an object on our desk. And we wo