Traditional Oriental Medicine always views the physical organs, along with their corresponding energy meridian pathways, as an integrated whole. Because of this, when Eastern medicine talks about an organ, it is referring to the entire system which often includes other associated parts of the body, not just the local area of the physical organ.
Emotions in general are said to be controlled by the liver meridian, but anger and frustration in particular are closely related to the liver. As we covered in our previous blog post, spring is the seasonal in which energy is most abundant in the liver meridian; many of the symptoms covered in this post are more likely to be exhibited during this time of year.
In the case of an angry, irritable person, the liver energy is too active and is described as a fire that rises up towards the top of the body. The normal direction of liver energy flow, upward and outward, has been taken to an extreme, and this can become evident as the voice becomes loud, the body movements become agitated, the blood pressure rises as blood rushes upwards to the head, the face turns red and the eyes become bloodshot, and veins in the forehead become distended.
At the other extreme of the emotional spectrum would be someone who suffers from depression. Instead of the liver energy traveling upward and outward, it begins to stagnate and turn inward on itself, causing symptoms such as pent-up emotions, frustration, depression, and an inability to express feelings.
Common pathologies related to liver meridian dysfunction include migraine headaches, neck and shoulder tension, and sciatica pain. Body parts associated with the liver system include connective tissue, tendons, and the eyes.
Finally, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, one major function of the liver is to store and regulate the blood. Because of this close association with blood, the liver meridian is also extremely important when treating women’s health issues.
Some gynecological issues like menorrhagia or amenorrhea are related to blood flow (too much or too little blood flow, respectively), while other problems such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and PMS are more commonly associated with dysfunctional energy (or Qi) flow of the meridians. In all cases, regulating the liver pathway is an important aspect of treatment.
Michael A. Sassack is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist serving the northwest suburbs of Chicago.