7 ways to heal your liver this spring
by Blaise T. Ryan, Ac., Registered Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.” - Pablo Naruda
Spring! According to traditional Chinese medicine, spring is the season of the Liver. That's why it's so important to detox your liver in the spring.
Chinese medicine uses the wisdom of nature to restore balance in the human body. The essence of which is in the balance of yin and yang. Out of the depth of Yin (winter), the Yang starts to grow (spring).
Water represents winter and nourishes the roots to allow the plants to sprout and grown in the spring. We can see this happening with the spring thaw all around us.
The spring corresponds to the element of Wood in the 5-element system. The Wood element is about growth, movement, ambition, planning, and planting the seeds for our future harvests. The energy of spring is full of life as the Yang energy grows all around - and within us.
The liver is the organ system responsible for all things to do with planning, productivity, decisive action and getting things done. Not only does our liver filter our blood but, according to Chinese medicine, it's also responsible for the "free flow" of "Qi-energy" in our bodies. When our Liver-Qi is blocked, it becomes stagnant and toxins can build up.
Stagnant Liver-Qi Causes Many Health Problems.
Stagnant Liver-Qi can be the cause of many physical and mental health issues including:
- insomnia, fatigue,
- seasonal allergies,
- depression, anxiety, ADHD
- chronic pain, headaches,
- stress, overwhelm, burn-out,
- digestive problems, weight-gain,
- And too many more to list here...
Just like many people do a good spring-cleaning for the home and lawn, detoxing the liver system in the spring will help the body stay in better health.
Spring is the time to detox "The General."
In classical Chinese medicine, the Liver is called "The General" of the body. That's because it's responsible for planning, scheming and strategic masterminding. It's the Liver that motivates us to overcome obstacles and fight the battles of everyday life. It's responsible for our focus, ambition and our determination.
Because our North American society is heavily focused on productivity, advancement and goals, the Liver energy is often depleted or stagnant in most people who live and work in fast-paced, productivity-focused or go-go-go environments and cultures.
Your Liver-Qi is depleted by too much Go-Go-Go.
Whether you are a Type-A personality or if you just have hectic schedules with neverending to-do lists, then it's even more vital that you devote time every spring to detoxify your Liver.
If you don't regularly detoxify your Liver, eventually your Liver-Qi will be depleted and you'll find yourself feeling exhausted and having a harder time keeping up with responsibilities. You'll feel like you just can't keep up the pace that you used to. Or you'll feel overwhelmed and less motivated.
The Story of the Woodcutter (don't ignore this lesson).
Remember the story of the woodcutter who never sharpened his saw because he thought he was too busy to take time away from cutting wood... he ends up working ten times as hard to cut through all his wood with a dull saw. He gets caught in an unproductive cycle.
If only he took a break to sharpen his saw, he would refresh his muscles, prime his blade and then be able to cut the wood much faster with less effort. It's the woodcutter's obsession with needing to do-do-do that makes him blind to a simple solution that would increase his efficiency and productivity while making his life more easy and enjoyable at the same time.
How many times do we get caught in the same vicious cycle in our own busy lives as the woodcutter? Learn from this lesson: Sharpen your saw by detoxifying and replenishing your Liver Qi.
Here are 7 Ways to Replenish your Liver this Spring
1. Practice Patience: Pulling plants up with your hands will not make them grow faster. If this long winter and slow spring has taught us anything, it's patience. The virtue of patience allows the Qi to flow, while impatience quickly leads to frustration and stagnant Liver Qi. Enjoy the journey, nature moves gradually and slowly. Don't force things outside your control. Master self-control and be patient with those in your life and yourself too.
2. Acupuncture: The Liver in particular is very responsive to acupuncture treatments. I've found in my own practice that everything from seasonal allergies, pain, digestive problems, and emotional issues can be greatly improved through harmonizing Liver Qi with acupuncture. Even if you don't have any major health issues, it's good practice to prevent imbalances from growing by getting seasonal acupuncture tune-ups. If you don't have any acupuncture treatments scheduled with me, or if you've never had acupuncture before, you can book a treatment with me online on my website at: www.drblaiseryan.com
3. Take a Chinese Herbal Formula: Talk to me about a Chinese Herbal Formula that will work with you to help you transition through Spring better and make sure your liver if functioning at its optimum. Because of the complex and dynamic relationship between the liver and the other organs, a qualified herbalist will know which herbal formula will work best for your own unique case. Sometimes the herbs you need most focus primarily on your kidneys, or your spleen, or your blood in order to treat the root issue underlying any liver imbalance.
4. Do a Spring Cleanse: There are hundreds of different cleanses. Some of them will transform your health in a positive direction forever, others can cause you more harm. Be informed before you start a cleanse. To help make cleansing safer and clearer for you, meet with a natural health professional and do your own research. Remember, don’t believe or try everything you read on google or facebook – get a personalized opinion from an expert.
5. Practice Qigong and/or Tai Chi: These two ancient Chinese meditative exercises not only relax the body and improve circulation, but they also help Liver Qi to flow better by regulating emotions, clearing the mind and opening the meridian energy channels of the body.
I teach Qigong and Tai Chi classes every week in Aylmer. Beginners are welcome to join these classes anytime. Go to this website for the full Spring Schedule: www.AylmerQigong.com.
6. Nature Healing Time: Spending time in nature is very soothing for the Liver Qi. To make it even more healing focus on 3 things during your time in nature: First, go slow; don't rush so fast you don't have time to stop and smell the flowers or appreciate the birds. Second, bring your awareness outside your mind by taking in as much nature as you can. Enhance your visual field, as if you were a hunter keeping an eye out for prey, and allow your heart to savour all the nature around you. Thirdly, breathe deeply; oxygenate your body by using your full lung capacity and enjoy the fresh air.
7. Laugh More: You know the saying: "Laughter is the best medicine." It's true. There is a lot of evidence that supports the health benefits of laughing. According to traditional Chinese medicine, laughter causes stagnant Liver Qi to flow smoothly. It helps release pressure or tension and eases stress. Make laughter a priority and life will be that much more enjoyable - your liver will thank you for it.
Blaise T. Ryan is a Registered Acupuncturist and Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner. He accepts new patients at his Aylmer office at 32 rue Principale and also at the Westboro Village Clinic on Churchill Ave. North in Ottawa. You can book an appointment with him online a www.blaiseryan.com or by calling 613-702-5377.
Photo: Alana Repstock