The Liver

In Chinese medicine theory, the key functions of the liver are to "store blood" and "regulate the flow of Qi". While the heart governs the flow of blood, the liver stores it and regulates its release into the body as needed. This helps to explain why the Chinese associate the liver with the female menstrual cycle and will often treat gynaecological problems with liver tonics.

The liver also regulates the way that Qi (vital energy) circulates through our bodies. This promotes a smooth and constant flow of Qi. In doing so, it helps to avoid any stagnation that can cause health problems.

Controllng the tendons

The liver is also believed to control the tendons. So, joint pains caused by tendon problems are seen as a liver weakness.

This is most apparent in the knees: Suffering from aching knees the morning after indulging too much alcohol and rich food are a sure sign that the liver has been working too hard.

Other associations with other body organs

The liver is said to be "seen in the nails" and "linked to the eyes". These are valuable pointers to the state of the liver.

In Western theory, pale finger nails can indicate anaemia - a blood deficiency problem that the Chinese associate with the liver (healthy pink nails suggest good liver Qi).

Poor eyesight is seen as a result of deficient liver blood, while irritant conditions like conjunctivitis are defined in terms of heat or wind affecting the liver.

Gan Huo or "Liver Fire"

The liver is also associated with anger and shouting. The archetypal red-faced, short-tempered crosspatch is a typical manifestation of excess liver fire. In the West, the term "gung-huo" is used to describe a sort of excessively jingoistic, military aggression.

Theories of the term's derivation vary - one authority suggests it was the name of a Chinese industrial co-operative perhaps it is more accurate to say it is a misspelling of Gan Huo, which means "liver fire".

Return from The Liver to Chinese Medicine

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