Spring has sprung! Which means, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), that it is time for you to take special care of your Liver to stay healthy and in balance with the season. Each season has it's own organ system which is at its peak and also needs special attention, and right now, it's healthy Liver Spring Time! I'm going to give you some easy things to do to keep you in good health during this time of year.
Spring is the time for new life and growth. Our days get longer and the activity of plants and animals can be felt after a winter of hibernation. For us, spring is usually the time we start working on some of the projects that we put off during the winter. Like a good spring cleaning of your house, now is the perfect time to do a little spring cleaning on your body. Below are some of the top herbs for liver cleansing.
- Milk Thistle: One of the most commonly used liver supplements, milk thistle helps with the detoxification of poisons such as alcohol, regeneration of damaged liver tissue, stimulation of bile production, and improved digestion.
- Dandelion Root: This cute little garden weed has been used for cleansing the liver throughout the ages. It stimulates bile flow from the liver, and is often used by herbalists to help fight fatty liver, cirrhosis, estrogen dominance, and skin disorders.
- Turmeric: This yellow root is a powerful liver protector and a liver cell re-generator. It not only helps stimulate enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins from the body, but UCLA research found that turmeric is capable of combating the effects of carcinogens.
- Chanca Piedra: The indigenous people of the amazon have used this plant for centuries to promote the body’s natural elimination of liver, gallbladder, and kidney stones. It also stimulates the liver to purge itself of harmful toxins and foreign particles. Chanca piedra soothes the liver, increases bile production, and reduces the formation of calcified stones in the body.
- Chicory Root: Known for its vibrant blue flowers, chicory is also a medicinal herb celebrated for its ability to help cleanse the liver. Ancient Roman, Persian, Arabian, and Indian physicians used chicory leaves and root to aid against a slew of liver ailments including jaundice, gallbladder and liver stones, urinary stones, constipation, indigestion, depression, and headaches.
- Yellow Dock Root: This herb is known as a blood purifier and commonly used to cleanse toxins from the body. Yellow dock helps break down fatty foods by stimulating bile production, enhancing normal liver detoxification, improving the flow of digestive juices, helping the liver eliminate toxins, and has mild diuretic effects to help flush out harmful substances. It also helps reduce irritation of the liver and digestive system.
- Peppermint: This herb stimulates bile flow and relaxes bile ducts, helping to break down fats. It also helps reduce bad cholesterol, which makes the liver’s job of filtering toxins easier. Peppermint also inhibits blockages in the kidney and gallbladder and calms the stomach for optimal digestion.
Eat Green, Fresh, & Sour
Each organ in TCM is associated with its own color, flavor, season, and emotion. The color for the Liver is green, and the flavor is sour . Fresh green veggies and foods that are sour are especially beneficial to the Liver. Here's a list of some of the foods and spices that you should be eating now.
- All Green Leafy Veggies
- Sprouted Grains
- Fermented Foods
- Radish and Radish Leaves
- Mung Beans
- Dandelion Leaves
- Pickled Vegetables
Exercise & Stretching
According to TCM, the Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and Blood. When these two things are moving freely, we aren't experiencing pain, illness, or mental/emotional problems. One of the best ways to help your Liver do it's job from a TCM perspective is to move your body!
Dust off that yoga mat and get to a class. Ride your bike to the store or take a long walk. Tai Chi, anyone? You don't have to be full on marathon training to make your Liver happy, but do get that blood moving to nourish your muscles and tendons. And to keep that Qi moving, too!
Cool it with the Booze
I know. At the very first sign of spring, we Austinites will b-line it to the nearest patio bar for a marg. I'm sure every city and town has their version, but again, this is a good time to give your Liver a break.
While alcohol has the initial action of freeing up the Qi, making you feel more relaxed, over consumption will hinder your Liver and stagnate Qi. Some herbal prescriptions even include a dose of medicinal wine, but these are in such small amounts and sometimes raw herbs are simply cooked in wine.
I mentioned earlier that each season and organ is associated with an emotion in TCM. Well, the emotion of the Liver is anger. While all the emotions, including anger, are healthy and should be naturally occurring in all of us, prolonged emotions or the inability to cope with them is damaging. A lot of us might feel inexplicably irritable or even depressed this time of year. It might mean your Liver system is a little out of whack. Flying off the handle and feeling fits of murderous rage? Yeah, it's time to address what's going on with mind and body.
It is important to acknowledge, accept, and express feelings in a healthy way. If you've been kicking around the idea of seeing a therapist, now is a good time. Do you need to go out into a field and scream at the top of your lungs? Do it. Talk to your partner or your co-worker. Remember, spring is a time of growth. It is in nature and it can be personally for you, too.
Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
You knew I was going to go there, didn't you? Well, it just so happens that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine help the Liver, too. They help to boost the function of the Liver to move the Qi and Blood while simultaneously freeing up any "stuck" Qi or Blood to allow the Liver to function properly. Did I just blow your mind or what? Here are some of the signs which would indicate to an acupuncturist that you may have a Liver disharmony.
- High Blood Pressure
- Headache or Migraine
- Sighing Often
- Finger or Toe Nail Abnormalities
- Neck and Shoulder Tension
- Vision or Eye Problems
- Gallbladder Issues
- PMS & Menstrual Pain
It's a new season, and I hope these tips are useful. I'm excited to see how we all grow and thrive this spring and I hope to see you soon or to meet you for the first time ever! Be good to yourself and stay well.