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How Does the Liver Help to Manage Stress? (WFH Series 8)

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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believes that the liver is the human body’s hub. Although the functions of the human body’s internal organs, limbs and orifices are all different, TCM believes that they are all connected with each other. The “liver” in Chinese medicine does not refer to the liver organ alone, it refers to the its role as one of the five internal organs in TCM theory (heart, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney “心、肝、脾、肺、肾” ) as well as the “liver meridian” in meridian theory. The liver meridian is directly connected to the liver, has a specific circulation route, and is connected with other meridians.



TCM believes that the liver is the source and power of human life. It is recorded in “The Origin of Miscellaneous Diseases” (Zá Bìng Yuán Liú Xi Zhu “杂病源流犀烛”): When the liver is healthy, qi is generated, and the body can develop healthily, which promotes growth of various organs, and we can effectively manage our stress and emotions. It can be seen that the liver, as the human body’s hub, has the important role of both organ growth and emotion management.


Manage stress by regulating the circulation of qi and blood

The liver’s health will directly affect the smooth circulation of qi and blood, enabling us to manage our stress. If the liver is healthy, the flow of Qi is unobstructed, and the qi and blood are in harmony, the meridians will be cleared, and blood will flow smoothly. If the liver is abnormal, it will cause qi disorder, which can cause stress, depression, chest and body pain, headache, red face and red eyes.



Manage stress and soothe the spirit “神”

One’s mental resilience and ability to manage stress are related to the health of one’s spirit which resides in the heart, and is also related to the dispersing of liver qi. “The liver contains the soul”, and the health of the “soul” depends on the health of the five internal organs. “Spirit” (‘Shen’ 神) refers to one’s essence and mental resilience or clarity. Keep your soul at ease, follow your spirit , and your mind will be clear. If your liver qi is inadequate, stress, depression, insomnia, lack of focus would follow.




Regulate the digestive function of the spleen and stomach

The liver controls the excretion of waste materials, helps to promote the clearing of the spleen and maintains stomach health. In addition, the physiology and pathology of liver and gallbladder affect each other. If the liver loses the function of filtering and dispersing, the stomach can stagnate, and abdominal distension and pain, belching and soreness, stomach pain and other signs of liver-stomach discrepancy can be seen.




Some stress management tips and stress management exercises


1. Control your emotions, and avoid being “stressed , anxious, or tired.”

Throughout one’s life, a lot of tempers are caused by stress. You get angry and tired easily when you are in a hurry or stressed. It is recommended to manage stress by reading books and listening to songs when you are “stressed , anxious, and tired.” It is important to maintain a positive outlook, and learn to accept that some things are beyond your control. Learn how to better manage your time, and do make time for your interests and hobbies.

Most importantly, to relieve stress, don’t rely on drink, drugs, or compulsive activities. Drugs and alcohol might cause your body to become even more stressed.


2. Acupoints Massage


  1. Leg Three Miles / Zusanli (‘足三里’): Massage the Zusanli point to regulate the spleen and stomach, invigorate the liver and invigorate qi, and clear the channels. Gently press the acupuncture points with your thumb and feel the soreness. Press for 5 seconds each time, rest for 3 seconds, and press about 20 times.
  2. Middle of the Chest / Shanzhong Point (‘膻中穴’) : Located at the middle of one’s chest, it has the effect of calming the mind and eliminating boredom. Swipe down 100 times when you are angry or stressed, it may help you manage your stress.
  3. Supreme Rush Point / Taichong Point (‘太冲穴’): Known as the first key point of the human body, use the index finger to press vertically downwards between the index finger to get a sense of soreness and swelling. Press about 20 times.


3. Conditioning with drugs or food supplements


For stressed patients, a TCM physician might administer herbal powder such as Chinese Thorowax Root, White Peony, Angelica, Turmeric (Chai Hu, Bai Shao, Danggui, Yu Jin “柴胡、白芍、当归、郁金”), to soothe the liver and regulate qi and blood. It can also be used with lily, dried Privet berries, dogwood, Ophiopogon root (Bai He, Nǚ Zhen Zi, Shan Zhu Yu, Mai Dong “百合、女贞子、山茱萸、麦冬”) and other drugs to nourish both the liver and kidney for a peace of mind and reducing stress.


Some patients who are prone to irritability, insomnia and stress, should be mindful to have a lighter diet, and can also eat more foods such as lily bulbs, lotus roots, and snow pears, all of which can be easily bought at most TCM shops, which can nourish and calm the mind, and may help manage stress. You can also boil water with tangerine or roses, etc. to drink as soup on a daily basis, which can soothe the liver, regulate qi and manage stress.



Best way to manage stress

It’s important to remember that it’s quite OK to seek professional assistance. You can seek help if you are finding it difficult to manage on your own. It’s critical to understand that you can get help right away and that you deserve to be healthy.


Stress or disease, according to TCM, can cause the energy that normally flows smoothly throughout the body to become blocked or scattered. Acupuncture can help to relieve stress by stimulating the movement of Qi in the body. It reduces stress by releasing endorphins, which are pain-killing hormones produced naturally in the brain.