TCM Made Simple

TCM: Understanding The Role Of The Liver

According to TCM, the liver is the organ similar to an army general due to its stern character and is responsible for storing of blood and regulation of essential substances.

Making sense of liver regulation

The primary function of the liver is to regulate the movement of ‘qi’ within the body. This regulatory function is essential for the physiological actions of all organ systems, ensuring proper functioning of the body. ‘Qi’ is a unique concept of a circulating life force that sustains all living beings. This is likened to a flow of energy in the body that maintains life. The regulatory role of the liver is demonstrated mainly in four areas.

1. Pushing action of qi

Firstly, the circulation of blood and metabolism of water relies on the “pushing” action of ‘qi’ in the relevant organs, which is dependent on the overall regulation of the liver ‘qi’. If the liver ‘qi’ is stagnated for certain reasons, diseases related to the circulation of blood and metabolism of water can occur. For example, stagnant liver ‘qi’ leads to poor circulation of blood and may result in blood stasis within the body. Similarly, if liver ‘qi’ disperses excessively without control, the circulation of blood can go erratic, manifesting symptoms such as hemoptysis and epistaxis. The stagnant ‘qi’ can also obstruct the flow of fluids, forming sputum or water retention.

2. Digestion imbalances

Secondly, the regulatory role of the liver can supplement the role of absorption and assimilation by the spleen. At the same time, it is thought that bile is secreted from surplus liver ‘qi’ and subsequently stored in the liver. The liver regulates the outflow of bile to facilitate the digestion process. A stagnant liver ‘qi’ can affect the circulation of ‘qi’ of the spleen, stomach and gall bladder, causing digestion troubles and giving rise to gastrointestinal symptoms such as flatulence, vomiting, belching amongst others. If the secretion of bile gets obstructed instead, there can also be pain at the ribs area, jaundice and a lack of appetite.

Eu Yan Sang’s Sleep Formula can alleviate symptoms of insomnia due to liver blood deficiency as it can nourish both blood and liver to provide tranquility to the mind.  The main constituent of this natural and drug free herbal remedy, Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube Seed), also called the “Oriental Sleeping Fruit”, has healing properties such as calming the mind, soothing the nerves, arresting excessive sweating and nourishing the liver. The combination of herbs in this formula can help to relieve insomnia naturally and improve sleep quality, without developing drug dependence and undesirable side effects.

3. Emotional Health

The liver has also a major role to play when it comes to managing emotions. In TCM, there are 7 main emotions, namely joy, anger, worry, thought, sorrow, fear and fright. It is believed that excessive exposure to these emotions can affect their respective organs,. An adequate supply of blood and smooth circulation of ‘qi’ are necessary for individuals to manage their emotions properly, which evokes optimistic thinking and good spirits. In today’s fast-paced society, liver ‘qi’ stagnation, in particular, is a common imbalance found in individuals who find difficulties in juggling between work and life. When the liver becomes imbalanced, the flow of qi is disrupted, resulting in a myriad of abnormal emotional activity such as low spirits, palpable anxiety and belching.

4. Women's physiology

Lastly, females depend heavily on the supply and circulation of blood in circumstances such as menstruation, pregnancy, labour and even breastfeeding throughout their life cycle. The regulatory role of the liver ensures that blood is directed to the uterus to support these physiological activities. Notably, it is little wonder for females of menopausal age to face emotional mood swings. Although science attributes the symptoms of menopause largely to hormonal imbalance, TCM believes that stagnation of liver ‘qi’ and deficiency in kidney essence are associated with menopause, resulting in the typical symptoms such as depression, mood swings, changes in menstrual cycle and hot flushes.

Eu Yan Sang’s Menoease Pills can help to relieve discomforts associated with menopause and improve the health of the womb. Its constituent herbs aim to invigorate the kidney and liver, as well as regulate the liver ‘qi’ for better management of emotions. Research studies have also shown that Eu Yan Sang Menoease Pills can increase the level of endogenous estrogen in mature women, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Managing Women’s Issues with Chinese Medicine

Another important role of the liver is the storing of blood as well as regulate blood volume in the body. During rest, blood requirement in organs and structures is less and excess blood is channeled to the liver for storage. When there is activity, demand for blood increases and the liver transports blood to the respective organs to meet these needs. In the case of liver blood deficiency, organs fail to receive adequate nourishment which can result in symptoms such as giddiness, weakness in limbs, insomnia, and scanty periods in women or even amenorrhea. When blood cannot be stored in the liver effectively, the circulation of blood becomes unpredictable, leading to either bleeding from the orifices or heavy menstruation in females.

Liver opens into the eyes

Every organ has an association with a sense organ and the liver is most closely linked to the health of our eyes. Any unpleasant signs of the eyes can therefore be used to assess the health status of the liver. TCM believes that liver blood can travel upwards to nourish eye structures and gives the eyes capacity to see. A deficiency in liver blood may lead to eye issues such as blurred vision, myopia and eye floaters.

On the other hand, excess liver heat can manifest in symptoms like red and bloodshot eyes, painful eyes which may be accompanied by a burning sensation.

Since the functions of the liver is so extensive, any imbalances in the liver can affect the activities of other organs. Staying well informed and being aware of any minor symptoms associated with the imbalance of liver can help to prevent serious health issues in future. Since the emotions related to the liver are anger and frustration, it is also necessary to manage our emotions and stress effectively to minimize negative influence to the liver.