Despite the bright, hopeful energy of springtime, many people may find themselves suffering from moodiness, frustration, and anxiety, as these feelings are tied to the health of the liver qi, the system associated with this season. Because of our renewed sense of energy and eagerness to push forward, many of us may notice our limitations that much more, making it difficult to accept that change is gradual and that we are constantly in transition.
Another factor is stress—a lot of us are even more stressed out than we realize! While everyone gets irritated or moody once in a while, but sometimes these emotions can evolve into more serious conditions like anxiety and depression. They can also feed into other health issues such as digestive problems, a weakened immune system, and trouble sleeping.
In the west, many doctors and patients are quick to turn to anti-depressants and other drugs to help combat these conditions.
In traditional Chinese medicine, however, the underlying cause of emotional issues is addressed. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi throughout the body and for balancing our emotions. When the liver’s function of moving qi is disrupted, qi can become stuck, or stagnated.
As stagnation of liver qi is one of the main causes of disharmony reflected in anger, irritability, and frustration, we can improve our health by moving our qi.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to relieve liver qi stagnation. Marie and I see patients all the time with this condition at Five Seasons. To treat irritability and moodiness associated with liver qi stagnation, we focus on moving the qi and supporting the liver and spleen organ systems with acupuncture, lifestyle and dietary recommendations and perhaps an herbal formula, if appropriate.
There are other things you can do to get your qi moving.
Stretch. According to Chinese medicine, the liver stores blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, which maintains tendon health and flexibility. Make a habit out of a morning stretch and try yoga or tai qi.
Waterfall Pose. This yoga pose, also called Viparita Karani, is incredibly relaxing. Lie down on your back with your legs up against a wall. Hang out in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Here is a step-by-step explanation of the pose:
Eye Exercises. The liver is said to open into the eyes. Although all the organs have some connection to the health of the eyes, the liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for long periods of time and do eye exercises.
Eat Green. The color green is associated with the liver. Eating young plants like fresh, leafy greens and sprouts can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of qi.
Some other good foods to eat to move your liver qi include celery, cabbage, mustard greens, scallions, beets, peaches and miso soup. Mild spices like ginger, rosemary, and basil can work well too.
Try Something Sour. Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the liver qi. One of the simplest ways to incorporate this flavor into your diet is to put lemon slices in your drinking water. You can also use vinegar and olive oil for salad dressing and garnish sandwiches with a slice of dill pickle.
Sip Milk Thistle Tea. Milk thistle helps protect liver cells from toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury.
Peppermint tea is also helpful.
Limit junk foods, processed foods, and dairy. These foods can clog up your system, so it’s best to avoid them if you are concerned about stagnant qi.
Get Outside! Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, try going for a walk or bike ride.
Consider Herbs. Xiang fu, chuan lian zi, he huan pi, he huan hua, and qing pi are all herbs that move liver qi.
Get Acupuncture Treatments. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can help improve the overall health of your liver as well as treat stress, anger and frustration. Regular treatments can tonify the inner organ systems and can correct minor annoyances before they become more serious problems.