Understanding the Importance of Maintaining Healthy Liver Function

Find out common disorders that are associated with liver imbalances and natural remedies for them.

A woman in a pink shirt holding a cartoon drawing of a liver in her hand

Fun fact: Did you know that the liver is known as the “Commanding General” of the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? Yes, that’s right! This is because a healthy liver function promotes healthy absorption and digestion. It ensures positive circulation of blood, bodily fluids, and qi, and regulates essential substances in the body, all at once!  

Here are four problems related to improper functioning of the liver and herbal remedies that you can use to ensure the organ stays in optimal health.

Some Problems That are Associated with Poor Liver Function

Asian woman office worker close eyes
Irritability is linked to physical ailments such as dizziness or headaches.

In TCM, the liver is not just an organ. It’s a part of a complex web involving multiple systems and organs. In today’s fast-paced society, people who struggle to achieve work-life balance may be more susceptible to poor liver function and imbalances.

Digestive system disorders

In Western medicine, people who are diagnosed with digestive issues such as heartburn, acidity, and indigestion may have stomach and liver imbalances.

However, from a TCM perspective, disrupted balance in the liver, spleen, stomach, and gall bladder causes digestive system disorders. As a result, people who are prone to qi imbalances in these organs are likely to present with various symptoms. These include belching, heartburn, a poor appetite, and a thin white- or yellow-coloured tongue coating. 

TCM commonly uses a classical formula known as 柴胡舒肝散 (Chai Hu Shu Gan San) to treat imbalances in the stomach and liver. It consists of several ingredients that work in tandem to regulate stomach and liver imbalances. The most basic ingredients of this formulation are liquorice root, bupleurum, bitter orange, aged tangerine peel, nutgrass galingale rhizome, Sichuan lovage root, and peony root.

Combining Toosendan fruits and Corydalis rhizome with this powder can relieve pain by improving the effect on liver qi. Meanwhile, adding decocted inula flower and hematite — the natural mineral form of iron oxide — can promote better downward movement of qi and relieve the counterflow.

Physical and emotional disorders

Proponents of TCM also believe that our emotional and physical health is interconnected. For instance, excessive anger or irritability links to various ailments. Examples of these are dizziness, headaches, a dry mouth, and redness of the face and eyes.

Similarly, TCM also believes that emotional imbalances can act as both the symptoms and causes of physical problems. Liver imbalances, specifically, link to anger, irritability, and mental health conditions such as depression and stress. 

A decoction known as Suan Zao Ren is especially effective in treating insomnia. Sour jujube seeds — one of the ingredients of this drug-free remedy — is particularly beneficial for improving sleep quality. It works by calming the mind, preventing excessive sweating, nourishing the liver, and soothing the nerves. Taking a health supplement formulated with hops, skullcap, passionflower, and Valerian root can also support a good night’s sleep. It induces a calming effect on the mind and body.

Two asian business women walking and talking
Liver imbalances can cause women to experience various health problems.

Women’s health disorders

The liver also has a direct influence on women’s health. When the functions of the liver are in imbalance, a woman’s body will present with symptoms such as irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood disorders, growth of benign masses in the uterus called fibroids, and early menopause.

Typically, excess yin can cause stagnation of blood and qi in the liver. In turn, this stagnation can cause a woman’s bodily functions to become sluggish. This put her at an increased risk of health disorders like breast cancer and the growth of cysts or fibroids.

An ancient formula called ‘Free and Easy Wanderer’ (Xiao Yao San) contains eight ingredients. They are bupleurum, peppermint, female ginseng, ginger root, liquorice root, Poria mushrooms, white atractylode, and white peony roots. It can help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, relieve the symptoms of PMS, and keeping a woman’s mood in check.

Consuming a concoction that combines the use of the above mentioned ingredients with other herbs can relieve the discomfort linked to menopause and improve the health of a woman’s womb. It can also improve female hormone levels in elderly women, thus reducing their risk of developing brittle and weak bones.

Visual disorders

TCM also believes the liver meridian relates to a person’s eyes. Visual ability is also heavily dependent on the nourishment of blood in the organ. Insufficient liver blood may cause dry eyes and blurred vision. Increased activity of liver yang will lead to pain and swelling of the eyes.

Alternatively, the liver is also responsible for the production and storage of vitamin A. Because of this, problems in the liver can cause nyctalopia — an inability to see clearly in dim light or at night — and dry eye syndrome. A herbal tonic prepared using goji berries can help improve vision by nourishing the liver. It also improves circulation and strengthens your immune system.

Healthy liver function is the foundation of bodily systems working together to keep you well. If you are experiencing any of the health disorders because of imbalances in the liver, you should seek the advice of a TCM practitioner, who will prescribe remedies suited to your specific body constitution. 

References

  1. ScienceDirect. 2018. Liver-stomach disharmony pattern: theoretical basis, identification and treatment. [Accessed 25 July 2021] 
  2. Institute for Traditional Medicine. WHAT’S IN A NAME? Free and Easy Wanderer’s Powder. [Accessed 25 July 2021] 

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