From time to time, all of us experience episodes of irritability, short-temperedness, and moodiness. If these symptoms are a constant issue for you, or if they interfere with your ability to enjoy life, then your liver system may need some extra attention.
Spring is the season of the wood element in Asian medicine, and the liver is one of the organ systems, along with the gall bladder system, associated with wood. This is why it is very important during this time of year to pay extra attention to these systems in our body and give them the support they need. If we neglect the early warning signs, such as frustration, chronic irritability, or moodiness, then we may develop more severe presentations of disharmony such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive difficulties, and decreased immune function.
All of the symptoms mentioned above are a result of qi not flowing smoothly in our bodies, and the liver system governs the free flow of qi. Therefore, if we are experiencing a complex of symptoms related to the non-smooth flow of qi (liver qi stagnation), we need to focus some attention on bringing the liver system back into balance so its proper functioning can be restored.
In addition to some of the emotional symptoms already mentioned, liver qi stagnation can present with pain in the area below the ribcage, difficulty taking deep breaths, continual sighing or yawning, abdominal distention, nausea, belching (especially with a sour taste), diarrhea or constipation, a feeling of something stuck in the throat, irregular and/or painful periods, and premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness and/or swelling.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine are extremely effective at relieving liver qi stagnation, but there are also many things you can do at home to help move your qi and bring your liver back into balance. Exercise (especially outdoors!) is one of the absolute best things we can do to break up qi stagnation and restore proper flow to our bodies. The exercise doesn't need to be intense; even activities like yoga and stretching will be incredibly helpful. Eating fresh, leafy greens are also very supportive to the liver system, as is drinking water with lemon and milk thistle tea. Milk thistle helps the liver with its detoxification functions, helping the liver rid our body of toxins and other damaging substances.
Here's a lovely recipe to help you support your liver system:
Broccoli Rabe (or Broccolini) Sauté
1 bunch broccoli rabe (or broccolini) - washed and roughly chopped
4-5 green onions - sliced into 1 inch pieces
12 oz Goji berries - washed
2-3 tblspns olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add green onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add broccoli rabe/broccolini and goji berries. Cook until tender (a few minutes more), and season with salt. Serve with plum vinegar, if desired, and chrysanthemum tea (another wonderful way to support our livers). Enjoy!