Influence of liver on eyesight and mobility in Chinese medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, eyes, tears, tendons and nails are related to the liver. The article detailedly explains what are the relations between the liver and them, and how the liver influences eyesight and mobility.

Liver and eyes

The functions of the eyes depend on the nourishing of the blood of the liver and the unblocking of liver-Qi. In the two classical theoretical books of Chinese medicine, Su Wen says “the liver stores blood so the person can see”, and Ling Shu says “the liver-Qi is open to the eyes. When the liver is in harmony, the eyes can distinguish colors correctly”.

If the liver-Yin and liver-blood is deficient, the eyes will suffer from dryness, unclear vision, whirling sensation, and orbit pain.

If the external pathogenic factors, wind and heat, invade the liver meridian, the eyes will be bloodshot, itchy and painful.

The severe excess of liver-Yang or the severe deficiency of liver-Yin may cause the uncontrolled movement of the liver-Yang, leading to the internal wind. It is called the wind of the liver. In this case, the person may stiffly stare upwords or sideways. Moreover, the person may suffer from dizziness, convulsion of muscles, numbness and tremor of limbs. In a severe case, he may suffer from a lopsided corner of the mouth and hemiplegia, or may even suddenly faint and remain unconscious.

The depression may cause the stagnation of the liver-Qi, and the long-term stagnation liver-Qi may be transformed into fire. Moreover, due to the stagnation, the liver-Qi can’t unblock body fluid, so pathogenic phlegm is formed. The combination of the two pathogenic factors, fire and phlegm, can make the vision dimmed and blurred. Because of the close relations between the liver and eyes, in Chinese medicine the common treatment method of eye diseases is to treat the liver. And this is why Chinese people think that eating the liver of an animal is helpful to improve the vision of a person.

Theory of five wheels

Though the liver acts a main role in sustaining the function of eyes, the eyes actually are nourished by the essential Qi from all internal organs. Ling Shu says, “The essential Qi of internal organs are upwards infused into eyes and form the essence of eyes. The place where the essence stays is eyeballs; the essence from bones is the pupil; the essence from tendons is black iris; the essence from blood is small vessels; the essence from the Qi is white sclera; the essence from muscles controls eyeballs.”

Based on the words of Ling Shu, ancient Chinese medical practitioners developed the theory of five wheels, which recognizes the disorders of internal organs according to the changes of different parts of eyes. The parts of eyes are called wheels, because they are round.

The small vessels of medial corner and lateral corner of an eye are related to the heart, called “blood wheel”; iris is related to the liver, called “wind wheel”; white sclera is related to the lungs, called “Qi wheel”; the pupil is related to the kidneys, called “water wheel”; upper and lower eyelids are related to the spleen, called “flesh wheel”. The concepts of five wheels constitute the theoretical foundation for diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases in Chinese medicine.

Tears originate from liver

In Chinese medicine, the forming of tears depends on the nourishing of liver-Yin and the unblocking of liver-Qi. If the liver-Yin or the liver blood is deficient, eyes will be dry and uncomfortable. If the external pathogenic factors, wind with heat or dampness with heat, invade the liver meridian, the secretions of eyes will increase, and tears will be secreted when facing the wind.

Tendons and nails are nourished by liver

Su Wen says, „All of Jin is attached to joints.” The concept Jin includes tissues that are attached to joints and sustain the motion of joints. Therefore, the concept Jin mainly indicates tendons, and also indicates articular ligaments. In Chinese medicine, tendons are nourished by the Qi and blood of the liver so that Su Wen says, “the liver generates Jin”. When the Qi and blood of the liver are deficient, tendons are not nourished, the ability to move will be weakened. This is why elderly people are unable to move easily, and they get tired easily. Su Wen says, „When a man is at the age of 56, the Qi of the liver is weak, so Jin can’t work.”

There is a saying, „nails are the extensions of Jin”. As tendons, nails are also nourished by the Qi and blood of the liver. The conditions of nails, including colour and shape, can show the conditions of the liver. The deficiency of the liver’s blood may causes nails to become soft and pale, or become brittle or even deformed.

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