Liver and mental activities in Chinese medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, liver is an internal organ that is related to consciousness and dreaming. Meanwhile, it is related to anger.

Five kinds of fundamental mental activities

Mental activities, from instincts to emotions, are related to five internal organs in traditional Chinese medicine. Su Wen, a theoretical book of traditional Chinese medicine, divides fundamental mental activities into five kinds, including Shen, Po, Yi, Hun, and Zhi.

Shen means spirit, which stays in the heart. In traditional Chinese medicine, the heart governs all organs and all mental activities.

Po means Yin-soul, which stays in the lungs. Po is the innate instinct for behaving and sensation.

Yi means mind, which stays in the spleen. Yi is the ability of thinking and remembering.

Hun means Yang-soul, which stays in the liver. Hun is not only related to consciousness, but also related to dreaming.

Zhi means will and memory, which stays in the kidneys.

Liver and dreaming

Hun is a fundamental mental activity related to liver. Zhang Jingyue, a famous therapist of the Ming Dynasty, pointed out that dreams are generated by Hun.

Ling Shu, a theoretical book of traditional Chinese medicine, says, „Liver stores blood, and blood keeps Hun.” Blood is the physical base of mental activities. When the blood of the liver is sufficient, the person has a normal consciousness and sleeps well.

However, when the blood of the liver is deficient, the person is difficult to fall asleep. He frequently dreams, and may have nightmares, sleep talking and sleepwalking. He may even have hallucination.

The fire of liver may harass Hun, leading to restless sleep, fidgeting and even mania.

Liver and anger

In traditional Chinese medicine, liver is related to anger. The excess or stasis of liver-Qi, the excess of liver-Yang, or the deficiency of liver-Yin, may cause irritability.

On the other hand, if a person is furious, liver-Qi may move upwards excessively. If a person feels angry and depressed, it may cause the stasis of liver-Qi, leading to the obstruction of the Qi of the body. Therefore, there is a phrase: „Anger harms liver”.

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