Liver-Qi in Chinese medicine

In Chinese medicine, there is a saying, “The disharmony of Qi and blood can lead to a hundred diseases.” The Qi of the heart maintains the function of the heart in pumping blood, while the Qi of the lungs promotes the flow of blood. The Qi of the spleen transports nutrients for the forming of blood, and keeps blood in vessels. The main feature of the Qi of the liver is to unblock the flow of Qi and blood of the body, and regulating the Qi of the liver is a common method in Chinese medicine to improve the symptoms of the disorders related to blood. This article detailedly describes the functions of the liver’s Qi. and explains why taking care of the Qi of liver is very important for women.

Interacting with liver-Yang and liver-Yin

When we talk about the functions of the liver in traditional Chinese medicine, we always mention three concepts, liver-Qi, liver-Yang and liver-Yin.

The energy that realizes the functions of a liver is called liver-Qi. Liver-Yin and live-Yang constitute two physical natures of the liver. Liver-Yin makes the liver soft, calm and cool, while liver-Yang warms the liver and supports the upward movement of liver-Qi.

Therefore, the excess of liver-Yang is always together with the excessive movement of liver-Qi and the deficiency of liver-Yin, leading to the generation of liver-fire.

On the other hand, the deficiency of liver-Yang makes liver-Yin dominates the liver. Meanwhile, the upward movement of liver-Qi lacks support, leading to the cold stasis of Qi in the meridian of liver.

The main difference between the deficiency of liver-Qi and the deficiency of liver-Yang is that the deficiency of Yang causes cold and stagnation, but the deficiency of Qi causes weakness. As Ling Shu says, the deficiency of liver-Qi causes fear, while the excess of liver-Qi causes anger.

Unblocking the Qi of the body

Liver Qi unblocks the Qi of the body, making the Qi of the internal organs and meridians run smoothly to maintain the normal activities of the body’s internal organs, meridians, limbs, and orifices.

Maintaining blood circulation

The circulation of blood depends on the pushing and regulating of Qi. Dysfunction of liver-Qi in unblocking the Qi of the body may affect the flow of the blood.

In the case of the stagnation of liver-Qi, blood does not flow smoothly, and may stagnate as blood stasis, resulting in delayed menstruation, dysmenorrhoea, amenorrhoea, or lumps.

In the case of excessive upward movement of liver-Qi, blood follows the abnormal movement of Qi and is not restrained by blood vessels, resulting in vomiting blood, haemoptysis, early menstruation, or metrorrhagia.

In the case of the deficiency of liver-Qi, blood does not flow smoothly, and it may cause irregular menstruation.

For treating blood stasis inside the body and hemorrhages, regulating liver-Qi is a common method.

Promoting the dispersion of body fluid

Qi pushes and regulates the dispersion of body fluid. In the case of the stagnation of liver Qi, the Qi of the body can’t run smoothly. It causes stagnation of body fluid, leading to generation of pathological factors such as phlegm and dampness. The phlegm and dampness inside the body may cause syndromes such as globus pharyngeus, scrofula, skin lumps, goitre, breast lumps, oedema, and abdominal dropsy.

(Qi pushes and regulates the dispersion of body fluid. The stagnation of liver Qi causes the dysfunction of the Qi of the body, and may lead to the stagnation of body fluid, which generates pathological factors such as phlegm and dampness. Phlegm and dampness may cause the sensation of something obstructive in the throat, lumps on the neck, oedema or even abdominal dropsy.)

Unblocking liver and regulating Qi is a common method for treating the stagnation of phlegm and dampness inside the body.

Promoting reproductive function

In Chinese medicine, the reproductive function of the body is closely related to the kidneys. Essential Qi which is stored in kidneys includes original essential Qi which is inherited from parents and essential Qi which is acquired from nutrients. Essential Qi of the kidneys generates sperm and ova. The smooth discharge of sperm and an ovum needs the participation of the unblocking function of liver Qi.

Unblocking discharge of sperm

In the case of the stagnation of liver Qi, sperm discharge may be obstructed.

In the case of the excess of liver-Qi with the liver-fire, there may be nocturnal emission.

Unblocking ovulation and menstruation

In the case of the stagnation of liver Qi, there may be delayed menstruation or low menstrual flow. Mentruation is not smooth, and the woman may suffer from dysmenorrhea.

In the case of the excess of liver-Qi or liver-fire, there may be early menstruation or heavy menstrual flow. The woman may suffer from metrorrhagia.

In Chinese medicine, regulating the unblocking function of liver-Qi is very important for improving the disorders related to menstruation, vaginal discharge, pregnancy and postnatal period.

Involving in food digestion

Coordinating spleen-Qi and stomach-Qi

In the process of food digestion, the spleen-Qi moves upwards, the stomach-Qi moves downwards, and the liver-Qi plays a coordinating role in promoting food digestion, nutrient absorption and waste excretion. If the liver-Qi is not functioning properly, it will affect the function of the spleen and the stomach. The condition is called “wood excessively limiting earth” in the theory of five elements.

The dysfunction of liver-Qi affects the upward movement of Spleen-Qi. The syndrome is called “disharmony between the liver and spleen” or “liver-Qi offending the spleen”. Because the transforming and transporting functions of the spleen are affected, the person feels abdominal swelling, and may suffer from diarrhoea.

The dysfunction of liver-Qi affects the downward movement of stomach-Qi. The syndrome is called “disharmony between the liver and the stomach” or “liver-Qi offending the stomach”. The abnormal upward movement of stomach-Qi leads to loss of appetite, feeling of gastric swelling, belching, vomiting and constipation.

Regulating the secreting and releasing of bile

Bile is transformed from the essential Qi of the liver, converges in the gallbladder, and is released into the small intestine to participate in the digestion of food. The secreting and releasing of bile is regulated by the unblocking function of liver-Qi.

Stagnation of liver-Qi can cause a disorder in the secreting and releasing of bile. It disturbs the normal movements of spleen-Qi and stomach-Qi, leading to loss of appetite and a feeling of abdominal swelling. Moreover, stagnation of liver-Qi may lead to stagnation of bile, and then cause the formation of gallstones, making the person suffer from the pain of the right hypochondriac region or jaundice.

If liver-Qi moves upwards excessively together with the fire of the liver and the gallbladder, it can lead to the upward flowing of bile. The person may feel bitter taste in the mouth, and bitter water may flow into the mouth and even cause vomitting.

Stagnation, excess and deficiency of liver-Qi

In the case of the stagnation of liver-Qi, the person is depressed, sighs easily, and feels a swelling pain in the chest, hypochondriac regions, breasts, or lower abdomen.

In the case of the excess of liver-Qi, the person is impatient and irritable, and has a swelling pain in the head. He has a flushed face and bloodshot eyes. He feels a swelling pain in the chest, the hypochondriac regions, or breasts, and the pain area is not fixed. In the severe case of hyperactivity of liver-Qi, blood follows liver-Qi move upwards, leading to vomiting of blood, haemoptysis, or even sudden fainting.

In the case of the deficiency of liver-Qi, the person is depressed, timid, sluggish, and lacking in strength. He suffers from dizziness, and his hypochondriac regions feel dull discomfort. His pulse is weak.

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