Liver Qi Gets A Move On

triangle

triangle (Photo credit: daniel.julia)

Greetings Dear Readers,

Liver Qi Stagnation is a very common condition.  The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) in the body.  One famous quote in TCM “Where there is movement, there if life, where there is no movement, there is no life”.  Acupuncture is an excellent way to move qi that has become stagnant.  Between treatments there are many additional ways to help your Liver system with this process.

Lifestyle:  Liver energy is the energy of Wood.  It is likened to young plants in spring pushing their way through the earth and bursting with new life on the surface.  This pushing upwards energy is similar to a healthy assertiveness on the mental level.  When Wood energy is low there is timidity and lack of action and decisions to make things happen.  When Wood energy is stuck or too strong there is aggression, anger or irritability. 

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeolla...

500 year old green tea fields, Boseong, Jeollanam-do, South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diet: The colour green is associated with the Liver and the Wood element.  Eating green foods such as lettuce, kale, green tea, dandelion leaves, broccoli, sprouts, artichoke hearts, asparagus, olives, etc. is especially helpful to do each day.  Sour foods such as all citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), vinegar, cranberries, also assist the Liver system.

Exercise:  A stretch for the Liver channel is wide-angled forward bend.  Triangle pose and Fish pose also open and release energy in the Liver channel.   Walking is associated with the Liver system and walking in a lush green forest is even better.    

English: Finger Painting.

English: Finger Painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Helpful thoughts:  The mind has a powerful influence over the body.  The mental/spirit side of Liver energy is called the “Hun” which is related to our ability to create visions, have dreams and perform visually creative activities such as art.  Here are some thoughts or affirmations that relate to balancing Liver energy:

“I can see my dreams coming true.”

“I am free to make my own healthy choices.”

“I allow myself to express my creative spirit.”

Acupuncture is also an excellent way to move Liver Qi and results are felt quite quickly in most people.

How’s your Liver Qi doing? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Yours in health,

Cynthia

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Tasty Asian Kelp Salad

Greetings Dear Readers,

If you’re anything like me you may find the taste of kelp a bit too much to bear.  Knowing the health benefits of kelp, I’ve tried to all kinds of ways to get it down, from kelp powder pills to kelp pieces in soup to raw kelp noodles.  None of these are very appetizing to me.  This recipe really does kelp some justice.  Here we have the tanginess of the rice vinegar that subdues the kelpy taste into palettable proportions, the  sesame seeds and sesame oil brings a rich nutty taste and a little Braggs or soy sauce enhances the flavour.

The trick I learned from a Chinese friend (whose parents insist she eats more seaweed), is to buy kelp that is very light and thin, almost brittle.  You may need to shop around and ask in Asian markets to find it.  The kelp I’ve seen in health food stores is quite thick.  After it’s soaked it’s rather chewy and rubbery and not so fun to eat.  So think thin and flakey when buying kelp pieces.

TCM Benefits of Asian Kelp Salad

This dish benefits the Kidneys and Liver systems.  In TCM the Kidneys are the “Mother” of the Liver so strong Kidneys suport a healthier Liver.  Kelp is known as the “vegetable of long life” and is very rich in minerals such as iodine and is indicated for hypothyroidism.  Like other seaweeds it removes Phlegm and Damp, softens hard masses such as cysts, tumours, and fibroids and is used in the healing and prevention of cancer.  Kelp is cooling and helps clear Heat toxins such as the effects of radiation therapy, promotes urination and strengthens the Yin (moisture) of the body.

Sesame strengthens the Liver and Kidney channels.  Sesame helps with Kidney deficiency issues such as weak legs, early greying of hair, cold feet, dry stools, infertility, poor memory, poor milk production in women, paralysis and dizziness caused by deficiency.

Vinegar enters the Liver and Stomach.  It breaks up stasis, speeds up blood flow, clears toxins, stops bleeding and kills worms.  The sour flavour in vinegar moves Liver Qi and is indicated for Liver Qi Stagnation issues such as frequent sighing, cold hands and feet, anger or irritability, and headaches and painful menstruation.

Asian Kelp Salad

1. Soak kelp pieces in water overnight.

2. Using 3 cups of soaked kelp, drain place in bowl with 1/4 cup of black sesame seeds.

3. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil and 2 Tbsp. vinegar.

4.  Add Braggs liquid aminos/tamari or soy sauce to taste.

5.  Mix all ingredients together and let stand for an hour or more before serving.

6. Enjoy!

Yours in Health,

Cynthia

Raw Salad Recipe for Cooling Summer Heat

Greetings Dear Readers,

In the heat of summer we may suffer from symptoms of too much heat such as aching muscles, constipation, nausea or fatigue.  Here’s a great summer recipe to bring you back into balance.  This recipe has a cooling Yin effect on the body and as such is best eating in the evening when the body needs to be more Yin.  Morning and early afternoon are Yang times when it’s better to eat more Yang or warming meals.

Cucumber Mint Salad                       

1 large cucumber, sliced as thinly as possible
1 carrot, grated
1 handful mint leaves

1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Braggs liquid aminos

The main ingredient here is cucumber.  In TCM cucumber is a cold food, one of the coldest in fact, next to watermelon, so it’s perfect for putting out the fire in the Stomach.  If “Stomach Fire” is your issue it means you have symptoms such as ravenous appetite, constipation, bleeding gums, toothache, acid regurgitation, diarrhea, nausea or irritability.

Mint Leaves

Mint Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mint is a cooling pungent herb which disperses “Wind-Heat” (infection) from the lungs, head and eyes and treats sore throat and fever.  Mint also calms the Liver to relieve such things as depression, PMS and menstrual issues caused by Liver-Qi stagnation.  Mint also brings rashes to the surface to speed healing.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And lastly, lemon is a cooling fruit and excellent detoxifier.  According to TCM, lemon harmonizes the Stomach and aids digestion.  It cleans toxins from the Liver, Kidneys, blood, mouth and urinary tract.  Lemon reduces inflammation and is used for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.  Lemon is also alkalizing, moistening, antimicrobial and diuretic.

Bon appetit!

Yours in health,

Cynthia

Are You a Happy LIVER of Your Life?

Greetings Dear Readers,

Spring is here, the daffodils are popping up and so is Liver Yang. Liver what? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) speak, Spring, which corresponds with the liver organ system, is a Yang season. In the ebb and flow of the year, spring and summer are yang while fall and winter are yin. Yang means warmer, faster, brighter, lighter than yin which is slower, darker, colder and heavier. This means in spring, we enjoy warmer weather, a longer period of daylight, are more physically active, eat lighter and dress lighter than in Yin season such as fall and winter.

Spring is the time of Wood according to the 5 element system. Wood is associated with the Liver and Gall Bladder organ systems. Wood energy is likened to the fresh young seedling vigorously pushing up through the soil in spring and bursting into life in bright green colour. This sense of forceful movement of the seed pushing through the earth is the essence of Wood energy and is a sign of health in the Wood element. One very famous and ever-popular herbal formula for the Liver system is called “Free and Easy Wanderer” (Xiao Yao in Chinese), a name which eloquently expresses the ideal of Wood energy.

When there are too many obstacles in the way of this life force, the Wood energy becomes stagnant. Liver Qi stagnation – a very common complaint in the modern world – has symptoms such as depression, eye problems, anger, hypochondrial pain or tension, neck and shoulder tension, temporal headaches, poor circulation leading to cold hands and feet, constipation and various other issues.

Many of these aforementioned Liver complaints worsen in the spring. Fasting from solid food for a day or so is a very effective and ancient way to help the liver cleanse itself and encourage the smooth flow of Qi. Not surprisingly, spring is also the time when many cultures do a liver cleanse. Several spiritual traditions do some type of fasting purification in spring (Buddhists have Nyungne and Christians have Lent). Interestingly, fasting not only helps with physical toxins in the body but also the emotional toxins in the liver such as anger. Many who have had experience with fasting can speak to the feeling of calmness, clarity and lightness of one’s being on all levels that allows one to rise above many daily irritations.

The health of the Liver and the energy of Wood is kept in balance through movement. On a gross level movement can mean physical exercise and on more subtle levels it can mean making sure the Qi (or energy) is flowing properly through the channels of the body. The liver governs the smooth flow of Qi. When the Qi stagnates, often the liver is responsible.

On a mental and spiritual level the Wood element has to do with assertiveness, the balanced point between the extremes of passivity and aggression. It means taking a step forward, at the right time, and in consideration of others, to assert one’s will in life. Wood takes the energetic reserves of Water that have been conserved over the winter season and uses them to plan and execute one’s projects and plans for the new season. An excess of liver energy can produce aggression, irritability and resentment in the individual while a deficiency of liver energy can produce a lack of forward movement as seen in people who frequently procrastinate, can’t plan their lives or tend to start many projects without completing them.

Ways to balance the Wood element:

Physically:
1. Wood energy is trees, green grass and all growing plants.  Be outside more. Enjoy  the gardens, greenery, and the wind (as long as it doesn’t bother you). Wind is connected with the Wood element and this practice will move the Qi that has gotten stagnant over the winter.
2. Be active. Simple, gentle, flowing exercise like the way a bear stretches upon coming out of hibernation is excellent. Yoga stretching is particularly indicated for spring.
3. The diet in spring should be light. This means less oily, fried or heavy foods and more young fresh green foods like sprouts, parsley, asparagus and baby lettuce.

Emotionally:
1. Think about the suffering of others and how pretty well all of us have some level of discontent or dissatisfaction in at least one area of our lives. Use this thought to slow down and become more tolerant and patient of those around you. The world needs more kind people.
2. Think of at least one project or task that you have procrastinated on and complete it today.
3. Do a spring cleaning and give away a few things that you no longer need to neighbors, friends or a charity.

Mentally:
1. The Liver system relates closely to the eyes and sense of sight, as well as our inner sight (insight).  Recall a time when you had a very clear vision of the life you wanted. Close your eyes, sit quiet and try to be in that mental space again. Visualize or “see” with the mind’s eye what you hope to be/do/have in life. Daydream in full colour. Create wonderful things in your imagination. You are a powerful creative force in your life. Your visions eventually become your reality.
2. Read books by SARK or The Artist’s Way to move through stuckness and harness your creative flow.

Spiritually:
1. Spring energy is about the return of the life force.  The Liver system is about the bounty of the vital force that gives new life to many things.  The centuries-old wisdom of the Nei Jing speaks about using this time to keep your heart gentle and generous.

How’s your Wood energy? Love to hear your comments and questions.

Happy Spring!