The time between the start of Spring on March 21st and the Summer Solstice on June 21st marks a miraculous bursting of new growth and carries with it the energy of wood. After the snows of winter, sap — which is nature’s lifeblood — courses through the veins of trees; new green shoots push their way up through the darkness of the earth, and we are surrounded by a bright sense of renewal and rebirth. All of nature is infused with rising, expanded energy.
The wood element is represented by the color green. Its flavor is sour, its direction is east, and its associated organs are the gallbladder and liver. Just as the branches of a tree reach towards the clouds and roots push deep underground, so is wood the bridge between Heaven and Earth. Its associated chakra is the Third Eye, and its associated planetary counterpart is Jupiter. Wood is represented by the mythical dragon, the most mystical of all beasts. In eastern medicine, the hours for gallbladder are 11pm to 1am; the liver is 1am to 3am.
Liver is governed by the Hun, our ethereal soul, or if literally translated: “cloud-soul.” The ancient Chinese text The Secret of the Golden Flower states that in the daytime the Hun is in the eyes and at night in the liver. When it is in the eyes we can see. When it is in the liver we dream. The Hun gives us visionary inspiration during our waking hours, and in dreams takes us into mystical realms. It sharpens our intuition and enhances creativity.
The liver, in its healthiest manifestation, governs the will, vision, social justice, focused direction, and self-responsibility. It gives us a grounded sense of clarity and hope and earns us the power to dream. (It’s interesting to note that in Chinese, the acupuncture point, Liver 14, is called “the Gate of Hope.”)
When we balance and strengthen the liver, something powerful happens. Our anger transforms from a state of reactive, powerless frustration and irritability into clarity of vision, assertiveness, and a hope for the future. A relaxed, healthy liver harnesses anger in its dignity and transforms it into empowered action.
An unbalanced liver connects to depression, hormonal distress, insomnia, nocturnal anxiety, and uncontrolled bursts of anger or irritability. Physical issues may include sinus and eye problems, brittle nails, migraines, rashes, and painful menses. Liver energy is freed by chanting, pranayama, or qi gong breathing, creative outlets like journaling or painting, and telling our emotional truth. Good liver exercises include dancing, aquatic exercise, qigong, swimming, and walking, as well as more aggressive exercise like martial arts or boxing. Likewise, acupuncture and medical qigong can free up liver energy to flow smoothly.
In addition, we can nourish and assist liver healing with foods and herbs that enhance the wood element. Keep in mind that fried foods, alcohol, drugs, and excess meat and dairy place a very heavy burden on the liver.
Healing, nourishing foods for liver health include the following:
Vegetables: broccoli, parsley, lettuce, spinach, dandelion greens, kale, collard greens, carrots, alfalfa, beets, leeks, zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, artichokes, cucumbers, celery, endive, radicchio, escarole, watercress.
Fruits: limes, lemons, grapefruit, green apple, sour cherry, avocado, plums, quince.
Beans: mung beans, Lima beans, green lentils.
Grains: oats, rye, buckwheat.
Herbs: Milk thistle, dandelion, chelidonium, gynostemma leaf, spirulina, turmeric.
Chinese tonic foods: Reishi mushrooms, Lycium berries (Goji), and Schizandra berries.
We can all benefit from periodic targeted care and our livers greatly deserve our attention, not only for the extraordinary work that they do, but also for the role they play in our overall well-being. Spring is a perfect time for liver-loving transformation.
Jen Hoy is a holistic nutritionist, shamanic practitioner, and integrative counselor. Deeply committed to helping others by weaving cutting edge nutrition with ancient healing traditions and transformational mentoring, she is the architect of a powerful paradigm for healing. For more visit her website.