The liver is the mother of the heart in chinese medicine.
One may have a harder time feeling the joy of the heart if the liver is not nourished.
So here are some thoughts on how to care for the liver through the sometimes difficult dry windy season.
Here where I live on Lago Atitlán in Guatemala as well as many parts of Mexico and Central America, we have arrived at that fun time of year when the hillsides have dried out and the wind is unpredictably blowing that sometimes results in more irritable behaviour and petty conflicts. The liver in chinese medicine is in charge of keeping the qi (energy) flowing smoothly. It is injured by wind and can be irritated by dryness. Especially after all the new year and christmas festivities in which we push our liver to the edge, the sudden change from green to brown on the hillsides and the dust blowing around in the air can make some people extra susceptible to liver imbalance. Over the years I have noticed that November and December are times of closeness and good cheer. A time when many northerners. “come home” from their other lives so it is a time of reunion when the rain has stopped, the sun is out and the flowers are in bloom. However, right after the clock strikes a new year one notices that joyous time slip into another mode. Here in our town, sometimes small trifles with neighbours and friends start to surface, people start talking about people ripping down their flyers (specific to San Marcos), getting upset about noise, people on the path look more grumpy, lancheros (boat drivers) get more aggressive, and even the lake seems more aggressive with its high unpredictable waves making for more tiring boat rides. Especially in San Marcos, which can act as an amplifyer for ones internal environment, one may notice an even greater amount of bazaar, aggressive or even schizophrenic behaviour due to having so many ungrounded seeker types or people seeking only the light and ignoring the shadow in town visiting. The wind can stir up any stagnated liver energy and really take one by surprise, unveiling all kinds of ignored or repressed issues and causing volatile emotions. We get many of our favourite crazy people stories during the dry windy season. People taken away by helicopters sent by their embassies, tourists getting macheted, shaman gurus suddenly hitting children in public, people knocking over speaker systems while others are dancing, the list goes on. Even if we as individuals don't feel any particular conflict with any one, we may notice that others around us start to complain about issues more frequently.
So what can we do to take care of ourselves as well as those we see loosing a few screws during these times and keep ourselves grounded in the process? We can nourish the liver, get exercise, laugh at life, be playful, laugh at ourselves, don't take things too seriously, go for a morning swim on the lake, eat well and I am sure many of the people on the lake also find solace in yoga, meditation, massage etc... All good things to get one strong and flexible enough to deal with the rascally wind.
Nourishing the liver in chinese medicine
In the chinese five element system the liver is in the wood element. The wood element is spring growth the sour flavour and the color green. Its the strength of the bamboo because when it is healthy it is strong and supportive yet flexible and yielding. It’s tissue is the tendons and sinews making for supple relaxed muscles. The liver when it is healthy is the general of the army, or the chief administrator making sure everything runs smoothly and that all the parts have everything to fulfill their roles and are ready for decisive action. It is timing, organization, decision making and efficiency. When it is unbalanced it is controlling, intolerant, irritable, rigid, and indecisive. The places people may notice stagnation in the liver are the neck, head and possibly the ribs. Imbalance can manifest as vascular headaches, neck pain, muscle spasms, high blood pressure, pain or tightness in the ribs, nerve inflammations, migraines, or dry eyes and nails .
Being the wood element it is also the mother of the fire element and the child of the water element in the chinese theory, meaning that it is nourished by water, the kidney, and it nourishes fire, the heart, giving more ability for heart opening and connection. To keep the liver happy and capable one can eat plenty of green foods, sprouts, spirulina, green salad, steamed greens and hang out with plants. As everything dries up and the trees loose their leaves it is a good time, if one has water, to plant a garden, wear something green, paint a wall green, lay in a green hammock, do yoga on a green mat or wear a green stone. In addition we may avoid greasy foods, coffee, alcohol and smoking.
Foods that are good for irritable or stagnated liver energy
Slightly pungent foods and spices
celery, onion, cabbage, mustard greens, turmeric, basil, bay leaf, cardamom marjoram, cumin, fennel, dill, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, rosemary,
green raw salads, sprouts, vegetables and fruits
Harmonizing springtime foods
steamed greens, acv, honey, barley, mung beans, seaweed, cucumber, radish, huisquil, chipilin, yerba mora, yerba blanca, purslane (verdolaga) goji berries