The Importance of the Liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine

The heart may be the ‘King’ of the body but the Liver is the most certainly the ‘General’ and ‘Planner’. It defends against any and all invaders and protects the body-mind from external poisons and pathogens. It is responsible for detoxification and elimination of metabolic poisons.

The liver is consistently working hard to refine, filter, and store nutrients such as proteins, glycogen, vitamins and minerals for use by the body.  It also has the ability to alter and excrete various hormones. It is the first organ in our body to be affected by stress and emotions. So many hormones become out of balance in reaction to emotions like fear, stress, sadness or happiness. Therefore the liver plays an important role in maintaining a clean and balanced mental state.

The liver is also responsible for detoxification and excreting many drugs like sulfonamides, penicillin and antibiotics from the body. Let’s look at some the main liver functions and how other body organs may exhibit an OVERLOADED LIVER.


Important Liver Functions:

  • Storing and regulating blood

When food is digested in the stomach, it then goes on to the small intestine, where all the nutrients are absorbed from the intestinal villi and transferred into a special vein called the Portal vein. All veins go directly to the heart except the portal vein which goes to the liver. The enriched blood is processed in the liver; there the liver will either store it or utilize it. Finally the enriched blood is transferred to another large vein called the ‘Vena Cava’, which leads to the heart for distribution throughout the entire body.

The liver also produces many plasma clotting factors like prothrombin and fibrinogen and the important liquid bile, which is necessary for the saponification of fats and the absorption of vitamin K required for the production of different types of clotting factors. The liver stores the blood and regulates the volume of blood in circulation when the body is at rest. Then the amount of blood decreases as the liver stores the surplus. When the body is active the liver releases stored blood into circulation. If there are any problems in the liver with the store and release functions it will have an effect on the blood system causing hemorrhage conditions such as vertigo, spasms of the muscles and tendons, scanty menstruation and by delaying or even stopping the menstrual cycle.


  • Smooth flow of Chi (energy)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the CHI is regulated by the liver. One of the important processes of the liver is changing glucose into glycogen for storage in its cells for later use as reserve energy when needed.  It can change it back to glucose and release it into the blood stream for energy balance in order to maintain normal physical activity of all the organs. The liver is also responsible for the balance of the emotional and mental state.

When the liver is healthy and the flow of energy and blood is normal we will have happy pleasant emotions. If the free flow of energy is disturbed the result are feelings of unhappiness, mental depression and crying. When the liver has too much energy it causes irritability, anger, insomnia, vertigo, ringing in the ear and deafness. Blockages of energy/chi or accumulation of toxins in the liver can cause swelling of the glands, formation of cysts and lumps and tumors in women’s reproductive organs and breasts. Liver is responsible for detoxification and elimination of both endogenous and exogenous toxins.  Endogenous toxins are made as a result of stresses while exogenous toxins are produced from environmental pollutants and external toxins including from foods we consume. Endogenous and emotionally produced toxins can cause anger, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, PMS, aggravation of menopausal symptoms and other behavioral problems.

7 Herbs recognized in TCM for aiding to cleanse liver and blood:

  1. Milk thistle (Silibum marianum)
  2. Dandelion (Taraxacum)
  3. Bupleurum root (Bupleurum Falcatum)
  4. Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa)
  5. Boldo ( Peumus boldus)
  6. Oregan grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
  7. Nut grass (Cyperus rotundus)


  • Liver opens to the eyes…

In Chinese Medicine every organ in the body has a sensory organ outside the body which shows the condition of the interior organ. The eyes represent the condition and health of the liver. If there is any problem in the eyes like blurry vision, itchy eyes, red or dry eyes, may be an indication of an underlying liver problem which has manifested in the eye symptom.

One of the reasons that the liver is connected to the eyes is that beta-carotene from foods is converted to retinol (a form of vitamin A), the vitamin then combines with a protein called opsin to form rhodopsin which is found in the rod cells of the retina and is responsible for night vision. Liver also maintains epithelial tissue which is responsible for proper function of the cornea in the eyes and the other mucous membranes.

Dryness of the eyes may be caused by liver dysfunction and chronic eye problems may also be traced back to the liver. In Chinese medicine it is quite common to treat eye disorders by treating the liver.


  • Liver opens to the nails…

The health of the nails is dependent on the metabolism of vitamin A and primary liver function related to protein metabolism. Other functions of the liver include the production of hemoglobin and the ability of the liver to expel heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, silver and other toxins.

Nails are considered the flowering of the liver. When the blood is plentiful it goes to the farthest area of the body including finger nails and toe nails. The nails then become lustrous, thick and shiny, but if the liver blood is deficient the nails are pale, weak and brittle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *