Feeling irritable? Herbs can help.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory describes how the emotion related to the wood element is anger. Wood is also the element associated with Spring. Spring is a good time of year to work on any blockages in the body which can lead to liver qi stagnation.

A main function of the Liver in TCM is to as move Qi (energy) and Blood. When the way forward is thwarted the Qi becomes stagnant.

Liver qi stagnation:

Feeling irritable. Sighing. Abdominal distension. Discomfort. Nausea. Lump in the throat. Mood swings. Depression. Weepiness. Headaches. In women painful breasts, PMT. Cold hands and feet.

When this pattern continues, it can lead to tempers flaring, headaches, migraines or high blood pressure. This would be a sign of Liver Fire Rising, a pattern that shows further imbalance.

Over time, stagnant Qi will result in a pattern called Liver Blood Stagnation. The person may feel a stabbing pain which is fixed such as back pain, or menstrual cramps. There may be clotted menstrual blood. Abdominal masses such as fibroids and benign uterine tumors.

Sometimes Liver Qi Stagnation can build up and effect the Spleen and Stomach. This causes nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain as well as alternating constipation and diarrhea. Irritable bowel syndrome fits in with this pattern and is called Liver Invading the Spleen / Stomach.

One of the most popular formulas suggested for Liver qi stagnation is a 1000 year old remedy called Free and Easy Wanderer or Xia Tao San. The ancient Chinese practitioners described it as a formula that helps the bamboo bend in the breeze, a beautiful image describing the result of the formula. Allowing one to remain flexible as stress is exerted on us rather than breaking under the tension it creates.

Free and Easy Wanderer / Xiao Tao San ingredients

Bupleurum root: Soothes the liver by dispersing trapped energy

Peppermint: Soothes the liver by dispersing trapped energy

Chinese Angelica root: Nourishes blood and liver

White peony root: Nourishes blood and liver

Dried Ginger rhizome: Regulates the stomach and warms the core

Licorice root: Warms the core and replenishes trapped energy

Poria cocos fungus: Neutral balancing ingredient, helps with anxiety.

Atractylodes: Tonifies the spleen and stomach

Diet and liver qi stagnation

Diet plays a big part of holistic treatment of anger and can help with liver disharmony patterns. These dietary changes include.

  • Cooking foods by boiling in broth or steaming.
  • Avoiding fried food.
  • You may crave spicy food and coffee which is the bodies way of trying to clear stagnation but best to avoid as will in the end make matters worse.
  • Incorporating bitter and sour flavors like lemon juice, greens, chicory, endive and dandelion greens. It is important not to over do the quantities of these foods. For example a handful of dandelion greens rather than a full plate.
  • Incorporating aromatic spices into the diet like cardamom, cumin, caraway and small amounts of ginger. 

Lifestyle factors

As most holistic health providers attest, every day lifestyle factors can have a huge impact on healing outcomes. With liver qi stagnation there are some lifestyle changes which will help speed the release the stagnation and calm the anger. 

  • Exercise: a combination of gentle movement like Tai Chi, Qi gong or yoga along with vigorous movement like running or cycling. Moving the body helps to clear stagnation.
  • Shaking and dancing, is a technique taught by many including Dr. Jim Gordon, holistic psychiatrist and founder of the Center for Mind Body Medicine and author of Transformation. It is a great technique for releasing trapper qi. 
  • Mindfulness and breath work. Regularly practicing these ancient techniques can keep the energy moving in the body and prevent the qi stagnation. The Stitalee pranayama breath of is recommended by Esther Kalaba licensed psychotherapist and breathwork specialist for cooling your inner fire. 
  • Regularity of habits. Eating, sleeping, rising at the same time can have a very harmonizing effect on the body. It has also in clinical trials to increase longevity. 
  • Connection and laughter. We all know how much better we feel after laughing, but did you know cortisol levels drop more after time spend laughing with a friend than during meditation?
  • Marisa Anaya, Dr of Oriental medicine, describes how getting regular acupuncture releases stuck energy. She regularly uses protocols that help clear liver qi stagnation and in turn help release anger. 

We hope these first steps will help release the tension and in turn support wellbeing and immunity.


Urban Healing