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Suzanne Bovenizer cmt, cst

Spring - Liver & Gall Bladder

Spring is a time to cleanse and support the Liver (yin) and Gall Bladder (yang) since it is these organs and meridians that are highlighted during this time. The Liver/Gall Bladder meridians correspond to the Wood element, and relate to the eastern direction, to windy climates and to the color green. They control the sinews (muscles and joints), and their health is reflected in the fingernails and toenails. The liver energy opens to the eyes. It is said people who have a strong wood element have a clear vision in setting their goals, that they plan and execute decisions skillfully and that they can strongly argue a point with clarity and decisiveness. But beware; liver people can also be fiery and angry when the wood element is imbalanced.

The liver, as an organ, is central to blood regulation and storage. It also breaks down fats; converts glucose to glycogen; removes amino acids from the blood, converting them to urea, which is excreted by the kidneys; stores vitamins and is associated with hormones production. The liver is one of the few organs that allows for complete regeneration of its tissue (so that even if 75% of the liver is cut away, the liver can regrow to wholeness again). The gall bladder is a small organ connected to the liver (by the hepatic duct), which stores bile for the liver. Bile emulsifies fat and neutralizes acids in partially digested food, aiding in digestion.

Because the liver is the powerhouse of the body, with its wide reaching functions, it is especially important to keep it balanced and working well. The liver is responsible for the distribution and regulation of Qi throughout the entire body, and if weakened or toxic, general health and vitality are diminished. When the wood element is weak, people can feel indecisive and stuck. They may have anger, expressed or unexpressed, and may be controlling, arrogant and short-tempered. Imbalanced liver people can be workaholics, or indeed, because of their addictive natures be alcoholics or drug addicts. They may also have digestive problems and experience bloating, gas and heat. With gall bladder imbalance, there is a tendency to be emotionally frustrated, resentful and irritable.

So, how can essential oils help balance the liver? Essential oils, when massaged onto the skin with a carrier oil, can penetrate into the blood stream, flowing to the liver for decomposition. Essential oils have many different therapeutic qualities and the liver is able to organize the oil’s chemical constituents to assist the body, whether it is by supporting the hormones, strengthening digestion or cleansing toxins, to name a few.

Depression or long-term frustration can hinder the liver’s ability to extend vital qi to the body, resulting in lethargy, tiredness and forgetfulness. When the liver qi is stagnant, symptoms like palpitations, a tendency towards being frightened, insomnia, nightmares, poor memory, a lusterless complexion, dizziness and pale lips and nails can be evident. Essential oils to fight depression and strengthen energy are basil, bergamot, clary sage, geranium, lavender, melissa, neroli, lemon verbena and ylang ylang. These used in an aroma lamp during meditation or exercise can help build Qi. At night, oils such as marjoram, lavender, neroli, orange, chamomile, sandalwood and rose can alleviate fearfulness, insomnia, and prepare the body for a good sleep. The liver needs to recharge and it is important to support the wood element by getting to sleep before 11 p.m. so the liver can rest and replenish its energy. A warm bath with the above essential oils in combination, maybe mixed in bath salts would be a lovely way to start unwinding before sleep.

As stated earlier, one of the main liver functions is creating and regulating hormones. Women in particular, because of their menses (or lack thereof in menopausal women), fall prey to a disharmonious liver energy resulting in cramps, bloating, mood swings, irritability, headaches, abdominal pain, frustration, anger, forgetfulness, palpitations, nervousness, hot flashes… ugh, the list goes on and on… Essential oils on their own will not take these symptoms away, but they can help to balance and diminish some of the physical and emotional angst associated with hormone imbalance. These essentials include clary sage, fennel, geranium, melissa, chamomile, sage, cypress, ginger, jasmine, marjoram and rosemary. Inhaled, rubbed on, bathed in, any method will assist in delivering the oils to the liver and begin the balancing and reorganization.

Many people who have liver/gall bladder challenges will experience headaches and migraines. Essential oils that help relieve tension headaches are chamomile, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rose, and rosemary. Oils that assist migraines are anise, basil, eucalyptus, jasmine, lavender, lemon, melissa and rosemary. These oils can be either inhaled on a tissue or in aroma lamp, or can be mixed in a little almond oil and massaged around the temples (avoiding the eyes) and down the neck. This can be done in conjunction with other headache relieving methods like lying down, darkness, increased H2O hydration, and deep breathing. Most headache suffers already have an arsenal of techniques known to them that they can use…

Another challenge when the wood element is imbalanced can be poor digestion, with a bitter taste in the mouth, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal distension, constipation, and scanty yellow urine. Massaging essential oils in a clockwise motion around the belly will increase peristaltic flow and ease abdominal suffering. Essential oils that can be added to the massage oil are anise, basil, bergamot, cardamom, fennel, juniper, lemon verbena, marjoram, black pepper, peppermint and rose oil. Some essential oils can be taken internally as well, diluted in a tea or water, but caution should be taken since they are concentrated and only one or two drops should be used.

So, as spring approaches, and we begin to come out of hibernations, wanting to shed those winter pounds and detox those winter blues, you might want to think about doing some kind of liver flush or herbal support. The liver and its friend the gall bladder must be kept healthy for a good life of vitality and joy. Take steps now to cleanse.