In Taoist and Chinese Medicine, the body is understood as consisting of twelve main organs. These organs are correlated to the 5 Elements, and further separated by their YinYang nature. Referred to as the 5 Zang organs (Yin) and 6 Fu organs (Yang).
In this article, we are focusing on the the Liver and Gallbladder system and diving into:
- The functions of the Liver and Gallbladder
- The Chinese Body Clock (11 pm - 3 am)
- Anger and the Liver
- Hun - The Spirit of the Liver
In Classical Chinese and Taoist medicine, the Liver:
- Stores and purifies Blood
- Regulates the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body
- Controls the peripheral nervous system
- Regulates muscle tension
- Opens into the eyes and controls the vision
- Nourishes the tendons and ligaments
- Nourishes the nails
- Manifests as creativity, ambition and motivation
- Promotes digestion and absorption
- Supports reproductive function
- Houses the Ethereal Soul (Hun)
The Gallbladder is the Yang organ to the Liver’s Yin and is responsible for the storing and excretion of bile that has been produced in the Liver. The Gallbladder also works to distribute Qi through the Liver and into the body, so when we introduce any form of Taoist practice, whether that be tonic herbalism, Qigong, Yoga or any form of movement that affects the body in a deep and meaningful way, it is the Liver/Gallbladder that processes these emotions and toxins. The Liver makes plans and the Gallbladder takes initiative and executes them.
If there is any disharmony present within this organ system pair, or the toxic load is greater than the function, a ‘bottleneck’ effect can occur, manifesting as pent-up energy and emotion. This is why we use Liver herbs such as Schisandra and Beauty Blend as they allow this organ system to flow with more ease, and any pent-up energetic load to be processed and released
*If you feel your physical or tonic herbal practice is bringing up too much too soon, we recommend working with a TCM practitioner who can provide individualised treatment, working to bring the smooth flow of Qi through the Liver/Gallbladder system.
11 pm - 3 am is Liver/Gallbladder Time
Chinese medicine follows cyclical patterns, both physically, and in accordance with the natural world. The Body-Energy Clock is therefore built upon the concept of the cyclical ebb and flow of energy/Qi throughout the body. During a 24-hour period, Qi moves in two-hour intervals through each of the organ systems within the body. Qi flows through the Gallbladder from 11 pm - 1 am and the Liver from 1 am - 3 am.
During this time the body is moving through a detoxification process as well as generating Blood. Resting your body in a deep state of sleep during this timeframe, allows these organ systems to regenerate and strengthen. If you do find yourself waking during this time on a consistent basis, it could be an indicator that you are experiencing some level of Liver Qi stagnation, or are potentially not processing the emotions associated with these organs (anger, frustration and rage).
Liver Wood Is Associated With The Emotion Of Anger
Every organ corresponds to the energy of a certain emotion. As a fundamental concept in Chinese medicine, it is perceived that a physical disorder (linked to a certain organ) can originally stem from an imbalance in the emotion associated with that organ. The reverse of this can also be true, that an imbalance in an organ may heighten or exacerbate the associated emotion, and can be a vicious cycle.
Anger is the natural response to any interruption in the Liver’s mission to move and expand, and on the other hand, an excess of anger that is current or repressed can impact the functioning of the Liver. As with all emotions, they provide a window into our inner landscape, bringing attention to what is out of balance. Driving us forward, anger can help us to change and grow, assert our needs and stand up for ourselves. When faced with conflict, a harmonious Liver allows us to process and integrate, set healthy boundaries and stand firm in our convictions.
The Spirit of the Liver: Hun - The Ethereal Soul
The Ethereal Soul; the Hun shares similarities with the Western concept of the soul. Entering the body 3 days after birth, it has a will of its own, inhabiting the formless realm of imagination and dreams, it brings animation to our mental processing. It is said to be a ‘free-flowing shapeshifter, existing amongst the clouds of heaven’. Upon death, it leaves the body, and in its wandering spirit, travels back to the heavenly realms.
The Hun weaves its magic into our sleep and dreams, cultivating a deep state of rest with dreams that benefit the soul. Bringing balance to our emotional landscape, the Hun ensures that the emotions are neither repressed nor over-expressed. It is also responsible for our decision-making and planning, directing us towards our own vision and purpose in life.
The Hun is happiest when the Liver is healthy, and the Blood and Liver Qi are abundant and able to flow smoothly. This contentment cultivates a healthy flow of creativity and imagination, a connection to one’s intuition and ability to envision their goals and life purpose, that sense of direction we all crave. When the Hun is balanced, we can be adaptive and flexible to life’s challenges, feeling motivated and courageous enough to actualise our dreams.
If the Liver is in a weakened state, as in the case of Liver Qi stagnation, or a Blood/Yin deficiency, the Hun is not able to flow freely. One may lack motivation, direction and purpose in life, losing touch with their imagination and creativity, and they may begin to feel disconnected from their dreams and vision for life. This feeling can cause a person to feel stuck and unable to move forward or regulate their emotions.
In the case of an overburdened Liver, the Hun can become flighty and cause havoc in the mind, causing one to feel emotionally overwhelmed, frustrated and ungrounded. This individual may be full of creative ideas but unable to execute them.