Liver is one of the Yin organ systems or Jong. It is also one of the five elements in the body and has many important functions. Keep in mind this is the TCM concept of the body which is functional in nature, in order words, it represents a group of related functions, some of which correspond to the function of the physical liver organ as understood by modern science. There is a Live meridian associated with the Liver system.
In TCM, the Liver is responsible for 5 main functions in the body:
- Stores Blood
- Promotes free flow of Qi
- Controls the sinews (tendons)
- Reflected in the luster of the nails
- Opens to the eyes
Storage of Blood: The Liver stores and regulates the amount of Blood in the body based on its needs. During vigorous activities the Liver releases more Blood to meet the needs. At rest, the excessive Blood is returned and stored in the Liver. It also strongly affects menstruation. Deficiency of Liver Blood causes various symptoms including amenorrhea, poor vision, vertigo, muscle spasms and tight tendons.
Promotion of the free flow of Qi: Free flow of Qi to every organ, tissue and in all directions is important to maintain good health.
Liver is also strongly connected to emotions. When the Liver is healthy, the person is relaxed and happy. Stress can stagnate Liver Qi. On the other hand, stagnation of Liver Qi will also result in irritability, anger, depression, shortness of temper and pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms.
The digestion of food and absorption of nutrients are greatly affected by the Liver. Stagnation of Liver Qi will cause the reversal of Qi in the Stomach, resulting in vomiting and nausea. With the Spleen, reversal of Qi will cause diarrhea.
The production of bile is a function of the Liver recognized by both Chinese and Western medicine. Chinese medicine further identifies the function of regulating the flow of bile. Stagnation of Liver Qi also obstructs the flow of bile resulting in jaundice or bitter taste in the mouth.
Control of the Sinews: The Liver controls the tendons in the body. Deficiency in the Liver Blood will result in weakness in the tendons and therefore lack of flexibility, spasm, reduced range of motion, seizures and tremours.
Reflected on the Nails: The state of the Liver Blood is reflected on the nails. Deficiency in this will show up as nails that are cracked, coloured, indented and dry.
Opens to the Eyes: The Liver system connects directly to the eyes, as do other organ systems to other sensory organs. The Blood from the Liver nourishes the eyes so they can see, in order words, deficiency in Liver Blood results in degradation of vision and other vision disorders such as myopia, irritations, dryness, itchiness, colour blindness etc.. Excessive Heat in the Liver results in burning, inflammation and redness in the eyes. Although Liver is the system most closely related to the function of the eyes, other systems also play a role, including Heart, Small Intestine, Kidney and Gall Bladder.