torsdag 21 april 2011

The Liver channel and the Wood Element, or ”What the hell are you looking at?”

Our current channel is the liver channel, and since the season is also Spring, which links to the Wood Element that contains the liver and its paired organ the gallbladder, we´re going to look a bit at both.

The liver and gallbladder in Chinese medicine are linked to one of the Five Elements called Wood. Wood is the energy and action of growing, of wood, forest, trees – of intent and energy that goes outwards and away, pushing out for new boundaries, achieving new goals. The element is linked to the emotions of anger, irritation, frustration and bitterness, but also to the ability to act, enthusiasm, and compassion. But – hang on. Remember that this list of emotions also reflects how clean and balanced someone´s Wood element is. The more blocked, the more constant anger, frustration and irritation there will be, a short fuse and angry demeanor. If it is very blocked (called collapsed), this will turn to resentment, bitterness or even hate. The cleaner it gets, there is simply the ability and intent to do, freely and constantly, with a large amount of active compassion for the universe.

Anger is a healthy emotion. It needs to be alive in us, but balanced: an inability to express anger is as bad as expressing too much. Part of getting more balance in ourselves is to be able to be angry when there is an actual reason for it, and then let that anger go. In Chinese medicine, this would be seen as the Wood element working well with Metal, since Metal gives borders, boundaries and ethical lines, but also cuts and divides and keeps Wood in check so it keeps growing well instead of becoming a field of dandelions eating up your garden.

The Liver channel itself is 14 points. It goes all the way from the big toe in the feet up to the crown of the head. The primary channel follows the inside of the leg, circles around the genitals, continues up the side and then goes deep, entering the torso, connecting to lungs, stomach, liver, gallbladder and continuing up the throat to the mouth, nose and top of the head to Baihui, point 20 on the Governing Vessel, the highest point on the body.

Treatments using the liver channel often focus on creating free flow in the body. Pain is seen as stagnation that has lasted a long time, and can be released through this; the liver in Chinese medicine is seen as liking free movement, like growth in Spring, and it gets more angry the more blocked the path is.

The liver is also linked to emotions in the body. They should move freely, but often get stuck instead and create problems and blockages in us and our lives and our health. The liver has a relationship with grief, even though grief is linked to the lungs and Metal, because often our grief is held back by anger. It is also this that links the liver channel to treatments of depression, because often depression can be based on underlying anger, huge amounts of it, but locked, like layers of shale in rock.

The ”external pathogen” for the Wood element is wind. An external pathogen is simply something that effects us from the outside of our system instead of starting inside. Wind is also something energetic that can go inside our system and create physical changes and domino-effects. Internal wind can be started from the inside or initiated from the outside, and it is when the emotions run wild and unbalanced or symptoms keep coming and going restlessly, never manifesting in one single place. This might have started in the liver or will be affecting the liver.

The Wood element and liver is also linked to the health of our ligaments and tendons, and in the old days the liver was called the General in the body, as it controls and governs movement. The heart was called the Emperor, since everything depends on it and it rules all else in the body.

Treatments on the liver channel itself is used for, among many other things, regulating menses for women, clearing up eye-problems, clearing up pain, clearing up external or internal wind, releasing tissues in general and releasing distension and pain in the chest more specifically. It can be used to calm down rebellious energy in the stomach – that is energy going up instead of down, seen as heartburn or digestion problems. It can also help treat specific organ problems with liver and gallbladder, but in Classical Chinese medicine things are not reductionist as in Western medicine, and treatments for liver and gallbladder would often involve other meridians and Elements to balance them with an organic whole and restore the health of the entire inner world of the patient, not just excise or focus on one single part of it.