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Soothing Your Aching Liver

Soothing Your Aching Liver

Whether or not you imbibed in St. Patty’s day festivities yesterday, we’d guess your liver probably needs a good cleansing.  Eliza Grimes knows quite a bit about the body, she’s an acupuncturist and herbal medicine pro;

A big transition is taking place from the yin, cold, internal nature of winter to the yang, explosive, evolving nature of spring. Things can feel a bit funky throughout this month while our bodies are adjusting to this sudden surge in energy. March 20th is officially the first day of spring this year, however, our bodies and minds will benefit most if we start aiding ourselves in this transition now.

Spring corresponds to the wood element, which governs the Chinese liver and gallbladder. The Chinese liver’s most important function, among many, is it’s function of regulating the qi (energy) throughout the entire body. The liver essentially oversees the free flow of all qi, and when not working properly, the qi tends to stagnate, which may result in imbalances and pain.  The negative emotion that corresponds to the liver is anger, although the liver is actually responsible for all of the emotions we feel. When stress and other emotions overpower us, it is our liver that takes the hit. Likewise, imbalances and stagnation of the liver can take a toll on our emotions. Some of us may notice increased irritability, frustration, depression, increased sighing/hiccups, belching and irregular menstruation at this time. In Chinese medicine, the gallbladder is paired with the liver. The gallbladder is known for it’s ability to make decisions and future plans. For those of us who need it, this is a good time to apply this transition in season to a transition in our lives. Perhaps re-evaluating our lives and setting the intention for this season will help direct us on the right path and turn over a new leaf. I’m sure we all can use a reboot.

Now that we know how this seasonal change may affect us, follow these tips to use at home so you can take charge of that grumpy liver on your own:

1. Lemon Wedge your Water: We commonly drink lemon in our water but we don’t even know why. Lemon is sour, and the sour flavor is astringing in nature. The sour lemon astringes water into the tissues and softens the liver. Lemon also helps neutralize water to help maintain the Ph balance in our bodies. So, opt for an extra lemon wedge in your glass of water this season!

2. Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is an awesome remedy for many ailments. It’s sour taste has the same astringing nature as the lemon slices, which soothes the liver. It also has the ability to strengthen our digestive systems and promote metabolism. This is particularly useful in cases where our overractive livers attack our weakened digestive system, resulting in acid reflux, abdominal pain/bloating, loose bowels or constipation. Drink 1-2 tablespoons in the morning, or if too strong a taste, mix 2 tablespoons in room temperature water to dilute a bit. My favorite brand is Bragg.

3. Yoga/Stretching: Yoga is beneficial to our health in so many ways. This season in particular, practicing poses that open up the sides of our bodies, rib cage, and chest can help move our qi through those stagnant liver and gall bladder channels, such as triangle pose, bridge pose and standing half moon pose. If you are new to yoga you can read more about these poses at Yoga Journal.

4. Season’s Needling: For those of us in good health, seasonal acupuncture treatments are important in reminding our bodies to adjust to the change in season gracefully. Now is a great time to schedule a quick tune-up. Remember, acupuncture is first and foremost a wonderful preventative medicine- seek a tune up now to prevent a disaster later.

5. Drink Crysanthemum Tea: The Chinese herb Ju Hua, or Crysanthemum flowers, is a bitter, sweet herb that has an affinity for the Chinese liver. This herb is said to calm the liver and resolve toxicity. If you are feeling a bit on edge and hot tempered, enjoy some crysanthemum tea and tell your liver to chill out.

6. Anchor Yourself: The liver’s sometimes aggressive and upward moving nature can occasionally pose a problem when not properly anchored. If you find you are becoming more easily agitated this month, or spiking headaches under stress, try this 5 minute breathing exercise before you start your day:
-Sit at the edge of your chair, knees flexed hip distance apart, and rest your palms on your knees. While taking 4 count breaths, visualize anchors descending from your soles through to the center of the earth. Once anchored, you can stop here or take it the next step further sending a line of energy from the crown of your head to the sky, and ground yourself using this axis. You can even take it further by connecting to the East and West as well. You can always modify this exercise to your needs.

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Want to jumpstart the spring with a little cleanse to your liver? Start each morning with this tasty green drink. The green veggies and sour flavors astringe and help detoxify the liver. There are many variations to this recipe but I like this one;

Green Juice

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups cucumber
  • 1 head celery
  • 1/2 inch or tsp of ginger root
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 apples
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • water (add as needed)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or use an immersion blender. Add water as needed to your liking. This makes about 3-4 servings (28-30 ounces).

Eliza Grimes is a nationally board certified and licensed acupuncturist and is board certified in Chinese herbology through the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and the state of New York. Eliza received her four-year Master’s Degree in Science and Traditional Oriental Medicine from one of the oldest and most respected colleges in the United States, The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Eliza obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont where she studied Human Development and Family Studies. It is her passion for supporting healthy development that brought her to her interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Eliza uses a comprehensive approach in treating her patients, including acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Eastern nutirition, tui na, cupping and gua sha. She believes an integrative approach to health is most beneficial in staying healthy and living life optimally. She practices in Manhattan and Nyack.  She can be reached at

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