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The Free and Easy Wanderer

Soothing liver qi stagnation

By Diane Sheppard, PhD, LAc
Addressing liver qi stagnation can help create a calm and peaceful demeanor.

Wouldn’t it be nice to glide through life without a care in the world like a free and easy wanderer? It is certainly a nice dream, but not reality for most of us.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we have a famous herbal formula called Xiao Yao San, which means “free and easy wanderer.” It is used for liver qi stagnation, a common imbalance found to some degree in most of us and often caused by internal and external stress. 

In China, millions of people live in congested cities where environmental stressors can be high. Culturally, the Chinese are also not emotionally expressive and tend to keep things inside. In their country, this formula is extremely popular. 

How do you know if you have liver qi stagnation? 

Signs and symptoms that your liver qi is not flowing freely include getting easily agitated or startled, explosive emotional outbursts like, say, road rage, digestive issues, poor sleep, migraines, and in the spring time, vertigo due to seasonal winds. In addition, women may experience enhanced PMS, constipation or a sensation of a lump in their throat. Sadness and depression can also be the result of liver qi stagnation. 

In TCM, we treat this condition with acupuncture and herbs, but there are many lifestyle alterations that can also help:

Diet: Eat leafy greens lightly cooked or raw; add thinly sliced daikon radishes to salads; increase your intake of artichokes, prickly pear, beet juice, grapefruit and cruciferous vegetables; drink juice from one fresh lemon mixed with water daily (use a straw to protect your teeth from acidity); and supplement with milk thistle daily. 

Exercise: There is nothing better to move liver qi than walking or dancing your way to health; even 12 minutes a day makes a big difference.

Rest: Metaphorically speaking, in TCM, our blood collects in our liver at night when we sleep. This means that the liver plays a big role in rejuvenating us while we are sleeping. Not enough rest leads to weakened blood, which prevents our qi from flowing freely and leads to stagnation. That is why resting well can help us maintain better energy throughout the day. 

Acupressure: In acupuncture, the point between the big toe and the second toe (where the metatarsals meet) is called Liver 3 or Tai Chong, “the great surge.” Applying self-acupressure to this point can help improve qi flow throughout your body. The spot may be a little tender, and that is when you know you have it! Bingo! You can apply pressure with jets in a jacuzzi or manually while watching TV on the couch. 

Manage stress: Emotional stress is the root of liver qi stagnation and most disease; thus, managing stress, as with the examples above, is essential to well-being. (In this publication, you can find many practitioners who can help with stress relief and intervention!)

Beware of “false” liver movers: Alcohol, for example, will temporarily relieve stress and free up your liver energy, so a drink now and then may feel good and is not a problem. However, when you find yourself getting feisty or short-tempered, or falling asleep quickly, then waking up at 1 or 2 a.m., it may be time to ease up or jump on the wagon for a while to give your liver a break. 

Create your vision: Envision a smooth path ahead and try not to get stuck in the same repetitive cycles of reacting to stress. See yourself living through stressful, fearful times with ease. It may not be easy at first, but over time it will help. 

Think of the many times in your past you never thought you’d make it through, but you did. You can handle whatever life throws you. Use those past experiences to help your path forward be more like that of the free and easy wanderer.

Diane Sheppard is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. She is the owner of AcQpoint Wellness Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 345.2200 or visit www.AcQPoint.com.

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