Jade Mountain wellness series: The liver according to TCM theory of 5 elements

Are you a Type A personality, always charging, always taking on challenges? In part two of Erin Potter's ongoing summer series exploring Traditional Chinese Medicine and mountain life, we explore how the liver personality can stay level.

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Is this you every weekend? You may have what Traditional Chinese Medicine calls a liver body type. Learn more about the philosophy behind treating your individual body type well. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo.

The Revelstoke Mountaineer welcomes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner Erin Potter’s summer series focusing on the cornerstone elements of TCM, and how they relate to your physical, mental, and emotional health and well being. The series will explore how TCM is interconnected with the seasonal rhythms of mountain life, and how it can help you achieve goals like improved athletic performance or a more healthful harmony with our mountain climate.

Part II: The liver according to TCM theory of 5 elements

Do you like adventure, breaking trail, charging into new territory, and being a pioneer? Are you a bit of an A-type personality who always has many things on the go? Is it likely that if things don’t go your way, or you don’t discharge your energy through exercise, that you can get irritable, hot headed, and frustrated? You just might be what Chinese medicine would categorize a liver body type.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine Five Elements Chart.
A Traditional Chinese Medicine Five Elements Chart.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards the body as a microsystem within the macrosystem of the universe. The universe is said to be made up of five main elements. They are considered archetypal groups that have resonance with each other and are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements comprise the universe, as well as the human body. Each element is ascribed organs as well as certain functions in the body. When TCM talks about the organs, its not looking at them in the same way as western medicine does. While western medicine describes placement and physical function of the organs, TCM includes emotions and associated physical functions as well.

The ‘wood’ element relates to the liver and gallbladder organs. The liver is said to be reflected in the eyes and is associated with the season of spring, the tendons, emotions of anger and frustration, sour flavour, and the colour of green. So how does this look in your body? It is the job of the liver and gallbladder to regulate the smooth flow of qi (energy), maintain even emotions and clarity of judgement which gives grace and flexibility to the physical and mental body. When the liver is healthy, judgement and decision making are sound, vision is clear, and actions are resolute. Strengthening the liver develops drive and adaptability and enhances our ability to cope with the fluctuations life brings.

Revelstoke's Erin Potter is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and owner of Jade Mountain Wellness. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Revelstoke’s Erin Potter is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and owner of Jade Mountain Wellness. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Ways to help the liver include: reducing the amount of toxins we take in, going for walks in a green forest, including more bitter and sour foods such as radicchio and dandelion, using stress reducing methods, doing liver cleanses in the spring to get rid of accumulated waste from the winter, gentle mind body exercises like tai qi and yoga, physical exercise and manual therapy such as massage and acupuncture. A happy liver means a happy body, mind and spirit!

For more, see Part I: New Revelstoke Mountaineer series: Jade Mountain TCM practitioner Erin Potter on mountain wellness