Liver (Zang/Yin) - Internal TCM Organs

Liver (Zang/Yin) - Internal TCM Organs

Functions of the Liver

  1. Liver Ensures Smooth Flow of Qi
  2. Stores the Blood
  3. Controls The Sinews
  4. Manifests in the Nails
  5. Opens into the Eyes
  6. Houses the Hun (Ethereal Soul)

Liver Ensures Smooth Flow of Qi

It is extremely common to find Stagnation of Liver Qi in clinic. Liver ensures smooth flow of Qi throughout all the body, in all directions.

Any activity that depends on Qi relies on the Liver's "flowing and spreading".

The Smooth Flow of Liver Qi Affects Three Main Areas


The emotional state is seriously affected by the Liver's function of "Flowing and Spreading" Qi. When it flows normally, emotions are approximate and easy. When the spreading of Qi impaired or the circulation of Qi restrained, there will be emotional depression, frustration, repressed anger, and physical symptoms.

There is a relationship between emotional state and Liver Qi. "Anger makes Qi rise and Blood stagnate in the chest."

Stagnation along channels related to Liver: hypochondriac and costal pain, "plum pit Qi", chest oppression, swollen/tender breasts and genitals, lower abdominal pain.

Digestion and Bile Secretion

Digestion and the Liver - Five element: Wood controls Earth.

The Liver's function of spreading Qi aids the Spleen and Stomach's digestive functions, and is important to ensure harmonious Qi movement in Middle Burner. But Stagnant Liver Qi can "invade" or "attack" the Stomach or Spleen (Wood overacts on Earth).

Smooth flowing of Liver Qi affects bile flow. Stagnant Liver Qi can obstruct bile flow (bitter taste, belching, or jaundice).

Stores Blood

Regulates volume of Blood according to physical activity

When at rest, Blood returns to Liver (Liver contributes to restoring energy). When body is active, Blood nourishes muscles to enable them to perform.

Blood regulation function influences energy level: if this function impaired, lack of Blood (= nourishment) where needed, hence easily tired.

If Liver Blood is deficient, there can be muscle cramps, tics and twitches or tremors/shaking in muscles. (Liver Wind from Blood Deficiency)

Regulates menstruation

Liver is very important in gynecology. If Blood storage function is abnormal, e.g. Liver Blood is deficient, menstrual problems e.g. amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea. If Liver is Hot or Excess, menorrhagia or metrorrhagia can occur.

If Liver Qi stagnant, Liver Blood can stagnate (dysmenorrhea, PMS, dark clots).

Liver malfunction influences energy of Ren Mai & Chong Mai which are closely related to uterus.

Blood & Liver function reciprocally affect each other. Where Blood is Deficient or Hot, Liver function can be affected. If Liver function abnormal, can affect quality of Blood. For example: If Liver is Hot, Blood can become Hot (causing skin eruptions, eczema, etc.: Blood becomes heated by being stored in a hot "container").

Controls Sinews

Sinews (tendons) depend on Liver Blood to moisten and nourish them so they can contract and relax as needed (smooth movement of joints and good muscle action). Deficient Liver Blood leads to lack of nourishment in the tendons, which leads to contractions, spasms, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of limbs, cramps, tremors, muscle weakness, etc.

The Liver controls the Sinews (tendons), or the contractile aspect of the muslces. The Spleen controls the muscles, or the mass or bulk. Liver imbalances are more likely to affect movement, and Spleen weakness more likely affects flaccidity, atrophy, etc.

Manifests in the Nails

The finger and toe nails are the outgrowth of sinews and are influenced by Liver Blood. When Liver Blood is deficient, the nails will lack nourishment and become dark, indented, dry, cracked, brittle, etc.

Opens to the Eyes

Liver Blood nourishes and moistens eyes and gives capacity to see. Liver Blood deficient: blurred vision, myopia, "floaters" color blindness, dry "sandy" eyes. If heat in Liver, eyes bloodshot, sore and burning.

Houses the Hun

The Hun is also called the ethereal Soul. Hun is related to ability to be resolute, to plan and have creative drive and assertiveness. When the Liver is out of balance in excess for instance, this becomes anger.

Influences Rising and Growth

Energy moves up and out like tree (Wood element). The liver also relates to growth in the sense of personal growth, ability to change. People who feel stuck in life or a situation usually have Liver Qi Stagnation.

Controls Planning

Liver gives capacity to plan. Said to be like General of an army (Gall Bladder gives ability to make decisions, hence very closely linked).

References Used

The TCM information presented here has been referenced from numerous sources; including teachers, practitioners, class notes from Five Branches University, the following books, as well as other sources. If you have benefited from this information, please consider supporting the authors and their works by purchasing the books below.

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