Using Acupuncture to Treat Liver, Improve Mental Health

by Katie Borchert, NMD, MSOM, Pain Recovery Therapy & Esoteric Acupuncture

One of the reasons I love giving acupuncture treatments is hearing and seeing the feedback when people feel the shifts in their disposition, outlook and emotional stability.

In my training we used this pattern diagnosis of “shen disturbance” to describe the state of being mental and emotionally unwell, to the point where we can actually see it in outward appearance. 

Careful observation of the physiological systems — tongue and pulse — should give an accurate roadmap to best bring overactive thinking or unstable emotions into balance. This is because the five important zang organs store different elements of our spirit but also can be damaged by certain emotions.

 The most often affected organ system is the liver, with its associated spirit of hun. This spirit has a lot to do with movement: going forward with plans and projects, creating relationships, even moving in dreams.

We often find overtraining to be very taxing to the liver system with all of the extra movement.  Emotions that damage the liver are no stranger to a westernized adult. Anger, vexation, frustration and irritation can cause extreme stagnation in the flow of qi, blood, hormones and digestive fluids in the liver. This can translate to tense muscles and depressed mood. This is usually addressed first and regularly with acupuncture treatments.  

Aside from acupuncture, there is a useful image and tool for day-to-day convenience. It is the practice of stopping, breathing, smiling a genuine smile, sending thanks and gratitude to the liver (and gallbladder as they are paired organs). 

A heartfelt smile melts tensions from all muscles, particularly muscles in the face that communicate to the higher centers in the brain. This lifts the mood. Sending that smile to the liver can relax internal organ tension and also help feel more balanced in our movement patterns.

It really can be that simple to keep mentally and emotionally well!