Liver Qi Stagnation in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, conceives of the human body as a set of inter-related systems that work together in harmony. Problems in one part of the body may be the result of injury to a different part of the body — or to the flow of energy (qi) through the entire body. Traditional Chinese treatment of disorders involves the use of complex prescriptions made up of multiple herbs.

Close up of acupuncture treatment
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What Is Qi?

In Chinese philosophy, qi is the life force that flows through all things. Everything in the universe derives from qi. When qi flows properly, all things are in harmony and function correctly; when qi is blocked, problems arise.

Within the human body, says this philosophy, qi flows through the organs maintaining health and balance. It is thought to provide the energy needed for our bodies to function, support body temperature, maintain the structure and strength of our organs, and keep our metabolism constant. In order to do all of these things properly, qi must flow through our bodies. Where there are blockages and qi cannot flow, we experience health problems.

Liver Qi Stagnation

According to traditional Chinese medicine, liver qi can stagnate (become blocked) as a result of stress or anxiety. Liver qi is said to be responsible to a large degree for the movement of qi through the body. When liver qi is stagnant, the blood becomes stagnant, creating a variety of issues, many of which may relate to the female reproductive system. Some symptoms said to be caused by liver qi stagnation include:

Pain or discomfort anywhere along the sides of the body

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sighing
  • Hiccups
  • Frustrated easily
  • Inappropriate anger
  • Sensation of a lump in throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Excessive sleep
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Stomachache that improves after massage
  • Stomachache that worsens with anger
  • PMS with irritability or swollen breasts
  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Poor appetite
  • Churning sensation in stomach

Tongue: Normal tongue, sides may be curled up.

Pulse: Wiry pulse

Related Conditions

Since symptoms of imbalances in alternative medicine may be linked to a number of medical conditions, it's important to consult your physician if you have any health concerns. Self-treating a health condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Foods Used to Treat Liver Qi Stagnation

These are just some of the foods that are believed to help liver qi stagnation:
Coconut meat
Mustard seed
Sweet potato
Red and black date
Caraway seed
Red bean
Sweet basil

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Article Sources
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  1. Liu M, Jiang Y, Wang X, Liu Q, Wu H. The Role of Rumination and Stressful Life Events in the Relationship between the Qi Stagnation Constitution and Depression in Women: A Moderated Mediation Model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:7605893. doi:10.1155/2017/7605893

Additional Reading
  • Kaptchuk TJ. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Chicago: Contemporary (McGraw-Hill) 2000
  • Lu, H. Chinese Natural Cures, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1994.