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Liver Syndromes in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Understanding and Treatment with Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a unique perspective on health and well-being, emphasizing the balance and harmony of the body and mind. The liver, a crucial organ in TCM, is often at the center of many imbalances and pathologies. This article explores the different liver syndromes in TCM, associated pathologies, the impact of emotions, physical manifestations, and how acupuncture can help treat them, drawing on the classical texts of TCM.

Liver Syndromes in TCM

1. Liver Qi Stagnation

This is probably the most commonly diagnosed liver syndrome. It is often caused by emotional stress and frustration, leading to Qi that does not flow freely.

Associated Pathologies: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pain and distension in the flanks, headaches, and digestive disorders.

Acupuncture Treatment: Points such as LV3 (Taichong) and LV14 (Qimen) are often used to move the liver Qi, as described in classical texts like the "Huangdi Neijing".

2. Liver Heat or Fire

This syndrome often results from prolonged stagnation of liver Qi or external factors like excessive consumption of spicy foods or alcohol.

Associated Pathologies: Irritability, redness of the eyes, severe headaches, and hypertension.

Acupuncture Treatment: Points like LV2 (Xingjian) can be used to clear liver heat.

3. Liver Blood Deficiency

This syndrome occurs when the liver does not store enough blood, often due to a poor diet, overwork, or blood loss.

Associated Pathologies: Dizziness, blurred vision, insomnia, and irregular or absent menstruation.

Acupuncture Treatment: LV8 (Ququan) can nourish the liver blood, in accordance with the teachings of the "Neijing".

4. Damp-Heat in the Liver and Gallbladder

This syndrome is often caused by a diet rich in fatty, spicy foods, or alcohol, leading to an accumulation of dampness and heat.

Associated Pathologies: Jaundice, pain in the hypochondrium, dark urine, and possibly skin itching.

Acupuncture Treatment: GB34 (Yanglingquan) and LR14 (Qimen) are used to clear the heat and transform dampness.

5. Liver Wind

Often related to extreme imbalances of Yin or Yang in the liver, causing the 'rising' of internal wind.

Associated Pathologies: Tremors, severe dizziness, convulsions, and in severe cases, strokes.

Acupuncture Treatment: GB20 (Fengchi) is a key point to extinguish liver wind.

Emotions and Their Physical Manifestations

In TCM, emotions are intimately connected to physical health. Anger, frustration, and rage are specifically associated with the liver. Excessive emotion can directly affect the liver Qi, leading to physical symptoms like flank pain, headaches, and menstrual disorders.


The liver syndromes in TCM reflect the complexity of the interaction between the body and mind. Acupuncture, as a treatment modality, offers a holistic approach to restore balance and treat both physical manifestations and emotional imbalances. Relying on the principles established in classical texts such as the "Huangdi Neijing," acupuncture does not just treat symptoms but addresses the roots of liver imbalances, thus offering a path to lasting health and well-being.

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