Hot lemon water helps cleanse liver in springtime

Do you suffer from any of these symptoms: tremor, allergies, joint pain that moves from joint to joint, tendonitis, fibromyalgia-like symptoms, eye or facial tics, sudden spurts of anger, dizziness or vertigo?

If so, you may experience those symptoms worse in the springtime. That is because the environment and weather associated with the seasons may affect our health.

Natural occurrences in our environment can be mimicked in the human body. The link between spring wind and our physical health occurs largely within the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) liver organ system. According to TCM, the liver corresponds with the wood element, which is prevalent in the spring as trees are regenerating.

In both conventional and TCM medical paradigms, the liver is an important organ. In TCM, the liver is said to “store the blood” and “rule the soft tissues such as fascia and tendons.” It also ensures the smooth flow of our body’s energy (called “qi”) and regulates emotions.

The symptoms mentioned above are because of (at least in part) a “pathological factor” called “wind.” Consider what wind can do in nature, then translate it to the human body.

Just as wind flutters the leaves of trees, it can cause frequent micro-movements in the body, such as tremors or tics. Just as wind can cause an upheaval in our environment, it can disrupt our equilibrium and cause dizziness. Just as wind can arise out of seemingly nowhere, it can do so in the body, causing joint pain that moves through the body.

Symptoms of wind in the body often have an undercurrent of liver blood deficiency. When our bodies are “blood deficient,” we are also susceptible to other symptoms like soft tissue injuries. In TCM, blood not only consists of the fluid inside our vessels, but extends to any substance that provides nourishment to the body. The liver nourishes the soft tissues with blood.

If there is not enough blood, the soft tissues become dry and brittle like a malnourished tree. If the wind blows a malnourished tree, the branches are likely to splinter and break.

This dryness in the human body limits flexibility, leaving tendons, cartilage and fascia prone to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow and Achilles tendonitis.

Another common example of TCM liver pathology is that of liver qi stagnation — caused by chronic emotional stress, unfulfilled desire, chronic pain and not enough exercise.

In general, people do not like feeling stuck and stagnant. When we do, we commonly experience symptoms like anger, pain under the ribs, constipation and headaches. 

The lesson here is that a happy liver equals a happy person. Here are some tips to keep your liver happy:

■ Remove alcohol, fatty and greasy foods and unnecessary drug substances from your life. 

■ Drink hot lemon water (if you have allergies or constipation, add 1 tablespoon of local honey) upon waking. This gently cleanses the liver.

■ Exercise moderately.

■ Take steps to make sure your emotional needs are being met. 

■ Surround yourself with people who align with your values. 

■ Eat cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. They have compounds called indole 3-carbinol which are known to activate detoxification enzymes.

When I was in my graduate program and first learned of “wind” pathology, I laughed and wondered what bogus school I had enrolled in. When I decided to go to the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, I had to make the jump from cellular metabolism, biochemistry and molecular genetics to the idea of treating “wind” in the human body. Thankfully, I have adopted the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine and conventional medical wisdom to see our bodies in a more complete way.

Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.


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