Keep Tasmanian devil away with ‘clean’ foods, herbs

Have you ever wondered why road rage sometimes escapes you while other times you turn into the Tasmanian devil? Or have you ever had the Tasmanian devil in your rear-view mirror giving you a very special hand signal while making angry eyes and crazy facial expressions?  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), feelings such as depression, irritability, frustration and anger, as well as Tasmanian devil-like behavior, have a common underlying causative factor called “Liver qi (‘chee’) stagnation.”

The liver is an extremely important organ system. In fact, it is said that a happy liver equals a happy person. In TCM, the liver “rules the emotions” and ensures that the energy of the body, called qi, is moving smoothly along the meridians. It also moves the blood to nourish all organs and tissues. From a more conventional medicine perspective, the liver is responsible for detoxifying the blood and is involved with several metabolic processes. When the liver energy is balanced, a person will feel happy and will generally feel well physically.

What compromises liver function? Stress, unfulfilled desire, anger and resentment are emotions that can cause liver qi stagnation. Conversely, a physiologically damaged liver from alcohol or other drug abuse, hepatitis or other disease processes can cause those emotions to be more present. Other causes of liver qi stagnation include being sedentary, being unwilling to make positive changes in life and being paralyzed with fear.

The body, mind and spirit do not react well to stagnation. As a comparison, think about how yucky it feels to be stuck in a traffic jam. When the body is stuck energetically there is no forward-moving progress, which will eventually lead to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual imbalance.

It can be helpful to know the signs of liver qi stagnation so you can take action steps before Mr. Tasmanian devil shows up. Potential signs of liver qi stagnation include:

■ Pain under the ribs

■ Headache, especially at the crown of the head

■ Feeling unmotivated or moody

■ Starting to feel short-tempered

■ Diarrhea/constipation/abdominal distention

■ Frequent sighing

■ Feeling as if you have to swallow past something in your throat

■ Menstrual irregularities

■ Unexplained pain

The good news is that the liver can take a real beating before it finally gives up. There is also a lot you can do to support your liver and improve its health. The key is to keep the body’s energy moving. You can keep your liver happy by applying the following tips:

■ Exercising pumps the blood and the qi through the body

■ Eating clean foods free of artificial colors, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, excessive sugar and excessive grease

■ Avoiding alcohol

■ Taking Chinese herbs prescribed by an expert to move the liver qi and support other body systems accordingly

■ Engaging in life coaching to help achieve goals that are in alignment with your value system

■ Resolving the grip past traumas have on you with a psychologist and/or with homeopathy

■ Receiving acupuncture, which works by moving stagnant energy along the meridians

■ Drinking lemon water upon waking as a safe and mild detoxification for the liver

When I thought of the Tasmanian devil for the purposes of writing this column, I performed a Google search for it. The analogy between how a Tasmanian devil looks and how liver qi stagnation can make one feel is quite appropriate. If you could use a laugh, think of something that makes you feel angry and then look up a picture of the Tasmanian devil. I’ll bet you find it to be an accurate representation of how you feel when you are angry. Still, no one likes to feel angry, depressed, stuck and in pain, so take good care of your liver. You deserve it. If each of us would effectively address our liver qi stagnation, the world would be a happier, healthier and more peaceful place. 

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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