Liver Fire Blazing

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 肝火上炎

Pinyin name: Gān Huǒ Shàng Yán

Associated TCM concepts: Liver Heat/Fire evil


Common symptoms: Thirst Tinnitus Deafness Red face Red eyes and twelve other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

Tongue description: Red body, redder on the sides, dry yellow coating

Many of these symptoms are located in the upper-parts of the body because the nature of Fire is to flare upwards. As such we have the red face and eyes, the temporal headache, dizziness, etc. The headache is typically very intense, throbbing in character and located on the temples or felt in the eyes.

Liver-Fire also ascends to the ears and causes sudden onset tinnitus and deafness. The tinnitus will be experienced as a high-pitched whistle.

Fire also tends to agitate the Mind, located in the Heart. This gives rise to relatively strong mental–emotional symptoms such as the outbursts of anger. In Liver Fire Blazing, those symptoms are typically more pronounced than those of Liver Yang rising or Liver Qi stagnation.

The bitter taste in the mouth is caused by Liver Fire rising to the throat and mouth. It can also be caused by Heart Fire but if that's the case it's only present in the morning after waking up. Bitter taste in the mouth caused by Liver Fire Blazing is there for the whole day.

Liver Fire Blazing doesn't only affect the upper-parts of the body. It also dries up Body Fluids, resulting in constipation with dry stools and a concentrated, dark urine.

More rarely it may cause Heat in the Blood so much that it causes it to leave the vessels, much like earth's "fluid", lava, is pushed out of a volcano when heated. When this happens it gives rise to bleeding symptoms such as epistaxis (nosebleed), haemoptysis (coughing of blood) or haematemesis (vomiting of blood).

The Red tongue body reflects the Heat and the redder color of the sides reflects its location in the Liver. The dry yellow coating confirms that it is Full Heat (as opposed to Empty).

Diagnosing Liver Fire Blazing

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), wiry (Xian) or full (Shi)

Tongue description: Red body, redder on the sides, dry yellow coating

Possible symptoms: Thirst Tinnitus Deafness Red face Red eyes Dizziness Epistaxis Dry stools Dark Urine Haemoptysis Irritability Constipation Haematemesis Outbursts of anger Temporal headaches Dream disturbed sleep Bitter taste in the mouth

Diagnosing a pattern in Chinese Medicine is no easy feat and should be left to professional practitioners.

In particular one has to know how to differentiate between different types of pulses and tongue coatings, shapes and colors. Here patients with Liver Fire Blazing will tend to exhibit rapid (Shu), wiry (Xian) or full (Shi) pulses.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Liver Fire Blazing might experience symptoms like irritability, outbursts of anger, tinnitus and deafness (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Liver Fire Blazing

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Formula summary

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is a 10-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1682 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat from the Organs.

Besides Liver Fire Blazing, Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is also used to treat Damp Heat in the Liver or Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Source date: 1172 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Key actions: Drains Liver and Gallbladder Fire Excess.

Formula summary

Dang Gui Long Hui Wan is a 11-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Dong Quai (Dang Gui) and Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1172 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that clear Heat from the Organs.

Read more about Dang Gui Long Hui Wan

Diet recommendations

Avoid excessive intake of alcohol, drugs, caffeinated foods and drinks (including coffee, black tea, cocoa, colas and chocolate), hot natured foods such as lamb and beef and fried and greasy foods, chips of all kinds, nuts and nut butters, avocados, cheese and dairy, turkey and red meats, hot and spicy foods, drugs and stimulants.

The foods which help reduce Liver Fire include vegetables, bitter foods, dark leafy greens, such as kale, collards, dandelion, mustard, beet and mustard greens, lemon, watermelon, cucumber and mung beans.

Emotionally it is extremely important to find constructive ways to express and release the pent up anger, frustration, irritability and resentment. Find work which is satisfying and enjoyable. Discover creative outlets and actively pursue them.