The information provided here is not a replacement for a doctor. You shouldn't use it for the purpose of self-diagnosing or self-medicating but rather so you can have a more informed discussion with a professional TCM practitioner.
Chinese name: 肝气郁结
Pinyin name: Gān Qì Yù Jié
When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. This affects not only the Liver, but other connected Organs too as well as the Seven Emotions.
Liver Qi Stagnation is not only the most seen Liver disharmony, but also one of the most common TCM patterns in general. Many things can cause Liver Qi Stagnation, such as suppressed or overly expressed anger, resentment and frustration, or a diet rich in stimulants, drugs, fatty and oily foods, recreational drugs, alcohol, coffee, black tea, or overwork without sufficient rest.
The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation, especially distention in the hypochondrium, chest, epigastrium or abdomen. To describe this feeling, the term ‘bloating’ is also often used in English-speaking countries. Emotionally speaking, patients are often depressed, moody and irritable. For women, they often have painful and irregular periods as well as breasts distension. Wiry pulse can also be used to diagnose this pattern.
To treat Qi Stagnation, it is important to avoid using tonifying herbal ingredients as they create Excess and thus Stagnation worsens, like putting more cars to a bad traffic jam. Therefore, it is recommended to give herbals that Regulating Qi and Blood together with Herbs that clear Heat.
Please keep in mind that a Western Medicine condition can be caused by several Chinese Medicine patterns of disharmony and vice versa. As such a patient suffering from one of the conditions below will not necessarily be suffering from Liver Qi Stagnation, it is just one pattern that's commonly associated with the condition. Click on a condition to learn what other patterns it's associated with.
The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine
Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)
Tongue color: Normal (light red)
Possible symptoms: Fever Anger Blister Belching Moodiness Headaches Dark face Depression Flank pain Fluctuation Breast pain Mood swings Irritability Throat lumps Breast lumps Constipation Breast eczema Breast redness Breast nodules Scanty periods Clots in blood Breast hardness Menstrual cramps Frequent sighing Breast distention Dark nipple color Thick breast milk Breast skin cracks Uneven milk supply Dark colored blood Suppressed emotions Breast pus discharge Breast skin ichiness Abdominal distension Lower abdominal pain Feeling of distension Epigastric distension Pre-menstrual tension Irregular menstruation White spots on nipples Feelings of frustration HypochondriaI distension Yellow vaginal discharge Sticky vaginal discharge Alternating fever and chills Abdominal distention and fullness Insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth Stifling sensation in the chest causing one to have deep sighs
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 Qi Stagnation will tend to exhibit wiry (Xian) pulses as well as a normal (light red) tongue.
Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Liver Qi Stagnation might experience symptoms like depression, irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps and irritability (full list here above).
Source date: 1107 AD
Number of ingredients: 6 herbs
Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.
Xiao Yao San is a 6-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1107 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that harmonize Liver-Spleen.
Source date: Ming dynasty
Number of ingredients: 10 herbs
Key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.
Jia Wei Xiao Yao San is a 10-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) as a principal ingredient. Invented in Ming dynasty, it belongs to the category of formulas that harmonize Liver-Spleen.
Source date: 1481 AD
Number of ingredients: 5 herbs
Key actions: Promotes the movement of Qi. Releases all types of Stagnation (Qi, Blood, Phlegm, Fire, Food and Dampness).
Yue Ju Wan is a 5-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) and Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong) as principal ingredients. Invented in 1481 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that promote Qi movement.
Avoid fried and fatty foods, nuts and nut butters, avocados, cheese and dairy, chips of all kinds, turkey and red meats, alcohol, hot and spicy foods, chocolate, caffeinated foods, drugs and stimulants. Avoid drinks such as coffee, black tea, cocoa and colas. Eat plenty of grains, legumes, vegetables and dark leafy greens, such as kale, collards, dandelion, mustard, beet and mustard greens. Lemon juice also helps decongest the Liver.
Typical symptoms for low breast milk supply caused by Liver Qi Stagnation: Depression Breast pain Breast lumps Irritability Breast hardness Breast distention Dark nipple color Thick breast milk Breast skin cracks Epigastric distension HypochondriaI distension Insufficient or absent lactation after childbirth
The Liver and nipples are connected through the Liver Channel. To deal with low lactation due to this specific pattern, the Liver needs to be pacified and Qi needs to be moved by eliminating Stagnation. Only when the Stagnation is removed from the Liver Channel that connects to the breasts can the new mum can be encouraged to promote lactation.
Typical symptoms for mastitis caused by Liver Qi Stagnation: Fever Blister Headaches Depression Mood swings Breast pain Irritability Breast lumps Constipation Breast redness Breast hardness Breast distention Uneven milk supply Breast skin cracks Breast pus discharge Breast skin ichiness White spots on nipples
If a nursing mother is easily impacted by anger and her emotions are repressed, her Qi will rebel upwards and stagnate in the Liver, which connects to the nipples through the Liver Channel. This leads the milk ducts or nipple orifices to clog, milk cannot come out and thus forms lumps or nodules in the breasts. The nursing mother feels swelling and hardness in the breasts and a strong sharp pain during breastfeeding. Sometimes, only one of the breasts' nipples are clogged and it leads to an...Read more about mastitis