Liver Yin Deficiency

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Pattern factsheet

Chinese name: 肝阴虚

Pinyin name: Gān Yīn Xū

Associated TCM concepts: Liver Yin Deficiency / Empty

Related conditions: Cataract Glaucoma Diabetes and seven other conditions


Common symptoms: Cramps Insomnia Dry hair Dry skin Dry eyes and seventeen other symptoms

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Wiry (Xian), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red points on the sides

This is a type of Empty-Heat pattern arising out of Liver Blood Deficiency or Kidney Yin Deficiency. It shares similar symptoms as Liver Blood Deficiency, but with extra signs of Dryness and Yin-Deficient Heat.

When Liver Yin Deficiency is quite developed as a pattern, it causes Empty-Heat. The Heat is called "Empty" because it appears not due to an Excess of Yang energy but rather due to lack of Yin-cooling factors in the body. This causes the cheekbones to get redder, thirst with desire to drink in small sips, night sweats and a feeling of heat in the palm. Patients' mental health also sometimes gets affected. When there is Liver Yin Deficiency and Empty-Heat at the same time, it disturbs the Ethereal Soul which loses its root. Therefore, it ‘comes and goes’ excessively, resulting in anxiety, insomnia, mental restlessness and an excessive mental activity in terms or plans, projects, dreams, aims which are pursued in a rather ‘scattered’ way.

Liver Yin Deficiency can be caused by excessive activity, overwork, 'burning the candle at both ends' without sufficient rest, and poor and irregular diet. Many menopausal symptoms fit this category.

Related conditions

Diabetes mellitus Diabetes insipidus Cataract Glaucoma Central retinopathy Optic nerve atrophy Optic neuritis Diabetes Ophthalmalgia Photophobia

Diagnosing Liver Yin Deficiency

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

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 Yin Deficiency will tend to exhibit rapid (Shu), empty (Xu), wiry (Xian) or floating (Fu) pulses as well as a red points on the sides tongue with complete absence of coating.

Practitioners also learn to read from a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms. Here patients with Liver Yin Deficiency might experience symptoms like dry throat, blurred vision, scanty periods and dizziness (full list here above).

Herbal formulas used to treat Liver Yin Deficiency

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1350 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Kidney and Liver Yin. Improves vision.

Formula summary

Qi Ju Di Huang Wan is a 8-ingredient Chinese Medicine formula with Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di huang) as a principal ingredient. Invented in 1350 AD, it belongs to the category of formulas that nourish Yin and tonify.

Besides Liver Yin Deficiency, Qi Ju Di Huang Wan is also used to treat Liver Yang Rising or Liver Wind agitating Internally due to Liver Yang Rising.

Read more about Qi Ju Di Huang Wan

Diet recommendations

Eat plenty of grains, legumes, a little meat, cooked vegetables, greens, milk and black and aduki beans. Avoid spicy, greasy and fried foods, caffeinated foods and drinks including coffee, black tea, cocoa, colas and chocolate, nuts and nut butters, chips of all kinds, avocados, dairy (except warm milk with cardamom and honey), alcohol, drugs, chips of all kinds, turkey and red meats and stimulants. The foods which decongest and aid the Liver include vegetables, bitter foods, dark leaf greens, such as kale, collards, dandelion, beet and mustard greens. Lemons also clear Heat and congestion from the Liver.

Most important herbs used to treat Liver Yin Deficiency