Liver Yin deficiency

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Liver Yin deficiency comes as a cruel extra twist when we grow old, as we deplete our body's supplies of what are called Kidney Yin and Yang.

By then of course, we've developed wisdom, so it doesn't matter, though it can be a hard exchange.

This syndrome is one of a number of syndromes recognised in Chinese medicine relating to the Liver. The Liver, as in Western medicine, is of major importance in Chinese medicine but it has additional, very different roles.

Read more about the Liver functions here.

The Liver is the major Energy Organ, or zang, that deals with making sure Qi - energy - moves smoothly not just in your body, but in your emotions. You may think the liver has little to do with your emotions, but even in the West we recognise what is meant by someone who is described as liverish.

'Liverish' includes physical symptoms but also mental and emotional symptoms that often accompany them.

If you can imagine someone who has been liverish for a long time, with either loss of blood or a history of considerable and excessive exertion you might begin to approach what the Chinese mean by this syndrome.

The actual symptoms you can read about below: they aren't that uncommon and many people get them to a small extent from time to time. They become stronger as you grow older, and can lead to other Liver syndromes, such as Liver Qi Stagnation or Liver Yang.

It share some signs common to all Yin deficient syndromes.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms are rather like those of Liver Blood deficiency. This makes little difference if you're new to all this, but it does matter if you're the acupuncturist treating it.

You may not have all of the following symptoms - just some of them, some of the time.

Note - don't confuse these Liver Yin Deficiency with the symptoms of fever or infection, a mistake doctors sometimes make, the result being that they prescribe antibiotics, which eventually make your condition worse.

So what are the symptoms?

  • Dry eyes, mouth and throat
  • Heat sensations in palms and soles 
  • Dull intercostal pain 
  • Nails are dry and without lustre 
  • Impatience 
  • Constipation with dry stools 
  • Urine is dark and may be scanty 
  • Low grade fever worse later in the day or evening
  • Restlessness 
  • Insomnia (often from waking around 3am) 
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats 
  • Aversion to Heat
  • Shallow Breathing, dyspnoea, sighing, taking deep breaths
  • Thirst and prefers cool drinks, but not too much
  • Urine dark
  • Constipation and dry stools
  • Pain relieved by cool air or cool applications
  • Pain also better for pressure or firm touch

Your movements: restless, but you weaken quickly.

Your speech: quiet but talkative, and you easily run out of 'puff'.

Your mood: agitated, anxious, depressed, passive, excitable. You needs reassurance.

Your appearance: you may get slightly flushed cheeks, commonly in the afternoon or evening. 

Your tongue: red with little or no coating (if any, it is white or sometimes a little yellow). Your tongue body may have fissures. 

Your pulse: wiry and fine, or wiry, fine, and rapid (technical terms of interest to acupuncturists).

How do you get this - what's its Aetiology?

The usual causes are:

1/ Excessive exercise or physical exertion (what's excessive for one person may be normal for another)

2/ Long-term Liver Blood deficiency eg from heavy menses

3/ A succession of high fevers that have drained you

4/ 'Jing and Kidney deficiency' leading to Liver Yin deficiency.

Jing and Kidney deficiency can arise from a number of different reasons including chronic illness, old age, overwork, hereditary causes, long-standing or extreme fear, and excess sexual activity. In other words, overuse of available resources.

Of course there are other causes. Any large emotional trauma can affect any or all of the organ energies (eg Heart, Lung, Liver, Kidney etc.) dissipating their patency. What symptoms result depend on the underlying susceptibilities.


Technically, what your acupuncturist will do is nourish your Kidney Yin or your Kidney Yang, your Liver Yin and Liver Blood. There are acupuncture treatments for this, and a whole raft of other ways that your acupuncturist will probably suggest.

Other Ways?

Like what? Well, you could start by studying the many thousands of texts written over at least 2000 years by Chinese medicine scholars, doctors and mystics, most of whom sooner or later became obsessed with the matter.

As you will, too, when you grow a little older, if not already. Few of us like to grow old (at least physically) and Kidney deficiency comes with growing old. Kidney deficiency leads to Liver Yin deficiency.

Of course, Chinese Medicine including Acupuncture has solutions, partial if nothing else, as you would expect. Some of them you can do yourself and for others you need treatment.

The things you do yourself must become part of your daily pattern. They aren't things which you do once and that's it. We're writing a page on this and will link to it when it's ready.

Other Liver syndromes

For the other main Liver syndromes clicking on the following links:

Liver Functions in general including Liver Qi Stagnation

Liver Blood Deficiency

Liver Blood Stasis

Liver Channel Cold Stagnation

Liver Damp Heat

Liver Fire

Liver Wind

Liver Yang rising

Liver Yin deficiency

Click to return from Liver Yin Deficiency to Liver Functions

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