Liver Wind covers a range of health hazards that occur suddenly and potentially lethally.
Understanding it enables us to take precautions and even prevent it happening.
There are three categories, with different symptoms and different causes, but some symptoms are common to all.
If you are new to Chinese medicine, this page may not be the best place to start! Why not go to an easier page, such as just ‘wind‘?
Chinese medicine is wonderfully visual. Liver Wind shows itself by seeming to push upwards, affecting the upper parts of the body.
If you wonder about the use of the word ‘Wind’, think what wind in the trees looks like. They move, the leaves flutter, the tree is restless. Pushed by the force of the atmosphere to one side, its stance is urgent and pressing.
The higher the wind, the more the tension in the tree and the more urgently the leaves try to fly away.
What this image doesn’t suggest is the heat. But usually, in Chinese medicine, if something pushes upwards, it has a Yang-heating effect. This is more noticeable in healthy, plethoric people, like children.
In older people, it is usually less intense, but can be more chronic and definitely more lethal.
If you have small children then you may already have seen Liver Wind happening to them.
This usually happens during a fever, perhaps induced by catching a bug. Read – below – both the general symptoms, plus those from Heat generating Wind.
Or perhaps you have an older relative, fallen on hard times, not well nourished and weakened by chronic disease? Who begins to get what looks like Parkinson’s disease – a tremor? … Can’t settle, restless and wandering around – dementia? Read – below – how Liver Blood deficiency can be a cause.
Sometimes older people are irritable and sleep badly. As a result, they are weak and tired but a little hyper; over-sensitive, nervous and tense. They have cramps or spasms, probably irritable bowel-type pains. ‘Crabby’.
With these symptoms, what Western medicine calls a ‘stroke’ becomes possible. If the symptoms fit, it could be from what Chinese medicine calls Liver Wind with Liver Yin deficiency.
For stroke, use the FAST protocol [Facial drooping or deviation, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time: call emergency services urgently]
This can happen to someone caught in a long hot drought without the means to cool down properly or to take enough fluid. Heat works like an inferno, heating up so much that suddenly like hot air, the Liver Wind rushes up inside. Read below about Heat Generating Wind.
Here you get much the same ‘wind’ symptoms as above. However, you also get what happens when heat makes them worse. If you’ve ever been in a hot country where the land is parched and dry, then you’ll know how heat rising from the hot ground easily increases a breeze caused by burning something.
Then the breeze turns into a wind, whipping the flames up into an inferno. So here you then get the bodily equivalent:
In Chinese medicine, once you’ve worked out the diagnosis in terms of what is called a syndrome, the treatment strategy is usually very logical. In this case it is “Clear Heat, control Wind and relax the Liver”. (By the way, this situation needs immediate professional help.)
How can you do this? In practice, you have to remove the patient from the source of heat, of course! Even so, that won’t cure him.
So there are treatments (ag acupuncture or herbal treatments) that dissipate the Heat pattern, steady the influence of Wind and regulate the Liver. It’s like saying to the body, don’t do this, do that instead. The body may not understand what you say, but it does respond to the acupuncture needles.
The immediate trigger which makes Liver Yang rise is often emotional. This usually comes from Liver Qi stagnation caused by ongoing anger or frustration.
Control Liver Yang, restrain Wind and nourish Liver Yin. This needs immediate emergency professional treatment. Here again, acupuncture has many ways to treat it and is faster than herbs, but herbs are good too. The herbal formulae were worked out thousands of years ago!
Subdue Wind and tonify Liver Blood. However, in addition, one must clear phlegm from the Heart and calm the Shen – the spirit. This treatment needs professional help.
If Blood deficiency is the underlying cause, you must look at nutrition.
This means several things, including choosing the right foods, how to prepare, cook and eat them. (And of course, avoiding the wrong foods!)
It also means considering how good the patient’s digestion is. Dealing with poor digestion is a major part of treatment in Chinese medicine. (This, more or less, means the health of the Stomach and Spleen zang-fu.)
Unless you take time to improve the patient’s digestion, both as to which foods to eat, when and how to eat them, AND their ability to digest them properly, the patient will continue with Liver Blood deficiency, so remain susceptible to Liver Wind.
Usually it takes a while to persuade people to eat differently, especially as they age. You have to remember that older people often have poor teeth, so don’t chew well, even if the food is the best. Also, and this applies to almost anyone, food fads easily influence us. Helping people choose the right foods can be a big first step.
Often, adding some herbs to food helps the digestion which in turn helps the sleep pattern, the mood and the energy. People don’t believe it until they do it!
All these symptoms may appear at different times or together. This means that treating this condition may require use of different treatment methods.
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Transmission of what is called pathogenic heat from the exterior to the interior, attacking Liver Blood.
This Heat generates Wind.
If prolonged, this invasion of heat consumes the Yin of the Liver, and deprives the tendons and muscles of nourishment, leading to spasms, convulsions and numbness. This often occurs in the acute stage of febrile disease, such as during measles, epidemic meningitis or encephalitis-B.
It can also occur in very hot conditions, especially in the old, whose Liver Yin is reduced – see below.
Treatment: clear Heat and subdue Wind.
This occurs when the conditions for Liver Yang rising have developed which takes place over a period of time. Generally speaking it occurs when either Kidney Yin or Kidney Yang is deficient, both of which can lead to Liver Yin deficiency.
Kidney deficiency (either of Yin or Yang, or both) occurs mostly as you grow old and weaker. It can also happen after severe illness.
Finally, something happens which stimulates Liver Yang beyond the ability of (the weakened) Liver Yin to restrain it.
This trigger could be an event causing or exacerbating Liver Qi Stagnation – probably emotional, or a period of great heat in the environment, such as during a prolonged hot summer.
For more about Liver Yin deficiency and its treatment click Liver Yang.
Here the coma doesn’t arise from the Wind itself but from invasion of the Heart and Pericardium by pathogenic Heat. This is why coma is listed here, even though it doesn’t arise from Liver dysfunction itself.
Treatment: because both Liver and Heart may be involved, both must be treated. The aim is to subdue Wind and nourish Liver Blood, but also to clear phlegm from and calm the Heart.
However, usually the symptoms of Liver Blood deficiency would have been apparent for a while.
Read about the main Liver syndromes by clicking on the following links. each of which opens in a new window:
Then there are deficiency situations:
Heat and Fire situations:
… and energy moving or rising situations:
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