What You Really Need


  • Understand your Liver
  • Liver Blood – skin issues, anemia, muscles, arthritis, cancer
  • Liver Stagnation – headaches, allergies, hormone issues, depression, lumps
  • Congested Liver – similar to stagnation
  • Liver Heat –  high blood pressure, inflamed skin, gallbladder issues, splitting headaches
  • Liver Yin and Blood Deficiency – dryness, blurred vision, tinnitus, infertility, hot flashes
  • Liver Wind – tremors, seizures, vertigo, dizziness, muscles, tendons
  • Purify Mind and Emotions – letting go, renewal, vision


Have you been motivated to spring clean your home, purging it of clutter, dirt, dust, and toxins; making needed repairs; and restoring broken things? The same is in order for your body and mind. Cycles of rejuvenation and purification are at their height this time of year.

According to the wisdom of 5,000 year-old Traditional Holistic Healing Arts, the liver and gall bladder correlate with the spring season, a time when many experience more intensity in chronic health conditions, greater stress, and physical difficulty. Both liver and gall bladder are quite active in the process of cleaning out and repairing. It is the perfect time of the year to give them some extra attention.

But what kind of attention do they really need?  A lot of people, including many health practitioners, oversimplify the complexities of the liver and do more harm than good with a gunshot approach. Using extreme detoxification products, foods, and beverages that aren’t appropriate for your personal condition will damage your health. Different therapeutic strategies are needed based on individual patterns.


Not everyone needs to purge and flush toxins

Some conditions warrant nourishing the liver; others necessitate regeneration. Liver heat wants to be cooled; liver blood wants to be enriched; and liver stagnation is seeking movement. Dampness in the liver needs to be dried out; liver wind wants to be subdued; and liver yin requires replenishing. A congested liver needs to be decongested.

An overview of these conditions is included in this article. But first it’s important to understand the bigger picture of your liver’s many functions. So, before you buy the popular detoxification products of the day, read on.


Understand your Liver

The liver is the largest internal organ and is constantly working to process everything you consume. This means food, beverages, medications and supplements; and substances you ingest through breathing, through your skin; and through your thoughts and feelings. It is said to be like the General of an army. Its complimentary organ, Gall Bladder, gives the ability to make decisions.

The Liver stores and distributes nourishment for the entire body. It is involved in the formation and breakdown of blood, and filters toxins from the blood. Liver cells make bile which aids digestion, and stores bile in the gall bladder to be used in the intestines for the breakdown of fats, and enhancing the ability of small intestines to absorb fatty acids. So this organ is an important aspect of healthy digestion.

Hormones are regulated by the Liver, and many menstrual, menopausal and other hormone imbalances are rooted in a stagnant liver.


Liver Blood

Blood is nourished and purified by the liver, and when the liver is stagnant, blood purification can be inadequate, leading to the release of toxins through the skin. Impure blood is a cause of acne, eczema, carbuncles, boils, acidosis and allergies. Toxic blood feeds all degenerative conditions, including arthritis and cancer.

The tendons are nourished and moistened by the liver resulting in smooth joint movement and good muscle action.  If liver blood is deficient, this may lead to symptoms such as anemia, muscle cramps, weak limbs, and numbness of limbs, spasms, contracted tendons, and tremors. Dry, brittle cracked nails are a sign that the liver blood is deficient. Detoxification will worsen liver blood deficiency.

Your eyes are nourished and moistened by your liver which gives the capacity to see. Liver Blood deficiency results in blurred vision, myopia, floaters, color blindness, dry “sandy” eyes. All visual abnormalities, including cataracts, glaucoma, and night blindness mirror the health of the liver.


Liver Stagnation

A healthy liver establishes a smooth flow of vital life force energy through the whole person in body, mind, emotions and spirit. When liver energy is stagnant the health issues listed occur. This is only a partial list.  Most people have some degree of liver stagnation.

  • Nervous system disorders
  • Allergies
  • Lumps, swellings, mastitis
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Menstrual and menopause problems
  • Muscle pain and tendon and ligament issues
  • Impure blood which causes skin disorders
  • Eye problems
  • Goiter and Thyroid Issues
  • Neck and back tension; headaches, including migraines
  • Distended abdomen, chest, or breasts
  • Impatience, moodiness, frustration, anger, depression



Overeating, late night eating, rich, greasy food such as mammal meats (turkey, in particular, overheats and stagnates the liver); cream, cheese and eggs; hydrogenated and poor quality fats; excessive nuts and seeds; chemicals in food and water; prescription drugs; all intoxicants; and highly processed, refined foods all contribute to a sluggish and congested liver.

But food isn’t everything. How you perceive yourself and internalize your life’s experiences have as much  effect as the food you eat. Perfectionism, control issues, need to be right, critical of self and others; resentment, and holding a grudge all damage the smooth flow of energy to and from the liver. Repressed emotions are stored in your liver. Consider Holistic Counseling with me. 



Regularly eat moderately pungent foods, including mustard greens, turmeric, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, marjoram, cumin, caraway, fennel, dill, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, rosemary, peppermint and spearmint. 

Green foods, especially dark, leafy greens clear stagnancy and cool liver heat. Include dandelion, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, and others. Leafy Greens Recipes

Include these anti-stagnancy foods: beets, sweet brown rice, strawberries, peaches, cherries, chestnuts, pine nuts, cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.  Sprouted grains, beans and seeds, and fresh vegetables and fruits stimulate liver energy flow. Try my Borscht Soup Recipe  and Avocado, Beet and Fennel Salad.

A spring cleanse prior to the spring equinox is very helpful. There are many approaches and it’s best if a cleanse is customized for your specific health, constitution, and condition. If you’d like me to customize a cleanse for you, contact me.


Anti-stagnancy herbs


Congested Liver

Causes are similar to those for liver stagnation.  Vinegar and lemon reduce accumulations in the liver and abdomen that result from a rich diet, a meat-centered diet, and too man refined foods. Use 1 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar in a cup of water 2-3 times daily. Do not use distilled vinegar. This will also lift a bad mood. Vinegar is warming. Alternatively you could use fresh lemon which is cooling. Use 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon in water several times daily.

The sour flavor is most active in the liver where it counteracts the effects of rich, greasy food, and the heavier foods of winter. It functions as a solvent by breaking down fats and protein. Sour helps in digestion to dissolve minerals for improved assimilation.

Emphasize sour foods such as  lemon, lime, grapefruit, leeks, sauerkraut, vinegar, pickles,  strawberries, tart apples, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries, and huckleberries. Tempeh, sourdough bread, and sprouted grains, are also the sour flavor. Best to eat unyeasted breads. Try my vegan Tempeh Reuben with sauerkraut.

Radishes and daikon are very effective for decongesting your liver.

Contact me for a spring cleanse customized for your constitution and condition.

Take digestive enzymes; these are high quality and my favorites: Enteromend, Chzyme, and Quiet Digestion.


Liver Dampness 

contributes to serious conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, fibrosis, enlarged liver, gallbladder inflammation and stones; chronic viral inflammations. These conditions are also caused by too much liver heat and stagnation. Follow recommendations for stagnation and heat and seriously consider an animal-free diet. There are effective professional herbal formulas; some are not listed because  consultation is recommended for best nutrition therapy and herbs based on your constitution and condition. Schedule a session.


Liver Heat
  • Red, sore, burning, and dry eyes
  • Splitting headaches
  • Inflamed skin such as hives
  • Insomnia
  • Menopausal problems
  • Low backache, weak legs
  • High blood pressure
  • Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, Viral Infections
  • Gallbladder inflammation and stones
  • Indigestion; constipation
  • Impatience, anger; explosive personality; arrogance; aggression, violence


Causes – long term liver stagnancy creates heat in the liver as do rich diets, too many fats and animal protein from meat, cheese, and eggs, and fried foods. Prolonged over-consumption of caffeine and caffeine-like substances, including coffee, black tea, matte, cocoa, colas, and chocolate; alcohol and other intoxicants; and sugar are heating up your liver,



Sea vegetables are very useful. Include lots of steamed dark leafy greens—they cleanse the blood and liver.  Include greens that naturally grow in the spring such as watercress, dandelion, chickweed, nettles, and purslane. Add lemon juice to steamed greens—it makes the iron in them more available.  Iron is a blood strengthening mineral which clears heat from the liver. Sea Vegetables Recipes

Use good quality flax oil; Protein from beans, legumes and white meats (except turkey which heats and congests the liver); large variety of cooked vegetables, some fresh fruit and salads, and whole, unprocessed grains. Drink green tea, dandelion and chicory teas, yerba mate, or rosemary tea instead of coffee for energy, and chamomile tea instead of alcohol to relax. Avoid liver stagnating foods.

Heat Clearing Herbs


Liver Yin

Yin is the nourishing, moistening aspect, and, when deficient, needs to be replenished. Detoxification will cause further disharmony that will manifest as disease. This condition often combines with liver blood deficiency.

Liver yin deficiency contributes to adrenal fatigue (a buzz term in modern medicine); overall body dryness; anemia, B12 deficiency, infertility, blurred vision, easy bruising, brittle nails, tinnitus, and some tremors. Liver yin deficiency causes deficiency heat resulting in sweats and hot flashes.

Causes: excessive hot, spicy food including garlic; coffee and black tea; cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs, including marijuana. Excessive vigorous exercise, being constantly on the go; and overwork deplete liver yin and kidneys which also must be regenerated. Vinegar should be minimized and lamb, shrimp and veal avoided.



You need quiet, meditative alone time consistently. Rest more; get more sleep; practice deep breathing several times daily for at least five minutes; take yoga or tai chi classes; read a book for pleasure.

40% of your diet should be a variety of cooked vegetables. Sea vegetables are excellent for building the yin and moistening dryness. Include miso, tofu, tempeh, adzuki, mung, and black beans. Tempeh, tofu, and miso are very nourishing for the yin as are oats, rice, and millet. If your digestion is strong and you don’t have belly fat issues, use some goat or sheep yogurt (nothing from a cow). And, if you eat animal food, include eggs, oysters, mussels, clams, and small amounts of sardines. Buy organic, non-GMO foods. Spirulina powder is especially helpful.


Herbs for Building Liver Yin

Herbs for Liver Blood Deficiency


Liver Wind

This imbalance manifests as symptoms that affect the nervous system, muscles, tendons, and eyes. Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Bell’s Palsy; convulsions, seizures; tremors, twitching, vertigo, dizziness, and sudden headaches are examples of an internal liver wind invasion.

It also expresses in conditions where symptoms change quickly such as pain in the body that changes locations, or rashes that move to different areas of the body. Allergies, the common cold and flu exhibit, in part, liver wind. Symptoms change from shivering, coughing, headache, watery, itchy eyes, pain, etc.


Pesticides and hormones accumulated in animal fats; pesticide residues in plant foods; fish with excessive toxins including farm raised fish and bottom dwellers; pharmaceuticals, including over the counter drugs and recreational drugs; hydrogenated oils; fatty meats, bacon, eggs, rich sauces, butter and margarine; alcohol, coffee, and sugar; a fast paced life; emotional turmoil; and causes of heat patterns.



Eat organic food as much as possible. Use sea vegetables, flax and hemp seeds and flax and hemp seed oils; high quality coconut milk or coconut meat; plant proteins are best: beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh, miso; and wild caught fish. Eat a wide variety of vegetables including those listed for liver stagnation, and minimize raw vegetables.

Avoid erratic eating, work and sleep habits, overeating, overworking, and excessive worry.

Herbs for Liver Wind


Purifying your Mind and Emotions

Spring encourages and supports letting go, clearing out the old, renewal, and planting new seeds. This may mean habits; personal truths that have been guiding your life; ways of being in the world; work and relationships that are not supporting your highest good; and poor nutritional choices.  Purging yourself of outdated beliefs, attitudes, and toxic emotions that are not supporting your health and happiness clears stagnant energy that may be keeping you heavy and stuck.

Negative emotional states cause you to make poor food choices and eventually lead to health, weight, and lifestyle problems.  Your body, mind, emotions, and spirit are one continuum of energy with each aspect affecting the others.

Journaling your thoughts and feelings is very helpful for Mental/emotional clearing  Include things and experiences that you want to eliminate from your life. Emotions are a metaphor for what you’re holding onto in your physical body. The process of writing can bring to your awareness thoughts and emotions that are keeping you where you are. As these negative states surface, pay attention to them and find ways to release them. Reflect on their positive purpose in your life—how they’ve caused you to grow, mature, become more forgiving, and change in other positive ways.

Include in your journaling all the positive aspects of you, your life, and all the good things  you want to bring into your life and health. Renew your relationship with yourself by making a decision to love and respect yourself. This means you will have to eliminate negative self-judgment, perfectionism, and living in the past. In doing so, the miracles that are occurring in nature will be reflected in your life. A more radiant, vital, healthier and happier you will soon emerge.

Most people lack vision. Creating a vision statement is akin to planting seeds in the garden. Plant the mental seeds now by writing your goals; and feeding and nurturing your dreams by taking action toward them. Watch them blossom and come to fruition as nature does in the warmer months.

Several excellent resources for mental/emotional clearing:



Food is far more than vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrate, and fats. Every food has specific properties that either regenerate or degenerate your health, including mind and emotions. You’ve learned how some cause stagnation, congestion, heat, and depletion of the vital nourishing moistening yin, and blood building and cleansing aspects.

Please get to the root of your liver and other health and weight imbalances. Review the information I’ve given and make some new choices.

There’s so much reductionist, inaccurate, one-size-fits-all information and advice circulating in the world; and no lack of internet advice from hundreds of thousands of people who lack an understanding of food therapeutics.

If you resonate with a Holistic approach, consider some professional guidance for the right nutrition and holistic health plan for you. You can greatly improve every aspect of your physical, mental and emotional health with a customized holistic approach. Schedule a Holistic Health and Nutrition session with Deborah Barr, 34-year Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor. You’ll be on your way to better health. Sessions can be done by phone, zoom, facetime, skype, or at Pittsburgh office.  



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