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  • Writer's pictureJaime Hernandez

The Importance of Detoxification – Part 1

Updated: Sep 24, 2018

Detoxification – you’ve heard this word many times over the last few years, but unless you have actually participated in a detoxification program, you probably don’t really understand what it’s all about.  Given the somewhat controversial nature of this topic, as well as the many questionable detoxification products on the market today, it seemed appropriate to elaborate on this topic in this multi-part article.

Let’s start by discussing the role of the Liver in western medicine versus Chinese medicine.

Biology of the Liver – A Western Medical Perspective

The liver is considered the largest organ in our body and is responsible for numerous complex biological functions.  It weighs approximately three pounds in a adult, and is located in the right upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity, just below the diaphragm.  It’s functions include:

  • Manufactures half of the body’s cholesterol

  • Production of bile

  • Manufactures other substances including proteins vital to our body’s physiological function

  • Stores sugars as glycogen and releases glucose when necessary to maintain blood sugar balance

  • Stores other vitamins and minerals (fats, iron, copper, A, D, K, and B12)

  • Metabolizes harmful or toxic substances (toxins) and excretes them as harmless by-products to be eliminated by the intestines or filtered out by the kidneys

  • Produces immune factors and removes bacteria to help the body fight infection

The liver receives blood directly from the heart and intestines.  Blood supplied from the intestines include nutrients, bacteria, foreign particles, drugs, and toxins.   This blood is subsequently processed by the liver so that nutrients can be circulated to the entire body and toxins can be metabolized for elimination.  Blood supplied by the heart carries oxygen to the liver tissues as well as cholesterol and other substances for processing.  All of this blood is eventually mixed together in the liver tissues and flows back to the heart through the hepatic vein.

It should be noted that during the process of clearing the body of toxins, the liver is damaged by exposure to harmful substances.  The liver therefore possesses the amazing ability to self-repair and regenerate of damaged tissues.

So as one can plainly see, proper liver function is absolutely vital to maintaining health and wellness.  It is therefore worthwhile to dedicate some energy to improving its function to the highest level possible.

The role of the Liver – A Chinese Medical Perspective

The internal organs are viewed quite differently in Chinese medicine versus western medicine.  In Chinese medicine we view the internal organs in relationship with the other organs as well as the body and mind as a whole.

That means that in n Chinese medicine, the Liver possesses many functions.  They can be summarized as follows:

  • Stores Blood and Supplies Blood to the extremities during activity.

  • Courses and Drains Qi and Blood which is reflected in the emotions, and digestive function.

  • Is the root of prenatal energy in women affecting the menstrual cycle, fertility, uterus, and fetus.

  • Controls the tendons, sinews, and manifests in the nails.

  • Opens to and nourishes the eyes.

  • Controls planning, strategy, and works with the Gallbladder to influence courage and decision making.

Disruption of these functions may manifest in the following symptoms:

The Liver Is Unable to Store the Blood:

  • blurred vision,

  • muscle cramping,

  • inhibited joint movement,

  • dry eyes,

  • night blindness,

  • trembling hands and feet,

  • numb extremities,

  • dry, brittle, malformed, or grey nails,

  • dry and split hair,

  • scanty menstruation, or amenorrhea

The Liver Loses Its Ability to Course and Drain:

Mental and emotional symptoms –

  • depression,

  • sensation of emotional pain,

  • crying,

  • outbursts of anger,

  • pain and distention in the sides of the chest

Digestive symptoms –

  • belching,

  • regurgitation of stomach acid,

  • vomiting,

  • diarrhea

The Liver disharmony reflects on the woman’s prenatal energy:

  • PMS,

  • irregular menstrual cycles,

  • PCOS,

  • fibroids,

  • endometriosis,

  • Infertility

The Liver not nourishing tendons, sinews, nails:

  • tendonitis,

  • weak tendons/tendon injuries,

  • muscle spasms/tension (especially of the neck and shoulders),

  • weak/brittle nails.

Liver Disharmony Reflecting on the Emotions and Mental Activities:

  • indecisive and adrift,

  • inability to plan ahead effectively

  • fearful,

  • panicky disposition,

  • difficulty making decisions

Additional symptoms:

  • hypertension,

  • dizziness,

  • seizures,

  • uncontrollable eye movements,

  • lock jaw,

  • TMJ,

  • abdominal pain radiating to the genitals,

  • testicular pain,

  • vaginal atrophy

So it should be very apparent that there are significant differences in the way that these two healthcare systems view the role of the Liver.  From a Chinese medical perspective, it means that one must not have a “western” diagnosis of Liver disease in order to benefit from a detoxification program.  If you have several of the symptoms listed here, chances are you would be an excellent candidate for a detoxification program or at the very least a consultation with a Chinese medical practitioner.  Please stay tuned for the next part of this article in which I will discuss the process of detoxification.

Yours in health,

Benjamin Chang, DTCM, ADS, L.Ac.



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