Photo by Rachael Brugger
If you study plant-based medicine for very long, you’ll find that there is an emotional aspect to any imbalance within the body. When our emotions are out of balance, it’s rare to find that the cause is merely an external situation.
Our body is designed to adapt to the stress that poor food, harsh weather, illness, and even an obnoxious boss or relative might place on it. How people react to those stressors tells us a lot about the condition of various body systems. When healthy, most can encounter these stressful circumstances, navigate through them calmly and move on. When the body is out of balance, it reacts in a way that is out of proportion to the situation.
We all know someone who tends to “fly off the handle.” Our society is currently full of this imbalance. We hear about people who chase after others in their cars because of a perceived insult. The Internet is full of folks who respond with anger and expend energy chasing something or someone while sitting in a chair hundreds or thousands of miles away from their perceived enemy.
Unreasonable anger, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, generally arises from the liver. The liver is one of our main body filters. It maintains hormonal equilibrium in our endocrine system, removes toxins and allergens from our blood, regulates bile secretion for proper digestion and much, much more. When this filter becomes clogged or when it’s weakened and not doing its job properly, there is a cascade of problems. All manner of menstrual problems, infertility in both men and women, headaches, allergies, arthritis, and, yes, irritability and inappropriate anger may result.
It can be difficult to have compassion for someone who is displaying irrational behavior when it manifests as a direct attack against you or someone you love. We never need to excuse bad behavior, but if we understand where it’s coming from, we might be able to help. In the case of the liver, there are many plants that can be made into simple teas and tinctures and are easy to grow. In fact, most of these plants grow like weeds in most garden soils and in most climates. If you don’t have them available you can get high-quality seeds and/or plants from providers like Horizon Herbs or Companion Plants.
The next time you find someone in your family or group of friends that seems always to be looking for a fight, don’t snap. Pour them a cup of tea instead. Dandelion leaf or root (Taraxacum officinale) is a classic liver tonic and is free for the picking for most of us—just make sure you harvest from a chemical-free area. Wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa), burdock root (Arctium lappa) (pictured above) and yellow dock root (Rumex crispus) are some of my favorites, as well. It is always appropriate to add in any of the nervines (herbs that feed and nourish the nervous system) that you may be growing. These may include chamomile (Matricaria recutita), lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) or rose (Rosa spp.).
Of course, when someone who is out of balance attacks, you must also check how you are reacting. It takes two to fight, if you find yourself rising to the occasion in the same unreasonable manner, you might want to share that pot of tea. If you can feel compassion for a person who is attacking you because you see how sick they are, congratulations, you have succeeded in cultivating a healthy liver!