Ever hear that old phrase about “venting your spleen”? When I was growing up that phrase referred to people getting angry and venting… a kind of cathartic process that helped them feel better afterward. It made sense to me. I started to think that the spleen was the organ responsible for anger, venting, release of frustration, and so forth.
Then I went to school to become a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, and learned that the phrase should actually say, “venting your liver.” The liver is actually the organ responsible for anger, ambition, passion, drive, and so forth. When the liver–always an organ easily stirred to irritation–gets out of balance, you end up with the whole cathartic shouting, arm-waving, venting process. But, the liver actually isn’t to blame in the first place. For that, we have to go back to the spleen.
The Spleen and the Liver: A Big Difference
The spleen is actually the organ originally responsible for the liver getting out of balance. The spleen is the organ responsible for mental activity, such as thinking, planning, cogitation, and so forth. In today’s workaholic society, everyone uses spleen energy like it is going out of style because everyone works way more than they should. At the same time, they take far too little time for rest, recreation, and rejuvenation.
As a result, the spleen gets burned out and stops working. At that point, the liver steps in and tries to do the spleen’s job. While the spleen is truly good at supporting mental and creative activity, the liver isn’t so good. The liver relies on drive, ambition, anger, and pushiness to get the job done. What’s the result? A bunch of really tired burned out people who turn to anger and pushiness to get the job done–and end up venting their livers. Added stimulants like caffeine only make the problem worse. The end result is a lot of cranky people working together, apparently energized (by anger, caffeine, and the desire to just “push through it”) but in actuality dead tired underneath all the buzz.
Yowza… how is that for workplace harmony?
Getting Your Daily Energy Back
If the above description sounds like you then you probably need to start supporting and nourishing your spleen. When your spleen is nourished you feel totally different than when you operate from liver energy. Liver energy is like a caffeine buzz–you have energy, but there is also a constant low hum of irritation, and you are ready to snap at any time.
Spleen energy, on the other hand, springs forth from within as vibrant creative energy that needs no pushing. When your spleen is working properly, then your work goes well, too. You feel moved from within to work, do, play, accomplish, and enjoy life. There are no Monday Morning Blues, nor do you have to wake up each morning with one or more cups of coffee. The spleen provides you with all the daily energy you need to do the mental and creative and thinking work that makes up the modern digital society.
So how do you support your spleen? There are many different ways, including but not limited to:
- acupuncture or other forms of alternative healing
- time off for rest and rejuvenation
- supplements that support the spleen
- light exercise
- spleen-supportive foods
For herbs and acupuncture, seek the help of a recommended Doctor of Chinese Medicine in your area. While there are many patent herbs on the market to support spleen qi, it is much better to have a personal consultation, then have a herb formula made specifically for all your conditions.
Taking time off, getting plenty of sleep at night, and sticking to light exercise are all under your own control. By changing your lifestyle habits to accommodate these factors, your spleen will be much more likely to recover. These habits are not much in alignment with our workaholic society, but they will prolong your working life as well as your overall life span.
When it comes to diet, avoid raw and cold foods, as well as refined sugars, fruits, and fruit juices. Stick with steamed vegetables like carrots, beets, and yams. Cooked greens and whole grains are also good choices, as are onion and garlic.
Supplements that support the spleen include those that support healthy digestion as well as those that support mental and physical energy. My favorite supplement is actually a daily packet of supplements that includes supplements for all of these supportive functions. Each packet contains the beneficial bacteria acidophilus and bifidus to assist with digestive health, as well as enzymes, which also support digestion. In addition, there are two types of AFA blue-green algae. One form provides daily energy for the physical body while the other offers daily energy for mental activity. What I love most is the simplicity of having all of those supportive supplements in a single convenient packet.
So… the next time you notice yourself venting your, ahem, liver, consider some of the natural solutions mentioned above to support your spleen. Once your spleen is supported and nourished, your liver will once more be a happy camper and go back to doing its real job!
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