What Is Liver Qi Stagnation in Traditional Chines Medicine?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Liver qi stagnation can cause many problems.

Acupuncturist working on patient. Credit: Tanya Constantine / Getty Images

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, conceives of the human body as a set of inter-related systems which work together in harmony. Problems in one part of the body may be the result of injury to a different part of the body -- or to the flow of energy (qi) through the entire body. Traditional Chinese treatment of disorders involves the use of complex prescriptions made up of multiple herbs.

What Is Qi?

In Chinese philosophy, qi is the life force that flows through all things. Everything in the universe derives from qi.  When qi flows properly, all things are in harmony and function correctly; when qi is blocked, problems arise.

Within the human body, says this philosophy, qi flows through the organs maintaining health and balance. It is thought to provide the energy needed for our bodies to function, support body temperature, maintain the structure and strength of our organs, and keep our metabolism constant.  In order to do all of these things properly, qi must flow through our bodies.  Where there are blockages and qi cannot flow, we experience health problems.

What Is Liver Qi Stagnation?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, liver qi can stagnate (become blocked) as a result of stress or anxiety. Liver qi is said to be responsible to a large degree for the movement of qi through the body.

When liver qi is stagnant, the blood becomes stagnant, creating a variety of issues, many of which may relate to the female reproductive system. Some symptoms said to be caused by liver qi stagnation include:

Pain or discomfort anywhere along the sides of the body

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sighing
  • Hiccups
  • Frustrated easily
  • Inappropriate anger
  • Sensation of a lump in throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bitter taste in mouth
  • Excessive sleep
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Stomachache that improves after massage
  • Stomachache that worsens with anger
  • PMS with irritability or swollen breasts
  • Irregular or painful periods
  • Poor appetite
  • Churning sensation in stomach.

Normal tongue, sides may be curled up.

Wiry pulse

Related Conditions

Irregular menses
Nervous and emotional disorders

Foods Used to Treat Liver Qi Stagnation

These are just some of the foods that are believed to help liver qi stagnation
Coconut meat
Mustard seed
Sweet potato
Red and black date
Caraway seed
Red bean
Sweet basil

Since symptoms of imbalances in alternative medicine may be linked to a number of medical conditions, it's important to consult your physician if you have any health concerns. Self-treating a health condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Kaptchuk TJ. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Chicago: Contemporary (McGraw-Hill) 2000

Lu, H. Chinese Natural Cures, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1994.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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