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5 Signs You Have Liver Qi Stagnation

liver qi stagnation

Liver Qi stagnation is no longer an esoteric Chinese medicine concept. It’s the subject of many mainstream health articles. Indeed, we give lots of attention to the Liver on the ActiveHerb blog. Not to discount the importance of the other organ systems—all 12 paired meridian systems are equally vital for maintaining optimal health—but there’s only one organ that’s considered “THE GENERAL” in TCM, and that’s Liver. 

Liver ensures all the other TCM organs are doing their job, and that’s why it’s worthy of the title. Liver is also chiefly responsible for moving Qi throughout the body. In addition, it is tasked with storing blood and other essential bodily fluids. During the day, your Liver fuels your muscles and tissues with blood, and at night, while you’re sleeping, the Liver cleanses the blood. 

On a spiritual level, according to TCM, the Liver is the seat of the soul, providing us with consciousness and life purpose. 

But because of poor diet, stress, medications, excess alcohol or drug consumption, environmental pollution, etc., the Liver can become stagnant like a clogged sewer. 

How can you tell if you have Liver Qi stagnation? Here are the top 5 signs:

Top Signs of Liver Qi Stagnation 

#1: Discomfort Along The Right Side Of The Body (Ribs) Or Chest Fullness

There’s a logical explanation why, if you have Liver Qi stagnation, you feel it in the right side of your rib cage: that’s because the Liver meridian (channel), after starting its journey from the right big toe upwards towards the inner thigh, courses up towards the upper right side of the abdomen where the lower part of the rib cage is located. 

Ironically, this area is called the “hypochondriac region” but if you have Liver Qi stagnation and feel a sharp sensation on the lateral right side of your rib cage, you’re definitely not being a hypochondriac if you complain about this symptom. 

#2: Mood Swings And Frequent Sighing

All your emotions are rooted in the Liver channel, according to TCM theory.

All your emotions are rooted in the Liver channel, according to TCM theory. Excess heat in the Liver causes Qi flow to stagnate. This leads to the most common emotional signs of Liver imbalance: frustration and feeling the blues.

These emotional manifestations indicate blocked Liver energy, which may be caused by congested bile. The Liver channel connects to the gallbladder, where bile is stored. 

#3: Anger

Do you get angry often and for no good reason? Frequent fits of anger and irritability are caused by excessive fire in the Liver. If you stick out your tongue in the mirror and notice that your tongue is bright red with yellow, greasy fur, it’s a clear indication you have excess Liver fire and need to calm down by harmonizing your Liver.

#4: Menstrual Irregularities 

Having a regular, problem-free menstrual cycle is predicated on proper blood supply and circulation. Unfortunately, not all women have both. Cramps, bumps on the breast(s), hardening of breast tissue as well as irregular menstrual cycles are signs that the regulatory role of the Liver supplying blood to the uterus is functioning sub-optimally. 

#5: Digestive Imbalances

Do you wake with a nasty bitterness in your mouth? Is your appetite weak? Do you experience nausea or other gastric upsets? If so, it’s time to harmonize your Liver Qi. 

TCM Formulas To Harmonize Liver Qi

ActiveHerb has two formulas that may help overcome Liver Qi stagnation and other diagnostic patterns that hinder proper organ function.

—> EaseTonic is based on one of the most legendary formulas—Xiao Yao San—for improving Qi circulation in the Liver channel. You can think of EaseTonic as “stress management in a bottle.” Several research studies have demonstrated that the formula for EaseTonic supports a normal mood.

—> Bupleuri LiverSoothe is like the extra-strength version of EaseTonic. If your mood needs mellowing out, this formula is appropriate because it resolves excess heat due to Liver Qi stagnation that’s directed upwards in the body. Symptoms of Liver Yang rising include short temper, discomfort in the physical liver area, a full feeling in the chest, frequent belching and sighing. Another tell-tale physical sign of ascended heat due to Liver Qi stagnation is a bright-red tongue, especially on the sides; a yellow coating on the tongue may also present. 


This is one of the most common patterns in TCM. And by no means do these 5 signs represent the totality; symptoms vary greatly, but everybody can identify with these most common patterns.

If you think you have Liver Qi stagnation (which you probably do, because nearly everybody has it to some extent), make sure you are proactive. Leaving this TCM diagnostic pattern unchecked may gradually lead to Blood stasis in the Liver, which in Western medicine is similar to poor blood circulation.  

Women who are still menstruating are likely to experience stagnant energy in the Liver channel in the immediate days leading up to the cycle, and consequently, Liver Blood deficiency, post-cycle. The good news is that Chinese herbal medicine may help resolve Liver Qi stagnation. 

Suggested Reading From The ActiveHerb Blog:

7 Simple Indicators Your Body Reveals About Your Health

Mood, Your Liver and Chinese Medicine

In Need of an Emotional Tune-Up? Use TCM To Balance Your Liver