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You’re Fired! How To “Put Out” Your Fire In Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), “getting fired” takes on an entirely different meaning. While being let go from a job might ignite stress, TCM sees the concept of “fire” as a metaphorical representation of an imbalance within one or more meridians, disrupting the body’s equilibrium. In TCM, there are 5 different kinds of fire linked to an excessive accumulation of heat and energy, not necessarily from getting the pink slip. 

How do you know if an internal wildfire is consuming you? Discover the symptoms and learn how to extinguish the fire before it spirals beyond containment—into a serious health concern.

Fire In TCM: What Is It? 

In TCM, the concept of fire results from the imbalance of Yin and Yang in the body. Have a headache? Blame it on fire, which is when there’s an excess of Yang and a deficiency of Yin. Caused by an invasion of external pathogens or hyperactive organ systems, fire disrupts the smooth flow of energy, causing various symptoms depending upon which organ is affected. 

Liver Fire: When The General Is Disrupted

The Liver is one of the TCM organ systems that is most susceptible to fire. Liver Fire represents an excessive accumulation of heat and energy within the Liver meridian. This imbalance disrupts the Liver’s smooth energy flow. 

According to Zang-Fu organ theory, the Liver governs the free flow of Qi and stores Blood. The “general” of the TCM organ systems, the Liver exerts overall influence on the body. It regulates the circulation and distribution of blood and fluids. Not only that, Liver oversees the transportation and transformation of food and water in the Stomach and the Spleen, just to name a few critical functions. 

Beyond the physical realm, Liver regulates the emotions. If you’re in need of an emotional tune-up, chances are you have Liver Fire.  

Liver Fire represents an excessive accumulation of heat and energy within the Liver meridian. This imbalance disrupts the Liver’s smooth energy flow.    

Symptoms of Liver Fire In TCM

If you have an inferno raging in your Liver meridian, you’ll likely feel irritability and anger. You’ll also be more likely to develop headaches. Your eyes may appear bloodshot. Moreover, the compromised Qi flow in the Liver meridian will negatively impact bile production, leading to a bitter taste in the mouth and indigestion.

Breathing Out Fire: Liver Fire’s Effect on Oral Health

Just as a wildfire can quickly spread, TCM fire can travel to distal areas of the body. Remember, when discussing the “Liver channel” we’re not just referring to the physical Western anatomical organ. Yes, the physical organ is part of the channel. However, the Liver meridian runs from the inside of the feet and legs to the crown of the head. Liver-fire hyperactivity syndrome (LFHS), as the pattern is known in Chinese medicine, can present in the oral cavity with, as mentioned, bitter taste, as well as halitosis, dry mouth and toothaches. 

—-> Have bad breath? BreathNew can help.

Liver Fire Spreading To The Eyes

There’s a famous saying in TCM that the liver opens to the eyes. This means that the Liver meridian is connected to the eyes. Proper vision and eye health depend on the nourishment of Blood in the Liver channel. Deficient Liver blood can lead to blurred vision and dry eyes. Meanwhile, Liver Fire causes not just red eyes but painful and swollen eyes when the Yang excess is off the charts.

—-> These TCM formulas support eye and vision health.  

Liver Fire Invading The Lung

Just as inhaling smoke from a house fire can cause serious damage to the lungs (the physical lungs), Liver fire can invade the Lung meridian. The name of this pattern in TCM sounds like the perfect heavy metal band: Wood-Fire Torturing Metal. However, it can be no laughing matter when Liver Fire invades the Lung. Serious respiratory diseases can manifest, including blood discharge in severe cases. More often, however, Wood-Fire Torturing Metal manifests as coughing, chest pain, dizziness, thirst, a red tongue with a yellow greasy tongue coating, and a wiry rapid pulse. 

When Liver Fire blazes upward and overwhelms the Lungs, it disturbs the lung’s function of “diffusion” and “descent” and scorches the lung’s collaterals when severe, explains Chinese researchers in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. If the Liver is the General of the body, The Lung is the “Governor.” The Lung channel governs Qi throughout the body and brings together Blood from all the vessels, controlling “diffusion” and “descent”. The “diffusion” is when the Lungs expel turbid Qi (murky energy), and transport fluids and food essence (Qi from food, as opposed to Qi from air) to nourish the exterior parts of the body. In addition, the diffusing characteristic of the Lungs also activates the defensive Qi (a.k.a. Wei Qi; think: immune system). 

As for the “descent” action of the Lungs, this is when clear Qi is breathed in, fluids are transported and food essence (nutrients) to the internal parts of the body. Thus, to recap, diffusion is for the external, superficial parts of the body, while descent happens at the deeper, interior levels. In addition, with a healthy Lung descent, turbid fluids are sent downward, transformed into urine and sent to the urinary bladder, and ultimately eliminated. Both the Liver and Lung channels play important roles in regulating Qi. Based on the 5 Element Theory, Lung is metal, and Liver is wood. When there’s perfect Yin/Yang balance, the Lung perfectly purifies and descends Qi, while Yang Qi in the Liver is prevented from getting hyperactive.

—> Need some TCM TLC for your lungs?

Liver Fire Caused By Bacon Cheeseburgers?

So what is the primary reason many people are vulnerable to Liver Fire?  Eating a diet rich in greasy or fried fast food and processed food is a main cause. Drinking too much alcohol can also set your Liver ablaze. 

According to 5 Element theory, here’s why Liver Fire can invade the Lung channel. Under normal situations, metal controls wood. But when wood element organs (such as Lung) have excess influence, it wants to be the boss of metal. That’s why the Lung function becomes disturbed. And if you’re lucky, a mild cough will be your worst symptom. Hence, the perfect garage band name, Wood-Fire Torturing Metal, a.k.a, Liver Fire Invading Lung, which would also be a great name for a Chinese heavy metal band. 

For budding acupuncturists just starting their study, it’s important to note that Lung heat and Liver fire can coexist without mutually causing each other. 

Liver Fire Spreading Like Wildfire

In TCM, all parts of the human body are connected. Liver Fire and Lung Fire are just two types of fire patterns in TCM. Three other kinds are Heart Fire, Stomach fire, and Kidney Fire. Stomach Fire disrupts the digestive system, leading to acid reflux, bloating, and constipation. Heart Fire results in high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Kidney Fire manifests as thinning hair, ringing in the ears, or diminished hearing. 

How To Put Out a TCM Fire

If you’re vulnerable to fits of anger, there’s an easier solution than attending mandatory anger management classes. 

Liver FireClear tablets from ActiveHerb clear fire in the Liver and Gallbladder meridians. The classic formula also drains damp heat in the lower body and clears Liver Fire from ascending to the Lungs. If you don’t want your Wood (Liver) Fire torturing Metal (Lungs), consider making Liver FireClear part of your dietary supplement routine.