Terminology can be challenging to the layperson when pursuing an understanding of Oriental medicine. When your practitioner starts talking about “disturbances in the shen that are clouding the orifices” or “jing vacuity,” eyes can start to cloud over and ears become unable to hear. Now that I think of it, what the Western doctor or dentist speaks of sometimes sounds a little alien as well. Around the time of the Cultural Revolution in China, a major effort was made in the translation of terms to make them more understandable to the West. This effort certainly made the terms sound more familiar to us. Unfortunately, any real accuracy was often sacrificed in the trans-cultural journey.
This column is about gan. The translation of this term is often rendered as Liver. We immediately think of digestion, bile fluids, and possible toxicity in the blood or, if we are a little more knowledgeable, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, and liver panels in your latest blood test. Many of these concepts are included in the Oriental medical concept of gan.
Digestion certainly has a place in the system approach, as does the processing of toxic substances. In addition, Oriental medical thought often focuses more on relationships between things than the things themselves. In this case, the body’s informational or internal communication system is basic to function. Without a good set of internal communication parameters, any functional activity becomes somewhat meaningless. Function for its own sake without a sense of meaning can lead to systemic chaos. Allergies and autoimmune disorders are good examples of this. The greater system must know what function it is to accomplish. For the current consideration, let us assume that the underlying meaning is movement in general and distinguished with a capital L in the Liver.
Gan/Liver is associated more with the inherent movement behind the physical processes over which Western medicine obsesses. The problems with Western liver disease are associated with movement ceasing. Cirrhosis is a hardening of liver tissue and a ceasing of its function. The essence of Chinese medical consideration is about movement in general and the irritation and inflammation that results when this smooth sprinkling of the Liver Chi is impeded.
If this movement root of the Liver is accepted, it widens the scope of the liver’s influence somewhat. Muscles and tendons have an obvious connection to movement and also to the Oriental medical function of gan. “Blood” has a strong movement component and is intimately associated with the gan. The Liver is considered one of the largest vessels of the Blood. Perhaps even more interesting is the traditional connection between Liver, movement, vision, and the eyes. This could refer to vision, both physically and otherwise. Softening the Liver makes it healthier and improves its function. This could follow as well for muscular functions and the state of the tendons and cartilage.
How about vision? Soften the gaze to see more? Does softening lie at the root of reducing stresses and violent emotional reactions to what we see and have seen? This holiday season, don’t be tempted to go for a phony short-term softening of stress with alcohol. This toxic substance, particularly in excess, must be processed by the liver and in the long-term causes hardening. OHCO’s formula, Eye Chi, focuses on reducing Liver irritation by softening and nourishing the Blood in the Liver. The principle of vision is addressed, and the results of nourishing the system can be very far-reaching.
This is a re-post from November 30, 2006 at 10:48 AM