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Chinese medicine views the organs not as separate entities, but as connected physical, chemical, and energetic networks. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the Chinese medicine concept of the Liver system and how we can use herbal medicine to boost our health.
(Note: we will capitalize “Gallbladder” when discussing the Chinese medicine Gallbladder system to differentiate from the general organ of the gallbladder.)
The main functions of the Gallbladder system in Chinese medicine are to store and release bile created by the liver and regulate digestion.
Emotions: Courage/lack of courage, bitterness, resentment
Movement: Outward and upward
Sense Organ: Eyes
Paired Organ: Gallbladder
Western Associations: gallbladder
Other Associations: bile, tendons/sinews, ears, sides/flanks of the body
Common Conditions: gallbladder disease, liver disease, digestive disorders, muscles aches and pains, tight tendons, rigidity, eye disorders, headaches, dizziness, ear disorders, chest or rib pain, difficulty making decisions, impulsiveness, conditions that occur on only one side of the body.
The gallbladder is known for storing and discharging bile – a seemingly small function, but one that is essential for life. Bile is necessary for digesting the fats that protect our organs and nervous system. As such, the Gallbladder is involved in our digestive health and even mental processing.
In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder is considered a “curious” organ. While it is a yang organ, it does not store and release waste like other yang organs (the Urinary Bladder or Large Intestine for example). And, although it does have some similarities to yin organs, it is not fully a yin organ either, as it is hollow and does not produce its own fluids or “essence.”
In many ways, the Gallbladder is a pivot. It marks the place in-between yin and yang, between hot and cold, and between pure and waste. The Gallbladder is in-between front and back, as the only channel that traverses the sides of the body. It is also the seat of decision making, helping us decide one option or the other.
Because of the Gallbladder’s channel pathway, any conditions that relate to the eyes, ears, head, hips, or side of the body may involve the Gallbladder.
When the Gallbladder is healthy, we are balanced, stable, and decisive. We stand upright and are able to process things (from food to ideas to problems). When the Gallbladder is out of balance, however, we are less stable and balanced, both physically and mentally. We may fail to make decisions, feel timid, or act impulsively.
Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with an energetic channel where qi travels along the body, closer to the surface of the skin. These channels create a web of connections and are how acupuncturists “tap” into the body’s energetic system to stimulate change.
The Gallbladder channel is the only acupuncture channel to travel along the sides of the body. It starts at the outer corner of the eye, connects to the ear, then zig-zags along the sides of the head. It moves down the neck and trapezius to the chest, along the sides of the ribs, and down the abdomen.
From here, an internal branch passes through the diaphragm to connect with the Liver and Gallbladder organs.
The channel emerges at the hip, where it moves down the sides of the leg to the ankle and ends at the fourth toe.
Just as the ancient Chinese medicine scholars noted, the Gallbladder is indeed a “curious” organ! Understanding the Gallbladder’s function beyond the storage of bile takes a bit of imagination, but understanding these deeper functions can offer great insight into your mental and physical health. Here are a few of our favorite herbal formulas to restore the Gallbladder’s overall health.
Li Dan Tang is an herbal extract known to help improve Gallbladder function when there is an infection or gallstone present.
Wen Dan Wan is an herbal formula that works to reduce excess phlegm and balance the Stomach and Gallbladder. On the surface, it can help treat issues like nausea, vomiting, and mucus, but it also has a deeper function. This imbalance can cause issues with timidity, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and generalized nervousness.
The Liver and Gallbladder can be susceptible to heat, and stagnation. When that happens, heat and irritation creates issues like red, sore eyes, hypertension, headaches, migraines. earaches, tinnitus, dark urine, and digestive upset. To bring the body back to balance, we need cooling herbs, like those in Long Dan Xie Gan Tang.
Feeling one-sided? Need better digestive support? Want to boost your courage and decisiveness? Shop our full collection of Chinese herbal formulas for better Gallbladder health today!