Spring, the Liver, and Hormonal Balance - Root + Bones

Spring, the Liver, and Hormonal Balance

The Spring season marks the transition from the Yin to the Yang phases of the year, as the focus shifts from substance to energy. It is an important time to release the accumulations of Winter and cleanse our way into a sense of renewal, matching that exhibited by the natural world. Spring corresponds to the Liver organ system, which is our most important pathway of elimination on several levels – cleansing toxins, regulating Qi and Blood, and even processing our emotions. When it comes to hormonal balance for both men and women, the Liver plays a crucial role. Since the Liver is especially susceptible to the effects of stress and the invasion of Wind—both of which are currently heightened, Spring is an opportune time to tend to Liver health, thus helping to minimize hormonal imbalances and promote vitality. 


The harmonious interplay between Yin and Yang is intimately connected to hormonal balance in the TCM lens. For women, Yang provides the movement and warmth to power the reproductive system with Qi, thus promoting fertility. For men, Yang energy is closely associated with testosterone and other male sex hormones. It supplies the energy and vitality necessary for things like sexual function, muscle development, and overall vigor. For women, Yin is crucial to the optimal function of the reproductive organs. For men, Yin nourishes and supports the body's vital systems, including the endocrine system. It also helps regulate excess Yang energy, thus promoting the balance that is critical to TCM’s conception of preventive medicine. 


Our hormones comprise an intricate system of messenger molecules that affect a wide variety of bodily processes—from mood and sleep to fertility and metabolism. Hormonal dysregulation is often marked by excess stress hormones (e.g. cortisol), negatively affecting the quality and function of our sex hormones, which then has a cascade effect on overall health, indicated by issues like adrenal fatigue, weakened immunity, and compromised stress response. Hormonal balance relies on our body’s detoxification processes, and it is the Liver that’s responsible for metabolizing multiple sex and stress hormones. This includes the elimination of excess estrogen, which is important for both men and women. When Liver function is impaired and the hormones are dysregulated, we experience low libido, sexual dysfunction, and compromised fertility.  


Fertility is considered a vital sign in TCM, indicating the body as a whole is functioning optimally enough to support the creation of new life, which depends upon hormonal harmony. It’s no coincidence that TCM directs our focus to Liver health during this time of year, as the natural world bursts with fertility. By tonifying and tending to the Liver, we can optimize our stress response, support emotional regulation, release what no longer serves, and nourish fertile soil for our own personal blooming, however we choose to create. Here are some time-honored ways to love your Liver!


  1. Incorporating lots of fresh spring greens is a wonderful way to promote overall Liver health. The color green is associated with the Liver, and since these timely and abundant greens are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they support this organ of elimination’s optimal functioning. Some ideas include stinging nettle, arugula, and dandelion greens. 
  2. Because we are exposed to such an abundance of toxins these days, the Liver is often overburdened. Any activity we do that helps flush toxins from the body can relieve the toxic load of the Liver so that it can function optimally. Such activities include taking Epsom salt baths and sweating in a steam or infrared sauna. 
  3. Reishi is a hepatoprotective mushroom that supports the Liver’s optimal detoxification capacity. Reishi has a profound ability to harmonize Liver Qi and support the smooth flow of Qi and Blood–a role of the Liver that can be compromised by emotional stress. Indeed, it is a premier Shen (spirit) tonic, facilitating emotional regulation and healthy sleep cycles. As an adaptogen, Reishi is deeply nourishing to the adrenals and supports a healthy stress response—a crucial factor for hormonal balance.
  4. Acupuncture is a wonderful way to support the Liver, improve circulation, and promote the process of detoxification from a variety of angles. This is a gentle form of support that greatly complements other detox protocols, helping to ensure that the bodily systems tasked with elimination are even able to move toxins out. 
  5. Incorporate sour flavors, like lemon and Schizandra. The astringent quality of sour, which corresponds to the Liver, helps to relieve dampness, inflammation, and counteract greasy/fatty foods—incredibly important in releasing the density accumulated during Winter.