Depressed? Then Move Your Liver Qi!

February 27, 2011

A lot of people ask me if acupuncture can help treat depression. The short answer is yes but each individual has a unique set of symptoms that are clues into to the root cause of those symptoms. Here is a general description of how Chinese Medicine works for depression.

The genius of Chinese Medicine is that it is based on finding balance between opposites. Balance your yin and yang. If you have too much of something then get rid of the excess, if you are deficient in a vital nutrient then supplement it to make it stronger. If something is too hot then cool it down and if too cold, then warm it up! Find the medium in everything, or as Buddha would have said it, choose the middle path!

Depression in Chinese Medicine is usually diagnosed as stagnation. More specifically, stagnation of Liver qi. To keep things simple qi can be defined as energy, oxygen, or breath. Why the liver? Because the liver is in charge of movement of qi in all directions, at all times. When qi or anything else gets stuck in Chinese Medicine we move it. It’s as simple as that!

Ever hear a depressed person say they feel “stuck” or “trapped” or can’t find a way out? They are literally expressing the need to move their Liver qi. Movement equals harmony.

What acupunturists strive for is the continuous smooth flow of qi and blood though out the entire body. To make this happen we would choose acupuncture points and herbal remedies that together help to smooth the flow of liver qi and lift the spirit.

Here are a few simple things you can do on your own to help move your liver qi:


Exercise especially in the morning will help get your blood moving and flowing properly for the day. Why in the morning? Because in Chinese Medicine the liver stores the blood and is in charge of filtering and cleaning the blood during the night while you are sleeping. Exercising early will wake up a sluggish liver. A simple brisk 20 minute walk will be enough to get circulation going. Slow medatative exercises like yoga, qi gong, or tai chi are all great ways to start your day.

Eat Lighter, Eat Healthier

Eating heavy meals weighs us down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Instead eat smaller meals with bigger nutrition. What does a smaller meal with big nutrition look like? Instead of french fries try half a baked sweet potato. Instead pasta make steamed veggies with butter. Instead of that juicy bacon and cheeseburger eat a small salad topped with roasted chicken breast.


There are many herbal supplements that help with depression, many of them can be purchased over the counter or at your natural grocery store. I say focus on probiotics, a good plant based multivitamin with D3, omega 3, and magnesium.

Speak Your Mantras

When the qi of your mind gets stuck you are often left playing the same record over and over in your head. Break the record by repeating new mantras like “I am Thankful, I am Loved, I am Beautiful, I am Light, and I am Happy.” Repeat these over and over again many times a day. This helps to break your old thinking habits and replaces them with new healthy ones. Everyone is capable of creating new neural pathways in the brain, you just have to be willing to put the effort in to making it happen.

Verbalize Your Thoughts

Don’t let your thoughts and feelings stay boggled up in your head. Unexpressed emotions are like a hot air balloon on the verge of explosion! For goodness sakes, let the air out! Move the qi of your mind. Talking with friends and family can be good but sometimes we need professional help and should seek out a therapist who can help you get though more complicated situations.

There you have it. 5 ways to move your stagnation. Now go out and move your qi today!

As always, consult your primary health physician before making any major health decisions.

Also in Dr. Dawna Ara, DACM


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