Published February 4, 2022 Long used as a crucial women’s medicine, Rosa spp. has a loving affinity for the gut, heart, liver, and reproductive system — and happens to be a wonderful hormone balancing ally, partially because of her liver loving benefits. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the balance and healthy metabolism of our hormones depends quite a bit on properly flowing “Liver Qi” that is not constrained or stagnant due to stress, overwork, unprocessed emotions, or dietary factors. Although healthy hormones aren’t the first thing that may come to mind when you think of your physical liver, Chinese Medicine’s interpretation of the Liver meridian’s functions (and the adjacent tissues that it affects) matter immensely for PMS, hormonal acne, premenstrual headaches, and so much more. WHAT IS THE “LIVER” ACCORDING TO TCM? Western medicine sees the liver as solely the physical organ itself – a meaty mass that sits on the right side of the belly. But in TCM, the word “Liver” (capitalized here to denote the full system) refers to an entire meridian: a diverse organ system, including the gallbladder, the muscles and sinews, the eyes, and even relates to healthy skin, nails, and hair. The Liver meridian governs everything from digestion and the breakdown of fats, to the balance and excretion of hormones, to our greater vision for our lives and our ability to plan ahead. When we go back to Western anatomy and physiology, hormones are of course metabolized by the liver, mirroring this concept. Think of the Liver meridian as the commanding officer of the body’s “Qi.” Qi is the energy that flows through the body. We take it in from the air we breathe (Lung Qi) and convert it from the food we eat (Spleen Qi). The Liver is said to aid in the movement of Qi (blood and lymph), as well as the exchange of nutrients and toxins that come in and out of the cells. Nerve conduction, energy production, and optimal cognitive awareness (including proper blood flow to the brain) all depend on the presence of abundant and flowing Qi. The Liver meridian makes sure that Qi, and hormones, are delivered to the right place, in the right amounts, at the right time — especially as our hormones fluctuate throughout our cycle. It’s related not only to our hormone clock, but our circadian clock as well. Circling back to the eyes being part of that Liver Meridian, the act of looking at the sunrise or early light each morning is highly supportive to the Liver system as a whole, your overall hormone balance, and thus your body composition which is driven by hormone health. Modern day studies like this one from Northwestern University support this notion, connecting ancient tradition to the science we now have available. THE LIVER MERIDIAN & HORMONE HEALTH Overall, a healthy Liver ensures you have strong mental focus and firm decision making skills in your career (whereas brain fog and frustration may be a sign of liver stagnation). An unobstructed, healthy Liver meridian will also help balance your hormone levels as they ebb and flow throughout your monthly cycle.When liver stagnation is present, your hormones may be off, you may experience PMS plus all the emotions that come with it, and you may also have cramps. This is because the body doesn’t have enough Qi (energy) to move blood, and has to work harder (the contractions that create cramping) to produce a smooth flow of blood. The Liver’s job is to spread your Qi, so if there is congestion in the Liver, there will be congestion of Qi. The Qi’s job is to then move the blood, so when the Qi becomes stagnant, the blood also stagnates. Over time, congested or ‘stuck’ blood will do exactly as it sounds: clot and stick in places it shouldn’t. This can contribute to cysts, hormone disorders, and painful menstrual periods. There is a lack of Qi to assist in moving the blood out, causing more intense cramping than the standard, and leading to long term stagnation. In such cases, the menstrual discharge is often dark or clotted. ROSE & “LIVER-HEART HOMEOSTASIS” In the lens of TCM, rose acts as a liver herb and blood mover. The flower is used to break up stagnation and bring the warming movement of blow flow to the pelvic area, as well as to support liver-heart homeostasis. Chinese Medicine has a fascinating way of describing the holistic, entangled relationship each organ system of the body has with one another, by denoting what organ meridians can “attack” (or be attacked) when presenting with heat/excess, and by denoting what organs “mother” (or nourish) one another — and thus, can be affected by cold/deficiency. For every mother organ system, there is a “child” organ system that it nourishes, feeds, and cares for with its strength. Thus, when you’re having a health issue that presents with “excess” and “heat” (acne is a good example of heat with the usage of words like “flare” and the presentation of redness), you look to the organ system that attacks the representative area where you’re having acne. If you’re having acne on your face in the stomach area: the sides of the nose, cheeks and under the eyes, and some of the forehead, you’d look to cooling down the organ that “attacks” the stomach, which is the Liver. When you’re having an issue that presents with “cold” and “deficiency,” such as cold hands and feet along with poor circulation of blood from the heart to the vasculature, we know the Heart (child) is “cold” and not being nourished fully by the mother (Liver). Thus, we look to herbs that strengthen and invigorate Liver Qi. These herbs will help to disperse Liver Qi stagnation that may be affecting the Liver’s ability to properly move Qi and Blood to not just the heart, hands and feet, but other areas of the body as well such as the brain and even hair follicles. “If there is not enough Fire corresponding to the Heart, strengthen the Liver or the Wood element with food or herbs as the Liver is said to be the mother of the Heart.” Green foods nourish the Liver, along with beets, mung beans, carrots, mushrooms, seaweed, and herbs such as Dandelion Root, Milk Thistle, and even our beloved Rose. Rose is often under-appreciated in modern herbalism for this benefit, which is why we wanted to spotlight the way she actually nourishes the Liver, in order to ultimately feed, heal, and nourish the heart. We think of her so much as a heart herb alone, but her liver-nourishing properties are what actually make her a circulatory system ally when you break it all the way down to a root level. This comes full circle when you understand how prolonged “Liver Qi Stagnation” actually leads to a buildup of “heat,” also known as Liver Yang Rising. This is the stage where Liver Qi Stagnation not only messes with your hormones, but can begin to contribute to headaches, consistent frustration/irritability/anger (especially around our cycles), abdominal distention, racing thoughts, restlessness, sleep issues, worsening PMS, tight muscles and sinews, excessive burping, eye issues and irritation, and often a sense of feeling stuck in life… an overarching lack of direction. And guess where excess yang or “heat” goes when it begins to overflow due to stagnation, and starts to rise? You guessed it — Liver heat or “Liver Yang Rising” rises to the heart! On your tongue, you will see this manifest as a bright red tip (redder than the rest of your tongue), as the tip of the tongue represents the heart channel. The connections just keep flowing, as in TCM tongue diagnosis, a classic indication for the ideal rose candidate is a tongue with a red tip and/or the sides of the tongue presenting as red and swollen. The sides are what bring the Liver meridian into the picture. Because the tip of the tongue is associated with our Shen (spirit) and heart, a red and inflamed tongue tip represents heat that can disturb our “heart-mind” or inner peace. The sides of the tongue are associated with the liver and gallbladder, so red, swollen sides show inflammation, heat or stagnation present in the Liver area. This may be a sign of Liver Qi stagnation on a physical level, and on an emotional level may mean we aren’t processing enough emotionally (or perhaps are not processing from a place of greater “vision” or perspective — the eye parallel again!) Just to provide one more connection and from yet another traditional medicine system that explains these concepts so beautifully, we can look to Ayurveda and their view of “Pitta” imbalanced individuals. The liver relates to the eyes and in Ayurveda, the eyes are governed by the dosha Pitta. When Pitta is out of balance and presenting too strongly in someone, their perception can become completely clouded. They perceive, or see, the world around them through jealous, angry, bitter eyes aka “perspective” and can get stuck seeing the world within this cycle of excess heat. We need to make sure the Liver Qi is moving and allowing us to release, so that we can see clearly and live in the present moment, without anger in our heart-mind. Once heat from the Liver has entered the heart, it begins to influence our “heart-mind” that I keep mentioning above, and can make us angry and resentful: the textbook imbalanced feelings associated with the Liver meridian in both TCM and Ayurveda. Rose strengthens and gently moves Liver Qi in order to keep the rivers of emotion flowing smoothly, which helps both clear and/or prevent emotional and physical stagnation. ROSE FOR HORMONE BALANCE & HEALTHY PERIODS THANKS TO LIVER QI SUPPORT This Qi moving action of rose also stimulates the circulation of blood flow to the pelvis, since the Liver is responsible for that smooth flow of blood and hormones that we talked about earlier (especially menstrual blood during our cycle – the Liver “stores” our menstrual blood). This is part of why rose is so widely traditionally used for addressing menstrual difficulties. Rose’s affinity for nourishing the Liver and moving Qi also contributes to rose’s aphrodisiac properties, by way of heightening blood flow to the genitals and even pleasure centers in the brain, thus supporting increased sensation, connection and desire. You can find rose medicine in all of our new heart-centered formulas from the connection collection, and can lean on her as an herbal ally for emotional and physical stagnation rooted in the Liver Qi becoming constrained. Rose encourages us to speak our emotions out loud — to be with them, to see them, to journal them, to move them physically even by softening and releasing tension within the physical body that so often prevents us from being as active as we’d like to be. She also acts on the lack of motivation to move that may be present when one is so disconnected from their heart and emotions, feeling stuck, lost, or defeated. Rose promotes not only the healthy flow, metabolism, and elimination of hormones, but a healthy expression, processing, and release of emotions. She helps to grant us the ability to keep flowing and moving forward, just as she encourages our blood and Qi to move with vigor and discernment. Rose allows one to be open and resilient rather than bitter and closed off; to develop a stronger, more grounded perspective around our grief and pain so that one may be able to find courage, meaning, and connection through the madness. Rose helps us to be gentle with ourselves and slow down so that we may see and feel what we’ve been avoiding, and finally step forward into a realm of possibility that is only available through presence and intimacy with oneself, others, and life in general. Rose helps us face it all head-on, somehow with tender love and care. She allows us to recover the fire of courage in our hearts, so that we can make crucial decisions and move towards our goals with bravery and fortitude. Rose supports us in seeing the path forward; in having a greater vision for our lives, and a plan regarding how to execute it. She grounds us and helps us realize that stress and difficult emotions are not things which we should avoid; they are important messengers that arrive when something we care about in life is at stake — whether that’s our relationships, our career, or our future. Rose helps us respond to life and be present for the moments that matter, even when they’re tough and require all the courage we’ve got. Rose is medicine for presence, medicine for the collective, and medicine for the liver-heart connection that drives us forward towards our destiny.