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The Emotional Organ

The liver isn’t just a detox machine—it has feelings too.

By David Pollack, DC

The liver’s claim to fame is detoxification. Certainly one of its main jobs is to break down toxins—both the ones our body is exposed to and the ones it creates. Perhaps more importantly, it converts settled, fat-soluble toxins into mobile, water-soluble ones, so they can be removed from “storage” in our fat and tissues and exit the body through the urine. 

It also makes proteins, globulins, allergy-controlling compounds, blood constituents, and bile (for digestion); affects our energy level, and performs thousands of additional functions beyond just detox. All of these are critical operations. If even one didn't work right, we would have a lot of problems.

The Liver and Mood

But one surprising function involves mood. According to thousands of years of understanding through Chinese Medicine (as well as Ayurvedic and some European traditions), a dysfunctional liver tends to make us angry . . . or frustrated . . . or sad. 

Anger is the emotion classically attributed to the liver, although there many theories about why. The simplest is that increased toxicity in the body irritates us. Frustration is thought to be a slightly different manifestation of anger—perhaps filtered through different personality types or reflecting the liver’s interaction with other hormones or body systems. This is a two-way street: Liver dysfunction can create anger and frustration, which can, in turn, create liver dysfunction, in a downward spiral.

Then there is sadness (or depression). The liver is commonly thought to be responsible for our energy level. If it’s too low, anger manifests as sadness instead.

A Strategic Solution

What’s the solution? Depending on the individual’s unique health and life, some variation of the following approach is the likeliest path to normalizing their liver and demeanor. 

It’s important to address the root of actual liver function. This may include detox (though not as often as one might think), optimizing digestion, cleansing the lymphatic system, or even supporting the kidneys. This is done through diet, functional medicine (supplementation with herbs and enzymes), acupuncture or detox technologies, to name a few ways. 

From the emotional side, acupuncture and its cousin moxibustion are great options, and emotional release techniques can help the body and mind resolve past and present emotional burdens. There are various therapy approaches used later in that process to clean up the remnants of any baggage. I find that talk-based therapy tends to be ineffective if it’s done too early when the physical body isn’t ready to heal.

While detox is all the rage and the liver the main event, this is not always the best strategy—and it can cause deleterious effects. 

Healing the liver and soothing the soul can be an amazing process. It often leads not only to a healthier liver and a lighter heart but also to many other health improvements.

David Pollack, DC, is the founder of Pollack Wellness Institute, 66 Commack Rd., Ste. 204, Commack, NY. For more information, call 631-462-0801 or visit

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