The liver is so basic to health that unless its function can be improved, many patients will not experience significant and lasting improvement on a nutritional or holistic healing program. The liver is important because a person’s nutritional level is not only determined by what he or she eats, but by what the liver processes. The liver is the central organ of general anabolic metabolism, in fact is “the archetypal organ of life that lives entirely in anabolism.” 1
Yet it is extremely difficult to detect early warning symptoms specific to liver metabolic imbalances since it is quite a “forgiving” organ that can withstand a myriad of abuse before capitulating and giving-up the fight. Rudolf Steiner pointed this out in lectures early in this century, when he stated, “It is quite difficult to diagnose when the liver is not in order, and frequently one is unaware of it because the liver is the single organ that doesn’t hurt when something is wrong with it. People can suffer for a long time from a liver ailment without knowing of it.” 2
The liver holds a central position in embryological life making up 10% of the volume of the embryo as compared to being only 2% of the volume of an adult. It produces the blood for the fetus up to the seventh month of embryonic life, and thereby, steers the whole incarnational process of the fetus. It doesn’t require much thinking to recognize that if the liver is not formed properly during the intra-uterine period due to metabolic or environmental stresses in the mother or even an existing subclinical genetic weakness, then the incarnation process of the child will be partially compromised. This may later express itself as imbalances in the “will impulses” in the child or adult, and appears to me to be increasingly prevalent in my clients.
Rudolf Steiner mentions this in his lectures in Anthroposophical Medicine, “If the liver is not properly formed, then a will-defect develops that is expressed in a person’s wanting to do something, however, this desire does not pass over into carrying out of the will impulse but remains stuck in thinking.” Reading Steiner, one recognizes the striking similarities in his discussion of the liver to the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach. In The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, we read: “The liver is like a general from whom the strategy is derived. The liver imparts to us the capacity to plan our life smoothly and wisely. In disease, a liver disharmony can manifest with an inability to plan our life and a lack of direction.”
Since rhythm is the key to all healing, we must look at what rhythms operate so powerfully in the liver. The liver is most active in rebuilding the body during the night. Within the context of the daily circadian rhythm, we note that the liver has a biphasic rhythm, with the assimilatory phase beginning at 3 PM in the afternoon and reaching its maximum at 3 AM, whereupon the liver begins to enter its secretory phase for the next 12 hours. This is further confirmed in the Chinese medical system where the liver meridian is most active between 1 — 3 AM. That is one of the reasons why it is unhealthy to eat our main meal or very large meals, late at night. Additionally, much of the food eaten late in the day is simply stored as fat and tends to predispose us to obesity. (Just picture a generation of TV-watching couch potatoes suffering from late night calorie-loading and ponder the effects on their collective livers!)
Many people who wake up in the middle of the night actually have an underlying weak liver and would do well to undertake a liver cleansing program. In Western medicine, we are taught that early morning awakening is often a sign of depression. The Greeks knew about this already 2000 years ago when they called depression by the name “melancholia”, which literally translated means “black bile” (melanos = black, choler = bile). If the liver becomes sluggish and metabolically underactive, then the bile flow produced by the liver becomes stagnant (symbolically turns “black”). Depression is often a symptom of bad liver function.
Other symptoms of liver imbalance include anxiety and anger, especially suppressed anger. These symptoms are so commonplace today in the general population that one wonders if we are not seeing an epidemic of liver stress, and metabolic imbalance brought on by the onslaught of the stresses of modern life, and the deadening effects of our technological civilization. Yet we must never forget that the “LIVER” takes its name from life, and not from the death processes in the body, otherwise, it would have been named “Deather”!
The liver is the central organ of detoxification in the body. If it becomes sluggish then the toxins in the body will begin to congest the lymphatics and a greater strain will eventually be imposed on the four major organs of elimination: the colon which removes our solid wastes (Earth element), the kidneys which remove our liquid wastes (Water element), the lungs which remove our gaseous wastes (Air element) and our skin which also excretes our wastes when we heat up and sweat (Fire element).
The body follows a system of priorities when it eliminates wastes and poisons. All books of natural healing stress that health begins in the digestive system and colon. For example, if a person eats a detrimental diet, the stomach fails to digest it properly. Most people call this stage “indigestion”. This, then, becomes a problem for the colon as fermentation and putrifaction occur. This is called flatulence or “colic”. The poisonous wastes in the colon then affect the liver as they pass into the portal blood circulation from the colon. The liver must then take time from its other important functions to detoxify these gases and toxic metabolites and then pass these along to the kidneys (also lungs and skin) for elimination. All this because the pecan pie with ice-cream went down on top of a piece of steak or fish!
It sounds like just a small thing, but here lies the major root of all chronic diseases. Remember it was the father of medicine, the Greek physician Hippocrates, who said 2000 years ago: Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food!
The thousands of enzyme systems that are responsible for virtually every body activity are constructed in the liver. The proper functioning of the eyes, the heart, the brain, the gonads, the joints, and the kidneys, are all dependent on good liver activity. If the liver is impaired from constructing even one of the thousands of enzyme systems the body requires, there is an impairment in overall body function and a resultant greater metabolic stress on the individual.
By supporting the stomach and small intestines (digestion, enzymes), the colon (elimination) and the liver (body’s chief metabolic organ) we can break the cycle of toxic stress that often afflicts our body, and help to build a new foundation for optimum health. By giving a liver stimulating herbal or homeopathic formula in the morning and a liver rebuilding formula at night, we properly assist the body’s natural healing rhythms. As health (and not disease-care) practitioners, if we neglect to improve the liver functions of our patients, we often fail to achieve the goal of their optimum health and well-being.
The toxic by-products of bowel fermentation and putrifaction are actually carcinogens and dangerous gases that severely tax the liver’s neutralizing efforts. If we add to this the vast number of pesticides, environmental pollutants, food chemicals and additives, heavy metals, drugs and water-borne chemicals, not to mention the growing number of mutating bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, we can readily see why our liver is rapidly losing the battle. Never before in human history have we faced such an internal environmental catastrophe. It is no wonder that the incidence of cancer is three times higher in the current generation of baby boomers than in their parents!
By enhancing the liver’s function, it will be possible for the liver to detoxify both itself and the body within the daily rhythms of body function and thus avoid the need for drastic therapies and excessive cleansing reactions. As the liver function increases, the liver’s own inherent cleansing mechanisms work more effectively.
What do we need to cleanse our body most effectively? The answer is pure water. This brings us to a final point to ponder: What is the link between the liver and water? This question is seldom asked. Again we owe it to the genius of Steiner’s spiritual vision to find a hint worthy of further investigation. In Spiritual Science and Medicine he states, “There is a dependence of the liver’s health and activity on the special quality of the water in a given locality. In order to comprehend the exact state of liver health of any local group of persons, the composition of the local water ought to be studied.” Our destruction of the subtle qualities carried within water has been the most extreme in this century and we are now paying a terrible price for this abuse.
Water is the carrier of the formative (etheric) forces and the liver is one of the most watery organs in the body being only slightly more dense than blood itself. The technological attack upon our drinking water will in the future be seen to have had the most dire consequences for the public health of humanity and deserves immediate study and remediation. But to understand the issues at stake here, one needs to study water with the eyes of a spiritual scientist and strive to fathom the mysteries of the world of formative forces. That is the challenge of the coming Age of Aquarius, the Age of the “Waterbearer”, that we are increasingly approaching.
Dr. Maret received his Master of Engineering degree in 1973 and his medical degree in 1977, both from the University of Toronto in Canada. He works as a nutritional consultant and preventive medicine practitioner striving to integrate the principles of Anthroposophical Medicine into his curative work.
1. Husemann/Wolff: The Anthroposophical Approach to Healing
2. R.Steiner, Health and Illness, Volume II
3. R. Steiner, Spiritual Science and Medicine, Lecture 13