Headaches, part 4: Liver Fire

I. Liver Fire

The pattern of “Liver Fire” is basically a more severe version of and stems from the pattern “Liver Yang Rising”. We are in the medical age of fire diseases and “Liver Fire” is by far the most common. Cancer, HIV, Alzheimer’s, and many major diseases present with symptoms in this category, and could be prevented with recognizing these patterns of disharmony from Chinese Medicine. The main distinguishing symptoms of Liver Fire are:
1) A severe and sudden onset of the headache, especially accompanied by more Fire signs in this category. The headache is usually even more intense than the pattern above, and may last longer as well. It tends to be fixed in one location, occur often (daily or more), and evolved from a long history of headaches (months to years).
2) Dizziness or vertigo is more severe, and can affect balance and spatial orientation, or manifest as more severe conditions like Meniere’s disease.
3) Strong thirst
4) A bitter taste in the mouth
5) Dark yellow or little urine
6) Constipation with dry stools, infrequent bowel movements (not every day, like normal); can be severely dry or very infrequent (more than 2-3 days).
7) Burning or hot sensations anywhere in the body, but more commonly the upper body and head.
8) Strongly red eyes or diseases of the eyes, especially those of an excess nature, showing with redness, inflammation, and burning, and usually affecting the external parts of the eye. Examples would be “red eye”, “pink eye”, or conjunctivitis; pterygium, which is an abnormal growth on the conjunctiva (the covering of the eye or inner eyelids); subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding of the conjunctiva); basically any infection of the eye with redness, tearing, swelling, or bleeding. There could be eye diseases of a deficient nature as well (see page 12, number 12 under Yin Deficiency) like poor vision, macular degeneration, etc.
9) Insomnia of a more severe nature, including nightmares, especially with themes of violence or fire; vivid dreaming, or “remembering lots of dreams”; sleep walking, talking in one’s sleep.
10) Bursts of anger or loss of emotional control, violence, aggression or other extreme or deviant behaviors, including psychological conditions like schizophrenia or manic states.
11) Severe tinnitus or strong, high pitched ringing in the ears.
12) Deafness or hearing loss, especially with a sudden onset, but can be chronic hearing problems as well.
13) Meniere’s disease is a hallmark symptom of this pattern, with symptoms including dizziness or vertigo, ear ringing (tinnitus), hearing loss, and often nausea and vomiting. This is a good example of western medicine not knowing the cause, or saying it is caused from a physical problem within the ear (especially, the vestibular system or that affecting balance) or fluid in the ear.
14) Trigeminal neuralgia (severe facial nerve pain on one side, usually only lasting a short time) is another hallmark symptom which can fall under this pattern. This is a great example of western medicine being the radical and failing approach since the apparent cause is pressure on the nerve, modern research showing it may often be a blood vessel pressing on the nerve. This would seem the ideal candidate for surgery, since it would relieve the “cause” by relieving the pressure. But often times the western treatment of drugs and surgery only creates more complications, and the symptoms come back. Wouldn’t you rather avoid the surgery if you could reduce the Liver Fire and nourish the Yin Deficiency and it worked to eliminate the symptoms long term? I have also seen this pattern treated many times successfully with Chinese Medicine, meaning all the symptoms resolve with no recurrence.
15) It is often associated with excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, or long term drug use (both recreational and pharmaceutical), all of which create excess Fire in the body.
16) This headache pattern could also arise from being exposed to relatively high amounts of environmental toxins like cosmic or other high frequency radiation, as in airline hostess, jet pilot, or MRI technician; petro-chemicals as in gas station attendant, migrant farmer, and truck mechanic; or electromagnetic radiation as in high voltage electrician or computer server technician. I know these things from my own clinical experience as I have treated people such as these.
17) Exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, hormones, and long term or particularly strong pharmaceutical use also often leads to this pattern. Some drugs in particular which tend to create a lot of Fire in the body are ones used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, endometriosis, especially the hormonally related drugs, and immunosuppressive therapies to name a few.
18) Bleeding disorders of the excess type including nose bleeds, coughing up of blood, bleeding gums, bloody stools, and excessive blood loss from gynecological issues for women (including hormone imbalances, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or cancers of the uterus).
19) The headache can be worse right before, but will most likely get even worse during the menstrual period. This may vary.
20) There will more than likely be a strong intolerance of heat, light, and stimulation in general, and these factors can often cause the onset of the headache or make it worse.
21) The tongue body will often be more red than normal, or has a red tip or sides, and may have a dry or peeled coating.
22) The pulse will often be rapid, and classically is described as a wiry, thready, or tight pulse, which will usually feel excessive or constrained, like a guitar string pushing up on the finger, as opposed to a smoothly flowing pulse.

If you have determined that there are sufficient symptoms, say 3 or more, pointing to the pattern of “Liver Yang Rising” or “Liver Fire”, you next need to figure out the cause of your pattern by grouping together further signs and symptoms. The pattern of “Liver Yang Rising” or “Liver Fire” is an Excess condition usually arising from one of the three major underlying patterns of Deficiency: Blood Deficiency, Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency, or Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency with Kidney Yang Deficiency. For simplicity we will call these patterns Blood Deficiency, Yin Deficiency, and Yin and Yang Deficiency. Even if you don’t have many symptoms of the above patterns, keep reading to see if you fall under one of the below patterns. It is possible to have a few symptoms from the above patterns, but have the majority fall under one of the following deficiency patterns. In this case the cause of your headache is not advanced enough to show symptoms of Liver Yang Rising or Liver Fire yet. You could also have a headache from a purely deficient pattern as well (see page 22), in which case you may have no symptoms from the above categories, but only symptoms from the next three deficiency patterns below:

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