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!)