Early diagnosis is key for detecting and possibly preventing any disorders in the breasts. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses several tools for diagnosing the development or “pathogenesis” of disease. Discerning a person’s signs and symptoms—which may be physical, mental, or emotional, and which may at first seem unrelated to a breast disorder—is the first step for detecting any change in the breast tissue or any pathological condition of the breasts.
Japanese Red Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is a beneficial supplement for these disorders because of its wide-ranging health effects. For example, a recent study has found that “Ganoderma lucidum suppresses the invasive behavior of breast cancer cells by inhibiting the transcription factor NF-kappaB” (Jiang J, et al.).
Although six bilateral meridians run through or near the breast, many pathologies of this delicate tissue are related to an imbalance in the Liver Meridian.
The Liver organ system in TCM:
- Controls detoxification,
- Regulates emotions,
- Circulates Qi energy efficiently throughout the entire body,
- Regulates menstruation in women,
- Aids in digestion, and
- Stores the blood.
Listed below are some TCM Liver functions and specific indications of imbalances, together with some suggestions for correcting these imbalances.
Symptoms: A bitter taste in the mouth, frequent headaches, usually in the area of the forehead, vertex or occiput; sluggish feelings and insufficient energy; skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and any outbreak of the skin that manifests in red and possibly hot bumps.
Recommendations: To counteract these, eating more Liver-cleansing foods is wonderfully helpful. Such foods and herbs include: dandelion greens, artichokes, milk thistle, liquid chlorophyll or chlorophyll rich foods, as well as beginning each morning with 1 – 2 cups of warm lemon water. Regular dry brushing and lymphatic drainage massage are also very beneficial to remove congestion in the breast area.
Did you know: According to a recent study “Ganoderma lucidum elicits its anti-tumor effects by suppressing cell growth and inducing antioxidative/detoxification [of cells] (Hsieh & Wu). Also, the Red Reishi mushroom “encourages cellular detoxification by activating and energizing the cells to deal with the accumulating toxins either in the cell nucleus or membrane” (“Health Benefits of Ganoderma Lucidum,”n.d.).
Regulating Emotions and Circulating Qi Energy
Symptoms: Frequent upsetting emotions, stress, frequent sighing, frustration, anger, irritablility, depression, and repressed emotions can cause energy in the body to get stuck. In TCM, this stuck energy can develop into masses if not released. When the Liver fails to circulate energy freely throughout the body we can see many emotional symptoms, but we can also see pain, or distension, especially along the sides of the torso.
Recommendations: Regulating the Liver by finding a healthy way to express your emotions is key. Getting regular exercise also helps tremendously in moving stuck energies, as do practices such as meditation, yoga and qi gong.
Did you know: Reishi in Chinese medicine is often used as a stand-alone herb in helping to treat the emotions and is said to “calm the spirit” (Bensky, et al., 936).
Symptoms: Most problems with the menstrual cycle are typically related to an imbalance in the Liver organ. Examples include pre-menstrual tension, breast tenderness or breast lumps before the menses, fibroids, clots or pain on menstruation, scanty or heavy menstruation, irregular periods, etc.
Recommendations: In addition to the strategies noted in part one of this article, acupuncture and specific Chinese herbal formulas can be effective in easing any menstrual problems in women.
Did you know: An extract of reishi mushroom has been found to be beneficial in reducing or eliminating excessive menstrual pain and irregularities (Sabota).
Symptoms: Bloating, burping, nausea, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea, gas, and intestinal rumbling are conditions that are exacerbated when a pathology of the Liver is involved.
Recommendations: Making a tea of the following herbs can ease digestive troubles significantly: 1 cup each of flax, fennel, fenugreek, nettles and ¼ cup of licorice root. Place all ingredients in a bag or jar, shake, and take 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture twice per day for one month to help heal the entire gastrointestinal system. Drinking bone broth regularly also helps.
Did you know: It is common to supplement with reishi mushroom to help combat candida yeast overgrowth in the body, which is known to impair digestive function substantially (Li P. et. al).
Symptoms: In TCM the Liver is often deficient in Blood and Yin. Blood and Yin nourish the sinews and tendons in the body. If they are lacking we can see muscle cramps, tendons that are easily torn, restless leg syndrome, muscle tics or tremors. The Liver is also said to “open into the eyes,” so we can often detect pathologies of the eyes such as blurred vision, floating elements in the field of vision, and red, dry or tired eyes. The Liver also affects the quality of the nails. Ridged or brittle nails often indicate a Liver Blood Deficiency.
Recommendations: We can build Liver Blood and Yin by eating plenty of leafy greens and good quality (grass finished) beef or lamb, including organ meats.
Red Reishi mushroom is especially helpful here because in TCM it is thought to enter the Liver system directly. Supplementing with Reishi can help with healthy breasts, but it can also help with the many other signs and symptoms associated with the Liver that women can experience by helping to regulate and strengthen the Liver function.