Anger comes in many forms. Irritability and peevishness among others describe the lighter side, rage and bullying behaviors the darker. What all aspects of Anger have in common, according to emotional intelligence expert Karla McLaren, is that Anger is a message from within alerting you to take a look at your boundaries.
Anger shows us the parts of ourselves that need extra protection or attention. Sometimes, they’re areas where we’ve hidden something that needs to be exposed to the light. Other times, they may be areas where we don’t want to change even if the world demands we do. We feel triggered and may act out if that part of ourselves feels threatened, even when the threat isn’t actually real. Folks who suffer from PTSD commonly experience much stronger reactions to certain types of experiences for that reason; they are responding to the very real and present threat to a boundary they hold within.
Just because you respond to any given experience or trigger more strongly than the real situation warrants doesn’t mean you have PTSD. It does mean you have at least a vague understanding of the emotional cascade that happens for folks who do have PTSD.
In energetic terms, Anger is a fiery response to a stimulus. Traditional Chinese Medicine connects Anger with the Heart, Stomach, and Liver channels. From a more scientific perspective, Anger is processed through the liver, where we process many of our stress hormones. It throws us into flight-or-fight response, shutting down our digestive system and shifting our primary circulation into our extremities to give our muscles the power needed to flee or fight. From a more practical perspective, folks who experience a lot of anger are likely to also experience digestive and circulatory system problems, like poor absorption, stomach upset, constipation, diarrhea, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease.
In all cases, Anger taxes the liver and heart as they work to process the chemicals involved in this emotional state as well as those that follow. Anger comes not only with the heat of the moment, but often it’s followed by other emotions, like shame, depression and anxiety, as we process the consequences or results of how we handled our anger. That can rev-up our nervous system as it wants to stay in high-alert just in case a new threat is perceived. Our detoxification organs and systems, like the liver and kidneys, need to work that much harder to process our experience, making it more likely that we’ll be more irritable in the future. The cycle can be hard to break.
Supporting Anger with Herbs
Fortunately, we can draw on a few herbal remedies to help us work through and reduce the intensity of our Anger cycle. Herbs alone are unlikely to help you stop being angry, but they can support you as you do the emotional or other work necessary to heal the underlying trauma or make the underlying changes you need to make to move your Anger into a place that’s more comfortable for you.
Chamomile for Anger
Chamomile is a terrific friend when you’re feeling cranky and irritated with even the smallest challenges or disruptions. Chamomile supports the stomach and digestive tract, helping reduce inflammation and soothing irritated mucus membranes. Traditional Chinese Medicine connects the Stomach channel, including the stomach, with the ability to make sense of our experiences. When our Stomach channel is inflamed or otherwise irritated, we can feel irritable and whiney. Chamomile helps soothe the cranky, whiney aspect of Anger.
Agrimony for Anger
Agrimony is another wonderful friend for helping to soothe anger. Matthew Wood describes those clearly suited to Agrimony has being tense on all levels. Often, they are in an intense situation that feels a bit like being victimized – in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here, the tension created from the situation or environment the individual is in gives rise to problems with digestion, circulation, and detoxification. Traditionally, Agrimony has been used to help folks deal with seemingly disparate symptoms including urinary incontinence or infection, menstrual problems, migraines, gallbladder stones or gallstones, ulcers, asthma and respiratory problems, among many others. The key component in all cases is the concept of tension. Agrimony does well at easing tensions in the mind-body-spirit which manifest in tension-type symptoms, including bursts of Anger.
Bupleurum for Anger
Bupleurm root helps release stuck energy and drain excess energy that fuels Anger. Bupleurum is a Traditional Chinese Medicine remedy used for releasing constrained Liver qi. Much like Dandelion, Bupleurum supports healthy liver function. It is generally considered stronger and more draining than Dandelion, having a more strongly bitter taste and providing stronger motion than Dandelion root. In my own experience, I’ve found that Bupleurum is indicated when you see a sharp temper that arises suddenly then lingers awhile after the argument is through, as compared to when the anger fades away quickly once the situation is resolved. Dizziness, vertigo, chest and flank pay, and menstrual irregularity can accompany emotional instability when a Bupleurum formula is indicated, according to Dan Bensky, Steve Clavey, and Erich Stoger. You may also notice nausea, bloating, and indigestion if the Spleen channel is involved. Bupleurum is helpful when the there is an excess of energy that’s stuck in the liver, which gives rise to the temper that hits hard and doesn’t dissipate.
Ylang Ylang for Anger
Ylang Ylang essential oil helps to reconnect one with the Divine flow of happiness, joy, and general well-being. As a counterpoint to the heaviness, heat, and aggression anger holds, Ylang Ylang offers a cooling, enlightening energy that soothes the nervous system and helps you reclaim your joy. Sometimes, the best medicine for feelings of anger, victimization, and self-pity is to deliberately turn the table. A little dab on your pressure points of Ylang Ylang essential oil diluted in your favorite massage oil, lotion, or alcohol can help you shift an irritable, agitated mood toward one that’s more calm and peaceful. Alternatively, consider adding Ylang Ylang essential oil to your favorite diffuser blend or blending it with an anchoring essential oil, like Cedarwod and maybe one of the citrus family to promote a positive outlook, like Bergamot or Orange.
Orange for Anger
Orange or Orange Peel essential oil or bitters are helpful when Anger is characterized by a feeling of being held back or constricted. According to Gabriel Mojay, Orange essential oil is helpful for unblocking qi or energy flow, particularly in the Wood element. When the Wood element is blocked or not flowing well, it can affect the liver and the Liver channel, making one feel the need to control every aspect of how life flows. When things don’t go according to plan, Anger arises. Orange essential oil helps unblock the qi, allowing you to go with the flow more easily. Orange peel bitters works in a similar fashion, aiding digestion and supporting the liver in moving toxins out of the body and aiding in digestion or assimilation of the new situation at hand.
Keys to Working with Herbs for Anger
Formulating to help yourself or another work through Anger is challenging. Anger is connected strongly in all traditions to the Fire element. It’s hot and can do a whole lot of damage in a very short amount of time. There’s a reason Mars, the God of War, is also associated with the red planet and loads of fire…as well as Anger.
Self-care is Number One
The first key to working successfully with herbs for Anger is to take very good care of yourself and proceed with caution. If you’re the one experiencing anger, seek professional help. Counselors, therapists, religious counselors, and support groups are available to help you find the path to the life you’d like to be leading, and they’re trained to help you navigate the darker and scarier parts of that path. Please avail your self of their knowledge and skills as you move ahead.
If you’re working with someone who is struggling with Anger, go slowly and carefully. Anger can become dangerous quite quickly. Create a support system for yourself, including friends, family, co-workers, or professionals who can help you walk the path with your loved one or client safely. With a good support team in place, make a few support tools for yourself, too. Take extra time after working with the person who is experiencing Anger to let yourself recover, especially if intense or challenging emotions arose while you were together. Give yourself extra care, like a nurturing and supportive tea or a relaxing bath or an extra half hour in Nature. Whatever you do, do it with love for yourself. Anger directed toward us, even when we were not the intended target, is damaging and tiring on the best of days. You deserve plenty of support in recovering.
Also, if you’re working with someone who is struggling with Anger, it is wise to not push them into dealing with their feelings before they are ready. Let them set the pace for how they will address the underlying causes. Do not attempt to trick them into facing whatever it is that ires them, and do not attempt to medicate them without their explicit consent – this goes for giving herbs to others as much as it goes for giving pharmaceuticals to others. Instead, look for an opportunity to talk with them about what you’re seeing and ask permission to offer them the remedies you believe may help. Do not make promises, only offer opportunities. Then let them decide.
Support the Liver Channel and Liver Organ – Number Two
The second key to working with Anger successfully, is to support the Liver channel and related organ systems. The Liver Chanel is responsible for taking what you’ve digested and using it to build or grow. On a metaphysical level, this is akin to how a tree takes in energy from the Earth and Sun and turns it into leaves, branches, fruit, etc. In humans, this looks like both integrating the foods you’ve digested and integrating the experiences you’ve had. When we lash out in Anger at someone, even if it’s justified, we often have a host of feelings afterward.
We process those experiences through our Liver Channel, taking the information we’ve received and distributing it into our system as we integrate the experiences. On a physical level, the hormones that are created as a part of the Anger and resulting emotional experiences are broken down and transformed in our liver organ then the resulting compounds are either discharged as waste or integrated into our bodies. In either case, the liver and Liver Channel can use a lot of support and Tender Loving Care when we’re working with Anger.
To care for your Liver channel and liver, you want to focus on first easing the liver’s workload.
- This includes avoiding foods and substances that aggravate the liver, like alcohol, sugar, tobacco, and other chemicals.
- If you can, make extra time for quiet or downtime for yourself. At the very least, take up a healthy sleep routine, preferably getting to bed before 11 pm, which is the time when the Liver Channel does the majority of its work to cleanse the body and integrate experiences.
- If you can, include some time outdoors in nature in your daily or weekly routine. Time in nature soothes the whole system, giving the liver a break from the chemicals created by excess stress.
- Consider adding a bit of light to moderate exercise to your routine, too. Exercise helps move liver energy and promote healthy circulation, which in turn supports the liver by carrying away processed wastes and bringing in nutrients to support liver function.
A liver-supportive diet, with or without a fast, is another way to support your Liver channel and liver. It may include increasing sour and bitter foods in your diet while reducing sweet foods. Foods that are sweet, like grains and sugars, require more insulin to digest. Your liver creates insulin, but when it’s also processing a lot of stress hormones, including those generated by Anger, the workload can become overwhelming and more severe surges of Anger may result. By altering your diet, if even just for as long as it takes to work through your Anger issues, you support your liver in doing its work both as a detoxifier and as a digestive supporter.
It may be wise to consider a fast to help the liver clear the body of toxins. If a full fast is too much, consider adopting intermittent fasting, where you limit all food consumption to fewer hours, thus giving your body a longer fast between your last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. Most experts recommend fasting at least 12 hours per day and working up to 16 hours of fasting per day. Whether or not you practice fasting, choose herbs that help to soothe and support the Liver channel and the liver. Dandelion, Artichoke, Bupleurm, and Milk Thistle are all possibilities.
Digestive Support for Integrating Your Experiences – Number Three
Digestion is another key to handling Anger successfully. Anger comes with a whole lot of other emotions, all of which need to be digested, so to speak. Herbs that support healthy digestion in general and particularly those that support the Stomach and Heart channels are also important supporters when you’re working with Anger. Motherwort, Hawthorn, and Melissa or Spearmint are helpful supporters for digesting and integrating both on a physical level and on an emotional-spiritual level.
Often, the complexity of emotions that arise when you’re working with Anger can be overwhelming. That means the nervous system may be taking a bit of a beating. Nervines and Sedatives like Milky Oats, Skullcap, Passionflower, and Valarian are good supporters in your formulation.
Finally, consider adding herbs that have an affinity for healing deep wounds, like Yarrow or Helichrysum. They are particularly helpful when you know that the Anger you’re working on is connected with Trauma.
Anger is a powerful emotional state. If you’re working with Anger, seek the support of one or more professionals. Therapists, counselors, support groups, and religious leaders are all trained in working with Anger and the underlying causes as well as the related emotional states that accompany Anger.
Consider adding other types of professionals to your team, too. Acupuncturists can help you by offering extra support using acupuncture, cupping, gusha, moxa, and other treatments to support your body-mind-spirit as you work through the issues you’re facing. Massage Therapists may be helpful, particularly if you’re storing extra tension or Anger in your musculature. They can help you train your body to let go, which is particularly helpful when you’re finding your mind or psyche don’t want to let go of the Anger even after working with a Therapist. Reiki and Energy Medicine practitioners can also help you work on releasing old wounds and repatterining your emotions, mind and body.
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- Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica (Portable 3rd Edition)
- The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You>
- The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines
- Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils