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Yi Song, L.Ac View Entire Blog
The Five Elements Theory
2/19/2016
The Five Elements theory is a universal framework that organizes all natural phenomena into five groups that represent patterns and relationships in nature. These groups – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – can also be described as the fundamental materials that comprise the Universe. Each element has certain characteristics and qualities, which are used to classify all phenomena (from macro-systems to micro-systems) including the planets, constellations, seasons, climate, taste, color, sound, emotion and internal organs. According to this theory, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood are expressed within the human body in five organ systems: heart/small intestine, spleen/stomach, lung/large intestine, kidney/urinary bladder, and the liver/gallbladder, respectively.

The Five Elements theory is based on the observation of natural cycles and interrelationships of all things in the universe, including both in our environment and in ourselves. The interactions and connections of the systems of the body can be explained by understanding the interactions and cyclical change of the elements. Two of these fundamental interactions are the balancing relationships of generation and control/subjugation. Generation describes the relationship of one element nurturing and producing the following element in the cycle, whereas control refers to one element constraining another element. Generation promotes growth and development, whereas control/subjugation prevents an element from growing too quickly or too strong. These two relationships foster the movement and change of the elements, while continually balancing them and maintaining their harmony. These relationships fall out of balance when an element becomes too strong and exerts an excessive amount of control over another element or when an element becomes too weak and cannot promote another element.

Within Traditional Chinese Medicine, these relationships between the elements provide the framework for understanding the connections and interactions between the internal organs, and thereby understanding, diagnosing and treating all health issues. It is when the relationships between the organs fall out of balance that health issues arise. Practitioners thus seek to identify the imbalanced element/organ and to restore balance with their treatment plan. For example, the liver (represented by the wood element) is promoted by the kidney (represented by the water element). The liver relies on kidney water for nourishment, a relationship known as water moistening wood, in which the kidneys (water) generate the liver (wood). Failure of kidney water to fulfill this function is known as water failing to moisten wood. Most liver disorders affect the spleen (represented by the earth element), an occurrence known as wood acting on earth, in which the liver (wood) exerts too much control over the spleen (earth).

In optimizing health, it is important to recognize the predisposition of an individual’s body and how the elements are balanced within that person. For example, in the season of wood (during the spring months of February, March, April and May), people with the body type of excess wood are advised to modify their diet and other things in their life to avoid too much wood element during this period of time. Otherwise, an imbalance could arise and health conditions related to wood such as high blood pressure, dizziness and headaches may manifest more during the season. Depending on the particular year and other factors, great care may be needed to prevent stroke and other major health issues or to mitigate these conditions. The Five Elements theory is a holistic approach to health, emphasizing the relationships between the human body and its natural environment. It is when the body is harmonized with natural cycles that one achieves optimal health.