For close to three thousand years, Chinese doctors and philosophers have used the idea of the creative cycle of the five elements and their associated seasons as a way to understand the complex relationship between our minds and emotions and our physical bodies.
Wood is associated with Spring. It embodies Yang and is the element of growth and outward expansion, hope and renewal.
- The Fire of Summer warms our hearts and relationships.
- As Summer the Yang of Summer wanes, Earth holds the centre with a rich harvest promising plenty.
- Come Autumn, Yang gives way to Yin. Autumn’s element – Metal – recycles and purifies, securing valuable nutrients to nourish future growth.
- And while Winter may seem forbidding, dark and cold, its element – Water –engenders life itself.
Balance and interdependence
In Chinese medicine in general, and Five Element acupuncture in particular, this creative cycle of generation, sustenance and support is extended to the relationships between the body’s organs.
The Heart is regarded as the Emperor of the body, mind and spirit of each individual.
Our bodily functions – the procurement and processing of nourishment; dispersal and take up of essential nutrients; the maintenance of balance and harmony; the elimination of impurities and waste – are all governed by the relevant organs. They are the ‘officials’ serving the Emperor.
The cycle emphasises the interdependence of the ‘officials’, showing how imbalance or dysfunction in one organ and its associated functions will have an impact on the others around and across the cycle.
The guiding principles of Five Element acupuncture
All five elements are of course present in each of us. When making a diagnosis and working on a treatment plan, Five Element practitioners carefully assess each patient to determine which of the five elements is dominant. You can think of this dominant element as your ‘guardian’ element.
Each ‘official’ governs aspects of our emotional and mental well-being as well as our physical health. For example, the Liver is associated with anger and our ability to plan ahead; Earth represents worry but also understanding and empathy.
Understanding the role of the ‘guardian’ element and its associated ‘officials’ is the guiding principle behind Five Element treatment as your practitioner works to restore balance in body, mind and spirit.