The Five Elements
The Five Elements describe the qualities and movement of energy in nature and living beings. Furthermore, they represent the basic ingredients necessary for all physiological processes. The Five Elements teach us of the spirit of nature and help direct a practitioner in diagnosis and treatment planning.
Each organ system is a manifestation of one of the five Elements. When an organ system goes out of balance or is in distress, it displays observable warning signs, according to its Element, in facial color, body odor, vocal quality and emotion. These signals indicate to a Classical Five-Element Acupuncturist which organ system needs primary attention and treatment.
(Heart, Pericardium/Circulation, Small Intestine, Temperature)
Fire is epitomized by Summer, the most expansive phase of Nature's cyclic flow, a time when potentials are realized, life matures and activities are at their peak. Fire brings all things to fruition - the heat and warmth of this element regulate the transformative power necessary for all physiological processes. Circulatory, digestion, hormone, and cardiac functions are related to the organ systems of Fire. This element helps express emotional warmth, love, humor, spontaneity, compassion, joy, humanity, fellowship, equality, passion and intimacy. Fire helps with learning, reason, and insight, and at a deep level the Fire element supports our capacity to feel warmly connected to all beings.
The Earth element embodies the harvest, a time for enjoying the fruits of our labors. Ultimately, the Earth is the foundation, center and provider of all nourishment; physically, the Earth element is responsible for the digestion and distribution of food and drink. This Element also helps the processing and transfer of information and ideas. The nature of this element is motherly, supporting, sustaining, and embracing unconditionally. The Earth element fosters our ability to appropriately care for oneself and others, encouraging stability, security, understanding, contentment, satisfaction, and abundance.
The crisp, cool air and decaying leaves of autumn characterize the Metal Element. Metal exemplifies quality, purity, precision, brilliance and richness. In nature, the Metal element is differentiated in the air, stones, metals and trace minerals which enrich the soil. This element regulates the respiratory system and the process of elimination, enabling us to breathe and dispose of waste and toxins. On a non-physical level, problems with these organs strengthens negativity, pride, vanity, arrogance and impure ideas which can contaminate the mind. The emotion associated with Metal is grief, which is felt when we lose something that we value. Nevertheless, a timely letting go of the old is necessary for new energy, inspiration, and quality to enter. Metal commands honor, virtue, respect and helps us know and appreciate our divine, radiant nature.
Water is characterized by the rest, inactivity and contraction reflected in winter. The ability to endure this season depends on the stores and reserves that have been carefully set aside from our previous harvest. The Water element governs the urinary and nervous system and all aspects of the distribution and storage of water; it supplies fluidity, cleansing and rejuvenation. Associated with the one's energetic reserves, power and innate potential of our genetic inheritance, Water helps gather and focus our ambition, drive and willpower. A shortage or misuse of reserves can trigger feelings of fear, anxiety, and panic. When the Water element is strong, one tends to wisely and moderately use one's resources, without being stuck and frozen. Water helps bring reassurance and allays fear from overwhelming our wisdom and inner calm.
Spring arrives with a burst of life, demonstrating birth, re-awakening, growth, creativity, enthusiasm and upward, forward and forceful movement. The Wood element, like a plant, organizes the other four elements into a living being - planning, coordinating, and directing the seamless operation of all physiological processes. The Wood element relates to the functions of the liver and gallbladiver. Wood promotes a vision of our goals and a blueprint for achieving our purpose. When the energy of Wood is blocked, anger and frustration tend to arise. Acceptance, surrender, forgiveness and kindness allow for flexible and sound decisions as well as well directed self-assertion. This advances growth beyond the obstacles we confront.
"The five Elements. . . are the foundation and spirit of all Nature around us. . . [they] are alive both around us and in us; they describe the movement of all life and all energy and embody all the qualities which we encounter in Nature."
Cycle of the Five Elements
©2010 Daniel Axelrod