Five Elements

Five Elements

Chinese medicine theories such as, TaiQi, QiGong, Yin-Yang and the Five Elements are deeply connected within traditional Chinese cultures.  For example, Confucianism (Confucius), Taoism (Lao Tzu) and Buddhism (Buddha) are all philosophies that have contributed to Chinese Medicine in the past.  Five Element theory is an essential part of traditional Chinese culture.

The cycles of the Five Elements are shown in the lines that connect each element in the Five Elements diagram.  The diagram visually represents how each Element interacts with each of the others.  The Creation or Generating cycle shows how each of the Elements is brought about.  Wood generates Fire – that is, we need wood to make a fire. Fire then generates Earth, in the form of ash, left over from burning Wood.  Earth generates metal – think of deep deposits of Iron and Gold, and other metals deep, deep underground.  Metal generates Water, in the form of condensation – precious mineral water from underground springs and lakes.  Finally Water, in turn, creates Wood, by offering its nourishment to saplings and allowing them to grow into huge trees.  As well as Generating or Creating, each element has the capacity to overwhelm or “Insult” the others, as shown in the Insulting Cycle.

Question: This is all a very interesting lesson in Chinese philosophy, but how does it relate to health?

The answer is that each of the elements we’ve been talking about above has a corresponding organ, colour, sound, animal, food, time of year and even emotion!  The whole human body has five organ systems based on the Five Elements, which form a complete unified system.

According to Five Element theory, the organs are related.  If one organ has problems, it may affect other organ systems and cause an overall state of disease.   The way that organs affect each other  involves either one organ overcoming another, or being too weak to hold off its influence.

For instance, in the first stage of a Chinese Medicine type Liver (Wood element) problem, symptoms are often related to the Spleen or Stomach (Earth element) – for example: little or no appetite, digestive problems, tiredness or fatigue.  This is because the Spleen (Earth) is in charge of the four limbs and muscle tissue. The Shang Han Lun, an extensive classical work of Chinese medicine on Cold damage, indicated 2000 years ago that when a practitioner diagnoses a Liver (Wood) problem, they must know that Liver can easily overwhelm the Spleen (Earth).  The solution to a Liver (Wood) problem lies in treating the Spleen (Earth) first.  This is just a small example of Chinese Five Elements and Five Internal Organs theory.

Select an element to the left for more information…


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