This philosophy was born in ancient China more than 2000 years ago. It is used in Chinese medicine as the foundation of the practice of acupuncture, and it also applies to all aspects of our lives on earth, from the macrocosmic (such as the everlasting cycles of nature) to the microcosmic (such as the best way to keep qi flowing smoothly through your body and your home).
The Five Elements of Chinese medicine are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Each has a unique energy and characteristics, and we can learn about them most easily by observing them in nature. Once we get to know their differences, we can start to see how the Elements show up in all aspects of our lives, including the health of our bodies and minds as well as other people's behavior.
When we speak about Chinese medicine and acupuncture, the names of the body organs are capitalized. This is because the organ functions include not only those that science describes, but also numerous other functions unique to Chinese medicine theory.
The WATER Element is associated with the deep quiet of the season of Winter. It can be seen in a trickling brook, a tranquil lake, the deep, deep ocean, and a powerful tsunami. The Water Element embodies depth and power. It shows up in people as the ability to be very quiet inside and to deeply listen, or conversely, as someone who runs constantly on adrenaline and is unable to slow down.
In the body, the Water Element relates to the Kidneys and Bladder, and to the bones, the low back, and knees. The emotions and key words associated with the Water Element are fear, deep power, and courage.
The WOOD Element embodies the active energy of the season of Spring, when plants burst up out of the ground and reach eagerly for the sky. The Wood energy in people shows up as leadership, the ability to have vision for the future, and the wherewithal to achieve that vision.
The Wood mantra could be, Grow! Grow! Grow!
In the body, the Wood Element relates to the Liver and Gall Bladder, and to all symptoms resulting from stress, women's menstrual cycles, and the tendons. The emotions and key words associated with the Wood Element are resentment, anger, and empowerment.
The FIRE Element has the sparkling, warm energy of the season of Summer. It manifests on the spectrum between glowing embers and a raging forest fire. Fire energy in people shows up as warmth, sociability, and laughter, or conversely, as an acute sensation of vulnerability and shyness.
In the body, the Fire Element relates to the Heart and Small Intestine as well as the circulation of warmth and coolness within the body. The emotions and key words associated with the Fire Element are sadness, heart connection and disconnection, and joy.
The EARTH Element is all about balance and stability. It is often associated with the Late Summer, when fruits and vegetables have reached perfect ripeness and are brought in for the harvest. People with strong Earth energy love taking care of others and tend to be peacemakers and loyal friends.
In the body, the Earth Element relates to the Stomach and Spleen, and the process of digestion and assimilation of nutrients. The emotions and key words associated with the Earth Element are worry, obsessive thinking, groundedness, and thoughtfulness.
The METAL Element is associated with the season of Autumn, precious ores such as diamonds and crystals, and the richness and value of life. The Metal Element reminds us to breathe in the preciousness of existence, and as the trees effortlessly drop their leaves in the Autumn, we are reminded to exhale and let go. People with strong Metal energy tend to appreciate rules, structure, organization, and discipline.
In the body, the Metal Element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine. The emotions and key words associated with the Metal Element are grief, honoring, and respect.