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The Five Elements in Acupuncture

The Five Elements in Acupuncture

Fire and Earth, Metal, Water and Wood

In Chinese philosophy, the five elements reflect both the cosmic structure and natural phenomena of the physical universe. Conceptually, they illustrate the complex interactions and relationships, the interdependence and mutual restraint, the Yin-Yang of the universe.

First: Fire
The primordial source. Providing light and heat, fire is the beginning and the end, the spark of life and the dying ember. The “Big Bang” if you will.

Second: Earth
The ashy residue of the dying ember. A fertile planet, earth is the aboriginal mother.

Third: Metal
The hardened igneous remains after the red-hot, molten concoction roiling deep in the indigenous belly explodes through a week point in the skin of the earth.

Fourth: Water
Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen–earth’s most abundant molecule–is in constant flux: freezing, melting, and evaporating. Showering the earth, water nourishes all sentient life. Destructive as well–given time, it will break rock, grind pieces into pebbles, and pebbles into grains of sand.

Fifth: Wood
Rooting itself in the earth, wood holds the grainy soil together. Water feeds wood. Wood feeds fire. Ashes to ashes: Wood collapses. Water douses the dying embers. The ashy residue reconstitutes. The earth refortifies. The world rejuvenates.

Each individual, from birth to death, has an underlying constitutional foundation reflecting one of the five elements. Correspondingly, that foundational element is predictive of one’s general attitude, outlook and emotional disposition.

Before differentiating symptoms of illness, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner must first diagnose the patient’s elemental constitutional type. This is done through observation. Below is a brief description of how the organs and elements are related to the various qualities a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will observe before making a diagnosis.

5 Element CyclesGeneration and Control Cycles of Qi Flow


Below are further correspondences of each element:

Organ: Heart/Pericardium/Small Intestine/Triple-Warmer
Emotion: Joy
Color: Red
Season: Summer
Voice: Laughing

Organ: Spleen/Stomach
Emotion: Worry
Color: Yellow
Season: Late Summer
Voice: Singing

Organ: Lung/Large Intestine
Emotion: Grief
Color: White
Season: Fall
Voice: Breathy

Organ: Kidney/Urinary Bladder
Emotion: Fear
Color: Blue
Season: Winter
Voice: Groaning

Organ: Liver/Gall Bladder
Emotion: Anger
Color: Green
Season: Spring
Voice: Shouting