The Five Elements

The Five Elements

The Five Elements are the basis of all life as we know it and they describe the qualities and movement of energy that we find in nature and living beings. Furthermore, the observable qualities of the Five Elements in people are essential to directing a practitioner in accurate 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 color, odor, sound and emotion. These signals indicate to a Five-Element acupuncturist which organ system needs primary attention and treatment.

The Fire Element

(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 also influences 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 a harmoniously functioning Fire element supports our capacity to feel a connection to all beings.


The Earth Element

Spleen, Stomach

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 bodily 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. The Earth element in balance fosters our ability to appropriately care for ourselves and others, and supports a feeling of stability, security, understanding, contentment, satisfaction, and abundance.


The Metal Element

Lungs, Colon

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 reinforce negativity, pride, vanity, arrogance and impure ideas that contaminate the mind. The emotion associated with Metal is grief, which is felt when we lose something that we value. A properly functioning Metal Element helps with a timely letting go of old, ego-based beliefs so that we can receive new energy, inspiration, and purpose. Furthermore, a healthy Metal Element reflects a sense of respect, gratitude, and divinity in ourselves and others.


The Water Element

Kidneys, Bladder

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 reassure us and calms our fears so that we can better know our innate wisdom and sense of peace.


The Wood Element

Liver, Gallbladder

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. Wood helps promote a vision of our goals and helps reveal our life plan. When the energy of Wood is blocked, anger and frustration tend to arise. The Wood Element in balance, fosters our ability to accept our life as it is and to move forward with kindness for ourselves and others.