What is the 5 Elements theory of Chinese Medicine
The five elements and the Yin and Yang theories are two most basic philosophies supporting the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It looks at the 5 elements of nature and connects each element to 5 major organ pairs with the same characteristics as their natural counterpart. Remember, TCM Daoism believes the human body is a microcosm of the larger cosmo around us - we are always in relationship with nature and thus contain a mini-version of nature's cycles within us. Why is this such an important basic founding principal? Because TCM believes in order to better understand the how and why of relationships in the body, is to understand these connections in nature.
So what are the 5 elements of Nature?
Wu Xing in Chinese is a directly translates to Wu (Five) Xing (movement). So the five elements of nature are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Every one of these elements are in movement, and their natural characteristics are associated to specific organ networks that have the same qualities in the body.
What are the five elements in the body? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, these organ pairs are called Zang-Fu organs
- Wood: Liver/Gall Bladder
- Fire: Heart/Small Intestine
- Earth: Spleen/Stomach
- Metal: Lung/Large Intestine
- Water: Kidney/Urinary
The growing phase of the five elements
Let's first understand how the five elements move in nature. Wood is burned by fire, which turns into soil found on Earth, which contains rich minerals and Metals, and when there is rain Water, this gives rise to the growth of Wood. Just as seasonal cycles in nature exist in endless flow, the same cycles are continuous within each of our bodies.
How can we connect this to the body?
In practice, Earth represents the Spleen/Stomach, who are responsible for transforming and transporting nutrients and water to build Qi and blood for the body. If we think about Earth's role in nourishing our plants, fruits, vegetables, animals, much of life as we know it today would be hard to imagine. Think of this as the same for the body - the Spleen/Stomach is recognized as the most important organ of the body. In Western medicine there has been a recent rise of gut health interest, which is on the right track - but this is only the start of reversing decades of damage fad diets and poor quality in food that exists in the American diet.
How can we balance our five elements?
While this article provides a high level introduction to the five elements of nature and how they're found in the human body, this theory extends to provide connections of the body to different seasons, colors, tastes, emotions, as well as providing to the I Ching. or Chinese Cosmology.
For example, the Wood element represents the Liver which is associated to Spring time. is associated to the Sour taste, if stagnated will feel Angry, and manifests on the Eye. If your birth chart is missing wood, you be prone to weaknesses in these areas.
What is my Element?
Take our "What is My Element" quiz. By using I Ching, we can compose your Elemental profile.