The Dynamics of the Five Elements
The ancient Chinese observed nature as a way to gain a deeper understanding of human nature and what was happening in the body. They recognized that we as humans originated and evolved with nature, so there must be parallels between what happens in nature and what happens in us.
Each element in Chinese Five Element theory has a season associated with it, and each season has an energetic nature. For instance, Spring is a time when new growth happens. The upward, rising energy of Springtime is associated with the Wood element. The word “wood” really stands for any plant life that grows. Bamboo is one of the most widely used symbols of healthy Wood energy…it grows straight up, so it has direction, but it also extremely flexible, which helps it withstand the ebb and flow of environmental circumstances.
Each element manifests in our body systems as well. Some of these categories include: Organ, Body Tissue, Sensory Organ, Body Fluid, and Emotion. In this article, we will review what each element/season governs!
Water is often stated as the “source of life,” and likewise, in Chinese Medicine, Water governs the Kidneys, which are thought to be of utmost importance when it comes to energy in our body. The season associated with Water is winter, and Water also governs the bladder. The sensory organ is the ear, so hearing or lack of hearing is a Water element issue. The health of the Water element is reflected in head hair; likewise, we will often see men and women who have exhausted their energy in this element lose their hair prematurely. The emotion associated with Water is fear, and oftentimes this manifests as either fear or fearlessness.
Water generates growth of spring and the Wood element. Wood governs the liver and the gallbladder organs. Because Wood governs the liver, alcohol and other toxins can take a toll on the balance of this element! The body tissues associated with Wood are the muscles and tendons. The health of the Wood element is reflected through the eyes, and ability to see. Not surprisingly, then, the body fluid that is governed by the Wood element is tears. The emotion of the Wood element is anger; Wood wants to constantly grow, and when things impede the process, it becomes frustrated!
Fire is the element associated with summer, and the organs related to it are the small intestine, heart and pericardium. The sensory organ is the tongue, so anything related to speech and self-expression can be affected by the relative strength or weakness of this element. The body tissue reflected by the Fire element are the blood vessels, and the body fluid is perspiration. The Fire element expresses itself through the complexion and the emotion is joy! Fire likes to laugh.
The next element along the natural cycle is Earth, which is reflected in nature as the abundance and harvest that we see in the season of late summer. Earth governs the stomach and spleen, and some of the other physical associations with it are the mouth and saliva. Have you noticed your saliva start to flow when you’re hungry and you smell good food? Earth expresses itself through the health of the lips and the emotion of the Earth element is sympathy.
Earth generates Metal, so naturally Metal is the next element. Metal is reflected in autumn, when it begins to get cold and the leaves fall off the trees. Metal governs the large intestine and lung, and the sensory organ is the nose. The body fluid associated with Metal is mucous, and the overabundance of it or scarcity of it will often be affected by the balance of this element. The emotion of grief is associated with the Metal element, and letting go is one of the themes that comes up often.
If you wonder which element you are, we have a quick fun quiz for you to take: http://www.onlinequizcreator.com/discover-your-element/assessment-5583
Five element theory has many more dynamics to it than what we have covered here! Hopefully this has given you a basic understanding of how each one of the elements relates to your body and those around you. Spending time in nature is a great way to observe these elements in action! Each person usually has one element that is predominant.
Written by ~ Noell Eanes, M.Ac., ACA, RYT