Five Elements

The Five Elements theory is essentially a more refined version of the Yin-Yang theory.

The Five Elements theory, however, is far more elaborate since there are not just two but five interdependent elements. One can think of a plate with five crystal balls that needs to be kept in balance. Whenever any crystal ball gains or loses weight, the whole plate constantly needs to be readjusted to keep it in balance.

five elements chinese medicine

Example of Nature or Body organs against the Five Elements:

Five Elements Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Season Spring Summer Late summer Autumn Winter
Climate Wind Hot Wet Dry Cold
‘Zang’ Organ Liver Heart Spleen Lung Kidney
‘Fu’ Organs Gall Bladder Small Intestine Stomach Colon Bladder
Emotions Anger Joy Thinking Anxiety, Sadness Fear, Fright

The Five Elements in Chinese Medicine

The Five Elements theory provides two main approaches of how maintain the balance between the Five Elements:

Balance within one Element

Maintaining the balance within one Element is fairly straight forward. For example, since both the Heart and Summer belong to the Fire Element, a person has to take specific care of his heart during summer.

Similarly if there is health problem in the kidney, a person has to avoid exposure to cold weather.

Balance of the Five Elements

Maintaining the balance between the Five Elements is complicated by the concept of the ‘Growth Process’ and the ‘Control Process’.

The Growth Process can be understood like a mother-son relationship between the elements. The generating Element (“Mother”) nourishes and grows the health of the receiving Element (“Son”). In contrast the Control Process works in the opposite way where one Element has a controlling or restricting influence on another Element.

The Five Elements theory describes the interaction between the five elements is as follows:

Hence since Metal grows the Water Element, if a kidney (Water) is weak a person has to take specific care of his lung and colon (Metal) to grow the strength of the kidney.

Similarly since Earth controls the Water Element, if there is health problem in kidney (e.g. too much toxics), a person has to take specific care of his/her stomach and spleen (Earth) to reduce the toxics in the kidney (Water).

The complexity of the interaction between the Five Elements explains why various herbs need to be used to merely make one Chinese medicine. Different herbs representing different Elements have to be used to effectively maintain or restore the balance of a human body.

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