Everything in nature is made up of five basic building blocks that symbolize five different inherent qualities and states of natural phenomenon. This concept holds that all phenomena in the universe react and interact with each other and are always in a constant state of motion and change. 

These five indispensable materials are for the maintenance of our ecosystem and life sustenance. Thus, changes in the season or climate are bound to induce changes in the human body; disharmony in these elements brings forth disease.

This theory dates back to the Warring States Period (475–221 BC), an era of division in ancient China when Chinese thought departed from shamanistic practices of healing which seek supernatural causes of disease. The new thought process was to set out to find patterns in nature and seasonal progressions and apply them to the interpretation of disease in the human body. The unity of the microcosm of nature and the microcosm of human life was derived from Taoist philosophy and became a guiding principle for Chinese medicine.

The Shangshu, one of the five classics of ancient Chinese literature written in 1000 BC, states that the five elements are water, fire, wood, metal and earth. “Water moistens downward, fire flares upwards, wood can be bent and straightened, metal can be molded and hardened, and earth permits sowing, growing and reaping.”

The five-element theory is not only used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) but also in feng shui, astrology, music, geomancy, military strategy and martial arts. In Chinese medicine, water is affiliated with the kidney and bladder; wood is affiliated with the liver and gallbladder; fire is affiliated with the heart and pericardium; earth is affiliated with the stomach and spleen; and metal is affiliated with the lungs and large intestine.

When the elements are in balance, they follow the “generating” cycle and the “controlling” cycle, and when they are not in balance they follow the “over acting” or “insulting” cycle.

For example, the water element represents birth and death and the winter season; water nourishes the wood element signifying spring and growth; wood fuels the fire element allowing for fruition; fire produces the earth element that nourishes all things; the earth contains veins of minerals representing the metal element and the accumulation of riches gained throughout our lives; mineral veins run along the streams that lead to the great mysterious ocean, and back to the water element and birth and death.1

Therefore, the only way to be healthy is to adjust to the natural forces within the world and become part of their rhythm. Just as we must water our trees (earth element), we must water our bodies following the laws of nature. In simplest terms, if you do not drink water you will become dehydrated which will affect your kidneys, the water element.  As a result, your heart rate will increase affecting the heart (fire element).

One can see that if one organ system is affected, all other organ systems will eventually be affected if not treated. The more chronic your health condition, the more elements that are out of balance. Determining the root cause to a medical condition helps to treat the root of the disease and bring the body back into balance and harmony.   

In conclusion, there are many ways to achieve harmony in the human body. Finding a balance starts with eating nourishing foods, getting a moderate amount of exercise and stretching, getting good quality sleep, incorporating mindful meditation, listening to or playing music, finding a creative endeavor like painting, writing, and attempting to keep stress at bay whenever possible.

Don’t forget to play and have fun – live, love, laugh!

Diane Sheppard is the founding owner of AcQpoint Wellness Center. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine and can be reached at (760) 775.7900. www.AcQPoint.com.

Reference: 1) https://agelessherbs.com/five-elements-theory

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