Five Element Theory
The ancient Chinese were great agriculturists and had a strong affinity to the land. They were greatly attuned to how nature and the cycle of seasons affected the growth of their crops, as well as, their livelihood and health. During the Warring States Period (476 - 221 BC), an archetype of observations, correspondences, and interactions was developed to explain all naturally occurring phenomenon. This became known as Five Element Theory or Five Phase Theory.
What are the Five Elements?
The five elements consist of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These elements make up all materials of the natural world. Each element is defined by numerous correspondences such as a season, a color, a taste, an emotion, and a time of day. In order to understand the complex relationship between each of the five elements, a flow chart was created with each element arranged in the order of its corresponding season.
Five Elements and Chinese Medicine
Chinese physicians used Five Element Theory to explain the physiology and pathology of the body. Each element corresponds to both a zang (yin) and fu (yang) organ. The following diagrams demonstrate how the different organ systems influence one another.
What Element are You?
Click Here to find out what element you are and what personality traits are associated with your element. Get the full correspondence chart.
The five elements move in a circular flow called the Generating Cycle. In the Generating cycle, each element supports the function of the next element - Water is needed to make the trees (Wood) grow; Wood is needed to create Fire; Fire turns into ash (Earth); from earth, rock (metal) is formed; and through this Water flows. Each element is considered a "Mother" and the element that follows is referred to as its "Child". The "Mother" enriches, nourishes, strengthens, promotes growth and development of the "Child". When there is an imbalance, for example, in the earth element (spleen/stomach), we will look at the function of the fire element (heart/small intestine) to see if the imbalance might be originating there.
The controlling cycle provides for a check and balance system among all of the elements. In the controlling or destructing cycle, one element suppresses, controls, dominates, overcomes, or weakens another element, preventing it from establishing its power - Wood can break the ground (Earth); Earth can soak up Water, blocking its flow; Water can extinguish Fire; Fire can melt Metal; and Metal can chop Wood. Let's say, for example, you become agitated and heat forms in your heart element. This heat/agitation may overact onto your metal element (lung/large intestine) causing dryness in your lungs and large intestines. This in turn may cause a dry cough and/or constipation.
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