Five Element Theory

What is the Five Element Theory in Acupuncture?

The Five Element theory is one of the major ideas behind the Philosophy of Chinese Medicine.  Ancient Chinese doctors believed that the way the human body works is the same as how nature works. They believe the body is made up of five elements, water, metal, fire, wood and earth.  In acupuncture, the internal organs, body tissues, sense, emotions, and even properties of medicine are all categorized according to these elements.

Although many ancient philosophies and medicines show a foundation in elements, not all elements are exactly the same. Ancient India and Greece utilized four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Japanese five elements include: earth, water, fire, wind, and void.  Each element has equal importance due to the relationships which support life.

In order to have summer, we must have fall, winter, and spring. Life regenerates and the consistencies in nature ensure that life regenerates. Each element is unique and has a role to play in our lives.  Acupuncture is able to tap into these elements, releasing more of one element that our body may need.

For example being cool and dark like night, water represents our need to sleep and regenerate.  So in acupuncture the water element is used to tackle ailments like insomnia. The Five Elements relate to different body parts, wood (liver and gall bladder), fire (heart, small intestine, triple energizer, pericardium), earth (spleen, stomach), metal (lung, colon) and water (kidney, bladder). It’s like a map of the body which reflect all levels of function, including but not limited to, the anatomic and physiologic functioning of the organ systems, including behavior, psychological state, relationships and career choices.

The Five Element Theory allows us to treat the patients illness by understanding the systems of the body.  The system of correspondences aids in the understanding of the diverse information gathered from the patient. Both physical and emotional symptoms can be placed within this diagnostic framework.