Related Articles & Notes
- The Five Element Theory
David W Bates www.therapiesguide.co.uk
Five Element Theory is a theory developed by Ancient
Chinese philosophers that is still widely used
today in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
was through observation of nature that they
came to believe it was possible to predict
how natural changes, within our bodies,
and outside environment can affect our health.
Practitioners used the relationship of five
elements and the meridians or channels of
energy within the human body to bring conflicting
body forces back into balance.
five elements were described as:-
were identified as the five elemental forces embodied
in the natural world. Each of these elemental
forces are also associated with major organs of
the body. By use of the properties these elements
possess together with how the Yin/Yang balance
of the body was structured it was possible to
correct any imbalance of the body, and hence potential
illness, can be averted or arrested.
body elements/functions are divided into Yin/Yang
tendencies, these are then subdivided into elements
or qualities. The Yin and Yang concept is a basic
principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine they
are terms used to describe the balance of any
item in nature. These two forces are said to be
in confliction and must always be in balance for
the item to be in its natural state. So if the
Yang is described as "hot", the Yin
will be described as "cold"; similarly
if Yang is "outside", then Yin is "inside";
thus any imbalance of these forces will be seen
as a major contributor to ill health.
Five Element Cyles, Relationships and Interactions
table gives an idea of how the Five Elements ,
the Yin and Yang and the Body/Mind functions are
all connected it shows each of the elements, the
body/mind relationships associated with each organ
and how they react to a variety of phenomena.
Acupuncturists will use these relationships to
help form a diagnosis when there are conflicting
signs and symptoms.
Five Element Theory states that each elemental
force generates or creates the next element in
a creative sequenceor cycle e.g.
Rain will nourish a tree
(water element) supports the Liver (wood
wood will generates fire
(wood element) supports the Heart (fire
is created from the fire
(fire element) supports the Spleen (earth
is mined from the earth
(earth element). supports
the Lung (metal element)
will condense on metal
(metal element) supports the Kidney (water
simple example illustrating how both these concepts
are used is :-
If a diagnosis of a patient shows an excessive
Yang condition in an energy related to a "fire"
element, you could assume this is being caused
by the Yin condition being in the "water"
element (i.e. not enough water to control the
fire), or they may find an Yang condition in the
in the "wood" element (i.e. too much
wood feeding the fire). If you now consider the
"fire" as the heart, the "water"
as the kidneys, and the "wood" as the
liver, you can begin to see the concept of interaction/balance
and how a typical treatment may be constructed.
This also explains the reason why the Acupuncturist
may ask a lot more questions than a typical Western
physician as they inquire about seemingly unrelated
topics. A Western physician would seldom ask if
you have trouble urinating or other kidney-related
questions like a craving for salt when you go
for a heart checkup, yet surprisingly, Western
science has led to many similar conclusions (excessive
salt can be bad for your heart).
The theory itself is simple but the relationships
and diagnosis can become quite complex with creation
cycles and destruction or controlling cycles,
etc. Most body functions are divided into Yin/Yang
tendencies, then subdivided into elements or qualities.
Another important difference in Eastern and Western
medicine is that every traditional Oriental diagnosis
is individual and unique. Two persons with the
same symptoms may receive completely different
treatments because the cause of their "imbalances"
may be different. Oriental medicine looks for
the "causes" of the disease, not necessarily
treating the symptoms directly.
Chinese Medicine still uses this ancient, diagnostic
method to analyse how the various parts of a person's
body and mind can interact to affect their health
and wellbeing. Modern acupuncturists also use
the five element theory but in varying degrees
depending on the individual practitioner and what
style of acupuncture they practice.