First, a bit of theory. Chinese philosophy describes the Universe and all who live in it as the Dao. The Dao then splits into Yin and Yang, which are the positive and negative forces which keeps the Universe balanced. Yin and Yang then divide into the 5 Elements of Wood, Water, Fire, Earth and Metal. This completes the cycle of life and can be seen in nature as the 5 seasons, (yep, Chinese philosophy believes there are 5 seasons) with Metal being Autumn, Water being Winter, Wood being Spring, Earth being Summer and Fire being Late Summer. You can see below that the Elements are all interlinked and have the capacity to nourish or control the other. If you’re very interested you can visit an old video blog of mine which talks more in depth about Chinese Medical theory and the 5 Elements.
Sheng/Nourishing cycle (clockwise arrows)
Ke/Controlling cycle (middle arrows)
Your individual Element dictates the way you view the world. It shapes your emotional intelligence and interaction and it also effects your physical organs. In short, your Element defines you and your entire life, including your fate.
So how do you know which Element you are?
An acupuncturist would use a diagnostic method called face reading to look at the different colours on a person’s face. Sounds weird I know, but there are actually 5 different colours that could be showing on the face - blue/black, green, yellow, white and red. We are trained to be able to spot the difference.
Smell is another one. Every Element has its own unique smell and we will be picking up on that too.
The sound of the voice is another. Whether you have a sing-song, lilting voice or a short, clipped voice. All these things inform us of your Element.
But the key one. The one that you might be able to work out at home, is in recognising the emotions. Each Element will have an emotion that pertains to it. Fire is joy and love, Earth is sympathy and compassion, Water is fear and willpower, Wood is anger and determination, Metal is grief and respectfulness.
So how many of you want to be a Fire? It does sound like the best one and I’d be lying if I didn’t think so too. No marks for guessing which Element I am! But there is a down side. Not only do Fire Elements smell of burnt toast, but they care so much about wanting to be loved and liked that they spend all their resources on other people. Your best friend, your colleagues, the lady in the petrol station. It’s exhausting! So Fires will often retreat from society because they’ve burnt up all their energy and they need to refuel. Have you ever had a friend who is the life and soul of the party but then at a certain point in the night they’ve disappeared home without a goodbye. That’s a Fire. They’ve used up all their energy on entertaining you and now they’re spent. But they’ve gone home happy knowing that they’ve done their best at making you like them. There is a physical aspect to this too. Some of the organs that pertain to the Fire Element are Heart and Small Intestine. The Small Intestine is responsible for sifting out what’s needed in the body and getting rid of what’s not necessary. A Fire Element person who is out of balance will be your flaky friend who continues to miss the point.
Whichever Element you are, there are positives and negatives. If you’re a Water Element for example, you’re so scared and fearful of what could go wrong that you’ve already thought about your game plan for every possible eventuality. That’s exhausting for you, but great for everyone else! If you’re in a crisis you want a Water by your side. They’re loyal and protective and for a Fire Element they’re useful to have around as they balance you, and vice versa. Waters are calm on the exterior but inside are bricking it. They’re so bothered about survival that they would never want to show a weakness. The Water energy is also responsible for bone marrow and also governs the Bladder and Kidneys. Water Elements will often have chronic knee or back pain and usually a history of a weak bladder or recurrent bladder infections, or in women often have Endometriosis. They’re your friend who is brutally honest, that has been loyal to you for years, and who you call in a crisis.
Wood Elements. Now you’re the ones that the other Elements don’t mess with. You can be angry individuals. When you lose your temper all other Elements want to run for the hills. But you’re very passionate people and fairness is at the root of all things that you do. You can make exceptional leaders. Wood Elements are seen in Chinese Medicine as little bamboo seeds. Your determination and drive is so strong that you push your way through the soil to get to sunlight. So if you’re trying to get a work project done you want a Wood on your team. These guys just love a list. If you have a notebook next to your bed, chances are you’re a Wood. But beware of addictive behaviours. The Liver is the organ which pertains to the Wood Element and so particularly alcohol addiction can be a big problem for you guys. A Wood Element is your friend that will call you out when you’re being unfair but will bite their tongue for everything else… They don’t want you to see their rage!
Metals are the spiritual guys. They spend a lot of time reflecting on the big questions of life and often have some form of spiritual practice to connect them to the heavens. They’re the type of person that doesn’t ever say too much but when they do it’s bound to be profound so make sure you’re listening. These guys are like the wise owls of the Elements. However their thirst for knowledge and understanding can make them workaholics. They always feel as though they’ve never quite achieved enough and so will go on endless courses and have a list of qualifications as long as your arm. But if you ever complimented them on their education they would stare blankly at you because it feels inadequate to them. Because of this they can be prone to burnout, which is why Metals so often have a meditative practice. The reason for this endless quest to find something is because they always feel as though something is missing from their lives. Grief is the emotion they struggle with the most and so if they lose somebody close to them, these guys will have a difficult time coming to terms with the loss. They’re your friend that will always give you something to think about.
I feel like as women turn into 80-something year olds we all turn into Earth Elements. These are the ones who are always concerned with how you’re feeling. They’re desperate to look after you, bake you cakes, and fluff up your pillows for bed rest. They’re the carers of the Elements and often work in the caring profession. They are martyrs to the very core and thrive on it, so much so that it can be detrimental to their health. Earth Elements find it almost impossible to look after themselves. They’ll sometimes struggle with eating disorders, either failing to nourish themselves or using food to fill a hole in their stomachs that always feels empty. You guys have the nicest sounding smell as you are said to smell fragrant but in truth, that’s just a bad translation… Sorry about that! In reality it’s a clawing, sickly-sweet smell. Because Earth’s are so obsessed with how everyone is feeling they will, if out of balance, often have chronic health complaints that they crave sympathy for. By giving sympathy it feeds the craving and so often, Earth Elements will find themselves locked in an endless cycle of feeling unwell, whether they have physical symptoms or not. They are the Element that gets stuck in a rut and can’t quite pull themselves out. They’re your friend that you want around when you’re poorly, but don’t try returning the favour.
So that’s the 5 Elements in a very rudimentary nutshell.
As it’s Autumn now we should celebrate the Metal Element in all its shiny glory. The Lungs and Large Intestine are the organs pertaining to Metal and so during the Autumn months these organs are a little more fragile than other times of the year. This is why we often catch more colds in the Autumn. The colour for Metal is white and so we must make sure we have plenty of white foods in our diet. As an example, onions, garlic, cauliflower, milk, parsnip, mushrooms, butter beans, chicken, white fish & shrimp. You could make an argument for white bread and pasta but I’m not sure it’s what the ancient Chinese physicians had in mind.
And finally, the link to the hot topic for this month’s newsletter… skin! Every Element has an external organ which can highlight to a practitioner if there are any underlying internal pathologies. 5 Element Acupuncturists will look at a person’s skin to see the state of their Metal/Lung energy. If the skin is dry and flaky your lung energy is deficient. If it’s red and itchy your lungs are hot. If it’s pale and dull your lungs are cold, and if it has puss filled spots your lungs have phlegm. By balancing your energy between the 5 Elements we can correct skin problems with acupuncture. It can really be that simple! So eat white foods, look after your lungs, have some acupuncture and your skin will shine.