5 Elements TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine

THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN NATURE AND US 

Water. 70% of our planet is covered by water, and about the same amount is present in the human body. Water is the source of all life; without it, everything perishes for good. All manifestations of the water element occur in the body, from steam to liquid, flooding to drought, and freezing cold to boiling hot. Keeping the amount of water in balance, and allowing it to flow easily and proportionally must be optimally managed. The system of kidneys and bladder regulate the amount of water in the body.

Wood. In nature, this is represented by plants and trees, and their related products. From the delicate apple to the woody swede or turnip, from the sapling to flexible bamboo and the solid oak, from delicate foliage to the fleshy agave, wood is manifest in multifarious ways. In humans, wood can be seen in the tendons and nails, as well as the hair. The liver and gallbladder regulate wood in the body.

Fire. The earth's core is a massive ball of iron, glowing at the centre. Magma eruptions explode on its surface, destroying the surrounding areas and creating whole continents in the process. Its heat and fire act as an irresistible catalyst for all processes involving transformation. If we want to change anything from one state to another, we require fire. We need it to convert ice into steam or cast hard metal, roast meats and keep the circulatory system in good condition. The cardiovascular system regulates the element of fire in the body.

Earth. The fields of earth nourish both people and animals. It has to be well cared for, with water, minerals, organic fertilizer, air, light and love. It should also be allowed to fall fallow from time to time, otherwise there is a risk of dehydration and, as a consequence, flooding, which produces only sticky clay or hardened slag, instead of light, fragrant-smelling humus. The stomach and spleen regulate earth in the body.

Metal. Ore, gold and silver, but copper, iron and magnesium, too. Metals are part of the resources produced by the earth and made available to us. As indispensable and essential as electrolytes in the body, iron transports oxygen in the blood like a taxi, and potassium and magnesium are essential for the working of the nervous system and the movement of muscles. Through their “bellows-like” function, the lungs ensure the blood remains saturated, and supplies the body with valuable substances.

Emotions regulate the relationship between the elements, the self and the environment; they assess the circumstances and conditions. Are they good for me or not? Emotions are important, and can also be seen as representatives of the organs. These representatives negotiate in the inner and outer worlds, and manifest our relation to the world. They have direct influence and are at the same time subject to the laws of the elements. Every organ is associated with a certain emotion, which we know from idiomatic expressions such as to love somebody “from the bottom of your heart” and certainly not “from the bottom of your kidneys”! These “old wives’ truths”, cliched and trite as they sound, are fully integrated into Chinese medicine and inseparably involved in our health and well-being. 

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