Introduction to the Chinese 5 Elements
Traditional Chinese Medicine's Five Element framework is ancient and Universal in what it embodies. It provides a blueprint which indicated how nature interacts with the body and how the different dimensions of our being impact each other.
In the world of Therapeutic Reflexology and Meridian Therapy we also incorporate the Chinese Five Elements. This multi-dimensional view of life offers a diagnostic framework to recognize where imbalances within the body, mind, emotions and spirit lie.
Each of the elements is associated with a plethora of things but for this post we will only look at the season, climate, emotion, bodily tissues and external manifestations.
Metal represent the minerals, vitamins, amino acids & enzymes. These are primarily obtained from our food. Within our cellular system vitamins, minerals and enzymes create and maintain structure and communication which allows vital energy to flow freely.
Problems with the structure and strength of the body and mind are symptoms of a metal imbalance.
The meridians associated with the metal element are the Lung and Colon Meridian.
Season: Autumn The first bouts of colds and flu appear in early autumn and these conditions continue well into winter and spring.
Autumn is a time of slowing down and preparing for winter. During summer we should eat whole foods full of energy and building our reserves and immune system to protect us during winter.
Climate: Dry No weather condition should influence our health. Thus if this occurs we will need to adapt by wearing the correct clothing and adjusting our nutritional intake during these conditions. When someone blames dryness for initiating their illness it confirms that they have a metal imbalance.
Emotion: Grief & Worry Sometimes those who have gone through or is undergoing a period of grief often experience bowel problems and or breathing difficulties. Should the metal element not be balanced it can sometimes last a lifetime. Thus during periods of grief, sadness and worry it is vital that our bodies are sustained with nutrient rich foods.
Bodily Tissues: Skin Skin disorders such as eczema, dry skin, blemishes, hard calluses on the feet, dry heels, corns etc. are indicative of an imbalance in metal element, thus there is a lack of essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes which give these tissues their strength.
External Physical Manifestation: Body Hair Excessive body hair, lack of body hair and Alopecia are evidence of the balance or imbalance of the metal element.
Earth is special among all the elements, because she is their source. An imbalanced rhythm & harmony of the earth element affects all the other elements. The Earth element is linked with the pH balance of the body as well as the blood glucose balance within the body. When we loss control of the earth element it affects all the other elements.
Signs of distress in the earth element manifest in nervousness, instability, disconnectedness & insecurity.
The meridians associated with the earth element are the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas Meridian.
Season: Late Summer (Indian Summer) This is a period where the weather suddenly seems warmer than expected. When our meridians are seriously congested, this is often the time when more serious illness start to take its toll which indicates an imbalance in our earth element.
Climate: Dampness or Humidity When dampness or humidity worsens or betters a condition is an indication that the earth element is not balanced.
Emotion: Sympathy or Compassion Those who cannot receive sympathy and those who manufacture conditions or complaints to gain even more sympathy from others. Also those who constantly need love, chocolates, attention, cigarettes, alcohol in order to cope or function confirms an imbalance in the earth element.
Bodily Tissues: Connective Fatty Tissues The musculature that gives shape and covers the body. An earth imbalance manifest in one of two ways within our connective fatty tissues; overweight, having a shape larger, rounder and those that suffer from eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia) body looks undernourished and thin.
External Physical Manifestation: Flesh Pain in the flesh like fibromyalgia, easily bruising or feeling pain when being hugged is a sign that the flesh lacks nutrition. Other conditions such as chronic fatigue also confirm an imbalance in the earth element.
Fire is synonymous with electrolytes and Chi. Symptoms of an unbalance fire element is
expressed as; hot painful joints, fever, hot flushes, inflammations, heartburn, digestive problems, sexual coldness, lack of emotional warmth to other human beings, poor circulation of blood making the extremities very cold, varicose veins & haemorrhoids.
The meridians associated with the fire element are the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and Triple Burner(Endocrine) Meridian.
Season: Summer During summer we need to eat wholesome nutritional foods so we can store the vital energy these foods contain to carry us through autumn and winter. A feeling of general dissatisfaction in which nothing gets done, feeling cold within, longing for summer to feel warm indicates an unbalance fire element. When the element fire is trapped within summer heat might exacerbate conditions.
Climate: Heat Those who love hot weather as their body feels cold or those who dislikes hot or even warm weather as they battle to regulate their body temperature through either excessive perspiration or no perspiration indicates an imbalance in the fire element.
Emotion: Joy and Happiness & our Psyche An excess of joy or a lack of joy is an indication that the fire element is imbalanced. There are phrases in our language like “half-heartedly, faint hearted, lion hearted or feeling broken hearted which also indicates that someone’s fire element is unbalanced.
Emotionally the fire element relates to love, happiness, gentleness and forgiveness. The fire element also stimulates both physical body warmth and psychological warmth.
Bodily Tissues: Blood Vessels Conditions such as atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, varicose veins, cold and feet all confirm that the fire element is lacking or low. The temperature of our extremities reveals the state of vital energy flow within our bodies, as well as the state of body relaxation. Relaxation is important for our health as it keeps us in tune with life on a physical and psychological plane.
External Physical Manifestation: Complexion The skin colour and texture is an indication of whether our fire element is in balance. A natural healthy glow to the face indicates that the fire element is in balance. A dull skin tone and poor quality of skin indicates that there is an imbalance in the fire element. A red complexion, red palms and red soles of the feet is also an indicator that the fire element is out of control.
Water represents the sodium/potassium balance within the human body.
Water is the essential medium of our body, through which all things pass. Water must stay in motion. The state of the water element in your body may reflect the state of your emotions.
The meridians associated with the water element are the Kidney & Bladder Meridians.
Season: Winter In nature winter is a time of rest. In humans we still need to keep active in order to remain warm and keeps our energy flowing. It is recommended that we eat more root vegetables during this time to sustain our energy. When your water element is out of balance winter might be a difficult season to cope with, cold tends to settle in our bones and we are plagued by cold and flues.
Climate: Cold When cold condition worsens pain particularly joints or brings about illness or alleviates illness an imbalance in the water element is evident.
Emotion: Fear & Phobias Fear and phobias might be as a result of an imbalance water element or the cause of the imbalance. This person is usually OK throughout the day but anytime from 3 – 7pm fears and phobias are pronounced. For example a mother might become anxious or fearful when she needs to collect her kids during this time as there is an increase in traffic, dangerous drives or because she needs to rush home in traffic to cook a meal for her family.
Bodily Tissues: Hard Connective Tissue (Bones, Bone marrow, Nails and Teeth) Nails that split or is soft or peeling is indicates that water element is not in balance as well conditions like osteoarthritis and feeling of pain in the bones.
External Physical Manifestation: Head Hair The condition of your head hair indicates whether you have an unbalanced water element. Brittle, split, thinning dry or broken hair indicates an unbalanced water element as well as baldness (not to be confused with alopecia) and dandruff.
Wood represents the quality of food. The wood element refers to the growing structures, ligaments, tendons & muscles that hold the human body upright & together. An imbalance results in poor flexibility, arthritis & muscular disorders.
Wood element creates our mental clarity, ability to focus, plan & decision making. Overdeveloped wood result in excessive mental activity (“control freaks” who can’t relax & are prone to migraines & temple headaches)
The meridians associated with the wood element are the Liver and Gallbladder Meridians.
Season: Spring Those with an imbalance in the wood element might experience depression to worsen in spring or that spring is the only time of the year that they feel well.
Climate: Wind Conditions like dry or teary eyes are usually worse during windy conditions. Some might feel that their gout worsens during gale force winds or windy storms. Any condition which worsens or improves during a certain climate indicates that there is an imbalance in the relevant element.
Emotion: Anger We all get angry at times but when this is a continuous occurrence it is an indication that the wood element is unbalanced. Those who have an unbalanced wood element tend to be very angry people. They pick fights with others for no apparent reason; they have difficulty in calming down after an anger outburst and might be angry with themselves and those around them. A balanced wood element results in people who are able to handle the pressures of life, make complex life decision, plan ahead and execute those plans successfully.
Bodily Tissues: Ligaments, tendons and muscles Those with an imbalance in the wood element experience muscular weakness, they tend to have a forward bending posture. The feet may present with claw toes, high arches or flat footedness which indicates weakness in the ligaments and tendons in the feet. Good quality shoes with supportive insoles are necessary until the wood imbalance can be corrected.
External Physical Manifestation: Nails Discolouring, white spots, fungal growth, indentations and vertical ridges of the nails might indicate an imbalanced wood element. The quality of your nails is linked to the quality of your food intake. Vertical ridges on the nails indicated an excessive intake of high acid-forming foods. White spots appear on the nails when sugary food intake is high and also when too many stimulants are taken. Stimulants deplete the mineral content of the body’s cells. Indentations occur during severe lifestyle changes. This could be anything from severe dietary changes, strong medication or illness.
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