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The Five Elements
  • ‘Every living thing and every person on the planet is a unique embodiment and combination of the five Elements.’


    When looking at nature you will see the unique ways that the five elements flow through human life. When we strip things down to there most simple forms we have the Dao, the way to the life that endures’ and Qi, which is spiritual energy that flows through our bodies and keeps us alive.


    The flow of Qi at the most fundamental levels flows between the yin of darkness and the yang of light. Nothing is ever static and this flow is a natural phenomenon like the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Within the theory of the five elements this flow between yin and yang is divided further to look at the energy flow through the five elements which are linked to the five seasons of late summer, autumn, winter, spring and summer.


    The name for this flow between the five elements is called the Sheng cycle. Logically the elements flow naturally between each other, the minerals in the earth lead to metal, condensation on metal leads to water, water leads to new life and wood, which in turn is fuel for fire, and the ashes of fire nourish the earth. It is therefore vital to understand that if within this cycle one of the elements is unbalance it will unbalance the whole cycle. This is because each element is responsible for nourishing the element that it flows to, for example the fire element nourishes the earth element. Therefore if an element is in crisis it will not nourish the next element in the cycle affecting the whole system.


    It is believed that within nearly all humans there is an imbalance within one of the five elements and through looking at a person’s colour, sound, odour and emotion a five element acupuncturist can find which element is out of balance and this is what is called a persons’ causative factor, and if this imbalance is supported, health is restored to all of the elements.


    One way that acupuncturists support a causative factor is using the Ke cycle, this can be called the controlling cycle because within the five element there are elements which can control another element, for example water controls fire by putting it out, fire controls metal by melting it, metal controls wood by being able to cut it down, wood controls earth by driving its roots through it and using its nutrients and lastly earth controls water by holding or barring its way.


    Each element has a number of organs which were described by the Chinese as the officials within a royal court, these organs work with the elements to support the body, for example the earth elements are the stomach and spleen which extract and transport the food Qi, nourishment from the earth, to the rest of the body.


    However it is important to remember the importance of the interaction between all the elements and that you should not only consider an element in isolation but also remember that it is part of the cycle of life.

The Author

Genevieve Hurst

Lic. Ac BA Hons MBAaC

Accredited with the British Acupuncture Council

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