Five Element Theory

The Theory of Five Elements holds that everything in the universe consists of five basic elements and their motion, change and direction:

Element Direction Season Organ
Water North Winter Kidneys
Fire South Summer Heart
Wood East Spring Liver
Metal West Autumn Lungs
Earth Centre Late Summer Spleen

In TCM, (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the Theory of Five Elements not only describes the physiology and pathology of the human body, but also describes the interrelationship of the human being with the outside environment. In the diagnosis and treatment of disease the Five Elements Theory serves as a guide for the Practitioner. Each of the 5 Elements represents a season in the yearly cycle.

At the heart of the Theory of Five Elements is the attempt to research and explain all things in the universe and unify all things in the universe. In simple terms the TCM Practitioner interprets your relationship with nature - the functioning of our body and mind and how we change with the seasons and time. Example: some individuals don't do very well in climates of extreme humidity if they have a tendency to retain fluids. This person would have their environment damp and their body would struggle much more living in a humid climate versus a dry climate.

Diagnosis and Treatments of Diseases:

The functioning of the visceral organs is manifested by many outward signs. By observing these signs the condition of the visceral organs (listed above) may be understood. These outward signs include: complexion (red, pale, dry etc.,); voice (weak, strong, crackly, panting between words etc.), physical condition and behavior and the condition of the pulse. Therefore, the disease and type of pathology occurring in the internal organs can be deduced from information obtained through the four diagnostic methods (inspection (looking), auscultation (hearing) and olfaction (smell), inquiring (interview/ consultation/patient history), and pulse-taking and palpation (physical exam, tightness of muscles/ lumps, cold feet, etc.). Using these diagnostic methods, outward signs of disease can be obtained and internal pathology can be understood.

Referenced from 'The Fundamentals of Acupuncture and Moxibustion; The Chinese Way to Health, Dr. Stephen Gascoigne; The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Giovanni Maciocia