Chinese Medicine: The Five Elements

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine: The Five Elements

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Traditional Chinese Medicine TheoryChinese Medicine at a Glance

When people think of acupuncture usually two thoughts come to mind, one being how does it work, and the other being  the idea of using points on the skin to stimulate functions in the body. Well if you haven’t studied acupuncture, you may not even fathom some of the concepts that we use, but do not worry, for that is part of the fun!
I have been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but there are acupuncturist who study Japanese and Korean forms of acupuncture. It really comes down to the practitioner, not the type of style that they use, that makes a difference.

The Five elements theory was formed in China around 221 B.C.,which was known in China as the Zhou Dynasty, right before the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC) and the Qin Dynasty (221BC). You can wiki or Google to find more information on the different dynasties, fascinating stuff…any ways, it was derived from Natural observations through the hard working life style.

The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.  They are all connected and work towards promoting and controlling each other. There are many characteristics associated with each element, including certain weather patterns, sounds, foods, body tissues, and even specific diseases. There are multiple theories to explain how the cycle of the elements, but the most basic is that each element promotes the other, thus

Wood –>Fire–>Earth–>Metal–>Water–>Wood–>Fire–>etc

So as you can see the concept of treating the body as a whole comes from the concepts of the five elements. Each body part represents a major organ or major process in the body, and if one system is out of dysfunction, then the rest can follow in disharmony.

As you can see this is a brief introduction into the inner workings of acupuncture through Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are other resources available to you, such as the ones I have listed below:

Sacred Lotus – Information on Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine – General information on Acupuncture.


Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibution, Cheng Xinnong, 1999