The Five Constitutional Elements
“The Five Elements are the basic energies of the universe and they are reflected in the
human body and mind. They are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each Element has its
own characteristics and qualities which are reflected in the human body and mind.The
Elements are constantly interacting with each other and this interaction is what keeps us
healthy or makes us ill”
J.R Worsely- JR Worsely Institute
In Five Element acupuncture, the elements serve as a conceptual framework for understanding the movement of energy in nature and our bodies. The Twelve Officials refer to roles assigned to the organs and functions within our bodies, which are likened to Ministers overseeing various bodily functions. These Ministers are connected to specific energy pathways called Meridians. This combined framework allows for a comprehensive description and evaluation of energy movement within the body. Acupuncturists utilize this system to assess and treat patients, analyzing the flow of energy through the pulses.
The primary cause of physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses is an imbalance in one of the Five Elements that is present in every individual, known as the Causative Factor. This imbalance remains constant throughout a person’s life, regardless of any changes in symptoms over time. Treatment focuses on restoring balance to the personalized CF, which allows symptoms to naturally improve, observed in all affected systems and levels.
How is the CF diagnosed?
Outside of enquiry, there are four diagnostic pillars: odor, color, sound, and emotion. Each element has specific associations with these sensory indicators which need to be accurately perceived by a 5 Elmement practitioner and done by observing at least three of these indicators.
The Five Constitutional Factors:
The element of Wood symbolizes the commencement of life and fresh starts, offering determination and motivation. The element of Fire signifies affection and passion, signifying maturity. The Earth element embodies the act of nurturing and showing concern for others. The Metal element denotes self-value and the capacity to release. The Water element embodies resilience and the act of purifying. Whenever these elements become unbalanced, they may exhibit various indications such as alterations in hue, scent, noise, and sentiment.
Wood Element – The Liver / Gall Bladder
Wood represents the energy associated with spring and signifies the start of new beginnings and fresh starts. It provides us with confidence, assertiveness, and the ability to move forward. The gall bladder and liver are the governing organs relating to Wood energy.
The prevailing emotion is anger. Anger, when expressed appropriately, can serve as the driving force to overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. However, an imbalance in the Wood element can result in constant anger and frustration, even without any apparent reason for it. This imbalance leads to a constant sense of conflict, where everything and everyone is perceived as an adversary. On the other extreme, an imbalanced Wood patient may lose hope and vision, relinquishing self-assertion, self-direction, and the ability to feel anger, even when it is justified.
For Wood the Yin Official is the Liver, the ‘Official in Charge of Strategic Planning’ or ‘The General’, and the Yang Official is the Gall Bladder, the ‘Official in Charge of Judgements and Decisions’. The Liver is responsible for planning, for looking forward and having vision in all respects while the Gall Bladder brings into effect the schemes of the Liver by providing the details as to how they are to be achieved, activities essential to Wood’s season of spring with its springing to life and the start of new growth.
The Officials can also be understood as archetypes according to Charles A. Moss
The visionary and the Warrior.’ When adapted, the Wood Types derive tremendous vitality through maintaining a vision of where they wanbt to get o in the future and how they can make it happen.’
‘The warrior ( who is also a pioneer) archetype is based on the the expansive energy of the wood element, which is associated with the birth of the yang energyin the Spring.
The Spirit is the Hun
The deeper Taoist Spirit quality is the Hun. This can be translated as the “etherial or Heavenly Soul” which represents the ability to dream, see the future, elevate above restrictions and clarify goals. It’s the aspect of the person that ascends to heaven upon death. ( heaven being the formless)
“The Hun is the root of renewal and rebirth from moment to moment and day to day, creating hope for a better tomorrow. The Hun brings a high level of energy and creativity, action for change, boldness, and focus on goals. It Brings the confidence that enables one to strike out in new directions with a clear vision of the future, and the srapiness to fight to manifest one’s desires.” Charles A Moss-Power of the Five Elements
Fire – Heart / Small Intestine / Tripple heater / Pericardium
The fire element connects to Summer season, providing warmth and light, granting us the ability to love and be loved. It is the power of maturity. Its Officials are the heart, small intestine, heart protector (PC), and Triple Heater (SJ). Its color is red. In the case of a fire-imbalanStomachced patient,
The sound of laughing and the emotion joy will inappropriately predominate, or its opposite–lack of laughter and joy. In the case of excess, the person will laugh at things that are not remotely funny, or express joy when another emotion would be appropriate. When lacking, it is hard for a fire CF to laugh, even when things are funny, or one who cannot feel any joy, even in the midst of warm and happy circumstances.
The Officials for Fire:
For Fire there are two pairs of Officials. For the first pair the Yin Official is the Heart, ‘The Supreme Controller’, and the Yang Official is the Small Intestine, ‘The Separator of the Pure from the Impure’ or ‘The Sorter’.
The Heart holds the office of lord and sovereign and the Small Intestine is responsible for making things thrive and for delivering pure Qi to the Heart. For the second pair of Fire Officials the Yin Official is the ‘Heart Protector’ which protects the Heart from insult and injury and the Yang Official is the ‘Triple Heater’, the distributor of Qi throughout the body and a thermostat which keeps the heat of the body in balance.
The Lover & Protector of the Heart: give us the ability to develop the deepest and most intimate connection between people and erotic love. These archeyptes allow us to open our heart and take risks, feel safe in vulnerability and have long term relationships and friendships.
The Spirit: The Shen
“Shen and the heart create receptivity, serenity, and stability, while allowing the radiance and light to burst forth in love and affection. In another sense, the heart is the centre of the ‘Kingdom’ of the body, mind and spirit and is the source of the heavenly mandate that leads to awareness of all the functions of the body and to a unified ‘policy’ set forth by the emperor.’ Charles A Moss
Earth Element – Stomach & Spleen
Earth represents the energy during the late summer, which is a time of harvest. It enables us to nurture and take care of both ourselves and others. It is connected to the mother figure , our initial source of sustenance.
An individual with an Earth imbalance may excessively seek sympathy or completely reject it. Such a person may prioritize their own need for sympathy, disregarding others, or exhaust themselves by solely caring for everyone else.
For Earth the Yin Official is the Spleen, the ‘Transformer and Transporter Official’, and the Yang Official is the Stomach, the ‘Rotter and Ripener’ of food and drink. The Spleen and the Stomach work closely together with the Stomach receiving food, processing it and then passing on food energy to be distributed by the Spleen which is considered to be the source of life for the other organs and between them they fulfil the harvesting and nourishment aspects of Earth’s season of late summer.
Archetypes: The Mother/ Provider
The mother represents the unconditional love of a healthy mother and the nourishing qualities that exist within us all. If imbalanced can shift into being the Martyr.
The Spirit: The Yi
‘The spiritual quality of the Earth Element is the Yi, translated as intent, memory and thought. Yi contains the memory and feelings, smells, and touch, including the first memories of life, whether the positive experiences of being on the mother’s breast, or the coldness and fear of a sterile hospital room.’ Charles A Moss
The Metal Element – Lung & Large Intestine
Metal represents the vitality of autumn. It provides us with our self-esteem and the ability to recognize the worth of others, to be motivated, to embrace new beginnings, and to release anything that is unnecessary or wasteful. It is affiliated with the fatherly figure.
The emotion connected to it is sorrow – the appropriate sentiment when facing separation or loss. In individuals who are imbalanced in the metal element, this emotion may be excessive, even in the absence of a specific reason for grieving. It is more of a pervasive feeling of regret, remorse, and profound loss. In certain cases, the person may deny their grief and be unable to experience it at all. As a result, by avoiding the pain of sorrow, they are unable to find emotional release, eliminate what is stagnant and harmful, or recognize what is fresh and inspiring.
For the Metal Element the Yin Official is the Lungs which are known as the ‘Receiver of Qi from the Heavens’ and the Yang Official is the Large Intestine, known as the Official responsible for the ‘Drainage of the Dregs’. The Lungs take in heavenly Qi and the Large Intestine lets go by eliminating refuse which together epitomise Metal’s season of autumn when goodness is taken into store for the winter and when there is generally a time for letting go.
The Archetype: The Alchemist
‘The ability to find what is unique, valuable and worthwhile in oneself and in daily life captures the essence of the positive attributes of the Metal Element and of the Alchemist, it’s archetype. Accomplishing this leads to appreciating the value in other people and the gift of life itself.’ Charles A Moss
The Po: ‘connection to the ‘heavenly father’, the source of inspiration, purity, piety, higher purpose, wonder, and awe.’
Water Element – Kidney & Bladder
Winter is characterized by water as it represents the coldest and darkest season. During this time, nature seems dormant, but the potential of winter is immense. It provides us with strength, adaptability, and purification. Winter is a period of rest and replenishment, allowing us to gather our energy and recharge. It is associated with the bladder and kidney.
Fear is the dominant emotion, which is appropriate as it encourages us to be cautious and alert to potential dangers. Individuals with an imbalance of water may exhibit fear, anxiety, and heightened vigilance towards imagined threats, even though there may be no real danger. Alternatively, they may deny their fear and present a facade of fearlessness and toughness.
For Water the Yin Official is the Kidneys, the ‘Controller of Fluids’, and the Yang Official is the Bladder, the ‘Controller of the Reservoir’. The Kidneys are responsible for the creation of power and the Bladder works with the power of the Kidneys and distributes and stores fluids around the body, again reflecting Water’s season of winter, a time of preserving resources and of conserving energy.
The Archetype: The Sage
The Sage, the water element archetype, represents the power of the Water energy to transform fear and doubt to wisdom and trust the promote the acceptance of the unknown and the unknowable as a part of life.’ ‘ The sage contains the knowledge and experience accumulated by past generations and the awareness and patience to understand how to apply these lessons.’ Charles A Moss
The Spirit: Zhi
The Zhi translates as will and intent including the concepts of will power, ambition, and self-actualization. Zhi is the will to bring into life from the inner world of the DNA the manifestation of the species.’ ‘is the will that we all draw from to survive ordeals , overcome obstacles, and persevere against hardships.’ ‘is the will to overcome our greatest fears, to heal, to change to maintain life against the odds’ Charles A Moss
Finding the balance
Five element acupuncture is a therapeutic practice that aims to restore balance in the body by addressing the interconnectedness of nature’s five elements. Through targeted treatment, this acupuncture technique recognizes that imbalances in these elements can manifest as physical and emotional ailments, disrupting overall wellbeing. By stimulating specific acupuncture points, practitioners believe they can regulate the flow of energy, or Qi, within the body, encouraging the restoration of harmonious balance, alleviating symptoms, and promoting holistic healing.
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For more information visit: JR Worsely Institute: Worsley Institute, Home of Worsley Five-Element Acupuncture – Worsley Institute Website
The Power of the 5 Elements- Charles A.Moss : Power of the Five Elements