Five Elements Theory: Fire, Water, Earth, Wood & Metal

In ancient China, doctors relied upon their senses to diagnose and treat illness. Sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch were all used in careful observation to formulate associations between the physical and inner workings of the body. Through this observation, they noticed similarities between the natural elements and the body. A concept of health care that encompasses both systems was developed. The Five Element Theory is the concept that certain elements are linked to specific organ systems and individual personality traits.

Earth is linked to digestion and stomach. “Mother” Earth traits include nurturing, serene and relaxed. Metal is linked to respiration and elimination. “Organizer” Metal traits are exhibited as organized, self-contained, independence and aloofness. Water is linked to urination. “Observer” Water traits appear timid, fearful, submissive and careful. Wood is linked to toxic processing and liver. “General” Wood traits include assertiveness, dominance and decisiveness. Fire is linked to circulation and heart. “Emperor” Fire traits are energetic, playful, sensitive and affectionate. Practitioners understood that the elements themselves do not represent static objects, but instead a continuous cycle of change. It is the process of change that underlines the Five Element Theory. Similarities between the physical world and the physical body resemble a circular rhythm, known as the Creation Cycle. In poetic Chinese, the Creation Cycle says ‘that fire burned creating earth (soil). Earth gave rise to mountains, which contain metal ores. Metal separated making way for the water. Water flowed and nourished the woods of the trees. The trees vulnerable to burning kindled fire.’

To maintain the harmonious circular rhythm, Traditional Chinese Medicine employs checks and balances to keep the elements in their correct place within the five elements. When one element pair becomes excessive or deficient, it will impact the other organ systems by causing them to become too imbalanced. In order to help maintain balance in the body, each element can help control another: fire melts metal; metal chops wood; wooden tree falls blocking the earth; earth (soil) builds up to dam water; water floods and douses fire.

Effects of imbalance are exhibited as follows, as symptoms your pet might display:

  • Earth (spleen/pancreas/stomach): GI upset, overeating, excessive worrier
  • Metal (lung/large intestine): Respiratory problems, excessive sadness
  • Water (kidneys/bladder): Deafness, hind-end weakness, kidney problems, arthritis
  • Wood (liver/gall bladder): Irritability, liver problems
  • Fire (heart/small intestine): Anxiety, insomnia

For more information regarding The Five Elements Theory and how it affects your pet, feel free to contact Dr. Cara Gardner via email at c.gardner.dvm@bracpet.com or call her at 317.726.2711.

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