The Five Elements in Chinese Medicine

By Mr. Steven Horne

We all have a constitution that influences the types of illness we are prone to. Every person is genetically unique.
These differences not only give us unique personalities, they also make us different biochemically. This is why the same diet that will keep one person healthy will make another person ill.It's also why an herbal formula for a particular condition will work for some people, but not for others.

These differences in our genetic make-up are called our constitution. Our basic personality traits make us prone to certain types of disorders.For example, some of us are nervous and excitable and prone to anxiety and nervous disorders. These constitutional traits are due to the basic patterns of energy (qi) in our system.

Over time, without doing anything to maintain our health, we will tend to drift out of balance in the direction of these general tendencies.

To further understand health, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) further divides the way energy (qi) manifests itself into five phases or "elements."
These five types of energy are symbolized by the physical forms of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Keeping our constitution in balance is the long term solution to maintaining health!

By taking an herbal formula designed to balance these basic metabolic functions, you bring your whole body into greater balance and harmony, and hence, greater health.

Read the description of the element(s) below. If the description fits you, you'll want to try one of the Chinese herbal formulas that balance that element.

Earth is related to the stomach and pancreas. Earth people are nurturing, helpful and loyal. Details
Fire is related to the nerves, circulation and glands. Fire people are charismatic and charming. Details
Metal is related to the lungs and colon. Metal people are precise, orderly and reserved. Details
Water is related to the kidneys and bladder. Water people are calm, patient and peaceful. Details
Wood is related to the liver and gallbladder. Wood people are bold, driven and decisive. Details

The Earth Element

Organ Systems: Stomach/Spleen
Emotions: Sympathy, Worry
Basic Function
Process of digestion, metabolism and utilization of nutrients to build tissue

  Frequent bad breath
  Belching after meals
  Cravings for sugar
  Intestinal gas and bloating
  Sour stomach, acid indigestion
  Temporary loss of appetite
  Foul taste in mouth
  Poor protein digestion
  Low energy levels
  Prolonged illness or loss of energy
  Poor muscle tone or thin and unable to gain weight
  Chronically poor appetite
  Shallow breathing
  Constant bloating or intestinal irritation

The Fire Elements

Organ Systems: Heart/Small Intestine
Emotions: Excitement, Joy
Basic Function
Generates warmth and energy, circulates blood, promotes activity

  Nervous, excitable
  Anxiety, muscle tension
  Dizzy or light-headed
  Toss and turn in sleep, restless sleep
  Too much stress
  Talks to fast, difficulty slowing down
  Highly emotional
  Cold hands and feet
  Loss of sex drive
  Muddled thinking and confusion
  Waking up frequently, restless dreams
  Forgetfulness, absent-mindedness
  Feeling overwhelmed and burned out
  Night sweats Feeling “Burned out”


The Metal Elements

Organ Systems: Lungs/Colon
Emotions: Sadness, Grief
Basic Function
Receiving and discharging waste, protecting the body from infection and regulating vital energy


Symptoms of Excess Metal
  Acute respiratory congestion, asthma
  Coughing, sneezing
  Sinus congestion
  Sinus headaches
  Swollen lymph glands
  Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  Allergies, hay fever
Symptoms for Deficient Metal
  Chronic infection in lungs
  Chronic lung weakness, wheezing
  Withdrawn, long-term grief, sadness, hardness of heart
  Dry, unproductive cough
  Tightness in chest
  Feeble speaking
  Tuberculosis, emphysema

The Water Elements

Organ Systems: Kidneys/Bladder
Emotions: Fear, Willpower
Basic Function
Maintaining balance of water and minerals, storing basic life energy, helping maintain strong structural system


Symptoms of Excess Water
  Water retention, edema
  Sluggish, tired
  Wake up at night to urinate
  Urinary infections or burning urination
  Prostate swelling
  Scanty or pale urine
  Fearful, indecisive, timid
  Backache, joint swelling or pain
Symptoms of Deficient Water
  Dark circles under eyes
  Chronic back pain, spinal misalignment
  Neck pain, stiff neck
  Leg cramps or pains
  Weak knees, ankles, legs
  Arthritis, gout

The Wood Elements

Organ Systems: Liver/Gallbladder
Emotions: Anger, Irritability
Basic Function
Builds and stores blood and regulates the smooth flow of qi (energy)

Symptoms of Excess Wood
  Nausea, vomiting, flu-like symptoms
  Alternating diarrhea and constipation
  Anger, defensiveness
  Headaches, dizziness
  Discomfort under right rib cage
  Fatigue in the mornings, groggy
  Bitter taste in the mouth
  Stiff and achy muscles
Symptoms of Deficient Wood
  Hypoglycemia or afternoon fatigue
  PMS symptoms and moodiness
  Depressed, discouraged feelings
  Hypochondriac feelings
  Frequent skin eruptions
  Difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty waking
  Frequent skin problems
  Frequent fatigue