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.


What Is Your 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


Are You An Earth Person?
Organ Systems: Stomach/Spleen
Emotions: Sympathy, Worry
Basic Function
Process of digestion, metabolism and utilization of nutrients to build tissue


Natures Sunshine Products Earth Chinese Herbs Maybe you're not the "fired-up" kind. Maybe you're more "down to earth." Earth symbolizes the nurturing mother energy, sympathetic, prone to worry and fret and maybe over-motherly to the point it's smothering sometimes. Earth people tend to try to do too much for others and wind up stressed as a result.

Considering the associations of earth with mothering, it's very easy to understand how this earth energy could be associated with our digestive system, the stomach and pancreas (or spleen in Chinese medicine). The stomach receives our food and initiates the digestive process required to nourish us. The pancreas secretes enzymes to finish the process.

However, the Chinese concept doesn't stop with digestion. In Chinese medicine, the spleen was thought to be the organ that transforms the food we eat into flesh of muscle mass. So, the entire process of metabolizing food, and protein in particular, is associated with the Chinese concept of spleen.

We all recognize that worry and stress create stomach upset. "Don't worry too much, it will give you an ulcer." It's not a good idea to eat when we feel rushed and stressed, but in today's face-paced, fast-food world, many of us do it anyway. As a result we often wind up with a sour stomach, bloating, gas, and other signs of digestive upset.

The Chinese Anti-Gas TCM formula (Xiao Dao) is an earth reducing formula that works well for occasional acute indigestion (acid stomach, acid reflux, gas, bloating, foul belching, etc.). It is also a good formula for the person who has a "do it all" kind of attitude where they take on too much trying to help other people. As a result they wind up with worry, stress and the frequent digestive upset that accompanies it.

For the person whose digestion has become weakened, so they are not assimilating nutrients (especially protein) very effectively, the earth increasing Chinese Spleen Activator TCM (Wen Zhong) is a better choice. This is an excellent formula for people who are thin, pale and unable to gain muscle mass. It warms and strengthens the digestive organs and improves metabolic efficiency. The ingredients in the Chinese Spleen Activator TCM nurture the spleen and act as a tonic for the digestive system, helping transform foods into energy.

 
  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
   



Are You A Fire Person?

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


Natures Sunshine Products Earth Chinese HerbsIt's pretty easy to relate to what the element of fire symbolizes in the body. We talk about an excited person as being "all fired up" or a passionate person as being "hot" or "on fire." Fire is the element of enthusiasm, drive, desire, and passion. If you are a person who is full of fire you will be lively, dynamic, outgoing and enthusiastic. When that fire is deficient, you'll feel "burned out."

In Chinese medicine, fire relates to the heart and circulatory system. Fire also relates to the nerves and glands, although in traditional Chinese medicine they didn't really understand the function of the nerves and glands, so they called these systems the triple warmer and sex energy. Still, it's pretty easy to understand that an excess of "fire" in Chinese medicine refers to a high-strung, highly stressed person.

So a person with excess fire might experience anxiety, insomnia, absent-mindedness, extremes of emotion, nervousness and tension, dizziness, light-headedness, mania or even heart palpitations. To quench this excess fire, the Chinese Stress Relief TCM Formula (An Shen) is a good choice. It "pacifies the spirit," as the Chinese would say, or in other words, "calms the nerves."

As we have indicated, a person who has lost their fire would feel "burned-out."
This manifests as fatigue with restless and disturbed sleep patterns. The person feels overwhelmed, tired, nervous but exhausted, and may suffer from emotional sensitivity, muddled thinking, mental confusion, loss of short term memory, loss of sexual desire, and sensations of pressure and pain in the chest that make them feel like something is wrong with their heart. Chinese Nervous Fatigue Formula TCM (Yang Xin) nourishes this deficient fire energy, helping the person to achieve restful sleep and restore their energy. It reduces feelings of stress and fatigue, while cleaning the mind and helping to restore a sense of passion to person's life.


 
  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”
   


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


The Chinese Elements.com water graphicMetal is the stuff that swords and shields are made of, so it should be of little surprise that the guarded, aloof, socially-correct person has a lot of "metal" in them. If you're a metal person, you may have a lot of unacknowledged grief and sadness inside, so you may have shielded yourself to avoid experiencing more emotional pain.

The Chinese associate the metal element with the lungs and colon, but it might be more correct to say that metal element is related to the mucus membranes which line both of these systems. These mucus membrane linings in the digestive tract, lungs, and sinuses are the body's first line of immune defense. Most infections will enter through this route. So, metal is also symbolic of our immune response - swords and shields, again.

Metal invokes ideas of substance, structure and strength. The metal element is associated with autumn because this is the time of year when all things begin to consolidate within themselves.  A metal person would begin to pull all reserves and store up for the coming winter. Although life appears to fade on the surface, it is still present, deep within things.

When there is a tendency to acute respiratory congestion, bronchitis, asthma, wheezing, coughing, allergies, sinus headaches, etc... the metal-reducing formula Breathe Activator TCM (Xuan Fei) can help to open up the congested respiratory passages.

For chronic weakness of the lungs, prolonged grieving, chronic deep coughs, tightness of the chest and other conditions which suggest chronic weakness of the metal energy in the body, Chinese Lung Support TCM (Fu Lei ) is a metal supporting formula that strengthens this primary line of immune defense. It can also help deeply repressed grief and sadness and the inability to express this emotional pain. It's good for people who are aloof and emotionally distant.

 

 
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
   


Are You a Water Person?
Organ Systems: Kidneys/Bladder
Emotions: Fear, Willpower
Basic Function

The Chinese Elements.com water graphicMaintaining balance of water and minerals, storing basic life energy, helping maintain strong structural system

Water symbolically represents fluidity, or the ability to "go with the flow." Hence, if you're person who is like water you will be yielding, flexible, and easy-going. You may also be timid, fearful and "wishy-washy" at times. This is why an excess of fear is thought to be harmful to the kidneys and bladder, the organs logically associated with the water element in Chinese medicine.

The kidneys do more than eliminate waste water, however. They also regulate pH in the blood and maintain fluid and mineral balance. This helps explain to how the kidneys in Chinese medicine also came to be associated with the bones. Weak kidneys create weak bones. This is because waste acids can't be flushed efficiently from the body causing mineral loss from the bones.

When excess water and water-like personality tendencies are too strong in the body, the Chinese Kidney Activator TCM formula (Qu Shi) will help to eliminate excess water from the body. This formula is helpful for edema, scant or clear urine, heavy sluggish feelings, bladder infections and burning urinations.  It can also help people who are timid , fearful and indecisive.

When there is a loss of water - quality in the body , creating brittleness and stiffness, the Chinese formula KB-C TCM (Jain Gu) will strengthen both the kidneys and the bones.  This formula not only aids chronic urinary problems, it is also builds the bones. It is helpful for spinal misalignment, chronic backache (especially in the low back), weak knees and ankles, arthritis and osteoporosis. It is also helpful for people who lack "backbone" or have become so hardened, inflexible and rigid in their thought processes that they can no longer flow with the changes in their lives.



 
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
  Osteoporosis
  Impotency


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

The Chinese Elements.com water graphicWood is symbolic of life and the process of renewing life. In Chinese philosophy, it is associated with assertiveness, aggressiveness, strong drives and anger. When the wood element is weak, that drive is diminished, making a person feel discouraged or depressed, If you are a wood person, you are prone to these types of emotional responses.

Wood relates to the organs of the liver and gallbladder. The liver is the biochemical mastermind of the body. It is the major center for neutralizing environmental toxins and the primary organ for preparing nutrients for transport though the bloodstream, this is why the Chinese say the liver builds the blood. The gallbladder helps digest fats, which are essential to healthy skin, nerves and glands. It also serves as an avenue for eliminating certain types of toxins.

When the liver is stressed and overworked, a person will tend to feel irritable and cranky. They may be restless and unable to get to sleep at night, but feel groggy and "hung over" in the morning. Hypoglycemia, migraine headaches, PMS symptoms, allergies, abdominal pain and skin conditions can all occur when the liver is thus burdened. The Chinese Liver Balance TCM formula (Tiao He) reduces this excess wood energy, supporting the liver and gallbladder in reducing the toxic load in the body.

People who are deficient in wood energy experience weakness in the liver and gallbladder. This results in an inability to move forward in a constructive manner and possible feeling of discouragement and depression. Physically, this chronic weakness of the liver and gallbladder energy would result in fatigue, menstrual problems in women, intestinal inflammation, abdominal pain and chronic liver problems.

To strengthen this deficiency of wood energy the Chinese Blood Stimulator TCM formula (Bu Xue) would be the formula of choice. Chinese Blood Stimulator TCM is especially good for anemia in women or women with scanty menses or prolonged menstrual cycles. It is also helpful for people with vague health problems that doctors say are "all in their head," making the person feel like a hypochondriac. Another formula that helps a weakened condition in the wood element is Chinese Mood Elevator TCM (Jie Yu). This formula helps anxiety, depression, sagging energy and digestive problems.


 
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