The Five Elements

The five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, wood—describe, in metaphor, the harmony and cyclical quality of the natural world. These elements also describe characteristics and functions within the human body. According to Chinese Medicine, we all have a particular element or organ system which needs the most support and can cause a predisposition for illness when out of balance. Five Element acupuncture is constitutionally based and focuses on the cause of the illness, not simply the symptoms. 


Fire is associated with the height of summer and the play, connection and joy the season brings. The Fire energy controls the Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium and circulation in the body. It can be seen mentally in our connection to others, personal maturation and our ability to sustain joy. When the energy is out of balance, communication is stunted, anxiety is common and one can feel lifeless or flat. A balanced Fire element allows you to enter relationships with boundaries and authenticity and manifests in enthusiasm, joy, play and passion.

Physical problems:
anxiety, insomnia, ADD, depression, restlessness, heart palpitations, shock, lack of joy/sadness, vulnerability


Earth is associated with late summer—a time of nourishment and harvest. The Earth, like a good mother, provides us with the care and nourishment we need for mind, body and spirit to thrive throughout the year. The Earth energy controls the stomach and spleen on a physical level and emotionally provides security, grounding and understanding. When Earth energy is out of balance it can cause worry and rumination—when in balance it allows one to connect with nature, friends, family, food while keeping equilibrium and peace.

Physical problems:
digestive issues, worry, menstrual problems, prolapse, fatigue, diarrhea and digestive problems, sinus congestion, food allergies, difficulty falling asleep


Metal is associated with Autumn and the energy of the beauty of the trees in transition and shorter days. We reflect on our values and priorities: What do we hold dear? The Metal energy controls the Lung and Large Intestine on a physical level and mentally relates to beauty, respect and self-worth. When the energy is out of balance, a person may seek perfection, which leads to disappointment and grief of the unobtainable. When in balance, they have a clear, strong spirit and an innate ability to experience inspiration from the mundane and acceptance of whatever life brings them.

Physical problems:
asthma, allergies, fatigue, aches and pains in upper chest or shoulders, IBS, rashes and skin problems, long-term grief or sadness, bowel issues, such as constipation or diarrhea


Water is associated with Winter and the inward power and quiet we need during that season. Winter is dark and we naturally spend more time indoors, quiet and inside ourselves. The energy of water gives us the strength to be more silent, in the dark unknown parts of life, even if that means sitting with fear. On a physical level, Water controls the Bladder and Kidney; both work to remove impurities and as reservoirs for the body. When Water energy is out of balance, fear of survival and exhaustion are common symptoms—when in balance one has a deep sense of meaning, calmness and stamina.

Physical problems:
restlessness, night sweats, issues with libido, fear, lack of endurance, overwhelm, weak bones or teeth, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, dark circles under eyes, hearing problems


Wood is associated with the springtime and the abundant energy of birth and regeneration. Every spring small miracles occur as the seeds thrust out of the earth and everything in nature grows at a rapid pace. The spirit of the Wood element within is represented in upward movement, growth, flexibility and vigor. The Wood energy controls the liver and gallbladder on a physical level and provides the ability to plan and make decisions as well as the vision and determination necessary to make them happen. When this energy is out of balance, it can cause frustration or anger—when in balance Wood brings inner purpose, hope and self-confidence.

Physical problems:
menstrual problems, insomnia, depression, anger and irritability, numbness, migrating pain, PMS, difficulty planning, medical issues of liver and gallbladder, digestive problems, migraines