Updated: 11 hours ago
Welcome to this article series on Tradition Chinese Medicine (TCM). The aim of this series is to provide you with foundational and practical knowledge of TCM that you can use to improve your own health at home in daily life. The recommendations in this series are simple, accessible, and mostly free. After all, good health should be something that is accessible to everyone!
Here is a clickable table of contents for this series:
This article is Part 2: The Five Elements Profiles
Last time, we talked about foundational knowledge of TCM: yin yang, qi, blood, and the five elements. Recall that the five elements is a framework that connects the natural world to our bodies in terms of organs, emotions, flavors, colors, and more.
Image Source: PowerPoint Wizardry by Yours Truly
This article will go in-depth into the five elements. Here is a clickable table of contents to help you navigate the article:
Part 1: Characteristics
1.1 🌳 Characteristics
The wood element season is spring; this is when all the new plants are growing. As expected, the wood element’s color is green, just like spring. The taste associated with wood is sour because fruits are still new and unripe in the spring, and so they have a sour taste.
1.2 🔥 Characteristics
The fire element season is summer; this is when we have the most amount of heat and sun. As expected, the color associated with fire is red. Intuitively, you might think fire has the spicy taste, but the fire element is actually associated with the bitter taste. Here’s a good way to remember this: During spring, plants are still small and often get eaten by bugs, but as they grow bigger in the summer, they produce bitter chemicals that make them less appealing to bugs.
1.3 🌱 Characteristics
The earth element is linked to the late summer season. This is the time when fruits ripen and become sweet, hence the taste associated with earth is sweet. The color associated with earth is yellow because yellow grass comes out late summer.
1.4 🛠 Characteristics
The metal element is associated to the season of autumn, which is all about the falling leaves. Falling leaves represent letting go of things we don’t need and only holding onto the necessary things. The color of the metal element is white, which symbolizes death. The taste associated with metal is pungent and aromatic, which you’ll notice in fragrant spices like garlic, ginger, and basil. The sound of the metal element is crying since the trees are sad to let go of their trees in autumn.
The idea of metal being an element might seem confusing, but the reason metal is used is because this element can shape other elements, just as how a knife can shape food. You can also think of metal as similar to the element of air. The metal element is associated with dryness and the skin because there is cold and dry wind in autumn.
1.5 🌊 Characteristics
The water element season is winter, which is a time of survival, isolation, and reflection. The colors associated with water are blue and black. The taste is salty just like ocean water and sea vegetables.
Part 2: Organs
2.1 🌳 Organs
The liver and the gallbladder are the wood element organs. They both detox the body and nourish the blood, which then strengthens the hair and nails.
2.2 🔥 Organs
The fire element has two organs: the heart and small intestines, both of which play a big role in our emotions. The heart is the emotion center. The small intestines produce serotonin, which regulates mood and happiness in the body. Similar to how the small intestines separates nutrients from waste, it also helps our mind to differentiate from right and wrong or good and bad.
2.3 🌱 Organs
The stomach and spleen are the earth element organs. Just as we can throw waste onto the soil, and then the earth turns it into nourishment for plants, our digestive organs transforms food into nourishment for the body. In TCM, the stomach holds the food, while the spleen is responsible for digestion and nutrient absorption. In other words, the TCM spleen includes some of the functions of the western idea of pancreas and small intestines.
2.4 🛠 Organs
The two organs associated with the metal element are the lungs and large intestines. The lungs bring in nourishment (oxygen), while the large intestines let go of waste. The lungs are also related to the immune system according to TCM.
2.5 🌊 Organs
The two organs associated with the water element are the kidneys and the bladder. The kidneys filtrate water, while the bladder eliminates water. In TCM, the kidneys are also related to our reproductive organs.
Part 3: Emotions
Western medicine tends to view emotions as separate from the physical body, but TCM explains that emotions are connected to our organs. Therefore, if we have trouble with a certain emotion, then healing the organ associated with that emotion will help us with that emotion. Amazing!
Image Source: Yours Truly
When an element is in balance, we experience the positive emotions associated with it. When an element is out of balance, we experience the negative emotions associated with it. As the next section, personality, will explain, each of us has one or two elements that are strongest in our body constitution, meaning we are prone to different emotions based on our innate constitution.
3.1 🌳 Emotions
Positive emotions: love, compassion, and growth
Negative emotions: frustration, anger; procrastination, and indecision.
Anger and frustration relate to the an unbalanced liver, while indecision and procrastination relate to an unbalanced gallbladder