Five Elements

Chinese philosophy has a unique way to view how the energy surrounding us affects our ever day existence. While this energy does not actually come from wood or water, the elements listed below symbolize five different ways that Qi energy manifests itself in the universe. These five elements are:

  • Fire
  • Water
  • Wood
  • Earth and
  • Metal


As with all things in nature, the human body is influenced by the energies symbolized by the five elements.

  • The meridians are channels in the body identified by TCM found through out the body. Any imbalances in the energies of one element will manifest in the organs and meridians influenced by that element.
  • Each element is also associated with an emotion, a body part, a body outlet (mouth, ear, etc), a sense, a flavor, a sensation and the four seasons.

The arrows pointing in a clockwise direction show how the elements interact with each other. Fire produces ashes to become Earth. Earth produces metal as ore. When metal is heated it becomes fluid (like water). Water allows wood to grow. Wood produces fire when burned. This is an illustration of how energy can transform to become something else when the need is required in closed system.

The arrows in the very center of the diagram illustrate a control cycle of the elements. Too much of one element may lead to a weakening of the corresponding one. The energy flows from one organ to another in a twelve-hour cycle, replenishing and healing a different area just as the blood circulates to each organ.

Five Yin Organs

"The five yin-organs of the human body produce five kinds of essential Qi, which bring forth joy, anger, grief, worry, and fear."

Certain organs are related to emotional activities. For example the:

  • heart is related to joy
  • liver to anger
  • spleen to pensiveness
  • lungs to anxiety
  • the kidneys to fear

Emotional activity is a normal, internal, physiological response to stimuli from the external environment. The emotions are considered the major internal causes of disease. Within normal limits, emotions cause no disease or weakness in the body. However, when emotions become so powerful that they become uncontrollable and overwhelm or possess a person, then they can cause serious injury to the internal organs. This opens the door to disease. It is not the intensity as much as the prolonged duration or an extreme emotion, which causes damage. While Western physicians tend to stress the psychological aspects of psychosomatic ailments, the pathological damage to the internal organs is very real indeed and is of primary concern of the TCM practitioner.

Excess emotional energy can lead to conditions including:

  • severe Yin-Yang energy imbalances
  • wild aberrations in the flow of blood, Qi (vital energy) blockages in the meridians
  • impairment of vital functions

Once physical damage has begun, it is insufficient to eliminate the offending emotion to affect a cure and further action is required. Stopping the prolonged emotional stress will require physical action as well. The emotions represent different human reactions to certain stimuli and do not cause disease under normal conditions.

The Pathogenic Features of the Seven Emotions:

  • Directly impairing organ Qi (vital energy)
  • Affecting the functions of organ Qi (vital energy)
  • Deteriorating effects of emotional instability