What are the Five Elements?

The five elements of Chinese medicine

If you want complete healing you need to know this.

If you want to stop judging others and yourself, you must know this.

What do these two have to do with each other?  And what is “this’?

The 5-Elements of Chinese Medicine. Curious? Keep on reading.

As a practitioner of TCM, Traditional Chinese medicine, and acupuncture, we are trained to understand the theory of the 5-Elements as a serious and useful diagnostic tool to support our patients, but honestly it goes so much deeper and you can use this system too. 

The 5-Element theory is a system developed to understand the cycle and flow of life. It describes the cyclic phases of nature and the human body, but not just physically. The 5-Elements are, I think, best used to evaluate and understand the human body emotionally and mentally as well as a way of describing a person's constitution and even personality type.

Both Chinese medicine, (energetic medicine), and Western medicine recognize more and more the impact of the mental and emotional imbalance on a patient’s health. We live in times full of fear, worry, stress, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. Often, these emotions contribute to or even cause the person’s illness. Moreover, the pervasive use of mood stabilizing drugs further complicates diagnosis and treatment. Energetic medicine inherently explains the impact of emotional imbalance on overall health. Now more than ever, it is imperative to understand how to include the emotions in the diagnosis, and to incorporate addressing the mental in the treatment for all patients.

Mental health is not a new concept in acupuncture and energetic medicine. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese medical text referred to the integral connectedness of the mental and physical. 

The text states, “If the mental is strong, one is balanced; if it is weak, one falls down. “ 

Dr. Tran, a very special teacher that I personally studied with for years after graduating, is a world-renowned expert on the ancient texts and comments from personal observation that 15 years ago 50% of pathology was due to mental imbalance; today he attributes 80+% of pathology to mental imbalances. He further explained, “the mental is everything. If you treat the liver with no attention to the Hun, (mental/emotional aspect of the organ) you’re only doing half the work. If you treat the digestive system, but don’t consider the thinking: this is also not good. If you don’t treat the mental, you might as well not do anything.”

Here is something else to remember when treating the mental/emotional aspect… the mental is immaterial; meaning, it cannot be seen, felt, touched or observed under a microscope, it its energy. We can't see it, yet we know it's there

As we learn, observe and contemplate the 5-Elements, I want you to also keep this in mind… written by NY acupuncturist Marc J. Gian

“One of the virtues of using five element theory to look at life, is that it helps us to cool our judgment and allows us to observe both ourselves and other people with compassion and acceptance. If we understand that everyone is born with a specific constitution that needs to move through experiences in order to complete the soul in this particular life cycle, then we can live knowing that we are all in the process of becoming."

As you learn and move through more of the details of each of the five elements, you will soon see an easily applied diagnostic tool, particularly in the area of psychology and emotional well-being and balance… You may  already know how amazing essential oils are in that area, soon we will be able to fine tune our EO protocol recommendations and understand more of the energetics of the oils and acupuncture points that help balance out each of the emotions that correspond to each of the elements.

Charles A Moss, MD, author of Power of the Five Elements said that when he teaches 5 element acupuncture to physicians, he emphasizes on the key that sets this [five element] system apart, is that it treats the person who has the disease, not just the symptoms of the illness.

From its beginnings, the 5-element cycle connected various aspects of experience to its individual elements. . Seasons, body organs, emotions, sounds, colors, directions, and climates were all distributed and distinguished over this cycle. 

You can even learn how to become more productive during the day by understanding the five elements that are associated with the time of day. Here is a photo of me teaching this system live to an audience of over 200 entrepreneurs. Let me know if this is something you'd like to learn, simply send me a DM here.

When I am teaching these concepts with my students of AcuOil Alchemy or my new On Point Essentials Membership , my focus with diagnosis and application of essential oils will definitely be with navigating mental and emotional aspects and you will quickly learn very interesting archetypes associated with each element. Although most of us are a blend, we often have a predominant elemental type

The Five Elements may be understood as five phases or movements of energy that closely relate to the phases of yin and yang’s transformational energies. (We will definitely chat more about the yin and yang system soon).

An important thing to remember about the 5 elements is that they, although unique in characteristics, function as a dynamic whole. Therefore, when one element becomes out of balance so to speak, it’s not long that the entire system is disrupted and affected.

JR Worsley, who is the founder of the 5 Element Schools of Acupuncture said, “Every living thing and person is a unique embodiment and combination of the Five Elements.”

As a practitioner, it’s important to try to not box any persons dis-ease into a container. Look instead at each patient/client as a unique individual with unique constitutions, lifestyles, experiences and so forth.

While I can’t dive deep into all the elements now, I would like to introduce you to the stars of the show, the five elements.


In the image above, you see the image of the generating or Creating cycle of the 5 elements, as well as the controlling cycle of the 5 elements. 

The generating cycle is infinite and gives rise to change and transformation. As one creates the next, it’s also referred to as the mother/child cycle

So, Here is how this cycle occurs in nature:

Wood easily burns and makes a fire. 

Fire produces ash, creating earth. 

The earth contains minerals from which metal is formed. 

When metal is heated and cooled, water droplets will be found

over the metal as a result of condensation. Thus, metal creates water. 

Water promotes the growth of trees, which are wood. 

And so the cycle continues.

Okay, let’s start with a basic overview, then we will drill down into each element.

Now you might be able to see how things are going to shape up, eh?

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