Theory of 5 Elements

This theory includes a whole system of relationships. This is a cycle of regularities in which each participant is a key link and has his own levers of control over other participants. This theory goes side by side with the Yin Yang theory and in part enriches and details it.

The system includes the so-called five elements (Wu xing), which literally translates as 5 actions, agents. But behind this name is a much more elaborate, expansive and interconnected system. The 5 natural phenomena such as Fire (火 hu), Water (水 shuǐ), Earth (土 tǔ), Wood (木 mù) and Metal (金 jīn) are the primary sources that make up everything in the world.

Fig. 1 Five elements

For centuries, the ancient keepers of wisdom considered life to be a current of bioelectric and vibrational energy, so human health was based on the balance of energy. The five elements were taken as the basis for the five processes or five phases of the movement of Yang energy in nature. That is, the Tree represents the state of the newborn Yang energy that occurs in the spring. Fire represents the great and solemn state of Yang energy in summer. Earth is the transformation of Yang energy from a great and solemn state to a state of storage at the end of summer. Metal represents the decay of energy in the fall, and water symbolizes the storage of Yang energy in the winter.

In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, each of these elements corresponds to one of the human organs. These organs are called, the same as in Western medicine, but have a more abstract meaning, since morphology and functions only partially coincide. It is necessary to distinguish this difference to avoid further confusion.

By its nature, the Liver is related to Wood, Heart to Fire, Spleen to Earth, Lungs to Metal, and Kidneys to Water. In this case, the sequence of the above concepts is of great importance for further regulation. Wood (Liver) can burn, so it generates Fire (Heart). In turn, Fire (Heart), when incinerated, gives rise to the Earth (Spleen). Since there are minerals directly in the Earth, respectively, the Earth (Spleen) gives rise to Metal (Lungs). Metal (Lungs) is an integral part of Water (Kidneys). And the Water itself (Kidneys), directly, gives life to the Tree (Liver).

This relationship is called the “Sequential Advance Relationship”. Each of the five elements is both a producer (“mother”) and a created product (“son”). For example, the Earth (Spleen) gave birth to Metal (Lungs) and is his “mother”. And also, the Earth (Spleen) is the “son” for Fire (Heart). Since it was he who produced the Earth (Spleen). As a result, it turns out that the Earth is the “son” of Fire and the “mother” of Metal. The next kind of relationship is called the "Sequential constraint relationship". It is essential for control and regulation. A tree (Liver) can sprout from under the Earth (Spleen), thereby controlling it. That is why the Tree (Liver) limits the Earth (Spleen). In turn, the Earth (Spleen) can stop the flow of Water (Kidneys). Water (Kidneys) has properties, extinguishes Fire, and Fire can heat Metal (Lungs) and thereby change its shape and properties. And the Metal itself (Lungs) is necessary for us to cut the Wood (Liver). Such relationships between the elements and their corresponding organs are necessary for direct diagnosis and choice of treatment tactics.

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