At the core of Chinese Medicine is the principle that nature is governed by Yin/Yang and the five elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each season is associated with a different element and with the energy system of different organs. Each element has a different colour, sound, emotion, odour, time of day, season, and type of weather, taste and seasonal power.
It has been a transitional period over the last month or so with the season moving from Winter (Water element), into Spring (Wood element), even though at times we experienced a temporary return to the Water element with the bitterly cold weather and snow. Recently, I was reflecting on how the daffodils, despite being covered with snow, emerged after the snow had melted, rising up to demonstrate the force and energy of the Wood element to move forward and find a way through, whatever the obstacle ……
Finally, Spring is now with us and the Spring sunshine is providing some much needed warmth and brightness. This is the time of year when we really witness nature waking up:
- plant seeds that have been waiting below the surface have emerged as shoots with new life
- buds appear on the trees and turn into blossom or colourful flowers
- the birds are singing
… and there is a strong sense of movement in the air from Water to Wood and Winter to Spring…
“So Spring is a time when life is sprouting … when life is ready to come forth, to spring up and sprout. There is tension in that movement as in a drawn bow.”
(Larre and Rochat de la Vallee, 1994, p8)
A tree is a perfect illustration of the Wood element. A tree begins its journey as a seedling pushed up through the Earth by the power of the Wood element and the energy of Spring. A healthy tree flourishes, has strength and flexibility and is well rooted. When a tree stops flourishing, has weak roots, or is withering, it isn’t receiving the nourishment it needs from the earth, rain or sun. We too can similarly be affected by an imbalance in our Wood element in terms of the impact on our movement and flexibility, our posture (trunk), and feeling unrooted in our bodies.
In Chinese Medicine, the energetic systems of the Liver (Yin) and Gall Bladder (Yang) are governed by the Wood element. The Liver supplies Blood to nourish the ligaments and tendons and works in partnership with the Yang energy of the Gall Bladder. It provides Blood for menstruation. The harmonising action of the Liver supports the nervous system ensuring the smooth flow of chemical messages and regulating changes in hormone levels.
“The Liver is a manifestation of strength and the great and visible impulse of life, and in the natural world or in the universe this is the power of Spring and of vegetation in the Spring when flowers and herbs just spread out on the earth.”
(Larre and Rochat de la Vallee, 1994, p9)
The Wood element gives us a vision of our potential, our ability to be flexible, to plan, make decisions and to initiate change and growth, as well as the determination to progress with these changes. The Liver Qi is associated with planning and the Gall Bladder with decision-making, so creating harmony between these two organs is vital. The Liver Qi also influences our inspiration, creativity, life dreams, purpose and direction.
The emotion associated with the Wood element is Anger so when this is out of balance, a person may feel a noticeable presence of anger or always be feeling irritable. They may feel inflexible or be over-flexible, find it difficult to plan, make decisions, feel confused and not be able to see ‘the wood for the trees’. An imbalance in the Wood element can manifest in apathy or resignation. Alternatively, a person may not feel appropriate anger in life at injustice or situations that warrant feelings of anger. Someone with a healthy Wood energy will have spark, an interest in life, have a vision and feel able to plan and make decisions. People with depleted or blocked Wood energy may struggle with these areas in life or over-plan and be over-organised, or disorganised.
Depletion or excess of the Wood element can manifest physically in different ways such as:
- abdominal pain, cramping, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- dry or blurred eyes
- depression, feeling’ stuck’ in life, fatigue
- Pre-Menstrual Tension
- painful periods or scanty or absent menstruation
- tension, pain, numbness or weakness in tendons or ligaments
- postural dizziness.
Lime, lemon juice or cider vinegar in warm water is particular cleansing for the Liver. The sour taste is used to move and cleanse the Liver. Lime juice can also assist the Gall Bladder in the breakdown of fats.
Green foods correspond to the colour of the Wood element, so lots of green leafy vegetables will support your Liver Blood.
Olive oil, lemon juice and cayenne pepper can be made as a salad dressing to gently stimulate the Liver Qi.
Take some moderate exercise with something you enjoy doing, as this will not only move your Liver Qi but will support your Fire element as well – 20 minutes brisk walking a day is enough to move your Liver Qi, for example.
Having a lie down when possible for half an hour between 1.00pm and 3.00pm (the time of the day when the Liver energy is at its lowest) will support the Liver Blood.
Nettle Tea is a lovely combination of Blood nourishing qualities and cleansing properties.
Come and have, or continue to have, acupuncture treatment, as this will support your Wood element by harmonising your Liver Qi and nourishing your Liver Blood. This can support your vitality, vibrancy, assertion in life and planning and decision-making abilities. Some examples of names of acupuncture points on the Liver and Gall Bladder Channels illustrate the energy of Wood perfectly such as: Tai Chong (Great Surging), Zhang Men, (Chapter Gate), Qi Men, (Gate of Hope), Guangming (Brightness).
Acupuncture is a dynamic form of medicine that harmonises and supports your overall energy base, as well as addressing particular element imbalances within your body that could be manifesting on a physical and/or emotional level.
- Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture
- Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements
- Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture
- Wood Becomes Water (Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life)
- Recipes for Self-Healing