Wood Element

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, type of weather, taste and seasonal power.

Five Element CycleIt has been a transitional period over the last few weeks with the season moving from winter (Water element), into spring (Wood element).  At this time of the year, we really witness how nature starts to wake up. Plant seeds that have been waiting below the surface emerge as shoots with new life, buds appear on the trees, and there is a sense of  force 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, p.8)

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.

Spring Wood

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 mensturation. The harmonizing 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. P. 9)

Spring River and Trees

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 hard 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 which 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 a 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  in different ways such as abdominal pain, cramping, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Migraines; dry or blurred eyes; irritability; frustration; resentment; 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.

Ways to support and strengthen your Wood energy

Spring Tree 2

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 which gently stimulates 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 in addition.  A 20 minute brisk walking a day is enough to move your Liver Qi.

Having a lie down when possible for half an hour between 1 and 3 pm (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 harmonizing your Liver Qi and nourishing your Liver Blood.  This can support your vitality, vibrancy, assertion in life and planning and decision making. Some examples of  names of  acupuncture points on the Liver Channel illustrate the energy of Wood perfectly such as: Tai Chong (Great Surging), Zhang Men, (Chapter Gate), Qi Men, (Gate of Hope).

Acupuncture is a dynamic form of medicine which harmonizes and supports your overall energy base as well as addressing particular element imbalances within your body which could be manifesting on a physical and/or emotional level.

By Julie Kelham, Acupuncturist


  • 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