The Five Elements According To Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese medicine, achieving balance in the mind, body and spirit can be attained by honouring the earth’s five elements. The five elements theory relates to the relationship between wood, fire, earth, metal, and water and the life force, or "qi," that flows through them. Every person is a blend of all of these five elements, and in order to be truly healthy, they need to be balanced and in harmony.


Organs: Heart/Small Intestine

Sense: Tongue

Tissue: Vessel

Emotion: Joy

Season: Summer

Environment: Heat

Growth & Development: Growth

Colour: Red

Taste: Bitter

Direction: South

Element: Yang

Out of balance: they can get anxious and suffer from insomnia and palpitations, hypertension and heart problems. They’re prone to overheating and can suffer acne, mouth sores and skin rashes.


Organs: Spleen/ Stomach

Sense: Mouth

Tissue: Muscle

Emotion: Overthinking

Season: Late Summer

Environment: Dampness

Growth & Development: Transformation

Colour: Yellow

Taste: Sweet

Direction: Middle

Out of balance: their thoughts can become obsessive and intrusive and can cause excessive unnecessarily. They may have digestive problems, loose stools, fatigue, food allergies & sensitivities, heartburn, mouth ulcers, gas & bloating crave carbohydrates and put on weight easily.


Organs: Lung/ Large intestine

Sense: Nose

Tissue: Skin & Hair

Emotion: Grief

Season: Autum

Environment: Dryness

Growth & Development: Reaping

Colour: White

Taste: Pungent

Direction: West

Out of balance: may be overly critical and have trouble letting go. They may have asthma, allergies or frequent colds, rashes, eczema, problems with sweating, chronic constipation or diarrhea, or other bowel diseases.


Organs: Kidney/ Bladder

Sense: Ear

Tissue: Bone

Emotion: Fear

Season: Winter

Environment: Cold

Growth & Development: Storing

Colour: Black

Taste: Salty

Direction: North

Out of balance: Prone to urinary tract infections and water metabolism issues leading to swelling, edema, plus sore joints and back problems. They may also have diminished hearing or ringing in the ears, hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin and mucous membranes or cold extremities, cold back and belly, declining sexual vigor, urinary frequency or incontinence. They can also be fearful, timid, and indecisive.


Organs: Liver/Gallbladder

Sense: Eyes

Tissue: Tendons

Emotion: Anger

Season: Spring

Environment: Wind

Growth & Development: Germination

Colour: Blue

Taste: Sour

Direction: East

Out of balance: Can be irritable, frustrated, and impatient and suffer from PMS, high blood pressure, tight muscles, headaches, bloating, gas, alternating constipation and diarrhea.

Generating and Controlling Cycles of the Five Elements

The five elements are constantly moving and changing, like every living thing, they can either be generated or controlled, below you will find the controlling and generating cycle of the five element. These cycles are necessary to keep the body balanced and in harmony. This also shows us, if one element is too in excess it can cause an imbalance in the body and control/ restrict other elements/organs.


  • Wood to Fire: branches can create fire

  • Fire to Earth: burnt ashes becomes earth

  • Earth to Metal: metal ores are formed inside the earth

  • Metal to Water: melted metal will be liquid

  • Water to Wood: water nourishes wooden plant


  • Metal controls Wood: metal tools can cut off plants

  • Wood controls Earth: roots of trees grow inside of the earth and prevent soil erosion

  • Earth controls Water: dykes and dams can stop the flood

  • Water controls Fire: water can put out a fire

  • Fire controls Metal: fire melts metal into liquid

Harmonising the five elements brings wellbeing and health. This is because harmonising each element means taking a look at your emotional wellbeing, your physical wellbeing and decision and choices being made..

Tip for balancing the five elements:

  • Bodywork such as acupuncture, massage, lymphatic drainage, dry brushing etc

  • Eat foods that are grown locally and in season

  • Stay hydrated, with good quality water

  • Avoid excess alcohol, dairy, gluten, spicy, greasy, sugary, fatty and processed foods

  • Move your body - yoga, walking, dancing, qi gong etc

  • Meditation & breathwork

  • Get in nature and ground yourself daily

  • Allow yourself to feel and move through your emotions