Relationship Between Five Elements

Published Date: 10/22/2021 10:13:34 PM

  • The five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water are not isolated. Rather, they work closely together and have their own internal orders and patterns.
  • The Five Element System of Chinese Medicine functions via the interplay of interweaving cycles.

The Cycles Of The Five Elements:

Mutual generation cycle or creative cycle:

  • This cycle refers to the manner in which the elements create one another.
  • The creative cycle establishes harmony between the elements. The Generation cycle, as its name implies, is a relationship of nourishment and support of one element by another.
  1. Water generates wood: as rain nourishes a tree.
  2. Wood generates fire: burning wood creates fire.
  3. Fire generates earth: as ash (which becomes part of the soil) is formed from burned wood.
  4. Earth generates metal: as metal ore is mined from the earth.
  5. Metal generates water: in the way that water condenses on a metal surface.
  • The cycle is cyclic and continually gives rise to change and transformation. In the same way that a mother nourishes her child, so does each of the elements nourish its “child” element.
  • The "generation" of the five elements in nature can also be applied to the body. This relationship is sometimes referred to as a mother-child relationship because only a mother can give birth to a baby.
  • For example, fire is the mother of the earth since fire creates the earth. Correspondingly in the body, the heart (which has a fire element) is the mother of the spleen (earth element) because the heart supports and promotes spleen function. If heart function is deficient, the spleen will be affected.
  • According to TCM thinking, a heart deficiency cannot sufficiently supply blood.
    Therefore, the spleen cannot perform its normal transformation of qi and blood and disharmony results. This disharmony may be mild, but in severe cases, it can lead to disease. In addition to its creative functions, each element also has a control function. It is created as well as controlled by another element.

Mutual restriction cycle or the control cycle:

  • This cycle refers to the manner in which the elements restrict and control one another.
  • Wood breaks up the soil by penetrating with its roots and depletes the earth's nutrients, thus controlling the earth.
  • Earth contains water in many places, and as dam prevents flooding, earth controls water. It gives the water its course to flow.
  • Water extinguishes fire, and therefore, controls its spread.
  • Fire controls metal by its ability to melt it.
  • Metal can be made into an ax that cuts the wood into pieces, thus controlling wood. The control repeats in a cyclic fashion and provides an opposite force to balance the generative power.
  • The generation and restriction properties of the five elements hold each other in check, preventing over-functioning.

The balances of the cycles:

The balance between generation and restriction:

  • The balance between generation and restriction is important for the normal transformation of the five elements. Each element is under the influence of the other four in some way.
  • Wood generates fire and water generates wood. On the other hand, wood inhibits earth, but itself is inhibited by metal. In this way, all five elements establish intricate homeostasis in nature.
  • This wisdom has also been applied to TCM by incorporating the theory of the five elements into health maintenance strategies, which have been successful for thousands of years.
  • In order to live in health and balance, the creative and control cycle must work at the same time.
  • If the energy of one element becomes too excessive because another element has weakened and can no longer exercise control, an imbalance arises.
  • If our body has to compensate for such imbalances over a long period of time, this consumes a lot of energy. After all, if alarm lamps in the form of pain or illness light up, it is always an indication that something is out of balance namely, the interaction of the cycles.
  • The teaching of the five elements is therefore about striving to restore the balance of the Qi or Chi - our energy and vitality. The methods of balancing may be different, like acupressure, or herbal medicine, or mudras - but the common goal is energy balance.

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