One of the biggest questions I get from practitioners is if they can integrate the 5 elements and TCM into their diagnostic and treatment process.
Yes you definitely can, and it’s easier than you might think.
Let’s dive into why you can integrate them so smoothly, how you might integrate them, and the main benefits of doing so.
As practitioners, we know that our role is to help our patients heal.
What many of us often overlook is how our own health and internal balance contributes to our patients’ progress.
The 5 elements are an excellent tool to help you understand your patients, but also to increase your insight into yourself.
Here’s how knowing your own elements as a practitioner can enhance your clinical abilities and lead to happier, healthier patients.
The 5 elements represent an essential but often overlooked aspect of our health.
When I started integrating them into my treatments, the difference was substantial for my patients compared to just treating them with TCM.
I also started receiving 5 element treatments for myself and the shifts I felt internally and saw externally were profound.
We all want the best for our patients and the 5 elements are an accessible way to help people transform their health.
Here are the top 3 benefits for my patients that I’ve noticed since incorporating the 5 elements in my practice.
Discovering your patients’ constitution is a core part of the diagnostic process in 5 element acupuncture.
Without that knowledge your ability to personalize your treatments decreases and your patients won’t get the same results.
This process of constitutional diagnosis is unique to 5 element acupuncture; TCM, the dominant form of Chinese medicine in the US, does not use constitutions in its diagnosis and treatment process.
So let’s dive into what a constitution is, how it’s formed, how our constitutions affect us, and why it’s so important to treat at a constitutional level for your patients.
Traditional healing systems from around the world incorporate constitutional medicine into their theory and practice.
Great examples are the three doshas of Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine, the 4 humors of Hippocratic medicine, and constitutional homeopathy.
Chinese medicine has its own constitutional medicine system in the 5 elements which helps practitioners to see the whole person and get to the root cause of health issues more effectively.
Learning about the 5 elements literally changed my life when I was in acupuncture school, no exaggeration.
I’ve always been a personality nerd – I love to understand what makes people tick.
I was so surprised and excited to learn that Chinese medicine not only had its own personality type system in the 5 elements but also that the elements are really a comprehensive and holistic way to understand the body, mind, and spirit together.
Let’s demystify the elements and the role they play in your health, relationships, personality, and life!
With the COVID pandemic, there’s a lot of concern about our lungs and their ability to fight off the viruses and remain healthy.
From a Western perspective, supporting our lungs seems limited to breathing exercises and hoping for the best.
But if we look to Chinese medicine there’s plenty of action we can take!
Let’s take a tour through Chinese medical physiology and discover ways to nourish our lungs so they’re balanced and healthy.
Ah, summer has arrived in all of its glory.
We feel a little lighter on our feet and we’re ready to soak up the sunshine and warmth after a cold winter and tumultuous spring.
The transition from spring to summer can be a smooth one, unlike some other seasonal shifts that seem like a jolt to your system.
And each season’s energetic influence is on a continuum where it builds to a peak, then falls, while the next seasonal force starts to build.
Spring has a drive and a goal behind it; a push in a very certain direction.
And when the energy of summer is strong enough, that push and drive evaporates into more levity, fun, and aimlessness.
It’s a relief not to feel so responsible for once and just let things unfold that you’ve already set in motion.
Is planning a strong suit of yours?
Some people come by this ability naturally, while for others it's a struggle.
What gives? Is it how we grew up? Or maybe the personalities we've spent the most time around?
I'd say it's a little of both PLUS your own element, or personality type in Chinese medicine!
(What's your element? Find out here.)
The 5 elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, make up our natural world as well as core parts of our personalities.
Everyone has access to all of the elements, but we tend to be dominant in one or two.
Understanding your elements can give you incredible insight into your daily behavior, relationships, and world view.
Today, we'll take a look at how these personality types stack up in their ability to plan.
Most people have positive associations with springtime.
Snow melts, the air warms, flowers bloom, plants sprout, and the wind whips through the landscape, pushing the last heavy bits of winter off of our doorstep.
Out of any season, spring transforms our environment the most.
Change, growth, and newness are embraced by the land. The inevitable forces of mother nature reshape our world and perspective day by day.
It can be a very gratifying season, in that we see the benefit of our clearing and cleansing work of the fall and storage and preservation in the winter.
If you’re a wood element person*, this is your time of year. What happens in the spring mirrors some of the deepest parts of your personality.
If you asked 10 people, or even 100, what their favorite season is, I’d be willing to bet summer would grace the top of the list by a wide margin and winter would be in a distant last place.
Why is this? Do we dislike winter SO much?
Most of you are probably nodding your heads right now saying, “Yes, of course I hate it! I’m tired and cold and I never see the sun because it’s down when I leave in the morning and it sets before I get home!”
I hear you.
These issues are very real, as well as the seasonal depression that can hit at this time of year. The cold and dark clouds our vision and can lead to despondency and despair.
But hold on to your hats!
I’d like to throw something out there that’s a little radical.
Did you know there are 5 seasons, not 4?
According to Chinese medicine, each of the 5 elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — have a corresponding season.
Pretty cool, right?
5 element theory is based on the natural world and it shows us how humans are connected to it and influenced by it, as well as being an inseparable part of it.
We are a living, breathing, embodiment of nature and the world around us, so we are intimately tied to the seasons and their influences.
So what is this mystery 5th season?
And why is it so important?
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “go with the flow.”
Personally, I never really grasped what people meant by that until I started studying Chinese medicine.
I am not someone who easily “goes with the flow” and I know that about myself. There are certain people, it seems, who are much more able to let go, be free, and at times throw caution to the wind.
“How do they do that?” I wonder to myself. “Why am I sitting over here calculating risk versus reward, or the expense, or the practicality, when others can just leap?"
Ah, fall. A time of beauty, and a time of loss.
The last flares of summer shoot out in brilliant burnt oranges and vivid, translucent yellows and are collected by the ground to turn them to earth.
We see this transition happen right before our eyes each year, but we still deny it.
“Maybe summer will last a little longer,” we say to ourselves, as the warmth fades from the air and a dry coolness settles in.
Others love and anticipate fall.
They can’t wait for the days to settle into a calm rhythm, leaving the high energy of summer behind.
Why do people have these preferences?
A lot of it has to do with your 5 element personality type, or constitution in Chinese medicine.
Each element is associated with a season, and oftentimes the element you are corresponds to your favorite season.
In Chinese medicine, the seasons play an integral role in our lives and health. They guide us by showing us how to live during those 3 or so months.
How do they guide us?
Hold on to your horses, I’m going to get deep here.
In 5 Element theory, we are merely tiny extensions of the interconnected web of nature and the universe. We are a microcosm of all things. Pretty neat, right?
Because we are reflections of nature and the universe, it benefits us to live in correspondence with them.
When we do this, rather than fighting the huge momentum of those natural tendencies, we are flowing with them. Things get easier.
The seasons are a huge part of how nature guides our internal temperament.