Blog: TCVM Series Part 5 of 7- Earth Element Personality

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Earth Element Personality

by Alexandra Mittner DVM

Today we are going to discuss the Earth element personality type and some of the diseases that they are predisposed to. Remember, previously we discussed the 5 element theory and how everything flows through a cycle between the elements; wood to fire to earth to metal to water. We also discussed how each element has assigned characteristics, such as taste, color, time of the year and stage of life. Some of the characteristics we mentioned that are associated with the earth element are: the color yellow, the center direction, the emotion of worry, and foods with a sweet taste.

In Chinese medicine each animal has a base personality type. Typically once their personality is established, the animal retains that core personality and is predisposed to the influences of that element. However, as the animal goes through life, and through the cycle, the other elements will influence how they react to their environment and can influence and add depth to their personality. Every person and animal has a different set of experiences; we are all individuals. Knowing core personality types can help us better understand our interactions throughout life.

While, Wood and Fire tend to be more Yang personalities, outgoing & gregarious and Metal and Water types are more Yin personalities, more reserved and independent; Earth is considered to be comprised of both Yin and Yang. They are very friendly and love people, but need time to themselves as well. Earth personalities are nurturers and like to care for others. They generally have a happy, laid back personality and are up for whatever their people feel like doing, whether that is a leisurely walk or watching TV. Earth personalities tend to be slower moving, and often need more sleep than other personalities. Earth tend to think a lot about how to take care of others and this makes them prone to the emotion of worry. Earth personalities tend to have longer life spans.

Earth animals tend to be shorter but maintain a sturdy body with good muscling. They are considered to have large heads often with large/thick lips or nose. Earth animal often have brown coats, especially on their head.

The organs associated with the Earth system in Chinese Medicine are the spleen and stomach. In Chinese medicine, the “Spleen” system is functionally more similar to the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract from western medicine. (Spleen is capitalized to differentiate between the Chinese Medicine Spleen, and the anatomical organ spleen from western medicine.) In traditional Chinese veterinary medicine, the Spleen regulates the flow of Qi, making sure nutrients and energy are separated from toxins and other bi-products of metabolism. The Spleen system then sends good nutrients and energy up to the rest of the body, and the toxins and other waste down to the large intestine for removal. Therefore, we associate the Spleen  with digestive function. The Spleen system also plays a major role in the defense system for the body (Wei Qi) and muscular strength.

When functioning properly, the Spleen along with Wei Qi allow the body to identify damaged or abnormal cells and remove them from the body. However, when out of balance the Spleen is especially sensitive to damp pathogens. Damp is characterized as sticky and difficult to move, like the damp fog clinging to the earth in the morning. The more damp is allowed to persist, the more it congeals, leading to Phlegm, which is any abnormal substance/growth in the body, such as cancer. Earth animals are prone to lipomas (benign fatty growths). Dampness affecting the GI tract can lead to food retention, or slowed movement of food through the GI tract, causing issues like abdominal pain/ colic and constipation. Certain dietary and herbal supplements can  be recommended to help combat dampness and support the Spleen.

Earth animals are prone to disorders affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Besides damp, Earth animals can manifest a wide variety of disorders through their GI tracts when out of balance. Earth personalities tend to struggle with obesity issues. Symptoms of disease such as anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, disorders of the lips/gums, and rectal or uterine prolapses, may all be associated with an unbalanced Spleen. Because the Earth also controls the musculature, out of balance animals may also show weakness and muscle loss or atrophy.

Knowing the personality of your animal can help to understand why they react to situations a certain way and what diseases they may be predisposed to. Once we have determined their personality type, we can work together to support your best friend throughout their lifetime and  optimize their quality of life.