Blog: TCVM Series Part 2 of 7- Five Element Theory

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine: Five Element Theory

by Alexandra Mittner DVM

During the last section of our blog I spoke about the Yin Yang theory of harmony and balance. Today we are going to discuss the five element theory, which further explain the interconnection between all things in life.

In Chinese Medicine there are five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. All things in life flow through the elemental cycle. Therefore, each element is associated with a season, phase of life, personality type, direction, color, taste of food etc. Today we are focusing on the basic cycle of flow between the elements. We will discuss personality types and organ system associations specific to each element in future blog posts.

The cycle begins with Wood, which is associated with the spring time, new beginning, and childhood. Wood is a time of growth. It’s emotion is anger, like a child throwing a temper tantrum. The color associated with wood is green and it’s direction is east like the rising sun. The food taste associate with wood is sour.

During adolescence we are rolled by Fire, which is associated with Summer. The emotion is joy and this is a “summer of life”, for many people a happy, carefree time when life is ruled by passions and quick decisions. The color is red and direction is south. Foods associated with fire are bitter (or spicy).

As we move into middle age we are more grounded and mature, thus this time of life is associated with Earth. Earth’s emotion is worry. This is the time of life where people are building a home, settling down and starting a family. The season is late summer also know as indian summer and is the traditional harvest time. The color for Earth is yellow, like that of ripe grains of the harvest. Earth’s direction is central. The food taste association is sweet foods.

Fall is ruled by the Metal element. Traditionally this is a time of building and making tools to prepare for the next year. During adulthood we are in the metal phase of life and the emotion is grief or sadness. This is the time when people see the passing of generations that came before and often look back nostalgically on their early life or see children leaving the nest. The color association for metal is white and the direction is west. Metal foods are umami or pungent, savory foods.

Water is associated with winter, and for many this is a time of year where everything is covered in snow. The color for water however is black, like the deep ocean, and it’s food taste is salty like ocean water. The direction associated with water is north. This is the senior time of life, a time of quiet and reflection. The emotion associated with water is fear, as often people are afraid of endings. However in Chinese medicine we must remember everything is a cycle, water is not just a time of ending, but also a time of preparation for new beginnings. Water is needed to nourish new growth, which brings us back to wood, and the cycle begins again.

Thank you for joining us today. Don’t forget to check back for future blogs where we will look more in depth at each element and discuss personality types. If you have any questions about five element theory or if you liked our video, please leave a comment below.