The Five Yang Elements of Chinese Medicine

In Five Element Theory the elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Understanding some basic foundational information can bring awareness to the process of illness and preserving one’s health. The yang organs assist the yin organs in performing their primary functions.

Wood is represented by the yang organ system of the gall bladder. It stores and secretes bile and is responsible for absorbing excesses from the liver. The improper functioning of the gall bladder gives way to many, often painful digestive disturbances due to its inability to break down fats. Emotionally, gall bladder weakness manifests as timidity or a lack of courage, deep resentment and an inability to speak up for oneself. Healthy gall bladder energy allows us to be decisive and execute those decisions into action.

Fire is represented by the yang organ system of the small intestine. Its function is to separate the “pure” from the “impure” parts of food and fluids. Any disruption in this process can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, scanty urine, etc. Emotionally, imbalances may manifest as a lack of discernment, inappropriate laughter, sleep problems, speech problems and some expressions of anxiety. Healthy small intestine energy allows one to process information and make clear, balanced decisions even when emotions are involved.

Earth is represented by the yang organ system of the stomach. The fermentation of food and drink happens in the stomach where it is then transported and used by the body. Physically, poor stomach function can manifest as bad breath, belching, ulcers, constipation, etc. Emotionally, when the stomach is not functioning properly it can lead one to display manic behaviors which include, anxiety, confusion, hyperactivity and violent behavior. While the spleen is the most harmed by cold and damp, the stomach is the most harmed by dryness and heat. This makes this yin and yang pairing particularly sensitive in its relationship balance.

Metal is represented by the yang organ system of the large intestine. The main function of the large intestine is to receive waste from the small intestine, absorb its fluid content and excrete the remainder as feces. It is easily harmed by dryness and stagnation which turns to heat and can cause any number of problems including different types of diarrhea accompanied by pain and burning sensations, or constipation. Emotionally it is associated with sorrow, as well as worry. Imbalances commonly manifest in an “inability to let go of things and relationships that no longer serve one.” Healthy large intestine energy allows us to let go of the old and make way for the new.

Water is represented by the yang organ system of the urinary bladder. Its function of storing and excreting urine includes how fluids are transformed during urine production is deeply dependent upon the strength of the kidney function. Emotionally, imbalances of the bladder system can cause psychological symptoms of irrational fear, inability to make decisions or possibly diminished morality. The bladder is intimately related to the functions and balance of the autonomic nervous system which regulates all of the body’s basic vital functions. If kept in check, it allows the parasympathetic nervous system to be activated in a way that keeps us out of “fight or flight” reactions, thereby saving our adrenals for more appropriate responses.

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 16+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299

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