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Teas and Herbal Health

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

Chinese Five Elements

In the West, we tend to think of health merely in mechanical or physical terms. This is not true in TCM. The entire Chinese health system, which includes herbalism, massage therapy and acupuncture, is based on the theory that all things have an energy field. This energy, which flows in, through and around our bodies is called Chi. Acupuncture charts show lines of energy flow through the body called meridians. The meridians carry the life-energy, the Chi, through the various organs and parts of the body.​

In the Western world, organs provide a physiologic function. Your heart pumps blood, your lungs breath, and so forth. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, your organs are responsible for far more. As an integrated unit, each of your organs is also intimately intertwined with the rest of you, affecting your health and emotions in complex ways.

If the flow of life-energy through the organ is either excessive or blocked, then that organ will become imbalanced in some way. The energy field is like a matrix which controls the physical structure of the body and the way the cells line up within that structure. Thus, all illness is a manifestation of imbalanced energies in the body.​

If there is too much energy flowing through a part of the body, we could say that that part of the body is stressed. To stress something is to place too much pressure or emphasis on it. Hence, a body part with too much energy flowing through it is overemphasized or stressed. On the other hand, if there is too little energy flowing through a body part, then that body part would be said to be weakened.

All of the formulas for balancing the five elements are divided into two broad categories, formulas for stressed (excess) conditions and formulas for weakened (deficient) conditions. 

The stressed formulas relieve yang conditions. That is, they correct conditions of excess or overactive energy. This is typically brought on as the body is trying to rid itself of something that is irritating it. Thus, the stressed formulas help the body get rid of excesses or cleanse itself.

The yin or weakened formula is chosen when the yin energy reserves are depleted and the body is in a degenerative condition. The weakened formulas build up or nourish the yin energy reserves.

When the Five Elements are in balance, all is well. However, an imbalance can spark illness and disease within an organ system. If left untreated, these symptoms can spread to affect other organs.