February 3, 2016

The 5 Elements–Wood

The Five Elements are aspects of Qi (chee) or the basic life force. They are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. In Chinese medicine, health is considered a harmonious balance of the five that is dynamic. It shifts, especially with the seasons. Imbalances in the elements cause disturbances and illness.

Chinese medicine believes the body itself shares characteristics with the environment that also contains the five elements. The elements give practitioners a method of identifying different energies, symptoms, and traits in people. These are evident in the energetic, emotional, and physical body. The proper balance of elements results in health and a sense of well-being. Understanding and working with the 5 Elements is a complex endeavor, but a brief and cursory discussion of these elements can familiarize you with the concepts.


The Wood element can be understood in terms of a tree which is rooted in the earth but must interact with the changing environment of the world. A tree can be strong and unyielding in the world or it can be flexible–the oak or the willow, for example. In optimal health, whichever function is needed to best meet the situation should be available.

When there oakis an imbalance, the appropriate response is not adequately available. Perhaps the current situation requires more flexibility, for instance, but one finds an inclination toward rigidity. Conversely, when a situation calls for firmness, perhaps one yields and bends too much. It is easy to see how these issues can manifest in one’s interactions. They are also evident in other realms of life such as one’s thinking, physical condition, emotions and other behaviors.

Windblown-Willow-Right-WallThe emotional effects of an imbalance in the Wood element follow the tree imagery easily. When Wood qi is weak, for example, there is a feeling of not having control over the emotions, or being completely at the mercy of the environment. It is as if a tree is exposed to the elements and its environment without the capacity to adapt well. A strong wind may call for movement and flexibility at times and, on the other hand, for the ability to unyieldingly withstand the force at other times.

Enjoy the music in this video as you view the images of trees below to better understand the Wood Element of life.


chinese-tree (1)








Branches of an Almond Tree in Blossom yellow





Sierra Exif JPEG




Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA



In weak Wood qi, control is external. There may be feelings of being unable to decide upon a self-directed course or direction and being stuck, stagnant or rigid. Emotional states can become stagnant and stuck as well. Expression of them may be difficult, for instance. One feels frustrated and angry in such a boxed in predicament. Behaviorally, people with Wood imbalances can become stuck in compulsive behavior.

With regard to the body’s physical nature, Wood is related to the liver and gallbladder meridians. The liver is the source of Great Esteem, or the confidence to move forward. The liver pushes qi in an even flow throughout us when it is in balance. It gives us the energy and impetus to push ahead toward the future, its endeavors, growth, development and rebirth.┬áThe gallbladder meridian in Chinese medicine is related to the ability to decide upon the course of action needed as we move forward. It is closely tied to the liver functions. When out of balance, we feel frustration, depression, boredom, hopelessness, and lack of motivation.

Some physical symptoms of imbalance are:

Menstrual cycle problems

Yeast infections

Brittle nails


Eye problems


GI distress

Louisville acupuncture

For more, you should consult with a practitioner of Chinese Medicine.

If you are in the Louisville area, Jeffrey Russell is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist known for his expertise in pulse diagnosis. You can find him at his clinic, Abacus Chinese Medicine, at 502 299-8900.




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