March 26, 2016

Spring and the Wood Element in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine uses 5 elements to describe distinct manifestations of life energy or qi. These are Earth, Metal, Wood, Fire and Water. Each element is associated with a season of the year. The Wood element corresponds to spring time.

As winter gives way to spring, the days lengthen, temperatures are warmer and dormant plants put forth new growth. Wood has stored its life energy throughout the dormant season and in spring initiates rebirth. Qi rises up to begin a new life cycle through budding and sprouting.¬†Metaphorically, people cycle through nature’s seasons as well. Spring in our lives is a period of awakening from rest and bursting forth with new energy, purpose and action. We emerge from a more dormant phase with new ideas, renewed hope and rejuvenation. Life’s cycle continues inside us as well as in the world.

The Liver and Gall Bladder


In Chinese Medicine, Wood represents the liver and the gall bladder, relating to those meridians in the body. The liver is called the Official of Strategic Planning, or the architect of our future. The gall bladder, liver’s companion, gives us the ability to make decisions and to choose wisely. Through these two functions, we are able to discern and choose the appropriate course of action.

Wood Imbalances

When Wood qi is weakened, the ability to be decisive, and to set a strong course and direction in life is impaired. There is a tendency to feel the emotions of being involuntarily constrained or stuck such as anger and frustration. This is reflected in what are known in Chinese Medicine as Wood disturbances. For example, when qi in the liver is stagnant, people are often angry, irritable and controlling. They can be prone to compulsive behavior such as substance use or workaholism which are other examples of ‘being stuck’ in a dissatisfying situation.

gall bladder Abacus chinese medicine in Louisville
gall bladder

There are other conditions that are considered Wood imbalances. Some of these are:

  • Depression
  • Muscle tension
  • Sciatica
  • Headaches, especially migraines
  • Visual disturbances
  • Menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids
  • Digestive disturbances
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Rib pain
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Allergies
  • Pain along the associated channels


For more about the Wood Element in Chinese Medicine.