The 5 Elements and Your Senses
The Chinese developed their philosophy from a close relationship with nature; a dependence upon the cycles of the seasons, and a reverence for the flow and changes of the world around them. Just as nature all around us goes through cycles of change, they understand that nature inside of them follows these same patterns. Five element theory was born from this understanding of the natural world. Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM) also developed around this relationship of the human being to nature. Its system of examination, diagnosis, and treatment is based upon these natural processes. Five element theory describes the energy flow within the universe, the movement of qi energy as it goes through cyclic transformations. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. No element is more important then the other, but they are connected in an endless cycle of transformation. The wood element whose season is springtime is followed by the fire element whose season is summer, followed by the earth element whose season is late summer, followed by the metal element whose season is fall, followed by the water element whose season is winter. Wood creates fire, fire creates earth, earth creates metal, metal creates waters, and water creates wood in a never ending cycle. All things in the universe have a correspondence within the five elements. The senses organs and their associated senses are no exception. The eyes and seeing are related to wood, the tongue and speech are related to fire, the mouth and taste are related to earth, the nose and smell are related to metal, and the ears and hearing are related to water. Thus, Chinese medicine might say that a person with red bloodshot eyes has a liver imbalance, or someone with ringing in the ears has a water imbalance. But, the correspondences go deeper still. The type of taste (flavor) and smell also correspond with a particular element. Thus, the sour flavor and rancid smell relate to wood, bitter taste and the scorched smell relate to fire, sweet flavor and fragrant smell related to earth, pungent flavor and rotten smell relate to metal, salty flavor and putrid smell relate to water. Sounds also correspond to particular elements; shouting to wood, laughing to fire, singing to earth, weeping to metal, and groaning to water. There are many such correspondence. They are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine when attempting to understand the complex processes at work within the human mind, body, and spirit. These relationships help the Chinese medicine practitioner to determine the imbalances within the energy flow of the person with whom they are working. To learn more about the five elements and traditional Chinese medicine, call Dr. Chris Henderson at (707) 942-1250.