The language of music is a very powerful
tool that on so many levels has the power to heal and destroy. After a tiring
and long day, do you ever get exhausted or depressed? Perhaps, you become
highly stressed or anxious while stuck in traffic as you go to work or go home
after work. Due to music’s instant impact on the emotions, it has long been used
to relieve depression and stress. Since ancient times, music and sound have been
used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in order to exploit its
healing powers. Over time, it developed into an art form known as 5-element
Music naturally stimulates the production
and release of the body’s own “feel good” neurotransmitters in the body called endorphins.
It is not surprising that music is often integrated into different rehabilitation
programs all over the globe. The healing power of 5-element music has demonstrated
to uplift the quality of life of cancer patients.
Medical studies have validated that 5-element
music therapy positively affects people suffering from chronic fatigue
syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, and depression.
Is 5-Element Music Therapy?
Nei Jing, (The medicine classic of the Yellow Emperor), written over 2,200
years ago, was the first document to mention music as a form of therapy. The
healing power of music is a major component of traditional Chinese medicine. Its
role within TCM is directly associated with the 5-element principle.
principle is a way to describe the process of change within the bodily systems.
This process is represented in the 5 elements of nature: water, metal, wood, fire,
and earth. Each element is connected to various aspects, which include emotion,
climate, time of day, season, taste, internal organ, and a musical note.
Chinese classical music, there are only 5 sounds/notes that correspond to a
specific element. These sounds include gong, shi, jiao, yu, and zhang. They are
traditionally played on Chinese classical musical instruments that include the
flute, zither, drum, and gong. Playing 5-element music has shown to lead to a
variety of amazing healing benefits.
is a brief summary of 5-element therapy, including the Chinese musical sounds/notes
and their health benefits.
Water is associated with fear, winter, cold, and black and
the energetic organs of the kidney and bladder. In Western music, it is equal
to the A note and makes a ‘la’ sound. In Chinese 5-element music theory, water
affiliates with the ‘yu’ sound and this sound has the power to lessen lung fire,
protect kidney essence, and nourish the kidneys.
Metal associates with emotion of
grief, the season of autumn, the quality of dryness, the color white and the
musical sound of zhang. The zhang note corresponds with the ‘D’ note of Western
music and produces a ‘re’ tone. The zhang note nourishes and protects the lungs
and large intestine.
In general, fire is related to joy, summer, heat, the color
white, and the ‘shi’ sound (corresponds to the ‘G’ note). Shi creates a “so”
musical sound and nourishes the small intestine and heart.
The Earth element associates with pensiveness,
late summer, dampness, yellow, and the ‘gong’ sound. This sound or note corresponds
to the ‘C’ note in Western musical notation. Gong generates a “do” sound and
help strengthen the abdomen and spleen.
Wood affiliates with anger, springtime, wind, blue and green,
and the ‘Jiao’ sound, which influences the gallbladder and liver. In Western
musical notation, Jiao corresponds to the “E” note, and it generates a ‘mi’
sound. The Jiao note promotes smooth chi flow and treats depression.
Benefits of 5-Element Music Therapy
research efforts have strove to study the health benefits of 5-element music
therapy. This Eastern therapeutic system benefits patients suffering from chronic
fatigue syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, depression, and cancer.
- 5-Element Music Therapy
alleviates chronic fatigue syndrome
Chronic fatigue is diagnosed as extreme
fatigue that endures for over six months. Other symptoms can include sleep
problems, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, exhaustion following mild
exercise, and loss of appetite.
In 2015, the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Maitland published a study showing that a combination gong (earth) and jiao (wood) sounds plus a dish of lixujieyu led to the significant alleviation of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome especially of joint and muscle pain.
The study arbitrarily divided patients suffering from chronic fatigue
syndrome into 5 groups. The first group used the lixujieyu dish with a distinct
elemental note, including shi, zhang, yu, jiao, and gong. The second group was
only given the lixujieyu dish.
About a tenth of Americans suffer
from clinical depression, with women twice at risk of developing depression than
men. People with depression often have the feeling of worthlessness,
irritability, anger, hopelessness, and guilt. This condition can also weaken the
immune system, while often going hand-in-hand with other chronic illnesses. Persistent
ideations of suicide and death are also common.
In 2015, the Int’l Journal of
Nursing Practice published a recent study revealing the positive effect of
5-element music therapy in reducing the levels of depression levels in 71 nursing
students suffering from depression. The control group made up of 40 students did
not listen to music while the 31 students listened to the 5-element TCM music
Saliva samples were taken by the
researchers from the students to measure their cortisol levels. They also used the
Self-Report Depression Mood Inventory for Adolescents to evaluate the students.
Based on their salivary cortisol levels, the group who listened to music
therapy group reported a meaningful decrease in the severity of their depression.
- Relieves SAD (seasonal
SAD is a type of depression that occurs in the dark months of
winter that tend to disappear during spring and summer. Sufferers of SAD struggle
with more than a bad mood. Additional symptoms include strong cravings for cravings
for carbs and sweets, low sex drive, weight gain, concentration difficulty,
lethargy, fatigue, and a desire to sleep more.
The Journal of Traditional Chinese
Medicine recently published a study revealing that 5-element music therapy
can relieve SAD symptoms among older people. The study recruited 50 patients
half of whom were placed into a control group that did not listen to music and
the other half designated to the 5-element music therapy group.
For eight straight weeks, one to two
hours each week, the musical therapy group listened to music. The outcomes
showed that 5-element music therapy reduced decreased psychological distress
and bolstered inner peace.
the quality of life of cancer patients
quality of life of cancer patients gets drastically reduced when they begin
undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In 2013, the Chinese
Journal of Integrative Medicine published study showing that 5-element
music therapy can help uplift the life quality of patients with advanced cancer.
The study involved the participation of 170 patients who divided into three
groups: 34 were placed in a group that did not listen to music at all, 68 were
placed in a Western musical therapy group, and 68 were placed in the 5-element
the three-week study, the two music therapy groups listened to music 5 days a
week half an hour each day. Before and after treatment the researchers evaluated
the patients using the HQOLI-R (Hospice Life Quality Index-Revised) and KPS
tests (Karnofsky Performance Score). Both techniques are utilized for cancer
patients to measure their quality of life. Between the other groups, the 5-element
musical therapy group showed marked differences in the scores of KPS and HQOLI-R.
Difference between Western Music Therapy and 5-Element Music Therapy
general, music is widely deemed to be extremely therapeutic and this is the
reason why we need to discriminate between 5-element music therapy and Western
music therapy since they really have certain differences. 5-element music
therapy uses certain musical sounds, which pertains to a specific element that traditional
Chinese medicine uses. On the other hand, Western music therapy works much like
techniques such as physical therapy, psychotherapy, and occupational therapies,
which involves a patient and therapist were individual improvements and responses
music therapy is made up of two major branches: passive and active. In passive music
therapy, the patient rests while the therapist plays relaxing music. The
therapist would then tell the patient to reflect on inner dialogue, feelings,
and sensations and imagine soothing images. Active music therapy is an interactive
process between the patient and therapist, and they work together with their
voices, instruments, and their bodies, if needed.
music therapy and Western music therapy are unrelated but it seems though that Western
music therapy offers more proof that music has healing abilities for sure. Studies
indicate that Western music therapy alleviates anxiety and stress, and because
of this, reduces the need for prescribed medications such as tranquilizing or hypnotic
also connected Western music therapy to the proper management of Alzheimer’s
disease and Parkinson’s disease, the improvement of communication and self-expression,
and decrease of schizophrenia symptoms and other psychological disorders. It has
also proven to reduce anxiety in patients who went through cardiac procedures
and has shown to work on a person’s mood after suffering a stroke. In addition,
music therapy affects brain waves, stress hormones, and brain circulation.
summarize, deeply rooted in the 5-element theory, 5-element music therapy is one
important component of traditional Chinese medicine. The 5 elements pertain to the
notes/sounds gong, shi, jiao, yu, and zhang, and each sound possesses a certain
amount of healing.
studies reveal that 5-element had a beneficial effect on the quality life on
patients suffering from cancer, and on patients suffering from chronic fatigue
syndrome, seasonal affective disorder, and depression. To know how 5-element
music therapy can benefit you, talk to a qualified practitioner of traditional