Chinese medicine is based on the natural and rhythms of nature. The seasons are recognized and observed and each season possesses its own qualities and energy that in turn affects all facets of health and life. These qualities are portrayed in the Five Elements of Chinese medicine, Fire, Water, Metal, Earth and Water, each of which symbolizes the essence of each season.
We experience each Phase to varying degrees just as we go through every season to finish the year. In addition, the way a specific Phase functions within a person affects the manner the other Phase functions that affects him are done.
Within the external and internal factors that influence each season and Phase, Chinese medicine is constantly attempting to attain balance in a person. There’s no way disease can develop when a person is in tune with nature.
Below are the different Phases and their holistic effects within nature and the body.
Fire represents Summer and the South. It mirrors nature’s lushness and exuberance in full bloom. High noon and Summer solstice are the embodiment of this element.
The organs systems, pericardium and Heart are directly related to Fire, as well as the Triple Burner and Small Intestine.
Yellow, orange and red are the colors affiliated with Fire. The body part affected by Fire will turn red due to too much heat in his body. From a Western-medical viewpoint, Fire is associated with the word “inflammation” which mirrors Fire blazing inside the body.
Gratitude, joy and love are the emotions related to unimpeded Fire. When a person manifests hatred, it means there is a problem with the Fire element of that person.
If you have a Fire constitution, it may sound as if you’re always laughing. Your constitution may be similar to the Sanguine constitution of the Greeks, who say people with this type of constitution excel at forming friendships, connecting with others, and are often the life of the party. One good example is Santa Claus.
Water represents the Winter Season and the North. This is the Phase of retreat, hibernation, stillness and darkness. Water symbolizes storage in which where energy is collected and saved in preparation for the energy required in the Spring. Water symbolizes Winter, which represents death, a concept that’s echoed in Western culture when people say that the aged are in the “winter of their lives.”
The Bladder and the Kidneys are the organs affiliated with Water. This can be gleaned in the function of the urinary system.
In Chinese medicine, Water is associated with the black or deep purple color. A person’s face may look as though he’s always in a shadow if he suffers from an imbalanced Water Phase.
People with a Water constitution are loyal and unwavering. They have an innate wisdom and aren’t likely to speak more than is required. If you have a solid Water constitution, you are impassive and delight in “going with the flow”.
If you have a weak Water constitution, you tend to do things half-heartedly and be easily dismayed. On the hand, if you have an overabundant Water constitution, you’re likely to assume superiority over others, be extremely ambitious, and overwork yourself that usually end up in severe stress. Unbalanced Water can also lead to fearfulness, causing the person to cope with anxiety, phobias, adrenal exhaustion and panic attacks.
The Water model may best be exemplified by a crone, grandparent, or sage who has acquired great skill and wisdom and can easily adapt to the challenges of life.
The West is where the Metal Phase preponderates and it’s the Phase associated with the Autumn season. Metal mirrors the dryness and crispness of the air and the leaves, the setting of the sun, the glow that can be observed in the mountain rock as the trees grow bare. It’s at this Phase when things start to turn still and activity and reproduction gradually slows down. Autumn is the time to let go of what is no longer needed and the time to re-evaluate yourself.
The Large Intestine and the Lungs are the organs associated with Metal, and the color it represents is white. Metal is also associated with grief and loss due to its affiliation with Autumn, which is also a metaphor for the process of dying. More often than not, a person with a Metal weakness may find himself holding on to grief longer than required and may develop lung problems like emphysema or chronic cough.
If your Metal constitution is strong and when you’re in balance, you tend to appreciate justice, structure, refinement, integrity, and clearness. An imbalanced Metal constitution will lead to hypocrisy, jealousy, unwillingness to change, rigidity, grief and materialism.
Extroverted people who have a Metal constitution tend to become good lawyers, judges, police officers, and professors while the introverted will tend to be artistic and melancholic and make excellent painters, poets and musicians.
In a number of Chinese medicine traditions, this Phase is unique in terms of classification in that it’s uniquely placed. Certain people put Earth in the South-West of the compass while others at the center. Some believe that the Earth is in a transitory Phase that will turn into the next Phase. These days, the three theories are considered true and applicable.
Earth mirrors a mother’s love and the sustenance of harvest time. The Abdomen and Spleen are the organs related to Earth. They represent the storage and welcoming of food inside the body, and the transferring and conversion of food so it may be used to nourish the rest of the body. That concept can be applied beyond food and can include all forms of physical, emotional, and spiritual sustenance.
Earth is represented by a lot of colors including, brown, yellow, light orange, beige and the like, which, from a psychological viewpoint, is the reason yellow boosts appetite.
The Earth constitution, in Chinese medicine, is similar to the Ayurvedic Kapha system. A person with this constitution is likely to have a sing-song voice, a thicker body, and an agreeable and nourishing disposition.
A person with an unbalanced Earth constitution may likely manifest clinginess, bloating, worry, and indigestion.
This phase is affiliated with the season of Spring and the East direction. It represents the expansive pushing upward power required to generate new life, like the dawn in the morning when the sun starts to ascend the sky.
Wood is affiliated with the Gallbladder and Liver organ systems, which may be gleaned in the creative and inherent regenerative abilities of the Liver.
Bluish green is the color of Wood, and, if a person has a Wood problem, some areas of his complexion might sometimes look greenish.
The emotions related to an optimal Wood constitution are enthusiasm and benevolence. An inhibited wood can result in frustration and anger. As they are in the Wood Phase of their lives, young children are the ones who most clearly express these emotions.
If you’re constitution is woody, you’re likely to have a booming loud voice and a distinct gait. This constitution is the same as the Greek Choleric constitution type who’s gifted with directing and planning talents and projects his vision into the world.
In summary, there are a variety of seasons to each person just as each year is made up of all the seasons. Some people will clearly manifest what phase governs their constitution, while others aren’t so easy to pin down.
In Chinese medicine, attempting to fit a person into a certain category isn’t as good as observing the current presenting symptom, which may be a bit complex. However, understanding the Phases of a person is a good starting point in order to learn the interactions and composition that generate the living matrix.
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