Five Element Acupuncture

chinese medicine five element chart
Five element acupuncture system assumes all illness comes from an inherent imbalance in constitutional energy energy. This energy is split into the five elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

The five elements system of medicine is an exploration of relationships between each element. Each elements can be in excess or deficient. It is the goal of the 5 element practitioner to help the patient to balance all 5 elements, getting the patient back to equilibrium and health.

A full exploration of each of these elements is well beyond the scope of a blog post and is the subject of numerous wordy books. However I’ll do my best to briefly explain each element, how that element forms human characteristics and how an out of balance element may manifest in behaviour:


The fire element governs the ability to give and receive love in a balanced and appropriate fashion. This love is not just the love between spouses or partners. It also influences relationships with friends, colleagues and family. A balanced Fire element enables a person to appropriately open up or close off from people.

Out of balance the Fire element may have problems giving or receiving love. Dominant themes in life revolve around feeling unloved or rejected. This may result in the person either shutting down or being inappropriately open, which may be perceived as flirting.

Out of balance a Fire element may fluctuate between being overly cheerful to miserable. Whilst it may appear a positive trait to be always cheerful, excess joy is a cause of disease in Chinese medicine. Everything, including moods need to be balanced. Its important here not to confuse cheerfulness with contentedness. Being content has a serene quality. Excess joy or cheerfulness on the other hand agitate the spirit.

The Fire element out of balance may seek love and approval by clowning around, assuming they will only be valued if they entertain their contemporaries.


The Earth element is all about nourishment, giving and receiving support and sympathy. The Earth element is typically balanced if a balanced relationship has been formed with a persons mother. The appropriate sympathy given to the child by the mother allows the child to grow to an adult who can appropriately give and receive sympathy. The child knows that at the appropriate time support will be available, which means that they become more self sufficient and balanced when they grow into an adult.

A poor relationship with the mother may manifest in later life with issues of feeling unsupported, unstable, misunderstood and unclear thinking.

The Earth element out of balance may overeat to fill emotional voids, seek excess sympathy or be excessively caring to the detriment of his/her own health in a subconscious desire to be recognized and supported more by others.


The Metal element is the energy of Autumn. It is about contraction and letting go – of relationships, ideas, nostalgia. Accept that once something is over it is time to let it go. As we move through different stages of life we form different attachments. Its important to be able to let go of these attachments as we move onto the next stage of life.

Out of balance the Metal element cannot let go or may even not form attachments in an attempt to avoid the pain of the inevitable end of the attachment. This can manifest as being cut-off or aloof. Often a Metal element may seek to form relationships with Heaven through religion or spirituality as these cannot be broken as easily as relationships with other humans.

This element may manifest almost impossibly high standards – being imposed both on selves and others. There may also be a pining for the gold old days – because the reality of every day and the frustration of never being “good” enough is easily trumped by memories that naturally become more glorious with the passing of time.


Water can oscillate between two extreme forms, a still stagnant pond to a raging river, perhaps one of the most destructive forces in nature. So it is in humanity with the Water element. Out of balance the element can be extremely driven, or manifest a complete lack of drive. A Water imbalance can obscure connection to wisdom and the ability to lead a full and engaging life. People with a healthy Water element are able to asses risk and decide an appropriate level of response.

Often this level of response is determined in childhood. Children can develop irrational fears based on overactive imaginations – monsters under the bed, crocodiles in the bath etc. Appropriate reassurance from parents ensures that the relationship to fear is modulated into the child’s adult life. A failure to reassure the child may result in an unbalanced Water element. Unbalanced relationship to fear may mean that the Water element can need constant reassurance for the smallest of threats. Conversely they may take excessive risks in an attempt to destroy the Fear or may create a barrier to defend against perceived threats by intimidating others.


The wood element is concerned with vision and empowerment. It allows a vision of a life plan and gives the ability to have patience to let this plan unfold. A balanced Wood element makes appropriate and timely life decisions.

Out of balance the element can get frustrated with obstacles and react with either apathy or extreme anger. Although this anger is directed outwards at the frustrating event/obstacle it is an outward display of deep dissatisfaction with lack of empowerment and ability to achieve important life goals.


The Five Element Acupuncture System is one system of acupuncture. I practice both Five Element and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) acupuncture. If you’d like to know more please do not hesitate to contact me.