The Five Phases of Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Five Phases of Traditional Chinese Medicine

One of my favorite lines from The Fifth Element, one of my favorite movies, is when Vito Cornelius sees the tattoo on Leeloo’s arm and realizes what she is, muttering, "It's The Fifth... Element!” before he faints. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are also five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wood, and Metal – not Leeloo.

The number “five” is very important in Chinese medicine, which is based on a few key philosophies, one of them being the “Five Phases,” or Elements. The Five Phases correspond primarily to the five major organs, Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, and Liver, with each having associated seasons, colors, flavors, emotions, and body parts. For example, Wood is related to the Liver (organ) and is associated with spring (season), green (color), sour (flavor), anger, frustration, and resentment (emotions), and tendons (body parts). 

 

Just like your organs, body parts, and emotions, all of the Five Elements are interconnected. They are continuously moving and changing, each becoming dominant at different times in the natural cycle, and affecting an individual's physiology. Health conditions occur when there is an extreme abundance or deficiency in any given element, causing an imbalance. In treatment, each Element nourishes one other Element and controls another, and therefore can be used to help correct an imbalance affecting its related elements and address the condition.

As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, we assess all of these elements and associations to determine the “pattern of differentiation,” or diagnosis, when developing the treatment plan for a patient. For example, when a patient comes in complaining of elbow pain, commonly known as tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, the pain is directly caused by inflammation in the Tendon (body part), related to Wood (element), but there is also likely an indirect or underlying condition in the organ associated with Wood, i.e. the Liver, that has contributed to the weakened state of the tendons. Therefore, treatment will also address the Liver, as well as the element that nourishes Wood, i.e. Water and the Kidneys. 

 

This theme of interconnectivity and the importance of balance throughout Chinese medicine serves as the inspiration for Dragon Hemp’s core therapeutic line and brand as a whole. All of our products are meant to complement one another, and are designed to work synergistically for enhanced effects when used together.

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