The Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Today on Live to Sustain we're learning about the Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine. While modern science has brought remarkable new developments in medicine, our current health care system has been stripped of feeling. Sustainability is about sharing the art of healing, taking time to care for our bodies, and rediscovering our interconnectedness with the earth. Five Element Theory is a deep rooted philosophy of Chinese medicine that categorizes objects and describes natural phenomena.

1 wood

First we have Wood. Wood symbolizes birth and new beginnings. It is represented by the season of Spring. Nourished by Water, Wood is strong and flexible, though unchecked can become overgrown and destructive. ⠀

2 fire

The second element is Fire. Blazing upward, hot and forceful, Fire is fueled by Wood. It is represented by the season of summer, and is characterized by expansive growth. Fire can be bitter, scorching and catastrophic, yet also tamed by the cool, flowing nature of Water.

3 earth

The third element is Earth. Don't be fooled - the Earth is not just useless dirt. It is home to a rich ecosystem of insects, critters, fungi and bacteria. It has the awesome power to transform dead and decaying material into the nutrients of life. The Earth is sweet and nourishing, yet heavy and powerful. It is represented by the season of late summer.

4 metal

Fourth up we have Metal. Metal flows like water when hot, but can be molded and become hard. Metal controls Wood just as a sharp blade slices through a tree. Metal is represented by the season of Autumn when the air is dry and cool. A bittersweet time, it is associated with grief and sadness.

5 water

Last up we have Water. It is represented by the season of Winter, when the fall harvest is stored for cold days and long nights. It's nature is soft and flowing, yet it can be incredibly powerful - extinguishing Fire and laying waste to anything that lies in its path. But the cycle does not end here. The five elements flow into each other continuously. Water nourishes Wood, which transforms into Fire, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. This is the nature of the 5 Elements. ⠀

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