Natural Path to Health: Chinese Five Element Theory, Part Two-Wood

In this article we will visit the Wood element in detail. I do hope this is helping to stimulate your interest in Chinese medicine. Ask more questions, make more connections and learn more about yourself and how this medicine can serve you.

Wood: Wood is related to the Liver and Gallbladder. It represents Spring. The beginning. New. Movement. Initiative. Decision making (this is specifically related to the Gallbladder). It is symbolized by bamboo because it grows so quickly, sometimes a number of feet over night. The emotions related are all- but specifically anger and depression. Any physical manifestation of imbalance would be that of stagnation and explosive movement including arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression. A quote from the classics relating to this element is: “The softest and the hardest”; represented by the living wood (softness, living, sap wood). Sour is the taste. Harmony is the desired outcome. Desire to be straight and spreading. Its color is green/blue. 

Wood element organs are the ones that start you off on a task and give you the strength and energy to get through it. The Gallbladder starts you off and the Liver provides endurance. As mentioned previously, wood is governed by metal, gives earth strength and is engendered by water. It signifies the beginning of the journey. The rhythm of wood is what provides endurance and planning as the Liver plods along a task. The Gallbladder initiates the rise of yang energy and the Liver continues to embrace the yang rising. Again, another start/beginning.

This begins the process a human being must go through to reach complete oneness. In this sense, you could start at the Gallbladder and work your way around the respective of the twelve organs clockwise until you end up at the Triple burner, relating this to the cycle of human life. The Gallbladder is birth, Triple burner being the creation/thought/conception of life. This signifies the oneness of two human beings coming together to start the cycle of life once again.

In clinic, I see many pathologies relating to the organ system of Wood element. Many people have been exposed to toxins throughout their life. The Liver filters toxins and becomes stagnated with exposure to too much. Also, the Liver is the only organ in Chinese medicine that is related to two jiaos, both the middle and lower jiao. In the middle jiao its function is related to digestion, part of how it processes toxins and foods. In the lower jiao it is related to hormones.

Many times I treat people with hormonal imbalances. These can be related to issues with digestion as well as emotion. The Liver houses all emotions but are particular to anger and depression. How many people do you know that are on an antidepressant medication? The numbers are staggering. Data compiled from 2005-2008 showed that 1 in 12 people from the age of 12 up are on antidepressants. Since the 1980’s when SSRIs were first introduced the rate of prescribing has increased more than 400%. Obesity is also a contributor to depression. With the connection between Liver function and digestion in Chinese medicine, we can see how these factors relate. Also, it is common to see people who have had their Gallbladder removed. This also leads to numerous digestive complications which further facilitates imbalance.

My goal with this is to enlighten you on how I look at disease while treating in my practice. Nothing is “cut and dry”. There is always a relationship that goes beyond a symptom. Through this, I facilitate healing and balance. My work is to engage you and help you understand the process of healing and how your body heals through different relationships of understanding. Thank you for joining me. More to come… Be well~