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Five elements, yin and yang run through entire world

In Chinese cosmology, the five elements are the basis of medicine, are integral to all life, and arise out of yin and yang.

Yin and yang represent the female and male principles from which all things in the universe are generated. Yin is essence, yang is function. Yin is dark, cool, moist and quiet. Yang is dry, hot and active. Yin is the moon, reflective and deep. Yang is the sun, bright and strong.

Neither yin nor yang are pure. That is why in the symbol for each, there is a dot of yin within yang and a dot of yang within yin. They are mutually generating, and neither can exist without the other.



Chinese medicine teaches that if a person is a yang type, he or she is more “outer-directed,” extroverted and active. Often focused on what is “outside” of themselves, yang types need quiet time and reflection to balance energy. Their bodies can be hot, they can crave alcohol and meat, and may have high blood pressure, headaches or ulcers.

Yin types are quieter and tend to be more introverted. Focused on their inner lives, the yin types often need more fire to motivate them into action. If a person has excessive yin energy, fatigue and inertia may be present. Cold hands and feet, puffy ankles, or slow digestion may arise in the body. When the yang energy is deficient, the yin rises to excess, and when the yin is empty, the yang becomes excessive.




The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. There is a continuous flow of energy – rushing, pulsing and streaming, one to the other, in an endless cycle of variations that create all the phenomena in our world. The cycle of generation is described as water producing wood, which burns and creates fire, which leaves ash and becomes earth, out of which metal is mined.

Each organ and acupuncture meridian is associated with a different element. Water is associated with kidneys and bladder, wood with the liver and gall bladder, fire with the heart and small intestine, earth with the spleen and stomach, and metal with the lungs and large intestine.

No element or organ exists independently of another, and all elements need to be balanced for us to be healthy. In fact, within each acupuncture meridian, there are fire, earth, metal, water and wood points that allow the acupuncturist to see each element within each meridian.

The five elements and their associated organs are also governed by different seasons. Winter is ruled by the kidneys, spring is ruled by the liver, summer by the heart, and autumn is governed by the “wei chi,” which represents the lung energy. The lungs are particularly vulnerable in autumn. The wei chi is our protective armor that ensures that our immune systems protect us against sickness at the change of season.

What can we do to strengthen our wei chi this autumn? We can protect the chest and neck area from the cool autumn breeze. Herbal remedies can also protect our wei chi and keep us strong. Astragalus is a Chinese herb traditionally used in the autumn to strengthen the immune system and guard against colds. Should a cold begin to sneak up on you, ask your local acupuncturist for “gan mao ling,” a traditional formula to arrest the onset of a cold.

Heating your body up in a hot bath, putting on a warm sweatsuit and drinking warming teas with cinnamon and ginger work well. Quiet down. Get extra rest. Mother yourself. Open your spirit to the autumn. Notice the beauty around you.

The falling of the autumn leaves reminds us to let go, too. Be willing to really hear another, see another. Be willing to let go of your beliefs long enough to open your heart to what is around you.

Shed that which is not essential in your life and in your day. Listen to the wind. As the leaves fall, the energy of autumn sinks down into the roots, getting us ready for winter and nourishment of the kidney energy (we’ll talk about that in another column). Show your beauty. Notice that which graces your life every day. Let your beautiful colors show. They enrich the earth and the lives of those around you.

Yin, yang and the five elements reflect an ancient wisdom and understanding of the interdependence of all things. The earth can feel our appreciation of her beauty. Our bodies are bodies of water and are reflected in the oceans and rivers. Our lungs take in the crisp autumn air given so unconditionally. Be grateful. Be happy. Be well.

Cynthia Yaguda is a licensed acupuncturist with a doctorate degree in Oriental medicine with a private practice in Grass Valley. Contact her at 272-8935.


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