How does an acupuncturist tailor a treatment specifically for a patient? Most often it is based on physical exam, collection of medical history and personal characteristics, pulse diagnosis, and palpation of the body (in Japanese acupuncture). This information along with knowledge of 5 element theory helps create a working treatment plan and thus placement of needles.
5 element theory is the basis of many acupuncture approaches. Each meridian channel and vital organ of the body is associated with a specific element. The 5 main elements are: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each element has an associated color, sound, characteristic, organ, meridian, and general predispositions, including yin versus yang.
Individuals can be characterized by each of the 5 elements:
Fire – boisterous, magnetic, extroverted, many ideas, intense
Earth – nurturing, generous, a foodie, community oriented, enjoys the company of others
Metal – organized, structure is important, stoic, acts strongly based on moral values
Water – musically inclined, deep thinker, quiet, introverted, prefers nature to people, predisposed to darker thoughts
Wood – leadership tendency, get things done attitude, competitive, pre-disposed to short tempers, confident
Most individuals are not only one element but a mixture of elements and their strengths in a persons character may change with time or external or internal pressures.
Yin and Yang influences how the elements are presented by the body.
Yin – feminine energy, quiet, holding, mother energy, cold, contraction, reservoir, dark, moon
Yang – masculine energy, moving, dynamic, father energy, hot, expansion, light, sun
The acupuncture meridians and their associated vital organ:
Kidney – yin energy, water element, important for essential energy (Jing) qi which was received at birth, associated with kidney organs, fertility, brain, and bone, part of the lower burner.
Spleen – yin energy, earth element, important for muscles, fertility, holding of fluids within the vasculature, production of qi energy alongside of stomach, associated with spleen and pancreas
Liver – yin energy, wood element, important for tendons, eyes, fertility, detox, energy, and dreams, associated with liver organ
Heart – yin energy, fire element, important for shen (spirit), cardiovascular health, mood/emotions, part of the upper burner, associated with heart organ
Pericardium – yin energy, fire element, important also for shen, mood, cardiovascular health, nausea points, associated with pericardium, protector of the heart
Lung – yin energy, metal element, important for skin, respiratory, mortal spirit, part of the upper burner, associated with lung organ and skin organ
Small Intestine – yang energy, fire element, important for absorption and processing of nutrients, separates the pure from the impure, associated with the small intestine
Triple Warmer (Triple Heater, or San Jiao) – yang energy, fire element, regulator of the three burners of the body, important for the autonomic function of the body, and associated with processing and movement of qi from three sections of body considered the lower, middle, and upper burners of the body. Does not have a distinct organ association.
Large Intestine – yang energy, metal element, important for digestion and absorption of fluids, has influence on the immune system, dental and facial areas of the body, it can also influence skin. Organ association large intestine.
Bladder – yang energy, water element, important for removal of impure fluids, part of the lower burner, but also has great influence on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Bladder meridian encompasses many of the shu points of the body that influence each of the vital organs from treatment on a patients back. Organ association bladder.
Gallbladder – yang energy, wood element, important for storing and emptying bile and smooth flow of qi, supports decision making and wise judgment, associated with lateral aspect of the body. Organ association gallbladder.
Stomach – yang energy, earth element, important for transforming and digesting, it is part of the middle burner, associated with the production all qi energy created after birth. Organ association stomach.