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Theory of the Chinese 5 elements

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Remedy Description

Source: Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel Reid, Firestone book, New York, 1989, pp 25-30.



http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Health-Sex-Longevity-Practical/dp/067164811X/ref=sr_1_1/105-4733989-7158007?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187067913&sr=8-1









The five elemental activities







The theory of the Five Elemental Activities (wu-hsing) further explains the



cosmological associations between man and universe. Unlike the five



elements in traditional Western philosophy, the Five Elemental Activities



of Taoism refer to active forces, not inert elements, although they use



similar symbols. The Yellow Emperor's Classic states, 'The Five Elemental



Activities of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water encompass all phe-



nomena of nature. It is a symbolism that applies equally to man.'





These five primordial cosmic forces function according to patterned



relationships based on their relative characteristics. Each force is gener-



ated ('given birth') by one of the other forces and suppressed ('con-



quered') by a different one, as follows:







chinese chart







A literal look at the symbols explains their relationships. Wood burns



to generate fire. Fire produces ash, which generates Earth. Earth gen-



erates and yields forth Metal. When heated. Metal becomes molten,



generating the Water element. Water promotes plant growth, thereby



generating Wood. Following the suppressive cycle. Wood depletes soil of



nutrients, thereby suppressing Earth. Earth soils and channels Water,



thereby 'conquering' it. Water suppresses fire by extinguishing it. Fire



suppresses Metal by melting it, and Metal suppresses Wood by cutting it.



The generative cycle is called the 'Mother/Son' relationship, and the



suppressive cycle is the 'Victor/Vanquished' relationship. Their constant



interactions produce the myriad phenomena of the universe.







The Five Elemental Activities manifest themselves in the human body



through their association with the five sets of paired organs, primarily the



solid Yin organs. The heart is ruled by Fire, the liver by Wood, the kidneys



by Water, the pancreas by Earth, and the lungs by Metal. For example,



there exists a generative Mother/Son relationship between the Wood-



energy of the liver and the Fire-energy of the heart, but a suppressive



Victor/Vanquished relation between the Wood of the liver and the Earth



of the pancreas. Excess Water-energy in the kidneys suppresses the



Fire-energy of the heart, sufficient Earth-energy must be generated by the



pancreas/stomach organs in order to sustain the Metal-energy of lungs/



large intestine, and so forth.







The Five Elemental Activities have other primal associations as well.



There are the Five Elemental Flavors, the Five Seasons, Five Sounds, Five



Climates, and others. The charts opposite illustrate the important cosmic



associations and systematic relationships of the Five Elemental Activities



in convenient form.







chinese chart











Chinese physicians use a combination of Yin/Yang and the Five



Elemental Activities to diagnose the cause and chart the course of disease



and debility, as well as to prescribe appropriate remedies. It is a basic



tenet of Taoism that the same primordial principles that govern the



universe at large also run through each and every part of it according to



the same patterns. This is also the conclusion of modern quantum



physics, which regards the entire universe as a giant macrocosmic atom,



and the atom as a mini-universe. Chinese doctors view the human body



as a microcosm of the universe, and they make no distinctions between



'nature' and 'human nature', as in Western dualism, which isolates man



from his roots in nature. Following are a few simple examples of how the



Five Elemental Activities come into play in traditional Chinese diagnosis



and treatment:







A person with a volatile temper who suffers from blurry vision



and frequently shouts at people would be diagnosed as suffering



from liver inflammation because, according to our chart, liver



conditions are reflected in the eyes and associated with the



emotion of anger and the sound of shouting. When the Wood-



energy of an inflamed liver burns out of control, it causes



over-excitation of Fire-energy in the heart, according to the



generative relation of Wood to Fire. The doctor might take one or



two approaches to re-balance the affected energies: either sedate



the liver in order to suppress its inflammatory effects on the



heart; or else tonify the kidneys to enhance their Water-energy,



which is doubly effective because Water-energy nourishes the



Wood of the agitated liver while at the same time suppressing



the excess Fire fanned in the heart by the over-active Wood-



energy of the liver.







A child who suffers from chronic fear (Water emotion) tends



to wet his bed (a Water function), and therefore he probably



suffers from a deficiency of kidney-energy (a Water organ).



Comforting words and stern warnings can never 'talk' a child



out of this condition. Instead, the Chinese approach would be to



tonify the child's kidneys with appropriate diet, herbs, and



acupuncture therapy, thereby enhancing kidney-energy to the



point that the emotion of fear associated with kidney deficiency



disappears along with the associated symptom of incontinence.



A person with a very red complexion (Fire color), who tends



to laught a lot (Fire sound) and is exceedingly jovial (Fire



emotion) probably has an over-active heart (Fire organ). Here



again there are two avenues of approach to quelling the Fire: one



is to sedate heart energy with cooling Yin herbs; the other is to



tonify the kidneys, as in the first example, thereby enhancing



Water-energy sufficiently to suppress excess Fire-energy in the



heart through the Victor/Vanquished relation of Water to Fire.



[Reid, Chinese Herbal Medicine]







The permutations and combinations of this system are complex and



infinite, and the Chinese physician must learn to juggle all factors,



internal and external, in making his diagnosis. Then he applies the same



system of complementary forces in reverse to effect a cure. This requires a



lot of practical clinical experience, what the Chinese call Un-chuang or



bedside experience'. As in all the Taoist arts, the key to success in



medicine is practice, not theory, and the measure of that success lies in



practical results, not abstract deductions.







The Chinese medical system takes into account many vital health



factors that are largely ignored or misunderstood in Western medicine.



For example, when certain climatic conditions become extreme, such as



wind or heat or dampness, specific internal organs are directly affected



through the system of associated energies. Therefore, the Chinese always



adjust their diets according to the weather and the season, in order to



balance internal and external energy conditions. In highly humid climates



and seasons, Chinese menus strongly favor ginger, garlic, peppers and



other pungent Fire-energy flavors because they balance and 'dry out'



excess dampness accumulated in the body from the climate and expel it in



the form of perspiration. In winter, 'warming' foods and herbs are used to



combat external cold, and in summer 'cooling' foods protect the vital



organs from damage by external heat. Today, modern refrigeration and



rapid transport systems have made all types of foods available all year



round in most Western countries, which has only served to drive Western



diets even further from the seasonal patterns intended by nature.







Sudden shifts in emotion and mood can trigger a chain-reaction of



energy imbalance throughout the body, and these reactions are just as



strong as those caused by wind and heat, diet and drugs. It is a well-



known fact even in Western medicine that a person suffering from



extreme personal grief, such as the death of a spouse, becomes highly



vulnerable to all sorts of disease and debility, and if the grief is prolonged



the damage can become irreversible. Fear, as we have seen, is a symptom



of temporary kidney dysfunction, but prolonged chronic fear can cause



permanent kidney damage. Frequent fits of anger reflect liver problems,



but a person who is by nature angry all the time will damage an otherwise



healthy liver, which then generates even more anger in a vicious psycho-



somatic circle. In Chinese medicine, physiological and psychological



factors are as inseparable as Yin and Yang. The idea of treating patients



suffering from serious mental and emotional disturbances by lying them



down on a psychiatrist's couch and talking about it strikes Chinese



physicians as a method more appropriate for spiritual exorcism in temple



ceremonies but entirely useless from a medical viewpoint. As we shall



see, recent research in nutritional therapy has confirmed the invisible



links between physical and mental health, a fact of life known and



recorded by Taoists thousands of years ago

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