|The following is a reference to the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is used for the sole purpose of educating our customers in order for them to become knowledgeable consumers in the complex and extensive background of Chinese Herbal Therapy. This is only a small part of TCM and its theories. Please click on the sections in the outline below to read more about it.
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1. The Formation of the Theory of Five Elements
The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. In the beginning, the Chinese only knew that the five elements were indispensable things for daily life. Afterwards, they learned the properties of the five elements and their relationship with each other, which gave an understanding the world. They are set at a constant motion of change, leading to the theory of the five elements or the doctrine of the five evolutive phases.
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2. The Content of the Theory of Five Elements
a. Attribution of Thing in Light of the Theory of Five Elements
Viscera, bowels, tissues, and other organs make up the human body. Each has their own physiological functions, which make up the life process of the body. The different functions are all related, supplementary, and conditional to each other, and therefore are unified with each other. These relationships are shared between the main five viscera through channels and collaterals: the heart, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney
b. Generation, Restriction, Subjugation and Reverse Restriction Among the Five Elements
Within the five elements, there exists the relationships of generation, restriction, subjugate, and reverse restriction.
Generation can be explained as follows: wood generates fire, fire generates earth, earth generates metal, metal generates water, and water generates wood. In a relationship, one is the generator, and the other is being generated. The generator is referred to as the mother, and the element being generated is referred to as the son. Wood is the mother of fire and also the son of water.
Restriction can be explained as follows: wood restricts earth, earth restricts water, water restricts fire, fire restricts metal, and metal restricts wood.
Generation and restriction are very important to the five elements. Without generation, there would be no birth. Without restriction, elements would grow excessively. Generation and restriction oppose each other yet depend on each other, creating a balance.
With excessiveness of the five elements comes subjugation and reverse restriction.
Subjugation means when one element overpowers another, making it weak. For example, if wood is in excess, metal, which normally would restrict wood, cannot restrict it, and wood would restrict over earth, making earth weak.
Reverse restriction means when one element is in excess and has the ability to overpower an element that normally would restrict the one in power. For example, wood in excess would make metal have the inability to restrict it, and wood would then be able to restrict metal, making it a reverse restriction. The relationships in reverse restriction are the opposite of the relationships in normal restriction. Reverse restriction is harmful.
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3. The Application of the Theory of Five Elements in TCM
The theory of five elements is used to explain the physiology and pathology of the human body and to find diagnosis and treatment.
a. Explaining the Correlation between the Five Viscera
The generation relationships found within the five elements also apply to their corresponding viscera. The vital essence of the kidney (water) nourishes the liver (wood). The heart is similar to fire, the spleen is similar to earth, and the lung is similar to metal.
The same correspondence between the five elements and the five viscera can be found in restriction. For example, the lung (metal) extends and restrains the liver (wood). The spleen (earth) transports, distributes, and transforms nutrients and may prevent the overflow of water of the kidney.
b. Expounding Pathological Influence between the Five Viscera
Pathology of the human body can be explained through the five elements. Subjugation and reverse restriction leads to harm. When there is lung trouble due to heart trouble, it is described as fire subjugating metal. If the lung trouble is due to liver trouble, then it is called wood reversely restricting metal. If it is due to kidney trouble, it is called an illness of a son organ involving the mother organ.
c. Diagnosing and Treating Diseases
The five elements not only relate to the five viscera but to colors (blue, red, yellow, white and black), voices (shouting, laughing, singing, crying, and moaning), five kinds of flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, and salty), and different pulse conditions. When diagnosing through observation, listening and smelling, inquiring, pulse feeling and palpation, the five elements comes in. For example, a person with a blue face and that prefers sour food may have liver disease. The person is blue because the wood (liver) subjugated earth (spleen).
For treatment, the health of the other viscera should be considered. According to the theory of five elements, when liver disease occurs, it may spread to the spleen, and so the Qi of the spleen should be replenished before it is harmed. If hypofunction is found in the son organ, the mother organ should be tonified.
In acupuncture and moxibustion, the points are found through the theory of five elements. They are chosen according to the law of generation, restriction, subjugation, and reverse restriction.
The theory of Yin and Yang is applied to two opposing components within one thing using the relations of opposition, interdependence, waxing and waning, and transformation. The theory of the five elements is applied to wood, fire, earth, water, and metal and their corresponding things using the laws of generation, restriction, subjugation, and reverse restriction. Both theories are often combined.
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|***Taken from A Practical English-Chinese Library of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Basic Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (I). Publishing House of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Written by Zhang Enqin. Translated by Zhang Enqin and Xu Xiangcai. Revised by Xu Guoqian and Wang Zhikui.|