At its heart, Chinese medicine views the body as an ecosystem of interdependent elements. The elements each have tastes, seasons, emotions, sounds, smells, physiological functions and pathologies associated with them. The elements within a person can be affected by external factors, such as contagious germs, climate, diet and traumatic injuries and also by internal factors such as stress, emotions, and deep-rooted imbalances.
Aspects of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal affect each other just as they do in the natural world. When one element is changed, others are affected. For example, if Water is deficient, Fire may rise out of control and engender heat symptoms such as fever or inflammation.
- The Wood element is associated with the Liver system. It’s primary emotion is anger and it is most active in the springtime. The Liver system is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and Blood and pathologies can result in joint problems, eye issues, stress, depression and premenstrual tension.
- The Fire element rules the Heart, which propels blood and rules the spirit. Its time is high summer. Restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, hot flashes and circulatory system problems are common symptoms when the Fire element is out of balance.
- The Earth element rules the digestive system and is the hearth of the body. Late summer/harvest season is the time of the Earth. Worry is the associated emotion. Sluggish digestion, lethargy, tendency to gain weight, weak muscles and obsessive thinking are classic Earth element issues.
- Metal is associated with the Lung system and with the distribution of Qi through the body. Grief is the predominant emotion and physical symptoms can manifest as respiratory, immune, elimination or skin problems. Autumn is the time of Metal and that season can see the development of respiratory issues.
- Water is associated with the Kidney, its time is winter and fear is the predominant emotion. This is the deepest-rooted organ system, relating the Essence each person inherits through their DNA. Endocrine, reproductive and aging issues are often associated with the Water element.
Diagnosis involves asking questions, observation, listening, smelling, and palpation. The acupuncturist listens not only to what you say, but also pays attention to your posture, spirit, voice, and demeanor while you are together. Through a thorough diagnosis, she partners with you to develop an understanding of your history and the elements at work in you at the moment.
What’s involved in diagnosis?
- The acupuncturist will ask you detailed questions about your life and your history. She will want to know about your sleep, digestion and elimination patterns, stress levels, aches and pains, menses and pregnancy history, and energy levels throughout the day,
- She will pay attention to the quality of your voice and the unique smell of your body and breath.
- She will feel your pulse at 3 levels and 3 positions on each wrist, giving a detailed perspective on how energy is circulating through your body.
- She will look at your skin, assessing the strength of spirit and circulation.
- The acupuncturist will examine your tongue, paying attention to the shape, coating, color and any other distinguishing factors.