Imbalance and the seasons

Five elements acupuncture has a lot to offer us in our understanding of why we are not always well and healthy. I increasingly discuss patients’ imbalances in terms of the elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Although I trained as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncturist, this way of looking at the ‘climate’ of our bodies and minds can be empowering for patients. For the Chinese practitioner the elements also represent the seasons – so Wood is Spring, Fire is Summer, Earth is late Summer, Metal is Autumn and Water is Winter. I have reproduced a chart below that shows the ‘correspondences’ of each element so that you can begin to see which one is your dominant season. 

One of the questions I get asked is whether the imbalance arises because of personality factors, or for some other reason. Debra Katz provides an interesting view on this in her book ‘Characters of Wisdom – Taoist Tales of the Acupuncture Points’ (2008):

“There is a very simple assumption in the theory of spiritual five element acupuncture. This is that at sometime, probably early in life, our energy was knocked out of balance. This also threw our system out of balance in a certain season. This then produced a weakness in our energetic system. When a patient comes to me I can see this weakness in their energetic colour, detect it in their odour, feel it in their energy, and hear it in their voice. If this energetic weakness is not helped it continues to weaken our energy especially in the season when it happened. This weakness is shown in a tint to our energetic colour, in the sound pattern of the voice, in a flavour to our odour, and in an emphasis in certain emotions. For example if the imbalance occurred in the spring, there would be a greenish tint to the energetic skin colour, a shout in the voice, a sharp flavour to the odour and some inappropriate anger. This is not a personality thing, but an energetic weakness that we can support with treatment so the person feels whole again.”


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