Live in harmony with the seasons
We in Eastern Oregon experience a long, drawn out early spring. It’s
frustrating. One day, 50 degrees. The next we wake up to new snow. The
daffodils poke their little green shoots up, growing a millimeter a
day, and we wonder if spring will overcome winter. Spring is a time of
new growth and rebirth, and it does always prevail over winter.
In the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, each Element is associated with a season. The Wood Element is associated with spring. Many different medical or spiritual systems have used elements symbolically to represent the human experience. For example, in the Western European system, the elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water are used. In the Chinese Five Element, the elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. The Five Element system of acupuncture is based on these elements found in nature and their associations.
Each Element also has an emotion associated with it, and Wood is associated with anger. Anger includes frustration, and emotional depression of the hopeless, unmotivated sort. These emotional states are considered to be the emotions not flowing smoothly in Chinese medicine. It is easy to understand this in terms of blocked growth creating frustration and anger.
Each element is also associated with an internal organ, whose functions extend beyond our Western medical view to emotional functions as well.
The liver is associated with the Wood Element, and is in charge of the smooth flow of emotions. Problems in the liver can lead to anger, frustration and depression.
The acupuncturist’s job is to transform the pathology — anger, frustration — into the virtue, or good side, of the Element.
The virtue of wood is benevolence, which does not mean stuffing anger and being nice. It means being able to come up with creative solutions that work for everyone. Anger is thought to be a good thing, a motivating force and the ability to see the problem and know that something needs to be done to make a change. Anger is the signal that growth is needed.
The wood element is also associated with hope and vision, which together remind us that growth is always an option, and sometimes all that is required for healing is a shift in perspective.
Some common health issues that arise from an imbalanced Wood Element are PMS and other female health issues, anger issues, emotional depression, hopelessness, low self-esteem, timidity, eye problems, problems involving the tendons and ligaments, shingles/herpes, difficulty transitioning into spring, insomnia (especially from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m ), not coping well with stress and high blood pressure.
What can you do to encourage a healthy Wood Element in yourself?
The Wood Element needs exercise — especially outside, or exercises that involve surprises, such as hiking, tennis, ping pong, etc., or exercise such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong or other martial arts. Other ways to assist the liver are eating sour foods such as pickles and sauerkraut, and greens such as kale, collards or dandelion greens, and avoiding highly processed foods.
The color associated with the Wood Element is green, and having the color green or live plants in your home increases the potential for growth and hope, and nourishes the Wood Element, as does spending time in nature. Living in harmony with the Elements requires honoring them for what they are, and spring is a time for growth and activity, for starting projects and planning for the future.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help a great deal. Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture treats the whole person, bringing the body, mind and spirit into balance, increasing health and vitality.
Other local health professionals are invited to submit columns for Health Matters.