Five Elements Theory

Five element theory is one of the major systems of thought within traditional Chinese medicine. Also referred to as the five phase theory by some practitioners, five element theory has been used for more than 2000 years as a method of diagnosis and treatment.


How does five element theory work?

Essentially, five element theory is used to help explain the cause of particular diseases and to associate signs or symptoms to particular organs and afflictions, in the context of phases, five element theory helps to explain the processes that are occurring the body throughout various stages of disease and healing. This is particularly useful in explaining the processes that take place during the generating and controlling cycles mentioned in five element theory.


Within five element theory are four main cycles, or ways in which the elements (and their associated emotions, colors, sounds, odors, etc,) interact.


generation cycle:  The first of these is generation cycle. In this cycles each element serves as a mother, which promotes the growth the development of the following, or child, element. Each element provides a generating force or foundation for the element that immediately follows it , ie, the fire element provides a foundation for the earth element, the earth element provides a nurturing foundation for the metal element, and so on.


controlling cycle :The second main cycle is called controlling cycle. According to this cycle theory each element is involved in a checks –and-balances relationship that helps keep thing in order; each element both controls and is controlled by another element( water, for example, controls fire, but Is itself controlled by earth.)

sheng_cycle                   ke_cycle

overactive cycle :The third and fourth cycles in five element theory are cycles of imbalance. In the overactive cycle, and element overacts, or exerts too much control, over its subordinate element, damaging the element and causing imbalances in the body, for example the water element may completely put out the fire element, or the earth element may soak up the water element completely.


insulting cycle :In the insulting cycle, forces are actually reversed, the subordinate element returns the controlling force generated by the controlling element, again causing an imbalance in the body. Instead of water suppressing fire, in this cycle fire would actually burn up water。

cheng_cycle                   wu_cycle