Life Energy Around the World

Qi is a very important concept in Chinese medicine. As it turns out, it’s a very important concept all over the world! The following is an excerpt from “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen.

Invisible life energy is a universal concept and is most commonly associated with breath, heat, air, and/or sunlight. Evidence of a shared, perennial philosophy of health can be found among all ancient cultures.

God breathes the “breath of life” (ruach) into Earth to create the first human. The Hebrew name “Adam” ids rived from the same root as Adama, Earth. The Breath of God (Ruach Ha Kodesh in Hebrew, Spiritus Sancti in Latin) is synonymous with the power of Spirit. A similar idea is expressed in the holy scripture of Islan, the Qur’an (Koran). The words nafas, meaning Allah’s own breath, and ruh, meaning Allah’s own soul, “are used to mean the human breath and human soul – confirming the fact that we are originally from Allah, of Allah, for allah, and in the end will return to Allah.” Shaykh Hakim Moinuddin Chishti says that “breath” is not the same as air or oxygen. Rather is is a divine energy that regulates human emotions and the equilibrium of the body. “Both the quantity and quality of breath have a definite and direct effect upon human health.”

In Greek, the vital breath is called pneuma, a word first used by the philosopher Anaximenes (ca. 545 BC). Anaximenes said that life begins with the breath. All things come from it and dissolve into it at death. The soul is breath and is that which controls and “holds together” (prevents the disintegration or decomposition of) human beings. As air or wing, it encloses and maintains the world. Cambridge University professors G.S. Kirk and J.E. Raven in their work The Presocratic Philosophers, label a section of Anaximenes’ writings “The Comparison Between Cosmic Air and the Breath-Soul,” ideas that are remarkably parallel to the Chinese words Yuan Qi, “Cosmic or Original Qi,” and hun, “breath soul.” Vital breath creates a unity between microcosm and macrocosm. In Kirk and Raven’s translation, “The life-principle and motive force of man is, traditionally, pneuma or the breath-soul; (pneuma is seen in the outside world, as wind) therefore the life-principle of the outside world is pneuma; (therefore wind, breath, or air is the life and substance of all things).”

Hippocrates (460-377 BC) considered the founder of medical science, believed that the forces of life, like qi, must flow. When chymos, the body’s fluids – principally blood, bile, and phlegm – are in harmony, one is healthy. In The Nature of Man, he writes, “A man enjoys the most perfect health when these elements are duly proportioned to one another in power, bulk, and manner of compounding, so that they are mingled as excellently as possible. Pain is felt when one of these elements is either deficient or excessive…” When a component of health is isolated and out of balance with the other elements, in excess in certain places and absent form others, the result is pain and illness. According to Hippocrates, balance is the natural state. The role of a physician is “not to manipulate the patient as one would handle something inanimate, but to remove, both from within and from outside the patient’s body, obstructions to healthy recovery.”

Among the Kung San, the indigenous people of Africa’s Kalahan Desert, life energy is num. The num is stored in the lower abdomen and at the base of the spine and can be made to “boil” through ecstatic dance. In Boiling Energy, by Harvard lecturer Richard Katz, an elderly healer explains, “The num enters every part of your body, right to the tip of your feet and even your hair.” Num makes the spine tingle and the mind empty, without thoughts. The healer of healers “see people properly, just as they are.” At this point int he dance, the healers can project healing num or pull sickness form those who are ill. Shamans, num kausi, the “masters or owners of the num,” might help a student enter the proper state of transcendent consciousness (kia) by “shooting” arrows of num into the student’s body, often by snapping the fingers. (Some Native American healers project energy in a similar way, by slapping the palms together.) LIke modern physicians, the Kung believe that people carry illness within the body. When disease flares up, it can sometimes be cured by accumulating num, increasing the inner reserve of healing power. The Kung are also willing to use modern antibiotics. No treatment is 100 percent effective. As healer Gau says, “Maybe our num and European medicine are similar, because sometimes people who get European medicines die, and sometimes they live. That is the same with ours.”

Some fifty or sixty thousand years ago, long before the Chinese spoke of qi, Australian aborigines were cultivating life energy as a key to healing and spiritual power. According to my friend, ruin Tribe elder and medicine man Gaboo, “People who had this energy could communicate telepathically across vast distances. They formed the aboriginal telephone line.” In Voices of the First Day, a classic of aboriginal spirituality, author Robert Lawlor notes that, like the Chinese, the aborigines concentrated on an energy centre four inches below the navel, “where they said the cord of the great Rainbow Serpent (kundalini) lay coiled. Through the same centre the Aborigines drew body heat from the ‘rainbow fires’ that helped them endure cold.” Aborigines, like other indigenous tribes, believe that people today have less of this life energy than in the past. Because life energy is the common source and link between people and nature, the loss of it parallels the loss of connection between human beings and their relations: the plants, animals, stones, water, sky, the earth, and all of creation. Restoring life energy to its original condition of fullness may be the key to recovering lost potentials and realizing that”the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.”

Native American tribes also recognize the existence of a subtle healing energy. The Navajo say that the Winds (nilch’i) gave life to human beings and all of nature. THus, James Kale McNeley, Ph.D., a teacher at the Navajo Community College, speaks of the “Holy Wind” in his Holy Wind in Navajo Philosophy. As the Winds swirled through the human being, they left their mark as lines on fingers and toes. The Winds are also sacred powers, sources of healing guidance. They are considered messengers of God or the Great Spirit. When Native Americans pray to the “Winds of the Four Directions,” they become intuitively aware of solutions to life problems. According to one Navajo elder, if the Winds’ guidance is not followed, if one refuses to follow God’s instructions, “…our Holy One takes out the Wind that was within us. He stops our heart.” In SiSiWiss, “Sacred Breath,” an indigenous healing tradition from the PUget Sound region of Washington State, healers project power to their patients through dance, song, and laying on of hands. Some SiSiWiss chants include specific breathing methods to either drive away disease or invite helping and healing spirits.

IN the Lakota (Sioux) language, the word for soul, woniya, is derived from the word for breath, ni. In 1896, the Lakota holy man, Long KNift (George Sword), told physician James R. Walker, “A man’s ni is his life. It is the same as his breath. It gives him his strength. All that is inside a man’s body it keeps clean. If it is weak it cannot clean the inside of the body. If it goes away from a man he is dead…” The Lakota sweat lodge healing rite is called inipi because it purifies the ni. “Inipi causes a man’s ni to put out of his body all that makes him tired, or all that causes disease, or all that causes him to think wrong…”

IN Hawaii, the most powerful healers are known as Kahuna Ha, “Masters of the Breath.” The sacred healing breath, ha, can be absorbed at power places in nature (heiau), through dance (such as the hula), and deep breathing exercises. Some Kahunas learn how to store healing energy in the heart. Then, when the healing energy is projected through laying on of hands, the ha is coloured by the healer’s love and positive thoughts. In traditional Hawaiian counselling and mediation, all parties in a conflict first calm their minds by breathing deeply. This helps them to be less reactive and to find a better solution. The ha can also be transferred from a healer to a patient by blowing directly on the patient’s body. When a Kahuna Ha is near death, he/she may transfer lineage and power by breathing the ha onto a student or family member. The Hawaiian word Aloha, often used as a respectful, heartfelt greeting, also means “love.” Love is the “meeting face-to-face” (alo) of the breath of life (ha).

Of course the closest parallels to qi are found in Asian countries, particularly India. In India, the life energy, prana, is described as flowing through thousands of subtle-energy veins, the nadis. one of the goals of Yoga is to accumulate more prana through breath control exercises (pranayama) and physical postures (asana). THe student is also taught to conserve prana, and not to waste either his inborn, genetic store or that acquired through meditation. Some yogis believe that we are given a certain number of breaths at birth. If we learn to breathe more slowly, we use up our endowment at a slower pace and thus live longer.

There are remarkable parallels between Yoga and Chinese yin-yang theory, the philosophy that health is a balance of complementary opposites: fire and water, mind and body, self and nature. Hatha Yoga balances the solar (Ha) and lunar (the) currents of life energy. By reversing the courses of the two pranic breaths, one fire-like, one water-like, longevity is assured. Fire is made to descend, water to ascend, thus unifying mind (fire) and body (water) and preventing the dispersal of life energy.



TCM Series Intro Notes: Chinese Methodology

(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please tip if you feel so inclined. All tips are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on CM Methodology.

The main sources used today are:, “The Way of Qigong” by Kenneth S. Cohen, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost,,, “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1” edited by Zhanwen Liu and Liang Liu, “Secrets of Dragon Gate” by Dr. Steven Liu and Jonathan Blank.


Today we are going to begin with something a little different. We’re going to start with a short exercise. I’d like you all to take a few minutes and do this with me.

You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints. Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body. Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.

Pause for three minutes.

Now we will start.


“Disease is the process in which an evil Qi causes an illness and the genuine Qi of the body fights off the disease-causing agent. In this process, the unity within the body and the unity of the body and its environment mean that there are continuous interactions. It is only when the body’s genuine Qi is too weak to resist the evil Qi or the intensity of the evil Qi exceeds the genuine Qi’s ability to resist that illness occurs. This struggle of genuine Qi and evil Qi persists from the moment of attack through treatment. It continues until the body’s genuine Qi has gained sufficient strength to overpower the evil Qi.”

The struggle of the genuine Qi and the evil Qi directly affect the course of the illness, as well as the treatment.

“Huangdi’s Internal Classic” tells us that in order to be an excellent physician, one must have a very wide knowledge base including, but not limited to, “astronomy for phenomena above us, geography for phenomena beneath us, and the social sciences for events among us.” This is because they recognized the influence the entire world and our social, economic, and physical environment have on our health.


Chinese medicine uses a few approaches to treat patients. Firstly, they use the holistic systemic method, which utilizes the Five Elements theory to divide the “vital activities of the human body into five functional systems and which then links all the phenomena of the universe into these systems. Thus, the human body is not merely an isolated whole, but is part of a much larger ecosystem.” This method also utilizes yin-yang theory, separating everything into opposites.

The second approach is a classification by analogy, where things that are similar in properties or appearance are assigned to the same classification category. This helps the doctor to figure out a diagnosis. For example, the flow of the blood in the veins can be compared to the flow of water in a river. When water is chilled it freezes, and when heated it boils. Blood should therefore have similar characteristics. This provides a clear explanation for the symptoms of illnesses of Cold and of Heat. This method has its limit, as it works on probability, not fact. All the actions taken here are corroborated by experience. It is also within this method that herbs are classified according to their properties.

The third approach is to infer the interior from the exterior, or, to observe the outward appearances in order to infer the changes inside the body. Chinese medicine believes that the five zang organs (heart, liver, lung, spleen and kidney) and the six fu organs (stomach, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, urinary bladder and san jiao) are closely linked to the organs and tissues on the bodies surface (five sense organs, four limbs and the head, and the nine orifices). The internal and external are linked mainly by means of the meridians and the activities of Qi and blood. The signs a practitioner will look for are the five facial colours, the changes in the tongue, the profiles of the pulse, the appearance of the ear, among many more. Every sign they see will help narrow down the diagnosis and treatment. A fuzzy, yellow tongue with a flushed complexion means something different than a fuzzy, yellow tongue with a red complexion.


Illnesses will have certain symptoms depending on the stage of its course. For instance, peptic ulcer disease may be diagnosed with a) deficiency-Cold of the spleen and the stomach, b) excessive liver-Qi attacking the stomach, c) accumulation of Dampnesss-Heat in the stomach, or something else. Throughout these different stages different treatments need to be applied. Because of these stages, many illnesses may be treated the same way; for instance, chronic lumbago, edema, diarrhea and enuresis all have a deficiency of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang, and therefore can all be treated by the method of warm tonification of spleen-Yang and kidney-Yang. Different herbs may be used based on the other symptoms the patient shows, but the purpose of the herbs is the same.


“Quiescence is the opposite of activity. It includes serenity (absence of stress) of the mind and quietness of the body, and occupies an important role in the CM theory of health preservation.” Much of the typical Chinese exercises include little action, and instead focus on inaction, or even a slow movement between postures. For instance, certain aspects of Qi Gong do not involve any movement of the limbs or trunk, where others involve constant movement. “By assuming certain well-defined postures and engaging in specified breathing techniques and meditative exercises, the person can carry out self-training and self-regulation and attain the goal of regulating, restoring and improving the body.” Of course, you don’t want to do all activity or all quiescence, as any excess or insufficiency is not good for your body. As I usually say – everything in moderation! In other words, those guys that walk around like brick walls with huge muscles and spend four hours a day at the gym, actually aren’t healthy. They are harming their bodies by weakening their genuine qi, by excess of ‘active’ and absence of quiescence, and will deteriorate quicker. They will have harder times fighting illness and recovering from injuries than people who balance their activities and quiescence.

The Chinese emphasize the importance of preventative medicine. In order to stay healthy, both your body and your mind need to be maintained. The idea is to facilitate the movement of Qi and blood to avoid stiffness of the joints, and to ensure there is no stagnation of the meridians or organ systems. the key to promote and preserve genuine Qi is to practice physical training, have a proper diet, regulate mental activities and establish a science-based lifestyle.


The human body is obviously very complex. It is composed mostly of the zang and fu viscera, the non-organ structures, the sense organs and orifices, the material bases of vital activities (essence, Qi, blood, body fluids, etc.) and there meridians. “Knowledge of the structure and functions of the body systems in CM has been obtained through observation of the manifestations of many physiological functions and pathological phenomena in the body. As this knowledge accumulated, it was taken a step further and became formulated as the visceral manifestation theory. The foundation established by this theory comprises principally the following three aspects:”

1. Ancient Anatomical Knowledge. As early as the eras of Spring-Autumn and the Warring States there are already descriptions of findings from the dissection and research of the human body such as circulation of blood, describing not only the formation of blood but its nature, functions, source that powers its circulation, internal organs it flows through, and its rate of flow.

2. Long-Term Observation of Physiological and Pathological Phenomena. Through the approach of “inferring the interior from the exterior” the ancient people figured out the physical and pathological patterns and rules of the human body. For instance, when the skin was chilled the common cold could develop easily and manifest such symptoms as nasal discharge, cough, and the absence of sweating. From this observation they inferred the relationship of the nose and skin to the lung. Or, in other words, the “lung has its orifice in the nose” and the “lung governs the skin”.

3. Summarization of Practical Experience. Not all connections between the body are outwardly obvious. Through practice and experience they were able to figure out some odd connections. For example, Many types of eye disorders could be cured by techniques that treated the liver. Based on that, they gradually formulated the theory that “the liver has its orifice in the eyes.”

The Visceral Manifestation theory includes the five zang organs (heart, lung, spleen, liver, kidney), the six fu organs (gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, urinary bladder, sanjiao), and the five irregular organs (brain, bone marrow, bones, blood vessels, uterus).

The zang viscera share two main functional characteristics: the mental activities, ie. “the heart houses the mind,” “the lung houses the soul,” “the spleen houses intention,” “the liver houses the ethereal soul,” and “the kidney houses the will.” The second is that they house essence and Qi.

The fu viscera share the functional characteristics of receiving, digesting, and transforming food and drink.

“The five sang viscera house the essence and Qi but do not discharge it; thus they are full but cannot be filled up. The sic fu viscera transform and digest matter but do not store it; thus they are filled, yet are not full.” – Plain Questions

We must realize that although the names of the organs are the same as modern western medicine, their physiology and pathology are quite different. “In the theory of visceral manifestation of CM the functions of a particular zang organ can encompass the functions of several organs of modern anatomy; and the functions of a particular organ in modern anatomy may be attributed to several zang and fu organs.” For example, the functions of the heart in CM include the nervous system, as well as the functions attributed in modern anatomy.


There are many practices to induce good health, including qi gong, tai chi, meditation, etc. Leaning against the piano, I’ve got a chart for you all with 24 basic tai chi moves. We began with a qi gong exercise that you can feel free to do whenever you like. And now, I’m going to end the notes with a qi breathing exercise.

The following is a basic breathing exercise:

Find a comfortable place to lie down or sit. Make sure that there are no major distractions such as noise, weather, etc. Make sure that you have nothing binding on your body, so remove your shoes and if you are wearing a belt, undo it (it’s also a good idea to loosen your pants or skirt). Allow your body to relax completely. It is often helpful to think of yourself floating down a stream. Inhale slowly, steadily and deeply to your abdomen, focusing on your navel. As you inhale relax your entire body and especially your abdomen to allow your lungs to expand to their full capacity. Exhale slowly and steadily, making sure to completely empty all the air in your lungs. Now, slowly fill your lungs again and expand them to their full capacity. And breathe out slowly, emptying all the air in your lungs. Repeat this as many times as you like.

If you have some water nearby go drink some in order to help ground yourself once you have stopped the practice.


I want you all to experience the benefits of Chinese practices. If you practice these exercises even three times a week you will quickly start to feel better. Personally, I work at an office so I sit at a desk all day. I find if I practice breathing deeply and sitting straight while relaxing my joints I don’t get stiff by the end of the day. You can do these practices anywhere, any time.

As a discussion point, and to finish us off, what do you think is meant by this quote?

“Yin-yang and the seasons are the beginning and end of all things.” – Plain Questions

TCM Series Intro Notes: The History of Chinese Medicine P1

(c) 2012, Chraeloos Resident
Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! Please tip if you feel so inclined. All tips are split between the venue and myself in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is one of the candles on the table. If you’d like a copy of today’s notes you can find them in another candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an Oriental medicine learning centre. If you have a suggestion for an activity or an event here, please contact either Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on the history of Chinese medicine, with some added notes about things we’ve previously talked about..

The main sources used today are: “Essentials of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 1”, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” by Daniel Reid, “Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-how” compiled by Amy Rost


Chinese Medicine emerged in the ancient Shamanic systems of China, and grew with the beliefs of Taoism. The theoretical foundations emerged, as far as we have records, in the fourth the first centuries BC with “Huangdi’s Internal Classic”. This was followed by the “Classic on Medical Problems” in the First Century BC. This work elaborated on the medical theories of “Huangdi’s Internal Classic.” The clinical medicine model then emerged at the end of the second century AD with the “Treatise on Cold-Attack and Miscellaneous Diseases”, which gave diagnosis based on the Six Meridians Theory. Next was the earliest materia medica, “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic,” in the first to second centuries AD. This was a compilation and basic theory of 365 Chinese herbs and their properties, classification, and flavors.

Prior to the emergence of professional physicians in the Chou dynasty (1122-249 BC), Chinese medicine was the exlusive domain of tribal shamans (wu). These people practiced with herbs for healing from the mountains. They were the first to test and categorize the herbs.

“References to thirty-six different diseases and their herbal cures have been found inscribed on some of the 160,000 tortoise shells and oracle bones excavated during the twentieth century in the Central Plain region, dating mainly form the ancien Yin dynasty, circa 1500 BC. This proves that disease and medicine had already become a sytematic field of study in China, if not an actual profession, as long as thirty-five hundred years ago.”

“”Huangdi’s Internal Classic” conatins the popular thesis on the relationship between man and nature: “VItal qi is connected with nature.” It means that the vital activities of the human body are closely linked to activities in the universe. Firstly, the human body relies on the unceasing exchanges of both substance and energy with the natural environment to sustain life functions – ie. the digestion and absorption of foods, excretion and breathing. Secondly, the human body is capable of continual adaptation to the natural environment. When the days are hot, Qi and blood move toward the body surface, as manifested by profuse sweating and decreased urine, in order to regulate the body temperature, and when the days are cold, Qi and blood move away from the body surface, as manifested by increased urine and decreased sweating. Thirdly, the human body is not completely passive when adapting to changes in the natural environment. Indeed, once familiar with the regularities of the environment, the human body actively adjusts its activities as appropriate to the changes in the environment.”

Western scholars still refer to this period of Chinese history as mythical and refer to the founding emperor Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor) as legendary. However, recent archaeological excavations have confirmed the existence of a major civilization that flourished in the Yellow River basin around 3000 BC, governed by an emperor named Huang Ti.

In 218 BC, the militant kingdom of Chin conquered all the warring kingdoms and principalities, uniting the empire under a single centralized government for the first time in Chinese history. In his ruthless drive to eradicate all vestiges of the past, the first Chin emperor ordered the infamous Fires of Chin, a mass book-durning campaign in which virtually all written records of ancient China’s classical heritage went up in flames.The only exceptions to this wholesale destruction of recorded knowledge were books on agriculture, divination (including the I-Ching), and medicine. Because of this, much of the knowledge and records that would help us in understanding these ancient times and the progression of ancient medicine are destroyed.


The body must adapt to changes in the seasons and in yin-yang. The entire environment has great influence over the human body and therefore all practitioners should take into consideration all possible external factors when diagnosing a patient.

The Chinese figured out the connection of microcosmic and macrocosmic because of necessity. The first signs of the TCM theories of qi, yin-yang, and the five elements all appeared in approx. fifth century BC (or earlier; according to some the theories go back as much as ten thousand years ago). Some feel that they are found to emerge here because of the major cultural shifts going on at the time. The period from the Warring States to the Qin and Han dynasties (fifth century BC to first century AD) showed the shift from a system of slavery to a feudal one. Many sciences and philosophies (biology, anthropology, calendar, mathematics, etc.) emerged here. During this time there emerged a medical classic – “Huangdi’s Internal Classic” which explained the laws of life and the unity of the body with the natural world. “It provided a systemic discussion of anatomy – the viscera and meridians – physiology, and pathology.” It also described the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases.

In ancient China, before Chinese medicine was established, ghosts and gods were believed to be responsible for illness. When patients were ill they would turn to a sorcerer or sorceress and devout prayer for help. CM counters this belief and argues that illness is a natural and avoidable phenomenon. The reason for this is that as the year has the various weather changes of the seasons so can the human body be in states of health or illness.

CM also rejects the notion of incurability and considers that if an illness is not cured it is because the physician’s knowledge of the illness is not correct, not clear or not adequate, or because an effective therapy has not yet been found.

“Because nature is the most obvious and enduring manifestation of Tao on earth, much of the traditional terminology of Chinese medicine is derived directly from natural phenomena (fire and water, wind and heat, dryness and dampness, etc.), and a traditional Chinese diagnosis often sounds more like a weather report than a medical analysis.”

“Because the microcosmic energy system of humans (ren) stands midway between the cosmic powers of Heaven (tien) and the natural forces of Earth (di), drawing power from both sources, human health depends not only on internal energy balance within the system, but also on harmony with the macrocosmic powers of Heaven (the cosmos) and Earth (nature).”


And for today we will leave it there. Any questions or comments?

TCM Series Intro Notes – The Five Elements

Welcome everyone to the Traditional Oriental Medicine series. Thank you for coming! If you feel so inclined, please tip. All tips are split between the venue and myself, in order to keep these events going and to enable the growth of the sim. The tip jar is a candle on the table.

Thank you for visiting Peaceful Dragon Oriental Medicine Centre! The centre is currently under construction, but is intended to be an OM learning centre. If you would like to help in setting up the learning centre please contact Xandria Winterwolf or myself.

I just want to remind everyone that none of the information presented here is advice and therefore should not be put into practice without first consulting a professional.

Today we will focus on the five elements and their connection to yin and yang.


The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These forces can be used to describe the movement and the relationship between different elements and phenomena in nature. These five elements are all connected by their controlling and promoting cycles, which you can see on the following chart. A good way to explain this is to see that wood promotes fire because it burns, water controls fire because it puts it out, etc. I suggest taking some time to look at this chart to really understand how they all connect.

Characteristics of Wood: “bending and straightening.” These derive from the ability of trees to grow and to branch, which is then abstracted as the ability to bend, to extend, to break free, to rise and to flourish.

Characteristics of Fire: “blazing upwards.” This derives from the upward mobility of fire, which is then abstracted as the possession of heat, and the ability to rise and to give out light.

Characteristics of Earth: “sowing and reaping.” These derive from the planting and harvesting on a farm, which are then abstracted as the ability to receive, to bear, and to nourish.

Characteristics of Metal: “malleability.” This derives from the ability of metal to conform to external forces despite its strength, which is then extended and abstracted as the ability to estrange and to coalesce and its sonority.

Characteristics of Water: “moistening downward.” This derives from the nature of water to moisten and to flow downward, to cool, and to conceal.

As you can see in the chart, each element has associations in season, taste, emotion, and body parts. They have many more associations on both a macrocosmic and microcosmic scale, as seen in the next chart.

Are there any questions so far?

“These five functional systems demonstrate that between the internal environment of the body and its external surroundings there is also a relationship of opposition and unity. Take geographic orientation, for example, the sun rises in the east, thus symbolizing the growth and luxuriance of trees; hence the east belongs to Wood. The climate in the south is blazing hot. It accords with the blazing nature of Fire, hence the south belongs to Fire.

In the human body, the liver belongs to Wood. According to Chinese medicine, the liver governs the tendons and supports the eyes; hence the tendons and the eyes belong to Wood. The heart belongs to the Fire Element. The heart governs the pulse and supports the tongue; hence the pulse, the tongue, etc., belong to Fire. All those with similar properties can all be assigned to the same category.

Are there any questions? Can you think of any other examples of where the elements might manifest?


“In the theory of the Five Elements, each Element has a direct relationship with all the other elements. For example, Earth is the mother of Metal and the child of Fire, and at the same time it is the suppressor of Water and the suppressed of Wood.

It should be noted that in CM the two relationships of generation and of restraint are inseparable. Without generation things cannot be born and cannot develop. Without restraint things can grow without limit and cause harm. It is necessary to have both generation and restraint in order to maintain harmonious relationships between things, and to assure their normal development and change.”

Paired Meridians: ie. shared energies; if, for instance, the yang organ (stomach) has too much yang, the easiest meridian to transfer the energy to would be the spleen (yin organ of this pair). The fact that the stomach has too much yang can indicate that the spleen does not have enough yang.

Remember, its all relative, so when speaking of paired meridians, if another organ is brought into play the organ that was previously called yin/yang could change.

Yin is passive; yang is action; everything in between that is relative. If we compare liquid to solid, liquid is yin and solid is yang. It’s always dependent on the organ systems (not the organ itself) and the location of the ailment. Although we speak of the “spleen”, “heart”, etc. we do not actually diagnose the organ itself. For instance, a meridian is like a pathway or a street. We’ll use gallbladder for an example. Gallbladder Street has many cars (energies) that travel on it. The main hotel on Gallbladder Street is Gallbladder hotel. Let’s say there is an accident on Gallbladder Street, and a heart surgeon is in a car, backed up in traffic on that same street and cannot get to his heart meridian because of the “blockage/stagnation” of cars (energies). Therefore the heart may palpitate, or other symptoms on the heart meridian may appear. One can lose a gallbladder but still have the street. The point being, every organ is related to each other. Yin and yang are related and dependant on each other in this same way.

An example of balancing: Liver is of the wood element, and kidney is of the water element, so if liver “catches fire” (ie. yin deficiency) then you can tonify the water element (kidney) to put the fire out in the liver meridian. Therefore, yin balances yang.

All the elements have a relationship the same as yin and yang; in other words, they all influence each other and determine the overall balance of the system. If one element is too strong, it will weaken another; or if one element is too weak, it will make another stronger. It’s all part of the cycle of controlling and promoting. This is shown in two charts: ‘Five Elements Detail’ and ‘Cycles of the Five Elements’.

Can you tell from the chart how the five elements in the human body can be governed by herbs? I know we haven’t gone into herbs too much, but can you guess which herbs would affect which organ system and therefore when it would be a good idea to take them?

The same effect is had with all related associations; the seasons, emotions, and tastes (properties of herbs) will all effect the body in different ways, relative to each organ.

For today, we’ll stop there. Any other questions or comments?