The Five Element Theory serves as a major diagnostic and treatment tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in the environment and within ourselves. For example, there are five environmental elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – each corresponding with certain body organs, such as the heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, stomach, urinary bladder and gull bladder. The five different elements are associated with different times of the year: Fire with summer, Earth with late-summer, Metal with autumn, Water with winter and Wood with spring.
The five elements interact with each other (they depend on each other). For example, the liver, belonging to the Wood element, directly affects the spleen, which belongs to the Earth element. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners try to maintain a balance among the body’s organs.
TCM practitioners pay attention to weather, especially very extreme weather, like an unusually windy spring, warm spells during winter or cold snaps during summer. Extreme or unusual weather can cause health imbalances in people. Health problems tend to occur during or immediately following certain seasons. It is important to notice these changes in weather, so preventative action can be taken against an imbalance.
If a person is imbalanced, he or she may become depressed or, on the other side of the spectrum, have an excess of joy. Agitation, nervous exhaustion, heartburn and insomnia are other indicators of an imbalance. When balanced, the heart circulates blood properly, creating a healthy breakdown of food in the small intestines. Emotionally, there is a fulfillment from the balanced equilibrium of the heart and mind.
Fire is the element of summer. It is connected with the heart and pericardium as well as the small intestine and triple heater. Growth, joy and spiritual awareness between the heart and mind are the focus during summer.
The small intestine represents our ability to take in and to save what we want and to discard the things we don’t want. What we eat, see, hear and feel are all processed by the small intestine’s energy.
We relate to others through the Fire element. Therefore, summer is a good time to change our connections with the external world. We can change our relationships with people. The energy of the pericardium relates to our intimate bonding with partners, making summer a great time to ponder your relationships with others and manifest them to your liking.
TCM practitioners believe that a person should cater his or her diet to the seasons. Because summer is associated with the heart, it is important to eat foods that benefit the heart. For example, using olive oil, which is low in cholesterol, is a great way to prevent heart attacks.
It is important in any season to prevent illness. Summer heat can produce excess body heat, profuse sweating, parched mouth and throat, constipation and heart palpitations. Therefore, it is important to keep hydrated and cool. In order to maintain balance, it is important to be aware of the seasons and to modify your habits according to them.