What is Classical Five-Element Acupuncture?

For thousand of years, the Chinese have recognized that the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water exist in everything, everyone, and are essential for life. Classical Five-Element Acupuncture asserts that every human being is born with, or develops early in life, an imbalance in the natural functioning of these Five Elements. This imbalance becomes the underlying cause of illness.

Classical Five-Element Acupuncture is set apart from other systems of acupuncture by its core premise of diagnosing and treating a patient's fundamental Causative Factor: the element among the five that is the source of imbalance. The Causative Factor is assessed by way of sensory information provided by the body, mind, and spirit of the patient. Each of the elements has a corresponding odor, color, sound, and emotion, which can be perceived when a particular element is out of balance. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of the Causative Factor is the key to Classical Five-Element Acupuncture. In addition, this elegant system recognizes that the health of each unique individual's body, mind, and spirit must be taken into account to fully understand and treat the cause of illness. Thus, no two patients are ever treated the same.

Everything about each individual and who they are as a whole is taken into consideration in five element acupuncture as the deep, underlying disharmony within the mind and body is carefully addressed. Specific health issues that can lead a person to seek treatment will often improve once this essential level of balance has been reached.

As people today have become more informed and active in their own health care, acupuncture has become an increasingly sought-after form of treatment. This natural form of healing manipulates the flow of energy in the body, restoring balance, removing blockages and increasing energy where needed, without the potential side effects of some Western drugs.

This technique employs the insertion of fine, sterilized, disposable needles into specific points on the body. These points lie on energy channels, and are directly related to specific organs and physiological functions. The results include deep relaxation, pain relief, and healing.

Acupuncture has been found extremely useful for people who have either not responded to conventional forms of treatment or wish to augment Western medicine.

What are the Five-Elements?


Wood represents our capacity to be born and grow. The wood element embodies the season of spring. The main qualities associated with this element are hope, vision, growth, activity and exuberance. It is in the springtime that everything springs forth back to life. After the cold and desperation of the winter, life begins anew, nature bursts forth with hope and optimism to create the new growth of the season.  It is the fastest energetically moving of the elements upward and out like a tree or a plant.

The word “vision” is the most emblematic of the element–as without vision and direction, there would be no growth. It is the ability to “see” into the future, to plan and to have aspiration and hope, overcoming obstacles and creating our path.

The organ systems that lie within the wood element are that of the liver and gallbladder. These meridians (pathways) are the parts of us that move forward into the world, that see, plan and make decisions.  In other words, goes out and makes a difference.

The color of wood is green, the sound is a shouting or assertive voice or a voice that totally abandons self assertion (lack of shout). The odor of wood is rank and the emotion is anger.


Fire gives us the capacity to warm and open. The fire element represents the season of summer. This is the time when nature moves into activity, the time of mating and fulsome growth.  It is in this season that nature is in full bloom and in its fullest expansion.

Fire symbolizes the power of maturity and is an energy that is expressed through sharing, joy, exuberance, passion and love. It is the fire element that allows us to connect with others, open our hearts, enables us to have intimacy and connects with others and also establish appropriate boundaries in relationships.

The fire element represents the organ systems of the heart, small intestine, pericardium and san jiao (translated as triple burner). The color of fire is red, the odor is scorched, the emotion is joy or lack of joy, and the sound is laughter.


Earth gives us the capacity to receive and be satisfied. The earth element is representative of the season of late summer, the 4 to 6 week period at the end of summer when nature is heavy with its harvest.  This season can also be referred to as the harvest season, when everything has reached its peak ripeness and is at its utmost abundance.

This element is related to the mother as it is the earth that sustains and nourishes us. This nourishment refers not just to physical nourishment, but mental and spiritual nourishment as well. If our bodies, minds and spirits are not fed properly, then there is no base/foundation for all the other organ systems to be able to do their job.

The power of the earth further lies in its ability to establish a sense of peace within ourselves and balance; it is the mother element that allows one to feel at home and attain a sense of belonging.

The organs associated with the earth element are the stomach and spleen. The color is yellow/golden, the odor is fragrant and the emotion is sympathy or lack of sympathy. The sound of earth has a singing, soothing quality.


Metal gives us the capacity to see the quality and value of life. The metal element represents the season of autumn. It is in autumn when the air is crisp and all the leaves fall from the trees. One of the main qualities of metal is, therefore, the beauty of letting go. All the leaves must fall for new ones to grow forth in the spring. In addition, it is the richness and minerals left in the leaves that feed the soil to further spur growth in the coming seasons. This correlates to many of our own life experiences in which in order for growth and new experiences to spring forth we must sometimes let go, whether it be of a relationship, job, living situation, etc. It gives us our sense of self worth and a capacity to look at what lies beyond ourselves.

The organ systems that correlate with metal are the lungs - the part of us that connects to the higher spiritual realms and is the source of our own self-esteem - and the large intestine - the part of us that lets go on the all levels (body, mind, spirit and emotion). The color of metal is white, the odor is rotten, the emotion is grief and the sound is weeping.


Water gives the capacity to find our inner power and deepest sense of self. The water element represents the season of winter in which there is a gathering and replenishing of reserves ready for the next cycle of seasons It is in the winter that one is meant to rest, recharge, and build strength. The water element is associated with the notion of power, cleansing and flexibility, for it is water that ultimately allows everything to move in the body. Water gives us the power to adapt and the will and drive to fulfil
the potential given to us at birth.

The organs associated with the water element are the kidney and bladder. This is the part of us that rests, fills up or that part that is driven forward, relentless, like a stream moving from the mountains down to the sea The color or water is blue, and the odor is putrid. The emotion is fear or lack of fear, and the sound is a groaning or puttering voice.