Five Element Theory in TCM

Did you ever wonder how feelings of imbalance, illness and unease come from? For many of these issues, we don’t really know where they originate, nor how to deal with them.

Five element theory is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to Chinese Medicine, imbalance and disease occur when certain elements are out of balance. Those elements are known as wood, earth, water, fire and metal.

Discover, which type of element you are and how you can keep a healthy balance of your elements.

Five Element Theory in TCM

According to TCM, five elements (also Wu Xing) are Wood, Fire, Water, Metal and Earth. Every one of us as well as nature needs each of these elements in order to be healthy and to stay in balance. Each of the natural elements are connected, they depend on each other and are related to our internal organs.

The elements also correspond to certain pathways in our body called meridians. Just imagine a whole network in your body connecting every cell, organ, bone, tendon and atom: Meridians are energy channels conducting our life force Qi throughout our whole system. There are 12 major meridians that correspond with our organs, and each of them is aligned to one of those five elements. Unity and connection affects nature and the human body.

Five Elements – Types

Five elements not only are represented in our bodies, but also by seasons, directions, by color, taste and emotions. All of them are connected and influencing each other. Also, five elements are organized into archetypal groups of qualities:

Each element type has its own characteristics and qualities


Wood type personalities often are found in our western success-oriented society. Wood elements tend to be “workaholics”, over-achievers, always planning and executing, striving for improvement and success. Spending time in nature and doing yoga or meditation can help keeping a healthy balance of the wood element.


Earth types value loyalty and security. They admire to feel grounded and at home. You would enjoy to surround yourself with earth type personalities, because they are compassionate and will make you feel welcomed, cared for and loved. Earth types also love food and nourishment. An excess of the earth element can lead to worry, overthinking and health problems which may result from over-eating and obesity.


Water personalities are very adaptable. They change their form and appearance based on the situation while its substance remains. Water types are intuitive, wise, descending, sensible, creative, artistic and modest. The main problem for water is fear. Water elements need enough sleep – meditation, yoga, and Qi Gong can help them to stay balanced.


Fire types can best be described by these characteristics: joy, romance, fun, connection, energy, passion, creativity. They don’t like being alone at all, rather enjoying company and action. But fire element people also tend to be aggressive, easily worried, fatigued, feeling uninspired, depressed and isolated. Physical illness can be expressed through heart problems and anxiety. To balance an overload of fire, those types have to focus more on water, wood and earth. Also, gentle exercise, relaxation techniques and cool temperatures can help them to remain balanced.


Metal type personalities prefer structure. They are calm and strong, responsible, motivated, loyal, disciplined and have a strong self-esteem. Metal weakness can manifest physically in our lungs and large intestines: asthma, constipation and immunity problems are often found here. Major mental issues of an overload of metal are being impatient, stubborn, critical and self-centered.

How can we keep a healthy Balance of our Five Elements?

Everyone of us has their own unique proportion of elements. While one person has more water, the other might have more of the wood element which can be represented through their character and appearance. This is totally normal and natural. But as just discussed, if one element is overly high or low, then disease and emotional instability can occur.

Natural ways for rebalancing our elements are eating healthy food and supporting our body through herbs, essential oils, acupuncture, massage or yoga. Conscious practices like Qi Gong, Yin Yoga, mindful movement and meditation stimulate our meridians, support a free flow of Qi and helps rebalancing our elements.

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