The 5 Elements in Chinese Medicine

Five Elements is a fundamental theory of Chinese medicine. It holds that everything in the universe can be categorised into one of five groups – Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. These elements create a continuous cycle of energy:

This framework helps us to understand how forces of nature interact and react to each other and how nature interacts with the body. It shows us how the structures and systems in our body are connected to each other and the effects that the wider world have on them. Five Elements prescribes that being out of harmony and balance with the forces of universe is the root cause of disease. It is used to diagnose imbalances in the body, mind, spirit and emotions.

The Five Element theory of Chinese medicine is an amazing way to draw together the sense of connectedness and behavioural patterns between all things.

According to Chinese medicine, the moment of your birth determines how much each element has an impact on you. We are all born with one Element slightly out of balance. You can have too much or too little of an element, which can cause illness or emotional difficulties if you don’t compensate for it. This doesn’t mean that 20% of each element is best, because it depends on your unique make up. The balance for each person is different -the key is working out where you are deficient so you can make small adjustments to your lifestyle in order to make it flow. Knowing and understanding your Self Element and your energetic imbalances helps you to define your intrinsic emotional patterns.

This takes a little explaining. For example, if your Self Element is Wood, you might imagine it as a small tree in early spring. The temperature is getting warmer and your tree is waiting to blossom. But, if it rains too much, the roots might be damaged. Your tree needs some more earth to control the water and to consolidate its roots. So, in this case, earth is the key element for balance and flow.

Understanding our energetic make-up of the Five Elements can help us to live in greater harmony with our bodies. Modern living often knocks our Five Elements off kilter. Therefore, we must work to harmonise them ourselves – and we can do this by aligning more with nature. If your Five Elements are in perfect balance, then you will be in good physical and mental health. If they are not, then this will be the root cause of any illness.

Once you have an understanding of which element you are, you can then apply the wisdom of the Five Elements to start looking at why you make the life choices you do. And then set about changing things if you need.

How to find out which element is dominant in your chart? I have been forced to close my consultations for the moment (in order to focus on getting the word of Yang Sheng out there). So, I would wholeheartedly recommend Master Zheng Yuan and Chen Ran, who trained me in Ba Zi reading and with whom we work on an ongoing basis. The wonderful Ran is our first port of call
when we get asked something we don’t know (and believe me that happens!) She is a much loved and needed part of our international team!

Master Zheng Yuan

Master Zheng is a distinguished Ba Zi, feng shui and I Ching master from Xi’an, China. His research interests focus on the 5 Element philosophy and the ancient Chinese classics of Ba Zi studies. He is a co-founder of the UK I Ching Association and advises on both personal and business development.
Chen Ran
Ran is a co-founder of the UK I Ching Association. Her research focuses on traditional Chinese 5 element philosophy and its cultural practices, particularly with regard to the natural environment and well-being. She teaches Chinese 5 element philosophy and ba zi theory to English speakers and provides in-depth consultations. You can book your personalised chart at