5 Elements Relationships

Updated: May 9


Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water

A Brief discussion of Five Element Theory


The Five Elements or “Wu Xing” in Chinese language are a way we look  at natural phenomena and put them into five groups or patterns in  nature. The five elements are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.

The  Five Element or Wu Xing theory reflects a deep understanding of natural  law, the Universal order underlying all things in our world. It is  designed to help us understand natural processes and relationships. It  can be applied to sciences outside the body like medicine, astrology,  climatology, biology, ecology, music, government and military strategy.

Five Element Theory Diagram

Within  Wu Xing theory we see four main relationships in which the elements  interact. An example of this is what is known as the generating (sheng,  mother-child) cycle. This cycle describes the ways in which each  element, serving as a mother, promotes the growth and development of the  following child element.

Alongside the other core theories of  Chinese medicine, such as Yin Yang theory, clinically the doctrine of the five phases plays an important role in not only physiology and pathology, but also diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Here is an example of how this theory and its relationship aspect may be used in a clinical situation.

Generating (sheng, mother-child) cycle. – mother makes the child sick;

Clinical presentation - A cough with thick phlegm being produced.

This  would be an example of Earth (mother) invading Metal (child). Earth is  excessive and damages metal along the generation cycle.

So, from a  treatment point of view looking at this relationship we may choose to  firstly treat the mother (Earth/Spleen) to treat the child  (Metal/Lungs), and support the child in treatment also to obtain the  best clinical result.


This serves as only a small snippet of the possible broad discussion on Five Element Theory. You will however find that references to and a deeper exploration of Five Element Theory are common throughout my posts. Especially when discussing supporting health through seasonal shifts.

If you would like to chat with us about how we can support your health with Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture please get in touch by phone (03)59061494 or online through our contact page.