The qualities of the Five Elements are a most helpful tool in diagnosis. They help us to use the energy of the patient and therapist, thus improving the results of the treatment. We are able, for example, to show greater consideration to the particular sensitivity of Metal-type people or motivate Water types to become more active by making use of their strength and stability. The qualities of the Five Elements help us understand the patient’s constitutional potentials as well as his weaknesses.
The major signs of Metal are small bones, very fair skin, aquiline features and broad shoulders. Metal is a dual element: Metal people are visionaries and idealists, yet they have a sense of practicality. They love both luxury and simplicity. They are very sensitive and are often considered aloof and distant; they need to maintain their boundaries because they feel easily overwhelmed. They are particular, detail-oriented and perfectionist. They are subject to health problems involving boundary violations but have strong immune systems. Even though they may fall ill frequently, they recover quickly. People who are Metal types are susceptible to skin and respiratory system allergies. They easily get sunburned, and prefer to stay indoors. They prefer to be in environments they consider safe, with a minimum of dust or clutter and a maximum of beauty and stylish design. Signs of Metal deficiency include the slow healing of skin and chronic respiratory and skin conditions, including recurring bronchitis. The Metal element is more mental than physical and requires refinement, cleanliness, tranquility, and space to thrive.
The major physical signs of Water are big bones or wide hips – Water people carry weight in their hips and thighs. They often look multi-ethnic, which gives them an exotic, mysterious or secretive air. They are prone to shadows around the eyes. Water people are quiet and observant. They are good listeners and give sound advice because they have an innate wisdom. They appear to be easy-going, but when working they are very persistent. They require a lot of sleep, rest, meditation or time just to ‘be’. They are strong both physically and emotionally, and handle catastrophes and emergencies calmly. They need to watch being too willful or stubborn. Their main health problems come from the frozen state of Water, a condition which encourages tumors or high blood pressure from a lack of flow of the emotions. Deficiency occurs when their life style is too active and Water is not replenished. This causes ageing and degeneration of the body as well as problems with infertility and impotence. Strong Water energy usually leads to longevity when life is lived wisely and energy is conserved rather than spent. Water deficiency is reflected in conditions such as loss of bone density, deafness, thinning hair, osteoarthritis and weakness of the bladder.
The major physical signs of Wood are sinewy tendons and a hard body. Wood people constantly need to be ‘doing’ something. They enjoy argument and discussion. They feel compelled to exercise and love to work hard. They are seen as aggressive and assertive and tend to clench their fists. Wood people are action-oriented and quick to take offense. Their rashness can lead to accidents. They are also prone to stress injuries such as strained, pulled or torn muscles and tendons. The other scenario that occurs with Wood deficiency is various forms of exhaustion including chronic fatigue. Wood people have very strong livers and enjoy processing toxins, whether emotional – caused by anger – or chemical, as in drugs and alcohol. However, the latter can create Wood stagnation, especially when old anger and resentments are not released. This makes Wood people susceptible to environmental toxins or problems like headaches. They are also prone to addiction. Wood people resist aging and fight the weakening of their bodies, trying to maintain their previous levels of physical and emotional activity. They need to develop flexibility instead of rigidity.
The major physical signs of Fire are slim hips and shoulders, mobile hands, sparkling eyes and redness in the throat and neck areas. Fire people tend to be small in stature and very lively. Their main goal in life is to play. They love new experiences and communicating – whether verbally or through body language. Fire people are changeable and often erratic. They are also very charismatic and charming. They tend to flourish in warmer climates as they dislike wearing much clothing and have a naturally high body temperature. They are full of ideas and prefer starting to finishing. They enjoy excitement and can become thrill seekers. They are naturally attuned to rhythm and love to dance. Their biggest health problems come from inflammation, which is caused by unrestrained Fire and an overactive nervous system. Fire people are prone to disturbances in speaking and thinking caused by an overactive imagination. These include stuttering, phobias, and mental illnesses. The Fire element’s primary organ is the Heart, which controls and regulates the expression of all emotions. Suppression of emotions can therefore cause problems with the heart including arrhythmia, tachycardia, and heart disease. Fire people maintain a youthful persona, but their erratic lives may cause burnout and ultimately bring sadness.
The major physical signs of Earth are plumpness in the abdominal area, the jowls, upper arms and calves. Earth people tend to be sedentary and enjoy sitting a lot. They value comfort, consistency and pleasure. They thoroughly enjoy food and companionship. They are the collectors of the world and love to accumulate possessions and people, becoming very attached to their loved ones as well as things. They have a fondness for sweets and starches. They are often considered warm and affectionate. When the Earth element is in excess, there is a strong tendency to overeat and gain weight to the point of obesity. Earth people tend to worry and become overly involved in the lives of others. They feel excessive sympathy for those they care about. Earth stagnation is shown in the tendency for the circulation of lymph and blood to coagulate, causing such problems as varicose veins. When the Earth element is deficient, there are problems with the Stomach and the ingestion and digestion of food or ideas. Conditions that are related include anorexia, bulimia, diabetes, and flatulence. Earth deficiency is common when too much nurturing is given to others at the expense of the self. Earth people move slowly and can become habit bound. Movement and change is to be encouraged for a more balanced Earth element.