Whether you’re looking to restore a sense of balance in your life, or are burdened by the stress of trying to ‘do it all’, discover how the deeply healing practice of Five Element Acupuncture can help you move back into harmony, by addressing body, mind and spirit.
The Origins of Five Element Acupuncture
Originating in China around 200BC, Five Element Acupuncture was founded on the principle that the cyclical flow of energy present in the natural world also exists in people. This energy – known as Qi – is represented by five Elements, each of which is interconnected and needs to remain in balance with the others for a person to be well.
By identifying and treating the element that is out of balance, Five Element Acupuncture restores harmony and heals the ‘whole’ person. Rather than simply treating the presenting symptoms, it seeks the cause of distress at the emotional or spirit level to enable a deeper level of healing.
Classical Five Element Acupuncture was first introduced to the Western world in the 1950s, by an Englishman named Professor J.R. Worsley.
What are the Five Elements?
The Five Elements are present in all of us – they give rise to our personality and make up the energy that flows inside our bodies. Here’s an overview of the Five Elements and what they represent:
Season: Summer | Emotion: Joy
If you’re a Fire person; you love to laugh and connect with all kinds of people. However, Fire people may also have a deeper sadness within themselves.
Season: Late Summer | Emotion: Sympathy
Earth people nourish and care for others; food and being heard and understood are important to them. Within his or her own life, an Earth person may experience a sense of emptiness or neediness.
Season: Autumn | Emotion: Grief
Metal people set exceptionally high standards, both for themselves and those around them, and they value respect. A metal person may also carry a longing for what could have been.
Season: Winter | Emotion: Fear
Determined and tenacious, water people often do well in situations perceived as ‘scary’ by others. However, they may be hiding an inner sense of anxiety and fearfulness.
Season: Spring | Emotion: Anger
Wood people are great at planning and decision-making; they possess the ability to achieve the goals they set. When unbalanced however, they can be indecisive and feel stuck or hopeless.
Which of the Five Elements do you relate to the most?
Remember, all the elements exist within us, but one is dominant. When our bodily systems are supporting and nurturing each other in balance, we stay strong, healthy and in harmony with our world.
However, when our life energy is blocked by illness, our other systems are thrown out of kilter and we experience pain and discomfort as a result.
For all its beauty and permanence, the Five Element expression of life is a delicate cycle. Even small changes can stop the cycle from balancing our world, as it needs to be.
How Does Five Element Acupuncture Work?
Energy in the body flows through twelve main and eight extra meridians. Acupuncture works by influencing the quality of this energy and addressing blockages between the meridians.
The twelve main meridians each have a role to play, which influences our personality and emotions.
- Heart Meridian
If the body and its Meridians are like a kingdom, then the Heart Meridian is the King, which rules over them all. A weak Heart Meridian will result in instability in the system, which may produce emotions like anxiety or insecurity.
- Heart Protector Meridian (Pericardium)
As the name suggests, this Meridian safeguards the Heart Meridian. When it is shaky, our heart is affected and we can become hurt easily. From the Heart Protector, we get emotions such as anxiety, fear of others, and the ability to love and let people in.
- Small Intestine Meridian
This Meridian is the ‘sorter’, separating the pure from the impure. This could be in the context of food, our environment, the media etc. It categorises what we need to take on board.
- Lung Meridian
Pure energy flows through this Meridian, connecting us to all that is spiritual and divine. It helps us appreciate the good in others and ourselves thus enhancing self-esteem.
- Kidney Meridian
This Meridian is where we obtain our drive and determination. When strong, we can achieve anything; when out of balance, we may lose the will to keep going.
- Bladder Meridian
The Bladder Meridian is like a storage room, where vital energy is retained. This Meridian helps us hold on to thoughts and ideas, and draw on our reserves of energy when we need them most.
- Three Heater Meridian
This Meridian is responsible for regulating our physical body temperature and our emotional temperature, e.g. our ability to give warmth to others or whether we ‘blow hot and cold’.
- Liver Meridian
The ‘Army General’, the Liver Meridian is where planning and action take place so we can move forward. If weak, we may find ourselves procrastinating or being indecisive.
- Large Intestine Meridian
This Meridian clears space for new things by removing waste from the body, mind and emotional self. Our ability to let go of things that are no longer serving us stems from this Meridian.
- Stomach Meridian
The Stomach Meridian affects our ability to consume and feel satisfied – whether in consumption of food, taking in information, or receiving love. It influences how we nurture others and ourselves.
- Gall Bladder Meridian
Providing our vision for the future, the Gall Bladder gives us hope and enables us to be flexible. On the flipside, it can cause us to be rigid and unyielding, unable to see a clear path ahead.
- Spleen Meridian
This Meridian extracts the energy from what we take in and delivers it to the other Meridians. It affects our ability to think, focus and concentrate. It can also cause us to worry.
In order to assess the energy flow in a patient, an acupuncture practitioner will feel the twelve pulses found near the radial arteries on the wrists, as well as carefully observing the patient.
On the body, there are 365 main acupuncture points, which increase the amount and quality of energy that flows through the meridians. The following are two examples of these acupuncture points – or what we call in Five Element Acupuncture, ‘spirit points’:
Stomach 20 | “ Receive Fullness ”
This is located on an Earth Meridian, which can produce a sense of neediness or isolation. “Receive Fullness” helps to heal by reassuring the person that they can be satisfied and fulfilled.
Liver 14 | “Gate of Hope”
This is found on one of the Wood Meridians, which is the Element involved in future planning and decision-making. Opening the “Gate of Hope” helps to remove rigidness and the sense of being stuck, so the person can move forward and grow.
By assessing blocks between meridians and focusing on specific acupuncture points, a practitioner will aim to heal the patient at the body, mind and spirit level.
What to Expect in Your Five Element Acupuncture Session
In order to treat patients successfully using Five Element Acupuncture, I must first determine which of the Five Elements is their Constitutional Factor (CF) or key element.
I will take your Chinese pulses, which will allow me to determine the state of the energy of each of your major organs and functions.
Using my training, I’ll also assess aspects such as your facial colour, vocal sound, emotion, odour and health issues; this will help me establish the underlying cause of your symptoms and give me an idea of your constitutional element.
Based on this assessment, I will develop a unique treatment plan for you. This may involve the insertion of very fine needles to release the energy of a particular point into the meridian and the rest of the body.
Alternatively, I may use moxibustion, where a herb called Moxa is burnt and used to gently warm the skin, in order to allow energy to flow deeper and warm the body.
The holistic approach allows me to delve deeper into which part of the body’s delicate Five Element system has ceased to nurture the others. This is a challenge I relish! For by solving this problem, I am able to help my patients restore a beautiful sense of balance and harmony in their lives, so they may feel whole and well again.
If you’d like to find out more about Five Element Acupuncture, or to book a session with Natasha, click here to get in touch.
Natasha Pilgrim is a Five Element Acupuncturist, Holistic Counsellor and Energetic Healer based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. Author of the eBook ’Wholehearted 21 Ways to awaken your spirit, nurture your soul and love who you are’, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Counselling and Human Change from Jansen Newman Institute, a Bachelor’s Degree in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine from Sydney Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and a Diploma of Energetic Healing from Nature Care College. Natasha has been committed to a mindfulness meditation practice for many years.