Tuesday, August 14, 2012

                     Blog # 6:  The Five Elements in Asian Medicine, Our Bodies, and the World
     The previous five blogs addressed topics involving the five elements in Asian Medicine (AM):  metal (air), water, wood (trees, eye exercises), fire, and earth (organic farming).  Today, we cover how these five elements correspond to internal and sensory organs, and to the world in general, and how AM, which includes acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, massage, meditation, qi gong, and moxabustion can help balance these five elements in the human body.
     AM five element treatments and other holistic therapies can often effectively address imbalances in internal organ function, especially when the problems have arisen fairly recently.  For this reason, it is often wise to consult a holistic health professional first for many issues.  If necessary, the health professional will refer you out for more conventional care, involving medication or surgery.  The chart below gives some five elements correspondences.  Refer to it to help clarify the rest of this blog. 
Internal Organs
Sensory Organs
Lung/Large Intestine
Liver/Gall Bladder
Heart/Small Intestine; Pericardium/Triple Warmer
Late Summer;
Between Seasons
Spleen, Pancreas/
Mouth and Lips
       The five elements can be linked in an endless circle which can be entered at any element.  As a rule, any strong element A has a nurturing, strengthening effect on element B immediately following A, and has a subduing, counteracting effect on element C, which follows B.  Looking at our country’s unusually warm, weak 2011-12 winter and its effects on our environment and health from a five element standpoint, we would see this:  a deficient winter resulted in an atypical spring which was hotter and longer than usual, with some late freezes, resulting in early budding vegetation followed by considerable frost damage, plus more mold and pollen than usual, resulting in more allergic symptoms, especially itchy eyes (the sensory organ of spring/wood).  Spring 2012 was also less windy than usual, since wind results from a strong warm front meeting a strong cold front.  A strong, cold winter (A) would have made the spring (B) more typical, and also would have subdued the summer (C).   Since winter was weak, summer is/was excessively hot and dry, with severe, widespread forest fires, and the worst droughts the U.S. has suffered in many decades.  People had more fevers, respiratory problems, hot flashes, heat stroke, and heat-related deaths than usual this summer.  If there is no intervention in the cycle (i.e. cold air currents from the arctic) late summer and autumn may also be unseasonably warm.
     Humans and other organisms experience five element patterns within their bodies.  Imbalances can often be observed and corrected through AM.  An example:  Joe has weak kidneys (the water element).  That means his kidneys (A) are unable to cool his body sufficiently; they cannot handle or balance fluids properly and therefore do not rid his body of enough toxins to maintain good health.  As a result, the liver (B) is stressed and inflamed (too warm) from handling an increased toxic load.  Because the liver is inflamed, this will tend to inflame the heart (C) as well.  The kidneys also may not be filtering enough water to maintain safe levels sodium and potassium, and this can stress the heart.  Weak kidney function has many causes, including: 1. dehydration or insufficient fluid intake, 2. damage from medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, Aspirin, or naproxen, some antibiotics and blood pressure medications, and 3. over-consumption of toxic substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and heavy metals (i.e. cadmium, lead, mercury).  It is essential to correct the root causes of Joe’s weak kidneys, which in this case are staying out in the sun too long without drinking enough water to compensate for fluids lost through sweat, his over-indulgence in alcohol, plus his regular use of ibuprofen to alleviate low back pain, which can itself be a symptom of poor kidney function.  It is important to also support his weak kidneys with AM or another holistic therapy and thus help them regain normal function as soon as possible so that negative impact on other internal organs can be minimized or avoided.  Uncorrected kidney deficiency will eventually result in excessive liver heat/fire and in symptoms such as headaches, hot flashes, and red, itchy eyes.  If this imbalance is allowed to go on even longer, it will affect the fire element (the heart), and hypertension or certain types of heart problems can develop, such as angina, rapid heartbeat and cardiac arrhythmias.  If the kidney deficiency continues even longer, the earth element will be impacted and digestive problems such as heartburn, ulcers, gastric reflux and decreased appetite can develop. 
     Fortunately, unpleasant symptoms will probably motivate Joe to eliminate the roots of his problem, assuming he can recognize these roots.  An acupuncturist’s thorough history-taking, as well as skilled pulse and tongue diagnosis can help identify the root causes of health problems.  AM treatment can also help resolve these problems.  A few of many treatment options follow.  Specific acupuncture points can dramatically subdue inflammation and help cool and moisten the kidney (water) element.  Many herbs disperse heat/inflammation and tonify the water element.  A few non-toxic, herbs are green tea, watermelon seeds, turmeric, and nettles.  Food and drink, such as water, vegetable and fruit juices, watermelon, cucumber, tomato, celery, green leafy vegetables, berries (especially cranberries), cherries, grapes, apples, and red bell peppers can be helpful.  These foods must be organically grown;  pesticides cause inflammation and will put further strain on kidneys and liver.  Qi gong exercises, like the six healing sounds plus almost any standing and moving qi gong forms, such as eight pieces of silk, “kick and swing” exercises, and “mental physics” exercises, or brisk walking all can help the kidneys and liver. 
     Please share this blog with others.  This month’s offer: make an appointment at my office for a complementary pulse and tongue diagnosis.  This does not apply to patients I am currently treating.

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