The 5 Elements Of Chinese Medicine: Which Type Are You?
Fire. Earth. Metal. Water. Wood.
The Five Elements of Chinese Medicine is a theory for how the world around us behaves and how our bodies interact with nature. Each element is part of a continuous cycle: Fire burns and creates Earth. Earth is full of rich Metals. With Metal, tools are created and carry Water. Water nourishes the trees and Wood. Wood burns and Fire is ignited, restarting the cycle.
This theory is deeply woven into Chinese culture and forms the fundamentals for feng shui, martial arts, and acupuncture.
Although we are all a composition of each of the five elements, every person is thought to be dominated by one element. Read on to see which element you most resonate with, in mind and body.
Personalities of the Five Elements:
The Fire element person loves to be the center of attention, and they seek joy in everything they do. You can often hear the sound of laughter in their speech.
- Pros: Outgoing, confident, boisterous, creative, wild
- Cons: Easily agitated, anxious, critical
The Earth element person is a nurturer at heart. They enjoy hosting family gatherings and thinking about people they love.
- Pros: Dependable, nurturing, loving, strong, wise, motherly
- Cons: Restless, worry-prone, insecure, have trouble concentrating
The Metal element person is organized and reliable. They often excel at details and management.
- Pros: Organized, determined, clearheaded, dependable
- Cons: Apathetic, melancholy, prone to boredom
The Water element person is artistic and spiritual. They go with the flow and are often painters, potters, or they've found a way to weave art into their work.
- Pros: Creative, fun, artistic, compassionate
- Cons: Fearful, prone to overwhelm and panic, feeble
The Wood element person is a leader who feels comfortable in the face of pressure and responsibility.
- Pros: Confident, assertive, intelligent, decisive, driven
- Cons: Aggressive, jealous, resentful
Body types (and recommended foods) of the Five Elements:
The Elements influence our body types but are not unchangeable.
The Fire body type tends to possess a pointy nose, chin, and top of the head. The Fire element body is shaped like a torch, pointed on the top, narrow at the bottom, and flared in the middle.
The fire element handles the circulatory, glandular, and immune systems. This includes the heart, small intestine, and the lymphatic system.
Recommended foods for the fire body type include bitter foods, grains, vegetables, dark leafy greens, beans, and seeds. These foods tend to keep the fire at bay, avoiding an overabundance. Foods to reduce are chocolate, salt, meats, stimulants like coffee, and hot spices.
The Earth body type may be shorter in stature, with a short body, short fingers, and neck. The face tends to be square, while the body is pear-shaped with rounded buttocks.
The Earth element rules the digestive and structural systems within the body. This includes the stomach, spleen, and muscles.
Recommended foods for this body type include root vegetables, leafy greens, and light proteins such as legumes and fish. Foods to reduce are refined carbohydrates, dairy, iced drinks, and processed foods as they gunk up the digestive system and overtax the spleen and stomach.
The Metal body type tends to have defined facial features and broad, square shoulders. However, their features tend to be thin in nature, such as thin lips and eyelids.
The Metal element rules the intestinal, respiratory, and skin systems, as well as assisting with the immune system.
Recommended foods for this type include those that have a dispersing effect and promote energy circulation. Foods sour in nature, like sauerkraut and lemon water, are best. Foods high in minerals like leafy greens and vegetables are also good choices. Foods to reduce include dairy, red meat, and bitter foods.
The Water body type has a tendency toward "thickness." The face tends to be large and round, with a wider base, while the body is full.
The Water element rules the kidneys, bladder, bones, nerves, and teeth.
Recommended foods for this type include pure water (not what is contained in juices, coffee, etc.); blue, purple, and black foods; root vegetables; seaweeds, and seafood. Consider black beans and purple carrots. Foods to reduce include sugars, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and frozen and raw foods.
The Wood body type tends to be slender with a long face, body, and fingers, similar to a tree. The liver, gallbladder, tendons, ligaments, and sinews are all controlled by the wood element.
Recommended foods for this type include anything sour and green with stalks like chard, kale, and spinach. Try to reduce alcohol, processed foods, high-fat foods, and most dairy, as these foods can restrict the free flow of energy and blood while wreaking havoc on the function of the Wood element.
The bottom line.
We can never define a person into any single definitive category. We all contain each of the Five Elements, in nature, personality, and body type. But maybe one of the elements sounds more like you than the others. Use the knowledge of your element the way you might a horoscope—as a tool that provides insight into your personality, tendencies, and areas for growth.
Kerry Boyle D.Ac., L.Ac, M.S, is a nationally board-certified, Doctor of Acupuncture with degrees from Pacific College of Health Sciences and Bastyr University.
After years of traveling the world implementing acupuncture onboard cruise ships with Steiner Leisure LLC, Kerry has been in private practice in Vermont where she is the owner of Integrative Acupuncture wellness clinics. Kerry’s work has been published in Acupuncture Today and seen on local TV news stations WCAX and WPTZ. Check out her 5 Element Quiz to find out Which Element Are You?