The 5 Elements & Your Health - Wood

Spring is here! A time of surging energy and new growth. The Yin of Winter is transforming into Yang (not yet the full Yang of Summer), and the evidence is all around us in nature. We too experience this seasonal shift in energy, which can be more challenging for some. It’s a perfect time for an acupuncture treatment tune-up – and many of my regular patients return at Spring-time for some traditional Chinese acupuncture as energetic support during this time of changing qi.


In my last Blog I explained a little about 5 Element theory as being rooted in nature’s seasons (The 5 Elements & Your Health – Earth) and how it allows us to classify people into element types. As microcosms of nature we have within in us all 5 Elements, but as with nature our inner climate has a hierarchy of elements. Identifying this interplay is what allows your acupuncturist to diagnose and treat you. It also gives you tools to better understand and maintain your own health and those of your friends and family.

Spring is associated with the Wood Element and the organ pair, Liver (LIV) and Gall Bladder (GB). If Wood is your dominant element then you may manifest some characteristic symptoms when out of balance.

Read on to find out how to identify Wood as a dominant element (s) in either yourself and/or others and discover some self-help tools to stay healthy this Spring.

Is Your Liver Qi Stagnant?
Previously we explored how an Earth element imbalance commonly manifests as digestive problems. In Chinese Medicine one of the principal roles of the Liver (there are more) is to help qi or energy flow smoothly in the body and mind – if it doesn’t it stagnates causing problems mentally, emotionally and/or physically. With Wood as your dominant element, Liver Qi Stagnation is a frequent diagnosis.

Are you Angry & What is Anger?
So, how do you know if your Liver qi isn’t flowing freely? As a Wood type myself I feel I can speak with some authority on Liver Qi Stagnation!  We Wood types are often easy to spot – those frown lines (11’s) between my eyes are a give-away, giving me an angry look. In fact, anger or frustration is the emotion associated with Wood. It is of course perfectly normal to experience all emotions including anger, but as we know in Chinese Medicine it is when emotions remain unexpressed, repressed or prolonged that they may damage our health.

It is important to note that in Chinese Medicine ‘Anger’ as the Wood emotion is the energy of the potential for change. As the catalyst for beginnings and new direction it requires effort - be it changing career, relationship, a new home. Think of a Spring-time shoot sprouting through the ground, it takes energy to push upwards through compacted, perhaps stony, soil towards light.

A lack of Wood energy (LIV & GB) may present in indecisiveness (a GB tendency), lack of drive or vision. Getting stuck in anger may look like rage, frustration and irritability.

Common symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation are: neck and shoulder tension, pre-menstrual tension and/or pain, headaches and/or migraines (Liver Yang rising upwards), dizziness, eye problems, irritable bowels (the Liver energy backs up & when it releases like a dam invades the Spleen), brittle nails, scanty menses, indecision or lack of life purpose.

Often I hear my Liver Qi Stagnant patients sighing as it helps move their stuck qi in their chests. So what can you do to help soothe your Liver?

Yoga to Support Wood
According to Chinese Medicine the health of the Liver is reflected in the sinews and tendons.  Thus any depletion or lack of Liver Blood will make you less supple and more prone to tendon and muscle injuries. For this reason, I advise my sports injury patients to incorporate stretching into their training programs and review their diet, rest and sleep.

Regular stretching such as yoga helps ease out tight, tense muscles and allows the free-flow of qi throughout the whole body including tight areas where there is restricted circulation and knots. It may also help calm the mind, soothing the emotions.

The Liver and Gall Bladder meridians run along the outer sides of the body so any side stretching helps. This banana yoga pose is a deep side stretch, opening up the GB meridian (thank you to my niece for being my model).

Acupressure to Support the Wood Element

Another function of the Liver is that it opens into the eyes. Therefore any reduction in the quantity, quality or flow of Liver Blood or qi may result in eye disorders – dry eyes, stigmatism etc. These days we use our eyes so much more than in the past. Artificial light has extended our waking hours, reducing the time we have to replenish our Liver Blood. Computers also leach our Liver qi. So, if you want to be kind to your Liver, rest your eyes or even do some eye exercises or acupressure (acupuncture without needles!).

The acupressure routine below should take about 3 minutes. As the area around the eyes is sensitive just hold the acupuncture points lightly. The acu-point in step 2 is one of my favourites,  called Drilling Bamboo you definately know when you have found it!

Don’t forget to stretch out tight neck and shoulders to allow qi and Blood to flow freely up to your head to nourish your eyes. Traditional acupuncture, deep tissue massage and cupping may also really help ease out tight muscles - I offer all of these treatments often in combination from my therapy centre, Carlisle Therapies.

Dietary Advice – What to Eat to Nourish the Wood Element
Beetroot – you can't beet it!  Drink it as a smoothie, make it into a soup or put it into a salad.
This article touches on some of the key aspects of the Wood Element according to Chinese Medicine but please remember that it is massively over-simplified! The lifestyle advice is the kind that I might give you as my patient. Acupuncture, as I say repeatedly, is so much more than simply needles. Diet and appropriate exercise such as yoga all help to support you in achieving your optimum health.

Spring is the perfect time energetically for setting new intentions for the upcoming year. Harness this forward moving energy to clear out what is stagnant in your world - Spring clean your past!