Five Element Acupuncture and the Wood Element Within Us

Five Element Acupuncture associates the Wood Element with Spring, and with the energy of Liver and Gall Bladder Officials in the human body, mind and spirit. What are Officials? What does that connection mean for our health and well-being? This blog post explores the Wood Element within us, and the art of living in harmony with our inner nature.

Five Element Acupuncture in the Body and Mind: the Officials

Five Element Acupuncture is ecological medicine. It is rooted in healing through understanding our connections to the web of life. Human beings are part of nature, and nature heals us.  The ancient Chinese didn’t have microscopes and other tools to look inside the body, like we do today. Instead, they applied what they observed about the natural world, and used metaphor and imagery to make sense of it. Five Element theory is part of this imagery.  Another part is what the Chinese call “the Officials” of the body.

Ancient China was a highly organized imperial society, so they saw the body as a country and the organ systems as the government. The major organ systems are the court of ministers, the Officials of the body. The officials are like a team in charge of keeping everything running.  Indeed, we are an ecosystem!

The Chinese Officials in Five Element acupuncture are not equivalent to the anatomical organs as understood in Western biomedicine, although they may bear the same names. They are a team of functional, energetic entities that encompass body, mind and spirit. They govern not only physiological, but also mental and emotional, functions. As long as everyone on the team is in good shape and does his/her job, we maintain health, harmony and balance.

The Chinese identified twelve Officials, working in pairs. Each of the six pairs of Officials is associated with one of the Five Elements, and also with the corresponding acupuncture meridians. Each Official, energetically, resides in its meridian. Acupuncture heals us by communicating directly with the Officials via the meridians.

Five Element Acupuncture: Officials of the Wood Element

Five Element theory helps us grasp the patterns of nature around us, seen in the flow and change of the seasons. The qualities of the Wood Element in nature are seen in Spring, time of birth and new beginnings. Spring is a time of hope, vision and purposeful action. Wood Element energy is upward, outward and bursting forth. It is assertive, forceful, vigorous and bold. Nonetheless, growth in nature happens according to a plan, the inner blueprint of the life force. (To learn more about the Wood Element in nature, watch the video.)

Where do we see the qualities of Wood – hope, vision, purposeful growth – within the body, mind and spirit? The Officials of the Wood Element are Liver and Gall Bladder. In essence, these two Officials work closely together to make plans and carry them out. Dr. J.R. Worsley, master teacher of Five Element acupuncture, likened them to the architect and the foreman of the crew. Nothing gets built without a plan (the Liver Official’s job), and the plans are brought to life by the decision-maker (Gall Bladder Official), who determines the proper order of operations and gets things done.

Five Element Acupuncture and the Liver Official: In the Flow

When life is going well, we say we are “in the flow.” What does it mean to be in the flow? It means that things are going according to an inner plan. Life runs smoothly. Every part of our being – body, mind and spirit – knows where it is going and what it is doing.

It’s a well-functioning Liver Official that keeps us in the flow. When obstacles and unforeseen circumstances pop up, we have the flexibility to handle them and stay on track. There is a “Plan B” in place when things go awry. We feel confident, satisfied and secure in the future.

All of our daily routines and bodily rhythms rely on the Liver Official, the grand planner, right down to the cellular level. Intricate physiological systems – endocrine (hormones) , immune, nervous system, digestion – rely on feedback loops and cycles that follow a complex blueprint. In Five Element theory, these are orchestrated by the Liver Official.

In fact, the Chinese concept is not so far off from the function of the liver organ in Western biomedicine. The liver organ converts nutrients into substances that our body can use, and supplies them to cells when they are needed. The liver organ is also critical for the important process of detoxification. It converts toxic substances into harmless ones, or makes sure they are removed from the body.

In Five Element Acupuncture, the Liver Official encompasses more than physiology. On a mental and cognitive level, a healthy Liver Official acts to organize our day and our time. It allows us to make plans and goals, and execute them with ease and flexibility. And once we’ve met our goals, the Liver Official gives us the vision and drive we need to look to the future and plan the next step.

A sense of purpose is what makes life worth living. Spiritually, we need hope and vision to see ourselves as part of the future, and make it through hard times. A healthy Liver official keeps us in touch with that inner purpose for existence.

Five Element Acupuncture and the Gall Bladder Official: Fulfillment of Plans

Plans mean nothing unless they are put into action. The grand planner, the Liver Official, needs a partner who can make the many detail-oriented decisions that are required for successful step-by-step implementation of the grand plan. That partner is the Gall Bladder Official. Not only is the Gall Bladder Official in charge of decision-making, it also works closely with the Liver Official to give feedback to the planner that serves as the basis for future decisions.

Decision-making and choice are key functions of a healthy Gall Bladder Official. Below the level of ego-consciousness, the Gall Bladder Official is making small decisions every second of the day. The process is so automatic that we are unaware of it. By way of example, consider the coordination of movements required for walking. We make a conscious decision where to move our bodies, and actually getting there is governed by a collection of automatic response that we don’t think about.

The Gall Bladder Official also governs conscious thought process and mental faculties. We rely on a healthy Gall Bladder Official for clear thinking, reasoning, and judgement needed to organize and make it through the day.

Gall Bladder Official’s capacity for sound judgement brings meaning to the many day-to-day choices and activities. It allows us to evaluate the worthiness of our goals, and direct our life energy purposefully.

These two Officials, Liver and Gall Bladder, are united in the task of bringing about meaningful and orderly growth in every phase of life. They maintaining a sense of purpose, hope and vision in body, mind and spirit – the essence of the Wood Element.

Inner Works Acupuncture is a Five Element acupuncture clinic in Portland, Oregon. Contact us today at 503-227-2127 to schedule an appointment.