The origin and features of Classical Five Element acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing known to mankind. It originated in China nearly five thousand years ago. Chinese academics and various schools meticulously focused on the observable natural laws of the universe and came up with the philosophical concept that the human body is a microcosm that mirrors the macrocosm, and is governed by a set of sophisticated interconnected systems. These systems need to work in balance to maintain health.

It is one life-force moving through the whole of creation and moving through life on this earth. Most people feel the rising energy of springtime within themselves. The change in how they feel at different times of the year, and different times of the day. The elements are just labels used to describe different qualities of vital Qi energy that flows within every one of us.

Early observations of the predictable patterns in nature pointed to the realisation of an underlying, cyclical flow of energy. For example, there were five major changes in quality and function of energy throughout the year – the five seasons, which includes ‘Indian’ summer. The tradition of Classical Five Element acupuncture is based on the understanding of this cyclical flow. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the elements of which the material world is composed. Each of the five elements represents a distinct quality of the energy that is vital to the continued health and flow of nature. For example, the springtime is the phase the Chinese call Wood.

In the Chinese body model, the emphasis is on the function of organs and not their specific physical nature. For example, the kidneys are not just specific organs, but a means of controlling energy, managing stress, and regulating hormones. The application of these health principles was first written down around 200 BC in a book that remains the foundation of Chinese medicine – the Nei Ching – the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Amongst other things, it sets out the theory on which acupuncture is based. That is the ‘meridian theory’ which concerns the flow of life-energy through the body.

Traditional Chinese Medicine states that there is a life-force in the body that controls the workings of the main organs and systems of the body. This life-force, also known as Qi, pronounced Chee, circulates from one organ to another along channels or pathways called Meridians, always flowing in a certain route. In order that each of these organs and their function may be healthy, the Qi energy must flow freely and in the correct strength and quality through each of the Meridians. This strength and quality are felt at the wrist at 12 different pulse positions.

Chinese Medicine states that in all physical, mental and emotional symptoms are signs of an underlying energy imbalance. Somehow the natural energy flow of the body has broken down and needs to be restored. Acupuncture treatment sets out to correct any imbalance within a person to its natural state of balance and flow. As imbalance is corrected, symptoms start to disappear.

Needles are used to restore balance in this way. They do this by adjusting the flow of energy through the meridian pathway at specific points, much the same as a plumber adjusts the flow of water through a pipe. The result can be felt at the various pulse positions at the wrist. Being hollow, the needle action stimulates the patient’s own energy back to health.

Classical Five Element Acupuncture is unique in three ways that set it apart from other styles. The way it sees energy blockages, the treatment of the spirit, and the balancing of the primary element. Symptoms can be coming from any or all of these areas.

When the energies of the five elements are functioning in harmony and balance within ourselves, we feel healthy, nourished and fully alive. When one or more of the elements move out of balance, we may feel a reduced sense of well-being. We may develop various symptoms that show up at every level of well-being: physical, mental, emotional and in our spirit.

Classical Five Element acupuncture states that we are all born with a primary element that gives us a certain approach to life, making some of us more serious and introspective, and others more outgoing, dynamic, or considerate of others. It shapes our emotional responses too. One person will view their troubles light-heartedly, while another may feel overwhelmed.

Sometimes the energy flow will be blocked at certain points. This can only be determined by taking the pulse. A block will be full at the end of one channel, with energy barely getting through to the next channel. This can cause anything from physical pain at the site, constipation, sinusitis, headaches, bloating, irritability, sleep disturbance, shoulder tension, neck ache, and even sadness, anxiety, and overthinking!

Working on the spirit is also unique to Classical Five Element acupuncture. A strong spirit is that spark inside that makes you feel alive, motivated, and gives you an excitement for life. That spark can diminish through difficult life circumstances that may leave you feeling withdrawn, emotional, or stressed. Raising your spirit with Classical Five-Element acupuncture will uplift you, bring clarity, and motivation. These can be helpful in getting well, especially when dealing with chronic conditions, or challenging life circumstances.

Some people have symptoms of the mind which include obsessive thinking, being forgetful, indecisive, poor concentration, disorganised, muddled, vague, or inarticulate.

Strengthening your primary element is like pumping up a flat tyre. Everything just works better. When your element is running optimally, homeostasis kicks in, and your body goes into self-healing mode. Balancing in this way will impact your mind, body, and spirit in a variety of ways. Normal functions such as sleep and digestion improve, and energy level will increase. Through this balancing process the condition you came to treatment with improves as well as your overall health and well-being.

A treatment plan will be tailored to address the meridian pathways that are out of balance. Each successive treatment is aimed at bringing the body more into balance until the body has been strengthened enough to take over its normal function.