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  The F​ire Within Acupuncture & Wellness

Sky above me, Earth below me, Fire within me



The Law of 5 Elements - The Element of Metal part 1 of 2

Posted by Tanya on June 27, 2014 at 10:50 PM

"The forces of Autumn create dryness in Heaven and metal on Earth; they create the lung organ and the skin upon the body ...and the nose, and the white color, and the pungent flavor ..the emotion grief, and the ability to make a weeping sound" ~Inner Classic


When dry climates prevail, it is important to know how to offset their effects. When a person has a dry condition, it is usually related to the lungs and could be caused by imbalances in the diet, excessive activity, adverse climate, and/or organ malfunction. The major symptoms of dryness in the body are thirst, dryness of the skin, nose, lips, and throat, and itchiness; those who are chronically dry also tend to have a thin body type.


To counter dryness in the body in any season, foods which moisten can be emphasized: soybean products, including tofu, tempeh, and soy milk; spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, black and white fungus, almond pine nut, peanut, sesame seed, honey (cooked), barley malt, rice syrup, milk and dairy products, eggs, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, herring, and pork. Using a little salt in cooking also moistens dryness.


Dairy and other animal products are more appropriate for those whose dryness is accompanied by weakness, frailty, and other signs of deficiency. The dry person's condition is frequently a result of inadequate yin fluids in the body, and therefore many of the remedies for nourishing the yin also treat dryness.


The Lungs in Harmony and Disease

The lungs receive the Qi vital force of the air and mix it with the Qi extracted from food. This combination of Qi and associated nutrients is then distributed throughout the food and is of particular importance in protecting the surfaces of the body (including the mucous membranes and interior surfaces of the lungs) from viruses, bacteria, and other invading pathogens. The strength of the lungs depends on their Qi.

In health, lung Qi energy is characterized by its ability to consolidate, gather together, maintain strength, and unify against disease at every level, including cellular immunity. The personality of those with strong lungs is influenced by this Qi: They seem unified, hold onto their direction, create order, and are effective at what they do. How well we "hold on" and "let go" can be expressed in terms of emotional attachment. The colon is the yang organ paired with the lungs, and its obvious function is releasing what is no longer needed. In Chinese healing traditions, this release is on emotional and psychic levels as well as physical.


Attachments as an Indicator of Lung Vitality

Those with healthy lungs tend to hold onto their principles and keep their commitments, but when it comes time to let go of an object or relationship, they sense this and it without without emotional repression, feeling the associated grief and sadness, but soon resolving it. In comparison, those with weak lungs may experience loss with confusion and attempt to stifle their sadness, never completely letting go. At the same time, they can be disorderly and either lose their possessions easily or else hold onto them with unreasonable attachment.


Resolving Grief and Sadness

Grief is the emotion associated with the lungs and colon. Grief that is expressed and resolved strengthens the internal basis of heath, but repressed grief causes long-term contraction in the lungs, which interferes with their function of dispersing nutrients and Qi; ultimately, the lungs become congested with undistributed matter. Virtually everyone with lung and colon problems, regardless of the source of the problem, has unresolved sadness that needs to be cleared. Understanding the inward nature of this emotion offers a clue to working with it.

The contracting force of grief, if used constructively, clears repression: it encourages us to look within, to identify unresolved sorrows, and to transform them by simply being mindful of them. Sharing such feelings with others can also help dissipate them. By focusing internally, one heals those areas where deep illness may otherwise develop. Turbid emotions and thoughts can be cleansed by long, deep breathing. The expansive quality of pungent foods, the flavour that first "enters" the lungs, can assist in clearing grief.


The Physical Indications of Lung Vitality

Before assessing lung vitality, it is useful to consider three additional relationships:


  1. The lungs are said to "open" to the nose; this means that the sinuses, bronchioles, air passageways, and the nose itself are all influenced by the lungs.
  2. The health of the skin, including the mucous membranes and their inherent immunity, reflect lung health.
  3. The amount and quality of mucus relate to the lungs.


The individual with healthy lungs maintains a light, moist, protective coating on all mucus membranes; in conjunction with well-nourished and energized skin, this wards off extreme weather influences as well as viruses and other pathogens. Such a person is protected against infectious diseases like colds and flus and has good immunity in general.

Reference: Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, third edition. Pages 346-348

Categories: TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Emotions