What is Five Element Acupuncture?

Chinese Medicine is made up of 5 categories:  Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Nutrition and
Diet, Exercise, and Massage.  While Dr. Kauffman addressed all of these 5 parts, his training and emphasis since 1974 when he started, was been Acupuncture…and so that will be the focus here.

Acupuncture is defined as the placing of very fine stainless steel needles just under the surface of the skin in precise locations, known as acupuncture points, in order to adjust or balance the life force energy (Ch’i) in a human being or animal. This adjusting/balancing works to integrate, harmonize or tune the human being, so that she/he becomes more healthy in body, mind, and spirit. The acupuncture points are on pathways called meridians located on the arms, legs, torso and head. There are 12 meridians, each connected to and named for one of the major organs (eg. liver meridian, stomach meridian)  In my opinion, FIVE ELEMENT Acupuncture is the most effective form of Acupuncture treatment.

There are nearly as many different styles of Acupuncture as there are great teachers dating back to 2500 B.C. All of these styles refer to and are based on the Five Elements or Five Phases, known as Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. This Law of the Five Elements is one of the basic foundations of Chinese Medicine and today is referred to in all college level teachings on the subject.

Due to the rigerous training and difficulty teaching this subject (through the method of apprenticeship rather than in the classroom) and because of the Chinese Communist Revolution and Mao Tse Tung, the use of the Law of the Five Elements to diagnose and treat human beings, was all but lost until early in the 20th century.    Chairman Mao and Communism in general considered religion to be the “poison of the masses" so anything having to do with spirit, (eg. body, mind, and spirit) was forbidden.  Consequently, most of the teaching of Chinese Medicine coming out of China since the early 1950s, known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), talks very little, if at all about spirit, and for that matter very little of the mind.  And yet we holistic folks know that the Mind and the Spirit are vital to reaching balance and optimum health.

Five Element Acupuncture is based on diagnosing a person’s imbalances according to Color, Emotion, Odor, and Sound – that is: according to the colors emanating from the person’s body, particularly the face; the emotions coming from the personality; the odors from the body, and the sound of the voice. It turns out that each of the above mentioned elements,The 5 Chinese elements, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood are associated with eache with it's own color, emotion, odor, and sound and this connection is key in dignostics using this modality.

For example, a Fire person, or what practitioners call a Fire Causative Factor, has the color red or more commonly a lack of red or pallor emanating from the >face; the emotion of too much joy, or more commonly not enough joy emanating from the personality; a body odor known as scorched or kind of burnt; and the sound of too much laughter or more commonly not enough laughter emanating from the voice. For an Earth Causative Factor person, it’s yellow, sympathy, fragrant and singing.  For Metal it’s white, grief, rotten, and weeping. For Water it’s blue, fear, putrid, and groaning and for Wood it’s green, anger or lack of anger, rancid and shouting or lack of shouting.

Now it’s simple enough to define this, but to sort it out in practice takes a great deal of experience. For example, have you ever tried to describe the odor of a banana to someone who has never seen or smelled one?  “Well, it kinda smells like a….uhh….uhh….a banana!”  So to learn the human odors takes a master leading the student like a child by the hand from one treatment room with a patient to the next, day after day, year after year. The same is so with the colors, emotions, and sounds. It is not something that can be taught in the classroom. It has taken me 34 years to become proficient at it, and I’m still learning from my master, Dr. J. Worsley. 

Furthermore, each element has a particular season of the year, time of the day, secretion from the body, and taste in foods.  Have you ever wondered why you sweat so much or so little compared to your friends?  Have you ever wondered why you can’t stand the summer heat, or the winter cold, or the greyness of winter, or why the wind makes you crazy?  Or why you have so much saliva in your mouth or not enough?  Or how your neighbor can eat a whole lemon all by itself? Or why some people talk so much you can’t stand to be around them? Or why some people have to wash their hands over and over before leaving the bathroom? Or why you can’t shed a tear? All these things and more, we call idiosyncrasies, can be explained by the Law of the Five Elements and help the Five Element practitioner diagnose and treat his/her patient.

“So what’s all this got to do with disease and how to get better?”, you ask? “I just want my pain to go away!”, you say. Well, a Five Element acupuncturist, knowing which of the 5 elements is the vulnerable one, diagnosing with all the above variables in mind, can simply treat the acupuncture points on the meridians relating to the afflicted element, and 9 times out of 10, the condition improves.

Now, here’s the point (no pun intended):  Western Medicine diagnoses by naming the pathology, which is the result of many years of imbalance, (eg. arthritis (inflammation of the joint), hypertension (too much tension), pneumonia (lung disease), irritable bowel syndrome (irritable bowel), headache (headache), plantar fasciitis (bottom of foot,

inflammation of the fascia), stroke (blood clot or bleeding in the brain), diabetes (too much sugar in the blood), cancer (abnormal cell growth that goes wild and invades normal tissue, killing the person eventually), auto-immune disease (a person’s immune system starts attacking that same person), and so on.……and then treats with medication to mask the symptom, or (if worst comes to worst) simply cut it out through surgery.

Chinese Medicine, through acupuncture and it’s other methods balances, integrates and tunes the human being so that the immune system strenghtens the healing force, called Ch’i and you heal yourself.  So often I hear, as a patient returns from the last treatment, “I really feel good in my self !” or “I finally feel like I used to, the good ole’ me !” 

The points on the meridians each have a tell-tale name which points to the power and use of that point.

Here is a sampling of the names: Gate of Life, Body Pillar, Walk Between, Palace of Weariness, Receive Tears, Water Rushing Out, Broken Bowl, Not At Ease, Lubrication Food Gate, Leg Three Miles, Hard Bargain, Gate of Hope, Cloud Gate, Bright and Clear, Wind Palace, Assembly of Ancestors, Penetrating Inside, Listening Palace, Eyes Bright, Door of Infants, and so on.  There are about a 1000 points on the body, each with a name, it’s like poetry in motion.

For example, a person who has a Causative Factor imbalance in the Wood Element, who has lost all hope, should have Liver 14, the Gate of Hope, stimulated; a person who has difficultly supporting himself, eg. can barely stand up because of weak legs or torso, or…. can’t support himself in life, should have Body Pillar (Governor Vessel 12) stimulated; a person who is caught between the responsibility to her job and the needs of her husband, with a liver imbalance, should have Walk Between (Liver 2) stimulated; a person who is having problems with digestion and has an imbalance in the Earth Element, Stomach meridian, should have Stomach 24, Lubrication Food Gate, stimulated.

This process is complemented by another important factor: the Spirit points. These buoy up a person’s spirit, which in this day and age is so often clouded, veiled, or downright in the dumps. There are acupuncture points called Soul Door, Spirit Burial Ground, Heavenly Ancestor, Thought Dwelling, Spirit Hall, Heaven Rushing Out, Encircling Glory, Heavenly Window, Heavenly Spring, Spirit Gate, Spirit Path, Spirit Storehouse…and more, each on a particular meridian, each for a particular individual in a particular predicament.

So you see, Five Element Acupuncture is a system of medicine that recognizes the whole human being, body, mind, and spirit as well as life circumstances. It is a modality of healing, an art and a science that really, REALLY, works AND it’s incredibly beautiful, exciting, poetic, even fun as it helps each person on their healing journey.