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A beginners’ guide to the Chinese Five Elements of Change


3. Wood- Emerging Spirit


See the truth

A young female disciple spent many hours sitting in her room, meditating on the meaning of loving kindness and striving to fulfill her heart with love and compassion for all living creatures. Her discipline was sorely tested however when she went to the marketplace to buy food, for one particular shopkeeper constantly followed her around and tried to caress her. One day she reached the end of her patience. Brandishing her umbrella she angrily chased the shopkeeper around the marketplace, until she noticed her teacher standing on the side of the road observing the scene. Thoroughly ashamed of herself and expecting a severe reprimand, she went to stand before him.

He regarded her kindly and then offered this advice: “What you should do is fill your heart with loving kindness and then, with as much energy as you can command, hit that ill-mannered fellow over the head with your umbrella.”

Wood is a strange mixture of patience and perseverance, assertiveness and decisiveness.

You cannot have patience without assertiveness and assertiveness must be balanced with patience in order for it not to become bullying.

Often we confuse the idea of loving kindness with never expressing anger or assertiveness. Anger expressed in a controlled and loving manner acts like a thunder storm to dispel tension, frustration and clear the air.

This prevents feelings of anger and resentment that can build up over time when we don’t assert our selves, feel taken advantage of or victimized by others. In traditional Chinese Medicine blocked anger is the emotion which affects the liver and gallbladder adversely.

Wood is the element which brings assertiveness, decisiveness and movement and clears away anger.


WOOD is seen as a Green Dragon. The Dragon is a symbol of power, eternity, spirit, strength and growth. Depicted with a young face, glasses and beard he symbolizes both eternal youth and wisdom.

In the last issue we looked at the element of Metal. Metal is the first of two of the five elements which are referred to as transitional elements, Wood being the second. All the other elements (Earth, Water and Fire) are fixed. Wood and Metal are the two elements which are able to change and are always in transition from one form to another.



Colour – emerald green

Direction- East

Dynamic energy- blood

Fluids- tears

Nature – growth, flourish

Orifices- eyes

Perverse climate- wind

Psychic- soul (Hun)

Season- Spring

Senses- sight

Smell- rancid

Sound- shouting

Symptoms – nails

System- sinews

Taste- sour/acid

Tissues – tendons

Yin organ- Liver 1am – 3am

Yang organ – Gall Bladder 11pm – 1am






The Balanced Energy of Wood is expansion, growth and movement. The balanced wood type always sees a challenge as an adventure and enjoys pushing themselves to their limits whilst performing well under pressure. Confident and creative they also possess great humility and can “grow” patiently around any obstacle to reach the “light” or the object of their dreams. They are decisive and know exactly when to make a move and when to hold back.




Aggressive and bullying the excess Wood type is arrogant and pretentious. Their compulsive behaviour pushes anyone or anything out of their way with no sensitivity for anyone else’s needs. As a know-it-all they refuse to listen to what anyone else has to say. Too busy to recuperate when ill, there is no sense of when to move forward and when to wait. They tend to be domineering, irritable and prone to violent outbursts.



Indecisive and ineffectual this type has usually exhausted regenerated reserves after a long period of excessive behaviour. Becoming dependant on things with no stability and stimulants to keep going, deficient wood energy leads to a blocked state of despondency, anxiety and restlessness. Low self worth, guilt and shame lead to a downward spiral.




The organs associated with Wood are the Liver and Gallbladder.


The Liver is an extremely important organ. It performs many vital functions in the body (more than 500 of them) but the most important role is receiving the nutrients absorbed by the small intestines. It then sorts the good from the bad placing the nourishing substances into the bloodstream for building, while at the same time detecting harmful or bad substances and removing or detoxifying them. This relates to an ability to spot what is good for you in your life and what is bad. If one becomes too focused on the detrimental influences in life this will cause the Liver to become imbalanced. In order to have a healthy Liver one needs to understand or see the truth about how perceived bad influences in life are actually necessary for personal development. How many times have you, or someone else you know, had a “bad” experience which turned out to be a great opportunity for growth or change? Being able to see this as truth helps the Liver to remain healthy.



The Liver takes the bilirubin (red colour) out of old, worn out, red blood cells which is concentrated as bile in the Gallbladder. This bile is then released by the Gallbladder into the duodenum to emulsify fats passing through the digestive tract and enable them to be absorbed. Fats are utilised in the body to assist organs and cells in receiving and accepting their needs.

In Chinese Medicine the Liver is responsible for maintaining balance in the whole body and creating a smooth even flow of Chi and blood throughout. When Liver Chi is stagnant a deep state of anger and frustration ensues.

The Gallbladder is known as the Wise Decision Maker, it knows when to store and when to release bile and is thought to moderate rash behaviour. Impulsiveness points to excess Gallbladder chi whilst indecisiveness is attributed to a deficiency.

These two organs see the truth to make wise decisions.



Muscular tension, cramps and spasm in the head, shoulders, neck, hips, legs, hands, feet.

Sciatica, tendon injuries, headaches, tinnitus, migraines with visual disturbances, emotional P.M.T, digestive disturbances (ulcers, hiatus hernias, heartburn), cysts and cancerous growths, high blood pressure.



Fatigue and lack of energy, fluctuating blood pressure, P.M.S and irregular cycles, insomnia and restless sleep, allergies and oversensitivity to environment, itchy eyes, urethra, anus, blurry vision and sensitivity to light, muscle spasms and twitches such as restless leg syndrome, digestive gas, bloating, hiatus hernia, irritable colon.


Through reading even this brief description of how the element of Wood affects the overall health of the body and mind one can begin to see what an amazing system of diagnosis Five Element Theory can be particularly when working with Vibrational Medicines to balance the emotions. Why balancing the mind and emotions affects the physical processes so deeply and vice versa.


Client A had recently been through a very stressful separation with her partner leaving her feeling very depleted both emotionally and physically and in obvious need of detoxification. At first she displayed an almost numb state of mind which called for Heartbeat of the Mother (Earth) to clear away shock and get her back into her body. Once this happened a huge amount of grief and sadness came to the surface so Wings of Joy (Metal) was the next essence to work with. This uncovered many fears (being alone, unloved, the unknown) which Path of No Resistance (Water) eased. Then the need to make some big decisions in life and a huge amount of anger  at the unfairness of it all surfaced. Emerging Spirit (Wood) assisted her in seeing for the first time how the whole experience had changed her life for the better. As this transpired the physical health of the body improved, she regained her enjoyment of life and energy levels increased. We were struck by the way her cycle of grief had moved through the natural, nourishing cycle of the elements as each Balanced Energy vibrational essence she took brought new insight to move her quickly through to resolution.


The Liver is directly related to the health of the eyes, this activation exercise stimulates Liver chi and nourishes the eyes.

Stand with feet hip width apart in parallel, knees soft, hands resting just underneath the navel or “Tantien”. Palms facing upwards, middle finger tips touching and thumbs relaxed. Focus on the Tantien, breathing normally, and imagine an image of a bright yellow, smiling, warm sun in your tummy. Hold the energy of this in your hands and then scoop the energy up towards the eyes with your hands by bringing the hands up to the eyebrows and turning them palms down.

Breathe in just before you go up, out as the hands reach the eyes, in as the hands come back down to the first position and out as you move them back up to the eyebrows continue for 36 times.


Next issue: we explore the energy of the Water Element and discuss the I Ching.


Catherine Opie and Henri Venturini are Master practitioners, teachers and producers of vibrational medicines, energy healing and martial arts. They live on Whangaparaoa Peninsula in New Zealand where they run their Auckland based natural health and healing company Balanced Energy™. They also facilitate a Diploma of Vibrational Medicine course for practitioners wishing to train in these modalities. Copyright Balanced Energy 2007.

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