TCM believes that the human body is a microcosm of the universal macrocosm. Therefore, man must follow the laws of the universe to achieve harmony and health. The theory of Yin and Yang and Five Elements are, in fact, observations and descriptions of the universal law, not concepts created by man. In ancient times, practitioners of TCM discovered these complex sets of interrelationships that exist on the energy levels deep below the surface of the material. Over time, these ideas were developed in an unified body of wisdom and knowledge of the TCM theories, which were applied to a way of life and healing the human body. Today TCM practitioners use these essential theories to understand, diagnose and treat health problems.
The Five elements theory is the foundation of TCM. It developed as a way of naming and systematizing modes of perception related phenomena, ranging from something as tangible as the weather to things as rare such as emotion and character abilities, into five major groups named for universal elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. According to the Five Elements theory, the five major organ systems (liver / gall bladder, heart / small intestine, spleen / stomach, lung / large intestine and kidney / bladder) are each associated with a particular item for a broad category of correspondences or classifications: from the season of the year to a time of day, to particular colors and foods, etc.. Both the theory of Yin and Yang that the Five Elements theory reflect all of the universal law in a comprehensive and understandable system of related categories.
TCM does not consider the Five Elements themselves as inert substances. These are fundamental energies living in the nature and always moving. The Five Elements theory includes two dynamic relations: the production and control, which explains how the five major organ systems are interrelated. Each element generates or provides energy to another. These pairs of elements are known as mother and child. Each element also holds or controls another. The appropriate amount of control retains all the elements in proportion. With control, an organic system acts as a feedback loop to its opposite pair, and allows its associated body to continue its proper functioning smoothly: neither too much nor too poor, neither too strong nor too weak. These dynamic interactions allow all organ systems work in a harmonious system. If their relationship is good, a state of well-being prevails, if not, relationships become unbalanced and health problems follow.
The Five Elements theory gives an experienced TCM practitioner a range of options to solve health problems. For example, when a patient presents skin problems, the TCM practitioner understands that the system of organs lung and large intestine are involved because the skin is the “fabric” of the lung, according to the Five Elements. Therefore, it may decide to heal one or two organs to treat the root causes, not just the symptom of skin problem.