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The Theory of Five Elements (II)
Addtime:2016-11-02 14:35:51 Hit:478

Counter-restriction literally means that the strong one bullies the weak. Among the five elements it implies that one element preys another. It is a morbid condition in which one element fails to restrict the other in the regular order, but is restricted by the other in the reverse order. So the order of counter-restrict metal instead of being restricted by metal, which is known as “wood counter-restricting metal”.


The theory of five elements reflects a primitive concept of materialism and dialectics and has played an active role in promoting the development of natural sciences in China. In the ancient times, this theory was applied to the field of medicine and greatly influenced the establishment and development of the theoretical system of TCM, guiding the clinical treatment up to the present time.

When applied to TCM, the theory of five elements is used to explain both physiological functions and pathological changes and guide clinical diagnosis and treatment according to the properties of the five elements and their generation, restriction, subjugation and counter-restriction relationships. Each of the internal organs, according to the theory of five elements, pertains to one of the five elements. For example, the liver prefers to grow freely and dislikes depression, so it pertains to wood; the heart pumps blood to warm the body, thereby it pertains to fire; the spleen is responsible for transforming and transporting cereal nutrients to all parts of the body, then it pertains to earth; the lung is marked by the function of purification and descending, for that reason it pertains to metal; the kidney is in charge of storing essence and governing water, therefore it pertains to water.


The properties of the five elements serve as an analogy to explain the physiological functions of the five zang-organs. The manifestation of the mutual promoting relationship among the five zang-organs can be generalized according to the motion order of the five elements:


The liver promoting the heart means wood generating fire, such as the liver storing blood to supplement the heart; the heart promoting the spleen means fire generating earth, such as heart yang warming the spleen; the spleen promoting the lung means earth generating metal, such as “the essence distributed by spleen qi flowing upward into the lung”; the lung promoting the kidney means metal generating water, such as downward flowing of pulmonary qi supplementing the kidney water; the kidney promoting the liver means water generating wood, such as the kidney storing essence to nourish blood in the liver; etc.


When applied to diagnosis, the theory of the five elements is used to synthesize clinical data obtained through the four diagnostic methods and determine pathological conditions in the light of the nature and law of the five elements. When applied to treatment, the theory of the five elements is used to determine the therapeutic principles and decide therapeutic methods.


On the whole, the theory of the five elements, to some extent, reflects the objective law of nature. It is practical in explaining physiological functions and pathological changes of the human body and guiding clinical practice. However, it is still incomplete and needs further improvement due to certain limitation. 

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