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What is Five Element Acupuncture and how does it differ from other styles of Acupuncture?

What is Five Element Acupuncture and how does it differ from other styles of Acupuncture?

For thousands of years, the Chinese have recognized that the Five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water exist in everyone, everything, and are essential for life. In the seasons of the year, for example, we can clearly see the elements in their never-ending cycle of change and transformation.

In Spring (the season of the Wood element), new buds appear, animals awaken from hibernation, and a new growing cycle begins. Summer (the season of Fire), sees the buds expand into full fruits and flowers. Summer is the season of maximum fruition and fullness. Late Summer (the season of Earth) is harvest time, the season in which Mother Earth offers us of her bounty to gather and store. Autumn (the season of Metal) is nature's time to let go of what is no longer necessary, clearing the way for the growing cycle to come. Winter (the season of Water) is a time of rest and recharge, its energy latent and potent for the explosive energy of rebirth in Spring.

The ancient Chinese lived and worked in nature. They observed that in order to have a harvest, there must be a balance of the five elements: fire, earth metal, water, and wood. There must be enough sunlight and heat, soil in which the plant can root and draw sustenance, a proper amount of minerals and trace elements, the right amount of water, and a seed capable of growth. Too much or too little of any of these would mean that the harvest, and life itself, would be in peril. They recognized that the same elements that operate in nature also operate in human beings. We have the same elements within us, manifesting as our organs and functions - physically, mentally, and spiritually. When the elements are in balance, we harvest radiant good health.

Classical Five-Element Acupuncture asserts that every human being is born with, or develops early in life, an imbalance in the natural functioning of one of these elements. This imbalance becomes the root cause of illness at all levels.

Each of the elements contains specific organs or functions (e.g. Heart, Lungs, Kidneys, Spleen, etc.) “When an element is imbalanced, so must the organs and functions residing within it become imbalanced.” Within a space of time, this primary imbalance will spread disharmony throughout the system and affect all other elements, as well as their corresponding organs and functions. Therefore, Classical Five-Element Acupuncture considers that any symptom can be the result of imbalance originating in any element, as they all are invariably connected and affected.

The Causative Factor

The job of the Classical Five-Element practitioner is to determine which element is the primary imbalance. Once it is correctly identified and treated, all the other elemental imbalances will resolve naturally. Classical Five-Element Acupuncture is thus set apart from other systems of acupuncture by its fundamental premise of diagnosing and treating a patient's Causative Factor: his/her root imbalance.

The Causative Factor is assessed by way of information provided by the body itself. Each of the elements has a corresponding color, sound, emotion, and odor which can be perceived when a particular element is out of balance. While it is relatively easy to memorize these associations, developing the skills to truly see, hear, feel, and smell these imbalances requires focused study, practice, and skilled guidance. Accurate diagnosis and treatment of the Causative Factor is the key to Classical Five-Element Acupuncture.

Energetic Blocks

There are, additionally, a number of energetic blocks which can overlay the Causative Factor and must be removed before work on the Causative Factor element will be effective. Practitioners are trained to identify and remove all such energetic blocks.

Using Points for Treating the Spirit Directly

In addition, this elegant system recognizes that the health of each individual's body, mind, and spirit must be taken into account to fully understand and treat the cause of disease. Each acupuncture point has a unique spiritual gift, suggested by its point name, that it is capable of delivering (e.g. Spirit Storehouse, Great Esteem, Abundant Splendour, etc.). These points, when used at the right time and in conjunction with their respective elemental diagnoses, can literally turn the course of disease.
Regardless of the presence of physical symptoms, the vast majority of patients are imbalanced at the level of the spirit.

To reach a patient fully means reaching all of him or her: body, mind, and spirit. With this medicine, we have the means to treat, not only the body, but the mind and spirit directly, according to the unique needs of each patient. Thus, we assist nature to heal from the inside out.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is an art and a science that takes years to master. Look for an acupuncturist with experience with Classical Five Element Acupuncture on

About the Author

Professor Neil R. Gumenick is founder and director of the Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture Inc. in Santa Monica, CA, which trains students, licensed acupuncturists, and physicians in this unique system. Neil holds three degrees and an advanced teaching credential from the College of Traditional Acupuncture (UK) and is one of six practitioners in the world to have been awarded the designation Master Apprentice to the late Professor J.R. Worsley. He has nearly 25 years of private practice and teaching experience

Neil can be reached at (310) 453-2235 or by email: nrg(at)


Ask The Acupuncturist

Q: I have had migraines for several years now and have just started to have acupuncture, I have only had three treatments but already I do not need my daily pills. Can you tell me how often you would say I needed to have acupuncture?

A: It is very difficult to say how often you should have treatments. With the positive response that you have had to treatment, it sounds as ... Read More