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What is the five element theory in TCM?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is Wu Xing, or the 5 elements of nature, which include: Wood, Fire, Water, Earth, and Metal. Each element is dynamic, or in a constant state of movement. Everything that exists, and how everything interacts can be described by the 5 elements. Each element has its own Yin and Yang aspects.

The elements all correspond to a season. Wood corresponds to spring, the time of renewal and warmth which then gives rise to Fire, the element of summer. The element of Earth relates from the peak of summer to the first approaching signs of fall. After summer, the shortening days and cooling weather lends to fall, with Metal as its element. The cold, short, and dark days of winter are represented by the Water element. Then the cycle begins again with spring.

Qualities: Growing, expanding, flexibility

Organ System: Liver & Gall Bladder

Qualities: Hot, dry, ascending, moving

Organ System: Heart & Small Intestine

Qualities: Cool, descending, yielding, moist 

Organ System: Kidney & Urinary Bladder

Qualities: Hard, cutting, discerning 

Organ System: Lungs & Large Intestine

Qualities: Nourishing, fertile, productive

Organ System: Spleen & Stomach