By Alice Adams, RN (Retired), M.Ac., L.Ac.
Acupuncturist at Peaceful Spirit Massage and Wellness Centers
Long before there were health coaches and wellness consultants, five element acupuncturists were assisting people in finding a state of well-being. The five element acupuncture system originated in China between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. It arose out of the theory that man was not separate from Nature or the natural world, but intricately connected to it. According to the five element system, an underlying cyclical energy (known as Qi) is constantly moving through everything. This Qi energy is most evident in cyclical systems, such as the changing of the seasons. Traditionally, each of the elements in the five element system corresponds to specific qualities of the Qi energy as it moves through nature and ourselves. The flow of energy is essential for good health. Problems occur when the energy flow is disrupted due to internal or external factors, such as genetics, environmental toxins, physical and emotional traumas.
In the past several decades, several buzzwords have become popular in conversations about healthcare. In particular, the term “holistic health” has become common in everyday use. But what does it really mean? Per Wikipedia, “The holistic concept in medical practice… upholds that all aspects of people’s needs including psychological, physical, and social should be taken into account and seen as whole.”
Acupuncturists employing the five element model use the paradigm of holistic health to look at the patient from three perspectives: the body (physical form), the mind (both cognitive function and emotional responses), and spirit (defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as “the non-physical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character”). In diagnosis, the acupuncturist looks at each patient as a unique individual, with a unique expression of energy. Thus, the treatment will be specialized for each individual person. Ultimately, the acupuncturist is looking to find the cause of the imbalance, not simply treat the symptoms.
Five element acupuncturists aim to define both your unique strengths – those parts of you that are resilient and healthy – and also your vulnerabilities. The acupuncturist can then support you in a way that brings the resilient, healthy parts of your life to the forefront, thus allowing balance to return and wellness to flourish. Together, you and the acupuncturist can maintain this state.