The 5 Elements and their use in Holistic Healing

The 5 elements and their use in Holistic Healing
According to the ancients there are 5 elements of which everything in the world is made. These are space, air, fire, water and earth. Let’s not think of these elements in their gross physical form but in a subtle way consisting of qualities.

  • Space or Either is subtle, dry, cold, formless, pervading, light (not heavy), smooth and still.
  • Air is mobile (moving), dry, erratic, cold, light, clear, and rough.
  • Fire is hot, sharp, spreading, transformational, liquefying, intense, and drying
  • Water is wet, flowing, nourishing, soft, cool, smooth, cleansing and heavy
  • Earth is hard, dull, hard, stable, solid, cool, heavy, and gross.

Everything we see, think, feel and understand is made up of various combinations of these elements and qualities. The human body, the environment, food and drink, medicine, herbs and even thoughts are made up of the elements. When we look at our individual condition based on the element and their manifest qualities, we can understand how to bring ourselves back to a state of harmony or balance. This may mean a decrease in symptomology or even a resolution to the presenting problem.
To understand how this works, first think of the qualities you’re experiencing in your body or life. Say you are experiencing mucus congestion in your lungs and sinuses (This is earth and water). The congestion is thick and running and that the discharge is lightly colored. Your breathing is slow and labored and your head feels heavy and dull (more Earth). Herbs like Eucalyptus, Mint, Sage, Oregano and Rosemary are light, subtle, warming, drying, expansive and pervasive. Adding these herbs decrease an overabundance of earth and water in your respiratory system by adding air, either and a little fire. If your congestion is dry, and wheezy, and you find it hard to breath with a deep cough that produces little you will want herbs that are moistening, soothing, nourishing, and supporting. In this case you may be better served with herbs such as Licorice, Slippery Elm, Wild Cherry Bark, and Marshmallow Root. You don’t need to know the name of the actions or the medicinal constituents to use these ideas positively.
Food and lifestyle work the same way. Oatmeal is smooth, soft, slimy, and sweet, nourishing the water element. Cabbage is round, drying, and cooling increasing the air and either elements. Walking is warming, soft and smooth. Running is intense, heating and liquefying. All things in our lives can be identified by the qualities in them and used to bring us into balance or cause a further imbalance. How and what we use is individual based on the situation, state of health, and constitution.
To know what is right for you look at the elements and their qualities as they are presenting in your current situation. Then take a moment to identify what or how you would like to feel. What are the elements or qualities you would like to experience? Let it be more than an absence of symptoms or vague ideas like “I want my knee to feel better”. Then assess your lifestyle and note the elements you’re currently adding to your system. Include the food you’re eating, exercise or lack of it, the medicines or foods you’re eating. Are there better choices made up of the qualities you’d like to embody? With this knowledge you can take the steps to make real changes in a positive and informed way.
Personal healing isn’t always an easy process, especially to undertake alone. It can be difficult to identify the changes we need to make when left to our own devices because it’s we just don’t see some things in ourselves. Many, many people find the assistance of professionals comforting, supporting and even necessary. Herbalists, yoga teachers, Ayurvedic practitioners and health and lifestyle coaches are uniquely suited to help you on this path. Please don’t feel like you have to do it alone.
Annie offers individual herbal and holistic healing consultations both in person and on-line. You can contact her by email at or Click here for more details.

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