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Stress and 5 Element Acupuncture

Oh, that dreaded, unfortunately, overused word! Who hasn’t ever suffered from it? In today’s turbulent times, stress can impact us all. The NHS describe stress as feeling under threat or pressure ( These external pressures can arise from work, relationships, financial situations and how we treat or view ourselves. This can manifest in physical dis-ease such as migraine, headaches, pain in the muscles or joints, palpitations, shortness of breath, dry throat, stomach upsets, heartburn, indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea, and infertility. In females, painful or problematic menstruation or menopause, or mental /emotional diseases such as feeling frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, fatigued, low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.

In Chinese Medicine, all these manifestations of stress present themselves as overwork of the liver. In TCM, the liver has many functions, such as smoothing emotions, digestion and bile secretion. It also plays a part in storing our reserves for rest and activity and in females storing the blood for menstruation.

So, in general terms (as each individual is unique) for stress related disorders acupuncture would aim to balance the liver energy in combination with which ever organ is presenting an imbalance in the individual.

This is where '5 Element Acupuncture' can really target the individual’s pattern of disharmony. These 5 elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Each personality will resonate with 1 of the 5 elements. Each element has organs that relate to that specific element.

For example:

  • Fire element is fed via the energy or Qi of the heart, small intestine, pericardium and triple burner

  • Earth via stomach and spleen

  • Metal via the lung and large intestine

  • Water via the bladder and kidneys

  • Wood via the liver and gall bladder

Therefore, if an Earth personality presented with stress the stomach and spleen would be treated alongside balancing the liver energy. Metal would be treated via the lung and large intestine, Water would be treated via the bladder and kidneys, Wood would be treated via the liver and gall bladder energy channels and Fire via either the pericardium and triple burner or the heart and large Intestine channels. In this way the symptoms are relieved, and the persons constitution is strengthened against further onset of stress. This of course is a gradual process. There are no quick fixes in natural medicine due to the complexity of the human anatomy and physiology.

Where stress has escalated to severe anxiety, depression or substance reliance Auricular acupuncture can offer the greatest relief. The ear is a map of our whole body as a foetus and therefore holds acupuncture points in miniature but with a concentrated impact. Auricular acupuncture is used by the military in battlefield situations due to its powerful impact to restore vital organs after deep shock and is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

In Chinese Medicine we aim to treat Mind, Body and Spirit. Here I have touched on the treatment of Mind and Body when related to stress. The treatment of the Spirit is a fascinating yet huge topic and could be the theme for a future blog.

As we are moving into Spring and the Wood Element season, now is a great time to smooth and nourish our liver and bring it into harmony so the remainder of the year can be embarked upon as stress free as possible.

Wishing you all great health & happiness,

Carri Cantral-Withers BSc (Hons), Lic Ac, MAAC


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