Five Phase Theory: Into the Fire Phase

Have you ever wondered why we overwhelmingly deal with colds in the fall and the flu in winter?  As practitioners we often notice a connection between seasonal change and a rise in specific health conditions.  This observation is explained well by a foundational theory of Chinese Medicine known as the Five Phase or Five Element Theory.  Five Phase Theory  builds on these vital connections between nature and our health by centering the idea that our spirit and health are interwoven with our surrounding environment.  Specifically, it breaks the year down into five seasons, noting our traditional 4 of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter with the addition of late summer as the fifth.  And it draws relationships between the five elements - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water -  assigning each a season, organ energy, emotion, virtue, taste, and pathology.  Five Phase Theory is useful because it provides helpful information to anticipate issues for individuals who are inclined toward one element more than another. This method of diagnosis helps us help you stay balanced during seasons that can be particularly aggravating to your constitution.

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Photo source: HOPPER ACU.

With the recent summer solstice, the Fire Phase is now underway.  Fire is a dynamic, warm, charismatic, joyous and fast paced force that draws us into our hearts.  So it is the perfect season to spend time out and about and among one another, taking joy in all the activities around us.  However, it can stir imbalances especially in those who may already have an excess amount of fire or heat in their constitution.  A fire imbalance might cause any number of symptoms like palpitations, itchy skin, manic episodes, anxiousness, hyper vigilance, and even restless sleep.  This is a time that we do experience a rise in the above symptoms and we have been able to treat them successfully at LBCA.

Temperature often plays a major role in causing these seasonal symptoms.  It has a tendency to stir the mind and quicken blood circulation.  The nature of heat is yang with a rising quality.  When it travels in the body, it naturally rises upward toward the head.  This aggravates the mind, enabling episodes of irritability, mania, and beyond.  As these are easily uncomfortable sensations, they can also trigger the nervous system to heighten into fight or flight.  Heat can also travel outward and when it does, it can cause eruptions on the skin by way of rashes or bumps.  When we regulate heat and encourage the production of body fluids with acupuncture and herbs, it eliminates these issues powerfully. 

During these summer months, it follows that patients complain most often about emotional disturbances like anxiety, vivid dreams and insomnia.  In past years, Susan and I have also observed multiple cases of patients with manic episodes.  We have found that regular treatments reduce their duration and intensity.

This season there has also been an uptick in skin related issues. One patient recently showed me a series of red itchy bumps that have spread across her ribs and abdomen. They occur every summer and appear to cause her discomfort, despite their benign nature.  With two treatments there is a notable change in redness and itchiness.  More treatments will likely restore her skin to its previous state as we improve her circulation, reduce the heat in her body, and promote fluid production. 

In this fiery season, if you start to experience any of these symptoms, please don’t hesitate come in for treatment.  Acupuncture and herbal remedies may be just the right answer to your needs as you move through this phase of the year!