Five Element Acupuncture PDF Print E-mail

Contemplating Metal, The Judge

Connecting Depression and Lung Disorders

By Dr. Barbara Briner

Five Element Acupuncture has both ancient and not-so-ancient roots. The ancient roots go back to the Taoist physicians and the Bagua system. The Taoist masters described the universe as a system of seasons and elements, influencing and balancing one another through defined relationships. The less ancient roots of Five Element Acupuncture lead to J.R. Worsley, a British citizen, who developed an adaptation to Traditional Chinese Medicine from what he observed in China in the seventies. His form of acupuncture, known as Five Element Acupuncture became very popular in the United Kingdom and across Europe. He included, or highlighted the psychological aspects of the five element organ theory and used western psychological terms and context to explore the Taoist principles, leaning heavily on Jung’s archetypes.


Within this system it is said that the emotion of sadness and grief constricts proper lung function. This can result in the somatic symptom of shallow breathing which can be compared to asthma in Western medical terms. Further, impaired dispersing and descending of the lung qi can also result in constipation. And vice versa, if the lung qi and yin is impaired due to somatic causes, such as chronic lung diseases comparable with lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis or tbc, then emotional symptoms can appear like listlessness, lassitude, mental exhaustion, reluctance to speak (which could also be seen as classical indicators and part of the Western diagnostic criteria for a depression). The emotions sorrow, worry and grief are, of course, also understood to influence the large intestine which is the yang aspect of the lung. For example, a dietary trigger such as excessive consumption of hot and greasy food, as well as an emotional trigger, like excessive worry turning into anxiety, can both create interior heat in large intestine. This, in turn can manifest with somatic and somatoform symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain due to enteritis, mucus and blood in stool and irritable bowel syndrome. The ministry associated to lung and large intestines is “justice” while the corresponding emotions, as pointed out above, are sorrow, worry and grief. The judge rules over guilt and innocence. He decides who is free and who gets incarcerated. One could say the judge condemns or frees the mind. In Western medical terms the emotions sorrow, worry and grief, if becoming overbearing, can be found in depressive disorders. Interestingly, the ICD 10 and the DSM4 list feelings of overly severe self-judgments and self-punishment and feelings of unbearable guilt and unworthiness, low self esteem and the impeded capacity to continue work and ordinary daily social and domestic activities as diagnostic criteria in depressive disorders. One could say the depressed mind is trapped in its own belief of condemnation and cannot feel or interact with the outside world anymore. In the five element system the practitioner will aim to nourish Metal in its yin and yang aspect. One way of doing that is to use Lu 9 the source point of the Lung channel while checking the pulses strength pre during and post treatment.


Worsley Institute


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