In the Five Element Theory of traditional Chinese medicine, the Wood element symbolizes new growth, as plants burst forth with life in the springtime. The positive traits of the Wood personality type are ambition and motivation, and the Wood constitution could be described as a Type A personality in Western terms. When the Wood element is out of balance, negative emotions such as anger and frustration and physiological problems involving the liver and gall bladder can arise.
TCM Organs Associated with the Wood Element
In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a yin organ and a yang organ associated with each of the five elements. The yin organ associated with the Wood element is the liver, which TCM calls the “general” of the body since it is the organ in charge of many vital operations. Some of the liver’s functions include the removal of toxins and clearing of hormonal secretions from the blood, storing blood, regulating Qi (fundamental life energy), and controlling psychological processes such as initiative, ambition and determination.
The yang organ associated with the Wood element is the gall bladder, whose primary physiological function is to secrete bile for the digestion of fats. Psychologically, the gall bladder regulates judgment, decision-making, and the ability to carry out plans.
Emotions Associated with the Wood Element
Anger and frustration are the emotions associated with the Wood element. When something stands in the way of an individual with strong Wood qualities of motivation and drive, it often results in frustration, irritability, and anger. Having a short fuse, being prone to explosive outbursts or being impatient and easily frustrated are indications of an imbalance in the Wood element.
Other Correspondences to the Wood Element
Time of Day- The time of day associated with the Wood element is 11 pm to 3 am. During this time, the liver is actively performing its functions of clearing toxins, and therefore it is best to sleep during these hours to allow the liver to efficiently do its work.
Eyes and Nails- The Wood element corresponds to the eyes, and the sense of sight, as well as the fingernails and toenails. Eye problems such as red, dry or watery eyes, as well as problems with the nails, such as weak, brittle nails or chronic fungal infections of the toenails can be caused by a Wood imbalance.
Muscles and Ligaments – The Wood element controls the muscles and ligaments of the body. Psychological or physical symptoms of inflexibility and rigidity can indicate a Wood imbalance.
Sound- The sound associated with the Wood element is shouting. Wood individuals often feel that they need to be in charge, and an imbalance in the Wood element can cause the normal speaking voice to have a loud, angry shouting tone.
Color and Flavor- The color associated with Wood is green, reminiscent of new leaves that emerge during the spring. Sour or astringent is the flavor associated with Wood, and this flavor is found in fermented foods that aid digestion.
Michael and Lesley Tierra, Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine Volume 1, Lotus Press, 1998.