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5 Element Acupuncture

The system of healing known as acupuncture has been continually developed and practiced in China, Japan, and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. Acupuncture is still used throughout the world today as a comprehensive healthcare model to treat numerous acute and chronic illnesses, prevent disease, and improve
well being.

    According to Chinese medical theory, all
    disease and pain—physical, mental, or
    emotional—indicate an imbalance in Qi,
    the body’s motivating energy, that
    courses through the body in channels
    similar to the rivers that traverse the


    Health is promoted when the flow of Qi
    is vibrant and unobstructed. Illness and
    accompanying symptoms may arise when
    the flow of Qi is obstructed or depleted
by factors such as climatic conditions, poor nutrition, infections, trauma, or emotional states like stress, anxiety, fear, anger, worry, and grief.

By inserting hairline needles into acupuncture points along the channels, the normal flow of Qi can be restored, awakening the body’s innate wisdom and natural ability to heal itself.


Moxibustion is an integral part of the Chinese medical system and frequently used in an acupuncture treatment. The herb Moxa is obtained from the plant Artemisia vulgaris, more commonly known as mugwort. Its healing and warming properties are used in acupuncture treatment to support an individual’s Qi and blood.

Moxa is most frequently shaped into small cones and burned on an acupuncture point prior to the insertion of a needle. Cone Moxa never burns the skin.

Moxa can also be used to help relieve pain that may be caused by an obstruction in one of the energy pathways. Roll Moxa, a more compact form shaped like a cigar, can treat a larger area of the body and is used in such cases.


The Yin/Yang and Five Element theories represent the world outlook and methodology of the ancient Chinese, which is based on their understanding and explanation of nature. The application of these two theories to Chinese medicine consists of viewing phenomena and the laws of nature, and then applying them to the study of the physical, mental, and spirit-level activities of human beings.

Yin and Yang are dualities reflecting opposite states in continual interchange. The motivating energy of life, or Qi, is the movement present in the dynamic of these two primary forces. And it is the interaction of these forces, Yin (Earth) and Yang (Heaven), which determines the nature of the universe. In health, there is a relative Yin/Yang balance.

The theory of the five elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal) is a way of classifying the movements and manifestations of Qi in all living things.
They are present in nature as well as in
man. Each element is associated with
specific organs and functions of the body, mind, and spirit, as well as natural qualities of the world around us such as, direction, color, emotion, and season. In health, the movement of the five elements is in accordance with the laws of nature.

When any degree of imbalance occurs in a season, the entire cycle of birth, growth,
flowering, harvest, storing, replenishment, and re-creation can be disrupted and left unfulfilled. For example, if Spring (wood) is too cold, too wet, or too dry, the result is a less-than-abundant harvest in late Summer (earth). Likewise, if an adolescent (Spring) loses their direction, they struggle to reach maturity (Summer) and may be unable to reap the benefits of midlife (Late Summer). Clinically, an individual can move through life with greater ease and a sense of well being by strengthening and supporting their elemental energy.

    When combined, these two theories are
    used as a guide to clinical diagnosis and
    treatment, which involves an assessment
    of the strength and balance of each
    element, as well as the functioning of the
    body’s organs and systems. The
    practitioner will attempt to see how each
    element is reflected in the patient’s life,
    character, and emotions. A treatment plan
    is then crafted to address each individual’s
    unique strengths and imbalances.

    This method of diagnosis and treatment
    represents a fundamental difference from standard Western practice. If five people visit a general practitioner complaining of headaches, chances are they would all receive the same or similar medication, which is aimed at treating their common presenting symptom. When the same five people seek acupuncture treatment, each person would receive a unique treatment that is tailored to their elemental relationships and the health of their bodily systems. Rather than the symptom itself, the cause of the symptom in each person is the target of the treatment.


The classical theories of acupuncture have been developed and refined for over 5,000 years to form the basis for all styles of acupuncture. However, by the time of the Middle Ages, acupuncture in China had been sidelined in favor of herbal medicine and other oriental medical techniques. This focus on integration and homogenization continued during the modernization and westernization of China. Acupuncture in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam followed a different course, with increasing diversification resulting in the creation of microsystems of treatment—all of which continue to emerge in the melting pot of western society.

Five Element acupuncture represents a purposeful return to its purer roots in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese tradition.
It was brought to Europe in the twentieth
century and developed initially in the United Kingdom and France before spreading to
the United States. As a result, it is particularly suited in both philosophy and clinical application to our Western lifestyle and Western causes of disease and conditions.

One lineage of Five Element acupuncture,
led by J. R. Worsley, became prominent in the UK in the 1960s, which in turn gave
birth to many Five Element colleges in the United States during the 1980s and ‘90s. At Ontario’s Ongiara College of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, the first school east of British Columbia to come from this particular perspective, Barbara holds a faculty position.


Experimental investigations on the mechanism of acupuncture have been carried out, with great efforts made to conduct controlled clinical trials that include the use of “sham” acupuncture or “placebo” acupuncture controls. This research, while aimed chiefly at learning how acupuncture works, has resulted in convincing published reports based on sound scientific methodology, providing evidence in support of its effectiveness as well.

Visit the WHO website to read more about their twenty-year effort to review the clinical practice of acupuncture, and to view their complete list of diseases and disorders suitable for treatment with acupuncture.

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