The ancient Chinese people divided the natural world into five categories which represented all the indispensable and fundamental elements constituting the universe.

They used the Five Element theory as a way to understand and interpret natural phenomena such as seasons, directions, climates, colors, tastes, and body parts which shared characteristics were grouped together under a common element.

When used in practice, the Five Elements describe the relationships among the body’s internal organs as well as the relationship between the body and the natural world.

Yin-Yang Theory

Along with the Five Elements theory, the Yin-Yang theory is another philosophical view developed in ancient China to explain and interpret natural phenomena, particularly the duality in the universe. Everything in the universe could be described as a relationship between polar opposites. All conceivable concepts and entities are composed of two opposing, yet complimentary aspects called Yin and Yang. It is the comparison between the opposites which creates meaning for the other side.

The traditional symbol is used to represent the continuous interchange between the two alternate poles, Yin and Yang. The circle represents the universe divided equally into Yin (the black) and Yang (the white). The division is not straight, Yin and Yang merge and continuously cycle with each other. Each controls and transforms into the other while carefully maintaining balance. The smaller circles within Yin and Yang represents the seeds of Yang within Yin and Yin within Yang.

The Five Elements Characteristics and Constitutions

Each individual has a dominant elemental constitution based on their personality and other characteristics. The individuals constitutional type can influence their tendency towards certain kinds of imbalance.


The Wood element represents all associated with springtime and green. During spring, a new year is born as the ice of winter melts away.

An individual with a Wood constitution has a pioneer spirit and leads the way like a General. Wood types tend to be good athletes who want to be the greatest in their field. These individuals can easily adapt to changing conditions because they are alert and respond quickly to stimuli. Although they quickly form ideas, they also change their minds easily. Wood type individuals tend to be narrow-minded and intolerant of different ideas. When Wood types become imbalanced, they are prone to diseases affected the Liver organ system. Wood types tend to have a short life span (which is a bit longer than the Fire type).

Personal Characteristics: dominant, aggressive, competitive, confident, fearless, adaptive, intolerant

Characteristics and Diseases when Imbalanced: aggression, irritability and anger (may bite, kick, strike), stressed by changing conditions, hoof/ligament/tendon problems, Liver or Gallbladder problems


The Fire element represents all associated with summer, heat, and redness.

An individual with a Fire constitution is like a good Emperor who is persuasive and skilled at inspiring others. Fire types are very social and enjoy being the center of attention. When Fire types become imbalanced, they are prone to diseases affecting the Heart organ system. Fire types tend to have the shortest life span of the elemental types.

Personal Characteristics: easily excited, extroverted, friendly/playful, sensitive, difficult to calm down, noisy and talkative, enjoy attention and physical contact.

Characteristics and Diseases when Imbalanced: hyperactive, high strung, insanity (separation anxiety, restlessness, behavioral problems), cardiovascular diseases, ulcers on the tongue, chest pains, stroke, sudden death


Due to its association with the late summer harvest of crops with damp and yellow natures, the Earth element represents all related to food, dampness, and yellow coloration.

An individual with an Earth constitution is like a mother or a good host who likes to care for others. When Earth types become imbalanced, they are prone to diseases affecting the Spleen organ system. Earth types tend to have long life spans.

Personal Characteristics: laid back, easy going, friendly, sweet, slow moving, easily satisfied, humble/kind, tolerant

Characteristics and Diseases when Imbalanced: excessive worry, obesity, muscle atrophy, weakness of limbs, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain/colic, constipation, gum/lip problems, edema, chronic hemorrhage, rectal/uterine prolapses


The Metal element represents all associated with autumn, dryness and white coloration. In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), the Metal element is considered light and superficial.

An individual with a Metal constitution is like a Prime Minister who has foresight and sagacity (good vision). Metal types are broad-minded, organizers and leaders in a group. They like rules and order. When Metal types become imbalanced, they are prone to diseases affecting the Lung organ system. Metal types tend to have a long life span.

Personal Characteristics: aloof, independent, ordered/organized, quiet, confident/consistent

Characteristics and Diseases when Imbalanced: excessive sadness/grief, nasal congestion/discharge, upper airway infections, cough/heaves/asthma and other lung diseases, constipation


The Water element represents all associated with winter, coldness and darkness/black coloration. Unlike the superficial and light Metal element, the Water element is heavy and deep.

An individual with a Water constitution is like a philsopher or an observer. Water types prefer to stand back and take their time to carefully observe and analyze events occurring around them. They think deeply and skillfully to make their plans. Water types tend to be fearful. They prefer to hide or run from danger, but will bite/kick in fear when unable to flee. When Water types become imbalanced, they are prone to diseases affecting the Kidney organ system. Water types tend to have very long lives.

Personal Characteristics: quiet, timid, introverted/shy, solitary, hesitant, fearful, observant

Characteristics and Diseases when Imbalanced: total withdrawal, fear, Kidney or Bladder problems (urinary tract infections, etc.), arthritis and disc disease, premature aging, infertility, back pain