The wood element is an important concept in Chinese medicine and is related to various functions and structures within the body and within nature. Furthermore, the wood element is also closely related to the emotions and the assertiveness that one needs to move forward in life.
The wood element is associated with the season of springtime and reflects the upward and expansive movement of the energy of this time that we can see occurring in the plants and trees around us. As the power of wood rises in nature so too makes the wood energetic move upward and outward within ourselves.
In Chinese medical theory, the wood element corresponds to the organs of the liver and gallbladder. The liver (yin) is seen as the ‘general’ and responsible for planning and governing direction of movement. The liver’s counterpart, the gallbladder (Yang), is thought of as an ‘official’ that guides and helps to form a clear judgement. When there is disharmony in the wood energy, then one may experience the emotions of frustration and even anger.
The liver is closely related to blood as it is a filter, but also acts to govern and move the blood to reach the different areas of the body. The heart (fire) circulates the blood; the liver moves it.
The liver and therefore, the element of wood, is also related to and responsible for governing the muscles and sinews of the body. With a well nourished and balanced wood element, the liver can move the blood to feed the muscles and tendons.
The wood also has rising energy as characteristic of a soot emanating from a seed as it bursts forth with life. As such, the wood energy has a tendency to rise and can even reach the head. The liver channel has an internal pathway that reaches to the vertex of the head. It is interesting to see that one who drinks coffee frequently may begin to experience headaches that manifest at the vertex. This is because caffeine unbalances the liver, can cause the liver blood to stagnate and create heat in the organ and channel. As the wood energy tries to rise there is disharmony and a headache may emerge at the top of the head; a clear sign of liver or wood pathology. By having this understanding of the five elements this is one way a Chinese medicine practitioner can diagnose this pathology. Here is more information on the diagnostic methods used in Chinese medicine.
The Wood element is also related to the climate of wind. When a person is exposed to the elements, and the wind is permitted to enter the body, then it can cause disharmony and many ailments to occur. The Wind primarily effects to liver and gall bladder and can manifest itself in different channels within the body. One sign that internal wind is present in moving pain in the channels. If a person seems to have a pain in one part of the shoulder but the next it is in a different part of the shoulder or even perhaps in the neck or arm, then it is said to be a moving pain, which is a sign of internal wind in the channel.
Here is more information on the Wood element as used in Chinese Medicine.