The Wood Element


The season that resonates with Wood is the spring. In nature we see life returning in the rising sap of the trees and the activity of the animals. This energy is powerful and unstoppable. I remember when I was primary school teacher in South London one summer the local authority decided to refurbish the playground. They spread a layer of asphalt over the ground and painted hopscotch and the alphabet on it. It looked lovely. The winter came. The spring came. The asphalt seemed to boil in slow motion over the course of couple of weeks. Then up through the black came spears of green, breaking up the surface of our new play amenity. The daffodils were not to be suppressed. They looked strong enough to punch through concrete.


The energy associated with Wood is like those daffodils. It is pent up and going to break out. It is the way nature is busting out into bloom after the winter. People are part of nature and this energy manifests itself in us. The emotion associated with Wood is anger. Like the energy of spring anger will not be suppressed. In balance and under control anger is healthy. It helps us get things done. It gives us the energy to plan things out and follow up on our plans. Out of balance it becomes a problem of course, either causing us to lash out or, at the other extreme, to remain passive in situations or witnessing injustices when we really should get angry and do something.


The Yin organ associated with Wood is the Liver. Physiologically it stores and cleans the blood. It keeps out blood flowing. In the same way emotionally and spiritually it keeps our energy flowing.

The ancient Chinese thought of the Liver as the General of the body, in charge of strategic planning, has the vision to act and keep everything flowing preventing stagnation. In Chinese medicine all disease, both physical and emotional, can be traced to stagnation, and for this reason the Liver is a very, very important organ.

The Liver is assisted by the Yang Wood organ, the Gallbladder. The Gallbladder stores the gall produced by the Liver. In Chinese medicine its function is to support the Liver’s vision and strategic planning with wisdom and the ability to make good decisions. When the Gallbladder is out of balance we find it hard to make decisions, or if we do, we make really bad ones.


The taste associated with Liver is sour. For example lemon juice nourishes the Liver. Drinking water with lemon keeps the body hydrated and keeps the Liver happy.

Problems associated with Wood

· The Liver is in charge of the eyes — so any visual or eye problems can stem from a Wood imbalance.

· The Liver is in charge of the tendons and the muscles. Tendonitis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, arthritis — they can all be thought of as conditions to which a Wood imbalance might contribute. Sciatica may also be in this category.

· As we have seen the emotion associated with Wood is anger. Anger management issues may be woody.

· The Liver stores and cleans the blood. It may be useful in treating menstrual issues, PMS, fibroids etc. Also if this function of storing the blood is out of balance it can manifest in high blood pressure and perhaps in atherosclerosis.

· The Liver produces bile which is stored in the Gallbladder. An imbalance here may affect the digestion — particularly the digestion of fats. Also Wood controls Earth in the Sheng Cycle of the Five Elements. In plain English this means that if the Wood is too strong it damages Earth which is the Stomach and Spleen, the digestive function.


Wood energy is bursting out like those South London daffodils! If you don’t move, the Qi gets pent up and leads to frustration, unhappiness and imbalance! Keep moving. Get out into Nature in the spring!

The Liver is a good General — and good generals hate mess. Keep as tidy as you can. During the sluggish Winter stuff piles up. Traditionally we have a big Spring Clean in the spring. Our ancestors are often very wise!

Think of the General. Make clear plans of action and action them.

Anger is the emotion associated with the Wood season. Itis a good time to let go of old angry feelings and frustrations. It is a good time to forgive and move on.

Wood is in charge of tendons and muscles. We often thing that strength training or endurance cardio workout cover all our fitness needs. Don’t forget flexibility. Keep the tendons and muscles supple. Stretch at this time of year. Take up yoga. Make a plan! Execute it!