Metal, Water, Wood, Fire or Earth?
Which of the Chinese 5 elements are you and what does it mean for your health?
The five elements theory is one of the central concepts of traditional Chinese medicine. Take our quick quiz to determine which of wood, fire, earth, metal and water is dominant for you right now, and discover time-tested tips to help you look after your health and wellbeing and feel your best.
What is Chinese medicine’s five elements theory?
Five elements theory (also known as five phases theory) is a framework that’s been used for at least 2400 years in traditional Chinese medicine to explain how we’re influenced by the world and weather around us, and how the organs of the body interact with each other.
The five elements or ‘phases’ are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. In TCM, each of them is associated with certain body organs, a colour, a taste, an emotion, and a season of the year – among other things!
From the perspective of TCM, understanding which of the five elements has a dominant effect on you right now, can give you insight into your personal strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re feeling imbalanced, low in energy, or simply out-of-whack, understanding the elemental influences at play is also a quick way to help you know the kind of imbalances to watch out for, and guide you to simple steps you can take to restore harmony and balance.
Which of the five Chinese elements body types are you?
Take the quiz and find out!
In the four questions that follow, don’t worry if none of the options is exactly right, just tick the one that fits you the best. Once you’ve finished the quiz, total up your ticks against the answers (A, B, C, D or E) to refer to later.
1. Which of these is the best description of your body?
A. I have a tall, lean body, broad shoulders and a straight back. My face is long and my skin has olive tones
B. I have broad shoulders, wide teeth and a slightly pointed head. My hair is curly or thinning, and my complexion tends to have reddish tones
C. I have a solid frame and well-built muscles, especially in my back and legs. My face is round with a wide jaw. My skin has yellowish tones
D. My head, shoulders and upper back are slight and my tummy is flat. My face has a squarish shape, and my complexion is pale – but my voice is strong!
E. I have narrow shoulders and a long spine, but my tummy tends to be large. My face is round, with broad cheeks, and my complexion has dark tones
2. Which of these is the best description of your personality?
A. I’m confident, ambitious, passionate and decisive. I’m prone to anger, resentment and frustration though, and sometimes find it difficult to co-operate or share with others
B. I’m optimistic, communicative and charismatic. I enjoy connecting with others, but sometimes have difficulty with boundaries or feelings of isolation
C. I’m very social and am a peacemaker, so often find myself in negotiating roles. I’m also prone to worrying or overthinking things
D. I’m disciplined, discerning and methodical – so I don’t tend to be very spontaneous! I can become unsettled when things are disordered, and am prone to mild feelings of sadness
E. I pride myself on always being honest, objective and sensible. However, I also tend to be introspective and fearful
3. How do you respond to different types of weather?
A. I’m not at my best when it’s windy (e.g. Spring)
B. I’m not at my best when it’s hot (e.g. Summer)
C. I’m not at my best when it’s humid or damp (e.g. late Summer)
D. I’m not at my best when it’s dry (e.g. Autumn)
E. I’m not at my best in the cold (e.g. Winter)
4. When you’re out of balance, which group of symptoms are you most likely to experience?
A. Getting stressed easily
Tightness in the neck and shoulders
Headaches or migraines
Grinding or clenching your teeth
PMS with period pain, irritability and a short temper
Waking up between 1 and 3 am
B. Mild anxiety symptoms
Finding it difficult to find joy in your life
Sleeping difficulties and/or vivid dreams
Bouts of spontaneous sweating
C. Digestive problems (e.g. excessive burping or a poor appetite)
Cravings for sweet foods (including as a symptom of PMS)
A tendency to gain weight
Fatigue, especially around 3pm
Feeling mentally foggy (especially after waking up)
Poor muscle tone or strength
D. Easily catching coughs and colds
Mild shortness of breath
Skin problems (like dryness, or dry conditions like mild eczema symptoms)
Feelings of grief and sadness
E. Mild aches and pains of the joints (especially the lower back, knees or ankles)
Mild memory problems
Mild hearing difficulties
Cravings for salty foods
Discover what your answers mean below!
Review your answers and determine whether your most common answer was A, B, C, D or E.
Mostly A? Read the Wood section
Mostly B? Read the Fire section
Mostly C? Read the Earth section
Mostly D? Read the Metal section
Mostly E? Read the Water section
Chinese 5 elements: wood
What does being influenced by the wood element say about you?
When you’re in balance, you’re a kind-hearted soul who excels at creating clear visions, goals and plans, and can pride yourself on your decision-making skills.
Much like a tree, your tendency is to focus upwards and outwards. You’re always striving for growth and expansion, and looking for new challenges to overcome.
You thrive under pressure and may have what’s sometimes called a ‘type A personality’, meaning that you’re hard-driven and hard-working. You may even have a tendency to overdo things on that front, so guard against making yourself unwell due to overwork. A balance of work, rest, play and adventure is essential for you to be at your best.
When you’re out of balance, you may find yourself getting stressed easily, perhaps accompanied by tightness in the neck and shoulders and/or a tendency to clench your jaw or grind your teeth.
You might also become irritable, prone to a bad temper, notice that you’re not as decisive as usual or are more likely to over-indulge in food or drink.
Wood rules the liver and gallbladder in traditional Chinese medicine
In Chinese five elements theory, the wood element governs the liver organ-meridian system and that of its partner organ the gallbladder. In TCM the liver is involved in digestion and detoxification, acts as the storehouse for the blood, and ensures that both blood and qi (life force energy) are able to flow smoothly around the body.
If the liver organ-meridian system is out of balance, the liver qi may become stagnant or sluggish.
Lifestyle tips for the wood constitution
Keep your Qi moving
When it comes to maintaining your health and wellbeing, your primary goal is to look after your liver and keep its qi moving, so incorporate vigorous forms of exercise like running, boxing and Dynamic Vinyasa yoga into your routine.
Enjoy green foods and sour flavours
Eat plenty of green-coloured foods (especially dark green leafy vegetables) and sour flavours like lemon juice as these are traditionally considered good for the liver in TCM.
At the same time, avoid alcohol, coffee and sugar. When you need a pick-me-up, reach for peppermint tea instead; it’s traditionally used in TCM to soothe the liver and aid its natural detoxification processes.
Work hard, rest deeply
Make it a priority to balance your hard-working nature with regular times of rest and relaxation. In particular, it’s important for you to get plenty of sleep (even if your energetic mind says you can do without it!).
Also try relaxing meditation and gentle breathing exercises to help keep you calm and centred.
Ananda Apothecary recommends their rejuvenating Wood Aromamist
Chinese 5 elements: fire
What does being influenced by the fire element say about you?
You’re energetic, passionate and strong-willed.
You inspire others with your charisma, courage, creativity, wisdom and intuition, helping them to believe that it’s possible for dreams to come true.
Your natural tendency is to be joyful, and to delight in the company of others.
On the other hand, when you’re out of balance, you may become over-excited, experience mild anxiety symptoms or have difficulty sleeping.
Fire rules the heart in traditional Chinese medicine
The Fire element governs the heart organ-meridian system in TCM.
In TCM, the heart organ-meridian system’s functions include regulating the cardiovascular system (including the heart itself, the blood vessels and the blood that flows through them) and maintaining the functioning of the nervous system.
The heart organ-meridian system is also regarded as the resting place or ‘home’ of the shen or spirit in TCM.Lifestyle tips for the fire constitution
Nurture your nervous system
As a fire-spirit, your primary goal is to nurture your nervous system.
Start by taking active steps to manage your stress levels with meditation and relaxation techniques.
Try to end each day with some dedicated wind-down time before bed – for example by doing some gentle stretches or taking a gentle walk before putting your head on the pillow.
Next, make sure not to get overheated. Drink lots of water, avoid very hot weather, and include small servings of bitter foods in your diet, as they’re traditionally regarded as having cooling properties in TCM. (Try bitter-tasting salad veggies like rocket for starters).
Enjoy red-coloured foods
Red foods are traditionally considered good for a fire constitution too, so enjoy tomatoes, capsicum, raspberries and strawberries. And when it’s hot, treat yourself to some watermelon, which is traditionally said to cool heat in the heart organ-meridian system.