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Chinese Materia Medica(2)

1. Herbs for Relieving Exterior Syndromes (Pungent and Warm)

1) ephedra

2) cinnamon twig

3) schizonepeta

4) ledebouriella root

5) perilla leaf

6) fresh ginger

7) notopterygium root

8) dahurian angelica root

9) chinese lovage root

10) spring onion

11) magnolia flower

2. Herbs for Relieving Exterior Syndromes (Pungent and Cool)

(to be continued)


The theory of chinese medicine (tcm)

- The Five Elements Theory


The five elements theory is also an ancient Chinese philosophy.

They believed that the world consists of five basic substances : wood, fire, earth, metal and water

Generalization and deduction of this thought led to the five elements theory.


It says that everything in the universe consists of five kinds of substances,
which are not only closely related but also in constant movement and mutation.
Everything or every phenomenon in the universe including organs, tissues, physiology and pathology of the human body, fall into five categories, according to their qualities, forms and functions. Here, the qualities of the five basic substances are shown in Fig 1

Fig. 1
Wood Fire  Earth metal Water
spring summer late summer autumn winter
east south middle west north
blue red yellow white black
wind heat dampness dryness cold
sour bitter sweet pungent salty
liver heart spleen lung kidney
gall bladder small intestine stomach large intestine urinary bladder
eye tongue mouth nose ear
anger joy overthinking sorrow   fear


The five elements are related through generation (engendering), restriction (restraining), subjugation (overwhelming) and reverse restriction (rebellion).

Generation (engendering)

Generation means production, promotion and nurturance.
Showing the relationship in a cyclic form can make you easily understand.

Fig. 2

# Here, an arrow shows the direction of generation. Therefore, wood generates fire, fire generates earth and so on.

# And we call the generating element the mother, the generated element the son. For instance, in the relationship of wood and fire, wood is called mother, fire is called son. On the other hand, as wood is generated by water we can say that wood is both the mother of fire and the son of water.

# As you see, each element has the working of both generating and being generated.

We usually call five visceras in the following way, because each viscera and its category is inseparable.

liver-wood heart-fire spleen-earth lung-metal kidney-water

Fig. 3

Restriction (restraining)

Restriction means restraining or constraining.

See the cycle below.-------Here, wood restricts earth, earth restricts water, water restricts fire, and so on. Like the relationship of generation, each element is restricting the other, and being restricted by the other at the same time.

Fig. 4

The five elements keep balance with each other under the effect of both the generating power and the restricting power. Once it has been disrupted, a pathological state will emerge. The following relationships are the ones which are seen under such situations.

Subjugation (Overwhelming)

Under the relationship of restriction, if the restricted element is weak, it is subdued and overwhelmed by the restricting element. Subsequently it will become even weaker. For instance, if earth is weak, it is overwhelmed by wood, and therefore become much weaker.

Fig. 5

This is the abnormal relationship with wood and earth, so you must distinguish subjugation from restriction.

But in fact, the two terms are somewhat confused.

Reverse restriction (Rebellion)

Reverse restriction means that if the restricted element becomes too strong ,it will rebel against the element which should normally restrain it.

For instance, metal normally restricts wood, but if wood is too strong then it will restrict metal in the reverse direction.

Fig. 6