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The Earth Element is linked to late summer, the time of declining yang. Traditionally, it’s seen as the central pivot for the other Elements.

“The exceeding beauty of the earth in her splendour yields a new thought with every petal.”
Richard Jeffries (1848-1887) English writer

An Earth Element is a person who’s used to serving others. It’s something they do without complaint and they are at their happiest when they’re helping people with one thing or another. This rushing around looking after other people could lead to a feeling of emptiness, or being unfulfilled in one’s self because all of your energy and time is taken up by other people. This lack of fulfilment may manifest itself in an Earth Element as an eating disorder – a need to eat in order to give yourself some attention. Although you would be eating, it wouldn’t necessarily be for the reasons of nutrition, but more than likely as a need to do something for yourself. This would probably lead to excessive eating and digestion problems with a feeling of being bloated or heavy – an Earth Element may show signs of heaviness or lethargy.

Another sign of an imbalance in an Earth Element is for you to go to extremes of one form or another. You may become obsessed with cleanliness or with how you look, or you may go completely the opposite way and let your appearance and standards go altogether, not taking any interest in yourself at all. Perhaps these feelings go back to when we were children and our mother was always making sure that we were clean, neat and tidy.

“The ‘mother’ was the stabilising, balancing centre – not unlike in most other societies. Even in modern societies the mother is, (often) still the centre point for family; even though the times when the family actually gathers around the mother physically may be (in modern western civilizations) limited to feasts such as birthdays, Christmas etc. Could it be that our society has so many problems such as criminality, pollution, political instability and so on because it has lost its focus on the mother and/or the Earth?”
Christa-Maria Herrmann, p87

We are all made up of the 5 Elements and although you may not consider yourself to be an Earth Element, you may recognise a little of this Element in your make-up. For example, you may feel that you’ve always taken on other people’s problems, worried about others and what might happen if you don’t help them or fear you’ll let them down. This can feel like you’re carrying a large weight across your shoulders, which stops you from walking upright and grinds you down. It’s important to realise that you can still care about people, but you need to take time to look after yourself too, there must be a fine balance:

“When the Earth Element is not in particularly good balance, this whole process starts to come unstuck, and we use almost identical words to describe both the physical and mental effects of this. On a straightforward physical level we see abdominal distension, discomfort in the epigastric region, flatulence and the retention of food in the stomach. We can get the food inside us but from there it does not go any further. All that happens is the formation of an unpleasant brew in the stomach and causes pain and discomfort.”
(Professor J.R.Worsley p4.4)

The Organs of the Earth Element are the Stomach and Spleen

The Earth Element is all about nourishment and nurturing, about taking on board food and digesting and distributing it around the body. This is done by the two Officials, the Stomach and the Spleen. As well as nourishing the body we must also look after the mind and spirit equally. We must always be looking to digest as much knowledge and information as we can in order to keep the mind as active as possible. By taking all of this information in to our mind we are making ourselves feel secure and able to cope with problems because of the knowledge and experiences that we have stored up. When an Earth Element is out of balance this can also affect the mind, as well as the more obvious physical symptoms, it will affect the mind in similar ways to the body. When the body is not working correctly the Stomach can feel knotted up and not able to receive any more nourishment, in the same way the mind and the spirit can feel knotted up and unable to take any more in. It can become confused and reject things in a similar way that the Stomach will reject things when it’s not right. These are all symptoms that both the physical and mental aspects of an Earth Element are not in balance.

Looking at the Officials of the Stomach and Spleen in a purely traditional way we see the Stomach is referred to as the Controller of Rotting and Ripening and the Spleen is known as the Controller of Transport. The Spleen is a Zang organ and the Stomach is a Fu organ. The Controller digests the food that it receives and also controls the creation of waste by-products. These products, either nutritious or waste, are transported throughout the body by the Controller of Transport – the Spleen. If there is a breakdown or imbalance in these Officials then the whole cycle of creation and distribution breaks down, thus creating problems throughout the whole body and mind. It appears that both the Stomach and Spleen are integral to the wellbeing of all of the other Officials throughout the body. In his book ‘In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor (Eckman,P. p78), the author refers to ancient Chinese beliefs that the Stomach and Spleen Officials should be strengthened as a basis for all other treatments. If the distribution system is not functioning smoothly then food and by-products will not be distributed and they will rot and cause blockages throughout the system, these officials must be allowed to transport and distribute efficiently in order to maintain an even balance:

“Some readers may think that the image of a road haulage system does not do justice to the wisdom and beauty of this system of medicine, but in truth there is no better example from our daily lives than this. When food has been harvested, stored, or brought to market, it has to be taken to where it is needed as soon as possible or it will rot. Exactly the same applies within the body, mind and spirit.”
Worsley, J.R. (1998) p13.7

We have observed that when something is out of balance it can affect the mind as well as the body. Someone with a Stomach imbalance may have a very vacant look about them, they are unable to digest any facts or information that may be given to them, this information will have to be condensed and fed to them in small sections so that they are able to take these facts on board. If too much information is thrown at them they will show signs of confusion and also anxiety.

The same distress can manifest itself when the Official of the Spleen is imbalanced. The Spleen is the transporter and if this function is not working smoothly, then worry and stress can set in which can cause as much of a problem as a physical slow down or blockage in the body. From my studies of the Earth Element and its Officials the Stomach and the Spleen, it’s become clear that these Officials are integral to the efficient running and maintenance of our mind, body and spirit. They’re the furnace that keeps our engines well stoked and full of power and energy – both for our physical wellbeing and also to keep our mind and spirit alert. They’re also the means of transporting this energy around our system to all the areas that require this stimulation. It’s become increasingly evident that we would not be able to carry on with a healthy and rewarding existence if either of these Officials is not working correctly. Therefore, it must be in all of our interests to maintain a balance in these Officials before we can even look at other areas of our wellbeing.

Does this Earth Element description resonate with you?

Your 5 Element Acupuncturist will choose specific acupuncture points to bring the Earth Element into balance, if required and seasonal tune-ups are recommended.

Suggestions for balance during late summer include eating root vegetables and fresh fruits, caring for others and making time for family.

© Copyright 2002 – 2012 Paul Adkins Lic.Ac., BA(Hons), 1st Dan, FEA, MBAcC, MCAUK, MMNTUK


Richard Jeffries (1848-1887) English writer
Worsley, J.R. Proffesor (1998) The Five Elements and the Officials
Volume III
Maria Herrmann,C.(2000)The Five Elements
Volume I
Paul Coughlin Ltd – Coventry
Eckman,P.(1996) In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor
Cypress book co – San Francisco
Wallnoffer,H and Von Rottauscher,A. Chinese Folk medicine and Acupuncture
Translated by Marion Palmedo
Bell Publishing Co Inc. – New York