Extract from Facial Enhancement Acupuncture: Clinical Use and Application by Paul Adkins

Water is linked to winter, the time of maximum Yin, but its power cannot be underestimated:

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.

Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;

It has no equal.

The weak can overcome the strong;

The supple can overcome the stiff.

Under heaven everyone knows this,

Yet no one puts it into practice.

Therefore the sage says:

He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.

He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves to be king of the universe.

The truth often sounds paradoxical. (Lao Tsu, ch.78)

The type of character that first springs to mind when thinking about a Water Element is one of the guys in the old classic movie, Easy Rider. A rebel image conjures up the type of person that does not want to stay in one place for too long and is always looking to move on -someone who does not conform and stands out from the crowd.

If you can call it a gift, then it would be that a Water Element is a free spirit, any obstacle that confronts them is easily worked around, like a river finding its way around obstructions or boulders in its way. When balanced, they adapt to the shape that contains them which, on the flip side, can indicate a need for boundaries, lest the Water overflows and loses control, using up their reserves.

The persona of a Water Element sounds like a very cool and attractive one to have, a bit of a James Dean figure, a person that is hard to pin down, who is perhaps on a different wavelength to the majority of people, but who risks depleting their Essence:

Water itself is naturally elusive and resists definition. It can hold any shape, and yet cannot itself be grasped and held once and for all. It appears to have boundaries, and yet will find a passage around any dam or obstruction wherever it can. (Worsley, J.R. 1998, p.6.1) 

The emotion associated with the Water Element is that of fear or lack of fear. This feeling can be traced back many years to when farmers would have built up their stores of grain and crops to last over the barren winter months. There was the fear that if this was not done, then there would be no food left come the spring. This fear is still evident today in Water Elements that, during the winter, are very conscious of conserving things and are frightened of the consequences if they do not. A farmer would be very careful to make sure that he conserved as much water as possible so that there would be enough supply for the dry season to follow. 

Take time to observe the relentless persistence of Water to get to where it wants. 

This is a feature that you can see if someone’s Water Element is balanced, they will be persistent in what they do and not give up: ‘Over time it can wear away the hardest rock and make it smooth. (Hicks, A. and Hicks, J. 1999, p.180)

Notice the smell, each Element has an odour and Water’s is Putrid. The sound that is linked to the Water Element is that of groaning. This is very evident when you are taking a walk along the beach, the sea has that relentless groaning sound, one minute quiet and then a groan as the wave reaches a peak and breaks – a similar sound to a train. Finally, the taste associated with Water is salty, and of course, you can taste this on your tongue very easily when you are near to the sea. 



These two Officials do precisely what it says on the tin! They deal directly with the Water Element. Between them, they govern the major aspects of our vital fluids. They are of the greatest importance to the whole of the Body and other Officials, as none of them can function without Water.


The Kidney Official is known as the ‘Official Who Controls the Waterways’. This, however, may be a little misleading as the Kidney does far more. Ancient Chinese philosophy believed that the Kidney Official was the storehouse for ancestral energy passed on to each generation; it was the seed of life handed down.

The Official takes some of the Qi energy from our consumption of food and air and compiles it as a reserve. This supply can be called upon when we have heavy physical or mental tasks to cope with. A part of the Kidney Official is the Ming Men, this is responsible for warming the Essence of the Kidney, and it is also a very important part of the Official as it is a warmer for all of the Body’s organs.

The Essence that we have mentioned is called the Kidney Jing. This is derived from both Pre- and post-Heaven Essence. The pre-Heavenly Essence is inherited from our parents at conception. It can be gradually depleted throughout our lifetimes unless it is conserved well. The post-Heavenly Essence is taken from food and nourishment and can be replenished.

The function of Kidney Jing in our bodies is to do with the basis of growth and development; deficiency can result in stunted growth or retardation and bone and teeth problems.

Kidney Jing is also the basis of our constitutional strength and the production of bone marrow, which fills the brain and the spinal cord. The pathology of someone with deficient Kidney Jing will be that of someone who is always weak and prone to constant infections.


The Bladder is the ‘Official Who Controls the Storage of Water’, and it is the reservoir of the Body, Mind and Spirit. This is the reserve that we draw from in the winter when things are running low. If this is lacking, then things can start to go wrong in all three aspects. 

As well as being a reservoir, the Bladder is also charged with disposing of the impurities found in our urine; if these are left to build up and not disposed of, this can eventually pollute our whole being.

So, if the Bladder is out of balance, it may not be able to keep its fluids within its boundaries. This may manifest as incontinence and cystitis type infections. The Bladder is one of the few Officials that is similar in its description of use, both in Chinese and Western medicine. It is also the longest meridian on the body with sixty-seven points. We need to look at the Bladder and the Kidney in the context of equal importance: ‘The Kidneys are rulers over the winter. Kidneys and Bladder are related and have to be treated as one in acupuncture.’ (Wallnofer, H. and Von Rottauscher, A. 1965, p.90) 

These two Officials of the Water Element need to be dealt with the greatest of respect, as they are responsible for a considerable amount of water in the body – in fact, according to Masaru Emoto in his book ‘The Hidden Messages in Water’: ‘the average human body is 70 percent water.’ (2004, n.p.) That is a large volume of fluid that needs retaining and managing, so these organs need to be in the best of condition.

© Copyright 2013 Paul Adkins Lic.Ac., BA(Hons), 1st Dan, FEA, MFHT, MCAUK


Emoto, M. (2004) The Hidden Messages in Water, translated by David A.Thayne. Hillsboro: Beyond Hills Publishing.

Hicks, A. and Hicks, J. (1999) Healing Your Emotions: Discover Your Element Type and Change Your Life. London: Thorsons

Tsu, L, (1972) Tao Te Ching, translated by Feng, G-F. And English, J. New York: Vintage Books

Wallnofer, H. and Von Rottauscher, A. (1965) Chinese Folk Medicine and Acupuncture, translated by Marion Palmedo. New York: Bell Publishing Company, Inc.

Worsley, J. R. (1998) Classical Five-Element Acupuncture Volume III: The Five Elements and the Officials. J. R. & J.B Worsley

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