Free your qi: Elements connect to body

Fire, earth, metal, water, wood link individual traits to energy, which you can determine through introspection



Different organs are associated with a specific element, which is why practitioners of Chinese medicine focus on them.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

In Chinese medicine, your personality can say a lot about your health. In fact, there’s little separation between behavior and body function in this tradition.            

There are five elements in Chinese medicine — fire, earth, metal, water and wood — and each one connects to a personality type. But figuring out your personality also means figuring out which organs are functioning smoothly and which are overactive or weakened.

Personality types and organs are connected by qi. Remember, Chinese medicine states that qi is the energy in all living things and it flows through pathways in the human body. When this energy is out of balance in certain body parts it can cause disease.

The qi pathways are divided into channels — or meridians — that encompass a pair of organs. Each channel is partnered with an element. If you have strong qi in your fire channel, for example, that would mean you show fire personality traits, but you might also have heart problems.

Acupuncturists and herbalists trained in Chinese medicine base their work on qi, and one of the first things they’ll do in a session is try to assess the strength of your elemental channels. If this sounds too complicated, there are ways you can figure it out for yourself.


The fire channel is associated with the heart and small intestine, summer and joyous emotions.

Laura Rose Lambert, a local acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, said “fire people” have high-pitched voices, talk faster and act as social butterflies. She said a possible downfall of a fire personality is mania, like a blazing fire.

Kameron Schott, an acupuncturist in Moscow, said it’s all about moderation.

“It’s not that any one of these emotions are good or bad,” she said. “It’s always about things being in balance.”

Joy sounds like it would be a good thing, Schott said, but some people struggle with mania and it can cause heart issues.

Because all the heat and excitement of a fire personality is focused in the heart and small intestine, it’s common for fire people to feel anxiety in their heart.

To bring a fire personality into balance, it’s important to have healthy, strong relationships.

For a quick way to determine your element personality, think about your first reaction to a scary incident. If you hear a dish break, where do you feel your emotion? Is it tight in your chest, maybe with a racing heart? Then you are probably a fire personality.


Earth is associated with spleen and stomach. Chinese medicine follows five seasons, with the Earth element landing on the end of summer or early autumn on an American calendar.

Lambert said earth relates to “Mother Earth,” and the personality follows the traits a mother would have. Earth personality possess caretaking and thoughtful traits but they also worry more often and have the pathology of pensiveness.

Naomi Brownson, an acupuncturist who practiced in Pullman for seven years and now works in Boise, Idaho, said that earth personalities may experience issues in the gut like stomach pain or ulcers.

To improve qi flow in your earth channel, Brownson suggested eating regular meals and snacking in between. She said eating while performing other tasks can put stress on the stomach.

When earth personalities hear a dish break, they will feel tightness and anxiety more in their gut rather than the chest area where a fire person would feel tension.


Metal is associated with the lungs and large intestine. Lambert said they are known for their clear voices and effective communication and leadership skills.

Schott said metal personalities can struggle with grief but on the flip side, they can master the art of letting go. Lambert added that these people tend to be social activists. In Eastern medicine philosophies, the emotion of grief is often tied with the lungs, likely because crying involves near-spasms of the lungs.

“So if you get frequent colds, it’s a good time to do extra work on your lungs to open up your chest,” said Liz Lee, the acupuncturist at Summit Therapy.

Lee suggested breathing exercises and going into nature for fresh air.

Because the lungs are related to crying, so is the metal reaction to a shock. When a metal person hears a dish break, their reaction will be to cry, Lambert said.


Winter marks water season, which is associated with the kidneys and bladder organs.

“The spirit of the kidneys is willpower — survival,” Lambert said. “If the spirit is willpower to survive, then that can lead to fear.”

Schott said water personalities who struggle with fear can also become masters of trust.

This person is always quiet and likes to be alone, Lee said.

Lambert said water people are still and wise. They are more like the ocean than a river because rivers are more fast-paced and directed.

Brownson said water people benefit from regular sleep schedules and staying hydrated. Some drinks like coffee and soda can actually be dehydrating because of their diuretic properties, Brownson said.

When a water person hears a dish break, they will feel strong fear. This is different from the startled feeling a fire or earth person would sense in a specific place in their body.


Spring marks the beginning of the wood season, which involves the liver and gallbladder. Like the term “gall” suggests, in Chinese medicine the liver and gallbladder are associated with anger.

The liver type wants to get things done and they’re organized, Lee said. When out of balance, liver people can be uptight.

“Think Type A, red face, that kind of thing,” Schott said.

The liver is the organ that moves qi most and so problems with the liver can be varied. Liver people need to move though or they become inflexible.

Brownson suggested exercise outdoors for wood people.

Lambert said consciously incorporating more relaxed movement in your upper body while walking can be helpful.

“If you think about a tree, it’s grounded with roots, but it also has movement,” Lambert said. “Wood people need free-flowing movement like trees.”

When a dish breaks, wood people react angrily and might immediately want to identify who broke the dish. More positively, they will want to take action to remedy the situation.