Classical Five Element Acupuncture

What is it?

Classical Five Element Acupuncture is a unique and different approach than TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).  This system of acupuncture was taught by Professor J.R. Worsley (1923 – 2003), a British osteopathic physician and Master of Acupuncture.  He is credited with bringing Classical Five Element Acupuncture to the West.  He founded The College of Traditional Acupuncture, U.K. in Warwickshire, England and later brought an arm of the college in England to the United States.

The Chinese, as strong observers of nature, believed that when our connection to nature is strong, we have better health. In Chinese medicine, the theory of the Five Elements is a philosophy that sees a person’s health in dynamic states or phases of constant change. Classical Five-Element Acupuncture differs from other the more commonly known TCM style of acupuncture in the way it diagnoses and treats illness according to what is called the Causative Factor (CF).   In this style needles are inserted in and out quickly and rarely left in for periods of time.  It also uses a lot of direct moxabustion on the acupuncture points prior to inserting the needled.  Most people really love moxabustion.

The goal of Classical Five-Element acupuncture, according to ancient Taoism is to bring the body, mind and spirit into balance with the elements of nature:  Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.  These five elements correspond to five seasons:  Winter, Spring, Summer, Late Summer and Fall.  Each element also corresponds to ten organs and two functions within the body.  Worsley Five-Element acupuncture stands apart from TCM in its effectiveness at treating the whole person on all levels simultaneously:  Body, Mind and Spirit.

In TCM, diagnosis is made by 8 principles of patterns of disharmony in the body:  Is the illness ying or yang, hot or cold, internal or external, excess or deficiency, and they examine the tongue.  In Classical Five Element acupuncture, a the path of treatment is determined by what “element” — earth, fire, metal, water or wood — a person is.   This is determined by the person’s color (on and around the face), sound of their voice, body odor and predominant emotion or lack thereof.   Whatever element a person is, known as the “causative factor,” the acupuncture meridians and organs associated with the element are where most of the acupuncture points will be used for treatment.  Classical Five Element acupuncture also looks for blocks in the flow of energy according to the Chinese Body Clock.

Chinese Body Clock

Professor Worsely says that, “A practitioner of Classical Acupuncture must strive to see patients not just as they are at the time of examination, but as they would be if they were whole and perfect in body, mind and spirit, with every possibility of their unique being realized.”  He also believes that every human being has one true cause of disease that comes from the element that is most out of balance for them, that being the Causative Factor (CF). The Causative Factor is established from birth to the first six months of life.  Here is a short video about the Causative Factor.

About the Elements

The Earth element corresponds to the stomach and spleen, Metal to the colon and lungs, Fire to the heart, small intestine (and two functions, circulation/sex (heart protector) and triple heater (temperature regulator), Water to the bladder and kidneys, Wood to the gallbladder and liver.


Enjoy this short video about the five elements.


Classical Five Element Acupuncture

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