Symbol of the Tao
Health Through the Seasons
by Dr. Joseph Odom, OMD, L.AC.

One basis of traditional Oriental medicine is five-element theory. Humans stand between heaven and earth. The energy of the earth is the cool calm yin. It rises up. The energy of the sky is the bright energetic yang and flows down. The energy of the earth and sky come together to make up the five elements.

These elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each element has a corresponding organ system, an emotion, a color, a sound and so on. They correspond, among other things, to the seasons of the year—the four seasons we know, as well as the season of fullness at the center, the season of Indian summer.

At each season of the year one element is at its peak. We have the opportunity to experience the energy unique to that time, along with the opportunity to achieve balance. The season of ripeness and completion comes at summer's end. Late summer is the fifth season. This is time of the earth element. The location of this element is at the center. Earth and groundedness are the foundation of all life.

The earth element has everything to do with nurturance. The center qi is the energy we use to get nurturance form our food. In our bodies the energies of digestion and assimilation are at the center. This is a precious resource. How do we self-nature? How do we relate to food? Our mother's womb is our first source of nutriment. How do we relate to our mothers, imperfect human beings that they are? How do we relate to our mother the earth? When self-nurturance is compromised emotionally, digestive problems follow.

Take time in this season to lie out on the earth mother and think on these things. Find where it is that this precious self-nurturance is blocked. Sweet foods are said by the ancients to be the taste of the center. We have sweets and sugar like never before in human history. In Oriental medicine, we are taught that too much sweet is poison to the center element. In a practical sense, when we eat too many sweets the digestion is injured. Unbalanced intestinal flora are sure to follow.

This is the perfect time to correct our diet and add "pro-biotics" like yogurt or acidophilus. Now is the perfect time to relearn to love ourselves inside and out. Enjoy this season of fullness.

[ Joseph Odom, O.M.D., L.Ac. photo ]
Dr. Joseph Odom, O.M.D., L.Ac. is an acupuncturist in private practice in San Anselmo, California. He can be reached at (415) 258-9551 or