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five elements - fire

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Summertime and the Fire element in Chinese Medicine theory

Flames. Fire element Chinese medicine


A source of comfort, light, warmth, protection and sustenance for over 400,000 years.

It is synonymous with social gatherings and celebrations, with passion, danger, destruction and rituals. The power of the sun and its energy can be seen as the ‘original fire’ and the provider of the most potent form of energy to our planet.

Following the pushing, upward motion of Spring, during the Summertime we can observe the plenitude and completion of growth in the full abundance of nature. Summer is the time of year when the sun is at its peak, with its rays hitting the earth at its steepest angle. This is the time when we see the expression of nature at its fullest and most expansive.

In five element theory, the nature of Fire has many different correspondences. Of the five senses discussed in Western medicine, the one most related to the element of Fire is that of touch.

Comforting hand hold.  Touch. Safe space. Acupuncture

However, according to Chinese medicine theory, the Fire element relates to speech and expression. It’s easy to see how touch and speech (or expression) can be linked. We use our hands to express ourselves all the time - playing a musical instrument, writing a story (or text!), drawing and painting, showing love or affection and even gesticulating as we talk.

Whilst these may not be literal forms of speech, they are still ways of conveying our thoughts and feelings out to the world through the use of our hands.

Acupuncture needles and old Chinese coins.  Acupuncture treatment.

Interestingly, the yin Fire channels of Chinese acupuncture, run from the chest or heart area, along the arms to the hands and the yang Fire channels from the hands back up to the head. This ties in with the underlying principal that the heart and mind are inextricably linked in Chinese medicine. Whilst the Chinese sages understood that the heart is the governor of the Blood and blood vessels, they also believed that our Shen, or spirit is believed to be housed within the heart. The Classic texts state:

“The heart holds the office of Lord and sovereign. The radiance of the spirits stems from it"

Imbalance of the Fire element

During the pandemic we found ourselves in a remarkable situation which has meant that we have been deprived of the expression of touch and communication due to lockdown. For some, this meant an increase in levels of anxiety. For others a desperate feeling of loneliness and isolation. For this reason, and now that we are more able, it is even more important for us to cultivate our communications and relationships in order to readjust and rebalance our Fire element.

If we find expressing ourselves difficult, or we are facing obstacles when attempting to express how we feel, we may find ourselves closing up and being less communicative with others. The emotion associated with the Fire element is joy. This can be seen in both positive and negative ways, as joy can be absent or excessive. Positively, joy is the energy and force needed to relish in all types of social interaction and freedom of expression but when out of balance, the Fire element can manifest more negatively. Absence of joy can show up as a kind of flat gloominess or melancholy which can permeate a person’s life. Excessive joy can present as overexcitement which can lead to ‘burn out’ - just like the type you see at a children’s party!

Consequently, when a person regularly tends towards these emotions, it may indicate an imbalance in the Fire element.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, other manifestations of a Fire element imbalance may include:

  • Anxiety

  • Slight depression

  • Palpitations

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Insomnia

  • Frequent waking in the night

  • Dream disturbed sleep

  • Poor memory

  • Being easily startled

  • Dry mouth/tongue

Please note - some of these symptoms may also indicate other health issues. Therefore, if in doubt, GP consultation is always recommended before considering alternative treatment options such as acupuncture.

Whether you follow the Chinese calendar or not, this is the time of year to start using the joyful energy of Fire to engage in social activities. Note how you feel at this time of year.


Traditional Chinese Acupuncture aims to balance the body and mind using different methods such as the five element approach. It may be a treatment option to consider if you feel you need to boost or re-balance your Fire element.

Click on each condition below to learn more about how acupuncture may help:

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