As the days become warmer and brighter, nature rouses from her winter slumber and looks ahead to the new growth of spring. The Wood, which has been at rest, in seed form, storing and concentrating its energy under a winter blanket, now bursts forth with new buds, new life piercing Earth’s crust. The swelling Wood of spring initiates rebirth – a surge of rising energy, like the young lamb staggering up to nurse, like the dandelion whose growing edge can burst through concrete if it must. Wood is the energy of youth and growth: a fresh new beginning, a vision of a whole new cycle. The Wood energy of spring is an expression of life at its strongest.
If we have followed the wisdom of Nature’s cycles and rested during the winter, we emerge into spring “raring to go,” with clear vision, unhindered by old limiting decisions, outdated beliefs, and negative emotions from the past. This is the season to plant seeds for a future harvest, to look ahead and make new plans, formulate new ideas, make decisions, and determine our direction and purpose for the coming year – and to take action.
Treating the Wood Element
In Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, we would consider using points on the Wood meridians (Liver and Gall Bladder) once having diagnosed a patient as a Wood “Causative Factor.” This means that the Wood Element is the primary source of imbalance or dis-ease within the person and the root of the symptoms he or she manifests.
We generally achieve maximum benefit and impact from points chosen from the patient’s Causative Factor Element meridians, allowing the healing energy to permeate naturally through the other elements. Diagnostically, the Wood imbalanced patient will present a rancid odor, a green color lateral to the eyes, a voice that is inappropriately making a shouting sound (or lack of shouting sound), and inappropriately expressing the emotion of anger (either over-expressing when there is no appropriate reason, or under-expressing when the emotion should be present).
While it is relatively easy to memorize these diagnostic associations, the ability to truly detect them in actual patients requires re-awakening our innate sensory skills of smelling, seeing, hearing, and feeling. Then, choosing the correct points required for each patient requires the rapport and interviewing skills to elicit the needs of a patient’s mind and spirit, as well as the body. Finally, accurate pulse reading, point location, and the knowledge of the Spirits of the Points are essential. Development of these skills requires correct teaching, practice, and skilled guidance.
The Spirits of the Points
The point names, translations from the Chinese characters, give us insight into the gifts they are capable of bringing to the patient in need. Each point uniquely helps guide the patient toward the fullness of a healthy Wood element. Below are examples from the Wood meridians.
Liver 1 Great Esteem: Wood, horary, entry point
As the Wood point of the meridian, this point provides a burst of growth and confidence to the Liver – the Official of Planning (stronger still when used as a Horary point, tonified during the Liver’s 2-hour peak time: 1-3 AM, and/or in Spring). It blows away the dead debris – at all levels – so the Wood is free to grow. Spring is a season of birth, plans for the future, and new visions. When we are aligned with our Divine plan, or higher purpose, we can truly move forward with “great esteem,” unhindered by obstructions, with direction, boldness, strength, flexibility and optimism. We consider this point for the Wood imbalanced patient who carries old hurts, resentments, timidity from past mistakes, and old limiting decisions – lacking the confidence and vision to begin anew.
Liver 2 Walk Between: Fire point
This point reminds us that plans must have the flexibility to deal with obstacles and adversity, to “walk between” and still keep the goal in sight, adapting with a contingency plan, or an appropriate “side step” at any time. We often must consider, in our planning, other points of view and alternative sides to an issue. These need not thwart us from our path, but may be helpful gifts and insights. As the Fire point of the meridian, Walk Between brings the warmth of good humor – often the perfect antidote for stuck, stubborn, overly opinionated, and attached Wood imbalanced patients. It brings love and compassion to our own plans as well as understanding and appreciation of the plans of others, orienting toward the good of all.
Liver 3 Supreme Rushing: Earth, source point
As the Earth point of the meridian, this point provides a sense of security – knowing that there is always fuel and nourishment available to help us realize our dreams. Mother Earth feeds the plants that set their roots in her, allowing them to reach upward to the light and air. Similarly, our plans need to be fueled, or they will die “on the vine.” As a source point which, like all source points, switches “off” when the correct balance is attained, and thus cannot be over tonifed or over sedated, Supreme Rushing brings just the right amount of fuel. We would tend to use this point for the Wood imbalanced patient who lacks the energy and motivation to move forward. Well nourished, we can move with quickness and certainty. “Supreme” implies spirit, inspiration, and alignment with our higher purpose and destiny. Those are the dreams worth pursuing.
Gall Bladder 37 Bright and Clear: Junction (Luo Connecting) Point
As with all junction points, this point can be used when there is a disparate amount of energy between paired Officials within an element, determined by pulse diagnosis. Using this point in such a circumstance would balance the condition of an excess of energy in Liver and a deficiency in Gall Bladder. Thus, we would tonify GB 37 to pull the excess from Liver to its brother, the Gall Bladder, creating needed balance and harmony within the element.
Used for its spiritual connotation, this point embodies everything that the Gall Bladder – the Official of Decision Making and Wise Judgment provides. Decision-making is never a matter of weighing several equal options or flipping a coin. There is always a best, right and proper choice in front of us, if we have the perception to see it. In order to see it and decide wisely, we need light and brightness to penetrate darkness and uncertainty. We would consider this point for the Wood imbalanced patient who lacks clarity – who needs the mind and spirit cleared of obscurations, distractions, and confusion. When the way is “bright and clear,” our path is obvious. We need only take the next indicated step.
Gall Bladder 41 Foot Above Tears: Wood, Horary, Exit point
As with all Horary points, this point clears away old, dead debris to make way for new beginnings (strongest when used from 1-3AM and/or during the Spring season). In the case of Wood, it is akin to pruning away dead branches and heavy brush that impede the new growth of the plant. Similarly, within the Wood imbalanced patient, there may be old frustrations, memories of endless “shoulds” and “should nots,” fears, resentments, sadness, and bottled-up tears from the past retained such that new growth – a step forward or new decision – seems impossible. As the Wood point, Foot Above Tears, brings an especially strong and forceful burst of energy and a blessed relief, as the perceived shackles of blocked growth are broken, blasted through, transcended, and finally released.
Professor Neil R. Gumenick is one of the foremost practitioners and teachers of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture. He has maintained a private practice in Santa Monica, CA since 1981, and is Founder and Director of The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture Inc., which offers training to physicians, students of OM, and licensed acupuncturists in this unique tradition. He holds three degrees and an advanced teaching credential from The College of Traditional Acupuncture (UK). Neil is an internationally known speaker and a faculty member of several colleges of Oriental medicine in the U.S and Canada.