By Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.
Chinese medicine is as much a philosophy of life as it is medicine for health and healing. One of its fundamental theoretical models is the Five Elements, which establishes a system for understanding our connection to the natural world.
The creation cycle of the Five Elements begins with Wood. This Wood sparks to create Fire. The ash of Fire creates Earth and the minerals within Earth create Metal. Through the process of erosion, the minerals of the Metal element dissolve to nourish the Water element. The cycles continues as Water supports the growth of Wood for a new cycle to begin.
Each element has a certain psychological profile. Understanding these profile traits can help you balance the pathologies associated with that element and its organ systems.
The Fall season relates to the Metal element and the personality traits of the Metal archetype.
The Metal Type Personality
The Metal type personality tends to be disciplined, organized, analytical and emotionally stoic. Therefore, if you have a dominant Metal element you may tend to overanalyze and focus on details.
When the Metal element sways out of balance, this personality type tends to become self-righteous, uptight and highly opinionated. Excessively Metal people also tend to be sarcastic and judgmental.
Balanced Metal traits are invaluable as Metal people get things done with a focus and clarity that the other elements might simply dream about. They like order and expect a lot from themselves and others, which can lead to disappointment as others often can’t keep up with their efficiency.
The Metal element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Imbalanced Metal energy can lead to health problems related to the lungs and colon such as allergies, asthma, and respiratory conditions, as well as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, constipation, hemorrhoids and even colon cancer in extreme cases.
Emotionally, a patient with a lung weakness may have a tendency toward sadness and depression. Trauma that leads to grief can also harm the lung and large intestine organ systems.
The Lung energy is also expressed out through the skin, so skin problems including dry skin and reactive skin problems such as eczema, hives and psoriasis, are common issues experienced when Metal energy is out of balance.
Since spice is the flavor associated with the Metal element, spicy foods can be used to offset Metal imbalances. Psychological profiles such as rigidity, stoicism and depressed can all benefit from the spicy flavor. This is why many people turn to coffee, black tea or chai tea and alcoholic beverages when they’re emotionally down, as the spice temporarily alleviates the depression of Qi in the lungs that is associated with the sadness, lethargy and depression which is often worse in the morning.
Spicy foods are drying, however, and create heat, so if a person has an overactive skin problem like eczema or psoriasis, spicy foods will likely exacerbate these problems so be cautious with spices in these cases.
A spicy therapeutic tea, popular in the Ayurvedic tradition, that can be used longterm with mild cases of depression, is Tulsi Tea. Tulsi Tea, also called Holy Basil, will slowly strengthen the lungs and adrenal glands. It is spicy in nature to uplift the mood and boosts energy for the fatigue that is often concurrent with depression.*
When out of balance, Metal energy can create a stubbornness that keeps a person stuck in their rigid, overly critical and judgmental nature. However, by supporting the virtue of the Lungs, which is to ‘let go,’ the opportunity for liberation can be supported.
Essential Oils to Balance the Metal Type Personality
Evergreen essential oils boost Lung Qi so they have the energy to release emotional blocks.
Essential oils such as Pine, Black Spruce, Fir and Cedar are all useful to quiet the compulsively stuck mind and support the Lungs to “let go” and move on from what it’s fixated on. Terpenes found in conifer oils have been found to have antidepressant effects as well. This is why breathing in fresh air in a forest can be liberating and refreshing for the mind and emotions.
However, if you’re very stuck and rigid, stubborn phlegm may be blocking the Lungs from diffusing its Qi and letting go. In these cases, essential oils with stronger mucolytic qualities should be considered. Thuja and Bay Laurel are better for these cases when the lungs are stuck with mucous. Other mucolytic essential oils that help clear the lungs are those from the Eucalyptus family.
Spicy Essential Oils can lighten one’s mood, and enhance mental focus and clarity. Some of the spice oils include Clove, Cardamon, Coriander, Black Pepper, Thyme, Rosemary and Basil. These oils have all been found to be beneficial in reducing sadness and mild states of depression. In addition, these oils are mental stimulants and can help reduce brain fog and mental sluggishness.
Citrus peel oils such as Bergamot, Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Lemon and Lime can also help reduce sadness and melancholy. These citrus peel essential oils have been found to increase dopamine, a brain chemical that induces happiness.
Balanced Metal type personalities are clear, focused, organized, efficient, disciplined and dependable. Balancing the Metal energy in your life will illuminate these traits and support you to achieve your fullest potential.
*Please consult a health professional before starting a new health regimen, self diagnosing and treating yourself.
Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.