Chinese Medicine Cheat Sheet: Which Element Sounds Like You?

Chinese Medicine Cheat Sheet

I am continually intrigued by the unique combination of strengths and imbalances in each patient in my coaching and acupuncture practices. However similar on the surface, no two wellness problems are exactly alike.

In traditional Chinese medicine, that’s because any health or life issue is part of a larger picture, not a single, isolated complaint. This 3,000-year-old wisdom teaches that everything in the universe is linked through the Five Elements, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

Chinese healing aims to find balance among these elements. We each have strains of all five elements in us, but as you read these brief description of the types, you may find that you closely identify with one in particular. Focus on this primary element.


A healthy, balanced wood person has strong physical immunity and a leader’s personality. Wood people have a natural sense of boundaries, which tends to protect them from the emotional excesses that lead to overwhelm, stress, and conflict. In an imbalanced state, those natural physical and emotional protections are decreased. Good foods to restore a wood person’s balance include green vegetables, berries, and sour flavors.


At their best, fire people are vital both physically and emotionally: excited, friendly, outgoing, and happy. A fire person who’s not in balance, though, may experience extremes such as hyperactivity, palpitations, restlessness, insomnia, or lack of ability to follow through. Mint teas, lemons and limes, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and bitter flavors are good choices for getting the fire type back in balance.


Earth people are naturally stable and grounded with a strong sense of how to plan ahead to always have whatever they need. Out of balance, the earth person’s innate clear thinking may be disrupted. Obsessive thoughts, mental exhaustion, and anxiety bloom. Physical symptoms such as weight issues, nausea, cravings, fatigue, or indigestion may emerge as well. Adding the naturally sweet flavors of fruit, beans, and yellow vegetables to the diet, as well as eliminating sugary, uncooked, cold, or overly large meals, can help restore an earth person’s balance.


In peak condition, a metal person looks and feels strong, with healthy skin and hair, clear breathing, regular elimination, and good immunity. Out of balance, the opposite signs emerge: dry skin, coughing or shortness of breath, and nasal congestion. At the same time, imbalances result in dull thinking and sadness. Restorative foods for the metal person include fruits that are eaten after peeling, potatoes, and garlic, onions, and other pungent flavors.


A fit water person’s obvious physical traits are glowing skin and strong reflexes. The water person has a courageous character full of inner strength. Fearfulness and lack of motivation are signs of imbalance, as are fatigue, water retention, and bipolar-type emotional extremes. The foods that can help a water person get back on track are varied and flavorful: seaweed, mushrooms, squash, melons, very dark-colored fruits such as blueberries and black grapes, and warm soups and stews during cold-weather months.

Balance—it’s the key to looking and feeling your best, both in ancient Chinese tradition and in our modern world. Are you ready to find your healthy balance? Call me at 212-686-0939. I can guide you to identify and—more importantly!—respect and nurture your element type to achieve a rounded, satisfying life.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Rescript Your Life Now

Known for her successful treatment of mystery illnesses, Roberta Mittman and her team at Rescript Your Life Now combine an integrative, functional medicine approach with the appropriate lab testing.

Our unique approach to diagnosing and treating diseases and disorders recognizes that lasting health depends on resolution of the root causes of your disease. Click here to learn more »