How the 5 elements and meridians relate to Reflexology

This article gives a brief explanation on the elements and the meridians based on traditional chinese medicine and it’s use in reflexology.

The meridians are the energy pathways in the body. They obtain their energy (chi) from the food we eat, what we drink, and any vitamins, minerals or supplements we take. They are also effected by the emotions and thoughts we have, medication and drugs,and other environmental factors. They can either be influenced positively or negatively, depending on whether the food we eat and the thoughts we think are healing or destructive to our body, mind and spirit.

Each pair of meridians falls under an element which is associated with specific characteristics in relation to climate, season, time, emotions, organs, tissues, body fluid, sound and colour.

In therapeutic reflexology we use the concept of the 5 elements and the 12 meridians to identify imbalances and problem areas in the body. They are part of our assessment tool. Reflexologists relate their findings to the elements and the meridians: based on what the patient tells them (symptoms) and their ‘signs’, and other imbalances found along the meridian pathways throughout the session. Different symptoms (such as headaches, sinus congestion, pain, hormonal imbalances, organ dysfunctions, cravings, how your body reacts to climate changes, etc) fall into different element category related to meridian imbalances. The more symptoms you have that fall onto one meridian / element – the more congested that meridian / element is – and this tells us that more serious conditions are brewing. Correcting the imbalance heals the more serious condition.

the meridian / energy pathways

Imbalances can be corrected through therapeutic reflexology, acupuncture, correct diet and lifestyle advice (specifically to correct imbalances – usually to complement other therapies) or other vibrational medicine.

It is important that these imbalances or congestion along meridians are corrected soon, as to avoid congestion build up.  This is why holistic health practitioners use these tools to assess patients so that they correct imbalances before disease manifests – ‘prevention is better than cure’.

 The Elements

All living things contain the 5 elements, because each living cell requires all aspects of the 5 elements to function.

The concept of the 5 elements is not so well know in the Western world, but given in a more western context, it makes more sense.


The inside arrows show the organs / systems that effect the each other. You can see from the chart that the quality of food we eat effects our acid/ alkaline levels (and blood sugar levels), which effects our sodium potassium balance, which effects our electrolytes which is linked to the vitamin and minerals we have. The outside arrows generate energy to the next ‘element’.


Another way to look it is that the 3 major elements / meridian pairs (i.e. the liver & gall bladder [wood element – quality of food], the kidney & bladder [water element – sodium & potassium balance] and the stomach & spleen / pancreas [earth element – acid / alkaline & blood sugar levels]) are directly affected by the lifestyle choices we make, and this in turn effects our electrolytes and the amount of vitamins and minerals we have to perform specific body functions and to feed our cells correctly.

How do the elements play a role in your health?

When you experience certain symptoms, your body is trying to tell you something. I wrote about this in a previous post about pain and that it is a warning sign from the body.

It is important to identify which elements are congested and which element is most congested so that specific tools and lifestyle changes can be put into place to rectify the imbalance (so that it doesn’t continue to brew).

It is not likely that people will only have one meridian / element that is out of balance, because they all effect each other.


We might find that during different seasons or times of the day, we experience different symptoms or problems with our health. This is because it is the predominant time for that meridian or element.

This chart helps us to understand the Circadian rhythms in relation to the meridians. Using this chart helps you to be in balance. If you experience problems with certain areas, it is recommended that you see a holistic health practitioner to help correct imbalance. 

The elements and the meridians are vital tools to help holistic health practitioners facilitate healing in their clients. A painful big toe often indicates hormonal imbalances and crocked index fingers may indicate bowel or respiratory problems. (And there are many more examples).

Knowing what your body is trying to tell you is vital for healing to occur and optimal healing to be achieved.


3 thoughts on “How the 5 elements and meridians relate to Reflexology

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