Mother’s Day & The Earth Element

By |2017-07-05T14:19:54+00:00March 24th, 2017|Categories: Earth Element, Fertility|

Earth and the Mother

It’s Mother’s day on Sunday so it seems like a good time to consider how this relates to Chinese medicine philosophy.

First of all, Yin and Yang provide a way to understand all phenomena – these are the interelated, mutually-dependent qualities that relate on one level, to male and female energy. From these come the expression of Yin and Yang as they expand into the 5 Elements (sometimes called the 5 Phases as they relate to changes between qualities of things).

The 5 Elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood and although they relate to material substances, in Chinese medicine, they relate to all things – including season, climate, colour, sounds, odours, emotions, bodily organs and functions and many many other correspondences.

The element of Earth relates to the Mother as it was traditionally drawn in the centre, with the four other elements at the periphery (marking the compass directions and four seasons). It was drawn in the centre, because it relates to the ability to coordinate and organise the movement of energy between things. It is no surprise then, that it relates to the mother, in the centre, coordinating all the family events, ensuring everyone is nourished and supported – particularly through change (sound familiar?).

For some, this energy is present, through the ‘adoptive’ Mother which could be a blood-relative, but could be of course, simply someone that takes care of us and provides these qualities for us as we grow up. Earth energy is not restricted to women – it can be expressed by a single father who brings to the best of his ability, these female, Earthy qualities to his children.

These are the qualities of being receptive, acknowledging and supportive and someone who finds these qualities in themselves can listen and respond to their children and gently encourage them out of difficult situations so they can grow and realise their full potential in the world as adults.

Earth and Nourishment

It is no surprise then, that the organs of nourishment and digestion are central in the body and so the Earth element (the Mother) gives the power to nourish and nurture. This continues of course during pregnancy as the Earth energy brings nourishment through the placenta to the foetus and after birth through breast feeding, weening and beyond.

However, this nourishment is not just about food – the Earth energy supports the process of nourishment on all levels -and in terms of the Mother, the ability to nourish the emotional development of her child and literally to ‘give birth’ to things and then ensure they are nourished to grow and develop….it could be new ideas, new projects and it could be, that this person has the ability to support others in realising these things – this is all due to the power of the Yin, feminine energy of Earth. Sometimes we call people ‘Earthy’ – we may not realise it, but we are most likely referring to these qualities.

Earth and Stability

Other qualities that the Earth energy brings us is stability and protection. It may not be something that we normally consider on a day-to-day basis, but inherent in the Mother, is this incredible potential to bring life into the world and to sustain it through tough times by bringing stability. It is the energy that helps us to feel grounded – consider how we might feel if the earth beneath us literally shook. In the UK we don’t get sizeable earthquakes, so we enjoy the constant stability that the earth provides us.

The protective aspect of Earth energy often shows itself when the Mother sees the potential for danger – have you noticed in some women whom typically are more quiet or introvert, that since having children there is a shift in their ability to be more direct when it comes to the safety of their children….all driven by the instinctive protective quality of Earth energy.

The Earth element is in the centre of all the processes of life and provides the axis for everything else to revolve around, ensure everything continues to work. It’s not unlike the relentless, unceasing work of the Mother, ensuring (literally in some families) everything is held together. In acupuncture treatment, it is sometimes necessary to strengthen this particular energy if we are unable to absorb nourishment from food.  In terms of Chinese medicine thinking, this issue can manifest as obvious imbalances such as anorexia or bulimia, unusual eating habits or cravings or digestive complaints such as acid reflux, recurrent nausea or bloating. It can also affect us emotionally, when we have issues with being acknowledged (think of the image of the Mother intently listening to her child express themselves) or we simply don’t feel nourished by life.

The complexities of the relationships people have with their Mothers, with being Mothers themselves or with how they respond to dominant Motherly influences (which can be found in both men and women) cannot be underestimated – whether we like it or not, it is one of the most powerful and influencing factors in our lives and especially in our early lives.

So if you do decide to celebrate Mother’s Day, maybe think bigger than the woman who does the housework, or grunted their way through the pain of labour to bring you into the world…..think of how all things exist because of the subtle interplay of the 5 Elements…. and Earth, is a pivotal influence to all of them.

Contact Lee

If you have any questions about a condition you have and whether acupuncture may help, please contact Lee on 01837 214888 (for acupuncture in North Tawton) or 01392 927299 (for acupuncture in Exeter).

Fertility Issues and Acupuncture

By |2017-07-05T14:24:05+00:00February 5th, 2017|Categories: Fertility|

Fertility Issues

1 in 6 couples in the UK are affected by fertility issues according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

The typical identifiable causes of infertility include:

– Ovulatory disorders in 27% of couples

– Tubal damage in 14% of couples

– Low sperm count or low sperm quality in 19% of couples.

However, for a huge 30% of couples, the cause of infertility remains unexplained(1).

The difficulties couples encounter when facing fertility problems can unsurprisingly, lead to a great deal of emotional stress. Research suggests this may be a significant factor influencing further decreased chances of conception(2).

Acupuncture is proving to be a popular treatment choice for infertility(3) and it’s benefits are possibly due to it’s ability to help people deal with these stresses:

The Acupuncture Approach

A traditional Chinese medicine consultation and detailed diagnosis may point towards one or more root causes. In essence, these can relate to a disruption in the flow of Qi (see the Qi and Meridian Section) producing a significant disharmony of body, mind and spirit.

In Chinese medicine theory, all of these need to be in subtle union for life to be created and sustained throughout the pregnancy and in order to facilitate this, a completely tailored treatment plan is formulated and adjusted at each treatment to restore balance and help you to function optimally.

Acupuncture is safe for use with or without assisted conception support such as IVF – the only difference, is that treatment is coordinated and adjusted at different times of the IVF cycle in order to support the process at critical stages and to deal with the common stresses that arise as part of the journey.

Current research

Randomised trials in China have demonstrated significantly better pregnancy rates for acupuncture than medication(4), however, these studies may not be of a high quality and unfortunately, (at the time of writing this article), in the West, clinical trials on acupuncture for natural fertility (i.e. not as an adjunct to assisted conception) are almost non-existent, though there is a small amount of positive evidence(5).

The good news…..

Research has at least, established plausible mechanisms to explain how acupuncture may benefit fertility:

Regulating fertility hormones – stress and other factors can disrupt the function of the hypothalamic pituitary-ovarian axis (HPOA), causing hormonal imbalances that can negatively impact fertility. Acupuncture has been shown to affect hormone levels by promoting the release of beta-endorphin in the brain, which affects the release of gonadotrophin releasing hormone by the hypothalamus, follicle stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland, and oestrogen and progesterone levels from the ovary(6).

Further details of these processes are emerging, for example mRNA expression of hormones, growth factors and other neuropeptides(7).

Increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus – stress also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of ovarian arteries. Acupuncture inhibits this sympathetic activity, improving blood flow to the ovaries(8), enhancing the environment in which ovarian follicles develop. It also increases blood flow to the uterus(9), improving the thickness of the endometrial lining and increasing the chances of embryo implantation.

Counteracting the effects of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is one of the most common causes of female infertility. By reducing sympathetic nerve activity and balancing hormone levels, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the number of ovarian cysts, stimulate ovulation, enhance blastocyst implantation and regulate the menstrual cycle in women with PCOS(10). It may also help to control secondary effects of PCOS such as obesity and anorexia(11).


1. NCCWCH, 2004.
2. Eugster & Vingerhoets, 1999.
3. Smith 2010
4. Yang 2005, Chen 2007, Song 2008
5. Gerhard 1992, Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2010.
6. Ng 2008, Huang 2008, Lim 2010, Stener-Victorin 2010.
7. He 2009
8. Stener-Victorin 2006, Lim 2010
9. Stener-Victorin 1996, Huang 2008
10. Stener-Victorin 2000, 2008, 2009, Zhang 2009
11. Lim 2010.

Please note, the full links for the research listed above, can be viewed with their relevant conclusions in the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet, which you can find here.

If you are interested in what patients have to say about their experience of acupuncture, please read the comments on the Patient Experiences page.

Contact Lee

If you have any questions about a condition you have and whether acupuncture may help, please contact Lee on 01837 214888 (for acupuncture in North Tawton) or 01392 927299 (for acupuncture in Exeter).

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