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The Metal Element in Five Element Acupuncture

Updated on March 17, 2011

The metal element, like each of the five elements, has a distinct energy and is said to control certain areas of our emotions and our bodies. Metal has associations or resonances with a certain key emotion, a particular time of the year, a climate, a colour, a sound, as well as control over specific organs and areas of the body. By thinking about these resonances we can gain an understanding of the essence of the metal element and also start to see what might go wrong if the metal element is disturbed.

Chinese character for metal
Chinese character for metal

Key Emotion

The Metal element is associated with the emotion of grief and of letting go. Grief is a natural reaction to losing someone close to us and is an emotional state that we must go through as we learn to let go of someone who was close and important to us.  But death is not the only time we need to let go of things. Throughout our lives we can form attachments to other people and indeed to possessions and even ideas. Sometimes relationships fail or people simply drift apart. We need to be able to let go of relationships which have become damaging and metal gives us this power.



The metal element is associated with the autumn (fall). The very essence of the autumn is of letting go. The leaves and fruits fall from the trees and in this way enrich the soil with minerals and nutrients so that new growth can occur. It is often quite a melancholic time of year but also necessary for new and stronger growth to occur in the future.


The colour associated with metal is white. Although we in the west tend to think of black as the colour of grief, in the East white is worn more as a sign of grieving. People with a constitutional metal imbalance often have a white colour on their face. The white colour, which sometimes be seen around the eyes is more than a simple lack of colour; it is seen often as a shiny white which seems to radiate from the skin. Occasionally the white can manifest as a sort of chalky complexion.


The sound associated with the metal element is weeping. A weeping voice is a voice which sounds as if it is about to burst into tears at any time. Often there is a sort of catch in the voice and the weeping voice is usually quite weak and falls off at the end.



The odour associated with metal is rotten. People with a constitutional imbalance in metal have a slight rotten odour. It’s the sort of smell that comes from a waste bin which has warmed in the sun. Of course it’s not usually that strong. The odours that people give off are usually masked most of the time by deodorants and perfumes and to some extent we have lost our ability to smell simply because we do not use it very often.


The organs associated with the metal element are the Lungs and the Large Intestines. It should be noted that the Lungs and Large Intestines referred to here are not the same as the corresponding organs in western physiology. The organs in Chinese Medicine are given different roles and responsibilities. The Lungs are responsible for inspiration. Inspiration in the sense of taking in breath and energy but also in the sense of taking in new ideas and also of being inspired through art, music and spiritual inspiration. The Large Intestines are concerned with the rather more prosaic task of draining the dregs. They are tasked with letting go of waste matter and that which is no longer needed. Again this encompasses more than the strictly physical sense of letting go.


When Metal Goes Bad

When the metal element is out of balance then a person will have problems with letting go. This can manifest in an unhealthy attachment to material things or at the more extreme end can lead to compulsive hoarding. Metal type people often crave quality and purity but can conversely often feel dirty or polluted. This can manifest as someone who is overly concerned about their outward appearance and will always appear immaculate, even over dressed, in casual situations. Some metal type can have trouble feeling inspired and fail to see the beauty of the world around them. They can struggle to find any meaning in their lives. Sometimes when the metal element is not functioning correctly, people can become dogmatic and hang on to ideas and beliefs without any capacity for flexibility or compromise.

Does any of this sound like you ? or do you think you might resonate more with one of the other elements ?


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    • meow48 profile image

      meow48 6 years ago from usa

      interesting view. thankyou for sharing, and thankyou for answering my question. take care.