In the Chinese Five Element Theory, the Earth element is not associated with a specific direction, but instead is regarded as the center, a balancing and stabilizing influence. Earth corresponds to late summer, the time of harvest.
People who are predominantly Earth types tend to be very nurturing, caring and sympathetic. They are often people pleasers and may be unable to say no, always putting the needs of others ahead of their own. An imbalance in the Earth element can result in feeling unfocused, spacy or indecisive. Patterns of disharmony in the Earth element can also manifest as poor digestion, lethargy and fatigue, and obesity.
TCM Organs Associated with the Earth Element
The yin organs that correspond to the Earth element are the spleen and pancreas. The TCM organs have a broader meaning than the physical organs as described by Western medicine, and the spleen plays a critical role in the digestion of food. It transforms and transports nourishment throughout the body, and is responsible for supplying blood and Qi (life energy) to the other TCM organs.
The yang organ of Earth is the stomach. As with the spleen, the stomach is concerned with digestion and metabolizing nutrients.
Emotions Associated with the Earth Element
The emotion associated with the Earth element is pensiveness, which includes worry and over-thinking. Earth types may be troubled by obsessive, repetitive thoughts. Sometimes dissatisfaction with their life causes them to become disengaged and instead of living in the present, they are overly nostalgic and dwell on events of the past.
Other Correspondences to the Earth Element
Time of Day- The time of day corresponding to the stomach is 7-9 am, and the spleen is 9-11 am. According to TCM, this is the best time to eat. Eating a nourishing breakfast is important so that energy can be generated and transported throughout the body.
Mouth and Lips- Earth corresponds to the mouth, where digestion first begins, and the external manifestation is the lips.
Muscles and Fatty Tissues- the fleshy part of the body is associated with the Earth element. Earth types may suffer from excess dampness that can appear as swelling or edema, especially in the lower part of the body.
Sound- the sound corresponding to the Earth element is singing.
Color and flavor- Yellow is the color of the Earth element. In TCM, a yellow color indicates a spleen deficiency. The flavor of Earth is sweet; this is the most nourishing of the flavors, and many tonic herbs have a sweet flavor. A craving for sweets indicates a need for nourishment, which should be met with complex carbohydrates and foods rich in nutrients, not in empty sweets such as refined sugar.
Michael and Lesley Tierra. Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Vol. 1, Lotus Press, 1998.
Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold. Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine. Ballantine Books, 1991.