According to traditional Eastern medicine, each of the Five Elements has its own Yin aspects and Yang aspects. In our bodies, the Yin aspects of the Five Elements are embodied in five Yin organs, which are the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys. As for the Yang aspects of the Five Elements, they are embodied in six Yang organs, which are the gall bladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine, urinary bladder, and San Jiao (or Samcho in Korean).
According to traditional Eastern medicine, the five Yin organs are largely responsible for our bodily functions. Yin organs are situated deeper inside the body, manufacturing, regulating, and conserving vital substances. They are more closely related to the Five Elements and thus more susceptible to the imbalance of a particular element that is assigned to them. Conversely, problems in any of these organs could offset the general imbalance of an element associated with the organ.
Lungs – Yin organ of Metal
In the classical Greek Five Elements or in the Ayurvedic Five Elements, the air element is included in their five elements system. However, the air element is missing in the Taoist Five Elements system. In the Taoist Five Elements theory, it is the Metal Element that corresponds to the “air element.” In that regard, it would be interesting to note that the lungs are the Yin organ of the Metal Element, which govern the respiration process by inhaling and exhaling air. When the lungs inhale air, they bring in not only oxygen, but also Qi energy, which is vital for the organism.
The lungs mix Qi energy from the air and Qi energy from the spleen. The lungs then ensure that Qi energy is properly distributed throughout the body. The nose, which is also associated with the Metal Element, forms an important relationship with the lungs. When we inhale, air breezes in through the nose before it reaches the lungs. In a way, the nose serves as a door through which air flows. When our lungs are healthy, we should have a good sense of smell and a clear air passage in the nose. When our lungs are unhealthy, we are subject to a blocked or runny nose, as well as a dull sense of smell.
Given that dryness is an expression of the Metal Element, the lungs, organ of the Metal Element, are vulnerable to the condition of dryness. When the lungs are exposed to extreme dryness for a prolonged period of time, dryness could invade the lungs, thereby provoking frequent coughing, asthma, thick phlegm, or discomfort in the chest. Internal dryness could also lead to the depletion of bodily fluids, causing a dry mouth, a dry nose, a dry throat, dry skin or dry hair.
According to traditional Eastern medicine, the lungs transmit defense energy called Wei Qi to the surface of the body in order to protect it from external factors. When this energy is strong, our immunity system properly functions and we are well-guarded from external invasions. When this energy is weak, we are subject to abnormal or excessive perspiration and cold, which could cause other infectious diseases. The lungs also govern the skin and body hair.
Large intestine – Yang organ of Metal
The large intestine is the Yang organ of the Metal Element. This Yang Metal organ transforms what it receives from the small intestine. Unusable waste products are condensed and excreted. Any remaining moisture or essence is absorbed. The function of the large intestine reflects the Metal Element’s aptitude to let go of what is unnecessary and its capacity for contraction, condensation, and elimination. When the organ fails to function properly, we could have difficulty letting go of unnecessary thoughts, emotions, or memories.