Water Element in Chinese Medicine

water meridian

Water is one of the Five Elements of Chinese Medicine

The Water Element is associated with Winter.
Each of the Five Elements is associated with a season:

  1. Water Element- Winter
  2. Wood Element – Spring
  3. Fire Element- Summer
  4. Earth Element – Late Summer
  5. Metal Element – Fall

When first learning about the elements of Chinese medicine, I found it was better to contemplate the season associated with each element, rather than memorizing a list of associations. Chinese medicine, and its theory of the Five Elements, was created thousands of years ago through careful observation of Nature.
To learn about the Water Element today, let’s think about winter:

  • It’s cold
  • The days are short, the nights are long
  • water meridianIt’s pretty still outside
  • Things are not growing
  • Seeds are hibernating deep below the surface
  • Many animals are hibernating
  • There is ice and snow
  • There is stillness and quiet in comparison to being outside, active and more social in Summer (Fire)

Let’s explore the associations of the Water Element:

  • Yin Organ: Kidney
  • Yang Organ: Bladder
  • Climatic factor: Cold
  • Sense Organ: Ears
  • Body Tissue: Bones
  • Mind-Emotion: Fear, Peace, Creation, Will

Putting theory into practice

Chinese medicine integrates body-mind-spirit-emotion. Understanding the associations of each Element gives us the basis for practicing body-mind-spirit-emotion healing. For example, symptoms related to the bones, such as chronic, degenerative osteoarthritis, point us toward the Water Element. Symptoms related to fear, a lack of creativity, fertility issues, and an inability to be quiet, still and “in the moment” also point toward the Water Element.
Harmonize with seasons to stay healthy
As a nature-based medicine, Chinese medicine tells us that harmonizing with the seasons is a key to staying healthy. When we harmonize with the seasons, we harmonize with the Five Elements.

Adjust to winter to harmonize with the Water Element

  • Sleep a little longer (the nights are longer).
  • Bear-sleepingBundle up to protect against the Cold – especially keep the lower back (kidney area) warm.
  • Appreciate the incubation stage of creativity – it seems as if “nothing” is happening, yet the seeds of spring are held within the ground.
  • Practice “being in the moment.”  There is not so much “to do” in winter.  Take time for going inward, contemplating, being quiet and inwardly thoughtful.

Observe the Water Element

Winter is the season of the Water Element. Observe what is different in the light of winter versus the light of summer. What are the birds, bugs, animals, people doing that is unique to this season? What do you feel pulled to do, or not do? The more you observe and wonder yourself, the quicker and deeper your understanding of the Water Element will be.
Wishing you plenty of quiet time to wonder and just be this winter.

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Cindy Black

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.


  1. Noeleen Liapis on February 22, 2019 at 2:16 am

    Interesting but being in the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, I would love to read about the Summer element. Thank you. Noeleen.

    • Cindy Black on February 22, 2019 at 9:18 am

      Hi Noeleen –

      Here is a post about the Fire Element


  2. Penny Darst on February 21, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    In the Winter, I always feel pulled to listen to and absorb the quiet in nature.

    • Cindy Black on February 22, 2019 at 9:20 am

      Penny –
      Thanks for your comment – interesting to note that the Ears are the sense organ associated with the Water Element. I love how our experiences show up over and over in this ancient wisdom.

  3. Claire M Guy on February 21, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    Such wisdom in the association of the whole… Helps understand the season and the element. Thank you!

    • Cindy Black on February 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm

      You are welcome, Claire!

      Enjoy your explorations of the Water Element

  4. Patricia Jimenez on February 21, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Thank you Cindy!

    • Cindy Black on February 21, 2019 at 3:43 pm


      You are welcome!

  5. Christine A Anderson on February 21, 2019 at 8:11 am


  6. vendoti kumar on May 29, 2018 at 1:11 am

    we would like to request you to be invited to our Conference “4th Global Summit on Herbals and Traditional Medicine” during October 03-04, 2018 at Osaka, Japan.

  7. Terry on December 21, 2015 at 5:07 am

    So grateful to you for sharing.

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT on December 21, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Many people have supported me along my way. It’s my pleasure to give back.
      Thank you for writing,

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