The Water element refers to the water that comes down from the heavens, permeates the earth, and collects into the deep. It is dark and mysterious, and it is also the source of life. In Chinese medicine, water is our source, our forefathers and our next generation. The Water element represents our survival. Without water, there’s no life. The beginning of life, like a seed in the ground, needs that fresh spring water. In our body, the Water element is closely related to fertility, genetic makeup, DNA and the bone marrow.
The Kidneys and the Urinary Bladder correspond with the Water element. The ancient Chinese linked the Kidneys to survival, most likely without knowing that the adrenal glands are located on them. The adrenal glands release epinephrine in the “fight or flight” response. In Chinese medicine, the function of the sympathetic nervous system is attributed to the kidney energetics. Due to this connection, it is no surprise that the emotion related to the energy of the Water is fear. When the Water element is out of balance, phobias and paranoia could be possible pathologies. Since it is related to survival, weakness of the Water element could lead to fertility issues in both men and women, slower mental and/physical growth rates, premature aging, including whitening of hair, and loss of hearing.
But the classic symptom for Water imbalance is lower back pain. Lower back pain is very often a result of stress. Fear of survival leads to constant stress. In today’s society, we might use the expression “my boss would kill me”, and although, cognitively, we understand that it is a figure of speech, our primitive adrenal glands, react as if this were true. The constant threat keeps our body on alert. The adrenal glands are active all the time, when in fact, they were designed to be active only for a short period of time, long enough to escape danger. The Water element becomes weak and off-balance causing lower back pain. The longer we stay in survival mode, the weaker the Water element becomes. Long-term stress and fear could strongly affect fertility, sexual drive, and cause DNA level damage such as cancer.
The mind/spirit aspect of the Water element is the “Zhi”, which means the Will, in English. When the Water element is in balance, a person is able to reflect on life with wisdom. It allows for a strong sense of self, as well as knowing ones purpose in life. The Will to live and to fulfill upon one’s life mission can be realized. When the element is weak, low self-esteem, withdrawal from the world and depression can ensue.
The color associated with the element is dark blue or black – like the bottom of the ocean, the deep. Its flavor also reminds us of the ocean – it is salty. Therefore, anything that comes from the sea, and has that deep dark color benefits the Water element: seafood, sea algae, fish – especially salt and deep water fish. These foods are known to benefit the entire hormonal system, which is controlled by the kidney energetic.