The Controlling Cycle

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the controlling cycle, also referred to as the restraining or regulating cycle, outlines a system of balance and checks among the Five Elements: Wood controls Earth, Earth dams Water, Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Metal, and Metal chops Wood. This cycle ensures that no element becomes overly dominant, maintaining equilibrium within the body and the natural world. It highlights the importance of mutual restraint and support, fundamental to the TCM approach for achieving health and harmony.

Fire Element


Season: Summer

Organ: Heart

Fire controls Metal by softening and melting it, shaping it into different forms. This cycle highlights the transformative power of Fire and the malleable nature of Metal.

Metal Element


Season: Autumn

Organ: Lungs

Metal controls Wood by cutting and shaping it, illustrating the restrictive aspect of Metal and the need for boundaries and structure in the natural world.

Wood Element


Season: Spring

Organ: Liver

Wood controls Earth by providing structure and anchoring the soil, preventing erosion. In this cycle, Wood's growth and expansion are balanced by Earth's nurturing and stability.

Earth Element


Season: Late Summer

Organ: Stomach

Earth controls Water by containing and directing its flow, symbolizing the balancing relationship between these elements.

Water Element


Season: Winter

Organ: Kidneys

Water controls Fire by extinguishing it, representing the balance between the cooling and calming nature of Water and the heat and intensity of Fire.