Oriental medicine in Edina recognizes that people respond to stress in different ways. In Chinese medicine, each of us has a specific constitution. This idea is not foreign to us. We all know people who have “strong” or “weak” constitutions, and Western medicine recognizes the existence of “type A” and “type B” personalities. The idea of constitutional types is taken much further by traditional Oriental medicine, which recognizes the existence of five distinct types. These types are categorized in terms of five elements—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.

Stress is a catch-all term that people use to describe events that affect them negatively. More specifically, stress can be defined an emotional or environmental stimulus which disturbs homeostasis, or the harmonious functioning of the mind and body. The body responds to stress by mobilizing its resources in the “fight or flight” response. A certain degree of stress-reaction is essential for survival, and experts say that some stress is actually beneficial in the sense that it stimulates creative energies in us that promote mental and physical health. Problems arise, however, when we are subjected to too much stress. The resources of the body are drained, leaving us fatigued, vulnerable to disease, and feeling less than optimally well. Daily exposure to environmental pollutants or toxins is also a stress that can lead to disease.

The most logical remedy is to change our environment and lifestyle. For many of us, however, such changes are difficult. We may be locked into frustrating jobs or relationships, or we might have to live in a smoggy city because our jobs demand it.

If we cannot reduce our level of stress, we can at least strengthen our bodies so we are not weakened. Oriental Medicine, which involves treatment with acupuncture and herbs, helps us to do this.

A “Wood” type, for example, will often react to stress by becoming tense, angry, and frustrated. He or she may develop high blood pressure, digestive problems, PMS, and migraine headaches. A “Metal” type may develop asthma or other respiratory disorders, and on a psychological level tends to become rigid, perfectionist and judgmental. “Earth” types often develop digestive problems. They tend to become obsessive and can have problems with self-esteem. “Water” types can become fearful and withdrawn, and on a physical level are prone to arthritis, back pain and uro-genital problems. “Fire” types often develop circulatory problems and tend to be overly excitable and mentally hyperactive.

Though this system of classification is ancient, it has proved itself to be as useful today as it was in times past. Each constitutional type has its own set of mental and physical characteristics, as well as its own set of diseases. The system is much more sophisticated than it appears to be in this brief presentation. People often have characteristics of more than one type, and there are many variations within each type.