5-Element Theory comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine and was used as a way of explaining natural phenomena as well as processes within the body.
The 5-Elements are: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and they are usually depicted in a circle with Fire on the top and the rest following in this order. There are three patterns of energy at work here: the Shen Cycle, also called the mother-daughter relationship as each element feeds the one that comes after it in a clockwise direction: fire creates earth from its’ ashes, earth creates metal ore within it, metal creates water through condensation, water grows trees, and wood feeds fire. The KO cycle, also called the grandmother-granddaughter relationship as each element exerts a controlling influence on the element 2 away from it in a clockwise direction: fire melts metal, metal chops wood, wood penetrates earth, earth contains water, and water douses fire. The last energy flow is between Meridians within the same element.
Many modalities work by restoring balance in the flow of energy from one element to another.