We are most familiar with one basic form of acupuncture, and most of us know that form originated from China. What most do not know is that the roots of Chinese acupuncture belong to a group called the Taiosts, and that their acupuncture was one that was extremely spiritual and rooted in nature. The shamans that practiced the medicine at that time relied heavily on the appearance of the person, the way the person smelled, and the sound quality of his or her voice. The emotional state, spiritual conflicts, and recurring dreams all contained vital health information. And most relevant for us today perhaps is the understanding that humans are an extension of nature, and as such are governed by the same laws and principles.
The shaman-like healers of the Taoist era believed that not living harmoniously with the environment can be a root cause of disease. An example of this is the depressive-type symptoms exhibited by many during the Winter months we call "Seasonal Affective Disorder". Feeling light-hearted, spontaneous, and joyful are the healthy results of being mentally and emotionally balanced in the Fire Element (think about how your feel while spending time in the warm Summer sun or huddled up around a cozy campfire). Because of modern electricity and lights, most of us don't adjust our sleep cycles to match the shorter days of Winter like our ancestors did. Therefore we violate the basic principle of being active when there is sunlight, and being at rest when it is dark. When we go against our essentially "solar-powered" emotional selves by staying busy during the darker months, we notice we feel sad, out of gas, and downright depressed.
Not only do the Five Elements exist around us is in the form of campfires and sunlight, they exist within us. The red that rises to the face when blushing can be thought of as hot flames of the Fire Element rising up. The tendons and joints that allow us to be strong and flexible at the same time share a Wood Element connection with the sturdy trees that bend and sway in the wind. The concept of bones being dense, strong, and buried deep below layers of skin, fat, and muscle tissue is mirrored in the the increase of pressure and strength as you sink deeper into the ocean (the Water Element at work).
The Five Elements also exist within us mentally and emotionally. Someone who is "hard on themselves" all the time or "emotionally cold" may have an imbalance in the Metal Element; we can use acupuncture to "warm and soften" the overly-hard Metal aspects of the person. Know somebody that melts down into a helpless puddle when they are overwhelmed? You're bearing witness to how their normally steady Earth Element gets soggy and mushy like mud - a person getting inundated with too many tasks, and a dirt road getting inundated with too much water can be rendered temporarily pitiful and useless in much the same way.
So what does all of this mean for you? Well for starters, it means that acupuncture may be able to heal that nagging "thing" you've always had, but knew wasn't quite right (I thought my bad knees and habit of making semi-offensive comments were "just me" until acupuncture treatment liberated me from them). However, what is maybe even more important is that Mother Nature is not just a resource to be used up - our planet is our home and an amazing teacher should we choose to protect it, play in it, and pay attention to its riches.