Healing With Fire, Earth, Air and Water

Just as the elements, fire, earth, air and water, are the building blocks of life to an astrologer, they provide the foundations and vital indicators for the health and well being of an individual. Each of us has a dominant element in our makeup; when we identify it we've got an excellent tool for improving our health.

How do you identify your dominant element? Start with your sun sign for an indicator of your essential vitality. The fire signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius, are the most radiant and vital of the signs, then the air signs, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. The water signs, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are more dense. They are a more difficult medium through which to manifest, and take longer to charge up again. Earth, Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, is the most dense, giving tenacity rather than vitality.

Fire signs are conductors, they like to spread their energy around. Air signs are curious and ready to relate. Water is more self protective and indirect. Earth is cautious and conservative. Water is accentuated in childhood, fire is strongest in adolescence. The air element increases with age and earth strengthens with maturity.

The Fire Constitution (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)    
Fire rules the function of internal combustion, or digestion, in the body. Fire is needed to burn up and absorb foods cleanly and efficiently. Fire is purifying; it is necessary for removing toxins, destroying viruses, bacteria, and fungus from the system.     

Fire signs have the ability to burn off viruses and fight diseases more aggressively than any of the other signs. The extremely high temperatures and sudden acute inflammations which are natural for a fire sign can be terrifying without the knowledge that this is quite the norm for this constitution.  

The fire element is strongest from puberty to middle age, in the summer, and daily at noon. Fire has  good recuperative abilities, with ailments that are extreme and short-lived. They tend to ignore warning signals from their bodies. If injured they will attempt to stay mobile, seeing no reason to stop to recuperate.
Gretchen Lawlor
The Earth Constitution (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
The earth element rules the skeletal and eliminatory systems. The earth element is essential to growth, reproduction and repair of tissue. Like water the earth element is vital and active in childhood, becoming more dense with age. Earth signs know how to conserve themselves, and have a natural instinct as to which foods are right or wrong for them.         

Earth is more accomplished at building up than breaking down, hence there is a tendency towards weight problems, tumor growth and glandular disorders (especially involving the thyroid). Overeating and a diet of heavy foods create excess earth, which is aggravated by lack of exercise and sedentary habits.

The earth signs have strong sense impressions and thrive upon contact with the earth. Theirs is a strength of endurance and persistence. They are more resistant than fire or air to transient colds and flu, but find it harder to throw off bugs once they have taken hold.

The Air Constitution (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
Air rules the nervous and circulatory systems, and the function of movement, i.e. peristalsis, urination and breathing. They are easily stimulated, with quick and extremely sensitive minds that are easily stressed.

The air constitution tends to catch and throw off health problems quickly, but can suffer from lingering aftereffects because of their impatience and inconsistency, unwilling to slow down or remain focused long enough to recover fully. They tend to have a low threshold for pain.

The air element is accentuated between 2-6 am,  by dry or windy weather, excess sunlight, x-rays and computer and TV radiation, loud sounds and by shock and fear. The air element strengthens with age, which works to your advantage if you are naturally low in air.

The Water Constitution (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
The water element rules the reproductive and lymphatic system and all the liquids of the body. Water lubricates and cools the body. Water signs are  exceptionally sensitive to their environment, particularly to fungi, bacteria and viruses. They are sturdier than they look  because of their accentuated ability to flush toxins from the system. Their body type tends to be well rounded and full, with good skin. The water element is strongest during childhood.

Health issues for water signs generally have a strong emotional component, though it is not necessarily their own emotions they are responding to. They easily pick up negativity from others. They tend to brood on their health and imagine problems to be greater than they are.

Frequently there is a periodicity to their health problems, which they can use to their advantage if they learn to anticipate these periods of lowered vitality. They respond well to a practitioner who is sympathetic,  cheerful and optimistic, and willing to spend time with them to ferret out underlying emotional issues.

Types of Constitutions
Division of human constitutions into different classifications has been around for thousands of years. In the 5th century BC Hippocrates developed four basic types which he correlated from the elements of astrology. There's the phlegmatic or earthy constitution, valued for its unemotional calm and the cheerful optimism of the sanguine or air constitution.  The melancholic or water constitution has its emotional sensitivity, and the choleric or fire sign type has a flashing hot temper.

This methodology was developed and widely used by physicians into the 19th century. There is currently a revival of interest in constitutional types by many practitioners in the mainstream and alternative health fields. Conventional medicine has ignored the unique makeup of each individual when recommending treatment, and yet we all know we respond differently to illnesses, stresses and even to medications. By identifying the constitution of an individual we can have an idea of the progression of their illness and choose the best form of treatment for them. The information gained is focused upon what sort of patient has the disease rather than what sort of disease the patient has.

This elemental perspective has migrated into our daily language, note references to being "hotheaded", or being "a bit of a spitfire". How about "down to earth", "salt of the earth", "well grounded", or "airy-fairy", "airhead", or even "a wet blanket" or  "a drip"?

Sun Types/Moon Types
The Sun by element in your astrological chart is indicative of your underlying essence, the dominant theme or orientation of your life- therefore it is an excellent indicator of the life force available to you. Much more detail and accuracy can be gathered if the full horoscope is available. Here you will have information on ten planets plus the ascendent.

In times of stress it is often the element of the moon which will give you the most information in terms of tonic support to the system.  The position of the Moon indicates instinctive habits or coping mechanisms that you return to for emotional support during times of difficulty; what you need in order to feel safe and secure.         

For example, a moon in Scorpio prefers to move an uncomfortable situation into crisis than to leave it simmering. Only in that way do they feel they can move on, by bringing it to a head and moving through it, now. Comfort foods for Scorpio moon will be found in the information for the water signs below, and are useful in supporting their need for emotional discharge.  

A Taurus moon, in contrast, is extremely discomforted by emotional outbursts and will prefer to ignore them. As an earth sign, they may pretend nothing is going on, plodding on despite the explosions around them. They use food as a panacea, or extra girth as a buffer to difficult environments. They are more emotionally unshaken but need to be careful that they don't suppress difficult emotions entirely as these suppressed emotions can develop into toxic tissue.  

Identifying Excessive and Weak Elements
If you have access to your full horoscope you have the tools for a more comprehensive picture of your health. By categorizing the planets and ascendent into the four elements you will come up with a more details about the strengths and weaknesses of your unique constitution.

Here is an example of a horoscope broken down into fire, earth, air and water for a person born August 3 1987 at 4:30 am

Sun  in Leo (fire)
Moon in Scorpio (water)
Ascendant in Cancer (water)
Mercury in Cancer (water)
Venus in Leo (fire)
Mars in Leo (fire)
Jupiter in Aries (fire)
Saturn in Sagittarius (fire)
Uranus in Sagittarius (fire)
Neptune in Capricorn (earth)
Pluto in Scorpio (water)

If each planet is categorized by element, and if you give two points each to sun, moon and ascendant to reflect their greater influence you have:

Fire    7
Earth  1
Air      0
Water  6

This gives an excess of fire and a deficiency in air and earth.

If this were your horoscope, how would we describe your vitality, your elemental constitution? Immediately we know that you have high natural life force, are prone to sudden inflammations and high fevers when you are ill, and that you recover quickly. You tend to stretch yourself to the maximum and ignore your body's warnings, and need to take care not to burn yourself out.                
You tend towards headaches due energy blockages which keep your energy high in your body, which could be rectified with acupuncture treatment. Your digestive function is extremely active, you have a voracious appetite and are hungry again soon after eating.    

Grains, potatoes, squash, yams, sweet potatoes and dairy products, heavy nutritious foods that take a long time to digest are particularly beneficial.  Reasonable amounts of sugars, butter and oil are also good for your constitutional type.

Helpful herbs would be mineral rich ones like seaweed, nettles and Siberian Ginseng for tonic support and steady grounding energy.

Balancing Your Elements
Few people are born with a perfect balance of elements in their makeup, and life is constantly presenting challenges that require adaptation. Health is not a constant state but a perpetually shifting interaction between outer circumstances and inner constitution. Each time we eat a meal there is a complex interaction of elements as we adjust to the intake and adapt the materials presented by the meal to our unique needs. Moments of balance occur between periods of readjustment.         

Each element interacts with each other in nature, and also in our own bodies:


To Balance Fire
With a deficiency of the fire element it may be hard to burn off or fight disease. The digestion and absorption of food are inadequate and need stimulation, but must be done gradually to prevent irritation. Eat foods that is light, hot, dry and aromatic, and avoid cold foods. Hot spices and sour food, such as lemons and yogurt are good, as are whole grains cooked in oil, spices and even salt. Keep dairy and meat to a minimum, frequent light meals are best.  Midday is a good time to eat your main meal, as the maximum amount of fire your body can marshal is available at this time.

Headaches are frequently caused by low fire, where the only partially digested food begins to ferment. Physical exercise help strengthen the fire element.

Herbals: low fire is strengthened by digestive stimulants such as cayenne, ginger, mustard and cloves. Use circulatory stimulants such as cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and hawthorn berries.

Excessive fire has a tendency to burn out as they find it difficult to conserve energy or pace themselves. They are prone to skin problems, acne, pimples and have a strong body odor.

Fire is hot, light and dry and is therefore balanced by foods that are cold, moist and heavy or slow burning foods that ground energy. A voracious appetite reflects excess fire, anything that stimulates this should be avoided, particularly if you are thin and wiry. If this is the case, eat bland foods, avoid stimulating spices, have little oil, meat, nuts, beans. Raw or steamed vegetables are good, as is fruit (avoid sour fruits, peaches and bananas). Milk is good but not yogurt as it is too sour.

Herbals: excess fire should avoid spicy herbs. Goldenseal, aloe and milk thistle help detox the liver. Blood purifiers such as yellow dock reduce inflammations.  

To Balance Earth
Excess earth is prone to heaviness in the body and sluggishness in the system, with dullness and lethargy.  Digestion and metabolism are slow, increasing density of body tissue- i.e. thick skin, sclerosis, calcium deposits, tumors and  increased body hair. Excess earth eats too much, too frequently.

Light foods are indicated, such as fruit, salads, sprouts, steamed vegetables with spices added to increase fire . Meals that consist of liquids, juices, soups and teas are better than heavier diets. If possible the main meal should be taken at midday when digestive fire is strongest. Meals should be simple, keep combinations to a minimum, with no desserts and plenty of time to digest. Avoid dairy and fried foods. Fasting is helpful as earth signs tend to retain toxins.

Herbals: use bitter tonics such as gentian or Swedish bitters, and  hot spices such as ginger, black pepper and cayenne

Low earth needs grounding. They tend to ignore the body and are not instinctive about what they need. They need activities and routines that stabilize the life and give a sense of security. Foods need to be heavy and nutritious, such as potatoes, unrefined grains and dairy. Use vegetables steamed and served with cheese and butter. Reasonable amounts of sugar, butter and oil  are well tolerated. Keep fruits and raw foods to a minimum. To improve the digestion-, cook with plenty of spices, garlic and onions.

Herbals: low earth should use demulcents such as licorice and slippery elm, seaweed and minerals. Ginseng is grounding, as is astragalus and the auryvedic herb ashwaganda.

To Balance Air
Restlessness, excessively dry hair and skin, dry mucus membranes, nervous disorders, problems with balance, even Alzheimer's are associated with too much air. Excessive air tends towards insomnia from an inability to turn it all off, as well as memory loss from systemic overload. Air benefits from a schedule with intervals of relaxation with minimal stimulation (not even television or radio), to allow the nervous system to recharge itself.

Dancing, any slow and rhythmic exercise, yoga or yoga breathing or any breath meditations are particularly helpful for air signs. The wearing of warm colors and the adoption of consistent daily routines will bring out the best of air's vivacious and versatile nature.

Excess or deficient air causes weak digestion and benefits from digestive enzymes or swedish bitters, and small frequent meals. There is a tendency towards gas in the intestines and the bowels evacuate very quickly.     

Air is cold and very drying and needs to be balanced by  moisture and heat. In terms of diet use dairy (especially yogurt), cooked rice and oats, vegetables cooked in oil, nuts and seeds.

Air energy tends to collect high in the body and gains from any opportunity to connect with earth, to be drawn or enticed downwards. Grains and root crops are particularly helpful. Raw foods aggravate the naturally cold quality of air. Raw salads should be kept to a minimum, though are easier to tolerate in the warm summer months. Otherwise use plenty of dressing, and add or replace with lightly steamed vegetables, nuts or croutons to ground the energy. Avoid yeasty foods, mushrooms, refined sugars, beans, and too much cabbage and broccoli.

Herbs for excessive air signs include nervines, such as skullcap, passionflower or even valerian. These can be particularly soothing to the anxiety of the air type.     

For those lacking air there may be problems with the flow of body energy. Circulatory stimulants such as garlic and ginger, anything that is light, dry and stimulating will be helpful. Nervines can also be helpful, but specifically those that are tonic but not particularly sedating, such as skullcap or oats.

To Balance Water
Excess water manifests as excess weight, in the form of water and fat. Even without an excessive appetite, these people have sluggish digestion, poor assimilation and slow metabolism. Stagnant excess water may manifest as mucus, cysts, tumors and swellings, as well as systemic candida. It is seldom helpful to decrease dietary intake alone, better results come from increasing the metabolic rate, decreasing the liquid intake, changing the diet and increasing physical activity.

Excess water is balanced by foods that are hot, dry and light. Vegetables are well tolerated, steamed and spicy, with minimal salt. Sweets increase water and fat; if eaten, should be eaten separately. Excess water is cold, wet and heavy, balance this with foods that are hot, dry and light. Avoid heavy oily foods, dairy, sweets, yeasty foods, breads and salt. Beans and fruit are good, but avoid large quantities of melon.  

Herbals: excess water should use digestive stimulants and expectorants such as sage, basil and thyme. Diuretics such as parsley, uva ursi and juniper berries help drain excess water from boggy tissue.

Low water constitutions have trouble flushing toxins from system, and lack lubrication to their system. They tend to be stiff and dehydrated and have a difficulty sleeping. They suffer from conditions similar to excess air, such as skin and hair dryness and difficult absorption of nutrients.  They find it hard to receive emotional nourishment. Add baths, drink plenty of liquids, and live near water. Use wheat, rice, oats, seaweed, dairy products and natural sugars. Avoid beans and natural diuretics such as carrots, celery, cabbage and asparagus. Don't fast,  take care with extreme exposure to heat or sunlight and take extra salt with exertion or warm weather.

Herbals: low water should use herbs sparingly as they tend to be diuretics, except for licorice(sweetened with honey). Fruit juices add water to the system.

Healing With Fire, Earth, Air and Water
©2010 Gretchen Lawlor