Year of the Wood Dragon

You don’t need to know much about Chinese culture to understand the importance of the dragon. It’s such a celebrated image that it happens to be the only mythical animal among the 12 in the zodiac. The dragon symbolizes intelligence, power and authority, and wealth and prosperity. During the last year of the dragon, in 2012, China experienced a large increase in birth rates, and the same is expected this year.

The dragon is thought to live in the sea, and its rising up out of the water in the morning is what draws the sun up from the horizon. Looking at it from this perspective, the fact that this year’s dragon is of the Wood element is somewhat redundant. The sun rises in the east, the direction associated with Wood, and the rising of the sun is an action associated with the Wood element and the season of spring.


To continue the analogy into the realm of heath, the emotion of anger embodies the movement of the rising sun in the east and the sprouting of seeds in springtime. Healthy anger is expressed as a pushing up and out against barriers that prevent us from being our true selves (which finds its full expression in the next element in the sequence, Fire). A seedling coming forth from the soil, and the sun shining its first rays in the morning hours, are good images for how to release anger in a controlled and beneficial way.
Of course it’s not always easy to do it like this, and in reality anger is either let out in volatile or even violent ways, or it’s held in and unexpressed. If a patient has issues with anger, something about their Wood element is in need of addressing. This could be a deficiency of Blood (the physical substance associated with Wood), a stagnation of Blood, Qi stasis, or some combination of the three. There may be other elements at play but sometimes just treating the Wood imbalance can bring profound change.

One herbal formula called Long Dan Xie Gan Tang illustrates this dynamic very well. The name is translated as Dragon Gallbladder Decoction to Drain the Liver. 


In the pattern for which this formula is indicated, the patient has symptoms of flaring fire such as high irritability, insomnia, migraine headache, red eyes, and rib side tension. The dragon within the patient is not staying submerged under the water, and instead it’s rising up in inappropriate ways. Cooling medicinals such as gentian, bupleurum, skullcap and gardenia are used to guide the excessive dragon energy downward. Other ingredients are in it to help release heat through the urine and there are a couple more to nourish the Blood.


It’s a very effective formula for many different things if used correctly.