Part 1 Chinese Medicine Pediatrics: 5 Types of Children by Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., OMD


A child’s nature (li) is the fundamental pattern that shapes a person from birth through adulthood.

Chinese cosmology sees Nature as being governed by five primal forces, each of them sharing the character of a climate, a season, a stage in the cycle of life. These five primal forces are known as the Five Phases: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Everyone can be classified within these five categories. We all have an intrinsic organizing pattern, a true nature (li), known as our type. A single primal force, or phase, functions as our governing center, the source of our deepest impulses, organizing how experience is received, incorporated and expressed. Each of the five types embodies the power of one of the five phases. Every child can be identified as one of these types: a Wood Child, Fire Child, Earth Child, Metal Child or Water Child. 1 Characteristic expressions of each child’s nature persist and remain coherent over time, including temperament, social and emotional behavior, response to challenge and crisis, learning styles, strengths, deficits, preferences and aversions. Recognizing a child’s type enables us to anticipate the physical and psychological challenges that a child is likely to encounter, helping us to prevent minor concerns from morphing into serious ones and craft optimal strategies for nurturance and care. Inspiration for Pediatric Typing Applying the Five Types model in pediatrics was developed in response to years of collaboration with pediatricians Stephen Cowan and Larry Baskind that began in 1999 when they decided to incorporate Chinese herbal formulas into their practice. Our initial goal was to discover whether our Five Types Model would be useful in assessing the healthy development of a small cohort of babies before they acquired language. We also wanted to explore the prognostic validity of the model in anticipating problems that challenge each of the types in unique ways. Cowan and Baskind videotaped well-child visits of six-month-olds. These recordings demonstrated that a child’s type could be identified during infancy and held true as children grew. The clinical value of our model was demonstrated over more than a decade in their practice that served over 10,000 children. After years of experience applying the Five Phase Model, developmental pediatrician Stephen Cowan, MD wrote Fire Child, Water Child (2012 New Harbinger), describing five distinct ways that children adapt to their environment, providing specific methods to help kids master their powers of attention. Cowan writes, “Rather than simply looking at what’s wrong with your child, we can begin to map out a way to help your child develop . . . so that her treasures can truly shine.”    Five Patterns of Dynamic Relationships Five phases interact according to complementary relationships of generation (Sheng) and restraint (Ke), maturation and adaptation that maintain equilibrium between the five Organ Networks. While the Sheng relationships sustain us, affording continuity, what animate us are polar tensions within the adaptive Ke relationships. Sheng sustenance makes us comfortable and content, whereas Ke tension moves us forward, out of our comfort zone. When Sheng dominates, stability can become stasis. When Ke dominates, tension can morph into conflict and instability. Patterns Equal Type: Manifestations Provide Clues When faced with a physical or cognitive problem to solve, or simply the challenge of growing our selves, the complementary and reconciling Ke relationships can become intensified and antagonistic as we adapt to stress. Under these conditions, a child’s true nature (type) may become most evident. One method of differentiating a child’s type is to discern which Organ Networks are correlated with concerns and signs. If a boy has difficulty going to sleep because he’s hot and itchy under the blankets, restless and can’t quiet his thoughts, and he wakes during the night to urinate, there’s a good chance he’s a Fire Child. 2 Heat and a restless mind indicate hyperactive Heart Qi and disturbed Shen, corresponding to the Heart (Fire). Itchiness of the skin indicates Heat from the Heart disturbing the Lung (Metal). Frequent urination, an inability to hold urine, indicates a deficiency of Kidney Qi. Thus the contending tri   angular relationships typical of the Fire Child are between Fire-Heart and Lung-Metal, and Fire-Heart and Kidney-Water. Plotting this information along the legs of the Fire triangle becomes a map for visualizing the pattern that matches the child’s type. This map becomes a guide toward care and support. When strife develops between contending Ke relationships, peace-making resolves the conflict. Harmonizing Ke relationships reduces tension and restores stability. Modulating these critical disharmonies so that change, adaptation and growth can proceed without chaos is the clinical goal. Click here for Part 2 Chinese Medicine Pediatrics: 5 Types of Children



About Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, OMD, Dipl Ac (NCCAOM), RH (AHG), LAc

Efrem Korngold is a pioneer in the education and practice of Chinese medicine in the West. He studied Chinese herbal medicine in Kunming, China in 1980, acupuncture in Shanghai in 1984, and subsequently continued his training with Asian herbalists in the U.S. Applying his 40 years of scholarship and clinical experience, Korngold has developed unique practice models that blend ancient and modern knowledge. A Diplomate of the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), he is also a charter member of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) and a founding and Advisory Board member of the Holistic Pediatric Association. He has lectured nationally and internationally at sites such as the UCSF School of Medicine, University of Arizona, Beth Israel Hospital in New York, and the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. Efrem and Harriet Beinfield, LAc are founders of Chinese Medicine Works, an acupuncture clinic and herbal pharmacy in San Francisco. Efrem and Harriet are formulators of an innovative repertoire of 68 Chinese herbal formulas manufactured and distributed by Kan Herb Company They also authored Between Heaven and Earth a seminal work on Chinese traditional medicine.  For more information visit their website:   


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!

Leave a comment