Pop-up sale at Inkblot Gallery, Friday July 14, 6-9 pm

Photo collage by Denise Cicuto

Photo collage by Denise Cicuto

My friend and colleague Denise Cicuto is a gifted photographer, and as part of her deep work in the wisdom of the Five Elements over the last two years, she has created a photographic project evoking the embodied alchemical transitions of five elements through the year. I'll be joining Denise at the opening reception to share the first two available Healing Anointing oils we've created based in these elemental studies - Wood and Fire. These ready-to-use aromatherapy blends offer powerful healing for body, mind and spirit.

Join us at Inkblot Gallery, 933 Central Avenue, Unit B, Alameda, California 94501, part of Alameda Artwalk.

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Getting sleep when you're worried and stressed

I talk about these issues and ideas in the most recent episode of TCMTalk! Check out the video on our Youtube Channel, or scroll to the end of the article. Subscribe to the TCMTalk channel to get our seasonal health and wellness videos as soon as they're released!

I've collected some ways of understanding insomnia and solutions that most folks can do themselves. Chronic insomnia that doesn't resolve with these kinds of approaches or is severely affecting your ability to function needs attention. Please find a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine or holistic medicine in your area for treatment and further support - email me if you'd like help finding someone in your area. Visit TCMTalk on Pinterest for more resources and links


  1. Keep your bedroom clean and uncluttered. Change sheets regularly and purify air with filters and/or plants
  2. Use your bed for sleeping, relaxation and sex - not work
  3. Go screen free or at least be sure to use a light modulator
  4. Make your bedroom as dark as possible
  5. Develop sleep rituals - having a bath, journalling, meditating, (here's some ideas)
  6. Keep your bedroom cool

Top tips for “Wood Element” insomnia:

The 5 Elements through the day (I could not find the original artist for this image)

The 5 Elements through the day (I could not find the original artist for this image)

The Wood Element is the dominant element in the Spring time. It is associated with the Chinese medicine organ systems of the Liver and Gallbladder, and related to self-expression, the free flow of energy, and the expression of anger and self-assertion (learn more in Denise's TCMTalk on the Wood Element) Dysfunction and imbalance in the Wood element shows itself when your sleep is disrupted by anger, stress, frustration and overwork. You might find yourself waking in the middle of the night (during the 'Wood Element' time of day) and tossing and turning, with your mind going over the day’s events or the causes of your frustrations

The prescription for this kind of sleep trouble is to relieve and release the congested energy and emotions which are backing up and disrupting your sleep with mind-body-spirit practices that benefit the Wood Element and the Liver-Gallbladder system.

Yoga + qi gong for the liver/gallbladder/wood element - to help in discharging energy from those systems with stretching  and gentle movement - we’ve shared a few videos on our pinterest board, and I especially love the Qi Gong videos of Mimi Kuo-Deemer, like this one for the Wood Element

MOVE Wood Healing Anointing oil contains essential oils for relieving and releasing stuck energy and emotions.

MOVE Wood Healing Anointing oil contains essential oils for relieving and releasing stuck energy and emotions.

Massage especially for foot and leg massage, or the sides of the head - use an aromatherapy blend like Move Wood, Swimming Dragon oil, or make your own with the essential oils that harmonize and move stagnation in the Wood Element - Denise has a great infographic sharing some of our faves and how to use them.

Herbs + foods: herbs that help move and benefit the Liver/Gallbladder and can relax you into a good night’s sleep include mint, lemon balm, cardamom, chamomile, and bupleurum or chai hu, (especially combined with peony root or bai shao) cumin, fennel and ginger. These aren't designed to knock you out, but rather help balance out your energy through the day - try drinking a spicy or minty blend in the afternoon.

I like to add mimosa blossom or he huan hua, to my Swimming Dragon tea blend to relax and release the liver and promote sleep. Water with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice is a good morning beverage for folks suffering with liver congestion and stagnation. Try mixing equal parts (about a tablespoon each) of honey and apple cider vinegar into a big glass of water for a balancing sweet and sour health beverage to begin the day. Eating lots of veggies, whole foods and getting enough fiber also helps keep everything, including your stagnant energy, moving!

Worry Journal - this is a way to help manage stress and worry: you write down everything that’s weighing on your mind so you can release it before sleep. It goes well with bedtime rituals and keeping screens and work out of the bedroom. You leave the day in the journal and enter into a different space/time for sleep and restoration.

Meditation practice - meditation is something we recommend for every condition and stage of life! For when you’re feeling very pent up, try walking meditation. You can even do it if you awake in the night and can’t get back to sleep - get out of bed and do walking meditation for 10 or 15 minutes and then try to sleep again.

The Wood Element and the Liver-Gall Bladder system are working hard in these times to cope with the onslaught of external stressors, environmental toxins and daily frustrations that we are all living with, especially those of us in oppressed and marginalized communities. Denise and I hope these ideas and strategies and everything we share through TCMTalk can support your wonderful body in harmony with the energies of the Universe and help you as  you do your work in the world.

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TCMTalk for 2017 - Holistic Healing for The Times We've Been Given

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

This quote has been front of mind for me many times in my life, but never more so than in the months leading up to and following the American presidential election of 2016. These are grim days for those of us committed to a vision of world filled with diversity, with mutual care, with celebration, with love of our planet, and commitment to the future we leave for generations to come. Angelica & Peony and my work in the world is about healing - so even though being a potion maker and an acupuncturist may not seem inherently 'political,' it absolutely is.

Coming to the United States in my late 20s from Canada via Israel, I encountered a country without universal public health care for the first time. I was shocked to treat people as an intern at TCM school who would ask for herbs to treat serious infections. "I want you to see an MD, you may need antibiotics." or "I'd like you to have some tests so we can rule out some things" to be told "I don't have insurance, I can't afford to go to the doctor, that's why I'm getting treatment for my pneumonia at a student clinic for acupuncturists." I also vividly remember one of my first patients, a woman in her 70s with a severe heart condition. She was desperate for help to get back on her feet so she could return to work before she got fired. Every acupuncturist and healer I know has suffered with their patients for whom crushing economic and social realities stand in the way of health and well-being.

Denise and I have spent time discussing how we can contribute to what is and must become a growing national and global movement for the human future. As well as our personal activism, we are dedicating this year's episodes of TCMTalk, our video series about Traditional Chinese Medicine and holistic healing, in support of activists - all of us.

Join us through the year as we explore the energy of each season with a special focus on connections to activism and resilience, and ideas for self and other care to help us all stay as sane and healthy as we can. We begin at the beginning with Spring! Denise explores the element of the season, Wood, how to find balance, and common issues that we can be especially prone to at this time of year. Kirsten gets specific with her best advice for getting good sleep - especially when faced with imbalances in the Wood Element characterized by stress, anger and waking in the middle of the night.

You can watch all the TCMTalk videos on our YouTube channel - subscribe to get notified whenever a new video comes out!

You can also find us on social media like facebook, twitter, pinterest and of course e-mail!

Denise and I will also be combining our activism and our healing at a great event on April 30th - Karma Clinic. We'll be offering Element balancing aromatherapy acupressure treatments, using unique essential oil healing blends that we've developed over the past year. All proceeds go to benefit Planting Justice. See the schedule for the day and book now with Energy Matters.

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Simple and Natural Strategies for Worry and Anger


I hope you enjoy this article! It went out to my subscribers last month - sign up here to get my monthly newsletter with articles like this, product specials and sales and interesting news in natural beauty and wellness. -Kirsten

In Western medicine, there is starting to be a growing understanding that emotions are material experiences - they are hormones, neural pathways, even our microbiome, interacting with each other and on our entire body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and other holistic systems, this has always been understood. Frustration, worry and anger are emotions that can lead to clear physical symptoms as they 'knot' the body's energy and lead to symptoms like insomnia, headaches, muscle tension and tightness, menstrual irregularity, digestive upset and more. When there are external situations provoking the emotions that we can't do anything about, working with our physical body and encouraging our Qi to move and regulate itself is one way we can help ourselves. It's important to recognize that our emotions aren't 'wrong' or 'making us sick.' They are there and they are having an impact, and the more we can take care of ourselves without judgement, the better. By helping our bodies cope with the impact of strong emotions and difficult times, we can be more effective at making change, and protect ourselves from burnout, exhaustion and the long term consequences of stress.

1. Move! Moving doesn't have to be vigorous to be effective. Tai qi and Qi Gong are ancient, effective practices for cultivating peacefulness and calming our bodies. Yoga, walking, activism, stretching, singing and dancing are all great ways to 'shake it up' and help our bodies release stored emotions and move the qi. If you're in the Bay Area, I recommend Wild Goose Qi Gong at Energy Matters, or check out this video of the Qi Gong Eight Brocades or Golden 8, a very simple form for beginners, and the one I do.

2. Massage! You can head to your local massage therapist for a treatment, see your acupuncturist for a cupping session, or give yourself or a partner a beneficial liver qi moving self-massage with Swimming Dragon Oil! Other practices that help move the qi, benefit circulation and release stuck emotions are dry brushing, and tapping (I usually do this with a loosely closed hand for a softer tap)

3. Meals! Foods can strongly affect our emotional and physical health, and we might find ourselves reaching for very spicy and crunchy foods when we're angry, and very sweet and heavy foods when we're worried. These will briefly relieve our feelings, but can end up leaving us feeling more stuck and overwhelmed. Supportive options to include when you're feeling these type of cravings are dark green veggies (try cooking greens with a splash of vinegar for extra liver qi benefit) and naturally sweet foods like squash and sweet potato. Try my favorite beet salad recipe for a balancing and delicious veggie dish that uses winter produce.

Emotions are natural and human, and strong emotions are an appropriate reaction to strong events! I hope you find some benefit in these ideas for taking care of yourself and your feelings in the days to come. If you'd like more guidance and support, please contact me for help finding a practitioner in your area.

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TCMTalk February 1: Year of the Fire Rooster!

Denise and I are back with a new episode of TCMTalk! It will be available on our YouTube channel on February 1. We'll be sharing insights and celebrations for renewal as we mark the Lunar New Year celebrated in China, Vietnam, Korea and other Asian cultures, as well as by practitioners of Traditional Chinese and Traditional Asian medicine from all backgrounds.

We'll no longer be broadcasting live on Periscope, but we still want your ideas and questions! Contact us via social media (facebook + twitter) checkout our resources on Pinterest and of course watch our episodes on our YouTube Channel. You can also email us at TraditionalChineseMedicineTalk {at} gmail.com

Happy New Year!

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Winter Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Last year I did a gift guide for the first time, and it was so much fun pulling together some of my favorite artisans and practitioners from my community that I've enjoyed over the last year. So much fun that I'm doing it again! If you're not in the Bay Area, you can purchase most of these items online, or look for options in your town - I encourage you to visit brick + mortar stores that aren't chains, check out local pop-ups, maker markets and of course local practitioners like acupuncturists and massage therapists for gift certificates. Tune in to TCMTalk on Thursday, December 1 at 4 pm PST for more from Denise and I, including our fave holiday donation sites, focused especially on orgs that bring alternative healing to those who need it most.


Studies have shown that people who have experiences are happier than those who have things. Check out practitioners in your local community, but if you're in Oakland, a few I recommend are Denise Cicuto L.Ac for acupuncture, Energy Matters Acupuncture + Qi Gong for Qi Gong and meditation classes, Shimmer Esthetics for organic facials, In-Symmetry Spa for massage, Four Elements Fitness for fitness and self-defense classes, and Preserve for fermenting and food skills! All have gift certificates available online or by email. I'm also a big fan of the work of astrologer Chani Nicholas, and she has classes, readings and candles available for the starchild on your gift list!

Body + Home

My partner Jeremy and I both LOVE the soft light of candles and the soft suds of soap made by Summer Sequoia. Made using grass-fed tallow and local ingredients, her products are delightfully different (not vegan friendly!)

Concept 47 is one of my fave places and the first place I send folks looking for unique prezzies, curated by owner and maker Stevonne. I'm in love with their new line of kitty-themed items, including this little pouch for a lucky witch.

Feeling like a 'nasty woman'? Check out this anatomically correct tea towel from Wild Child Oakland, another fantastic woman-owned Oakland store!


I love the Mushroom Farm from Back to the Roots - grow organic shitake mushrooms right in your kitchen. A great gift for gardeners in apartments.

Even though I make my own bitters, I can't resist the delectable concoctions of Many Flowers Medicine, especially Chocolate Cherry Bitters! Available in Oakland at the Oaktown Spice Shop (which is also a fantastic spot for gifts) 


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November 15, 2016 Reflections from a practitioner of traditional medicine


Like many people in my community, my clients and my patients, I have been reeling this week from the results of the American election. I react to these events from my own life as a Jewish woman, a queer person, an immigrant, and a friend and family member of people of color, Muslims, transfolk, immigrants and others who have been targeted and scapegoated by the individuals and forces represented by those who are claiming a victory this week. My response is shaped by my history and my training, and in that spirit I share some resources from traditional Chinese medicine as I have been taught. I encourage all of us in the days, weeks, months and years to come, to continue to turn to our teachers, our ancestors, our guides, for resources and support. I am not a scholar of TCM, but a practitioner, so these thoughts reflect my lived experience of these teachings, not necessarily academic understanding.

(quotes from Statements of Fact in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bob Flaws. The statements are traditional conclusions based on millenia of practice and observation and are used to ensure our treatment decisions are sound and consistent. Bob Flaws has translated and compiled these statements for the English speaking student)

“In acute disorders, treat the branch (aka the symptoms)"

“In chronic conditions, treat the root (aka the causes)”

In holistic and traditional medicine, we recognize that both relieving symptoms and treating the underlying cause are necessary. The immediate must be treated immediately. The underlying must be treated over time. Both are called for.

“Act in accordance with seasonal, geographic and personal factors”

We are not all the same. Healing comes when we recognize where we are, and apply the remedy that is needed for the particular situation and history. All the different approaches to social change that are underway are part of the medicine we need, for so many different approaches, insights, actions and strategies will be needed to address the many different stories that have brought us to this moment. Before acting, reflect on the ‘seasonal, geographic and personal factors’ at play - both for you the actor, and the situation or persons you wish to bring healing to.

“If one does not have righteous qi to recover, evil will not retreat”

One cannot treat disease without nourishing the strength of the body. It takes qi (energy, vitality, strength) to cast out and heal from external disease. If we only focus on treating what is wrong from the outside, without strengthening what is within, we will not heal. On an individual level, this means caring for our well-being while we do our work for a better world. On a larger level, this means we nourish the physical and mental well-being of our communities, organizations and even nations and world. We strengthen from the inside while we push against what assails us.


“Yin and yang may transform into each other” or in the words of modern day prophet Octavia Butler (z’l)

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

is Change.

Nothing is fixed. Nothing is over. The very fabric of reality is change. This is the very, very, very long view, and it’s available to us to step into whenever we need it.

In love,


Jade Shield Aromatherapy Room Spray
from 8.50

An aromatherapy interpretation of the classical Chinese formula Jade Windscreen, Jade Shield combines conifer oils with floral, citrus and a hint of mellow earth into an irresistible but not overpowering boreal-forest scented blend that fortifies the wei, lung and spleen qi, nourishes the heart and uplifts the spirit, while clearing the air.

Use any time extra support is needed to avoid illness and feel protected.

Available in 1, 2 and 4 oz sizes.

Add To Cart

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Join me at special events this month!

I have two great events coming up in November! Join me at the Manzanita Wellness Center in Berkeley for a Fall & Winter Wellness Open House, Sunday November 6 from 2-5 pm. Sample healing modalities from the Manzanita Collective including moxa, acupuncture, energy reading, massage, DIY medicine making and acu-yoga, and I'll be there offering seasonal facial treatments. My treatments are free, but I'll be collecting doations for the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council. They are the folks on the ground providing health care to water protectors in Standing Rock in their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I'll also be donating a portion of the proceeds from all sales that day, and fellow healers are collecting warm winter hats, mitts and coats which will join a package going to the Water Protectors.

The following weekend, I'm co-hosting the second annual Opal Street Center Holiday Faire! I'll be joined by an amazing list of makers, healers and herbalists for a holiday sale. I'll be offering facial acupressure massage demos at 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30, and some special products I only offer at in-person events. Enjoy hot herbal bevvies and snax and get all your shopping done. Saturday, November 12 from 4-7 pm, 3947 Opal St. in Oakland.

I hope to see you!

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Relieving and Releasing Stress with Natural Products

I hope you enjoy this article! It went out to my subscribers earlier this month - sign up here to get my monthly newsletter with articles like this, product specials and sales and interesting news in natural beauty and wellness. -Kirsten

While you work on saving the world, don't forget to save a few minutes for yourself. Bathing and grooming are naturally soothing activities for most of us. Having some easy, pleasurable, non-toxic ways to give your body some loving attention is a great go-to for when life is stressful or overwhelming. 

1. Swimming Dragon Oil: designed to relax and release the flow of energy in the body, Swimming Dragon Oil combines Chinese herbs, natural oils and essential oils for an uplifting, relaxing experience that leaves you feeling like you have room to breathe. Put a few droppers into a warm bath with epsom salts, apply to neck and shoulders, or use for a foot massage

2. Clay Face Mask. Using a face mask pretty much requires that you have some peace and quiet. Retreat to your bathroom or boudouir, slather on a face mask like Clarifying or Regenerating and let yourself get grounded with clay and herbs. Follow up with:

3. Three-in-One Serum facial treatment. Calm and moisturize skin with a treatment like Three-in-One Serum. Apply serum liberally, and then cover your face with a warm washcloth. Leave it on until the cloth has cooled down. You can repeat a few times for a thorough steam. Breathe. The essential oils in the serum like lavender, geranium and sweet orange are great for your spirit as well as your skin. Wipe your face clean.

4. Hare Oil Treatment. If your hair is dry and brittle, you can treat all of it by brushing or finger combing a small amount of Hare oil through your hair, from root to tip. Don't forget to give yourself a scalp massage! If just the ends are dry, warm the oil in your hands and rub gently onto the ends. Wrap your hair up and wash out in the morning, or not if your hair has drunk it up. PS you can also do this with a beard! 

5. Serious Stress Buster. If you're feeling the kind of tension that's got your neck and shoulders in knots, take a moment for some self massage with a healing balmGinger Menthol is great for tension induced headaches, Basic Balm has a soothing herbal honey scent, and BeLoved Balm brings rose, lavender and geranium together in a bouquet just for you. The base of your skull, sides of your neck, and tops of your shoulders will all benefit from loving, gentle self-massage.

Stress is a cumulative health concern that affects our quality of life every day. Giving your physical being a few minutes of tender care every day is a great way to counteract some of those effects. Relax!

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6 strategies for an easy (well, easier!) whole foods or elimination diet

What’s the most important part of a ‘healthy diet’? That you do it! Finding a way of eating that nourishes your body appropriately, but is also realistic and can be maintained over the long term through busy work lives, family demands, unexpected changes in routine, budget and energy, can be daunting! I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but in my years of developing a sustainable way of eating for me and my family, I’ve come to rely on a few foods, recipes and strategies that I’d like to share - you don’t have to go from zero to making your own coconut milk from scratch in one day (although it’s actually pretty easy!)

My partner and I mostly avoid grains, processed foods, sweetened foods and dairy, and emphasize loads of organic veggies and fruit, grass fed and organic meat and eggs, unprocessed fats and bone broth and organ meats. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we eat a diet emphasizing damp reducing foods and seasonal eating. These tips and recipes reflect that, and I hope will be especially valuable for those who have been precipitated into dietary change by illness and need easy and immediate ways to start eating in a way that helps them feel better.

Number 1: Planning and Prepping

How much of this you need to do depends on where you’re starting from. If you’re doing an elimination program or following a whole foods diet for the first time, you might need to invest in a kitchen overhaul to have some basic equipment and pantry supplies. Here’s some great advice from the Whole30, and my must-haves include:

  • A good knife and cutting board
  • Storage containers so you can make food ahead. I like mason jars and tiffins or glass ware, but you can also put a plate over a bowl like granny did before tupperware!
  • A good basic cookbook like Whole30, Practical Paleo or 30 Day Guide to Paleo. These three all have helpful ideas and instructions for ‘building blocks - see below!
  • Spices! Get a few mixes if you are starting from scratch, and honestly, quality matters with spices. If you don’t have a local fancy spice shop or that’s a pain, shop at mine! Think curry, chili, pumpkin pie spice and italian seasoning

2. Building blocks

This is my single most important recommendation. If you’re pressed for time or energy, don’t worry about following complicated recipes. Cook simple single foods that can be combined to make a meal. Think proteins, carbs or starches, veggies, toppings and sauces. If you have a couple from each category on hand, you can always throw together a yummy meal that fits your food needs without having to create anything from scratch. Here are a few of my faves and check out my Healthy + Easy pinterest board for more.

  • Oven roasted chicken drumsticks + cooked greens + baked sweet potato + mustard vinaigrette
  • Grilled porkchop + mashed butternut squash + steamed green beans with slivered almonds, melted ghee and pumpkin pie spice
  • Baked salmon + chopped romaine lettuce + kalamata olives + chopped apple + capers + balsamic vinaigrette
  • Chopped cooked chicken + mixed cooked veg + coconut milk + thai curry paste + fish sauce
  • red lentils with ghee and curry + sliced hard boiled egg + braised red cabbage + mashed potatoes 

3. Canned Fish is your Friend!

Many ‘grab and go’ foods are grain based, sweet or carb-heavy, super processed, or just not satisfying enough to serve as a meal: granola bars, crackers, protein bars, trail mix. Canned fish is a healthy, fast and economical protein source and more versatile than you might think! (here’s an article about safety concerns with eating fish - upshot, benefits outweigh the risks!) 

My go-to faves: tuna or salmon salad with homemade mayo and mixins like apples, grapes, capers or pickles. Tuna or salmon patties with salsa, vinaigrette or caper mayonnaise. Sardines on a big salad. Canned salmon ‘pasta’ with zoodles. There's loads more on Pinterest.

4. Think outside the bun

Looking for substitutes for super easy foods like crackers and bread? Don’t bother with fussy imitations, think about vehicles for easy speedy proteins. Try the current instagram star, sweet potato toast

Other ideas:

  • Chard or lettuce leaf rollups
  • Thickly sliced oven fried potatoes
  • Baked Potato
  • Cucumber slices
  • Apple or melon slices

If it’s flat, you can use it as toast.

My fave combos:

  • Tuna salad on green apple slices
  • Salmon salad on potato wedges
  • Chicken salad in chard rollups (remove the stalk from a leaf of swiss chard (look for a tender one)

5. Know your search terms

If you’re looking for recipes and inspiration, try using these search terms to get useful results. I used to use “gluten free” but as gluten free has become more mainstream, I now find many of the recipes include premade mixes as well as high sugar content, margarine etc and are really just gluten free versions of standard american foods. If that’s what you want - a fluffy frosted birthday cake for your friend with celiac - perfect, but if you’re looking for whole food, unprocessed and low or no sugar options, try these instead:

Search Terms to try on google or pinterest: Paleo, primal, nourishing, whole foods, whole30 grain free

6. Have a Sh*t Hitting the Fan Plan

It happens to all of us: everything goes to hell, and the time you set aside to chop or shop or cook is swamped by emergencies, work or illness. Now what? Stop right now and think of a few emergency back up plans - they will vary depending on your food restrictions and preferences, as well as the options available where you live, but some of my faves are:

  • rotisserie chicken from the health food store,
  • throwing leftovers in the freezer to pull out in an emergency (cook double for this purpose),
  • pre-chopped and ready to steam veggies or salad from the grocery store,
  • takeout like thai curries, prepared foods from the deli case or salad bar.
  • grocery delivery including ready to eat options such as Good Eggs .
  • ask for help!

I hope this has given you some food for thought in transitioning into a whole foods way of eating or dealing with temporary food restrictions. There’s a mountain of material available in books and online with tons more hints, tips and strategies, but whatever you do, stop and enjoy what you’re eating, keep the focus on your health and the benefits of nourishing your body and the planet wholesomely, and remember that sometimes your best is good enough. Ess in gezunterhayt! (Eat in good health!)

PS why do I talk so much about food? Because I’m a holistic physician as well as a skin care maker. Happy skin comes from the inside out as much as from choosing the right skincare. Stay tuned for my best skin healing recipes coming soon.


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