Spring: Scents and Sensibilities

To celebrate the beginning of Spring, Denise of Cicuto Acupuncture and I are having a special Spring Sale on all our 5 Element Healing Anointing Oils! 15% off all the blends, and 20% off the WOOD element ones, the element of the spring season.

Curious about how to use blends like these for balance and well-being? Last year Denise and I recorded a video with some advice on using all the blends and specifically the WOOD element ones for common issues like stress, insomnia, irritability, headaches, moodiness and other fun symptoms of modern life. Watch the video below and follow me on Instagram where Denise and I are sharing more about the Wood element and spring balance for the next few weeks.

 

 

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Looking into your Heart

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Valentine's day is here, and we're inundated with images of hearts as a symbol for romantic love. February is also 'Heart Health Month,' focused on heart disease in a literal sense. It's also Black History Month, a good time to acknowledge the burden that experiencing racism and oppression have on health, notably cardiac health. Hearts have been on my mind so I dug into the Traditional Chinese Medicine view of the Heart energetically, as well as the physical organ.

The Emperor

The heart holds the office of lord and sovereign. The radiance of the spirits (shenming) stems from it. - Nei Jing Su Wen

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart is the seat of consciousness, the Shen. Like an Emperor seated in a vast cinnabar throne room, our heart requires stillness and calm to make the highest level decisions that keep our spirits in tune with our deepest selves and our heavenly destinies. In the vision of the human as a well-ordered society, the Heart-Emperor is protected and aided by the other officials, the organs and conduits of the body that allow it to remain in contemplative meditation and connection with our true self. When we're balanced, we're able to respond appropriately to life events, to avoid over or underreacting, and to proceed in harmony with our true desires and natures.

Circulating Health

Traditional Chinese medicine texts recognized all varieties of heart conditions and understood clearly blood circulation and the role of the physical heart. Acupuncture and herbal medicines can be very helpful in preventing and treating heart disease. From the kitchen pharmacy, there are many food herbs which can be taken daily as tonics for cardiovascular health, including maintaining healthy blood pressure and circulation. Here are a few faves:

Hawthorn Berry Tea: Hawthorn has been extensively studied as a cardiovascular health supplement, including all parts of the plant, berries, leaves and flowers. In TCM, the berries are used to aid in the digestion of fats, and from a Western perspective seem to lower serum lipid levels.

Chrysanthemum Blossoms: I often use the bitter, refreshing tea of these flowers to aid with allergies and eye irritation, but the same energetic action that sends energy down to calm eyes and headaches can act to lower blood pressure. Hawthorn berry and chrysanthemum blossom tea is a tasty cardiac combination.

Heart-friendly Foods: Despite what we were taught for many years, fat consumption by itself is not the guilty party in heart disease. Overconsumption of sweet, refined and processed foods increase inflammation in the body and our bodies reaction to it can result in stagnation and impaired circulation. Eating a whole foods, balanced diet with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits is a vital move for all of us. Foods with an especially beneficial effect on the heart and circulatory system? Try celery, onion, garlic, carrots, apples, pears and tangerines. Black fungus, shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and mung beans are other tasty recommendations.

The Emotions of the Heart

'Symbolic image of the heart: Chinese/Korean/Japanese' . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

'Symbolic image of the heart: Chinese/Korean/Japanese' . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The Heart holds a powerful symbolic role in many cultures. Associated with the element of Fire in the 5 Element cosmology, spiritual and emotional dysfunction of the Heart can show up in a variety of ways.

Too Hot: An excess of Fire element affects our Heart energy with overexuberance. We can't stop talking, our minds race. Our sleep is disrupted, especially falling asleep. Anxiety and restlessness can make us feel overwhelmed and make it difficult to think clearly. In addition to proper treatment with a practitioner, cooling foods and herbs and calming activities such as meditation can help chill us out and give our Hearts room to breathe.  

Too Cold: Deficiency in the Fire element often manifests in physical symptoms of coldness and poor circulation, but emotionally we can feel detached, listless and depressed, unable to access our feelings or communicate them. Together with treatment, warming herbs and foods and gently stimulating activities can help stoke our Heart fire.

Check out 5 Element Healing Anointing Oils for some gentle aromatherapy designed to support the 5 elements and our emotional well-being.

Wishing you a happy heart!

Sources:

The Tao of Nutrition, Maoshing Ni and Cathy McNease

The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau

Nourishing Destiny: The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine. Lonny S. Jarrett

The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Giovanni Maciocia

Chinese System of Food Cures, Henry Lu

Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra

Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, Mary C. Tassell, Rosari Kingston, Deirdre Gilroy, Mary Lehane, and Ambrose Furey


 

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A tale of two gingers...

Since Denise and I are both Harry Potter fans, I took my opportunity to work in a reference.

Since Denise and I are both Harry Potter fans, I took my opportunity to work in a reference.

Denise Cicuto L.Ac and I have been releasing our Five Element Healing Anointing Oils over the last several months, and have just bottled and made available our EARTH element blends. They are both fragrant and expansive scented oils, as befits the Earth element. The Earth element governs the Spleen and Stomach organ systems in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which can loosely be understood as the physical and metabolic processes of digestion and elimination. A healthy and balanced Earth element means we take in food, extract nutrients efficiently, and release waste effectively. Imbalance means this process is too slow or too fast, ineffective, or has a lot of collateral side effects like gas, bloating, nausea, poor appetite, feeling 'hangry', excess mucus production, brain fog and fatigue and aches and pains especially in damp weather.

Learn more about the Earth element and happy digestion from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view from the resources on the TCMTalk Pinterest board for the Earth element.

In Chinese medicine, we use ginger as a herb in a huge number of formulas, but it has a special affinity for the Earth element and the Spleen/Stomach organ systems. There are two main ways we use ginger - the fresh root (sheng jiang) and the dried root (gan jiang). It can be further prepared for special use by pan frying or carbonizing. The fresh root is especially useful for colds and flus and stomach upset and nausea. The dried root is 'hotter' and is also good for digestion, as well as for pain especially caused by cold and damp.

In our Earth element blends, we use two types of ginger essential oil which are extracted in different ways. NOURISH Earth contains CO2 extracted oil, which is created without the use of any heat or solvents and has a scent much closer to fresh ginger. MOVE Earth contains steam-distilled ginger oil, which smells much more like dried ginger. Although both are beneficial for a broad range of conditions especially related to digestion, damp and cold, the different extraction methods result in differing chemical profiles for the two oils. Aromatherapist Jessica Grill points out that zingerone, a component in ginger, is only extracted by the CO2 method, and is the reason she prefers it for digestive remedies. The steam-distilled ginger is higher in sesquiterpenes, making it the choice for pain-relief. (Source)

When we began experimenting with the Earth oils last summer, we didn't know about the different chemical profiles of the gingers we were trying. We used our knowledge of the base herbs and their preparation and our experience with the blends we created to identify the different uses, but it's fascinating to see the chemical profiles as explained by an aromatherapist lining up with the traditional herbalist knowledge that Denise and I were trained in.

Try MOVE + NOURISH Earth Healing Anointing Oils, as well as WOOD and FIRE, all now available. We'll be donating a portion of every bottle of EARTH oil sold to help support Dreamers, young immigrants to the US affected by recent attacks on the federal DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

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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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