Summer Wellness Series: Summer Soaks + Soothers

Essential Oils and Self-care practices for summer

This article is fourth in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: the energetics of the fifth season: Late Summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness


What is self-care? It’s a popular buzzword these days - #selfcare - but what does it mean? I think of self-care practices as not just things we can do for ourselves that promote health, but as loving time we take for ourselves. ‘Self-care’ can’t solve all our problems, but it can be an important part of our mental and physical well-being. Whether it’s dry-brushing, face masks, self-massage or herbal steaming - it’s as much about spending loving, soothing time with your body as any specific outcome. Take the opportunity of giving yourself a ‘beauty treatment’ to give yourself a love treatment - slow down, use natural and non-toxic ingredients, and send yourself some messages of love and care.

Summer Scents and Soothers: 3 essential oils and 5 self-care practices to try this summer

What are the best essential oils to enjoy in the summertime? The answer is endless, but here’s three of my faves to help you keep cool and balanced in summertime

Ylang ylang: this sweet, floral oil has an instant cooling and refreshing effect. It has a sedative quality that calms fire-type symptoms like agitation, insomnia and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure.

Lime: Lime is also a cooling oil and has an affinity with the digestive system - great if summer heat is making our digestion sluggish or our appetite is weak. Lime has an uplifting, anti-depressant effect that gives a sense of being ‘refreshed’. Like other citrus oils, lime causes photosensitivity where you can burn your skin with just a small amount of sun exposure. Don’t use lime oil containing products on exposed skin, use in appropriate dilution, and look for steam-distilled lime, which doesn’t contain the photosensitizing compounds. I like to use steam-distilled lime for topical application, and cold-pressed for inhaling, as the cold-pressed lime has a fresher, cooler scent.

Peppermint: Peppermint is VERY cooling. It’s menthol compounds are what put the ‘ice’ in icy-hot style rubs like Warming and Ginger Menthol. It benefits acute ‘wind-heat’ conditions with sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, and red, itchy eyes. It can make us feel energized by moving Liver Qi and releasing frustrated, pent-up energy. Peppermint and lavender is a great combination.

You can use these oils in some of the best body-caring practices to try in summer:

Foot soaks

Ending the day with a cool or lukewarm bath can help swollen, tired feet, as well as helping you sleep (use a warmer bath for extra help falling asleep after a hectic summer day.

Try an epsom + essential oil combo. Mix together 2 cups of epsom salts with 5 drops of essential oil blended in a tablespoon of carrier oil - try ylang ylang and lime with coconut oil, or peppermint in sunflower oil. Fill a foot tub with warm water and dissolve in the epsom salts. Chill out in the soak for 10-15 minutes (no more than 20) and dry your feet off.

Try finishing up with a soothing foot massage - I like to use Swimming Dragon oil, or Legs N All from By Nieves. Coconut or avocado oil works great too.

If sandals and hot asphalt have your feet calloused and dry, try a foot scrub during your bath - mix melted coconut oil with an equal amount of granulated sugar. Add a few herbs like lavender blossoms, mint leaves or rosepetals for added scent. Store in a glass jar and use a spoonful to scrub your feet before you take them out of the bath.

Self-massage: This is a truly luxurious way to spend quality time with yourself! I like to follow the guidelines of abhyanga from Ayurvedic medicine, which uses warmed oil and gentle strokes towards your heart to stimulate circulation, benefit the lymphatic system and cleanse and moisturize the skin. After the massage, jump in a warm shower and rinse off the oil - it’s the oil cleansing method for your body! , Here’s an in-depth how-to from Banyan Botanicals (including when to avoid abhyanga).

I hope you enjoy incorporating some of these healing and loving self-care practices into your summer!


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Friday Roundup - May 6, 2016

What I've been reading, writing, thinking about and indulging in this week.

Rowdy Lamb Herb: Denise and I are focusing on SEX all month long on TCMTalk. In doing some research, I was delighted to find this hilarious list of synonyms for yin yang huo (Epimedium), a renowned aphrodisiac: "Epimedium, also known as barrenwort, bishop's hat, fairy wings, horny goat weed, rowdy lamb herb, randy beef grass or yin yang huo, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae." The list is from Wikipedia, read more about yin yang huo here.

Balancing Bath: do you use epsom salts in the bath? I love making different bath salt combinations, and this article has lots of great ideas - including vanilla bean, which I'm making right now! Yum.

Mama's Day for Everyone: Mothers' Day can be a great chance to celebrate the mothers in our lives - but lots of factors can complicate that celebration. is a project of Strong Families, with a series of free e-cards created by artists that celebrate the diversity and strength of all families. I look at them every year.

Have a great weekend!

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Friday Roundup - October 9

What I've been reading, writing, thinking about and indulging in this week

image from Hello Natural

image from Hello Natural

Bath Time: As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, it's nice to take a bath. I used to use bubble bath, but most of them irritate my skin. Now I use a cup of epsom salts, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and 5 drops of essential oil for my soak. This week I got inspired to try the scrumptious combinations outlined in this article from Hello Natural. I'm starting with the ginger one!

Grain Free Taoists? For a lot of people I know or have treated, following a paleo-style or grain free diet is a healthful decision. I've often wondered how to reconcile the paleo prescription with the dietary recommendations I was taught during my Chinese Medicine training. This fascinating blog article about Taoist grain free diet proponents was very interesting to me in resolving some of these questions, and putting them in historical context. The article quotes the observations of the 4th Century physician Ge Hong, who I've mentioned a few times this week - he gave the instructions for preparing artemesia that Professor Tu Youyou used to develop the anti-malaria drug for which she was just awarded the Nobel prize for medicine.

Serious Book Lover! The label for Ex Libris Balm (it smells like books!) is from a 1940s 'Ex Libris' (From the Library) bookplate. As I update the labels on all my products, I thought I'd look at some other vintage bookplates. I got a kick out of this one, depicting a book lover with an anger management problem! Safe to say I won't be using this for my soothing balm!

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