Plant Support! Herbal Help For Healthy Changes

(I wrote this article a few years ago but I'm referring back to it as my patients and I look to let go of some habits with the fresh air of January...-Kirsten)

It's January! A time of year when many people think about changes they'd like to make in support of the life they'd like to live. Making healthy changes is great - when it's done with love and in a way that's sustainable! Enjoy the video version with a TCMTalk on this topic!

So you've decided to let go of some habits that don't nourish you - or cultivate some that do. Great! One of the keys to sustainable change is enlisting support.  While you're getting cheered on by the people in your support network, you can also add some herbal cheerleaders to the mix. I've rounded up some herbal and essential oil allies that can give you a boost at some of the changes you might be making this month.

(Important message: herbs and essential oils are powerful medicine! This article is not intended to diagnosis or treat you. I strongly recommend that you enlist the support of a licensed physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine or other qualified professional so you can fully experience the benefits of herbal medicine!)

Quitting: smoking, alcohol, sugar and other substances

Acupuncture and acupressure are very helpful in reducing withdrawal symptoms, and your TCM physician can also prescribe a customized herbal formula for you that can reduce anxiety, withdrawal and cravings, no matter what substance you're eliminating. Generally, regulating the flow of energy in the body is the goal, as we support the body through the discomfort of cravings and learning to produce the feel-good chemicals we relied on our drug of choice for.

Easy to access herbs to try at home during this time include: spearmint leaf, dried orange peel, cinnamon, clove, lemon balm and fennel. Look for these herbal allies in a pre-made blend, or make your own tea with bulk herbs (try a tablespoon each of the leafy herbs, and a teaspoon of the denser ones). You can also try an infusion bath - use tea bags or cheesecloth to steep herbs in your bath water.

Essential oil helpers include carrot seed oil (especially for marijuana),  roman chamomile, lavender and lemon (this duo is especially good for sugar cravings) Here's some guidance on different methods of applying essential oils.

Healthy Habits: regular exercise and quality sleep

Looking to make exercise a habit this year? Chinese medicine, broadly speaking, helps you have more energy by either boosting insufficient energy, or moving stuck energy. Try energy boosters like ginseng, jujube, Chinese yam, goji berries and reishi mushrooms, or energy movers like dried orange peel, fennel and cardamom. Essential oils like patchouli and grapefruit help move and transform energy as well.

Herbal helpers for restful sleep include mimosa flower, lemon balm, lavender blossom, chamomile and zizyphus (jujube seeds). A supplement like Natural Calm is an easy alternative to traditional sedating herbs made from oyster shell and fossilized bones. Essential oils known as sleep aids include lavender, sandalwood, mandarin, chamomile and ylang ylang.

Attitude Adjustment: self-love and self-discipline

Thinking about a new attitude this year? Support some self-love with heart-opening herbs like mimosa flower, zizyphus, or the traditional formula, gan mai da zao tang: licorice root, jujube fruit and wheat berries. Essential oils for self-love include patchouli, rose, geranium and ylang ylang.

Self-love starts with self-care: if you're trying to amp up your self-discipline and keep your health a priority, herbs and essential oils to firm your resolve include walnuts, fenugreek, black sesame seeds, and essential oils of rosemary, ginger and vetiver.

If you have questions about using herbal allies in the new year, or would like some help finding a Physician of Traditional Chinese Medicine in your area, email me!

Some sources used in this article:

  • Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Revised Edition, Dan Bensky and Andrew Gamble.
  • Clinical Aromatherapy, Peter Holmes
  • Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra
  • Materia Medica of Essential Oils, Jeffrey Yuen

 

 

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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

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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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Friday Roundup - April 28, 2016

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

The Trouble with Clean: I am always inspired by modern American herbalist matriarch Susun Weed. Today she shared one of her occasional essays, this one challenging the notion of 'clean' and cleanses.

"Where are we going to throw away that which we have cleaned away? What shall we do with the toxins, the filth, the disgusting waste, the foul, unneeded, unwanted, unloved parts? Where is far enough away? Can I ever get away from my shadow?" 

Rings of Power: I was mesmerized by these wood and resin rings that capture entire miniature worlds on your finger. Created by Vancouver jeweler Secret Wood, each one is handmade so no two are identical.

I love the cooking blog My Heart Beets, mostly paleo recipes by blogger Ashley. She has a great collection of Indian recipes, including lots of regional dishes. Her Coconut Egg Curry, a scrumptious and frugal dish of eggs simmered in a fragrant coconut sauce is on my menu this week.

Have a great weekend!

 

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Finding Light in the Longest Night: Last in our holiday periscopes!

Join Denise and I for the final installment in our holiday periscope live broadcasts! We've had a ton of fun scoping tips, recipes, techniques and resources for the holidays, starting with Hallowe'en. This coming Thursday, we'll bring you three short scopes back to back focused on mental and emotional health during the holiday season.

Whether you're traveling, spending time with family, or just feeling the frantic activity all around you, you can benefit from some simple techniques! Join us for acupressure, herbs, essential oils and recipes that  you can add to your 'emotional first aid kit' this winter.

We'll be scoping from Denise's account, @cicutoacu. If you'd like to join in live, we'll be starting at 4 pm PST Thursday, December 17. Go to www.periscope.tv/cicutoacu to watch, or download the Periscope app to watch on your phone. You can also find links to everything we talk about and suggest, including recipes and products, on our Periscope Pinterest board, at www.bit.ly/PeriscopePins. Links to archives of the broadcasts will be there too, so you can watch anytime.

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