Sandalwood - scent for skin and soul


Sandalwood is an ancient scent that has been used in beauty and spiritual rituals for millenia. It's a key ingredient in Angelica & Peony's newly formulated Regenerating Serum, both for its rich, deeply comforting scent, and its traditional uses for skin radiance.

Sandalwood essential oil can be derived from a few species. Tisserand profiles East African (Osyris lanceolata), East Indian or White Sandalwood (Santalum album), New Caledonian (Santalum austrocaledonicum) and Western Australian (Santalum cygnorum).  (Essential Oil Safety, Tisserand) Deforestation and overharvesting have led the slow growing Santalum Album to be placed on the threatened species list, although cultivation attempts are underway. New Caledonian sandalwood has an almost identical chemical and scent profile and can be sourced from sustainable plantations and wildcrafting. This is the variety I use at Angelica & Peony.

Chemically, sandalwood is high in sesquiterpenols - these are large complex alcohol molecules that contribute to the characteristic scent of sandalwood. The large molecular size slows their absorption into the skin, and may be why sandalwood is so rarely irritating, even on sensitive skin (Aromadermatology, Bensouilah and Buck)

In acupuncture school, I remember being taught the crossover action of acupuncture points on the heart channel, usually associated with calming the spirit, for use in skin conditions, especially itching. Our teacher, Dr. Yue Ying Li, a noted TCM dermatologist, told us that itching always has a psychological component. Skin disruptions and disorders are frequently connected to and exacerbated by spiritual and emotional distress. Sandalwood has been traditionally used as a sedative and spirit-soothing scent, and this application has been held up by modern research. In research studies, skin healed measurably faster from trauma when sedative essential oils like sandalwood were inhaled (Aromadermatology, Bensouilah and Buck)

The pheromone androsterone smells like sandalwood, and the oil has long been held to have an aphrodisiac effect. Sandalwood opens us up to erotic and sensual feelings because of its grounding, calming nature that encourages self-acceptance and a sense of safety.

Feeling sexy and calm is a prescription for gorgeous skin! With specific skin healing, regenerating and anti-scarring and anti-viral powers, sandalwood is a pleasurable and powerful addition to skin care. But it's deeper medicine of calming, grounding and releasing fear are what makes it a truly magical addition to your self-care routine

Calming and Grounding Massage Oil (may have aphrodisiac effect!):

2 ounces organic sesame or sunflower oil

20 drops sandalwood oil

15 drops sweet orange oil

blend well and keep in a cool dark place. Can be warmed before use by immersing the bottle in warm water.

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Plants with Benefits Part II: Essential oils for a satisfying sex life


Herbal medicine and acupuncture offer a lot of support for those experiencing any kind of sexual problem, physical or emotional. This article is intended to introduce you to some plant allies and offer some simple home and traditional applications for gentle support. For effective treatment of ongoing or serious issues, consult a qualified herbalist (email me if you'd like help finding someone in your area).

Warning: radically-inclusive, sex-positive, body-positive language spoken here

(I cribbed this tongue in cheek warning from Denise's most recent article about Acupressure for Good Sex. Learn more about sex-positivity)

Perfumes have always been used for their aphrodisiac qualities! You can harness these powers yourself using essential oils as perfumes, room sprays or in bath or massage oils. Essential oils are the 'spirit' of the plant - and they can have a powerful effect on our spirits. Many of the traditional aphrodisiac oils work by addressing emotional issues that are so often at the root of sexual dissatisfaction. (Wondering how to find quality essential oils? Check out my earlier article for guidance)

Spicing it up

In Part I of Plants with Benefits, I talked about Yang tonics - herbs and foods that stoke the energetic fire that governs sexual desire. Some essential oils have the ability to tonify Yang and are suitable for low libido with sensations of coldness, low back ache, knee problems and low energy. These spicy essential oils can be irritating to the skin. Never use them undiluted, and you can DIY gentle versions by simmering the spices together on the stove or in a potpourri diffuser. 

Basil: this essential oil is a potent Yang tonic, addressing infertility, impotence, and low self-esteem and confidence

Cinnamon, Clove, Black Pepper and Cardamom: cinnamon and clove (in the form of pumpkin pie) were famously found to increase penile blood flow more than any other scents (Source) All are very powerful stimulants, and can lead to exhaustion if overused, and definitely cause skin irritation - use them in very small proportion in a blend, or as whole herbs rather than essential oils for a more balanced effect.

Calm, heart centering oils

Other essential oils work as aphrodisiacs by helping reduce stress and anxiety and encouraging us to feel relaxed and unguarded - necessary for good sex! All these oils make fantastic massage or bath oils, or can be added to a diffuser or room spray. Hydrosols of these oils are much more affordable than essential oils and spritzing them over the sheets will add their aphrodisiac gifts to your bedroom. 

Rose: the Queen of Flowers, she has been used to enhance sexual connection for millenia. Her lush, accepting fragrance is especially beneficial where sexual life feels blocked by lack of confidence or a sense of inadequacy.

Neroli: from the flowers of the bitter orange, neroli is a powerful anti-anxiety oil, and physically is an anti-spasmodic, relaxing both emotional and physical stress and spasm.

Patchouli: Patchouli can be a love it or hate it scent, but if you haven't smelled real, quality patchouli essential oil, you should give it a chance. As a herb, patchouli is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to 'transform dampness' and relieve symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Emotionally, the oil serves to transform and release pent up emotions, which is the source of its aphrodisiac power. Perhaps that is why folks tend to react so strongly to it!

Ylang ylang: the sweet, heady floral scent of ylang ylang is a sedative, and is used by medical aromatherapists to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It serves to break the cycle of sexual anxiety and soothe anger, frustration and jealousy. Best used in combination with other oils lest you find yourself so relaxed you fall asleep!

Bringing the Balance

These final two oils may have a hormone balancing action in Western terms, and energetically serve to harmonize and bring balance to our physical and emotional states - centering us in our own truth so we can reach for another from a place of solidity.

Jasmine: precious Jasmine essential oil is most accessible as part of a blend from a quality manufacturer. Her gifts in the physical realm are powerful, she is traditionally used during childbirth to promote relaxation and opening, to encourage milk production, and to help heal the after effects of a traumatic birthing. According to Peter Holmes,  "emotional vulnerability from any cause and emotional disconnection (or dryness) from repression or trauma are its key indication." Those with trouble opening up, expressing needs and desires will benefit from jasmine's healing touch.

Sandalwood: a powerful, complex scent, sandalwood has been used in temples and monasteries to enhance meditation and prayer practices. It's aphrodisiac qualities help us stay grounded, in the moment and present with our partner, letting go of past experiences, insecurities and fear of inadequacy.

Lovers' Blend:

  • 8 drops sandalwood or patchouli
  • 4 drops ylang ylang
  • 2 drops sweet orange or tangerine

For massage or bath oil, add the oils to 1 oz of carrier oil such as apricot kernel, jojoba, coconut or sesame. For bath salts, toss with 1 cup of epsom salts. Don't use essential oils undiluted on the skin. For inspiration on where to massage, check out Acupressure For Good Sex by Denise Cicuto L.Ac! And tune in tomorrow at 4 pm PST to TCMTalk on Periscope for more holistic sex talk!

Here's to good sex!


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Plants with Benefits Part I: Herbs to support a satisfying sex life

Herbal medicine and acupuncture offer a lot of support for those experiencing any kind of sexual problem, physical or emotional. This article is intended to introduce you to some herbal allies and offer some simple home and traditional applications for gentle support. For effective treatment of ongoing or serious issues, consult a qualified herbalist (email me if you'd like help finding someone in your area).

Herbs to stoke the flames: Yang Tonics

Many herbs traditionally considered aphrodisiacs in the Chinese materia medica are in the Yang tonic category - they stoke the energetic fires of the body and reinforce the basal energy that governs sexual function and especially libido. Herbs in this category are generally warming, and include a few foods you might be familiar with. You might recognize some of these herbs advertised as aphrodisiacs or 'herbal viagra' but it's not a good idea to indiscriminately guzzle them. Overuse of yang tonics in search of super potency can be overheating and lead to side effects such as headaches and dryness.

Notice what's not on this list? Rhino horn. It's never been considered an aphrodisiac in Chinese Medicine, and is not used by TCM practitioners.

Yin Yang Huo, known as Horny Goat Weed, might be one of the most well-known Chinese libido enhancers. It's been shown to increase erections and ejaculations in studies with rats, and seems to mimic testosterone in the body. 

Dong Chong Xia Cao or Cordyceps. Cordyceps is a type of fungus that grows in the body of a caterpillar. It has been used in Tibet for millenia and is renowned as an aphrodisiac. "People of both sexes usually take one piece of [cordyceps] with a cup of milk to enhance their sexual potency and desire." (Source)

Cuscuta Seed or Tu Si Zi. The tiny seeds of this parasitic vine are used traditionally especially for issues like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

Other herbs that benefit the Yang and might be found in your kitchen include walnuts, fenugrek seed and black cardamom seed.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal medicine is a continuum from foods, which one can use to gently maintain and restore balance, all the way to toxic substances that can only be taken for a short period to deal with serious illness (how I would categorize most Western drugs). So your kitchen is filled with aphrodisiacs! Renowned libido enhancers include lamb, especially the kidneys, walnuts, warming spices such as fenugrek, fennel, cardamom, black pepper, garlic and ginger.

Shrimp is another famed aphrodisiac; 'some Chinese herbalists believe that if one consumes too much shrimp without sexual intercourse, one may develop nosebleeds due to excessive fire built up in the body." Take that under advisement! (Source)

A simple shrimp stir-fry with ginger and garlic is an easy yang enhancing meal, or try spiced dairy or coconut milk as in this ayurvedic recipe, with fenugrek, cardamom and black pepper for a spicy drink that will give you a boost.

These dietary additions are great to support you when you feel a little 'off your game' or to enhance the effects of customized treatment you're receiving from a practitioner. 

Plants with Benefits Part II: Essential oils for love and sex (up next!)


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TCM Talk in May: Passion, Desire & Sex!

Join Denise from Cicuto Acupuncture and myself on Thursday May 5th and 19th at 4 pm PST on @tcm_talk on Periscope. This month we'll be discussing Passion, Desire & Sex - everything from Traditional Chinese Medicine theory about Yin and Yang; the herb called "Horny Goat Weed"; qi gong for healthy reproductive system; acupuncture, herbs and essential oils for conditions like painful intercourse and erectile dysfunction and much more! 

Send your questions to us at: 

Here are the lyrics to a hit madrigal from 1595, full of double-entendres about the month of May:

click to hear a recording of the madrigal!

click to hear a recording of the madrigal!

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