The power of Jade! Jade Gua Sha tools for facial massage

Jade gua sha tools are increasing in popularity in the West as folks find out about this beautifying and soothing skin care technique. I've used jade gua sha tools in my skin care treatments and my own skin care routine for a long time, and now you can get one for yourself! I also put together a little video demonstrating how to use your new tool, and a 5 minute organic skin care routine that will leave you with glowing skin and close your day with some self-care. Enjoy!

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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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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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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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5 Healthy Summer Skin Habits

I hope you enjoy this article - it features some Angelica & Peony skin care products, but as always, I include DIY alternatives. This 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

A classical principle of Chinese medicine and many holistic systems is to be in harmony with our environment - what our body needs at midwinter is not the same as midsummer, in a tropical rainforest not the same as a windswept prairie, at 25 not the same as at 65! Approach your skin with this attitude and you'll be rewarded with happier, healthier skin.

Habit 1: Smart Hydration. If it's hotter you're sweating more, and if you're in a dry or windy climate, you'll be even more likely to need water. If you'd like some ideas of cooling drinks that are acupuncturist approved, check out this article I wrote last summer during a heat wave.

Habit 2: Cleansing with Oil. Smog, makeup, dust, sunblock... there's lots of reasons to want to wash your face in summer! The oil cleansing method uses natural oils to gently cleanse your skin while maintaining its natural balance and leaving it moisturized and soothed. Watch my video about how to use facial serums to cleanse and treat your skin. If you find your skin is more oily or acne prone during humid summer weather, or if a facial serum feels too oily in the heat, switch to this method and forgo separate moisturizing. I use 3-in-1 Serum during the summer, especially at the end of a grimy day, but you can also concoct your own oil blend as described in this great article about OCM.

Habit 3: Facials from the Farmers Market. Use seasonal produce to whip up some yummy face masks for your skin type: (follow any of these decadent treatments with an Angelica & Peony facial serum)

Nourishing Peach Mask for Dry & Mature Skin: puree peaches and add sesame oil. Apply to face for 5-10 minutes and then rinse clean.
Renewing Strawberry Mask for Dull Skin: mash fresh strawberries with yogurt and apply to face for 5 minutes before washing clean.

Join me at the Manzanita Collective open house July 16 where I'll be demo-ing farmers market facials in the afternoon!

Habit 4: Tea Treatments: Ease summertime issues like bug bites, allergies and sunburn with herbal washes aka cooled tea. Try chrysanthemum blossom to rinse itchy, irritated eyes, mint for itchy bites, and black tea to ease a sunburn. Make a cup or mason jar of tea, and let it cool completely before using.

Habit 5: Practice Safe Sun: Sun damage takes its toll over time, as well as increasing skin cancer risks. However sun exposure is vital to our health, both physical and emotional,and there's increasing understanding that our 'sun-phobia' has led to unexpected health problems, especially in Northern countries. Many experts recommend 10-15 minutes a day of sun on your bare skin, depending on where you are on the globe and your skin tone. This overview of the science and debates about sun exposure is a fascinating read, and has more information and guidance.

As always, treat your skin with love and respect, and consult a practitioner for any medical concerns (email me if you'd like help finding someone in your area.)

Shine on!

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Friday Roundup, May 20, 2016

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

Podcasting about Pain: I'm super excited to have met Shelly Jackson, a coach who works with those living with chronic pain. Next week she's launching PAINIAC, the first ever podcast for mindful pain management. I've donated some A&P balms to a lucky listener, and I'm so happy that she's bringing this much needed resource into the world. Check out her website Peaceful Body Coaching, for more, and join the virtual launch party live on May 25 for inspiring, informative listening for people living with chronic pain or illness and the awesome people who love them.

The Story of Lead Poisoning: The Nightly Show on Comedy Central made this depressing yet hilarious and very informative short explaining how the US came to have a lead poisoning epidemic. Get your depressing history lesson with a side of laughs.

Jojoba Happiness: I LOVE jojoba oil. I quickly became a convert when I started making my own skin care products, and it's now a key ingredient in all my facial serums as well as hair oil. It's a skin and hair care superhero, and it's local too - I get mine from organic farmers in Arizona. This article and infographic lay out just what's so special about jojoba and why you should be using it from head to toe!

Have a great weekend!

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Friday Roundup, May 13, 2016

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

Prince, Pain and Pills: This moving and thought-provoking article from Lorraine Berry questions the conversation about prescription drug dependency and chronic pain in light of Prince's death and how the circumstances of it are being reported.

Ecosystems of Health: the world of the 'microbiome' - the billions of organisms that live on and in our bodies, is increasingly understood to be hugely important in our health and disease. Chris Kesser looks at our skin's microbiome, its role in common skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis, and how we can encourage the health of our skin's microorganisms.

Mandrake Madness: these adorable sculpted Mandrakes with mischievous personalities appeal to both to my herbalist side and my Harry Potter fan side! 

Have a great weekend!

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Spring Skin Renewal

I hope you enjoy this little how-to for spring skin - it features Angelica & Peony skin care products, but as always, I include some DIY alternatives. This went out to my subscribers last week, 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

At the end of the winter season, your skin might be ready for a little renewal - dark days, indoor heating, heavier foods, can leave your skin feeling dull, dry or broken out. Here's some easy yet sumptuous at-home skin treatments to try before stepping out into the springtime! Pick the one for your skin type.

Dry, sensitive and mature skin: it's important not to be rough with your delicate skin. Use steam, herbs and the gentle exfoliation of a terry cloth facecloth to renew your skin's surface without aggravating it. Slather your face with a gentle oil with healing and moisturizing properties, either a premade combination like Angelica & Peony's Nourishing Serum, or individual oils with moisturizing and healing properties like olive oil, sesame oil or wheat germ oil. Heat a wash cloth under the tap, and lay it on your face. Allow it to cool on your face, and then use it to wipe off the oil, giving a loving scrub as you do. If your skin is very dry, end with a final application of Nourishing Serum.

Oily or acne-prone skin: be grateful for your face's oil! It's a natural protectant that will keep your skin plump and dewy for life! You can likely tolerate a slightly more vigorous exfoliation. For the benefit of Chinese herbs, use Angelica & Peony's Serenity Scrub and Mask. Mix a tablespoon of Serenity with an equal amount of warm water and pat over your face. Gently scrub and rinse. You can also make a mask using egg white, or yogurt for a slightly stronger exfoliating effect (tutorial here). For a homemade version, grind adzuki beans in a coffee grinder or blender until fine and use as scrub or mask. End with a treatment moisturizer for oily skin such as Angelica & Peony's Three-in-One.

Uneven pigment, sun-damage, fine-lines: if these are your main issues and your skin is not very sensitive or ultra dry, try my favorite treatment: a clay mask! This is a fun article on the different types of clays, but I use Angelica & Peony's Regenerating Masque with Ginseng and French Clay, which combines the detoxifying and purifying qualities of French green clay with Chinese herbs used for centuries to nourish, rejuvenate and heal the skin. Combine the Masque or clay with water to make a paste, and apply to the face, avoiding the eyes. Let it sit until it begins to dry - not until it's so dry it cracks. Using a warm wet washcloth, wipe off and rinse your face clean. Finish with a rejuvenating product like Angelica & Peony's Regenerating Serum, or single oils with skin renewing properties like rosehip seed oil or hazelnut oil.

I'll be offering customized treatments like these in the intimate and healing atmosphere of the Manzanita Wellness Clinic in Berkeley on May 1 if you'd like to join me! The admission price includes a 1 hour workshop on self-care and restorative practices, an array of mini-treatments including customized facial renewal with me, herbal foot soaks and energy balancing massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture and private energy readings. We'll also have time for reflection, journaling, communing and tea drinking, and send you home with herbal favors to keep your inner and outer beauty nourished. Tickets are very limited, so RSVP before April 20!

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Friday Roundup - April 15, 2016

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

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Spring Salad: Denise and I have been talking about the energy of Spring and sharing supportive practices of all kinds this month on TCMTalk. In that spirit I'll be making this gorgeous shaved fennel salad to support my Liver organ system and wake up my tastebuds for springtime!

Clay-Crazy: I've been reading about and experimenting with clay based masks as I get ready for the Sanctuary Spa Day treatments I'll be giving on May 1 in Berkeley! I loved this article from StyleCaster about the benefits of different types of clays for skin.

Goddess of the Spring Sun: I was captivated by this image of Japanese Goddess/Bodhisattva Kishi-Mujin, portrayed in this painting by contemporary Japanese artist Ozuma Kaname with a very charming mother dog and her puppies. Kishi-Mujin governs easy childbirth, as well as springtime and renewal. I wasn't able to find a lot of information about her online, but this article and this one had some interesting info about her origins and observances.

Have a great weekend!


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Friday Roundup - March 11, 2016

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

Calendula calms troubled skin: I was so happy to see this article in Bustle giving an overview of the skin healing properties of calendula for acne, skin irritations and scalp problems and sharing several links to research. I love calendula oil and use it to make basic balm, ex libris balm and 3-in-1 Serum for irritated and acne prone skin.

image from

image from

Victorian Parfumers: I'm hooked on historian Mimi Matthews'  site, filled with articles about what British people wore and how they lived in the 19th Century. So I was even more excited to read her latest article about Victorian perfume blends and the botanical (and animal!) elements they used to make scents.

Which butter is better? Loved this handy guide from The Kitchn finally explaining the difference between European and American butter.

Have a great weekend!

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