Spring: Sip on a Simple Harmonizing Habit


Enjoy this guide to springtime kitchen medicine I wrote last year. -Kirsten

It's spring in the Northern hemisphere! Spring corresponds with the Wood element in the 5 element system, and looking at the energetics of the Wood element can give us lots of great ideas for staying balanced at this time of year. The cycles of the earth influence all of us earthlings! Temperatures, daylight hours, vegetation... all the things that make up our environment have an impact on us, and traditional practices can be really helpful in maintaining health and balance, even in our modern world. 

The sour flavor corresponds with the Wood element, and many of the first spring fruits like berries and citrus have a tangy sourness in contrast to the full sweetness of summer fruits. The sour taste is relaxing and softening - it has an astringent, drawing inward function (think of puckering up your lips after tasting a lemon!), which pulls fluids into the system, helping our tendons and skin be more moistened and flexible. After a winter of bulky clothes, indoor heating, dry air and being stuck inside, the sour flavor helps restore flexibility and refresh us from the inside out. Folks who have issues with hypermobility and joint laxity are advised to stay away from sour foods, especially in excess.

Spring Sour Habit: Lemon Water! Start your day with some room temperature water with lemon juice or a wedge of organic lemon, and sip it through the day to keep you hydrated and flexible. Seasonal foods like dark green veggies, berries and fresh veggies with a vinaigrette are other tasty seasonal ways to access the power of sour.

The Five Elements - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, are powerful energetic metaphors to help us be in harmony with ourselves and the natural world. My friend and colleague Denise Cicuto L.Ac and I have created a line of Healing Anointing Oils using aromatherapy in sync with the elements.

I'll be talking more about healing practices for Spring at Spring - Intro To Hatha Series - Alignment + Acupuncture - with Misia Denéa of Hatha Holistic Wellness . Early morning yoga and healing learning at @theworkingbodyoakland #SpringTimeWellness Series will begin in a few weeks and REGISTRATION is OPEN and closes next week April 5th 2019 ! I'll be the guest Monday April 15.

Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required

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: traditionalchinesemedicinetalk@gmail.com 

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!

Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required

Making Passover Special on a Grain-free Diet

More and more folks are following gluten free, grain free or other kinds of whole food style diets for health reasons. A friend of mind asked his community for ideas on how to make the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover special, given his totally grain free daily diet. It's a great question, and a good idea for all of us to think about how folks who are excluded from the traditional ways we mark special, holy and cultural celebrations can connect and be in community.

Jews observe the eight days of Passover by not eating any 'hametz' - grain products that might have risen  in anyway - basically no grain products (or legumes in many communities) except for matzah. If you're following a paleo, gluten free, grain free or other elimination style diet, you're already eating that way all year.

So how to make the holiday feel special?

If you’re not changing WHAT you eat, change HOW you eat. A special set of dishes for Passover is something most observant families have - why not get a special set of Passover plates and glasses, (get a fun mismatched set at a thrift store) or fresh table linens that will connect you to the ‘reason for the season’. 

Depending on your energy level, this might be a fun time to experiment with new recipes that are within your restrictions. Like recreations of traditional recipes (check out this squash kugel from Elana’s Pantry, instead of potato kugel, and her tzimmes recipe too. (I personally loathe tzimmes, but you do you, tzimmes lovers!)

Check out some other recipe options like paleo macaroons, and Elana's Pantry really has the best collection of grain free Passover recipes online, including gefilte fish.  If that's not festive to you because you’re making paleo gefilte fish throughout the year, I’m impressed with your yiddishkeyt!

Sephardi (North African, Southern European and Middle-Eastern) style haroset (a fruit paste that represents the mortar the Israelites used to build the pyramids) with dried fruit, toasted nuts and spices lasts much longer than Ashkenazi (Northern and Eastern European) style made with fresh apples, and can be a sweet energy boost with a Passover flavour all week long. - here’s a basic recipe that you can make with any dried fruit and spices. Traditional choices would include raisins, figs, almonds and pistachios, spiced with ginger and cinnamon. Moroccan Jews traditionally roll these into little balls, which would be a treat any day.

Passover is a commemoration of a people’s liberation from bondage - that’s what we reenact at the Seder table. The restrictions on grain foods except for flat matzah represent the haste with which we escaped Egypt, not even stopping for our bread to rise. But it is also a celebration of the earth’s liberation from winter and the rebirth of spring. It is this celebration of the earth’s renewal that give us many of the foods we are instructed to eat and to display on the Seder plate. Revel in the miracle of spring, a celebration almost all cultures share, by seeking out seasonal produce, fresh local flowers, or planting herbs for your windowsill. Hag Sameach, may all be happy, may all be liberated!


Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required

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!

Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required

Friday Roundup - April 15, 2016

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

dog-family-with-kishimojin-ozuma-kaname (1).png

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!


Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required

TCMTalk! Thursday April 7 and Thursday April 21, 4 pm PST

I'm back from my retreat and will be joining Denise of Cicuto Acupuncture for another installment of  TCM Talk , our Periscope channel where you can join us for live discussions, demos and Q&As,. We're talking SPRING during April, with some interesting esoteric discussions of the energetics of this time of year, essential oils in harmony with the season, and answering viewer questions. Find recordings of all our broadcasts on here on Katch, as well as links to everything we mention on the show,on our Pinterest Board, bit.ly/periscopepins.

Subscribe to have new blogposts delivered to your email!

* indicates required