Summertime Sippers to Beat the Heat


Curious as to why Chinese Medicine practitioners recommend against icy cold drinks on hot days? Check out this article I wrote a few years ago explaining it - plus a few recipes for my fave summer sippers!

As acupuncturists and herbalists, we like to offer alternatives to standard American or Western practices for ‘beating the heat’ that are not health promoting - icy cold drinks, that American favorite, come to mind. Access to refrigeration and summertime ice cubes is relatively recent. Before the Big Gulp with Ice, traditional summertime beverages helped to hydrate us after sweating and balance our bodies to feel more at ease in the heat. But why do TCM practitioners recommend avoiding a giant icy drink? When the body is very warm, dumping ice cold into the system causes a shock - if you've every had an upset stomach after downing a freezing drink on a hot day, or had loose stools or a headache after snowcones, ice cream or other super cold foods, you've felt the effects. Very cold foods can have a milder long term effect on the digestive system too - the digestive system is like a fire, and very cold foods make it harder to get a good flame going. (Read the NPR article linked at the bottom of this post for the modern science behind avoiding cold drinks).

Why not try these tasty treats!?

Mint and Chrysanthemum Tea: Bo he and ju hua are a classic pairing for heat and wind - great for the kind of dry heat that makes allergies flare up. It has a pleasant taste that’s palatable to most people - a little sweetening with stevia leaf, honey or rock sugar makes it even easier to drink. It’s also delicious cool.

Green Tea with Hibiscus: This is a great iced coffee or iced tea substitute as the green tea provides a gentle lift of energy without overdoing it like more caffeinated beverages. Hibiscus offers a refreshing sweet/sour flavor that benefits the liver and nourishes yin, and a beautiful red color, resonating with the Fire element of Summer. It is used in traditional medicines around the world to cool the body and improve hydration. I combine equal parts of both and make sun tea in a large mason jar.

Cantaloupe Agua Fresca: Aguas frescas (cool waters) are refreshing summer beverages made from fresh fruit, popular throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. They can easily be made without sugar for a sweet, refreshing taste of summer that doesn’t knock your spleen out and kick your blood sugar in the butt. Mix equal parts ripe cantaloupe and water in a blender and puree. A tiny pinch of salt will improve the hydrating effect and make it taste sweeter. Add a little bit of grated fresh ginger, especially if you tend towards digestive upset like gas and bloating.

Bonus recipe: try a tart and refreshing fruit shrub from my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac

All of these are delicious cool or at room temperature - but if you’d like a little accessible science to help share the wisdom of avoiding cold drinks on hot days, here’s an investigation from NPR that explains from an allopathic perspective why cold drinks make you hotter. A votre santé!

Angelica & Peony: Radiant Natural Health and Beauty products are created by an acupuncturist and herbalist. Contact me for samples and information about enhancing your practice with Angelica & Peony!



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Essential Oils for Acupuncturists (or anyone!) II: Buying essential oils

At this weekend's class I taught with Denise Cicuto on essential oils and the 5 elements, folks had a lot of questions about how to buy quality oils, and how to know who to buy from. I'm resharing this article I wrote on how to make smart purchasing decisions. One question I'll address right away - folks always ask me about the big multi-level marketing companies, and here's my answer. I don't weigh in on the quality of the oils, but I don't consider multi-level marketing to be an ethical business model, so I will not buy any type of product from an MLM, including essential oils.

When you don't know anything about essential oils, buying them seems like a no-brainer: they're everywhere! The health food store, the drug store, online stores and probably your neighbour is distributing for one of the new multi-level-marketing companies. When you learn a little bit more, suddenly it seems overwhelming: adulteration, crop variation, species variation, synthetic contaminants, organic vs. conventional... how to make sense of it all?!

Quality of essential oils is a huge topic, encompassing health concerns, international trade agreements, honest differences of opinion and multi-million dollar lawsuits. This little blog post is not intended to be exhaustive, but to share some of my own navigation through these waters with fellow acupuncturists who seek to use essential oils in their own lives or practices.

Recognizing a quality supplier

1. They know what they're talking about and share information responsibly

  • if the supplier is making unfounded claims such as disease treatment powers, or recommending uses of essential oils that are not generally regarded as safe or suitable for laypeople, I steer clear.

2. Their material and labels are clear and contain necessary information

  •  I want the label and sales material to clearly state the species of plant the oil was extracted from, the country of origin, if it is certified organic or other external certification, the method of extraction, and any additional ingredients. Here's a comprehensive example from Mountain Rose for bergamot oil. Extraction method of bergamot oil determines whether the oil contains bergaptenes, which cause the photosensitivity reactions that are a serious caution in using bergamot oil. This is vital information to have available when purchasing this oil.

3. Their prices make sense

  • essential oils are incredibly precious. It takes thousands of pounds of raw plant material to make an ounce of essential oil. If a price is 'too good to be true,' it is. Check out the results of laboratory testing on a $20 'essential oil' starter kit recently offered at a big box store. Cheap prices for oils are created by adulteration - either with a carrier oil (this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's clearly labelled and you know what you're getting), with cheaper species such as lavandin for lavender, or rose geranium for rose, or synthetic additives such as menthol in peppermint. Caveat emptor!

4. They offer test results or other quality control evidence

  • Your supplier is purchasing from growers and distillers, many all over the world, and must rely on their initial quality control.  Good companies have documented methods of verifying that the oils they are buying and reselling are the real thing. Here's an example from Osadhi, talking about the testing they do on oils. I recently joined the Blue Tansy Analysis facebook group, which pools donated funds to pay for third party testing of essential oil companies. This can be a real rabbit hole of science + politics, but both the test results and how a company deals with adverse results (which can happen even to excellent companies) is very educational.

5. They are recommended by practitioners you trust

  • This is the 'fuzziest' of my recommendations. But in addition to fancy laboratory testing, 'organoleptic' testing is also important - this is the sensory analysis made by an experienced practitioner based on their years of experience. It's very important in the identification and quality control of raw herbs, and can be equally so for essential oils. Taking in person classes with respected teachers gives you the opportunity to smell high quality essential oils and experience the subtle differences from quality, country of origin, freshness etc. Here's an example of organoleptic analysis by Robert Tisserand on a peppermint essential oil that turned out to have synthetic adulterants:
Our Essential Oil Expert comment after an organoleptic assessment (sniff test!): This essential oil smells very pleasant, but it lacks the “clean” odor of a quality peppermint oil. It is over-sweet and reminiscent of a peppermint and dark chocolate candy. This would be consistent with a low concentration of added ethyl vanillin, a powerful odorant that smells of vanilla/chocolate. (Source)

I hope this has been a helpful overview of some of the factors to consider when purchasing essential oils! They are powerful medicine, and our globalized world means we have access to oils we might never otherwise smell, let alone use in our daily lives - but it also means we're not distilling our own essential oils from flowers we grew! It's up to us to make responsible choices and support the companies that are striving to ethically and sustainably bring these oils to us.



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Essential Oil Safety for Acupuncturists

Essential oils and aromatherapy are growing in popularity among acupuncturists. And why not? Aromatherapy offers a natural, pleasurable, effective adjunct to treatments with needles and herbs, with no down side.

Except there can be a downside. Essential oils are so dramatically effective because of their power - which must be respected. A single drop of lavender oil contains an entire cup of lavender blossoms. So what do we need to know as acupuncturists integrating these powerful plant medicines into our practices?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to continue my studies with Josephine Spilkas, whose Nectar of Plants series is one I highly recommend for anyone seeking to deepen their work with essential oils in a Chinese Medicine context. I give credit to Josephine for many of these considerations, but Robert TisserandEssential Oil University and The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy are other useful sources for understanding essential oils and how to use them safely. I wanted to share what I have learned from these and other teachers, and also from hard-won personal experience in terms of adverse reactions I've had over the almost 30 years I've been using essential oils - let my rashes, headaches and hives be of benefit to you in your practice!

1. Dilution: Allergic reactions, skin irritation and sensitization are all possible side effects from essential oils. Using safe dilutions is key to minimizing them. Under 10% is often cited as a safe dilution rate, but many oils have lower dilution recommendations. For regular and repeated use, lower dilutions are advised. All Angelica & Peony products are formulated to have dilution rates of 2% or lower, designed for repeated and 'non-prescription' use. Mountain Rose Herbs has a handy dilution guide.

2. Rotation: sensitization, the development of an allergic response through repeated contact, and habituation, the loss of therapeutic benefit over time, can both be minimized by rotating the oils you are using with specific clients and avoiding long term daily use of any one oil, as well as proper dilution.

3. Ventilation: this is a vital consideration for acupuncturists, especially if you are using acupuncture point therapy. Is your treatment space easily ventilated? Do you have a sealed trash can to dispose of applicators? Can you prevent your next patient from getting a dose of the oil you just used? And what about you - imagine if you took every formula you prescribed, all day long. That's what's happening when you expose yourself repeatedly to concentrated essential oil vapours during acupoint therapy. As well as air filtration, consider whether your skin is coming into contact with undiluted oils. When working with oils in my workroom, I wear nitrile gloves to avoid accidental skin exposure, and suggest the same in your treatment room, especially if you are using neat oils for acupoint treatments.

The benefits of acupoint therapy can make it worthwhile - but having pre-diluted blends at safe dilutions ready to go is one of the reasons I created my healing oils. (Even with dilute applications, you will still need to ventilate between patients!)

Essential oils are a powerful and evocative adjunct to the Chinese Medicine practitioner's tool chest - using them with respect and caution will ensure a long and beneficial relationship between you, your patients, and the 'spirits of the plants'.

I collect interesting and useful links about essential oils and aromatherapy on my Pinterest Board.

Coming in Part II: How to buy essential oils - this was a question I got through my facebook page, and it's a very important one - one that needs it's own article! You can see some guidelines through the teachers and organizations I list above, and I'll collect my own recommendations here shortly.

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Solving your Period Problems with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Solving your Period Problems with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine - talking with TCM gynecologist Denise Cicuto.

Photo by  Marie Halloran

Denise Cicuto is an acupuncturist and herbalist with two busy practices in San Francisco and Alameda. She’s a family physician with a special focus on gynecology and immune system issues. We’ve been friends and colleagues (and given each other lots of healing) since we met in acupuncture school almost 15 years ago. I talked with Denise last week about ‘Women’s Health’ and Chinese medicine.

Before we got to my questions about Denise’s practice and treatments, we talked a bit (and the recorder malfunctioned, hence this recap) about the gender spectrum, health care for transgender people, and how our feminism shapes our work as healers. The area of healthcare that Denise and I are talking about is usually called ‘Women’s Health’ - but in fact, not every woman has a period, or even a uterus - and not everyone who has a period or uterus is a woman. There’s not a great inclusive umbrella term yet to describe the connected areas of menstrual health, hormone health, fertility, infertility, childbearing, breastfeeding, breast health. As holistic physicians, Denise and I don’t compartmentalize these things anyway, but in our conversation we focused on ‘menstrual health’ and here, as in our work, we did our best to be inclusive and thoughtful in our use of language.

Kirsten: Denise, can you tell me about how you developed this interest and eventually specialization?

Denise: I first was introduced to acupuncture and Chinese medicine because I was diagnosed with endometriosis (a very painful condition of the uterine lining). I was either in tremendous pain or I was completely spaced out from pain killing drugs. It was taking a huge toll on my work and my life! I had a friend who was an acupuncturist who encourage me to try it. I was able to reduce and eventually eliminate the pain and the drugs for the pain. I was hooked and enrolled in acupuncture school myself.

K. What’s the most rewarding part of doing the kind of work for you?

Photo by  Chloe Jackman

Photo by Chloe Jackman

D: When a patient that I’ve been treating for severe menstrual pain comes in for an appointment, and can’t remember when their last period was, because it was painless! I also love getting ‘I’m pregnant’ emails and calls. And the only time I don’t mind a last minute cancellation is when my patients go into labor! You’re off the hook for my cancellation policy if you’re in your third trimester!

(Denise and I laughed constantly through the whole interview but I’m going to spare you the transcription of that dear readers!)

K: Well, on the other side of the coin, what do you find the most challenging part of this work?

D: The most challenging thing is definitely when folks expect miracles - dramatic changes in just a few treatments. Often, people come in to try ‘alternative’ medicine after they’ve exhausted all the treatments that western medicine has to offer. That means they’ve often had the condition for a long time and it’s deeply rooted. They could also be experiencing complications or other symptoms related to the Western treatments they’ve tried. The other thing that’s really challenging for us as practitioners is when our patients experience pregnancy loss. I’ve written an article about helping patients, and ourselves, when it happens - which it will. I’m also part of the community that created Spirit Babies , an annual ritual space for people who’ve been touched by pregnancy loss.

K: What is the most unexpected thing? Or something that surprises patients?

D: What surprises me is more like being amazed - I’m constantly amazed at how well our medicine works. I KNOW it works, but it still amazes me - to hear ‘my hot flashes are gone’ ‘my periods don’t hurt’

K: I know that feeling - it never gets old!

D: My patients are surprised by the results as well.

K: I sometimes have that feeling that the surprise has something to do with the fact that the culture around us doesn’t see it. Is that part of why we’re surprised? Because we don’t live in a culture that knows how well this works. Especially with menstrual health. The fact that most people don’t have to have irregular periods for example, if they got acupuncture and herbs, is news to most people.

D: Yes! I’m surprised more people don’t try it!

K: What do wish that everyone knew about TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) gynecology?

D: We don’t talk about our periods a lot. I would like people to know that if they got acupuncture - they’d have even LESS reason to talk about their period!

K: That’s your slogan! “don’t like talking about your periods? Get acupuncture and you won’t have anything to talk about because they’ll be no problem!”

(we paused here to laugh at our acupuncture joke)

K: How do you use A&P oils in your clinic?

D: I love using Swimming Dragon and moxa before the period, and Tranquil Palace and moxa during. And if patients aren’t coming in at that time, I send them home with A&P oils and a kit that is a belly bowl and moxa and they can put them on at home, I tell my patients where on the belly to put them. For regulating the period, moods, cramps, they can apply the oils to acupressure points. Under the breasts and the rib area under the breasts (Liver 14 area) is good for qi stagnation in the chest, with symptoms like breast distention and sighing, and for emotional issues - and I remind patients to take their hands and inhale the oil when they are done with massage - which will lift and calm your shen, your spirit.

K: So typically you’re doing treatments in the treatment room with the oils, but that protocol is one that folks can do at home as well? Oil and then moxa on top?

D: Yes. this is the best part about Chinese medicine for me - we involve our patients in the medicine. It’s not ‘come to acupuncture, get acupuncture, take pills, go home’. It’s your health journey - I’m just your guide!

K: So true! Especially the way that you practice, and that’s my motivation as well. You can literally be doing things for yourself and be creating a loving relationship with your body, through the healing practices you’re offering, like moxa, oils, acupuncture.

D: Yes, nutrition and exercise as well. Even if I don’t prescribe specific exercises, I’ll tell folks, talk to your yoga teacher about specific asanas. The best thing you can do for yourself - if you’re experiencing pain during any part of your menstrual cycle - is MOVE! One of my mentors, Daoshing Ni, always says that. The best thing to do is move. You’re moving your qi, moving your blood - even if it’s walking your dog, walking around the room - that’s the best thing you can do for yourself!

You can experience Denise’s healing touch yourself at either of her two clinics in San Francisco and Alameda, and mention Angelica & Peony to get 10% off your first visit!

Denise and I will be live on Periscope on Tuesday, September 22 at 4 pm PST to show you how you can use Angelica & Peony oils and her belly moxa kit to give yourself an at-home treatment.


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Acupuncture for Beauty - "I'm Loving my Face!"

My friend and colleague Prajna Choudhury L.Ac, is a healer, herbalist and thinker that I love and respect - so I’ve been wanting to share some of her wisdom with Angelica & Peony! We chatted a few days ago about the acupuncture facial rejuvenation work she does in her practice - and dove into issues of Chinese Medicine, healing, feminism, self-acceptance and the vibrational frequency of facial serums!

Prajna practices in Oakland California at Energy Matters Acupuncture and Qi Gong, and she’s my acupuncturist as well as my friend.

How did you first become interested in facial rejuvenation acupuncture?

I began doing facial rejuvenation as a student intern at Yo San University. I studied with Dr. Yue Ying Li, a gifted dermatologist and facial rejuvenation practitioner, and patients began asking me for it. I continued my training and practice of facial acupuncture after graduation when I worked on a cruise ship.

In the first years of my practice, I began studying with Virginia Doran, teacher of constitutional facial acupuncture.That really changed everything! Her techniques are amazing. Her teaching is truly grounded in the medicine, and politically and spiritually I really resonated with her approach.

Can you say more about the politics and spirituality of  facial acupuncture?!

People hear about facial rejuvenation acupuncture and they sometimes put it in the same box as surgical face lift, or botox, which are the opposite of what we do here.  I’m thrilled to give people safe, natural, and health-promoting alternatives to these kinds of treatments.  We all care about beauty - and we don’t need to buy into the belief that that requires doing harm to ourselves, physically or psychically.

There’s a certain feminist philosophy, rooted in the second wave of the seventies, that really opposed practices that were perceived as being about external looks or conventional ideas of femininity. It was the “flip side of the coin” of notions of feminine beauty that came from a patriarchal system. In most things, I’m more interested in the ‘grey areas’ between black and white thinking.

Instead of rejecting beauty altogether because of oppressive standards that exist, third wave/post-colonial feminism celebrates and encourages our diversity and external expressions of our inner life. To me, it's about reclaiming what beauty is: that beauty is not skin deep, not superficial, not about making ourselves into something that we're not. Beauty to me is really about allowing the radiance of our spirits shine through our countenance. Beauty is all around us in nature. And that beauty is also inside of us.

It bugs me that beauty is so gendered in our society… true beauty is important for people of all genders! I've had cis-gender, straight and gay men, as well as transgender men come to me for facial rejuvenation - it's not just for women. To me facial rejuvenation is about increasing happiness and well-being of body, mind, and spirit and allowing that to radiate outward through our face, through the spirit that shines out of our eyes.

Wow! That’s a great way of framing it. Can you say more about what the experience of this kind of treatment is like?

Well, we get body work on our bodies, massage, acupuncture - but who touches our face?! It's very nurturing and nourishing - we use our facial muscles more than any other muscles - and we hold a lot of stress and tension in our faces. So it's about allowing some relaxation of the tension in our faces, allowing nurturing and nourishment. From a Chinese medicine standpoint, dealing with excesses like muscle tension, and also deficiencies, allowing the yin and the blood to really innervate the face. You can see that by way of increasing collagen and moisture.

I do two kinds of treatment - Virgina Doran's style which is very intensive and at Energy Matters we call ‘Facelift Acupuncture’. I also do Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation or AFR which is less intensive, uses fewer needles, and is combined with an herbal facial treatment. The AFR series brings an overall glow to the face, increases collagen, reduces fine lines, and evens out colouring. Facelift Acupuncture really addresses the effects of gravity and a lifetime of stress and emotions showing up in our faces - so, deeper wrinkles as well as sagging. It lifts everything - in Chinese medicine terms it treats the falling of spleen qi constitutionally, not only in the face. It's a strongly raising treatment - so I screen out folks with yang rising symptoms including high blood pressure or migraines - they are better suited to the AFR series. And in both treatments, I incorporate facial massage. In AFR, the herbal facial is followed by a tuina massage, which is gentle and has an energetic healing component, and with Facelift Acupuncture, it's more of a deep tissue massage to help release muscle tension in the face, using essential oils that are beneficial for the skin.

How do people typically respond to the treatment? And what age can folks start this kind of care?

Yes, that's me getting a treatment!

Yes, that's me getting a treatment!

As with all acupuncture, different people respond differently, and people respond better when they do a course of treatment and follow that with maintenance. In general, I see all of my patients have increased collagen and a ‘dewiness’ to their faces. You can start at any age! I used to sometimes say 'you don't need this!' to younger patients, recommending the milder AFR rather than the more intensive Facelift Acupuncture treatments. But one of my Facelift patients, who is 60 years old, said to me ‘I wish I knew about this 20 years ago - it really works and would have been a great preventative!’ And she is right! In classical Chinese medicine texts, around 30 is when the yang ming channels of the face stop bringing nourishment to the face, so that would be an ideal time to begin - that age would be a great time to start, with a preventative focus - once a season, or once a month, and then incorporating a treatment series/course if needed as time goes by. Preventative treatment is always the best!

What are some unexpected benefits you see? 

It's acupuncture! Every facial rejuvenation treatment, we're doing a health intake, I'm looking at tongue and pulse, recommending herbs if needed, so it’s just regular healing acupuncture with an added focus on the face. So patients find that their energy is better, stress and aches and pains reduced, digestion and sleep improved; everything acupuncture is good for, this is good for!

Patients also often tell me, 'I'm loving my face!' which makes me so happy to hear! Unfortunately, what often brings people in to this kind of treatment is that they're not feeling happy with themselves and their faces. Besides the tangible or visible results, something happens where people are able to be more loving towards themselves. I often hear patients say they 'feel their face' - they used to feel a disconnection between their head and their body, and now they feel the energy in their face. One of my long term patients decided to stop colouring her gray hair following treatments - she discovered a new place of self-acceptance, feeling good about herself and loving herself as she is. And this is something I see again and again. It's not like people are getting facial rejuvenation and then progressing to botox or facelifts. I don't really see that. In other words, the benefit of these treatments is not just superficial, but is happening holistically and on a deep level. These treatments can harmonize the shen or spirit and address underlying issues of non-acceptance and lack of self love. 

As a practitioner, these treatments are also a gift! When It's a busy day and I'm going from patient to patient, the pace can be intense. Doing facial acupuncture gives me a time out to really be present, loving the patient - touching their face with intention and channeling love. I really enjoy giving that kind of nourishing treatment - and of course my patients love receiving them! Facial treatments are my patients’ favourites - health, beauty, and pampering all in one!

You're a long time user of and inspiration for Angelica & Peony products. How do they connect with your facial rejuvenation practice?

I use A & P facial oils in my AFR kit, with the jade roller massage.  I select the serum most suitable for each patient.  And I recommend them to my patients for their own at-home care.  I use the Nourishing Serum for myself, which I love for everyday use. Besides being awesome for my skin, I actually feel happy when I use it! The more experienced I get as a practitioner, both of Chinese Medicine and of meditation, I feel very sensitive to the energies of things - if I use products that are not good energy, I can feel the difference. I know the quality of the ingredients that you use and the love you put into it, and I feel that in my face - the serum vibrates at a high frequency (I know that is so woo-woo!). It's very similar thing to what we’ve been talking about with facial acupuncture - putting loving attention towards the face, morning and evening, and combining effectiveness with a more spiritual or soulful dimension - they are a great adjunct and support to my facial acupuncture treatments.

Read more about Facial Acupuncture with Prajna (and book a treatment!) on her website

If you’re a practitioner and would like to incorporate the loving energy of Angelica & Peony products into your services to patients, visit my practitioner page and contact me to receive samples or place an order!


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Summerheat: The Seasonal Pathogen

“When in the skies there is heat, and on the earth there is fire...its nature is Summerheat.” (Su Wen, Chapter 67)

We still think of “flu season” or “cold season” but our ancestors had to be exquisitely sensitive to the seasonal and environmental conditions that could trigger illness. Whether from the prevalence of disease carrying insects or animals at certain times, spoiled food in warm weather, crowded, airless conditions in cold weather, or the weather itself… as in the case of Summerheat. I enjoyed refreshing my memories about the theory, diagnosis and treatment of Summerheat, and hope you do as well!

We don’t see a lot of Summerheat in the clinic these days. If someone has heatstroke or sunpoisoning, they are probably (and unfortunately!) not coming in to see their TCM practitioner. But it’s helpful to understand the mechanisms of Summerheat and how to treat it, both for home care and first aid, and as a reminder of how heat can enter the body, and be guided out of it.

The onset of Summerheat invasion is very abrupt. It’s considered a yang pathogen, moving quickly and strongly. Someone can go from fine to showing symptoms in minutes. Mild Summerheat is something we’ve probably all seen and experienced personally. It’s characterized by thirst, headache, profuse sweating, dizziness and dry mouth and tongue. Severe cases will have fever, mental confusion and even convulsions. The tongue will be red and the pulse will be rapid and surging. The external heat pathogen is injuring the Yin energy and fluids of the body - a classic example of ‘excess transforms to deficiency.’ The Yang nature of Summerheat leads it to move upward and outward (the Yang directions). Summerheat invasion can be complicated with Damp, Cold or Wind, either from internal or external sources, bringing other symptoms into the mix.

Treatment of Summerheat

Acupuncture treatment for Summerheat focuses on clearing Heat - needling Du 14, UB 40, LI 11 - the classic cooling points. PC 6 is also appropriate - it clears heat, but also directly connects to and regulates the Heart, the organ of the Fire element, and most vulnerable to attack from a heat pathogen.

Gua sha is an excellent heat clearing remedy and can easily be done at home (or at the beach!) Gua sha the back, neck, shoulders and even the armpit and the crook of the elbow.

Classically, the focus of herbal treatment would be on heat clearing, such as Bai Hu Tang. I have used shi gao (gypsum) alone topically (dissolved in water) to good effect on a sunburn, although it’s unlikely your patients have it in the medicine cabinet. Bai bian dou (hyacinth bean), he ye (lotus leaf) lu dou (mung bean) and xi gua (watermelon) are the summerheat clearing herbs in the materia medica, and all are the kind of food herb that can be kept on hand and either added to meals or at the ready should someone get overheated. Fresh apricots are also a folk remedy for summerheat. I’ve suggested an easy recipe for treating mild cases, using cucumber and mint, at the end of the article.

Treating complicating patterns

Damp: Summerheat Damp is very common, and some texts indicated that all summerheat patterns have a damp component. Certainly in hot humid climates, Summerheat Damp is what you’ll see and suffer from. It can also be caused by drinking large amounts of cold drinks in reaction to hot weather, damaging the spleen and adding damp to the heat. In addition to heat signs, the patient may feel a sense of oppression or obstruction in the chest or stomach, congestion in the ears, and have a phlegmy cough, scanty urine, or clear, watery diarrhea.

Cold: Summerheat can easily be complicated by cold in modern times! Hot weather outside and frigid air conditioning brings the two pathogens together. The Cold constricts the energy of the body and causes pain, leading to symptoms such as headache and body aches, fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Patient education: This is a great time to teach TCM based health habits! Eating and especially drinking appropriately to the season, protecting the body and especially the back of the neck from wind in air-conditioned offices, and regular acupuncture treatments are all habits to share with your patients so they can thrive during the summerheat season.

SummerHeat Rescue Drink.

I’ve suggested cucumber here as a substitute for xi gua. Cultivated melons are quite sweet and can be too hard on the spleen or increase dampness. The cucumber will cool you off in a jiffy.

In a blender puree a whole cucumber (about 1-2 cups of flesh) and a small handful of fresh mint. If the cucumber is not organic or has a thick skin, peel first. Dilute with an equal amount of room temperature filtered water and sip slowly. You may add a squeeze of lime to taste.

Angelica & Peony: Radiant Natural Health and Beauty products are created by an acupuncturist and herbalist. Contact me for samples and information about enhancing your practice with Angelica & Peony!


Bensky, Dan and Randall Barolet. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies. Eastland Press, 1990.

Bensky, Dan and Andrew Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, Revised Edition. Eastland Press, 1993.

Deadman, Peter and Mazin Al-Khafaji. A Manual of Acupuncture, Revised Edition. Eastland Press, 2005

Deng, Tietao. Practical Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, 1999.

Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Churchill Livingstone, 1989.

Ni, Maoshing, PhD, and Cathy McNease. The Tao of Nutrition. Seven Star Communications, 1987.

Xinnong, Cheng. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Languages Press, 1999.

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