Summer Wellness Series: Herbs for Late Summer

This article is seventh in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: self-care practices including essential oil picks for Late Summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Herbs for the Late Summer + Earth Element

by Erin Wood, L.Ac

Welcome to the late summer!!! This season is the transition from summer to fall, the time of the spleen organ. The spleen prefers a dry, warm environment. Cold and damp climates and certain cold or raw foods can hinder its function and gunk it up. We can balance this dampness and support the spleen by sprinkling these additional herbs and spices into our food and drink:

  • Cardamom

  • Sichuan peppers

  • Ground white pepper

  • Tangerine peel, and other citrus like the Buddha’s hand

  • Licorice root, sometimes fried in honey

  • Dried ginger root

  • Green or Jasmine Tea

  • Raspberry Leaf Tea

  • Nettle Leaf Tea

  • Turmeric, like Golden Milk

  • Garlic

  • Parsley

The category of herbs that most support the spleen is the Tonify the Qi group, which means to boost the available energy and vitality. Two of these Tonify Qi herbs are also adaptogens: Ginseng and Astragalus. An adaptogen is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to have a normalizing effect overall. I prefer American Ginseng over Korean Ginseng, it is actually slightly cooling, thirst-quenching, helps with diabetes and doesn’t raise blood pressure. Astragalus is a sweet and warm herb that goes to the lung and spleen channels to boost the immune system. Red Chinese dates also Tonify the Qi, they are easy to digest. Dates are delicious in well-cooked rice with carrots and some ginseng slices, a super energy booster!

Read the entire article at erinwoodacupuncture.com

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Summer Wellness Series: Late Summer, transition and belonging

This article is fifth in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: healing recipes and beverages for Late Summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Late Summer is the season of the earth element.  Now is the time when the heat of summer transitions into the cool consolidation of the autumn.  It is a good idea to boost our immune systems before the fall completely sets in. Earth is associated with the color yellow, which makes me think of our golden hills in California during this time.  The fire of the summer generates ash, that is of the earth. We are seeing this perhaps too literally right now with the wildfires turning our hills and homes to ash.

The earth element is the center, just as our digestion is central to our health.  Earth presides over the spleen and stomach organs, which help us to transform and transport our food and nutrients.  The spleen and the stomach are the origin of our energy and blood. Having a condition like celiac disease can lead to absorption issues and anemia.  The spleen opens into the mouth, so chew carefully, all year round. Eat cooked food if you have any issues digesting raw food. Steamed veggies or soups are already partially broken down, making it easier to absorb nutrients.  Also, avoid too much sweet, dairy, or rich sauces. The spleen organs dislikes dampness, and dampness can be oily, greasy foods like an alfredo sauce or even ice cream. By supporting the spleen, we support the heart, which houses our spirit.  This connection reminds us of how 95% of our serotonin, which affects our mood, is found in our bowels. Check out this article for more: GutSecondBrain

Disharmonies of the earth element and this season include digestive issues and fluid movement problems such as poor appetite, loose stools, gas, bloating, and swollen legs.  The spleen controls the muscles, so if you feel tired while you are digesting after meals, you might need a spleen boost. Bleeding issues, like early periods or hemorrhoids, can be due to spleen weakness since the spleen keeps the blood in the vessels.  The spleen raises the energy up in our bodies, so be watchful for any prolapse of organs or sunken spirits. We will discuss recipes and herbs that support your earth element in the coming posts, so stay tuned.

The Earth element is the peacemaker.  Earth is about home, community, comfort, family and bringing folks together.  People who identify as being close to the earth element can be very practical, nurturing, and rooted.  Loyalty and responsibility are additional characteristics, which can have a flip-side of people-pleasing, being overprotective, and selfish.  People-pleasing or any codependent tendencies have a manipulative side to them if one is trying to get others to need them. When we help others and are of service, what is our motivation?  Is there ego involved? Is there a savior complex playing a role? We need to check our intentions when it comes to needing to be needed, looking for something in return, keeping tabs, and eventually building resentments, which doesn’t build bridges.

The Earth element tends toward worry, overthinking, ruminations and obsessive thoughts.  That is like when a song is stuck in your head or you are replaying a situation over and over again, even though nothing can truly be done about it now.  

Read more about the unique energies of this time of year at erinwoodacupuncture.com

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Summer Wellness Series: Summer Soaks + Soothers

Essential Oils and Self-care practices for summer

This article is fourth in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: the energetics of the fifth season: Late Summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

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What is self-care? It’s a popular buzzword these days - #selfcare - but what does it mean? I think of self-care practices as not just things we can do for ourselves that promote health, but as loving time we take for ourselves. ‘Self-care’ can’t solve all our problems, but it can be an important part of our mental and physical well-being. Whether it’s dry-brushing, face masks, self-massage or herbal steaming - it’s as much about spending loving, soothing time with your body as any specific outcome. Take the opportunity of giving yourself a ‘beauty treatment’ to give yourself a love treatment - slow down, use natural and non-toxic ingredients, and send yourself some messages of love and care.

Summer Scents and Soothers: 3 essential oils and 5 self-care practices to try this summer

What are the best essential oils to enjoy in the summertime? The answer is endless, but here’s three of my faves to help you keep cool and balanced in summertime

Ylang ylang: this sweet, floral oil has an instant cooling and refreshing effect. It has a sedative quality that calms fire-type symptoms like agitation, insomnia and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure.

Lime: Lime is also a cooling oil and has an affinity with the digestive system - great if summer heat is making our digestion sluggish or our appetite is weak. Lime has an uplifting, anti-depressant effect that gives a sense of being ‘refreshed’. Like other citrus oils, lime causes photosensitivity where you can burn your skin with just a small amount of sun exposure. Don’t use lime oil containing products on exposed skin, use in appropriate dilution, and look for steam-distilled lime, which doesn’t contain the photosensitizing compounds. I like to use steam-distilled lime for topical application, and cold-pressed for inhaling, as the cold-pressed lime has a fresher, cooler scent.

Peppermint: Peppermint is VERY cooling. It’s menthol compounds are what put the ‘ice’ in icy-hot style rubs like Warming and Ginger Menthol. It benefits acute ‘wind-heat’ conditions with sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, and red, itchy eyes. It can make us feel energized by moving Liver Qi and releasing frustrated, pent-up energy. Peppermint and lavender is a great combination.

You can use these oils in some of the best body-caring practices to try in summer:

Foot soaks

Ending the day with a cool or lukewarm bath can help swollen, tired feet, as well as helping you sleep (use a warmer bath for extra help falling asleep after a hectic summer day.

Try an epsom + essential oil combo. Mix together 2 cups of epsom salts with 5 drops of essential oil blended in a tablespoon of carrier oil - try ylang ylang and lime with coconut oil, or peppermint in sunflower oil. Fill a foot tub with warm water and dissolve in the epsom salts. Chill out in the soak for 10-15 minutes (no more than 20) and dry your feet off.

Try finishing up with a soothing foot massage - I like to use Swimming Dragon oil, or Legs N All from By Nieves. Coconut or avocado oil works great too.

If sandals and hot asphalt have your feet calloused and dry, try a foot scrub during your bath - mix melted coconut oil with an equal amount of granulated sugar. Add a few herbs like lavender blossoms, mint leaves or rosepetals for added scent. Store in a glass jar and use a spoonful to scrub your feet before you take them out of the bath.

Self-massage: This is a truly luxurious way to spend quality time with yourself! I like to follow the guidelines of abhyanga from Ayurvedic medicine, which uses warmed oil and gentle strokes towards your heart to stimulate circulation, benefit the lymphatic system and cleanse and moisturize the skin. After the massage, jump in a warm shower and rinse off the oil - it’s the oil cleansing method for your body! , Here’s an in-depth how-to from Banyan Botanicals (including when to avoid abhyanga).

I hope you enjoy incorporating some of these healing and loving self-care practices into your summer!


 

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Summer Wellness Series: Summertime Herbs

This article is third in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: self-care practices and essential oils. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Summer is the most sunny, energetic, and yang time of the year.  And as we mentioned in previous posts, the season of summer is associated with the fire element, which is linked to the bitter flavor.  That cooling and detoxifying bitter taste clears the heat in the summertime. Kirsten talked about foods and beverages that you can consume in the summer to balance that rising fire, like an escarole salad or cacao nibs sprinkled on diced peaches.  Below are some bitter herbs that you can also use both medicinally and in your kitchen. And since heat can cause irritation, agitation and insomnia, we can also take calming herbs like valerian root or passion flower and minerals like calcium and magnesium that will help settle and anchor the spirit.  

The bitter taste is pharmacologically active and stimulates digestion and our taste receptors.  We even have bitter taste receptors in our sinuses and nasal passages that can protect us from bacteria and viruses!

Bitter subdues the rebellious Qi that is moving in the wrong direction, like nausea or belching.  The bitter taste can also be strong and cold, which can injure the spleen system that helps our digestion absorb nutrients properly.  Once again, it is finding the balance of regulating the energy without overdoing it. Always remember to chew well! This helps the spleen system begin the breakdown and absorption of all the nourishment we need for each of our cells.  Also, don’t take in too much liquid during your meal, especially cool liquid or ice water, which can slow down digestion and dilute digestive enzymes. If you are going to have an iced beverage, melt it in your mouth, almost like chewing your drink, before swallowing it.

Bitter counteracts heat.  Heat can invade from the exterior, causing both chills and fever as your body tries to defend you.  Exterior heat can also come with headaches. Wind tends to bring heat in through the sinuses or back of the neck.  Heat can be internal, only causing fever, since the heat has already reached past the skin level. Once it is internal, you might see symptoms like dark urine, dry mouth, and either constipation or diarrhea.  Below are quite a few common bitter, heat-clearing herbs used in Chinese Medicine. If you have specific symptoms that aren’t resolving or you have any questions, please ask your acupuncturist for a custom formula.  Western herbs are often used alone, Chinese Herbs are mainly used in formulas that can be tailored to you. There are Chinese herbs that go to certain areas of the body, like the head or the skin. Heat can also combine with other factors, like dampness, wind, or toxins and there are specific herbs for each of those situations.  

Common Chinese Herbs that can be easily used in the summertime to cool down the system are mint, chrysanthemum flowers, various parts of the lotus plant, mung beans, and watermelon fruit.  Barley tea is easy to find at Asian markets and makes a tasty sun tea. Note: If you are gluten sensitive or intolerant, skip the barley tea

Read more about herbs for summer ailments at www.erinwoodacupuncture.com

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Summer Wellness Series: Eating for the Heat!

This article is second in a special Summer Wellness Series I'm collaborating on with my colleague Erin Wood L.Ac. Next week: herbs, tonics and supplements for summer. Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

A guiding principle of holistic health systems including Traditional Chinese Medicine is harmony or balance. So healthful eating in summer means feeding ourselves in a way that offsets the extremes of the seasons and keeps us in harmony with the earth's energies. What this is exactly will vary depending on the climate - traditional seasonal foods from where you live are the best place to start! For those of us with hot, dry summers like Northern California here's three things to consider

1. Hydration: we're in the dry season - the earth is parched, fires are burning and it's a long way to go before the rains of winter. 

2. Seasonal produce: what's fresh, local and available right now? These foods are naturally in sync with what our bodies need, and make meal times tasty and fun.

3. Energetics: part of 'food medicine' - certain flavors help us balance the external energies coming at us and keep us on an even keel

Hydration - healthful and tasty summer bevvies:

There's something so 'summery' about a big glass of a refreshing, beautifully colored beverage, even better if sipped on a patio with friends and your feet up! There's a lot of options out there that might not help you feel great, like sugary sodas and alcoholic beverages. It's great to have options that will restore you, rather than leaving you having to recover the next day!

Sun tea: brew herbal tea in a half gallon mason jar or jug in a sunny spot. Great choices for cooling summer hydration include hibiscus, mint, lemon balm and chrysanthemum. Put 1/4 cup of herbs in half a gallon of water and leave in the sun for a few hours until it's strong enough. Strain to drink.

Shrubs and switchels: delightfully refreshing old fashioned drinks. Vinegar, sweetener and ginger are added to water, along with fruits or other flavorings. You can buy readymade shrub bases in many health food stores and liquor stores, or experiment with making your own. Try this strawberry shrub recipe from Erin.

Earth Wisdom: seasonal foods have what we need!

Foods in season at this time of year are light, refreshing, usually easy to digest even when raw, and packed with water. Melons, stonefruit, grapes and berries, and veggies like summer squash, artichokes, cucumbers, snap peas, broccoli, tomatoes and lettuce. In general, most people don't do well with a ton of raw foods in their diet - we evolved to eat cooked foods and it is easier on our digestion. At the height of summer we can often tolerate more raw foods - but if you still find you have gas, bloating and indigestion with raw veggies, try a cooked veg salad.

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Energetics: Healing with the Flavor of the Heart.

Last week Erin talked about the energy of Summer - it's the season of the Fire element and the Heart. We're 'fired up' and open to connection, eating together with friends, family and lovers, and especially tuned to beauty and love in our mealtimes. The flavor of the Fire element is bitter. Bitter has a cooling, descending quality, and a small amount can help us cool off and feel more grounded. It's a flavor that's often neglected in Western diets. Try adding some bitter greens like escarole or dandelion to your salad, sprinkling a few raw cacao nibs on a bowl of diced peaches, or have some herbal bitters in water -especially if you're feeling overwhelmed with the fiery energy of summer, too hot, too much, overdrawn on social energy or having trouble sleeping or 'coming down' after fun and exciting times.

Seasonal eating is the heritage of all people! Here's a few of my favorite sources to learn more (and get lots of recipes!) Please let me know some of yours in the comments!

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection, Jessica Prentice

Staying Healthy with the Seasons, Elson Haas MD

The Tao of Nutrition, Maoshing Ni PhD and Cathy McNease

Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morrell

Recipes for Self-Healing, Daverick Leggett

The Ayurvedic Cookbook, Urmila Desai

The Yin-Yang Diet, Tara Akuna R.Ac. & Sara Ward R.Ac.

 

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Summertime Sippers to Beat the Heat

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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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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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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!

Sources:

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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The Whole Beet

I’m a huge beet fan - and whether at the grocery store or the farmer’s market, the nicest, freshest looking beets always come with their tops attached. For a long time, I was stymied by the tops and how to use them. I would remove them as soon as I got the beets home, as you’re supposed to do with carrots and other root veggies, to keep the juices in the roots, and cook the beets, while the greens would rapidly wilt in my fridge until I woefully composted them a few days later.

Until, that is, I found the simplest way to cook the whole beet - tops and bottoms into one delicious dish. I make this several times a month, and throughout most of the year - lucky me, beets are available to me locally year round. At this time of year, this is a wonderful, solid veggie dish that can be eaten warm, cold or at room temperature. Check out my recent blog post for more hot weather veggie dishes.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, as in Ayurveda and other traditional systems, foods and herbs are all part of the same system, which understands the many subtle influences of substances on the body, and uses them to correct dis-ease and imbalances. Beets are cool and sweet energetically, nourishing the blood, benefiting the liver and calming the spirit, making them a wonderful food for all times of year, but especially if we’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and overheated. The golden beets are lighter than the red ones, and make a nice change (they also don’t stain your fingers, countertop and cutting board!)

Beets & Greens in Vinaigrette

(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian )

measurements are all approximate - this is a very forgiving recipe!

  • 1-2 bunches of beets with their greens (about 4-6 medium sized beets)
  • 1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2-3 tablespoons good quality vinegar (balsamic, white balsamic, red or white wine vinegar, or even apple cider vinegar)
  • ¼ - ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove the tops from the beets, and give the roots a rinse and quick scrub if they have visible dirt or chunks of soil. Add them whole to the boiling water and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the beet sinks in easily. (In the wintertime I will often roast the beets, wrapping them in foil and roasting at 400F for 30-40 minutes). While the roots are cooking, carefully wash the tops - you don’t want any grit between your teeth! There’s no need to dry them.

When the roots are cooked, drain and let cool. Rinse out the pot (carefully - the beets may have left dirt!), refill and bring to  boil. Add the greens and cook for 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. When the roots are cool enough to handle, slip them out of their skins. A knife is handy to slice the end off, where the tops were attached. Dice or cut into quarter moons.

Make the vinaigrette - I usually do this right in the bowl I plan to store or serve the beets in. Place the mustard in the bottom of the bowl, and add the vinegar. Using a whisk (this the THE secret to creamy, delicious French style vinaigrette!), beat the mustard and the vinegar together. Drizzle in the oil while whisking, until you have creamy, tangy, emulsified, glorious deliciousness. You can taste and adjust by adding a little more oil or vinegar if you like. Add the beets and greens and toss - best done when the veggies are still warm from cooking. You can serve right away, but they benefit from sitting for a few hours to let the dressing soak into the veg.

This will keep for quite a few days in the fridge, and can be eaten as a veggie side or served on top of a green salad.

A votre santé!


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Skin Survival During the Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

Heat and humidity got your skin unhappy? Here’s some herbalist approved solutions to common summertime skin woes.

Sunburn. Don’t get one! If you do (like I did) check out my recent post about cooling and healing from your burn - and preventing the next one.

Rashes and itching. Especially if you’re somewhere humid, rashes can be a very unpleasant hot weather symptom. If the rash is spreading, weeping, smelly or doesn’t respond to home remedies and keeping it cool and dry, be sure to get it checked out by your health care provider to rule out infection or parasites. For itching, I recommend a cool bath with oatmeal or baking soda and you can add strong cooled herbal tea, such chrysanthemum, mint or dandelion blossoms, to the bath. If you suffer from hayfever, stick with the mint as dandelion and chrysanthemum are in the compositae family and can be cross-reactive, provoking allergic reactions. You can also try using cooled black tea in the bath.

For treatment of mild rashes or irritation, I use Basic Balm, which has healing calendula oil and a medicated action from essential oils of lavender and eucalyptus. A lot of essential oils have an antifungal action, tea tree oil being the most well-known. No matter what you read on the internet, do not apply essential oils neat (undiluted) to the skin. Always dilute them, and more dilute is best - it is possible to become sensitized to oils with repeated exposure and you do not want that! Especially if your skin is already hot and irritated, using the whole herb in a tea form will be less likely to irritate your skin than superpowered essential oils.

Chub rub. You don’t have to be chubby to get chub rub - chafing and redness provoked by skin on skin contact in hot weather, usually on the inner thighs, but also the upper arms or along the bra or belt line. Chub rub is uncomfortable and can seriously cramp your sundress style! Physical barriers and well fitting clothes are a good step (Bandelettes are a snazzy looking option). Cornstarch or arrowroot based dusting powders are also a solution for keeping things dry and reducing friction. Make your own  or get one from a friendly local herbalist (here’s a gorgeous example from Etsy) 

Breakouts, Oily Skin, Redness. Your face takes the brunt of weather extremes of all kinds. When you feel greasy, grimey, hot and covered with smog at the end of a long summer day, it can be tempting to scrub your face clean - don’t! You'll just increase the irritation and encourage your skin to produce more oil in response. Try using my 3 in 1 Serum’s Cleansing Method to gently lift off grease and dirt while reducing inflammation and soothing your skin.  And Serenity Face Mask and Scrub will give you an extra clean feeling face, gently reducing oil and breakouts. Here’s a tutorial I did on giving yourself a clarifying face mask., including a DIY option you can easily get at the healthfood store. 

If you’re someone who’s skin suffers during the heat, it can be hard not to feel frustrated and unhappy during the summer - but relaxing and going with the flow really will help you cope better with each season as it comes - by staying in harmony, you help your body adapt to the climate around it… and maybe even enjoy yourself!

Angelica & Peony: Radiant Natural Health, Beauty and Skin Care, created by an acupuncturist and herbalist. 

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