Late Summer Energetics

Late Summer (1)


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.  

During this  late summertime, we might be asking “What is my role?”  It is about belonging. A podcast that blew my mind is called On Being by Krista Tippett.  One episode about belonging features the brilliant Brené Brown:

Brené brings up the paradox that exists in speaking our truth and conforming to what you think the group might be wanting or expecting.  We are wired for connection, although we sometimes might increase our loneliness by trying too hard to fit in or conform. What a bind that can be.  We sometimes risk being alone in being true to ourselves, which can also bring a sense of peace and well-being. It reminds me of the difference between risky behavior, which might mean over-riding our own needs to not rock to boat and taking a true risk of being vulnerable and expressing our needs.  It is all a delicate balance.

In another interview, John A. Powell, Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, discusses belonging in such a heartfelt and revolutionary way.  He begins by saying: “Being human is about being in the right kind of relationships. I think being human is a process. It’s not something that we just are born with. We actually learn to celebrate our connection, learn to celebrate our love. If you suffer, it does not imply love. But if you love, it does imply suffering. To suffer with, though, compassion, not to suffer against. And if we can hold that space big enough, we also have joy and fun even as we suffer. And suffering will no longer divide us. And to me, that’s sort of the human journey.”  Hear more in the full interview:

Please share any thoughts, feedback, resources, inspirations during this golden, almost harvest time of year.  What is your role in fostering a more vibrant and authentic you and in turn, a more grounded and centered community?  



Summer Soaks and Soothers

Check out this article from my colleague and owner of Angelica and Peony, Kirsten Cowan, L.Ac., the fourth in our special Summer Wellness series:

Essential Oils and Self-care Practices

for Summer


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!


Check in next week: the energetics of Late Summer.  Subscribe to my blog to get each weekly installment or follow on Instagram #tcmsummerwellness

Summertime Herbs

summer herbs (2)

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.

Getting back to the lotus plant, the leaves can be used fresh with honeysuckle flowers to ease nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as nosebleeds caused by the reckless movement of heat in the summer.  A beautiful aspect of Chinese Medicine is how like treats like, as in how the very center of the lotus seed, the heart of the lotus seed, treats the heart in humans, specifically clearing heart heat that may be causing confusion, delirium, insomnia, and irritability.

Little green mung beans are called Lu Dou in pinyin and these help decrease thirst, irritability, and fever.  You can grind the dried beans into a powder and make a tea from that powder for skin sores. You could also take that ground powder and blend it with Da Huang, mint, and honey for eruptions on the skin.  Da Huang means “big yellow” in pinyin and it is rhubarb root. Da Huang can also help with constipation and hemorrhoids. There are some great formulas that contain Da Huang that help clear out the bowels when heat invades.  

Dandelion leaves can not only be cooked up with olive oil and lemon juice or added to cabbage in the process of making your own sauerkraut, but you could also steam your face with it if your have red eyes.  The leaves, dried or fresh, can also be used internally for breast health. A compress can be made from the leaves and placed directly on the breast. Dandelion is related to chicory and both roots can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.  Dandelion root has numerous digestive and liver function benefits.

Zhi Zi is gardenia fruit and looks like tiny, dried heart chambers.  It is especially good at clearing heat out through the urine, like when there is a bladder infection.  Zhi Zi also helps with insomnia and fever.

Long Dan Cao is Chinese gentian root and clears heat when it has blended with dampness, as with strong smelling vaginal discharge or swelling in the genital area. It can also be used for headache that comes with red eyes.

In addition to Da Huang, the “big yellow” rhubarb root, we also use the 3 Huangs or 3 yellows quite a lot.  All 3 contain berberine, an alkaloid which is a potent antibiotic, astringent and anti-fungal. Huang Qin is scutellaria or skullcap root and helps with dysentery, diarrhea, and nosebleeds.  Huang Lian is the Huang that goes to the Heart the most. It is the coptis rhizome and also helps dysentery and diarrhea, but also irritability due to fever, disorientation, and delirium. Huang Lian can be combined with licorice and mung beans for the overheated nausea and vomiting symptoms of summerheat.  Huang Bai is phellodendron bark and similar to Long Dan Cao, Chinese gentian root, it can treat vaginal discharge, as well as red swollen knees and jaundice.

The herbs above can be really bitter and not too tasty to our palates.  A more delicious way to enjoy the bitter flavor is to buy some swedish bitters or other digestive bitters at a local culinary or herb shop, like the Oaktown Spice Shop.  Then mix a dropperful or splash of bitters into some coffee, bubbly water, and a bit of ice. Such a nice refreshing afternoon pick-me-up!

I also love making Hibiscus Tea or Jamaica Agua Fresca in the summer.  You can buy either tea bags with Hibiscus or the dried Jamaica flowers at a Mexican market.  With the tea bags, you could simply make a sun tea by adding a few bags in a glass pitcher and let in steep in the sun.  If you buy the flowers, throw in a few handfuls of dried Jamaica flowers in a big pot of filtered water, bring the water to boil on the stove, then turn it down to low for about 10 mins to simmer along with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel for a bit more flavor.  Although cinnamon is slightly warming, it can be comforting in the way it improves heart circulation and is also good for diabetes. Clove and orange peel improve digestion. After 10 minutes have passed, take it off the heat and you will have a very strong tea that you might want to dilute with cold water and a touch of honey.  I usually skip ice since it impedes digestion. I tend to drink it at room temperature.  Prepare it how you like and enjoy!



I want to finish by sharing a list of bitter herbs and foods we can all use to lower our risk of Type-2 diabetes and balance our blood sugar.  Due to the poor Standard American Diet (SAD) and overuse of the sweet flavor, we might be or know someone affected by blood sugar imbalances.  Diabetes is called a wasting and thirsting condition in Chinese Medicine and can be characterized by the symptoms of thirst, hunger, and excessive urination caused by a lack of yin, where “internal heat consumes fluids, thus bringing on wasting and thirsting.”  Try incorporating these to help:

  • Milk Thistle, a great liver detoxifier
  • Barberry Root Bark, used for so many GI disorders, it also contains berberine like the 3 Huangs
  • Bitter Melon, I have had it deliciously prepared with tuna and mayo
  • Chicory, a roasted root in New Orleans style coffee
  • 3 Huangs as mentioned above
  • Small amounts of dark chocolate can lower your liver enzymes in a good way
  • Some coffee, black tea, or red wine
  • American Ginseng from Wisconsin is cooling and energy-boosting
  • Fermented dairy, like kefir or plain yogurt
  • Green leafy veggies, like endive, dandelion leaves, arugula, and kale
  • Chose organic, non-GMO corn.  GMO corn can raise the blood sugar 10% more than non-GMO corn, preliminary studies have shown that GMO foods can impact the immune system and speed up aging

Also, check out these resources for more info 🙂

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

Real Food All Year by Nishanga Bliss

Nishanga also has 2 blogs with lots of recipes and great seasonal info:

Amy Stewart has some great books: The Drunken Botanist

DIY Bitters Book

Summer Wellness Food + Drink

Series #2: Food + Drink 🌞🍉🍧⠀

From Kirsten at Angelica and Peony:

This installment is pretty light and focused on the energy of summer around love, fun and late nights – and how we can stay balanced with some help from the kitchen. But to be honest, my heart and fire element are out of balance with sorrow, fear, anxiety and rage a lot of the time these days. The same medicine applies. ❤️⠀

Read the whole article on my blog #linkinbio and the rest of the posts in the series at #tcmsummerwellness
🔥❤️😎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.😜⠀