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.😜⠀

Summer Energetics

Copy of Heart (2).jpg

What is the Summer Energy All About?

The summer season can be divided into two time periods and elements in Chinese Medicine.  First comes full summer, the true heat of the season and is associated with the fire element.  Full summer transitions into late summer, which is connected with the earth element, which then leads into fall and the metal element.

Challenges we face in the summer are heatwaves, dehydration, sunburn, trouble sleeping, and agitation.  We might also experience digestive distress from eating at BBQs and too much ice cream or chilled beverages.  Cold and damp foods like ice cream can extinguish the helpful part of the digestive fire. Like anything, we are looking for balance here.  We don’t want too much fire and we don’t want too little. We need to cook the food without scorching it. We want some sunshine and Vitamin D, but we don’t want to get sunburned.  

Full summer’s fire element is connected with the organs of heart and the small intestine, the color red, the bitter taste, and the emotion of joy.  And as in all aspects of life, there can be too much of a good thing, and that too much joy can look like mania. It can also manifest in a milder way as agitation, anxiety, or insomnia.  We can also get a natural boost of energy and enthusiasm for new projects and adventures starting in the spring that can carry into the summer.

The heart is also responsible for pumping blood throughout our body and it also houses our “shen” or spirit.  When the fire element is balanced and in harmony, the heart is pumping strong, the spirit is calm and sleep is sound.  Imbalances in the fire element during the summer can cause symptoms such as chronic bladder infections, palpitations, circulation problems, sweating issues, and rashes.  If there is too much fire in one’s system, speech can be affected and you might see a red tongue tip.

The fire element is associated with the archetype of a magician or comedian, who is all about charisma, compassion, and communication.  This fire type personality is spontaneous, intuitive, and enthusiastic. Devotion, tenderness and empathy are also key characteristics. How are these qualities showing up for you this summer?  We also might be asking “how do I express myself?” We might be longing for merging and pleasure. Perhaps we are feeling the magnetism and inspiration of the season, or the agitation and mania, or feeling it all at once.  Amidst summer’s passion is where dreams can be realized and desires fulfilled. What dreams are on your horizon?





Summer Wellness Series


From my colleague, Kirsten @ angelica.peony:

Summer is here!😎🌞🍉⠀

There are 5️⃣ seasons discussed in traditional Chinese medicine, and here in Northern California we experience all of them – 🌱Spring, 🌞Summer, ☀️Late Summer, 🍁Fall and ❄️Winter. ⠀
We love learning and teaching about the art of ⚖️ ‘harmony health’ – how we can enhance our wellness and sense of well-being by moving in harmony with earth cycles. What types of illness 🤧 are we prone to at certain times of year? How can we prepare in this season for the next? 🛀⠀
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a mini-course ✏️📚in holistic practices for Summer and Late Summer. Subscribe to our blogs to get all the updates, and follow #tcmsummerwellness on Instagram 🌱🌾🍄🍒🥑⠀

#tcmsummerwellness #holistichealing#traditionalchinesemedicine #summer#healing #naturalhealth #naturalhealing#herbalmedicine #foodmedicine#latesummer #northerncalifornia#sfbayarea #oakland #sanleandro#acupuncture #acupuncturists#traditionalmedicine #kitchenmedicine#holisticuniversity #diyhealing #selfcare#heatwave

Ableism and Accessibility

​When opening a box of Dao Labs herbs the other day, I saw “Health is the greatest possession” and it just didn’t sit well with me.  I just wrote to the company to share my impression.  I think health and balance are important, of course something I help my clients work toward, AND being ill or unwell or imperfect or sick is part of being human.  I don’t want to support ableist, colonialist or capitalist language, even using the word possession is a bit intense for me…..any thoughts? Feel free to share them below.

PS:  Ableist language is any word or phrase that devalues people who have physical or mental disabilities. Its appearance often stems not from any intentional desire to offend, but from our innate sense of what it means to be normal.

To dive deeper, from a website I love:

And for more info about accessibility, something I am coming up against right now as an acupuncturist looking for an accessible space to see my clients. It is surprising how many offices are not accessible or ADA compliant, which I would like to see change. I will let y’all know which spot I land on.

Thanks y’all!  ~ Erin



Yes Means Yes.

As a practitioner, I have a consent form that gives me permission to treat, which includes to touch, my clients.  In any relationship, whether in a professional or personal setting, consent is vital.  Recently, a friend mentioned “enthusiastic consent”, a concept that has really stuck with me.  What would it be like to to live in a world where consent was enthusiastic, boundaries were respected, and no one was steam-rolled or disrespected?  What can we do to make this so? 

Beyond Separation, Upcoming Thursday Evening Class, Starts March 8th!!!!!

Are you a white person looking to learn, grow, and change?  Beyond Separation’s 8-week course is an incredible starting point.  It is a heart-centered and experiential history lesson about the structures that perpetuate racism and oppression.  Now is the time and it is so worth delving into!!  I took the course last year and it changed my life, for the better.

Here are the details:

Programs for white-identified people who are committed to changing the story of separation.

We work with groups of white-identified people, using multiple learning modalities, including multimedia, mindfulness, and a variety of movement-based activities to create a supportive learning community. We unpack the old stories of whiteness that inform our society and our personal lives, and begin to imagine a new way of being human together. We believe real change requires more than changing our individual attitudes or reforming our laws and institutions (both of which are necessary). Creating a racially just society will also require changing the implicit beliefs, mental models, and cultural narratives that shape our attitudes as well as our institutions. Topics covered in this class include: how our personal histories intersect with larger currents of US history, from settler colonialism to gentrification, how to understand white supremacy, as a culture, as a system, and as a collective wound, how we can learn to bear witness to the pain and suffering racism enacts on people of color, and, finally, how racism impacts our own personal and collective well-being.

  • Next 8-week class: Wednesdays: March 8 through April 26, 2018, 6:30 – 9:30pm.  Register here.

  • Listen to Angela Sevin and Gregory Mengel discussing our programs on Envision Radio.

Immunity + Lung Care Class + Clinic


Hello and Happy Autumn!

I am excited to announce that I will be offering acupuncture sessions in downtown San Leandro on Mondays very soon.  And to kick it off, my dear colleague, Kirsten Cowan, and I will be hosting a workshop at the clinic.  Here are the details:

Join us for a healing afternoon of must-know DIY skills, remedies and recipes to help you recover from our smokey fall and prevent colds + flus all winter. Includes a community style acupuncture treatment session to leave you relaxed, restored and breathing easy.

Sunday, November 19th from 3­-5pm

Vibrant Health and Wellness

500 Estudillo Ave, San Leandro

$30 per person, includes samples, handouts and treatment.

Reserve your spot now and spread the word 🙂
Needle-free treatments also available! The class will be held up one flight of stairs, with a restroom attached to the classroom on the same level. There is free street parking in front and a small parking lot behind the clinic with handicapped parking. Feel free to message us about any accessibility questions. Also, note that we will be using essential oils, so it is not a scent-free event.

Immunity + Lung Care Clinic

November 19th 3-5pm

Vibrant Health + Wellness

500 Estudillo Avenue, in the Heart of San Leandro


Join us for a healing afternoon of must-know DIY skills, remedies and recipes to help you recover from our smokey fall and prevent colds + flus all winter. Includes samples, tea, and a community style acupuncture treatment session to leave you relaxed, restored and breathing easy.

Hosted by Erin Wood, L.Ac and Kirsten Cowan, L.Ac and

Needle-free treatments also available! The class will be held up one flight of stairs, with a restroom attached to the classroom on the same level. There is free street parking in front and a small parking lot behind the clinic with handicapped parking. Feel free to message us about any accessibility questions. Also, note that we will be using essential oils, so it is not a scent-free event.

Reserve your spot and get tickets here!!!

Summer Shrub



From my favorite teacher, Nishanga Bliss and her food blog:

Flavored vinegar can be added to sparkling water, cocktails, or blended into salad dressings.  Drinking a little vinegar before meals is a great way to stimulate appetite and improve digestion.  Nishanga recommends using local honey instead of sugar, an organic raw apple cider vinegar, and avoiding cooking the fruit to maximize the enzyme content of your drink.  In this way, you will consume the most medicinal version.

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

4 cups coarsely chopped fruit, such as berries, grapes, stone fruit, etc.

2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, rose geranium, basil, etc.

4-6 cups raw apple cider, rice, white wine or other mild vinegar

1-3 cups raw honey or sugar, to taste

Combine the first three ingredients in a 2 quart Mason jar and allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks.  Strain, add sweetener to your taste.  Enjoy.  If you are using the shrub as a drink, dilute with 4-5 parts water or mineral water per part shrub, garnishing with sliced fresh fruit or herbs.

Combos to try:  strawberries and thyme is a favorite, basil and rose geranium work well together, so do fig, black pepper and lemon,  as well as peach, rosehip and rosemary.  Get creative!  Cheers!