Late Summer, the Time of Earth September 01 2016, 0 Comments

In the tradition of Chinese Medicine, late summer is differentiated from early summer, and is designated the time of Earth. Earth is the element that represents change; the cusp, not just of a cooler season, but of each element transitioning to the next. Earth is, therefore, the Center of all the other elements; at the same time, it is the embodiment - the source - of transformation.

Late summer is the time of rooted, stable change; of fullness and fruition. The direction of Earth is Central and, in some interpretations, “in between” each of the other elements - it is the element of transformation, of each season moving into the next.  
Practically-speaking, this is expressed in the idea that The Earth element is the symbol of ‘home’. A personality in strong alignment with Earth will operate with qualities such as home-bodiness, comfort-seeking, nurturing/mothering tendencies, reliability, stability and compassion.

The less pleasant end of that spectrum manifests in such things as excessive rumination, worrying (think over-protective mother!), smothering. The sound of Earth is ‘singing’; the flavor is sweetness, the environment is dampness (as in late-summer humidity), the tissue is muscle, the color yellow (or brown), like the soil.

Medically speaking, the internal organs associated with Earth are the Spleen (which is
essentially TCM code for ‘digestion/fluid transformation) and the Stomach (also obviously related to digestion). These organs are ‘paired’ internally(Spleen)/externally (Stomach) in the spirit of centeredness embodies by the Earth element: i.e. the digestion provides the ‘center’ or immediate source of nourishment for the rest of the body. In the same way that the organs of Earth are at the physical and functional center of the body, the Element in its entirety represents the concept of ‘center’ in general. The external organ of Earth is the mouth.

The mindset - or emotion - of Earth is deep thought. On one end of the spectrum, this manifests as meditation: substantial and transforming stillness. On the other end we have what is more akin to ‘worry’ (an ‘emotion’ according to strict Chinese interpretation) or excess rumination.

That going around and around, working or ‘worrying’ an idea your mind - that motion in stuck-ness - is a quintessential Earth operation. It is beneficial in the form of meditation, but the same mechanism becomes a pathology when it takes the form of repetitive thoughts or ‘working something over and over’ in your mind.

Stay in Harmony with the Season

Late summer is the ideal time to appreciate the abundance in your life. It is the time of both maximum material comfort and of the beginning of decline - the point where Yang switches over to Yin in the natural cycle of things.
Some ways to align yourself with the spirit of Late Summer:

Make a Habit of Taking 15 Minutes in the late afternoon for meditation

Late afternoon is the time of day associated with Earth - the time of the siesta in some cultures, the time of saturation, abundance, preparation for the evening routine. So many of us are so busy finishing up our day at this time, but the spirit of Earth has more to do with reflection and remembering our rootedness, so a few minutes of centered quietness at this time of day can help to realign the body and mind.

Make sure your diet incorporates the sweet, juicy produce of the season

Grapes, berries, melons, peaches, plums, and corn - all of these come to their best at the end of summer and are full of the sweet and moisture-laden flavors that embody the spirit of Earth. To balance them out energetically, you can sprinkle them with aromatic herbs such as cardamom and ginger.

Splash your skin and hair with green tea daily

Green tea is cooling and tonifying, a perfect balance for the damp warmth of late summer.  Always welcome as a topical skin treatment for its antioxidant effects, green tea has the extra benefit during this season of harmonizing and balancing the effects of the environment on skin and hair. You can simply make green tea as if you would drink it, and then use it as a rinse for skin and hair after washing. It should be steeped and used immediately each time, at room temperature or slightly cool; storing or refrigerating it will decrease the benefits and might allow bacteria to grow. Drink it too! you can never go wrong with that.

Spring, the time of Wood May 20 2016, 1 Comment

In the 5000-year-old philosophy that underpins Chinese Medicine, the season of spring is the time of the Wood element.  More accurately, and with more linguistical correctness, it could be said that springtime is the time of Trees.  But formally the myriad implications of strength, aliveness, green-ness, youth and creative power so associated with the renewal of spring are expressed in the ‘shorthand’ of Wood.  

Wood is the element of moving forward, of new beginnings, of vision for the future.  The direction of Wood is East: the place from which the sun rises.  This makes sense when you consider how dawn is all about the fresh new start expressed in the element Wood, and in the season of spring.   The idea of ‘spring cleaning’ comes from this, in that it encourages preparation for new things to come.  Spring is the time of beginnings.  

The external organs associated with Wood/spring are the eyes, and it is easy to see (no pun intended!) why this is true as well.  Wood is the element of Vision: of clarity, definition and focus in moving ahead.   In the same way that spring is historically the time of plating for the harvest year, it is the ideal time for goal-setting and initiating action in the pursuit of future plans.  

The mindset - or ‘emotion’, as the Chinese formally call it - associated with Wood/spring is assertiveness: anger on one side, and creativity on the other.  If you think about it, they are really the same energetically, and that is the point.   The spirit of Wood is purposeful action: and both anger and creativity - as well as everything in between -  embody this idea.  In Chinese Medicine, anger is not ‘bad’, provided it has some reason and focus.  It can be a catalyst for problem-solving, a great motivator.  it is only inappropriate or excessive anger which is unhealthy.  (Discernment of what, exactly might be inappropriate is a function of Metal, which we will talk about in a future post).  

The color of Wood is green.  Not a lot of explanation is needed here, especially when you consider that Wood is more specifically thought of as Tree.  The profusion of young, green leaves that return every year after winter dormancy is the perfect expression of the fresh active and creative renewal that is the essence of the Wood element.   Incidentally, it is for this spirit of freshness and pure newness that Virga Botanicals takes its name!   Virga, as you may know, is Latin for ‘a branch’.  


Staying in Harmony with the Season

Spring is the perfect time to make new plans.  More than that, it is the time to work out concretely and practically how to bring those plans to fruition.  Take an afternoon or a day to set future goals for the year; then for 5 years, for 10 years, if you like.  Then break down the practical steps needed to achieve them, with a timeline for each.  Take your vision into the realm of action.  

Get up early, at least one day a week.   Watch the sunrise, if you can.  Sit in the quiet newness of the morning or better, take a walk!  Morning, dawn, is the time of Wood, the time of Spring.  

Put fresh flowers in your house.  Ideally ones that are potted so they continue to grow.  Or: buy a green plant.  It is another way to connect with the beautiful, active greenness seen everywhere in nature this time of year.  

Eat seasonally The flavor associated with Wood is sour; but in the spring, when Wood is already at its peak, it is important to eat foods that calm, rather than stir it up more.  Some foods well-recognized for this in Chinese Medicine are: celery, watercress, lettuce, spring onions, mint, black pepper, carrots, grapefruit, sweet rice, cherries, and coconut milk.

Skin Brightening Tips April 05 2016, 0 Comments

What are good ways to brighten my skin?

1. Coddle the pH balance of the skin's surface by using cleansers  2. Exfoliate  3.  Keep skin calm and well hydrated  4. Drink green tea daily.

What are good ways to brighten my skin?

Speaking from a Chinese Medicine point of view,  the brightness of skin is  a function of the Yin and Yang in ideal balance.  The Yang is the 'brightness' principle, the movement, glow, life of the skin.  The Yin is the moisture, fullness component - that informs and overlays the Yang to give it body; even out and 'filter' the warmth that attends the brightness so it does not appear harsh red or uneven. ..

That's the theoretical part! In terms of practical application:

  1. It is essential to coddle the pH balance of the skin's surface by using cleansers that are not too harsh - generally, too alkaline.  Skin requires a pH of around 5.5. The best way to do this is to use a creamy facial cleanser.   If residue remains that you just can't stand, swipe it off with a pH balanced toner.  Most clear, foaming cleansers or soaps are too harsh, even if you have oily skin.
  2. Exfoliate.  Skin that is less bright than you'd like if often so at least partly because it has a layer of dead or dying skin cells and debris on the surface.  These can damp down the skin's natural glow, and can also stick to the skin long enough to make their way back into the pores, where they cause clogs (whiteheads, blackheads, comedones).   Exfoliation is a really Yang thing to do - gets the blood flow going to bring nutrients to the skin too.
  3. Keep skin calm and well-hydrated.  Moisturize your skin.  Almost all skin can benefit from this.  It is untrue that skin coated with moisture cannot 'breathe'.  Your skin is an organ, and breathes like every other organ in your body: via your blood.  That is the blood's JOB, to breathe for your organs.  Its doing a great job for your liver, you heart, your pancreas - they're fine, aren't they??  Its doing a great job for your skin too, and in the same way: from the inside. Putting moisturizer on it, especially at night, will protect it from the environment, not smother it.  Thats the Yin principle in action.  One which contains a brightener such as licorice or lactic acid will help with evening the skin tone even more. 

  4. Drink green tea daily.  I'm militant about this, but only because I'm so passionate, and so certain it works.  Green tea is full of a lot of good things your skin and your body need.  You cannot do better than drink it as a daily habit.  

The Five Elements in Chinese Medicine January 14 2016, 0 Comments

Chinese Medicine is a complex and ancient science.  It began its evolution 5000 years ago, relying for its framework and language on the things understood and held in esteem at the time: the natural world, the weather, the manifestations of human and animal functions and environmental interactions.  

While this may make it seem at first simplistic and quaint, Chinese Medicine is an incredibly...

Chinese Medicine is a complex and ancient science.  It began its evolution 5000 years ago, relying for its framework and language on the things understood and held in esteem at the time: the natural world, the weather, the manifestations of human and animal functions and environmental interactions.  

While this may make it seem at first simplistic and quaint, Chinese Medicine is an incredibly comprehensive and precise system.  Within its wide perspective, every thing means a thousand things and has myriad connotations.  A given Chinese concept is a universe of related, intertwining but very specific ideas. So, while it may seem imprecise on the surface, each is actually used with extreme care and precision; the same way our modern language may lead us to choose a specific word - say, for example “positive” - for all the layers of meaning it conveys (good, active, progressive, affirmative, upbeat, certain, energizing, etc), rather than for its strict definition alone (‘additive’ as opposed to subtractive or absent).  

The Five Elements (or Wu Xing) system is simply one of the lenses used to organize the complex of ideas and relationships understood in Chinese Medicine.  The first references to it showed up in Chinese medical texts over 2000 years ago.   The Five Element practice begins with the categorization of all natural phenomena and associations into a cycle divided into 5 phases or elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.    

image

Ideally, each Element flows naturally and harmoniously into the next one, as shown in this chart by the black circle with arrows pointing clockwise.  The red crossing lines indicate the ability of each Element to particularly ‘control’ or restrain the one across from it.  This represents the natural order of things, and makes more sense when we understand some of the associations within each element.   Here are some of them briefly:

Fire

  • Season: Summer
  • Environment: heat
  • Color: Red (note the red circle around the symbol)
  • Internal Organs: Heart and Small Intestine
  • External: tongue
  • Tissue: blood vessels
  • Mindset: joy
  • Direction: South
  • Sound: laughter

Earth

  • Season: Late Summer/transition
  • Environment: dampness
  • Color: Yellow
  • Internal Organs: Spleen/Stomach
  • External: mouth
  • Tissue: muscle
  • Mindset: thoughtfulness
  • Direction: center
  • Sound: singing

Metal

  • Season: Autumn
  • Environment: dryness
  • Color: white
  • Internal Organs: lungs/large intestine
  • External: nose
  • Tissue: skin
  • Mindset: discernment
  • Direction: west
  • Sound: crying

Water

  • Season: Winter
  • Environment: cold
  • Color: deep blue
  • Internal Organs: Kidneys/bladder
  • External: ears
  • Tissue: bones
  • Mindset: willpower
  • Direction: north
  • Sound: groan

Wood

  • Season: Spring
  • Environment: Wind
  • Color: green
  • Internal organs: Liver, gall bladder
  • External: eyes
  • Tissue: tendons
  • Mindset: assertiveness
  • Direction: East
  • Sound: shout

This illustrates not only how the cycles of nature and the seasons have a natural and predictable flow, but in the broader sense how all things large, small, animate or inanimate - participate in this flow, and mirror it in themselves individually.  An interruption or disruption of flow would be problematic, as the natural world is always moving, changing, growing, and becoming even as it cycles through its inward and downward phases.  For example, winter is the time of inwardness, hibernation, Ultimate Yin.  That makes it also the time of newest beginnings, of conception of new birth.  New life comes from deepest, undefined inwardness; from the primal Element of Water.  

In the Five Element system, no association is inherently good or bad; but simply is, and has its essential place in the flow of being.   It is the balance of all the elements which is ideal, and which is sought after in using this system as a template in Chinese Medical treatment.  

-K. Jacob

The Five Elements in Chinese Medicine January 14 2016, 0 Comments

Chinese Medicine is a complex and ancient science.  It began its evolution 5000 years ago, relying for its framework and language on the things understood and held in esteem at the time: the natural world, the weather, the manifestations of human and animal functions and environmental interactions. 

Chinese Medicine is a complex and ancient science.  It began its evolution 5000 years ago, relying for its framework and language on the things understood and held in esteem at the time: the natural world, the weather, the manifestations of human and animal functions and environmental interactions.  

While this may make it seem at first simplistic and quaint, Chinese Medicine is an incredibly comprehensive and precise system.  Within its wide perspective, every thing means a thousand things and has myriad connotations.  A given Chinese concept is a universe of related, intertwining but very specific ideas. So, while it may seem imprecise on the surface, each is actually used with extreme care and precision; the same way our modern language may lead us to choose a specific word - say, for example “positive” - for all the layers of meaning it conveys (good, active, progressive, affirmative, upbeat, certain, energizing, etc), rather than for its strict definition alone (‘additive’ as opposed to subtractive or absent).  

The Five Elements (or Wu Xing) system is simply one of the lenses used to organize the complex of ideas and relationships understood in Chinese Medicine.  The first references to it showed up in Chinese medical texts over 2000 years ago.   The Five Element practice begins with the categorization of all natural phenomena and associations into a cycle divided into 5 phases or elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.    

image

Ideally, each Element flows naturally and harmoniously into the next one, as shown in this chart by the black circle with arrows pointing clockwise.  The red crossing lines indicate the ability of each Element to particularly ‘control’ or restrain the one across from it.  This represents the natural order of things, and makes more sense when we understand some of the associations within each element.   Here are some of them briefly:

Fire

  • Season: Summer
  • Environment: heat
  • Color: Red (note the red circle around the symbol)
  • Internal Organs: Heart and Small Intestine
  • External: tongue
  • Tissue: blood vessels
  • Mindset: joy
  • Direction: South
  • Sound: laughter

Earth

  • Season: Late Summer/transition
  • Environment: dampness
  • Color: Yellow
  • Internal Organs: Spleen/Stomach
  • External: mouth
  • Tissue: muscle
  • Mindset: thoughtfulness
  • Direction: center
  • Sound: singing

Metal

  • Season: Autumn
  • Environment: dryness
  • Color: white
  • Internal Organs: lungs/large intestine
  • External: nose
  • Tissue: skin
  • Mindset: discernment
  • Direction: west
  • Sound: crying

Water

  • Season: Winter
  • Environment: cold
  • Color: deep blue
  • Internal Organs: Kidneys/bladder
  • External: ears
  • Tissue: bones
  • Mindset: willpower
  • Direction: north
  • Sound: groan

Wood

  • Season: Spring
  • Environment: Wind
  • Color: green
  • Internal organs: Liver, gall bladder
  • External: eyes
  • Tissue: tendons
  • Mindset: assertiveness
  • Direction: East
  • Sound: shout

This illustrates not only how the cycles of nature and the seasons have a natural and predictable flow, but in the broader sense how all things large, small, animate or inanimate - participate in this flow, and mirror it in themselves individually.  An interruption or disruption of flow would be problematic, as the natural world is always moving, changing, growing, and becoming even as it cycles through its inward and downward phases.  For example, winter is the time of inwardness, hibernation, Ultimate Yin.  That makes it also the time of newest beginnings, of conception of new birth.  New life comes from deepest, undefined inwardness; from the primal Element of Water.  

In the Five Element system, no association is inherently good or bad; but simply is, and has its essential place in the flow of being.   It is the balance of all the elements which is ideal, and which is sought after in using this system as a template in Chinese Medical treatment.  

-K. Jacob

The Energetics of Skin pH - Balancing Yin and Yang for a Healthy Glow October 20 2015, 0 Comments

There is beauty in balance.  The skin, like everything else, requires the synergy of multiple elements to look its best and be its healthiest.   The classic Chinese symbolism of Yin and Yang illustrates this universal principle perfectly, even as we use it as our lens here to look specifically at skincare.
 
When we think of skin health, one of the things often mentioned is pH balance.  The abbreviation stands for ‘potential Hydrogen’, which is a chemist’s way of measuring the relative acidity or alkalinity of a substance.  Like the harmony of Yin and Yang, a balanced pH results from the constant interplay between acidity and alkalinity (or base) in the system.  Also as with Yin and Yang, well-being depends upon this delicate balance.  

The scale of pH measurement is conceived as a continuum, running from the numbers 0 to 14, with absolute neutrality (meaning neither acid nor alkaline but perfectly balanced) expressed by the number 7, exactly in the middle.  The numbers below 7 show progressively more acidity - with 0 being pure acid - while the numbers above define progressively more alkalinity, pure alkaline being represented in the number 14.
 
While the human body maintains a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4, the skin has its own ideal pH of 5.5, which is on the acidic side thanks to the protective acid mantle it cultivates.  Too much deviation from this and problems quickly show up.  

In looking at how this applies to skin care, it is helpful to understand Yin and Yang in terms of some of their individual aspects.  Here is a basic chart containing some of the more pertinent ones of each:
 

Yin:                                                                                      Yang:    
 
softness                                                                        firmness/tone
 
water/moisture                                                          dryness/draining
 
passivity                                                                      activity
 
coolness/cold                                                               warmth
 
calm                                                                           movement/liveliness
 
interior/depth                                                              exterior/surface
 
substance/nourishment                                            spirit/brightness
 
nighttime                                                                  daytime
 
moon                                                                             sun
 
 
Although it is not in the traditional understanding of Chinese theory – biochemistry being a much more modern science – I associate Yin with the alkaline principle, and Yang with the acidic.  Because they are relative, the need to maintain a dynamic balance between the two is the same.

The health of the skin tissue requires harmony of Yin and Yang:  both calm and movement, softness and tone, moisture and draining, acid and base.  Too much or too little of one or the other, and it is out of balance, troubled, and in need of help.




How to increase Yin (moisture, softness, cooling, calming, nourishing)

The Yin of the body, and thus the skin, naturally decreases as we age.  Yin is the root – or base - of brightness and life, while Yang it its expression.  So a decrease in Yin is a decrease of deepest reserves.   These can and should be replenished, and ideally their loss guarded against in the first place by good preventative skin care.  
Skin that has lost too much Yin loses the qualities of Yin: its moistness, softness, and evenness.   Because there is not enough Yin to balance out the Yang, it winds up tending towards a dry, thin rough and/or red appearance – qualities of unbalanced Yang.  
Increasing Yin usually involves adding hydration and nutrients to the skin.  Highly emollient formulas and those with high levels of deep nutrients such as oils are the key to this.  
Skin which expresses its overbalance of Yang as redness or heat requires cooling substances such as cold water, energetically cool therapeutics (such as cucumber and green tea), and skincare preparations that have been kept chilled.


How to increase Yang (tone, movement, life, brightness)

Yang is the Brightness principle, the life of the face and body.  It is kinetic, and thought to carry with it the blood flow and nutrients which nourish the skin.  The Yin moisture and softness which is so desirable in skin health becomes stagnant, puffy and oily without the Yang to circulate it and keep it fresh.   Skin without enough Yang appears tired and lacks tone and ‘life’.   
Yang’s value in skin beauty can be summed up as its association with skin defense and improving circulation.  It can be increased in the skin with protective, active, ‘moving’ formulations and techniques.  Exfoliation is a very Yang activity – it actively removes surface debris and increases circulation.  Extractions - the removal of debris from the pores - is the same, and for the same reasons (plus, the debris inside the pore is Yin, the unwanted kind).  Astringent herbals  that tighten skin and reduce puffiness are Yang in nature, as is the protective action of anti-oxidants and UV-defenders.  Facial massage and exercises, by their active nature, increase the Yang, as do herbs with moving, draining properities.

How to maintain Yin (base):

Because Yin is protected by the Yang of the skin, it can be lost when the acid mantle (the Yang) is stripped or compromised.   Hydration can evaporate, redness ( a sign of heat) and roughness can develop.   Angry, aggressive breakouts and rashes are associated with a skin pH that is too acidic (below 5.0 or so).  Yin, by its very nature of relating to the internal, is about inner abundance and nourishment.  So, it is most easily depleted from the inside, by bad or unhealthy habits, stress and lack of sleep.   That is why it diminishes with age, and why the skin shows this in lines and wrinkles: the Yin is no longer there to plump them out.  
Lifestyle changes are the best defense against loss of Yin in the body and the skin.  Because calm, quiet and passivity are Yin attributes, a regular meditation practice  is probably the surest way to replenish it.  Sleep is Yin-nourishing as well; adequate sleep is incredibly important for complete self-care, including skin care.

How to maintain Yang (acid):

The protective barrier of your skin is known as the acid mantle.  It maintains the skin’s integrity by defending it from environmental damage, toxins and germs, which are generally more alkaline in nature and so are neutralized when they encounter this layer of acid.  At the same time it seals in moisture and lipids.  Anything that introduces too much alkalinity will interfere with its function.   The main culprits here are harsh soaps.  Only pH balanced cleansers made especially for the face should ever be used.   Alcohol and alcohol-based toners can also be very alkaline.  As oily skin does tend to be more acidic, it makes sense to balance that with some alkalinity, but many oily skin products are very harsh.  A good approach is to use a creamy pH balanced cleanser, then finish with a mild low-or non-alcohol containing toner with witch hazel.

How to remove excess Yin (edema, oiliness):

 

Removing Yin where there is too much translates into removing puffiness and oil.   Aside from dietary considerations which can affect these things, the Chinese principles of 'moving' and draining are the actions which which will help rid the skin of excess Yin.  Herbs such as ginger and coix seed are good at moving and draining, and are appropriate topicals for skin when they are balanced by other medicinals to tone down their warming effects.  Astringent toners accomplish this too, but must be balanced in terms of pH in order to avoid problems there.  A note: You know you have an excess of Yin rather than a deficiency of Yang by how lifeless the skin appears.  If it is puffy and congested with a vibrance undearneath, the problem is excess Yin.  If it has a lifeless look and lacks tone as well, deficient Yang may well be the root cause of your skin problems.  where dryness and redness tend to be the result of excess Yang

How to remove excess Yang (heat, dryness):

Excess Yang can be superficial or can result from deeper imbalances in the body.   Dryness, tough texture rashes and redness tend to be the result of excess Yang (as opposed to deficient Yin which shows up as fine or deep lines and thinning easily damaged skin).   Again drinking enough fluids and paying attention to nutrition is very helpful here.   A complexion with a preponderance of Yang almost has what could be thought of as 'too much' life - ie, it is too active, and in a chaotic, disharmonious way. The solution here is to harmonize it and bring it under calm control.   Too much Yang is best addressed by balancing it with Yin - calming, moisturizing things - ,as well as with the Chinese principle of 'clearing heat' which translates to treating the germs and bacteria that cause infections associated with acne and many other skin conditions.   Many Chinese medicinals have this as their primary function and are very effective.  For severe problems this can be done with prescription antibiotics.   Acne with clogged pores is a combination of Yin and Yang, interacting disharmoniously: the redness and inflammation is Yang, while the debris clogging the pore is Yin.  Both must be addressed to rebalance the complexion.

 Healthiest skin has a deep, clear, balanced glow that is the result of ideal harmony.  It has the liveliness and radiance of Yang diffused by the calm hydration of Yin, like moving light shining up through calm water.

The Qi of Plants: Glossary of terms and Materia Medica May 05 2015, 0 Comments

The ancient system of Chinese herbology is mysterious and complex; individual herbs are understood as having more than single actions or targeted issues.  Each has a scope of attributes that defines its way of interacting with other herbs and with the body's life-force, the Qi. 

Like timeless Far Eastern philosophy, the essence of Chinese herbal  science (theory) is dynamic, balancing, symbiotic. 

Formulations of this tradition rarely use a single plant for its action alone.  Rather, complementary herbs are combined with exquisite care and sophistication, to offset and balance one another, maximizing intended benefits while neutralizing any unwanted effects. 

Every herb in a given combination has been carefully chosen, and has an essential reason for being there.  Every one has its part in the unified whole.  This creates perfect harmony in each formula, and allows it to exactingly target a specific condition.  

 

Glossary:

Qi:

Point zero of any discussion regarding Chinese Medicine.  Qi has no exact translation; it is most usually translated as 'energy' or 'life-force'.   It is the instrinsic, motivating principle of all things; and of each thing, being, and component individually.  Essentially, Qi is the ancient Eastern understanding of the same dynamic recognized by modern physics as molecular and atomic activity.  We think the closest translation is 'life'. 

Yin:

A concept of Chinese Medicine derived from and inseperable from Eastern philosophy.  Yin is represented by the dark half of the well-known symbol and, together with Yang, conceptualizes the constant interplay of apparently opposing forces that create both the movement and the balance of the universe (our world) and each person and thing within it. 

In herbalism and Skin Care, Yin represents such qualities as moisture, cooling, softness, nurturing and calm. Yin-tonifying herbs are hydrating, cooling, nutritive and nurturing.

Yang:

Represented by the light half of the familiar symbol, shown in its ebb and flow with Yin to signify the dynamic of forces that creates the harmony and cycles of nature.

In herbalism and Skin Care, Yang refers to such qualities as brightness, movement, and liveliness.  Where Yin is the deep, supportive substance of skin, Yang is its luminous "life", showing through.  Together they create the indefinable 'glow from within' that manifests ideal health and balance. 

Yang-tonfying herbs are brightening, revitalizing and enlivening.   Another attribute of Yang is dryness - generally undesirable in skincare.  This is one of the reasons it is so important to balance herbs in a formula:  When we use Yang herbals for skincare, we balance any drying effects with Yin herbs to get the benefits we want without the drawbacks.

Tonify:

To increase the power and/or strength of.  Tonifying herbal formulas are considered the most precious therapeutically.  They are prized for their ability to deeply and lastingly fortify the body and skin's resources.  Many tonifying herbs are on the Yang

Supplement:

To increase the quantity of.  Supplementing herbs provide or replace Qi, moisture, nutrients and/or energetic properties the skin may need more of.  They infuse additional benefits, actually adding something to the system, as differentiated from 'tonifying', which strengthens and maximizes what is already there (see 'tonify').  Supplementing substances tend to be very nourishing and substantial, particularly beneficial for dull, dry, or mature skin. 

Regulate:

To energize harmoniously; the Chinese therapeutic principle is literally 'to move' - with the understanding that movement is intrinsic to, and specifically expresses, life.  Life shows in the skin as vitality, vibrance, youthfullness, and radiance.  Regulating the Qi maintains these things in the complexion as well as in the body.

Transform:

To change, especially to correct the metabolism of water, ie edema.  Puffiness is water in the body that is remaining where it should not (under the skin, in the tissue).  To transform it means to encourage it back into the circulation so it is used where it is needed, not pooled where it is creating imbalance.  Because movement is needed to effect transforing action, many herbals that have this action are quite Yang in nature.

Purify:

To clean.  Purifying herbs generally have antiseptic properties or known anti-microbial actions and keep toxic organic material from harming the skin.

Harmonize:

To smooth out; even out the action of.  Harmonizing herbs for the skin excel at correcting such things as uneven redness ( a disharmony of heat and coolness) and combination skin ( a disharmony of yin and yang, ie oil and dryness). 

Astringe:

To tighten; by contracting skin or tissue.   This effect is sought usually either to minimize the appearance of pores or to minimize blood vessels and redness.  It is a temporary effect but can be protective and create a look of evenness and smoothness to the skin.

Calm:

To stop itching, irritation, redness or pain.  This effect is also associated with 'harmonizing', the evening out of the complexion.  The Chinese call this action, more properly, 'quieting'.  It refers to the mind, emotional and spiritual levels as well.  Most calming herbs are very Yin in nature. 

Cool:

To counteract heat in the system or skin; as usually indicated by redness, soreness, and feelings of warmth.  Cooling herbs are necessarily Yin in nature, as it is this property which balances out the heat (an expression of Yang) by neutralizing it with its opposite. 

Clear:

To remove heat.  To 'clear' in Chinese therapeutics technically implies to clear heat.  This is differentilted from 'cooling' in that it actually means to take the heat away altogether, not just to balance out the effect of it with its opposite.  This is the equivalent of drinking cold water to cool down the system and thus the face (clearing), vs. splashing cold water directly on the skin for a more temporary fix.  Clearing is a deeper action, and takes longer to accomplish.

Nourish:

To infuse with necessary or highly beneficial substances.  Very similar to 'supplement' but with more emphasis on providing what is strictly necessary, on a deeper level both energetically and substantially.   Nourishing substances tend to be Yin in nature, supporting the skin by supporting the blood vessels and nutritional resources.

Regenerate:

To heal.  Regenerating herbs excel at promoting healing and encouraging new healthy cell growth and turnover in the treatment of damaged, aging, or scarred skin.  This effect can help with uneven color associated with past damage as well.  Plants with this property also tend to be extremely healing and centering on other levels as well, the most familiar being frankincense and myrrh, with their ancient traditions of sacred spiritual use.

 

Moisten:

To add moisture, hydrate what is too dry.  Less Yin than nourishing substances because not as cool in temperature.

 

 

MATERIA MEDICA

Essential Ingredients

Rose (mei gui hua):

Chinese Medicine properties: tonifying, harmonizing, regulating.

The rose blossom is long-revered for its value as a beauty-enhancing botanical, both in Western and Eastern traditions.  Its essential oil is said to have the highest vibration (ie the most 'life' or qi)of any plant.  In the Chinese herbal tradition the tonifying and regulating properties of this beautiful flower means it acts on the skin to give a deep radiance by maximizing qi; its harmonizing effect contributes to overall balance.  Rose features prominently in Superglow Triple Rose Extraordinary Face cream, and Pomegranate Rose Supplementing Skin Concentrate.  It is also a main ingredient in Spice Market perfume.

 

Aurantium flower, Neroli (dai dai hua)

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, tonifying, astringing, quieting

Neroli is the flower of the bitter orange tree; known for its exquisite aroma and skin-calming, supplementing qi.   Its astringing and quieting effects make it perfect to maintain daily skin health, creating a  balanced glow by guarding against broken capillaries, dryness and unevenness.  Western herbalism recognizes it as a skin-regenerator, meaning it has a healing, correcting effect on scars and marks.  Neroli is the featured ingredient of Neroli extraordinary Day cream.  It is also an ingredient in Green Tea Light Moisture Serum. 

 

Bitter Orange peel (chen pi) and fruit (zhi ke)

Chinese herbal properties: regulating, astringing, transforming

The particular gift of citrus peel in Chinese Medicine is its stellar ability to remove fluid, particularly below the skin of the face where it can accumulate and cause puffiness.  That is because chen pi is a qi-moving herb, and it specializes in moving fluid downward, astringing it from below the skin; transforming it to its pure, useful state once again in the body.   Bitter orange peel and essential oils are used in Green Tea with Green Clay Eye Depuffer mask. 

 

Goji Berry (gou qi, )

Chinese herbal properties: yin-tonifying, purifying, deeply supplementing

In Chinese herbology, goji berry is an 'herb' that is also a food, and is classified as a 'Yin tonic' with a special affinity for the eyes.   Lately considered a 'superfood', it is full of protective anti-oxidants as well as skin-nourishing hydrators and collagen-supporters.  Goji berries contain high amounts of vitamin C, well-recognized for its ability to promote a tighter, radiant complexion by boosting collagen production and brightening skin tone.  It also contains smoothing polysaccharides, amino acids, and 11 of the 22 essential dietary minerals.  Goji is a primary ingredient of Superplants Essential Roll-on Eye serum. 

 

 

Watermelon (xi gua), rind (xi gua pi)

Chinese herbal properties: cooling, yin-tonifying, transforming

Watermelon is another Chinese herb that is also a food.  It is cooling, hydrating,and tonifying particularly to the Yin, which makes it superior for maintaining moisture balance in the skin leading to improved elasticity and tone.  With its high content of antioxidants, flavanoids, carotenoids and vitamin C, this superfruit is understood by modern science to have superior protective effects on DNA against skin damage from UV light and pollution.  Watermelon is a primary ingredient in Superplants Essential Roll-on Eye Serum.

 

Ginger (sheng jiang)

Chinese herbal properties: regulating, yang-tonifying, protective

Ginger moves qi - and with it fluid - to keep skin fresh and prevent stagnation.  Its Yang-tonifying properties make it especially revitalizing of the complexion, since Yang is the source of radiance and life in Chinese herbal theory.   Its action is understood to have an affinity for the eyes and skin.  Ginger is shown in western studies to have protective benefits due to its antioxidant effects, to promote skin healing and collagen production, and to inhibit tumor growth.   It is an active ingredient in Superplants Essential Roll-on Eye Serum. 

 

Licorice (gan cao)

Chinese Herbal Porperties: tonifying, harmonizing, qi-boosting

Licorice is a harmonizer and general tonic in Eastern tradition.  It tones, moisturizes and boosts the qi of the complexion, contributing to a soft, even glow.  The acid in licorice helps to balance skin pH, and is well-recognized as a skin-brightener, anti-inflammatory and collagen-preserver.  Although it is highly valued as a botanical on its own, one of the main uses for licorice is to harmonize (smooth together) the other herbs in a formula.   Find it as a main ingredient in Green Tea Light Moisture Facial Serum.  It is also used in Superplants Essential roll-on Eye Serum and Green Tea with Green Clay Eye De-puffer.

 

Sandalwood (tan xiang)

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, harmonizing, calming, clearing

Sandalwood has a long history as an herb sacred to many traditions, and precious for its many healing and skin-enhancing benefits.  Its regulating and harmonizing effects help achieve and maintain ideal moisture balance and even tone, supporting collagen production as well.  It is known to calm itching and inflammation, and ongoing studies point to a promising use in tumor prevention, which makes it perfect for daily treatment of sun-exposed skin.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10548401

http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/27/9/1917.full.pdf

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/12/2/151.long

Sandalwood is a chief ingredient in Intensive Overnight Hand and Nail Treatment.

 

Pomegranate (shi liu), seed (shi liu zi)

Chinese Herbal Properties: astringing, cooling, tonifying

The oil of the pomegranate seed is a long-recognized astringent, regarded as having cooling properties and recently found to accelerate skin recovery from environmental stressors and daily cell regeneration.  This has made it extremely precious as a skin-care agent to brighten and even the compexion.  Its tonifying action is aided by its cooling property, which addresses the inflammation that can interfere with the deep glow which comes from balanced, vital skin qi.  Replete with antioxidants, pomegranate seed oil has been shown in studies to prevent sun damage and to reverse its effects, both in the deeper layers of the skin and in the correction of hyperpigmentation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004287/

Precious pomegranate seed is a primary ingredient in Pomegranate Rose Skin Supplementing Concentrate, and in Chinese Herbal Exfoliating Grains. 

 

Frankincense (ru xiang)

Chinese Herbal Properties: regulating, regenerating, transforming

Frankincense is an herb of timeless use, long prized for its spiritual associations as well as for its therapeutic and skin-beautifying benefits.  One of the few herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica specifically designated as a skin-regenerator, frankincense has been recognized for thousands of years for its ability to fade scars and heal damaged skin.    Frankincense is found in Pomegranate Rose Skin Supplementing Concentrate.

 

Cucumber (huang gua)

Chinese Herbal properties: cooling, clearing, transforming,

Cucumber is one of those Chinese 'herbs' that is also a well-known vegetable.  Its nature is very Yin, which makes it a superior agent for cooling skin and clearing redness.  It transforms edema, helping to keep puffiness at bay by draining it from beneath the skin.   It features in Cucumber and Chamomile Extraordinary Cream and Cucumber Rosewater Cooling Face Mist and Toner. 

 

Coix seed (yi yi ren)

Chinese Herbal Properties: cooling, transforming, supplementing

Coix seed is actually a grain, another example of a Chinese Medicinal which balances on the border between food and herb.   The Chinese have long recognized coix in particular as a skin-enhancing herb, both when eaten and topically.  The exquisite specialty of coix is in relieving pore congestion by both balancing skin's water content and cooling the inflammation that can contribute to acne.  It is rare for an herb with these qualities to be also supplementing; but coix, like most nutritious grains, has this ability as well.  Ground coix is the main ingredient in Chinese Herbal Exfoliating Grains. 

 

 Pumpkin (nan gua)

Chinese herbal Properties: qi-supplementing, yang-tonifying, purifying

This well-known squash is regarded as being both supplementing - thanks to its dense content of nourishing vitamins and minerals - and Yang-fortifying.  This combination explains its instantly revitalizing effect on the skin and the deep luminosity that remains with regular use.  Vitamins B and C, carotenoids and minerals are in abundance in the pumpkin,  making it a superior botanical for the treatment of dull or tired skin.  Pumpkin is the main ingredient in Pumpkin Carrot Mask for Pure Radiance.

Poria (fu ling)

Chinese Herbal properties: transforming, calming, tonifying

A well-used herb from the Chinese Materia Medica, poria is less-known to Western traditions.  It is a kind of mushroom, with outstanding abilities to remove excess fluid from tissue.  Poria is also highly-regarded for its calming effect on both the mind and body.  Its luminous white color is regarded as signifying its value an anti-inflammatory and skin-brightener; and preliminary studies point to anti-tumor properties, making it a valuable botanical for topical skincare.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588713

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2011/128402/

Poria is used prominently in Green tea with Green Clay Eye De-puffer Mask. 

 

Camellia sinensis, Green tea (lu cha)

Chinese Herbal Properties: cooling, tonifying, regulating

Green tea is one of the most universally known and used botanicals from the Chinese Materia Medica.  Since ancient times it has been regarded as a tonic for long life and good health.  It also has a long tradition of use for skincare, prized for its tonifying, decongesting and antiinflammatory actions.  Significant modern research points to its abundance of flavanoids called polyphenols, found uniquely in the camellia sinensis plant.  Particular tea polyphenols called  catechins, have been widely identified as some of the most powerful skin-protective antioxidants.   One of the most-researched phyto-actives, green tea has been proven by modern science as a potent protector against sun damage and UV-related skin cancers. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16317135

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21094124

Green Tea is the star ingredient in Green Tea Light Moisture Serum.  It also features in Green Tea Lavender Facial Toner and Cooling Face Mist, Superplants Essential Roll-on Eye Serum, and Acne Healing Botanicals Spot Treatment.

 

Amber (hu po)

Chinese Herbal Principles: calming, regulating, transforming

Amber is classified as a Chinese 'herb' although in its hardened, aromatic form it is no longer, strictly speaking, a plant.   The fossilized resin of ancient forests, amber is more usually thought of as a gemstone, and prized for its spectrum of golden hues .  The yellow of amber imparts a centering quality, according to Eastern theory.   It is regarded as supremely calming.  A powdered form of rich, earthy amber is used in Chinese Herbal Exfoliating Grains. 

 

Aloe vera (lu hui)

Chinese Herbal Principles: purifying, cooling, regenerating

Aloe, with its many antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins, is an ancient herb with a long history of use for skin beauty.  With its cooling anti-inflammatory action, it is well known for healing sunburned or damaged skin.  Aloe's value in treating acne comes from this quality as well, along with its antiseptic properties.   Products which contain aloe include Acne Healing Botanical Spot treatment and Superplants Essential Eye Roll-on Serum. 

 

Myrrh (mo yao), commiphora myrrha

Chinese Herbal Properties:  calming, regenerating, transforming

The resin of a small bush native to the Red Sea region, myrrh has been held as extremely precious both for its spiritual associations and for its use in healing.  It is one of the few herbs in the Chinese Materia Medica specifically designated as a skin regenerator, and is also used to correct puffiness and for its calming qualities.  Known also to have antiseptic properties, myrrh is recognized for its superior benefits on mature or tired skin, as well as skin prone to break-outs.  Find it in Pomegranate Rose Supplementing Skin Concentrate.

 

Honey (feng mi)

Chinese Herbal Properties: tonifying, nourishing, calming

Honey is a food that is treated as a medicinal in Chinese medicine, and well-recognized as a natural beauty enhancer  in western tradition.  The Chinese attribute to honey the power to 'moderate tension', which translates in skincare to softening, moisturizing and calming.  With its well-known antibacterial properties, honey is helpful to acne-prone skin, and its high levels of antioxidants and amino acids have made it a favorite since antiquity for imparting a deep healthy glow to skin.  Honey is reputed to have been Cleopatra's most-guarded beauty secret.  Find it here in Green Clay with Green Tea Eye-depuffer mask and Pumpkin Carrot Mask for Pure Radiance. 

Almond (ba dan xing ren)

Chinese Herbal Properties:  moistening, harmonizing, tonifying

Almond is strictly speaking a food (xing ren, with a similar name, is apricot seed and is an herb).  As there is often an indistinct line between foods and medicinals in Chinese medicine it is still considered to have great therapeutic value in tonifying the essence (deep reserves) of the body as well as adding hydration and balance to the skin.  Almonds contain significant amounts of flavanoids, and vitamin E which are known to increase blood vessel strength.  Find almond oil as the base of many of our products, including Triple Rose Cream and Gentle Creamy Cleanser.

carrot (hu luo bo)

lavender (xun yi cao)

sugar (tang)

Oats (yan mai pian)

Chinese Herbal Properties:

rosehip (shan zha)

sage (dan shen)

goat's milk

white willow

 chamomile  (yang gan ju)

cedar

peony (bai shao)

evening primrose (dai xiao cao)

 

 

 

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