Category Archives: Natural Beauty

Lifehack for beauty – Lemons for skin health

Lemons are kind of awesome. Zesty and fresh and yummy in everything, they also happen to be an awesome lifehack for beauty because lemons for skin are like a miracle. They are rich in antioxidants, highly acidic (which means anti-microbial), and lightening/brightening for your skin.

Lemons for skin - and some other things too. Beauty lifehack! Image By Franz Eugen Köhler,

Lemons for skin – and some other things too. Beauty lifehack! Image By Franz Eugen Köhler




Lemons For Skin – So Many Benefits!

It’s a little staggering to list the benefits of this simple fruit, but we’ll try:

  • Acne – lemons highly acidic juice helps to kill bacteria and fungus, making it an ideal aid for acne and rashes
  • Anti-itch – lemon juice has a long history of use topically for the measles and chicken pox rashes to soothe the itch and help to calm the skin. Use caution if you’ve scratched the rash so much the skin is raw because the acidity of lemon juice will burn, but it is reputed to reduce the itch long-term.
  • Brightening and Refreshing Skin – Leaving lemon juice on your skin for 10 minutes or more allows the acidic juice and enzymes to soften and loosen the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin and reveal the healthy glowing skin below. Your own mini, delicious-smelling mini skin peel. Check out some recipe ideas below.
  • Lightening Sun Spots – Lemon juice also helps to lighten and brighten areas that have become pigmented after sun exposure.
  • Reduce the Appearance of Wrinkles – again the magical acidity, combined with the brightening effect of lemons helps your skin to look tighter and more toned and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Just don’t get the juice too near your eyes – ouch!
  • The Smell Lightens your Mood – no joke! Lemon and other citrus essential oils, which is what you’re smelling when you slice open that fresh lemon, has been shown to elevate mood and boost productivity as well as reduce anxiety. Lemon specifically boosts cognitive performance and mood.




Lemons for Skin: The Recipes

Before you try these, be sure to try a test patch of lemon juice on the skin inside your arm to see if you have any kind of negative reaction. There are people who have citrus allergies, and the acidity can be too much for some sensitive skin (but usually diluting with water will fix this problem). Also avoid sun exposure while the lemon juice is on your skin as it can make your skin more photosensitive and increase your likelihood of sun burn. After you try these yummy recipes, leave a comment and let me know how it goes for you! I’m a huge fan, but I’d love to know what you think.

Brightening Lemon Exfoliation

Sprinkle raw sugar crystals over a thick lemon slice and use that in the shower to scrub your skin. The gritty sugar and acidic lemon juice combine to form a totally delicious skin brightener. *LOVE*

Nourishing Skin Lightener

10 drops lemon juice
5 drops sweet almond oil or apricot kernel oil  – organic if possible
1 teaspoon raw honey
Combine these and massage into facial skin in upward strokes.  Lie back and let it do it’s magic for 20 minutes then rinse and go about your day feeling fabulous darling.

Lemon Lightener for Sun Damage and Liver Spots

10 drops lemon juice
3 drops sweet almond oil or apricot kernel oil
Using a cotton swab or clean fingertip dab this mixture onto the spots before bed and allow it to penetrate overnight.  In your morning shower use the Brightening Lemon Exfoliation.

Lemon Mask for Dry Skin

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon avocado oil
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
Mix the ingredients and apply to face, lips, elbows, knees, hands or feet – any area that needs softening and deep moisturizing.  Leave for 15-30 minutes then rinse with warm water.

Lemon Lift For Mood and Attitude

If you need to nail an interview, calm your nerves or need a major boost then put 2 drops of lemon essential oil on a freshly cut slice of lemon and rub over your wrists, behind your ear or the back of your neck. The subtle scent will lift your mood and even make your interviewer (or date) more happy if they get a whiff. Just make sure it isn’t going to be exposed to sun because this will make you more sensitive to UV rays. Also make sure this doesn’t get on your brightly colored clothes because it will lighten and bleach them. If your skin is too sensitive for direct application you can put it on a white handkerchief and discreetly sniff when you need a lift.

Here’s my favorite source for good quality organic oils and other fun ingredients if you happen to be into this stuff.  Apricot oil and sweet almond oil are pretty easy to find in the health food store too.

A passion for organics
 

The humble lemon, aside from being one of my favorite fruit flavors has myriad benefits for skin health and beauty. In fact lemons for skin are just as useful as they are internally – but more on that next week. In terms of beauty lifehacks, lemons for skin is a simple one.  Lemons are generally inexpensive, readily available, and many of you probably have one sitting around right now that you can slice up – one slice for the cocktail and one for your face. That’s my kind of versatile!



Castor Oil – The Best Thing You Never Knew You Needed

I was reminded the other day how many people don’t know about all of the cheap and easy old-timey remedies that people used to rely on, like castor oil.  Many of these remedies have been used for centuries, simply because they work.  Castor oil is one such helpful substance that really does fix just about everything as well today as it did in it’s first recorded use 3000 years ago.  Really, if it’s been working for 3000 years, chances are it’s going to keep working.

Castor oil - picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA

Castor oil – picture by Pete Markham from Loretto, USA. This bottle is from the light-keepers house at Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.

There are internal uses for castor oil, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest them simply because this isn’t a gentle plant – it’s a kick in the pants (literally).  Castor oil taken internally is a laxative strong enough not only to induce bowel cramping and diarrhea, but even to induce labor contractions in pregnant women.  I actually used it to induce labor for myself recently and I can honestly say the castor-oil cramps were almost as bad as the labor pains. Eek!   Not a lot of fun, but if you’re impatiently waiting for a baby it does work. The reaction is so strong that castor oil is even reputed to have been used by fascist mobs in Italy in the 1920s as a form of intimidation (I would be intimidated).  Essentially these mobs would force feed their victims castor oil and turn them lose to have an agonizing and embarrassing bout of violent diarrhea. This, I suppose, made the victims then comply with whatever it was the fascist mob wanted in the first place. Ummm… Yeah. So don’t use it like that please.




While I’m obviously not a big fan of internal use in all but the most dire circumstances, topical use of castor oil is a miracle strong enough to make it a necessary part of every medicine cabinet.   The uses for topical castor oil are threefold:

  1. Digestive – Castor oil over the liver and abdomen helps to treat constipation, inflammatory bowel, liver congestion, gall bladder disease, bowel adhesions, lymphatic congestion, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and  even infections in pelvic organs such as bladder and vaginal tract. For anyone looking to cleanse the liver or eliminate gallbladder sludge, this is a necessary.
  2. Skin – Topically castor oil can help with bacterial or fungal skin infections, rashes, acne, boils, abscesses, age spots, sebaceous cysts, warts, preventing stretch marks, ringworm, skin keratosis, swollen lymph nodes and eczema. It takes redness out of rashes through a strong anti-inflammatory action and softens even the most resistant skin, so it’s also a great natural beauty tool and is often helped to encourage healthy hair growth. Here’s a great article from hairlossrevolution.com for more information about that one!
  3. Pain – Topical castor oil can also be used to mitigate or relieve internal pain and inflammation from many causes.  This includes uterine cramping and abdominal pain related to the menses, joint pain and inflammation from arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis, muscle and ligament sprains, pain due to fluid retention in extremities, painful lymph nodes, even pain from appendicitis (although you still need to get to the ER post haste)

So – let me say this a different way. TOPICAL castor oil can help with:

  • Constipation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Abdominal pain and inflammation
  • Adhesions after surgery
  • Lymphatic congestion
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver detox
  • Gallbladder sludge
  • Gallstones
  • Pelvic infections
  • Menstrual cramps or pain
  • Fungal infections
  • Acne
  • Boils
  • Abscesses
  • Age spots
  • Eczema
  • Stretch mark prevention
  • Keratosis
  • Rashes
  • Joint pain and inflammation
  • Muscle and ligament sprains and strains
  • Painful lymph nodes
  • Reversing hair loss

The reason for its dramatic success in so many areas is simply the size of the primary molecule, ricinoleic acid, which comprises about 90% of the oil’s volume.  Ricinoleic acid is strongly anti-inflammatory and is a small enough molecule to penetrate into the deepest layers of the skin as well as into the lymphatic channels.  This penetration and effect is even better if you use heat on the area being treated. I recently had to have a C-section to deliver my little girl (the same one that was induced with castor oil – as it turns out her head was bigger than my body could handle).  Castor oil topically over the C-section scar has helped it to soften and heal and really helped with the initial post-labor pain.

The best news is that 8oz of organic castor oil will run between $5 and $10 depending on how fancy a store you like to shop in.  That 8oz will last most of your natural life because there’s really only so much you can use at once. Stay tuned for instructions on how to do an at home castor oil pack – both the conventional instructions, and my own much lazier method. 🙂

The castor bean plant, also called Palma Christi, or Palm of Christ.  Possibly because of its hand-shaped leaves, possibly because castor oil is as close to a miracle as I’ve ever seen.



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Switching to no shampoo, inspired by the no ‘poo method

No shampoo sounds like one of those crazy hippie things that only women who don’t shave their armpits do, but after doing some more research on the matter I’ve been inspired – especially by Crunchy Betty’s no ‘poo method. So – in entertaining this craziness – lets look at the history of shampoo.

No Shampoo Used to Be The Best Method for Healthy Hair

  • Originally shampoos originated in India from herbal recipes including such ingredients as aamla (prized today for it’s high natural vitamin C content) and soapnuts, which helped to leave hair shiny and manageable.
  • The idea of shampooing was imported to Europe by colonialists and the first commercially available shampoos were developed around the turn of the century (early 1900s – this is our VERY recent history) and weren’t commonly used until the 1930s. Liquid shampoo wasn’t invented until 1927!!
  • Initially it was the trend to shampoo once per month, more as a hair treatment than as any kind of routine maintenance.  Shampoo manufacturers urged women to increase this to once every two weeks for the health of their hair (this was still in the early 1900s)
  • Every picture of everyone I have ever seen from that turn-of-the-century era features gorgeous, full, shiny hair – on par or even better than the over-managed, glossed, fluffed, primped hair of today.
No shampoo didn't hurt this 1910 Parisian fashion model and her full lustrous locks. No 'poo at it's best!
No shampoo didn’t hurt this 1910 Parisian fashion model and her full lustrous locks. No ‘poo at it’s best!

 Why Bother with No Shampoo? It’s Not Like Shampoo is Hard to Find…

Yes – fair point. Going with no shampoo is a whole lot weirder than just enjoying the thousands of nice-smelling, foamy, creamy, straightening, curl-enhancing, glossing whatevers.  Shampoo is everywhere and easy to find and gorgeously packaged and kind of fun to buy.  You can shop by color, by smell, by function, by brand, by advertising – it seems like there is no reason to give this up! Except what happens when there is a reason to give it up? Here are some of the top reasons I’ve found:

  • Gluten. I’m pretty solidly gluten free (let’s call it GF for short) and have been for years.  Many many shampoos, lotions, hair styling products and conditioners are not gluten free and not interested in being gluten free.  They also don’t necessarily put “wheat” or “gluten” on the label. Sometimes it’s hydrolized wheat protein, and that’s easy enough to spot.  Sometimes though it’s stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl, which sounds ominous, but not wheat-y.  There’s a great list of hidden gluten words in skincare products here.  Just to clear up a myth here – many people with severe gluten sensitivities are fine with gluten in topical products because the gluten itself doesn’t absorb through the skin.  My particular brand of sensitivity it doesn’t need to absorb – it just irritates the surface of the skin and causes inflammation. On my scalp inflammation looks like itching and sometimes redness and flaking, which just isn’t fun or attractive.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate. So, this is a foaming agent that comes originally from coconuts, which sounds pretty good except that to get it out of the coconut you need to use a couple of chemicals called ethylene dioxide and dioxane, more specifically 1,4-dioxane.  Ethylene dioxide is a known carcinogen and dioxane is a suspected carcinogen. They’re bad enough that because of them SLS has made David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen list of chemicals you should never use.  If the cancer thing wasn’t enough they also cause neurological issues and developmental issues in children. These chemicals also don’t break down easily and so persist in the environment for years. Also, because the chemical contaminants aren’t the actual ingredient, companies can get away with calling sodium laureth sulphate “organic.
  • Parabens. Thankfully there’s a big push now for paraben-free products so they’re not as hard to find as they used to be, but these little nasties mimic estrogen, have been found in breast cancer tumors and if that weren’t enough, methylparaben on the skin goes through a chemical reaction when exposed to UVB radiation (from sunlight) so accelerate skin aging and DNA damage. Of course these also make the dirty dozen list, and also persist in the environment long-term changing frogs into hermaphrodites and interfering with human and animal reproduction.
  • Microplastics. These are more of an issue with skin exfoliants, but lots of personal care products now are using microplastics, which are essentially tiny particles of plastic that are added for texture.  These particles are small enough to slip through water filtration processes and so end up getting dumped in our rivers and oceans at a staggering rate.
  • Less consumerism. I like the idea of not feeding more money into the giant industries like Proctor & Gamble (which owns Pantene), Kao corporation (John Freida), Unilever (tresemme, dove), etc…
  • Better hair.  For real – my hair is a totally different ball game now, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

 The Biggest Reason To Quit Shampoo: Better Hair

Yes – I am making the wild claim that no shampoo leads to better hair. I’ll say it again: by not doing the thing we all accept as the only possible thing to do (shampoo) you actually might get a better result.  Here’s the thing: shampoo is a detergent-type product that functions entirely by stripping the natural oils from your hair and depositing other things, like smoothing agents (usually silica based), fragrances, proteins (to build body – these are often wheat based but could be soy or silk), and sometimes even tiny shimmery particles to make hair look shiny (if the shampoo has a bit of a sheen, then that stays in your hair too).  So – we take away the oils that are best designed to smooth and protect your hair and replace them with a whole lot of other stuff.

These ladies, 1917 fashion models, had questionable frocks, but some seriously shiny hair (the temptation to use the word locks was strong there...). No shampoo was the norm then!

These ladies, 1917 fashion models, had questionable frocks, but some seriously shiny hair (the temptation to use the word locks was strong there…). No shampoo was the norm then!

Have you ever noticed how shiny a horse’s coat can be when they’re groomed? Or a dogs coat? Or a squirrels?  Or how fluffy a squirrel’s tail is?  It doesn’t turn into an oily mess because the squirrel doesn’t use shampoo, but somehow we all expect that an oily mess is precisely what our hair will turn into. And, if you’ve ever gone camping for a week and not washed your hair it becomes pretty apparent that there is a *lot* of oil there.  So what’s the deal?

Because you strip your hair with shampoo regularly, your body is compensating by increasing oil production from your scalp dramatically. And I do mean dramatically. Your body is trying to protect itself by restoring the natural barrier that is there to protect your scalp and hair. Once you stop stripping the barrier off, then your body can relax about the whole thing and decrease to a normal level of oil production except that there is a fly in this soup. If you’ve spotted it it’s the fact that to get from point A (shampoo every day) to point B (no shampoo) there is a really ugly transition period involving a lot of oily hair. I mean a lot of it.

How Do I Actually Do No Shampoo ( or no ‘poo ) and What Am I In For?

Yup – there’s a process.  First off, it takes some accepting that your hair will be super weird for a few weeks – and I do mean super weird.  Also, the first natural something you try might not be the one you stick with.

Here’s what I experienced:

I made the slightly scary decision to stop shampoo (but unwisely chose to keep using something that was comfortably close to shampoo). I tried a natural recipe from Rosemary Gladstar’s book of herbal formulas, which is below (although I only made a half batch to try):

8 oz. or 1 cup distilled water, boiled
1 oz. dry herbs (choose from chamomile, calendula, and marshmallow root)
3 oz. or 6 Tb. liquid castile soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s Rose scented liquid castile soap)
¼ tsp. jojoba oil
25 drops pure essential oil (I used lemon and grapefruit for a nice zingy yummy smell).

Directions:

  1. Steep the herbs in boiling water, covered, for 15-20 minutes. Strain and cool.
  2. Slowly add the castile soap to the tea.
  3. Add the oils. Store by the shower. Gently shake before using. Only a small amount is needed.

The great things about this formula were that I did notice it start to strip away some stuff that I thought was just my natural hair texture – which means I probably had a lot of random shampoo left-overs built up.  I noticed that mostly in the first few washes. My hair was bigger and fuller, but did get oily quickly – more than usual.  It was great for a few days, fair to acceptable for about a week after that, and then it felt like it just kept getting worse.  There was a texture, for lack of a better word, that started happening to my hair. Like I could comb my hair (which was abnormally large and voluminous) in one direction and it would kind of stay in that direction in a sort of weird way… I really wasn’t into it and got less and less satisfied by it by the day.  I actually managed to last almost four weeks until I broke down and had to look for another solution. I think this one probably works really well for people with thicker hair, but I have baby-fine fly away hair and lots of it so this was not the right way for me.

This second solution, was from Crunchy Betty (who I feel like I need to meet because she’s hilarious). She advocates a much simpler solution, which is below:

Crunchy Betty’s No ‘Poo No Shampoo hair cleaner:

1 TBSP baking soda in 1 cup water.




Um… And that’s it.  Really.  Like, that’s all. So – total cost is about two cents for a cup of this stuff.  I mixed it up in an old jam jar for lack of something better to do with it and tried it out… Honestly – a miracle occurred! First off, it feels weird.  Baking soda in water feels mostly like water but slipperier – which is not our usual foamy shampoo experience. And for me I couldn’t really believe it was doing anything, so I poured some on, massaged my scalp, rinsed, and did it again straight away because it felt a little bit like nothing happened.

When I got out of the shower though I noticed right away that all the residue and texture from the castile soap version was gone – like gone gone – as well as the original shampoo residue that the castile soap recipe took away.  This left my hair light in a way I have never experienced before – like light as in weightless.  It had volume from the roots because there was nothing weighing it down and I’ve never seen it shine without anything else in it the way it started shining then.

It’s been about three weeks now that I’ve been using the baking soda in water and I’ve decided I like it best in a spray bottle.  I can really generously spray my scalp with it, do a little scalp massage, and rinse.  I’ve also started experimenting with adding a couple of drops of essential oils just to add a lovely fragrance (it really only takes a couple of drops). Now my hair is:

  • Shinier
  • Bouncier
  • More volume? Maybe it’s just more bouncy because it’s as fine as ever but there is more lift at the roots – like there’s less weighing it down.
  • Far less fly-away.  I don’t feel like I’m constantly wrangling strays
  • A slightly different color – this one is super interesting, but my hair has changed color slightly. I don’t know if anyone else would notice it, but I do.  It’s a slightly lighter color and has more variability to it – like it’s not as much just brown, but now there are all different shades of brown that are more noticeable.  Weird.

I’ve also started experimenting with the vinegar rinses as advocated by Crunchy Betty, but honestly my hair with the no shampoo doesn’t even really feel like it needs any kind of conditioner.

All in all I am thrilled with the results.  The commitment in the middle – going through the horrible weird hair phase was hard and certainly made me question myself a number of times, but I am SO glad I stuck with it to get the no shampoo results! There is no going back for me!

* Quick update as of August 2015 – I’m still loving no-poo but finding that my hair has less wave to it, it’s progressively getting straighter (which I don’t like) – still full and shiny and bouncy, just straighter.  I’ve been doing some reading on it and it sounds like the baking soda is actually too harsh for wavy/curly hair so I’ll try switching to a honey shampoo…  I’ve found two recipes that look promising, one is from EmpoweredSustenance.com that is:

  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 3 tbsp filtered water
  • Couple of drops of essential oil if desired.

The other is from CodeRedHat.com and is a honey/aloe mixture:

  • 1/4 cup aloe gel
  • 2 tbsp raw honey

I haven’t tried either of these yet but plan on experimenting over the next few weeks so I’ll keep everyone posted…  Also there’s a great facebook group all about no-poo with some people who have been off shampoo for years and years – it’s a great place to get advice and information so here’s that link!



Aluminum Deodorant Safety and Natural DIY Deodorant

Aluminum deodorant safety is an issue that generates a lot of controversy. Research has shown a link between aluminum levels and a number of conditions including breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, but how much topical aluminum products like deodorant or aluminum antiperspirant make a difference to that is much-debated.

What Are The Health Risks of Aluminum and What About Aluminum Deodorant Safety Research?

First off, aluminum is everywhere. It is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust and happens to be highly useful in industry so most people have high levels of exposure.  The biggest source for aluminum by far is through foods and medicines, as it’s added as an additive and anti-caking agent to flour, and baking powder and also to food colors and food additives. It is a major ingredient in some medications including antacids and buffered aspirin and also aluminum cookware and food packaging contaminates foods. Aluminum is detoxified from the body via the kidneys, so those with kidney impairment are at greater risk.

In their exhaustive toxicology reports, the Centers for Disease Control reports many risks of orally ingested aluminum including:

  • Reduced immunity
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Behavioral changes
  • Learning impairment
  • Confusion
  • Muscle Twitching
  • Bone pain
  • Alzheimers – maybe?  Studies are mixed but :
    • brains with Alzheimers have higher levels of Aluminum than normal
    • Aluminum is clearly neurotoxic
    • Areas with high aluminum levels in the water typically have higher rates of Alzheimer’s
  • ALS, or Lou Gherig’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Breast Cancer? – Studies have shown higher aluminum levels in breast tumors, but it’s not clear if the aluminum is related, or if it just happens to deposit there.

Obviously aluminum isn’t a health food, but this still doesn’t tell us anything aluminum deodorant safety or risk. A study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology indicates that about 0.012% of aluminum applied to the skin is absorbed. Another study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry shows that in stripped skin absorption of aluminum from stick-type antiperspirants is actually much higher – almost 10x higher. Both of these studies emphasize the safety of single usages of aluminum deodorant, but give cautions about long-term use.

Why is Aluminum in Deodorant Anyway?

There is a lot of talk about aluminum deodorant safety, so it seems like manufacturers would remove it, but aluminum is largely why deodorants work – or at least why anti-antiperspirants work.  The aluminum forms gentle plugs in the skin that blocks the ducts so that sweat is trapped in the skin. Aside from being mildly gross, sweat is a detoxification method for your body and clearly aluminum blocks that process.

Aluminum deodorant safety is a hot topic - but take a look at the way the aluminum plugs are thought to form in your deep skin. Eek!

Aluminum deodorant safety is a hot topic – but take a look at the way the aluminum plugs are thought to form in your deep skin. Eek! Great file by Christopher Exley (http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C3EM00374D) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are There Natural Alternatives?

Yes, but they don’t do the same thing because there is nothing natural about blocking sweat from leaving the body.  Honestly – my experience has been that the natural products work, but don’t last as long and don’t hold up as well to extreme situations (like job interviews or first dates or marathons).  With the natural products you may find you have to carry some with you to reapply.  You will also find that the natural products don’t reduce sweating at all – sadly that doesn’t really happen without the aluminum.  So you still sweat, but you smell just fine.  My real-life compromise has been to use the natural home-made deodorant most of the time because I have enough concern about aluminum deodorant safety to avoid regular use, but I will break down and use the aluminum one if I’m speaking at a conference or in some other higher-pressure situation.

Great DIY Natural Deodorant Recipe:

I’ve been trying this one lately and really like the way it feels on my skin – it’s an adaptation from one I found on Wellness Mama but I add a little more baking soda because I found it just a little too oily without it – but try both ways and see what you like.  Also if you’re looking for a great source for clean oils, herbs and essential oils try Mountain Rose Herbs. Starting out you may have to buy a few ingredients, but overall this is a super-thrifty, super healthy alternative because believe it or not this works out way cheaper in the long-run. God I *love* thrifty health. It’s such a bonus when the best way to do it is also cheaper than the way we normally do it.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com
My version of the recipe includes:

  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons shea butter
  • 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder (or you can use baking soda if you don’t have arrowroot)
  • Essential oils (optional – but I always like it to have a light scent.)

Mix the coconut oil and shea butter and heat gently on a double-boiler (I use a stainless steel bowl placed over the top of a pot with a little boiling water at the bottom – that way the steam heats the bowl but it isn’t directly on the stove top).  Warm the oils just until the shea butter melts and you can mix them together then take it off the heat and add the baking soda and arrowroot powders. Stir this really well – a little whisk works or even pour it into the blender if you’re feeling a little lazy, but it’s a heavy oil base so the blender will take some thorough washing afterward. Add 20-40 drops of an essential oil once it’s all mixed and stir that in.  Now it’s ready to pour into a small wide-mouth jar and set for a while. I just let mine sit overnight so that it can solidify.




For this batch I added about 30 drops of grapefruit oil and maybe 4-5 drops of lemon oil just because the citrus smells always make me feel happy and perky so they’re perfect for morning, but have fun playing around and finding the best combo for you.  Once your natural deodorant has re-solidified then it’s ready to use! Just a small amount rubbed under each arm will do the trick but it’s not a bad idea to put a little bit in a tiny lip gloss jar to keep in your purse or pocket. Just don’t leave it in the hot car because it will melt.

Making the Switch to Natural Deodorant

So – it sounds kind of goofy, but if you’re been using an aluminum based product that reduces sweating then your body is probably going to have to detox a bit as it pushes the residual aluminum plugs out of those sweat glands and then pushes out all the toxins that have been building up behind those plugs.  It can take a couple of weeks and what I hear most from people (and certainly what I experienced) was just kind of a funky two weeks.  Your body may produce some interesting odors during this time in it’s joy at getting rid of the junk that has built up.  Don’t worry – there are some strategies to manage it:

Wipe your armpits a few times per day with distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cotton pad – it will help to kill any funky bacteria or yeast that may be growing in that slightly toxic environment as well as to pick up the toxins.  Every time you clean your pits this way then re-apply your natural deodorant.  Risking a too-much-information situation here, I will tell you that I tend to be a sweaty kind of gal, so I always used vinegar at home before and after work and carried alcohol wipes to work with me to use maybe three times in the middle of the day.  It was a weird transition, but after about a week and a half it seemed like everything calmed down so that I didn’t need to do anything other than reapply the deodorant towards the end of the day.  Just be careful because if you’ve just shaved then both the vinegar and alcohol burn a little. Also I’ve noticed that since the switch my skin texture in that area has totally changed – there’s a big difference in the softness of the skin and also I’m realizing that my armpits are less irritable, for lack of a better word. It just seems like that whole area is healthier overall.

Aluminum deodorant safety is still not especially well researched, but there is enough evidence about aluminum and serious illness that I feel uncomfortable using it. The switch to natural deodorant takes a little bit of dedication, but is well worth it in the long run.  Our bodies have enough challenges without slathering on the heavy metals!



Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen. It's just that there isn't a shortcut.

The Biggest Loser Rapid Weight Loss – Why Isn’t This Real Life?

Rapid weight loss is what everyone seems to want and expect from themselves, in spite of the fact that it never seems to actually happen. Don’t you love TV shows where people go from morbid obesity to a relatively normal weight, losing what amounts to a couple of small children within a year?  It gives hope that you can probably shed that extra 15 lbs in a week.  Two at most, right? If those people on the television can lose 300 pounds in a year then surely 15 lbs in a week is reasonable. Except that in real life it doesn’t ever happen and the sad part is that it’s really easy to fall into the trap of beating yourself up about that.

Why Doesn’t Rapid Weight Loss Happen In Real Life?

Please be gentle with yourself – it’s not that you’re not strong enough or not dedicated enough, or sacrificing enough.  It’s not happening because it’s darn near impossible. When you lose weight the first weight you lose is water.  If you’re starting out at 450 lbs then there really are 20 lbs of extra water hanging around to lose in the first week.  If you’re starting out at 250 lbs, all of your extra water is probably 8-10 pounds.  If you only need to lose 15 pounds then maybe there’s only four or five pounds of water weight. It’s a whole different ball game. Of course you can lose the water weight quickly – just take the most inflammatory foods out of your diet. Lose the grains and dairy and processed foods and usually those pounds will drop off. But after that? Things turn real.

Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen.  It's just that there isn't a shortcut.

Rapid weight loss might be a myth, but real weight loss can and does happen. It’s just that there isn’t a shortcut.

There is a common misconception that fat weight doesn’t do anything, but research has shown that the fat in your body plays an important role in hormone balance or imbalance, toxin processing and storage and metabolic weight.  When you go for serious weight loss you are asking your body to re-distribute those tasks to other tissues. That means detoxifying and eliminating the toxins stored in the fat tissue you’re trying to lose, re-adjusting your hormone balance (usually for the better, but it’s still a slow process) and changing your basic resting metabolism. Not to mention that for every pound of fat you lose your body needs to re-organize, eliminate or reabsorb A MILE of blood vessels.  Whaaaa??? Literally a mile of blood vessels are necessary to properly feed and circulate each pound of fat and your body has to deal with that each time you gain or lose fat. Rapid weight loss sounds do-able but rapid elimination of a mile of blood vessels?  Not so much.




The obvious complexity of fat tissue! Image by Philipp E. Scherer  Touchstone Diabetes Center, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, published by NatureMedicine.

The obvious complexity of fat tissue! Image by Philipp E. Scherer
Touchstone Diabetes Center, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, published by NatureMedicine.

The Unreality of Reality TV Weight Loss

I am in no way trying to minimize the accomplishments of the people who go on reality TV and actually do the hard work to lose weight and keep it off. Just remember that most of the people on TV reality weight loss shows are going from 6000 calorie all fast-food diets with absolutely no activity to 1500 calorie diets (usually cooked by someone else) with personal trainers pushing them around for hours of every day.  Even if it’s possible for you to quit your job and devote your life to weight loss, it’s probably not possible to also pay a personal trainer, motivational coach and personal chef.  It’s just not real life – which of course is what makes it fun to watch on TV.

Real Life Weight Loss vs. The Rapid Weight Loss Dream

Today all I want you to know is that real-life weight loss is different than “reality TV” weight loss. It happens in fits and starts, there are pauses in progress.  Some weeks you might lose two pounds and some weeks you might not see the scale move at all. In fact, six weeks might go by where you’re doing everything right and the numbers on the scale aren’t changing.  That is totally normal.  It’s so easy to get discouraged and to be aiming for the numbers without paying any attention to how you feel, how your clothes are fitting or the tremendous amount of work your body is doing in that six weeks to normalize and re-adjust to this new you.

Even if you’re only losing two pounds a month, you’re still losing weight and getting healthier and making positive change.  The best part is you’re learning the behaviors as you lose to help you keep the weight off for the long run.  Just be gentle with yourself, be forgiving that you have to work in weight loss as a side activity and not as your whole purpose in life.  That isn’t a bad thing. Rapid weight loss isn’t real life and setting that as your expectation just sets you up for failure. Celebrate every progress and take time to admire how much hard work your body is doing in the times that the number on the scale isn’t changing.  It really is a big deal.  Your body is an amazing tool and an amazing gift – sometimes it benefits from a little appreciation as well.



Oil Cleansing – Your Skin Will Thank You For This!

Oil cleansing is one of those things I’d heard people talking about for years before I actually worked up the nerve to try it. Let’s face it, smearing oil on your skin to clean it just seems counter-intuitive.  Several years ago, in a fit of boredom, I decided to give it a whirl and I’ve never looked back.  After oil cleansing my skin literally felt softer than it has ever felt. Soft and smooth and it looked kind of dewy – you can’t buy that. It was an amazing transformation after oil cleansing just once so for all you skeptics out there who have used every product imaginable and are utterly jaded on the whole “miraculous difference” thing – just wait until you’re having a bored day, and slather up!

Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?

The basic idea behind oil cleansing is that oil is natural to your skin, where soap isn’t.  Oil naturally travels deep into your pores, because it’s pretty much what is meant to be in there, where water stays outside because oil and water don’t mix, and they’re already filled with oil.  So if your pores are filled with oil (which seems bad) but then you’re adding it on topically (supposed to be good) then what is the real story?  Essentially we’re  pulling out the gross, dirty oil from your pores and replacing it with oils that are beneficial to your skin and clean so that your skin can stay smooth and soft and lovely. This is great for acne-prone skin, dry skin or combination skin and it’s amazing for anti-aging because it keeps your skin hydrated and nourished.

What Oil Should I Use?

This is where it gets fun because you get to play kitchen chemist. First, let’s start with the base:

Oil Cleansing Base:50% Castor Oil
50% Jojoba

This base has the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of the castor oil as well as the stability of jojoba oil.  It also penetrates deeply into pores because the castor oils ha very small molecules and the jojoba is the most molecularly similar to your skin’s natural sebum. This base by itself is a great mixture and if you’re just starting out and not sure you’ll like it, it’s a great place to start. You can always add things to the mix later on.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Great add-ins for Dry Skin

Kukui nut oil – high in essential fatty acids, readily absorbed into the skin to nourish the deeper layers.
Argan oil – rare, high in vitamin E which absorbs quickly and adds a level of luxury.
Baobab oil – light, rich in vitamins A, E and F which absorbs quickly and is specifically used for hydrating and protecting dry skin.
Sea Buckthorn OIl – exceptionally rich and healing for deeply dry, chapped skin. A small amount goes a long way.

Add-ins for Oily or Blemished Skin

Meadowfoam Seed OIl – healing and nourishing and high in natural salycilates, which reduce inflammation.Hazelnut Oil – highly suited for oily skin because it has astringent properties and helps to reduce excessive oil production.

Meadowfoam - of course this beauty would help your skin.

Meadowfoam – of course this beauty would help your skin.

Great additions for Anti-Aging

Pomegranate Seed Oil – it isn’t hard to imagine that this is highly prized for skin care and nourishes the skin while it provides antioxidant benefits. Promotes skin regeneration.
Rosehip Seed Oil – one of my favorites this is the predominant oil for wrinkled and aging skin.Black Seed Oil – highly nutritive and restoring to the skin. A little goes a long way.




Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite.

Beautiful rosehip seed oil. My favorite. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for all of these exotic goodies.

So How Do I Oil Cleanse?

This is the best part:

  1. Get a headband to pull your hair back because stray hair gets oily really quickly.
  2. Put a dime sized amount of your oil mix in your palm and use the fingertips of your other hand to gently massage it into your face – don’t forget your lips, under your jaw line and your decollete, those are highly visible areas that often have the same problems as your facial skin, and your lips will just love the moisture. Use gentle upward strokes or light taps to encourage collagen production because god knows we all want more collagen.
  3. Leave the oil on your skin for five to ten minutes if you have some time, or you can skip straight to washing it off if you’re in a hurry.
  4. Run a washcloth under super hot water and wring it out then put it over your whole face and use the heat to dissolve and liquify the oil.  Don’t scrub, just use the heat to almost steam the oil off your face and wipe up what is left with the still hot washcloth.
  5. Marvel at the beauty of your newly lovely skin. Seriously, it’s amazing.
  6. Use a tiny amount of an oil based moisturizer – I love MiraCell Skin Relief and Support (for a premade product) but you can also make a lighter skin oil and use a few drops as a moisturizer. We’ll talk about that in a separate post.

    Miracell - a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

    Miracell – a nice moisturizer after oil cleansing.

The only part about this that I don’t absolutely love is the washcloths – simply because it’s hard to get the oil out of them.  The best trick I’ve found is soaking them in a bowl with baking soda in the water to dissolve the oil before you put them in the washing machine. In general it shortens the lives of wash cloths, but so spectacularly worth it for such lovely skin.

This is a totally different approach to skin care that has entirely changed the way I view soaps, and not for the better.  I source all of my carrier oils from Mountain Rose Herbs and keep them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life.  I mix up small batches (usually just an ounce at a time) of the facial cleansing oil, and then also end up using it as an after-shower moisturizer because it feels amazing.  Typically I use about 80-90% carrier oil, almost always a larger portion of rosehip oil because I’m pretty sure it’s addictive, and then experiment here and there.  I love changing it up a little bit and am always trying new combinations.  I have added essential oils before, but I honestly like the simple oils better by themselves. I hope you love oil cleansing as much as I do – let me know what you think!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c



Honey Beats MRSA and Other Reasons to Love Honey for Health

As if there weren’t enough reasons to love honey, it’s also showing a staggering array of health benefits, in fact honey for health might just be this years new buzzword (shameless pun, I know.) Seriously honey is kind of a miracle anyway; the awesomeness of bees flying 55,000 miles and visiting two million flowers per pound of honey is pretty staggering, but as it turns out every day we have more and more reasons to be amazed by honey health benefits as well.  Today’s amazement includes a fully stocked arsenal of weapons against against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

honey for health dreamstimefree_192457 Hard at work for your honey health benefits… Gorgeous shot from © Olga Vasilkova | Dreamstime Stock Photos

One of the most immediate problems modern medicine is facing right now is the epidemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Of course MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)  is all over the news, but equally distressing are the antibiotic resistant strains of tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and Clostridium difficile that are popping up all over the world and the U.S.  We’re calling these new big bads the “Superbugs” and really, we’re at a bit of a loss trying to figure out how to kill them. The whole concept of antibiotic resistance is distressing because it is the evolution of organisms into newer, more dangerous, better adapted pathogens.  These bacteria create conditions that we thought we knew how to treat, except the old treatments aren’t working anymore because the bacteria have become “smarter” in their own way. Seems kind of astounding that something as simple as honey might be the answer, but the way it’s looking now, honey could be a big part of the solution.




How bacteria become antibiotic resistant

This is a complex process that has happened partially because of the way we hand out antibiotics like candy for humans, and partly because we use antibiotics in our livestock’s food – not just to keep them from getting diseases in unhealthy living conditions, but also because antibiotics are proven to help fatten animals faster (humans too. Sigh.) Mechanisms for antibiotic resistance include:

  • Genetic resistance – Some bacteria have mutated (or evolved) to resist antibiotics, and bacteria have a very free and easy swapping of genes, so gene segments can jump from one bacteria to another in a slightly scary form of information sharing. Bacterial genetics can change very quickly, which makes them highly adaptable (and makes the human error of antibiotic overuse that much more serious).
  • Evolution – Darwin would be gleefully saying “I told you so” if he were here to see this. We have unintentionally created an experiment in natural selection.  If you blast a person who is sick with antibiotics and they don’t quite get better, the bacteria which have survived are naturally the strongest members of that colony.  Quite literally the ones best adapted to survive that harsh environment.  They then go on to breed happily with each other enhancing those survival traits so that in the future that harsh environment is just another walk in the park for that particular bacteria. Essentially we’re breeding and cultivating better pathogens.
  • Antibiotic overuse in humans – Obviously medicine has been on a bit of a field-day with antibiotics. Doctors have given them for everything from ear infections (usually viral -which antibiotics won’t help) to acne (really? We should put teenagers on systemic antibiotics for months? Really?) The more we use them the more likely it is that our bacteria evolve to avoid them. Plain and simple.
  • Antibiotic overuse in livestock – In the effort to make fatter farm animals (which is clearly what this culture needs) we feed them antibiotics. The good news is that it works – they fatten right up. The bad news is that they become factories for drug-resistant bugs.  The other bad news is that the humans consuming those animals get exposure to the antibiotic resistant bacteria, and also low doses of the antibiotics themselves, thereby nudging their own internal bacteria towards drug resistance.
  • Biofilms – one of the things bacteria have learned to do to avoid dying in an antibiotic-rich environment is to create what is called a biofilm.  It is exactly what it sounds like, a sticky, gooey mass of bacteria that literally cement themselves together to make it harder for you to kill them.
Staph aureus biofilm. Did you know honey can help you fight this??? Honey for Health! Thanks to wikimedia commons for the image.

Staph aureus biofilm. Did you know honey can help you fight this??? Honey for Health! Thanks to wikimedia commons for the image.

How honey helps fight antibiotic resistance in bacteria

Outside of being utterly amazing and yummy and rich in minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants and bioflavenoids, honey is also a pretty amazing bacterial killer (not to mention wound healer – honey is used in hospitals on severe burns and wounds that won’t heal).  Honey has many overlapping mechanisms for killing bacteria, which makes it much harder for bacteria to develop resistance – honey really is a miracle health food. Here’s what it does to bacteria:

  • Kills them with kindness – The high sugar concentration in honey actually does kill bacteria through osmotic effects. Essentially it’s like pouring salt on slugs – it just draws all the water out of the bacteria and dries them up. Incidentally, this is a big part of what happens to human cells in diabetes – think about that the next time you buy a giant bucket of soda.
  • Kills them with cruelty – Honey is designed to prevent bacteria growth because it’s long-term storage food for bees. This means it contains substances that are toxic to bacteria like hydrogen peroxide, polyphenols, and acids that are actually directly harmful to bacteria.
  • Isolates bacteria – New research shows that honey disrupts something called “quorum sensing”, which is the method bacteria use to communicate with each other. This makes the bacteria less virulent by stopping them from communicating enough to release toxins and also increases their susceptibility to conventional antibiotics.
  • Prevents biofilms – Without quorum sensing, bacteria have a much harder time forming biofilms (you can’t gang up if you can’t talk with your buddies). This takes away one of the bacteria’s main defenses against drugs and toxins.
  • Honey is tricky – Honey doesn’t kill bacteria by targeting the essential growth processes, it eliminates bacteria on many fronts, which makes it much harder to develop a genetic resistance to this kind of damage.

Honey for health: The best things about honey

Honey for health isn’t a new idea – it’s been used for centuries as a healing tool. Honey isn’t just antibacterial, there are a host of other great benefits as well. Here’s a quick list, but we’ll probably revisit this issue because there is always more to tell.

  • Honey prevents everything – In addition to being antibacterial, honey is also antiviral and antifungal
  • Honey is a tremendous antioxidant – That’s all we need to say about that.
  • Honey is healing – Honey is extremely soothing to tissues and helps wounds and burns heal with less scarring. Because it’s also antibacterial and antifungal it’s being used in hospitals for this purpose.
  • Honey is a cough suppressant – a mug of hot water with honey and lemon juice helps to relax your bronchial tree and loosen up a tight cough.
  • Honey helps a sore throat –  My grandmother (and mom too, but I remember it best at Nana’s house) used to give me honey and fresh squeezed lemon juice when I’d have a sore throat and have me eat it as slowly as I could (which was not very slowly because it tastes awesome). Worked like a charm.
  • Honey makes a great mixed drink – I know in Texas we don’t have many cold nights, but if you ever need quick warming up, try a shot of spiced rum in a mug with honey and hot water. So delicious and warms you right up.
  • Honey is soothing to the stomach and esophagus – honey can help to heal gastritis, ulcers and mild erosions in the upper GI tract.  This effect is especially well documented with manuka honey.  A teaspoon two to three times daily between meals really helps.
  • Honey may help with allergies – Eating raw, seasonal, local honey gives you traces of the pollens from the local area and can help to reduce your symptoms from airborne allergens.
  • Honey makes you radiant – Honey is just as nourishing to your skin as it is to the rest of you, and helps to nourish your skin from the outside.  Honey in your skin care routine can help to provide antioxidants, kill harmful bacteria and rejuvenate skin cells, as well as return your skin to it’s naturally slightly acidic pH. Here’s a favorite honey mask:

1 tsp whole milk
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp sea salt

Mix the ingredients together and apply to your face in gentle circular motions.  Leave it on for five minutes and then rinse with warm water. The salt is gently exfoliating, the milk has lactic acid which helps to dissolve old or dead skin cells and the honey and milk proteins and fats nourish your skin to leave it soft and smooth and lovely. Once or twice a week will give you noticeable improvements in skin tone and texture and is just a lovely way to pamper yourself. Honey does tend to lighten the skin subtly, so it can also help with sun spots over time.

I’m obviously a big fan of honey, especially raw organic honey.  Honey for health isn’t a new idea, but it’s easy to overlook. Your pantry is often the most useful medicine cabinet in the house, and in truth I’m not sure how I would make my life work without honey (or vinegar – we can talk about that one later.)  In the interim – just give honey a try. Honey for health is simple, gentle and effective and best of all it’s one tool that does many jobs. No need for many different types of remedies and potions, just a few really great basics.  If you’re looking for even more great information, here’s a great article called 13 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Honey.  Totally worth a look!