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I’ve been definitely needing the stress-relieving and rejuvenating effects of nature walks lately and as synchronicity has it, just came upon this wonderful article about nature’s support in preventing illness, specifically cancer. Enjoy!

Want to Prevent Cancer? Take a Walk in the Forest
Studies on Forest Bathing
By Colleen M. Story

You’re eating right, exercising, and managing stress. But you’re still worried. Maybe someone in your family had cancer, or you have other risk factors. Is there anything else you can do?

Recent scientific studies shows there is—get to a forest and take a walk.

We’ve always known that spending time in nature is good for us, but now we have real evidence that spending time in the forest, specifically, can create measurable changes in our bodies and minds that have a significant effect on our health.

What is Forest Bathing?

The term shinrin-yoki or “forest bathing” was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 1982. It described the process of taking in the atmosphere of the forest to improve mental and physical relaxation. The practice has been popular in Japan for decades, with citizens escaping to one of the many forests to relax and recharge. To them, it’s an experience similar to aromatherapy, as breathing in the unique air of the forest is a key part of the process. According to a 2003 survey, over a quarter of respondents had participated in a forest-bathing trip.

In 2004, Japan established the Association of Therapeutic Effects of Forests. Just three years later, the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) launched a new taskforce on forests and human health in Finland. That same year, the Japanese Society for Hygiene established the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine.

All these associations have made it possible for researchers to conduct scientific tests on the effect of forest bathing on mental and physical health. The results have shown that if you’re not regularly walking in the forest, you should be!

Health Benefits of Forest Bathing

Turns out that taking a walk in the forest does a lot more for you than simply help you relax—thought in our fast-paced world, that’s significant in itself. Here’s more on what this therapy can do for you:

Boost the immune system: Laboratory studies discovered that “phytoncides”—like a-pinene and limonene, which are essential oils from the wood of forest trees—increase the activity of killer cells, responsible for keeping cancer cells in check and for otherwise preventing infections and illnesses. Other studies have found that fragrance from these oils helps boost killer cell activity. In 2010, researchers took it a step further, and conducted tests on healthy male subjects aged 37-55 who actually took a walk in the forest and then took a similar walk in the city.

Both walks were 2.5 km in length and lasted about two hours. Researchers measured phytoncides in the air, took blood samples and had participants complete a survey after the trip. They also took follow-up blood samples on day 7 and day 30 after the walks. Results showed that not only did the forest walk increase activity of natural killer cells (while the city walk did not), but the effects were still there 30 days later. In a second part of the same study, researchers found similar effects on women who engaged in forest walks. This part of the study also showed a decrease in the percentage of “T cells,” which indicate mental stress.

Relieve stress: In the study mentioned above, researchers measured levels of adrenaline in the urine of both the male and female participants. They found that the forest bathing trips significantly decreased the adrenaline levels, suggesting the participants were under lower stress during their time in the forest. Other studies have found similar results, with forest bathing reducing levels of “cortisol,” the stress hormone, and increasing self-reported vigor, as well as decreasing anxiety, depression, and anger. Measurements of white blood cells also showed that the experience was relaxing for the parasympathetic nervous system. An earlier 2007 study found that the stress-relieving effects were even greater for participants who were experiencing “chronic stress,” suggesting that forest bathing could be part of a therapeutic treatment.

Reduce blood pressure and heart rate: In another 2010 study, researchers conducted experiments in 24 areas in Japan. They found that not only did forest bathing reduce cortisol levels, but also reduced average blood pressure levels. Other measurements showed that the experience greatly increased relaxation and decreased stress.

Reduce fatigue & improve mood: Information from these studies also shows that even just viewing the forest (without walking through it) helped reduce fatigue and improve mood, when compared to viewing city landscapes. Walking through the forest increased the benefits—results showed that after walking participants scored lower in tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion, while scoring higher in vigor, when compared with walking in the city.

Researchers noted “human beings have lived in the natural environment for most of the 5 million years of their existence. Therefore, their physiological functions are most suited to natural settings. This is the reason why the natural environment can enhance relaxation.”

They added that the effect on killer cells is significant, as the phytoncides can kill tumor cells by releasing anti-cancer proteins. In addition to showing increased natural killer cell function, these studies found an increase level of anti-cancer proteins after forest bathing, suggesting that the trips may “have a preventive effect on cancer generation and development.”

The Trees Are Key

All of these studies point to the trees as providing a big portion of the health benefits. Participants breathe in air laden with phytoncides, which are responsible for that lovely scent one encounters when in the forest. Just like essential oils have shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial effects, so their aromas also seem to have healthful effects on the human body and mind. We breathe in the chemicals released by these oils as we walk among the trees, taking in their protective benefits.

So important are the trees, in fact, that studies have shown their presence outside of hospital windows improves recovery. A 1984 study, for example, reviewed data from patients who stayed in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital. Some stayed in rooms with windows that looked out on a small stand of deciduous trees, while others stayed in rooms with windows looking out on a brown brick wall. All were served by the same nurses, with rooms being nearly identical in terms of size and furniture.

Results showed that those who had a view of the trees had significantly shorter hospital stays, had fewer postsurgical complaints, used less-potent pain medications, and received fewer negative comments in the nurses’ charts than those who stayed in the rooms with the view of the brick wall.

Even just looking at images of nature can help some. A 2010 study, for example, found that views of nature help relieve stress and pain in healthcare settings.

For Your Next Forest Walk

To try forest bathing for yourself, find the nearest natural area with trees, and follow these tips:
Plan your walk in such a way that you don’t get too tired on the trip.

Try to stay at least an hour in the forest surroundings.

Take along some water or snacks to make the experience more pleasant if you like.

You don’t necessarily have to spend the whole time walking—leave your ideas of a “workout” or “exercise routine” behind. Instead, bring along a journal or a good book so you can just sit and absorb the atmosphere along the way.

If you are in dire need of stress or health recovery, plan a two-to-three day trip to a forested area. You may want to stay in a cabin or something similar and walk among the trees every day.

For everyday maintenance, a daily walk in a park near your home can also be helpful.

Do you practice forest bathing? Please share your stories:)

the art of healthy bodycare

Bathing with RosesI feel sad when I think about the the wars we wage with ourselves over body image. My body has changed shape quite a few times in my life and my skin has had its challenges. I regret to say that I haven’t always been the kindest to myself.
Many of us have an image of our “ideal” body, skin, hair… the one we would have if we could only… lose 20 pounds or do a detox diet or get rid of some of our acne/wrinkles or change our hair color or keep up with a regular exercise routine or….
It is as if by being critical we are somehow forced to make the “needed” changes. Unfortunately, this never really works and doesn’t address the important issue of loving self care.
In yoga today, my teacher talked about the importance of cleaning our energy field, of letting go of mental…

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Spring CleaningWith Spring now here, it’s time for that annual ritual (that I actually enjoy): spring cleaning! It’s time to let go of the musty odors of winter and make our homes ready to welcome fresh air and sunshine. Finally!
As many of us are discovering, by reading labels or simply noticing our bodies’ reactions, most of the cleaning products we can buy…. the sprays, polishes, scrubbing bubbles, plug-ins and even the so-called “natural” ones that have cute, homey labels— can be filled with toxic chemicals. Even the EPA has said that the indoor air that we breathe can be up to 70 times more toxic than the outdoor air due to VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are found in cleaning products! Happily, you don’t have to choose between your health and a clean, fresh home. A few simple ingredients can create cleaning products that are healthy, effective and smell absolutely fabulous! You might even like cleaning a whole lot more when you clean the naturally green way:)

Most of the ingredients you’ll need to start making your own clean home kit can be found at your local grocery and hardware stores. Essential oils can be purchased at co-ops and other specialty shops. We also carry a home cleaning DIY kit as well as individual and essential oil blends and handmade vegetable soaps at our online shop.

Ingredients You’ll Need:

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a mild alkali useful in many cleaning applications.

White vinegar, a slightly acidic liquid, is also useful in many cleaning formulas.

Castile soap made from plant oils works as surfactant by helping to loosen and wash away dirt. Soap made with a high percentage of coconut oil is the best de-greaser with its high lauric acid composition.

Lemon, lime and grapefruit juices, fresh or in concentrate, do more than smell great — they’re acidic and antibacterial and make a wonderful addition to many cleaning formulas.

Borax (sodium bromate) is a mildly alkaline, water-soluble salt. It loosens dirt and stains while removing odors. Borax is usually available in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, but it’s available by mail, too.

Olive and jojoba oils are excellent in wood cleaners because they recondition and polish the surfaces.

Beeswax and Carnauba (vegan) are both waxes that turn oils into pastes for waxing and shining.

Lanolin, a natural oil extracted from wool, is used in wool washes and restores some of the fiber’s natural sheen and gives it more water repellancy.

Clay powder is a mild abrasive that absorbs essential oils and disperses them easily in powdered cleaning formulas.

Pumice is finely ground volcanic rock and used as an abrasive in scrubbing pastes for tough jobs.

Essential oils offer important cleaning and disinfecting benefits. Distilled from plant roots, rinds, flowers, seeds and resins, essential oils are highly concentrated and intensely scented. Essential oils are not the same as the synthetic scent oils that you can find at crafts stores or in most commercial cleaning products. Such chemically contrived oils don’t originate from plants and they cannot offer the cleaning or therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated, and as a rule should not be applied directly to the skin or to household surfaces.
(An important FYI: Never ingest essential oils unless you know for sure that they are safe; should this happen by accident, do not induce vomiting — seek immediate medical help.)
A little goes a long way, so be conservative with their use.

Here are some of my favorite oils for home cleaning:

Clove (eugenia caryophyitata) is stimulating and penetrating. Its antiseptic properties and spicy scent makes it a favorite in the fall and winter months. Clove has antiseptic properties which make it useful to help prevent viral germs; it’s often used in “thieves” type blends. One of my favorite ways to use clove is in a spray with orange essential oil. It reminds me of clove pomanders at Christmas and refreshes the entire room and helps to lift my mood.

Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus or radiata) a powerful, penetrating bactericidal and antiviral that disinfects while helping relieve respiratory congestion. It’s an excellent cleaning choice if you are fighting off a cold. Eucalyptus is stimulating and cleansing especially in the winter months. Use it to sanitize door handles, bathrooms, phones, basically any surface you want disinfected from germs. A few drops of eucalyptus in the washer helps kill off germs, and even dust mites.

Grapefruit (citrus paradisi) cuts grease and grime as well as being antiseptic and disinfects. Grapefruit is one of my all time favorites essential oils for its sweet aroma and uplifting nature. Used in a spray with vinegar, water and vodka, it is the best window cleaner around. Not only does it cut grease and grime, but it cuts a sour mood as well!

Lavender (lavendula officinalis) is one of the most versatile of all essential oils. With analgesic, antiseptic, antibacterial and calming properties, it can be used in many different ways. It is balancing for the body, mind and emotions. It aids sleep, soothes tired muscles, benefits the immune system and encourages tranquility. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used directly on the skin without being diluted. (Make sure, though, that you use a therapeutic grade, true essential oil and not an “essence oil” or fragrance oil. ) Apply to pulse points to melt anxiety. You can also add it to a spray bottle of water and use as a linen spray to sanitize and freshen bedding. I like to spray my pillow and sheets before bedtime for an intentionally restful sleep. I also use it with my laundry soap and in the dryer for sweet lavender scented linens.

Lemon (Citrus limonum) refreshes and cools, brings clarity to mind and emotions. It benefits the immune system, the circulatory system, and counteracts acidity. Lemon is a natural brightener. Use a few drops in your load of whites. I like to use lemon in my unscented dish soap for its clean, fresh scent, and its ability to cut grease. A few drops added to a wet sponge is useful in wiping down stove tops, counters and refrigerators. It’s also good for removing anything sticky. Lemon has such a lighthearted, yummy scent that it’s easy to forget how well it performs as a degreaser and general cleanser. Mix a few drops of this oil with a couple of tablespoons of baking soda for a slightly abrasive kitchen scrub.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is anti-infectious and antiseptic. Known as a natural deodorizer and odor neutralizer, lemongrass works well when added to a spray bottle of water. Use in the trash can, on pet beds, gym shoes, cat litter boxes, teenager’s rooms, and a few drops in your garbage disposal will make your kitchen smell great! Lemongrass is also a natural pain reliever, making it a good choice for headaches and muscle aches. Apply a few drops to a cool wash cloth as a head compress. It also makes a wonderful bath salt for sore muscles when combined with eucalyptus and peppermint, and added to Sacred Clay and/or Dead Sea salts.

Pine (pinus sylvestris) may take the prize in home cleaning with its antimicrobial, antiviral, bactericidal, antiseptic, disinfectant and degreasing properties. Use pine often in your cleaning products, but remember to use it sparingly as it can be a skin irritant. In a vaporizer, it helps clean the air and aids in relieving coughs caused by bronchitis and asthma. When you mix pine in a spray bottle with water and clove, it makes a lovely room freshener at holiday time. Its clean, outdoor scent stimulates alertness which may even encourage more cleaning… wouldn’t doubt it!

Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) is known for its strong, clear and penetrating scent. Rosemary is a great disinfectant and antibacterial and makes an excellent addition to your toilet bowl, floor and surface cleaners. Mix it with orange essential oil, water and vinegar for a great floor cleaner; it can make mopping the floors so much more pleasant!

Spearmint (mentha spicata) is stimulating and uplifting. It is a favorite oil for long car rides! It can alleviate travel sickness as well as keep you awake and refreshed! Spearmint is also wonderful in dish soap and when mixed with eucalyptus, it makes it a powerful disinfectant. Spearmint is also an insecticide, so use it in sprays for room fresheners and to clean counter tops.

Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) is distilled from the outer peel of the orange. It has excellent antiseptic properties and is often used as an antidepressant. Orange is commonly used in conjunction with oils such as rosemary and lavender. When combined, it makes a wonderful surface and floor cleaner. I also like to add a drop of orange to a damp sponge and wipe down baseboards. (That is when I’m really serious about cleaning!) Straight orange oil is fabulous for cleaning sticky messes off of floors and appliances. It is a natural degreaser, too, so add a couple drops to your dishwater.

There are so many more essential oils to play and clean with, but these are great place to start!

Equipment:

To make your herbal cleaning formulas, you’ll need measuring cups and spoons, and wide-mouth and narrow funnels. Use large stainless steel or glass bowls rather than ceramic or plastic ones that might absorb essential oil scents.

So now that you have your ingredients, gather up an assortment of spray bottles, squirt bottles and shakers with flip tops. Assorted jars are handy, too. Canning jars can be found at garage sales and thrift stores and great for storing cleaning products. For labeling the containers, you’ll need labels, markers and tape. Sweet Sisters also offers home cleaning kits with all the empty bottles and labels you’ll need to start.

Recipes:

Antibacterial Countertop Spray

Add 20 drops Rosemary Essential Oil and 15 drops Orange Essential Oil to 3 oz. distilled water and 1 oz. distilled white vinegar. Mix in a 4 oz bottle, spray and wipe surface.

Bathroom Floor Cleaner

In a bucket of warm water, add about 5-10 drops Pine Essential Oil (highly disinfecting) and 10-12 drops Lavender Essential Oil (antibacterial), and 1 c distilled white vinegar. Mop!

Soft Scrubbing Aromatherapy Cleanser

Add 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 8 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and 5 drops Lemon Essential Oil to 1 C baking soda, 1/8 C biodegradable liquid soap and 2 T water. Mix well. Last, add 2 T distilled white vinegar. Mix and store in air tight container. Use on sinks, tubs and showers.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Add 20 drops Lemon Essential Oil and 10 drops Tea Tree (or Rosemary) Essential Oil to 3 c baking soda. Mix well and store in glass container. Keep in bathroom. When ready to scrub toilet, add 1/2 c mixture to bowl, 1/4 c distilled white vinegar, scrub and flush.

Window/Glass Cleaner

(It’s not natural to be blue)

Add 30-40 drops Lemon Essential Oil or Pink Grapefruit Essential Oil to 2 oz. distilled water and 2 oz. distilled white vinegar. Adding a tablespoon of grain alcohol prevents streaking. Mix in a 4 oz bottle.

Drain Cleaner

Add 1/2 c baking soda to the drain. Then add 5 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil (natural deodorizer) and 1/4 c distilled white vinegar. After fizzing stops, run hot water.

Biodegradable Laundry Detergent

In a large bowl, mix a box of washing soda and a box of Borax; Add 30 drops Lavender Essential Oil and 20 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil. Mix very well and store in a glass container. Use 1/4 cup per load.

Linen + Room Spray

Add 30 drops Orange Essential Oil and 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil to 4 oz distilled water in a heavy duty spray bottle. Shake gently and spray for fresh air!

Home Sweet Homekeeping Tips:

• Place a drop of your favorite essential oil on a dampened washcloth or handkerchief. Toss it into the dryer with your clothes or sheets.
• Use a drop or two of orange oil on a paper coffee filter to remove glue or masking tape residue from windows.
• Scent the filter bag of your vacuum cleaner with a drop or two of a fresh-smelling essential oil.
• For a great fragrance whenever you sit down, scatter dried lavender rose petals, rose geranium, rosemary or other favorite herbs under the cushions of the couch and upholstered chairs. Just vacuum them up occasionally and replace with fresh ones.

I feel so lucky to have all these wonder-full essential oils and natural cleaners to use in my home. They seem to connect me a bit more to the plant and mineral world and in a deeper way to myself.

    I hope this post encourages you to try them too!

    Happy Spring!
    Karen

Teeth Brushing

is one of those things we can overlook even when we are trying to be our healthiest. We brush and floss twice a day (or at least intend to), but is there more we should know? Many of us know to avoid sodium lauryl sulfate and fluoride, but our toothpaste may still be compromised with artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives. And even if we successfully avoid these toxic chemicals, our toothpaste may still contain harsh abrasives and film-forming glycerin, interfering with the health of our teeth. There's definitely a lot to know about the best ways to care for our teeth and gums. I've gathered together some of the WORST AND BEST ingredients in toothpastes along with a couple simple and wonderful recipes you can try at home. 

The Worst of the Worst

(When the toothpaste label reads, "Do not swallow, that's a big RED flag!

  • Fluoride is simply toxic. Period.  Sodium fluoride is classified as toxic by both inhalation and ingestion. In high enough doses, it has been shown to affect the heart and circulatory system. The lethal dose for a 150 pound human is estimated to be approximately 5 to 10 grams.Researchers have linked it to cancer, but it is still allowed in many toothpastes and often recommended by dentists!toothpaste warning label pic It is especially dangerous for young children who tend to swallow the paste after brushing. Many toothpastes contain enough fluoride in a 4 oz tube to kill a small child! This is why many toothpaste manufacturers include a warning on their labels "Do not swallow. Not for use by children under the age of 6 years."   It has also been shown that Fluorosis (fluoride poisoning) can result in darkened or mottled teeth, erosion of enamel, compromised bone structure and a host of other problems including learning disabilities, kidney disease and brain lesions. The debate as to whether or not fluoride helps prevent cavities is moot given its potential and very real dangers.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a detergent, emulsifier and foaming agent. It's powerful stripping action makes it popular in car "soap", engine degreasers and garage floor cleaners. Unfortunately, it can also degenerate cell membranes, change genetic information in cells and damage the immune system. It is reported to cause eye irritation, skin rashes, hair loss, dandruff and allergic reactions. It penetrates your eyes, brain, liver and even worse, its effects are cumulative. Other detergents such as sodium laureth sulfate, while not as harsh as the previous type, were never meant to be ingested. Even if you don't swallow any of the paste  (which is very difficult to do) up to 90% of these additives will still be absorbed by the mucous membranes in your mouth. Keep reading and you'll learn about healthful alternatives to these harsh detergents.
  • Artificial Sweeteners such as Splenda, or sucralose, was never proven safe for human consumption; it remains a public health experiment! The FDA approved it after a mere 4 day trial where only 23 adults actually ingested it.  Other studies were done on animals and revealed complications such as a decrease in red blood cells, increased male infertility,  an increase in spontaneous abortions as well as a 23% increase in death.  Another dangerous sweetener that you are probably familiar with is sodium saccharin from the hazardous Aspartame family. Saccharin is commonly manufactured by combining anthranilic acid (used among other things as a corrosive agent for metal) with nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, and ammonia.  Yes, that’s right.  Chlorine and ammonia. Before 2001, any product containing saccharin required a cancer warning label. Saccharin PhotoThis has since been lifted after some industry testing determined that saccharin only caused bladder  and other cancers in rats.  Many researchers, however,  believe that in sufficient doses, saccharin is also a human carcinogen. If you'd like a bit of sweetness, opt instead for stevia or xylitol.
  • FD & C, Blue No. 1 + 2 are often used to dye toothpastes blue for the illusion of "fresh and clean." Blue Toothpaste picThese coal tar (petroleum) derivatives have been known to trigger severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks and headaches in addition to being carcinogens that interfere with brain function. These toxic dyes have been known to produce malignant tumors at the site of injection and by ingestion in rats. Even though toothpaste is technically not swallowed, the mucous membrane in the mouth have an absorption rate over 90 %, so these chemicals do find their way into your bloodstream! Blue doesn't really make your toothpaste more fun and is definitely not worth the risk!
  • Triclosan is a very scary antimicrobial found in many personal care and household products. triclosan productsEvidence has shown that this chemical inhibits muscle function in mice and fish from usage levels comparable to that of regular household use! Other potential side effects of  include abnormalities with the endocrine system, birth defects and a weakening of the immune system. Triclosan safety is currently under review by the FDA and Health Canada. Opt instead for the natural cleaning ability of pure soap and the antibacterial action of essential oils.
Even if you are not experiencing dramatic "side effects," these additives still have a negative effect, whether you notice or not.)

Not Toxic, but Not Healthy Either

  • Glycerin is a a sweet syrupy trihydroxy alcohol created by the saponification of fats and oils and  a byproduct of soapmaking.  It is used in almost all toothpastes to keep the paste pliable so that is can easily squeeze from the tube. While not a toxic ingredient, glycerin causes dehydration in the mouth and interferes with the natural and necessary re-mineralization of the teeth. Glycerin is a humectant, absorbing water from the atmosphere. If some was left in the open, it would absorb water from the surrounding air until the liquid was eventually 20% water. This is great for lotions and creams, where water from the environment is drawn to the skin to keep it hydrated. It can cause dehydration, however,  when there is not sufficient moisture to draw from, such as in the desert or inside the mouth! In his book, Good Teeth From Birth to Death by Dr. Gerard F. Judd, Ph.D., he states, "Reenamelization of the teeth occurs when they are clean. All toothpastes make a barrier of glycerine on the teeth which would require 20 rinses to get it off."  While glycerin is not dangerous to ingest, it does interfere with our saliva's natural function of re-mineralizing the enamel and therefore should not be in toothpaste.
  • Abrasives such as calcium carbonate and baking soda can be used periodically to clean teeth of stains, but overuse can abrade delicate gum tissue.harmful abrasives toothpaste It is important to apply just a small amount of baking soda with a small cloth or brush only to the tooth surface, not the gums. (To me, baking soda tastes horrible. I'd rather use a fine mesh clay to remove stains and whiten my teeth.)  Another similar problem is the overuse of sea salt. While a small amount can be useful to prevent and deal with infections, salt can negatively affect oral health by dehydrating our mouth and gum tissues. It's important to remember that just because a little of something can be good, more and more often is not always better!

The Best

  • Soap. Yep, you read that correctly!  soap bars picWith soap, all oils are washed off the teeth, the gums are disinfected and the bacteria are eliminated. The teeth are then ready for the necessary daily re-enamelization with calcium and phosphate in the diet. Research has shown that teeth brushed with pure soap are far cleaner than those brushed with commercial pastes (even the natural ones) which coat the teeth with glycerin, preventing a thorough cleaning and and interfering with the natural and necessary re-mineralization process. Make sure you use real bar or liquid soap instead of  imitation "cleansing bars," which are nothing more than detergent in a solid form. Visit our website for some pretty tasty liquid tooth soap with essential oils and xylitol.
  • Xylitol has been shown to inhibit plaque formation, improve breath odor, retard loss of tooth enamel, reduce infections in the mouth and relieve dry mouth. It is safe for diabetics and hypoglycemics and Xylitol does not encourage growth of yeast, including Candida albicans. In contrast to ordinary sugar, xylitol increases the absorption of B-vitamins and calcium.  Xylitol has been shown to have the opposite effect of sugar on oral health as it is non-fermentable and therefore cannot be converted to acids by oral bacteria, helping to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. This alkaline environment is inhospitable to all the destructive bacteria, especially the worst variety, Streptococcus mutans. In addition, Xylitol satisfies our desire for a bit of sweet and tastes wonderful.
  • Zeolite and Pyrophyllite are special indeed! Most clays are formed from the volcanic ash that has fallen from the atmosphere and is collected as sediment. Over time, plant and animal remains as well as other forms of organic and inorganic material add to the mix and decompose to form organic clays such as bentonite, montmorillonite, illite or French Green. Zeolite and Pyrophyllite (Sacred Clay) are quite different. Clay ToothpasteThey were formed underground and seem to have retained their electromagnetic (detox) properties to a greater degree compared to the lava ash clays. Zeolite and Sacred Clay work at the cellular level by trapping heavy metals and toxins and safely removing them from the body. Zeolite is very effective in removing radiation, as shown in the cleanup after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The people showed a 30% reduction in radioactive isotopes after the very first application of Zeolite! Continued use demonstrated increased benefits. To read more about these amazing clays or to purchase our Detox Toothpaste containing both of these wonderful ingredients, visit our website.
  • Essential Oils. essential oils picIn the book Beyond Antibiotics, Michael Schmidt devotes an entire chapter to the antimicrobial efficacy of essential oils, and states, “One of the advantages essential oils have over antibiotics is that bacteria do not develop resistance to essential oils. Many essential oils exert their antibacterial effect by interfering with the bacteria’s ability to breathe. On the other hand, antibiotics interfere with the life cycle, or metabolism of, bacteria, but since bacteria are very crafty creatures, they change their chemistry and genes, which makes the antibiotic less effective the next time it is used. As a result, new generations of antibiotics will need to be developed to stay ahead of these organisms." Additionally says Schmidt, “another advantage to essential oils is that some actually stimulate immune function.” Pure essential oils address the causes of a compromised immune system, including destructive bacterial overgrowth, viral loads, chronic inflammation and a congested lymph system without causing antibiotic resistance. The very small molecular size and distinctive structure allows them to penetrate the gums and benefit the immune system, sending nutrients to the blood vessels and molecules, stimulating the dentine, nerves and roots of the teeth while improving the circulation of the blood and lymph. Essential oils are also potent antioxidants. Clove and cinnamon are very high in these ORAC ratings, and are impressive in eliminating bacteria. Some essential oils reduce inflammation, while others have an antibacterial effect or an antiseptic one. Many essential oils contain a combination of these properties. The wonders of essential oils never cease to amaze me!

Recipes for Healthy Teeth + Gums

  • Clay Toothpaste with Spice Infusion. Many types of clay will make a wonderful clay toothpastes. Many folks use bentonite or Redmond clays, but I prefer Zeolite described above for its ultra smooth texture and amazing detox properties. You'll need: 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon stevia herb, 1 1/2 cups cinnamon sticks, 4 tablespoons whole cloves, 1 - 1 1/2 cups Zeolite Powder or desired clay.  Make sure the clay feels as smooth as a body powder and not at all gritty so that it will not harm your teeth. First, mix the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan, and boil 30 minutes. While that’s heating, place 1 cup of clay into a glass bowl. It's important to use a glass bowl and wooden spoon because when the clay gets wet, it sets up an electromagnetic reaction which will absorb the particles inside of a metal bowl, or the toxins out of a plastic one. Next, remove saucepan from heat and strain off herbs, catching the liquid in a glass bowl. Pour this liquid mixture into the bowl of clay, and whisk briskly until a smooth paste forms. Continue adding the remainder of clay until the desired consistency is reached. Store in an airtight glass container and avoid any contact with metals. Brush once a day with one of the pastes and once with a pure liquid or bar soap.
  • Clay + Coconut Toothpaste. This recipe uses extra virgin coconut oil for its antibacterial properties as well as peppermint extract for a minty fresh flavor. If you would like to and  feel comfortable adding essential oils to your paste, I would recommend those used in the following recipe for Healthy Gums Oil. For this toothpaste recipe, you'll need: 1/4 cup clay, 1/3 up to 2/3 cup hot (but not boiling) water, 2 tablespoons extra virgin organic coconut oil, 3 teaspoons xylitol and 2  teaspoons peppermint extract. Add clay to a bowl and mix with hot water using a hand mixer, then add the rest of the ingredients. Mix all together well, store in an airtight glass container and avoid any contact with metals. Brush once a day with one of the pastes and once with a pure liquid or bar soap. Or if you tend toward dry skin or a bit sensitive to using clay, reduce brushing with clay to 1-2 times per week and use tooth soap the remainder of the time.
That’s it! You’ve just made natural, organic toothpaste and you can throw out your old  tube of toothpaste if it contains any of the aforementioned ingredients to avoid.  I'd LOVE to hear about your amazing results! And if you'd like to purchase pre-made clay toothpaste or our liquid toothsoap to supplement your supply, visit our website.
  • Healthy Gum Oil.   For this recipe, make sure you use theraputic grade essential oils. In a vial with a dropper, combine 20 drops cinnamon bark (not to be confused with the cheaper and less effective cassia), 10 drops peppermint, 3-5 drops tea tree, 3-5 drops clove, 3-5 drops lavender and 1-2 drops oregano. Use just one drop of this essential oil blend with your toothpaste, along the length of your dental floss to effectively bring the powers of essential oils between your teeth and/or in a ounce or two of water as a powerful rinse.
  • Coconut Oil Swish. Using oil in your mouth to improve oral health as well as your overall well-being is known as "oil pulling." It has been touted to eliminate halitosis and  tooth problems as well as backaches and chronic disease. All that is needed is a teaspoon of oil (I prefer organic extra virgin coconut for all its wonderful health benefits). Simply swish, or "pull" the oil through your teeth and around your mouth for 2-10 minutes and then spit and rinse. This would be a good time to use your Healthy Gum Oil, toothsoap or clay toothpaste.
Hopefully it's clear that that there's much  more to healthy teeth and gums than picking up a tube of toothpaste from the local grocery or health food store and remembering to floss and brush twice a day. What we use, and more importantly, what we don't use on a daily basis can significantly affect us, for better or worse. Here's to making educated choices about our teeth and our health! Until next time,

Karen

Rooibos Antioxidants Sweet Sisters Bodycare Shea + Mango LotionYou may have heard of rooibos, also known as Red Bush, from South Africa. If you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a delicious treat that’s good for you, too! This 100% caffeine-free herb can be made into a tea that has a woody-sweet, nutty flavor and is wonderfully high in antioxidants!

The active antioxidants in rooibos tea are called aspalathin flavonoids which are similar to the flavonoids found in green tea. In fact, one laboratory study found that aspalathin is even more effective at scavenging damaging free radicals than epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from green tea. An animal study also showed that rats given rooibos tea had higher superoxide dismutase (SOD—a protein that neutralizes free radicals) levels in their blood than those not fed the tea, and they also had less DNA damage. The study also indicated that rooibos tea had an anti-inflammatory effect that protects the health of cells.

Rooibos also has natural compounds that support healthy skin!

Because of its high flavonoid content, rooibos is used as a powerful “graceful-aging” ingredient in skin care formulations. Since much of skin aging is caused by exposure to UV rays, pollution, and other environmental contaminants that create free radicals, rooibos’ free-radical-scavenging abilities help to protect skin and support our best skin possible at any age!.

Rooibos is also known to have anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties, making it helpful for acne, eczema, psoriasis and other difficult skin conditions. In fact, people with acne have reported that both drinking rooibos tea and applying rooibos directly to their skin helped decrease skin congestion.

Rooibos is also a source of vitamin D and zinc, and has been shown to be protective against damaging UV rays. A 2009 study found that topical application of rooibos extract prior to UVB exposure inhibited the formation of tumors, suggesting the ingredient may help protect against sunburn and potentially helpful in preventing skin cancers.

Finally, rooibos is known to be hypoallergenic, helping to calm reactive skin and soothe redness, itching, and rashes.

For all these reasons, we regularly include a potent infusion of rooibos in our lotions and creams, like our Shea & Mango Lotion, Emollience Peptide Cream and Supreme Eye Care.

Brew up some rooibos tea today, drink a big cup and save another in the fridge to use on your skin after cleansing and before sun exposure for a day or two. Make a fresh batch every couple days and see the difference it makes in your skin!  (Rooibos is delicious on its own or with a bit of agave or honey.)

Here’s to healthy happy skin, naturally!

Karen

Sources
Snijman PW, et al., “Antioxidant activity of the dihydrochalcones Aspalathin and Nothofagin and their corresponding flavones in relation to other Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) Flavonoids, Epigallocatechin Gallate, and Trolox,” J. Agric Food Chem. 2009 Aug 12; 57 (15):6678-84, http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=19722573.
Baba H., et al., “Studies of anti-inflammatory effects of Rooibos tea in rats,” Pediatr Int. 2009 Oct; 51(5): 700-4, http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=19419525.
Kawano A, et al., “Hypoglycemic effect of aspalathin, a rooibos tea component from Aspalathus linearis, in type 2 diabetic model db/db mice,” Phytomedicine 2009 May; 16(5): 437-43, http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=19188054.
Khan AU, et al., “Selective bronchodilatory effect of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) and its flavonoid, chrysoeriol,” Eur J Nutr 2006 Dec; 45(8): 463-9, http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=17080260.
Gilani AH, et al., “Antispasmodic effects of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) is mediated predominantly through K+ -channel activation,” Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006 Nov; 99(5): 365-73, http://www.hubmed.org/display.cgi?uids=17076689.
“The Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea,” Inhuman Experiment, April 4, 2010, http://inhumanexperiment.blogspot.com/2010/04/many-health-benefits-of-rooibos-tea.html.
Petrova, Antoinette, “Modulation of ultraviolet light-induced skin carcinogenesis by extracts of rooibos and honeybush using a mouse model: elucidating possible protective mechanisms” (2009). CPUT Theses & Dissertations. Paper 91. http://dk.cput.ac.za/td_cput/91.

Nutrient-rich rosehips form after the petals fall from the rose. They swell and are ready to pick when they turn the most brilliant orangey-red color

ROSE HIPS are the nutrient rich seed pods of the rose bush, which swell and ripen to a glorious orangy-red after the petals fall from the rose.

The rose hip, of the rosaceae family,  contain seeds  chock-full of Vitamin C and A which scavenge free radicals and lengthen the life of cells!

The end of Summer is a perfect time to pick rosehips for drying so you can enjoy their wonder-full health and skin benefits for the months to come!

Medicinally, rose hips have been used in the treatment of colds, flu, infections, arthritis, diarrhea, and urinary tract disorders.  In fact, a study published in 2007 found that those participants with rheumatoid arthritis who took the rose-hip remedy “LitoZin” improved their activity levels by 20–25 percent over those taking a placebo, with the number of joints causing pain falling by 40 percent.

I like infusing rosehips into a tea that I drink as well as pour into my bath:) Just pour near boiling water over the rosehips and let steep.

rosehip infusion

It’s color therapy, too:)

SKIN BENEFITS

I love using rosehip infusions as well as the cold pressed oil in Sweet Sisters Bodycare products for their amazing skin benefits!  First, Rosehips contain a high concentration of Vitamin C which is crucial to collagen production. Getting enough vitamin C on your skin helps to preserve tissue integrity as well as fight free radical damage which can cause skin dryness, fine lines, and premature wrinkling. Vitamin C also helps your skin repair itself, smoothing scars and old wounds. Some research suggests that this vitamin may also reduce damage from UV rays. I like to spray my skin with Vitamin C water or infusion before going out in the sun:)

Rose hips are also high in Vitamin A, which is a key “graceful-aging” ingredient. Another powerful antioxidant, it protects the skin from free radical damage as well as accelerates the cell renewal process, supporting cell turnover to reveal fresher, smoother skin underneath. The faster the turnover rate, the less acne breakouts, sallow and sluggish skin and the greater the development of collagen and elastin to promote firmer, smoother skin.

Viitamin E is often added to rose hip seed oil to help prevent oxidation in skin-care formulations, and is another powerful antioxidant that protects skin and promotes the production of collagen and elastin. It also prevents water loss and helps skin retain its natural moisture.
Essential fatty acids: the skin’s ability to hold water decreases with age, as the cell membranes become less able to keep water in. Essential fatty acids keep the cells healthy and the membranes functioning properly, so skin stays plump and moist. These EFAs also help to dissolve the fatty deposits that block follicles and contribute to congested skin issues as well as help to repair old acne scars and reduce hyper-pigmentation.

In addition to all these wonder-full benefits, rose hip seed oil also has a reputation for helping to reduce scarring from surgery and burns because of its ability to encourage skin regeneration, and for reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Age spots fade with regular use, and troublesome skin conditions gradually calm and smooth over.

If you want to try some natural products that contain the Amazing Rosehip, check out our Renew Facial Elixir,  Bath + Body Oil,  and Supreme Eye Care Cream.  I’d love to know what you think!

Have a beauty-full day,

Karen

Bathing with RosesI feel sad when I think about the the wars we wage with ourselves over body image. My body has changed shape quite a few times in my life and my skin has had its challenges. I regret to say that I haven’t always been the kindest to myself.
Many of us have an image of our “ideal” body, skin, hair… the one we would have if we could only… lose 20 pounds or do a detox diet or get rid of some of our acne/wrinkles or change our hair color or keep up with a regular exercise routine or….
It is as if by being critical we are somehow forced to make the “needed” changes. Unfortunately, this never really works and doesn’t address the important issue of loving self care.
In yoga today, my teacher talked about the importance of cleaning our energy field, of letting go of mental and emotional accumulations, of what no longer serves us. As someone who makes bodycare products for a living, my mind went to how often I “clean” the stresses of my day or wash away the emotions that need release in the bath! Oh, how I love my bath! When my life becomes difficult or I become overwhelmed, I often head to the bath. When I emerge, I feel a tangible attitude lift and my ability to cope restored or I just feel relaxed enough to head to bed for a much needed rest.
I wonder about the reasons some people don’t “like” taking baths. I have heard many people tell me,”Oh, I don’t take baths.” Some say they don’t have the time or privacy for baths or their tubs are cramped, but maybe there is more to their story. I have read there are many women (and probably men, too) who avoid taking baths and prefer to shower because they are uncomfortable looking at themselves naked in the tub. Could it be, that for some, it is difficult to turn off the negative self-talk so that baths are no longer pleasurable?

I wish I could wave a magic wand and give EVERYONE, no matter the size of their thighs or bellies or the shape of their breasts, permission to be comfortable in their own skin and enjoy the multi-layered cleansing of the bath… to release emotions and clear away tension, providing physical and mental rest and rejuvenation. (I guess you can tell I think baths are pretty wonder-full!)

If you are one who has a hard time turning off the mental chatter about what needs “fixing” on your body and then feels bad about not having achieved that ideal self, I have a few suggestions for tub transitioning: (For those of you who are self proclaimed “showerers,” all I can say is you’re missing out.

* Turn off the lights and light a few candles… everyone looks sensuous in candlelight.

* Even if your tub isn’t “spa-like” … no worries. One doesn’t need a deep claw-foot tub or a beautifully decorated bathroom to enjoy a bath! Taking a bath at night with the candles lit can transform any bathroom!

* Now gather one of your nicest towels, a soft floor mat (or another towel), a cloth or pouf if you use one for washing and a robe you feel beautiful in for afterwards.

* Find some beautifully fragrant salts or bodywash and some soothing music if you like. (I love the song,”Bathe in these Waters” by Donna de Lory. (earthtones mix))

* Give yourself time to slow down, lovingly wash yourself or just soak in the soft and scented waters, allowing the worries and cares of your life wash away and yourself time just to be.

Here’s to loving YOU no matter what!

Blessings,
Karen