Back to Basics

Dry skin brushing is one of the oldest and most effective treatments for detoxing and rejuvenating your body as well as maintaining positively radiant skin!

Despite my best intentions, I often find myself researching and experimenting with the next-best-thing, letting fall from my awareness what I know to be vital health care practices. Like the peddler whose children run barefoot, I don’t always practice what I preach 🙂 Through grace, I do eventually re-member and connect with myself  through this ancient daily practice.

Did you know that your skin is the largest elimination organ in your body?  It releases about a pound of waste each day…every time I think of this I am amazed! For this reason, the skin is often called the 3rd kidney, eliminating one quarter of the total toxins from the body (the lungs are the 2nd kidney).  It is also be the first organ to show symptoms of inflammation, reduced immune response or toxicity in our system. Like the canary in the coalmine, it is important to pay attention to its signals before imbalance progresses. When toxins are produced faster than the body can process and release them, they are suspended in fat and interstitial spaces in an attempt to protect the organs. This toxic buildup results in soft and connective tissue inflammation and excessive buildup of lymph fluid (think fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and a multitude of immune system disorders). Toxic build-up and sluggish lymph circulation impairs your body’s ability to function optimally. A few problems related to limited lymphatic function are:

  • Acne breakouts that are slow to heal, often with scarring
  • Bumps under the skin surface
  • rashes and hives
  • Sensitive, allergic skin
  • Premature aging skin
  • Cellulite (inflammation of the connective tissue and lymphatics)
  • Varicose veins
  • body odor
  • Excess scarring and stretch marks
  • Edema or phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) are other obstacles that can impede the lymphatics
  •  eczema and psoriasis

While these disorders can be attributed to other imbalances within the body, the  lymphatic system often plays a major role.

How the Lymph System Works

The function of your lymph vessels is to collect waste materials.They operate in much the same way your blood vessels do. The main difference between the blood flowing in the circulatory system and the lymph flowing in the lymph system is that blood is pressurized by the heart, while the lymph system is passive. There is no “lymph pump” like there is a “blood pump” (the heart). Instead, fluids ooze into the lymph system and get pushed by normal body and muscle motion (think exercise) to the lymph nodes. They are like little one-way valves distributed throughout your skin. By brushing your skin in the direction towards your heart, you help circulate the lymph for better functioning. (FYI: Exercise can increase lymph flow ten to thirty fold. Regular exercise is the most important factor in keeping a healthy lymph flow. Rebounding or jumping on a trampoline is also a wonderful way to stimulate the lymphatic system. Sweating through exercise or saunas also boosts circulation and lymph detox.)

Lymph is a clear liquid that nourishes the cells with water and nutrients. Lymph is blood plasma — the liquid that makes up blood minus the red and white cells. Think about it — each cell does not have its own private blood vessel feeding it, yet it has to get food, water, and oxygen to survive. Blood transfers these materials to the lymph through the capillary walls, and lymph carries it to the cells. The cells also produce proteins and waste products and the lymph absorbs these products and carries them away. Any random bacteria that enter the body also find their way into this inter-cell fluid. One job of the lymph system is to drain and filter these fluids to detect and remove the bacteria.

To summarize:

  • The lymphatic system aids the immune system in destroying pathogens and filtering waste so that the lymph can be safely returned to the circulatory system.
  • Its also removes excess fluid, waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, cancer cells, and toxins from these cells and the tissue spaces between them.
  • In addition, the lymphatic system  works with the circulatory system to deliver nutrients, oxygen, and hormones from the blood to the cells that make up the tissues of the body.

Dry skin brushing also effectively exfoliates your whole body to remove dead skin cells, excreted wastes and external pollution (including dirt and skin care products) that can build up and clog your follicles. Clogged follicles inhibit your skin from effectively releasing toxins.(Regular sweating can also help with this.)

If toxins are unable to escape through the skin they will either be stored in fat cells, contributing to cellulite and other fatty deposits, or they will be re-circulated back into the blood stream, overworking the kidneys, liver and other detox organs. Thus a seemingly simple and easy therapy like dry skin brushing can support the proper balance of your whole body. Dry brushing gives it a helping hand as well as exfoliates the outer dead skin cells

If the lymphatic system becomes congested, blocked, damaged or severed, fluids can build up in the connective tissue leading to edema. After a time, cell pathology may begin. If there is damage in the connective tissue due to burns, chronic inflammation, ulceration, or other factors, the lymph system transports damaged cells, inflammatory products and toxins away from the area. The more quickly this can happen, the faster recovery will be.

The liver is very permeable to fluids which flow freely into the liver’s lymphatic system. The liver is an expanding and contracting reservoir of blood, lymph and bile. If circulation is weak, these fluids will have a tendency to congest the liver.

Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing – Much More than Skin Deep!

Everyone knows that exfoliating the skin is great for creating radiant healthy looking skin. But did you know it’s also an essential tool for good circulation, strengthening the immune system, stimulating the nervous system, toning the muscles and improving digestion? Here is a list of the many inspiring benefits of dry skin brushing:

  • Stimulates blood and lymph flow. The lymphatic system is an important part of your cleansing and immune system. White blood cells called lymphocytes carry nutrients to cells and remove waste. The lymph flows outside of the circulatory system to bathe, cleanse and restore all of our cells, but it must be returned to the blood vessels to dump its waste. It does this through tiny lymph vessels with one-way valves to the heart. If we don’t move the lymph quickly enough we end up with swollen tissues, particularly in the ankles. Exercise, massage and skin brushing help to speed the process and clear the lymphatic system.
  • Removes dead skin cells. Dry skin is a sign of detoxification. It is important to remove the dead cells to keep from clogging the system. This will also improve skin texture and renew the skin cells.
  • Stimulates the hormone and oil glands. With daily brushing and bathing, the skin can produce the oil needed to stay healthy, Sweating is an important part of detoxification but when your system is clogged, you may experience foul body odor and extra work is put onto the bladder, kidneys and liver. With regular exercise and cleansing the skin, you will notice that your sweat no longer smells. However, with increased detoxing on your whole body cleanse, you may find it gets worse before it gets better.
  • Reduces cellulite.  It will require 5-15 minutes of daily brushing over a period of 1-4 one months to begin seeing results. When you massage the connective tissue and stimulate the skin, it allows for the release of toxic deposits stored in the  fatty tissues. It is possible that is may facilitate the release of stored emotions as well 🙂
  • Strengthens the immune system. Dry skin brushing can reduce the length of infections and illness by moving the toxins more quickly through the system and stimulating the lymph to move waste matter out.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, tones the muscles, tightens the skin. By stimulating nerve endings in the skin, this technique will rejuvenate your nerves and activate individual muscle fibers, resulting in toner muscles. The increased blood flow to skin, and removing of dead cells, stimulates the creation of new skin cells which tightens and regenerates overall skin health.
  • Nurtures your body. Maybe one of the most important benefits of this practice is purely the pleasure of nurturing your body. Learning to love your body is essential for weight loss and the healing of any bodily “dis-ease.” Spend this time, 5-15 minutes per day, giving your body the attention it craves and deserves. It works hard to support you. Giving it superior support will reward you many times over.

Selecting a Dry Skin Brush

Choose a dry skin brush that has natural fiber bristles and a long handle for reaching all of your back. The bristles may feel too firm at first, but your skin will acclimate to this over time. If you have very sensitive skin, you may want to start with a softer brush or use a dry towel in the beginning.

How to Use Your Dry Skin Brush

  1. Brush your dry body before you shower or bathe, preferably in the morning. Sometimes I like to add a drop or two of a circulation-boosting blend of essential oils. My favorites are juniper & ruby red grapefruit.
  2. Start at your feet and always brush toward your heart. Use brisk, light strokes toward your heart. (I like to do a moving meditation, imagining stagnant energy moving toward my heart for love transformation 🙂
  3. Brush all the way up your legs, then over your abdomen, buttocks, and back. If you have cellulite on your hips and thighs, spend a little more time there. For complete dissolving of cellulite, brush for 10 minutes daily for several months. (Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself. Treat yourself as you would a loved one, cellulite or not. What you love and accept has an easier time releasing. There’s truth to the saying that what  we resist, persists 🙂
  4. Brush lightly on sensitive areas like breasts and more firmly on areas like soles of the feet.
  5. When you reach your arms, begin at your fingers and brush up your arms, toward your heart. Brush your shoulders and chest down, always toward your heart.
  6. Avoid brushing anywhere the skin is broken or where you have a rash, infection, cut or wound.
  7. Finish by taking a shower and if you choose, alternate cold and hot water to stimulate the lymph  further while boosting circulation. You will love how invigorated you feel!
  8. Dry off and massage some plant oils into your skin. Sesame, jojoba, avocado, coconut, or a blend such as Sweet Sisters Flow Bath & Body Oil with formulated with cellulite-reducing essential oils or super moisturizing Shea Butter Cream are wonderful choices.
  9. If this is uncomfortable at first, brush only lightly & for a short period of time. Soon you will  brush using more pressure & will enjoy the process.

I encourage you to give this practice a few weeks to become a welcome part of your daily routine. Here’s to smooth, soft,  radiant skin and a healthy YOU!

Karen

I just finished cleaning out my skincare drawer … YAY!  It’s not fancy, but I can find everything and I know it’s all fresh and good for me.

It was definitely time as most of  the skincare products I use daily have been sitting on my counter instead of in the tangle of products in my drawer. I often procrastinate with these types of jobs as I hate throwing away things that I still could use or re-purpose in some way. (I’m known to use a face cream that isn’t my favorite on my feet.)

What I found in the drawer were products I don’t really like that much or at least haven’t been my first choice for quite some time. Some I have rarely used and can’t quite remember how old they are. Remember the saying, “when in doubt, throw it out.” This goes for bodycare products as much as for food! While we easily throw away food that’s past its use-by date, somehow we hang onto our cosmetics, sometimes for years!  Maybe it’s because we can’t see the science experiment growing within those jars- yikes!  I know it’s hard thinking you’re throwing away “good money” when you toss an old or suspect product, but one that is rancid, unstable or under preserved through age can cause very serious health problems.

Remember, bacteria is NOT a friend to your beautiful complexion. Seriously, old skin care products can grow mold, bacteria, fungus and streptococcus–which can lead to infections, acne, pustules and other not-so-desirable conditions.  All of which will send you to your health practitioner faster than you can say ‘But I paid $300 for that jar of XXX!’  Believe me, the health of your skin is worth a lot more than that. (As an aside, I am always wary of companies boasting about not using preservatives in their water-based products, like creams and lotions. Water is the beginning of all life and that includes harmful bacteria! If you do purchase them, it’s best to keep those products in the refrigerator for as long as you’d keep leftover soup.)

Safety aside, old products don’t smell or feel as good as they once did and  remember, you are deserving of fresh products that smell and feel amazing!

And while you’re at it, go ahead and toss those products that contain parabens, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, petroleum products, such as mineral oil and paraffin, and fragrance (unless it specifically states phthalate-free). You are better off without them!

So, into the trash and recycling bin went most of it, leaving plenty of room in the drawer for all the stuff that had been sitting on the counter. AHHHH! Lovely! When I open my drawer now, I see all the products I love to use. Life is too short to use things you don’t love. It can be as simple or a elaborate as you like. Maybe you just have a jar of extra virgin coconut oil and wildcrafted shea butter in your drawer next to some tooth soap and mud mask or maybe your drawer is like mine, filled with the gamut of scrubs and cleansers, moisturizers and treatments. (Well, that’s one of the perks of making skincare and researching other brands:)

So, I support you in going through that bathroom drawer or cupboard and tossing what doesn’t serve you anymore. And even though it was a gift and you’ve only used a little bit of it or it was really expensive and you still have a little left, toss it if it’s over six months old, really. And if it’s eye makeup, the expiration date is three months after purchase.

I’m often asked if we sell our face creams in a larger size. I explain that the main reason we package our products in small containers is because they should be used in a short period of time. So forgo the industrial-sized face cream — better instead to buy the small size more often. Use them up within three to six months and then treat yourself to a fresh one!

I support you in lavishly using all your yummy products, and yes, even the expensive ones. Be generous with yourself!

Another issue to keep in mind is where you store your cosmetics. If it’s in a warm, humid or hot area — for instance, where you shower — you’re risking problems. The humidity is a fertile ground to allow mold, bacteria, fungus and streptococcus to grow, making you vulnerable to infections. Remember that the older a product, the less viable the preservative system used to keep the nasties out… just another reason to toss expired products!

And don’t forget your loofah, sponges and washcloths as you’re cleaning out your beauty products. Edward J. Bottone, professor emeritus of medicine/infectious diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, published an eye-opening article about infected loofahs in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. “Loofahs are especially vulnerable to bacterial growth,” he says. “These natural sponges have many nooks and crannies that, especially when moist, invite bacteria.”

Bacteria feed off carbohydrates and proteins in the loofah — including dead skin. “I once had a woman come to me who had a horrible rash and infection and couldn’t figure out what it was from,” Bottone says. “I had her bring in her loofah and other wash items. Her loofah was green with mold and bacteria. If you have little cuts in your skin and wash with an infected loofah you can be infected.”

And it doesn’t have to be that bad to cause problems. Any moist loofah, washcloth or even a synthetic sponge can cause rashes such as folliculitis, an infection of the hair follicles that often looks like clusters of small, red bumps. It is important to clean your loofahs, sponges and washcloths in a hydrogen peroxide solution or launder weekly. Wring washcloths and sponges out thoroughly and air-dry in a well-ventilated area. (Super thin, inexpensive wash cloths dry more quickly than the thick, absorbent luxury types. I use a fresh one every day. It may sound excessive, but it doesn’t take much to put those through the wash.) And please compost those loofahs every three weeks and sponges every six to eight weeks.

So, after you gather your courage and radically cull your skincare drawer and bath areas, here are some useful guidelines to keep your current products as fresh and you as safe as possible:

* Wash your hands with warm soapy water before touching your skincare products or your face

* Use a clean applicator instead of dipping your fingers into a bottle or powder.  Purchase creams in a tube or pump-top bottle if possible, or use an applicator to apply.

* To help jog your memory, put little stickers on your cosmetic and skin-care items and write the date of opening on the sticker.

* Replace mascara every two to three months. Don’t attempt to wash the wand and then return it to the bottle, and don’t push extra air into the tube by pumping the brush up and down inside the container.

* Wash makeup brushes at least once a month to remove dead skin cells and old makeup. Wash with a mild soap and rinse thoroughly with clear water and air dry. Wash your eyelash curler with soap or a spray with hydrogen peroxide after every use to keep it bacteria-free.

* Replace lipsticks and balms every six months. Avoid the temptation to share lip products. Throw it out if you get a cold sore.

* Sharpen eye and lip pencils regularly to remove the outer layer, which may be contaminated with bacteria.

* Move open cosmetics and makeup brushes away from the toilet if you keep your cosmetics in the bathroom. Each time the toilet is flushed, a fine mist is emitted, which can spread bacteria to your products. I know it isn’t pleasant to think about, but it’s definitely worse not to! This goes for your toothbrush, too.

So, try not to worry that you’ll miss that perfect shade of purple eyeliner if you toss your old one, Chances are, you never will. And as the microcosm reflects the macrocosm,  in letting go of the old, we come more fully into our present. May our choices reflect our love for ourselves, even in a simple a ritual as caring for our skin.

Have a wonder-full day,

Karen

Part of my excitement for Spring can be attributed to my annual ritual of nettle harvesting. As I wander the woods around my home, I look to see if the nettles have reached the height of my knee (long before they flower) and are ready for picking. I also notice which patches invite my harvest…which resonate with a “yes” to being a part of my infusions for food and bodycare. (Yes, you’ll find nettles in most of the Sweet Sisters products I make :))
So, with hardy gloves on, I snap off the top portion of the stalk and leaves, leaving the bottom of the plant to grow. I loosely fill each paper grocery bag and place them in a cool area of my home to dry. (I also gather young nettle leaves to use fresh in my cooking and green smoothies.) Every day or so, I fluff the contents of the bags so that the nettles dry evenly. In a week or two, I can strip the leaves off the stalk and crumble them a bit to better fill the paper bags to use until next year’s harvest.

So why do I love nettles so much? Well… because they are so amazingly wonder-full for us inside and out! There’s so much that nettles can offer us if we are open to receive!

Did you know that nettles can:

  • improve the appearance of your skin, making it clearer and healthier.
  • make your eyes brighter, your hair shinier, and your blood clean and healthy.
  • be used as a female tonic at all stages of a woman’s life.
  • be a natural kidney and adrenal-gland tonic
  • assist the body in the detoxification of chemicals and heavy metals
  • reduce water retention (particularly helpful for PMS and menorrhagia, a condition where there is heavy menstrual flow in women).
  • increase vitality in men with its natural testosterone booster.
  • act as an anti-inflammatory, helping many of the symptoms related to arthritis and inflammation in general. (The leaves can even be made into a paste to be rubbed directly on painful areas of skin for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.)
  • help slow bleeding of small cuts and wounds.
  •  help clear constricted bronchial and nasal passages.
  • deliver magnesium components to ease muscle pain (helpful in cases of Fibromyalgia).
  • ease hay fever and allergies with its natural antihistamines.
  • act as a powerful analgesic and much safer than over-the-counter medicines.
  • be used as a super food with its high levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and beta-carotene as well as  vitamins A, C, D, and B complex.

Come join me in some healthy recipes:

Nettle Hair Rinse:

A nettle vinegar hair rinse is easy to make and can be used every time you wash your hair. Nettle has been used  in haircare to help prevent dandruff, promote hair growth, protect the scalp as well as nourish and condition the hair, This rinse will provide your hair and scalp with all the benefits of nettle as well as the cleansing, pH balancing  and softening effects of apple cider vinegar.

Ingredients:

  • About 2 cups boiling water, preferably distilled
  • About 1 cup apple cider vinegar, preferably organic
  • 3 tablespoons dried nettles (or 6 tablespoons chopped fresh nettles)
  • Add a few tablespoons of rosemary and horsetail (shavegrass) if you have it (optional)

Pour the boiling water over the plant material and leave to brew for at least 15 minutes, overnight if possible. Strain off the liquid and add the apple cider vinegar. Pour into a plastic squirt bottle for use in the shower. (Also keep a 2 cup plastic cup in the shower to dilute the rinse before use.)

After shampooing and conditioning, add 1-2 tablespoons of this rinse to 1-2 cups water from your shower. Pour over your head, covering your scalp and hair and leave for a minute or two before rinsing well with warm water. That’s it! The vinegar smell will disappear after your hair has dried… promise!

Your hair will be stronger, shinier and softer after just one treatment, but remember, herbal treatments need to be used regularly over a period of time to benefit fully from their properties.

Nettle Infusion “Super Drink”:

This is an excerpt from Susan Weed’s website. I think she is THE authority on infusions, so have included her words below.

“An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.

I make my infusions at night before I go to bed and they are ready in the morning. I put my herb in my jar and my water in the pot, and the pot on the fire, then brush my teeth (or sweep the floor) until the kettle whistles. I pour the boiling water up to the rim of the jar, screw on a tight lid, turn off the stove and the light, and go to bed.

In the morning, I strain the plant material out, squeezing it well, and drink the liquid. I prefer it iced, unless the morning is frosty. I drink the quart of infusion within 36 hours or until it spoils. Then I use it to water my house plants, or pour it over my hair after washing as a final rinse which can be left on.

My favorite herbs for infusion are nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and comfrey leaf, but only one at a time. The tannins in red clover and comfrey make me pucker my lips, so I add a little mint, or bergamot, when I infuse them, just enough to flavor the brew slightly. A little salt in your infusion may make it taste better than honey will.”

It’s true that a nettle infusion kind of tastes like dirt…but in a good way. Despite its uncustomary taste, I feel so grounded when I drink an infusion. It is as if every cell in my body is being re-mineralized and re-vitalized. Give it a try 🙂

Potato + Nettle soup

The recipe below is from the Vegetarian Recipe club.
1 tbsp olive oil
130g
/5oz young nettle leaves (fresh not dried)
1 large leek, peeled and
chopped OR 4 large shallot OR a medium onion
2-3 tbsp dairy-free nut or hemp milk
Salt (optional) and black pepper
700g/1.5  Ibs
(we used 350g/0.75lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
900ml/1.75 pints
pints vegan stock

Optional garnishes:
Dairy-free yoghurt
Finely chopped parsley or watercress

1     In a large saucepan, saute the leek/shallots/onion in the oil.
2     Turn down heat and cover. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion is translucent but not brown.
3     Add a little stock if necessary to prevent sticking.
4     Add the potatoes, and cook, covered for 5-10 minutes.
5     Stir from time to time, adding a little stock to prevent sticking.
6     Stir in rest of stock and bring to the boil.
7     Cover pan and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
8     About 5 minutes from the end, add the nettles.
9     Add non-dairy milk to soup and then blend thoroughly.
10   Season to taste.
11   Serve the soup hot in bowls, each with a swirl of yoghurt and herb garnish if using.

With 10% protein and all the minerals and vitamins, nettle makes for a wonder-full superfood!. In the Spring, any recipe that calls for something green has the potential to become a nettle recipe. You can make nettle lasagna with your favorite spinach lasagna recipe or nettle pesto with any basil pesto recipe, creamed nettle and spinach instead of just spinach or nettle–kale and fruit smoothie… you get the idea!

Happy Spring and Nettle-ing,

Karen

Hello Again!

Have you thought about how much you're worth to all the industries out
there lobbying for your attention and hard earned money? 

I read recently that each of us is worth over 690 BILLION DOLLARS! That's
right! If you don't think you have the power to make a difference in this
world and for yourself, then think again! The advertisers know what we're
worth; it's high time we started realizing it, too!

Did you know that your "voting" dollars are worth about:

170 billion to the cosmetic industry
...14 billion in just anti-aging alone

180 billion to the fashion industry

300 billion to the food industry and

40 billion to the weight loss industry.

That's a grand total of about 690 BILLION DOLLARS!!!

With that much money floating around, it's no wonder that these industries
are spending millions upon millions of dollars designing advertising
campaigns to make you feel unattractive, insecure and inadequate.

Yep, you've got it right!

These campaigns are PURPOSELY designed to make you compare yourself to the
impossible ideals portrayed in the ads and have you long for a life that
isn't yours and maybe you wouldn't even want if you had it.

You see, when you feel like you're missing something, that you need to
be fixed, that you don't measure up to what you see in the ads, you'll
believe that the next new lipstick or that miracle diet is what you need.

This is very different from the desire to take good care of yourself out
of self-love, not fear of inadequacy. The problem lies in believing that
you are not enough, that being at war with yourself is the only way to fix
what's "wrong." What's more is that many of the products and services
these industries offer are toxic to your physical health which can make
you feel even worse about yourself! 

In fact, all the toxic junk that you may have been slathering on yourself
is probably part of the reason you don't feel so good in the first place. 

Did you know that...

Collagen, a popular “firming” ingredient, is really a fibrous protein
derived from animal cartilage and often extracted from the skin of calves. 

Amniotic fluid from pregnant cows is used in facial and body moisturizers
due to its neutral PH of 7.

Thymus extract does NOT come from the herb Thyme, but is a substance
extracted from the thymus glands of animals.

Hyaluronic Acid found in almost every “advanced” moisturizer can be
sourced from Cocks Combs which is cheaper than the similar plant based
alternative.

Kalaya Oil is really extracted from the fat of specially farmed emus even
though it sounds like it comes from an exotic plant or nut.

Formaldehyde is present or activated by many common preservatives. And
what can be even worse is the dangerous bacteria  that can grow in water-
based products if NO preservatives are used at all. 

Phthalates are often found found in synthetic fragrances and can
dangerously interfere with your endocrine system.

I'm not saying we shouldn't use cosmetic products to help us look and
feel our best. After all, it is a part of our human nature to enjoy the
rituals of self-care - remember Cleopatra and her decadent rose milk
baths? The idea that seems to be coming of age is that perhaps we should
be more aware of what we are buying and more importantly why we are buying
it.

Just as we have a relationship with the food we eat, the gardens we tend
and the healthcare practices we employ, so should we think about the
ingredients in the products we use in the name of "beauty". Where do they
come from? What do they do? Why are they helpful? Are there any negative
"side effects," aka toxic consequences? How were they tested? And really,
what IS a "virtual bio-sphere with breakthrough technologies and exclusive
Hydra-Insulation" anyway? And do I even want it? 

Also, does this product really need to come wrapped in multi-layers of
packaging, even if they are biodegradable? And do I really want a tall,
handsome stranger running up to me on the street with a bunch of flowers
promising me unending love if I use an advertised perfume?

I guess the main question is WHO is mainly benefiting from this product?
Is it you or the company who made it? Of course companies need to make a
fair profit, but your life should be enriched by the products you use.

And, you should probably know...

Once you start asking these questions and choosing consciously and
artfully made products that support your self-care rather than degrading
your self-worth, there's going to be a problem... and that's a GOOD thing!

When you choose to vote with your dollars for small-scale, ethical
cottage-industries that have your health and well being as their
highest priority rather than from the cold aisles of your supermarket or
cosmetic counter where products align with the "bottom line" ...

...there's going to be BIG TROUBLE in advertising and corporate offices
everywhere!

...and that's a REALLY GOOD thing!

They've known it all along, but they've been trying to keep it from you.

You ARE beauty! You ARE enough!

Once that becomes clear, you'll realize you're worth A LOT MORE
than 690 billion dollars and you'll stop letting the cosmetics industry
play you for a fool! When you think that most of the money you spent for
that new beauty cream paid for the advertising and fancy box, NOT what
was in the jar, you'll realize that you are definitely NOT getting your
money's worth! You are worth a lot MORE than that!

I see a world where you can:

have confidence without resorting to the use of toxic cosmetics!

feel sexy without having to dowse yourself in phthalate-laden
fragrance!

feel attractive and fresh and sparkly using cleansers, creams and potions
that feel wonderful, smell naturally fantastic and are made with high
quality, healthy ingredients!

May we celebrate love and beauty that's MUCH more than skin deep and have
FUN and JOY using products that truly nourish us inside and out,

Karen

p.s.
here's a quote that bears repeating,
"You don't need to change yourself to please
the world. You just need to BE
yourself, because that's what changes the world."

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on various over-the-counter (OTC) medications designed to suppress cold and flu symptoms. But since the symptoms actually represent your body’s efforts to eliminate the virus, the conventional remedies that try to suppress the fever, runny nose, sneezing and coughing may not be the best way to go. Antibiotics are of even less use because they fight bacteria, not viruses, and if prescribed incorrectly can cause serious resistance issues.

There are more than 100,000 over-the-counter drugs that you can buy without a prescription and they all have one thing in common: they are serious medicines that shouldn’t be taken lightly. OTC medicines and cough syrups are made with harsh ingredients like Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Dextromethorphan or Codeine, which can put some people at increased risk for significant –and sometimes serious– drug interactions with other OTC medications –never mind the usual unpleasant side effects like drowsiness or brain fog. This is especially true for people with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, as well as the elderly and small children.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has documented the ineffectiveness and potential toxicities of OTC cough and cold medicines in children, and the FDA issued an advisory to remove Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) –a common constituent of OTC decongestants– from those products because of concern for increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. In addition to side effects of the various ingredients, OTC cough and cold preparations also present potential hazards due to dosing errors. And there are environmental consequences that come with throwing those old expired medications (both prescription and OTC) down the drain or flushing them down the toilet.

Think Twice!

When we’re sick, the first thing we want is to feel better. It can be easy to be influenced into thinking that the only sure way of dealing with a common ailment is to take OTC medication. Next time you’re weak and weary and  tempted to reach for the Nyquil, try an herbal, homeopathic, or essential oil-based natural remedy instead. These can be remarkably effective at addressing a wide range of symptoms associated with colds and flu and  run-of-the-mill aches and pains without the added burden on your liver and kidneys that comes with over-use of OTC medications, or the risk of increased blood pressure from cough and cold medicines. They allow your body to do what it needs to do while helping you to feel a bit better. And because they are gentle, they can often be combined for maximum results.

To treat upper respiratory or bronchial ailments, herbal teas, tinctures or cough syrups containing Elderberry, Nettles, Mullein, Licorice Root, Wild Oregano, Osha Root, and immune system boosters like Olive Leaf, Astragalus, Garlic, Goldenseal, Echinacea, Vitamin C and Zinc are a great place to start.

For a sore throat try Slippery Elm and/or Zinc lozenges or a drop of Wild Oregano essential oil in a spoonful of honey added to a cup of Sage or Elderberry tea. You can make your own sore throat gargle with a cup of Sage or Chamomile tea, a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, and a spoonful of honey with a drop of Geranium essential oil. This mixture is even more powerful if you infuse the honey with sage before adding the essential oil.

Breathe Easier

For fast relief of congestion whether due to colds and flu or seasonal allergies, reach for an essential oil remedy like our Breathe Easy Smelling Salts  that includes Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Menthol (mint) among other essential oils that open nasal passages and improve breathing.

Another option is to add a 1-2 drops each of Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Peppermint essential oils to a cup of Epsom Salt, stir or mix it by hand, and add it to a hot bath. This will help relieve congestion and soothe joint and muscle aches and pains commonly associated with colds and flu, while flushing out toxins that contribute to the exaggeration of these symptoms. You may also use these oils as an inhalation steam by putting a drop or two in a bowl of hot water.

If you’re badly congested, place a drop of Peppermint essential oil onto a teaspoon of honey then place onto your tongue and hold it in your mouth, pushing it up against the roof of your mouth before swallowing –that should clear things up fast!

Many of us grew up using Vicks Vapo Rub for relief from congestion due to colds and flu. Maybe most of our good feelings come from the attention and love we received while having our chests and throats rubbed with the essential oil infused ointment, but here is a recipe you can use to create your own petroleum-free version of an equally effective decongestant chest rub:

  • Natural Vapor Chest Balm Recipe (2 oz jar)
  • Ingredients:
  • 20 Grams of Organic Olive Oil (or Safflower or Jojoba oil)
  • 16 Grams of Unrefined Raw Shea Butter
  • 12 Grams of Castor Oil
  • 8 Grams of Beeswax (grated)
  • 2 ML (approx 50 drops) equal combination of Eucalyptus, Cedarwood Atlas, Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils. Optional: add a couple drops of peppermint for a bit of tingle & zip!
  • Supplies:
  • Kitchen scale with Tare function
  • Cheese grater
  • A Pyrex measuring cup (16 oz size recommended)
  • Small pot
  • Stirrer (chopsticks work great for this)
  • Candy thermometer

Directions:

  1. Place measuring cup on kitchen scale and turn it on. If the scale is not set to measure in grams then switch it to grams.
  2. Pour and measure first ingredient then press Tare function to re-set scale to zero then repeat for each ingredient except essential oil blend which will be added to the mixture after it is heated.Use the cheese grater to grate the beeswax, which is usually purchased in 1LB blocks (when done, you can heat the grater over the stove and wipe it clean with a paper towel).
  3. Place the Pyrex cup in a small pot with a enough water to create a bath for the ingredients. Turn on the stove and set burner to low/medium heat. Place the thermometer inside the Pyrex cup (make sure it is clean) and stir occasionally.
  4. When the mixture has reached 160 F degrees (the melting point for beeswax), remove the Pyrex cup from the pot (use a pot holder or towel to avoid burning yourself) and place on a trivet. Watch the thermometer and let mixture cool to about 125 F degrees then add essential oil blend and stir for a minute or so. Let it cool (you can place it in your refrigerator to speed up the process but small quantities usually set and harden very quickly at room temperature).
  5. Seal the jar and keep in a cool, dark place when not in use. You can make a larger quantity by doubling the recipe but allow more time for the wax to melt and the mixture to cool down.

Here is some more information about  the natural remedies that serve us well:     

Eucalyptus oil is extracted by a distillation method from the leaves and twigs of the plant. This oil acts as an analgesic, antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, and so much more. Eucalyptus oil is toxic to bacteria that cause colds and sinus conditions. Eucalyptus is a exhilarating, clarifying oil that rejuvenates and refreshes the body and mind. It can help weakness, headaches and fatigue. The fragrance is woody, sweet and pungent at the same time. Eucalyptus Blue Gum is probably the scent most of you are familiar with, but there are many others too.

Peppermint is a perennial herb that comes in either white or black. It is a very good analgesic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and more.  It is also refreshing and rejuvenating and smells great when you use it for steam inhalation.

Rosemary is an herbaceous oil that is analgesic, antiseptic, stimulant, antimicrobial and more. These are just three of the essential oils that can be used for steaming and they are my favorites.

Wild Oregano possesses superior antimicrobial powers, capable of bringing fast relief from cold and flu symptoms (runny nose, congestion, chills, sore throat, ear aches, cough, fever, fatigue, stuffiness and muscle aches) because it is able to kill the virus which is their cause. Oregano oil has incredible antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal effects. Studies show it also has unrivaled antiseptic (pain-killing) qualities. Many studies have shown that oregano oil can improve the symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold and flu. Plus, as discussed in Dr. Cass Ingram’s The Cure is in the Cupboard: How to Use Oregano for Better Health, oregano oil has been proven effective against a variety of microorganisms. The best part is that oregano oil is completely non-toxic and does not cause any side effects.

The Olive Leaf has the distinction of being one of the few medicinal plants mentioned in the Bible. Studies show that Olive Leaf extract is a potent antimicrobial that has inhibited the growth of every human pathogen it has been tested against, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi and yeast.

Echinacea has a rich tradition of use by North American Indians who used it medicinally more than any other plant. Echinacea stimulates the overall activity of the cells responsible for fighting all kinds of infection. In other words, it makes our own immune cells more efficient in attacking bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells; including cancer cells.

Today millions of Europeans use Echinacea as their primary therapy for colds, flu, infections, and for general immune-boosting effects. The main uses of Echinacea include: colds, coughs and flu and other upper respiratory conditions, enlarged lymph glands and sore throat.

Golden Seal has been used for centuries in herbal medicine. Golden Seal has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It soothes irritated mucus membranes, aiding the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Taken at the first signs of respiratory problems, Golden Seal may help prevent further symptoms from developing. It may be used to help reduce fevers and relive congestion and excess mucous.

Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used since the days of the Egyptians to treat wounds, infections, tumors, and intestinal parasites. Modern scientific research confirms the benefits of these and other ancient uses for garlic.

The Allicin in Garlic is responsible for many of its healing properties. It stimulates the immune system, increasing the activity of white blood cells that fight foreign organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. Garlic is particularly effective in treating upper respiratory viral infections due to its immune-enhancing properties and its ability to clear mucous from the lungs.

Astragalus is a Chinese herb that has traditionally been used to strengthen the Wei Ch’i, or immune system. It is regarded as a potent tonic for increasing energy levels and stimulating the immune function. It has been proven effective in cases of colds, flu and even cancer. American Cancer Society reported that it restored immune functions in 90% of the cancer patients studied. It improves the white cell function and general resistance to infection.

The effect of the mineral Zinc on the immune system is well known. According to medical studies, it can reduce the average duration of colds by 7 days and decrease the severity of all cold symptoms to virtually nonexistent after the third day!

Vitamin C is well known for its ability to fight viruses and bacteria by stimulating the white cells, which are the “soldiers” of the immune system. Vitamin may be the most important antioxidant when it comes to immune system function. It works well with other immune activators and does not cause any side effects.
Of course, the best remedy for the common cold or flu is to get as much rest as possible and eat as lightly as possible to divert as much energy from digestion to healing.  Be sure to have plenty of Chamomile tea and some Lavender and/or jasmine essential oil to help you get a good night’s rest.

Here’s to being and treating ourselves well!

Stay Well,

Karen

Jojoba Oil is probably my favorite beauty ingredient ever! It’s incredible versatility definitely makes it my “desert island” pick . Here are some tips on getting the most out of your jojoba oil.

Cuticle Oil – rub a drop on your hands and cuticles at least once per day. Option: Add a drop of manuka, lemon myrtle or tea tree essential oil to your jojoba for a quick, all-natural anti-fungal nail treatment.
Body Lotion – easy enough… just remember that a little goes a long way. You won’t need the dollop size you normally use with a traditional lotion. Jojoba sinks in super quickly and spreads across your skin easily. For even more fun or a special occasion, mix some cosmetic grade glitter or mica with the oil and apply to your legs, arms and chest.
Face Moisturizer – 1 to 2 drops is perfect for your face. Use after moisturizing. And… it’s PERFECT to apply under mineral makeup. You’ll look radiant and your minerals will perform so much better!
Lip Oil – it’s light, natural and absorbs quickly removing all traces of flakes and the anti-oxidants will help keep aging at bay. Create your own unique lip oil in a small glass jar: add a few drops of your favorite oil-based flavoring like amaretto or vanilla (check out organic flavoring oil for chocolate at your specialty grocers) or pure essential oils such as as spearmint or lime. (Remember though that citrus oils can cause sun sensitivity, so use 5-fold or 10-fold types.)
Tame Flyaways – When you finish rubbing the jojoba into your nails and cuticles, rub your palms across the top of your hair to tame hair frizz!
Makeup Remover – apply a bit onto a cotton pad and use to quickly and gently remove your eye makeup. As a bonus, the jojoba conditions eye lashes!

Scalp Massage – or scalp treatment. Rub the oil into your scalp before bedtime and wash out in the morning.
Quick Hot Oil Hair Treatment – Rub about 1 teaspoon of warmed oil through your hair when you first get into the shower. Let it sit while you shower. Rinse at the end of your shower, shampoo and condition as usual.
Deep Hot Oil Treatment – Rub 1 tsp to 1 tablespoon of jojoba through your hair. Cover your head with a plastic shower cap or saran wrap. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Shampoo out and condition normally.
Carrier Oil – White jojoba oil has anti-oxidant properties on its own; but it can also be applied overtop your other skin care treatments to ‘carry’ their active ingredients deep into your pores and skin.
Split End Treatment – Add a drop or two of oil on ends of your hair as a split end treatment. Apply before blow drying or heat styling for protection.
Added Moisture – Need more moisture during the winter or in a dry climate? Mix a few drops of jojoba to your normal body or face lotion application.
Quick Hair Condition – Add 2-3 drops to your normal dose of hair conditioner. Mix in the palm of your hand, apply, and leave in while your shower. Rinse and you’ll have moisturized, shiny hair!
Before Sunless Tanner – Apply lightly to elbows, knees, soles of feet, heels and palms to prevent extra sunless tanner from soaking into these porous areas.
Before Swimming – Run 3-4 drops through your hair before diving in the pool or ocean. The oil will help close your hair cuticle and prevent harmful chemicals from stripping your color, and drying your locks.

ENJOY!

Welcome to my new blog!

This forum can be a great way to learn about and share our ideas about all aspects of bodycare and self-care!  I’ll share up-to-date information about cosmetic ingredients, healthy skincare and also recipes you can make at home from what you probably have in your own kitchen. This is an interactive site, so I welcome your questions, discussion threads and input!