New Supplements for Self Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s falls on ‘Wellness Wednesday’ this year, so this is a great day to think about showing yourself some love. The #NewHopeBloggerBox happens to be full of supplements this time around that can definitely improve your health and beauty, and even your breath! Valentine’s isn’t supposed to be only about self-love after all. So let’s start there~

At first I thought this package from Lively Up Your Breath was gum, but it is actually a capsule full of liquid that you break open in your mouth, then chew or discard the capsule. (I discarded mine.) It has powerful ingredients such as peppermint oil and menthol crystals, as well as chlorophyll to provide both instant and long-lasting results. They are free of refined sugar, artificial colors and flavors, gluten, aspartame, and no preservatives.

Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but great skin never hurts. Neocell’s Super Ceramindes helps hydrate the skin from the inside out, which is helpful any season but especially in winter.

This is where self-love is important because if you are unhappy with the quality of your skin, especially when it comes to aging, there are different supplements out there that can offer help. Neocell also makes great collagen powders and supplements that I swear have kept my skin from getting the grey cast it always has by this time of year. I’ve been drinking a glass of the powder mixed in water first thing in the morning for a couple of months and it has helped my skin look alive in the dead of winter. It’s really just a matter of figuring out what works best for you, and no one is going to give you permission to take care of yourself, you just have to commit to doing it. (Trust me, I know it isn’t easy.)

That goes for weight issues too. If you have a problem with sugar cravings, you are certainly not alone, and you don’t have to fight them alone. Redd Remedies’ Crave Stop uses the herb Gymnema Sylvestra and the mineral Chromium along with other ingredients to help balance the blood sugar peaks and dips which helps control cravings.

CBD oil has been getting a lot of press lately for, well, just about everything. It seems to have an endless list of benefits from fighting inflammation, to balancing hormones, to reducing anxiety and much more. This one from CV Sciences is made with non-GMO ingredients, is gluten-free, and vegetarian.

Whether you are the type of person who has problems falling asleep or if you are the type that wakes up in the middle of the night to stare at the ceiling for hours on end, Utzy Naturals’ Utzzz’s Stay Asleep Natural Sleep Aid can help. This formula has great ingredients such as Ashwagandha, Chamomile, GABA, Calcium and Magnesium, and more, plus it does not have gluten, yeast, nor artificial colors or flavors. I’ve taken this already for a couple of nights in a row and it really has helped me fall asleep, and stay asleep through the night instead of waking up at 2:30 for one to two hours. I don’t feel any kind of residue upon waking like I have in the past with some other natural sleep aids, and in fact have awoken fairly bright and ready for the day. Well, ready for the walk to the coffeemaker anyway.

In the “Welcome to the Modern World” category, Source Naturals stays at the cutting age with their Screen Time Stamina, helping us collectively adapt to the age of technology. This may be a modern formula, but it’s chock full of time-tested traditional adaptogens, and plenty of other herbs, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support brain and eye function as well as stamina. Gutenberg would be proud.

Speaking of adaptogens, Oregon’s Wild Harvest Ashwagandha is organic and is simply the herb in a vegetarian capsule with no fillers. Ashwagandha is a classic adaptogenic herb that is best known for increasing stamina by balancing energy levels, which includes helping with sleep. (It is in both Utzy’s sleep formula and in the Screen Time Stamina above.) Adaptogens are popular right now and it’s not surprising considering they help our bodies, minds, and emotions manage stress and adrenal fatigue, and are known to have a very low likelihood to causing harm.

Another herb with adaptogenic qualities is Turmeric, and it is also anti-inflammatory with high anti-oxident activity. Natural Factors has paired Turmeric with L-glutamine for a post-workout recovery powder. These two ingredients are also highly helpful for the digestive system and I’m excited to try it as part of my quest to completely heal my food intolerances.

May your heart be full and healthy on this Valentine’s day and every day. XOXOXO

 

How to Make an Herbal Oil Part 2

Herbal oils are one thing that are not easy to find ready-made. They are instead extremely easy to make though, and once you have an oil ready, it can be made into massage or body oil, an all natural perfume, balm, salve, or butter. You can even just use it straight as a healing moisturizer and it makes a lovely gift. (Valentine’s day is just around the corner!) Adding some rose buds or petals back into a bottle of rose oil makes for an extra special gift presentation. If you missed the beginning of the process, you will find it here. This method is called the cold method and is very similar to making an herbal tincture.

How to Make Your Own Toner

Toner is one of those things that I kind of hate buying but I can’t live without. It is used between cleansing the skin and putting on a serum and/or moisturizer, and it balances the pH of the skin as well as helps the serum/moisturizer spread evenly so you get the most out of those more expensive products. Since it is the first layer on your skin after washing it, it has the potential to really help your skin be its healthiest and therefore its glow-iest, but it’s a light product so there shouldn’t be too much in it. Leave it to the serums and moisturizers to pack in the heavier oils and such, but that doesn’t mean toner can’t have some amazing ingredients too. Making your own means you can tweak it for your specific skin needs and even add in ingredients that might be missing from your other skin care products. For example, if you know your skin could benefit from more Vitamin C but you happen to love your current serum which is Vitamin A based, you can make sure your toner is strong Vitamin C by using Hibiscus tea, Vitamin C powder, and/or orange peel.

One of the easiest ways to make toner is by using Witch Hazel as the base. In fact, you can just use Witch Hazel for a toner by itself or by adding essential oils to it. Witch Hazel balances skin, soothes irritations, tightens, firms, and refreshes the skin. You can use it to cleanse your skin by pouring some onto a cotton ball and wiping your face clean. To use as a toner, it’s nice to cut it a bit with distilled water, floral water, a hydrosol, or a glycerin extract of an herb such as rose or orange peels as mentioned above. You can also just use floral waters and hydrosols alone as a toner in which case Rose water is a popular choice.

I happen to be out of toner so I am making some with what I have on hand which is: Witch Hazel, distilled water, and essential oils of Carrot Seed and Geranium. Both of those essential oils have a plethora of beneficial properties for the skin from moisture-balancing to wrinkle-fighting, and are good for dry, oily, mature, and/or combination skin. Their wide-ranging benefits for all different kinds of skin types make them similar to Rose essential oil, but a lot less expensive.

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Toner Recipe:

1/8 C Witch Hazel

1/8 C Distilled Water (a floral water or hydrosol would work beautifully too)

4 Drops Geranium Essential Oil

3 Drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil

2 oz. glass bottle with a spray top

Be sure to label your product and to shake your toner before each use.

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Speaking of different skin types, here’s an infographic from Delicious Living on best natural ingredient for different types of skin. Some of these could be added to a toner, while others work better in a mask, serum, or moisturizer. Borlind_infographic_3

Happy creating and beautifying everyone! You deserve to shine with optimal health.

Cleansing for the New Year

Is anyone else ready to put away the dairy and desserts and cleanse for the New Year? I personally love a good cleanse, though I’m partial to the low-suffering kind. I know people who think it’s not a real cleanse unless you take in nothing but fresh juice and water, but that never made sense to me. Our bodies like balance, and balance by extremes is not really balance at all at the human level. Just look at how bad yo-yo dieting is for people or how hard it is on the body when there are huge weight fluctuations. Gentle detox is a way to cleanse while giving the body support to adjust, instead of shocking the body and then reeling from its effects. Of course, there is a time and place for everything and if you know what you are doing and have the right support, then by all means juice away your days. If you prefer a cleansing reboot that doesn’t leave your blood sugar levels bouncing and your mood-o-meter permanently set to hangry, keep reading for some options.

Adding powdered greens to your daily routine is one way to activate detox mechanisms in your body. While cleansing you should be drinking extra glasses of water anyway, so adding a scoop or packet to one of your glasses or bottles of water is a great way to get extra goodness. It is worth noting that some green mixes, like Paradise Herbs, are formulated for energy~

while others, like the Food Science one below, are formulated more specifically for cleansing. Greens in general, whether in a powder or in a whole fresh or cooked form, are cleansing though so an energy greens mix will still work towards detoxing your system. Both these mixes came in my New Hope Blogger Box and they are tasty as well as healthy blends, but there are of course other reputable greens out there. Just be sure to read ingredients lists thoroughly.

Adding a cup or two of detoxifying herbal tea a day is another easy way to help your body cleanse. There are plenty of blends out there, such as detox teas by Yogi and Traditional Medicinals that are as easy as boiling water. Flora makes a tea concentrate that you just pour a bit out and add hot water to. They promote their cleanse every year on Facebook so you can actually join a group of others using their product to get tips and expand your knowledge a bit into the world of detox. (Plus if you join in you just might get a coupon or more, depending on if you are one of the firsts to sign up.) They do have a dry blend as well.

If you want to do something a little more involved than greens and teas, making up a batch of kitchari is what one of my herbal teachers drilled into us as the most healing, cleansing, tri-doshic thing you could do. Kitchari is a meal from the tradition of Ayurveda that is made up of mung beans and basmati rice (brown or white depending on your preference), spices, and ghee. You can eat it once a day to support a general cleanse, or you can eat kitchari three times a day and nothing else but herbal teas for 6 days straight for a more intense detox. As with all things herbal, kitchari is a traditional dish that you can find a thousand variations for so this recipe can be modified as you like. What follows is how my herbal teacher told us to make it and it has never failed me. It’s a calming meal, easy on the digestive system, and healing.

Kitchari Recipe:

1 C mung beans

1 C brown basmati rice (my herbal teacher actually used white basmati rice, so your choice really)

1 tbsp. ghee (vegans can use coconut oil)

1 tsp. each turmeric, cumin, and coriander

After soaking the mung beans overnight (or at least 6 hours), cook them in 4 C of water until they are thoroughly soft, about half an hour.

Cook rice according to its instructions, depending on white or brown, then mix together with beans.

Warm the ghee in a sauce or sauté pan and add the spices, cooking until fragrant, about 2 minutes or so.

Mix the spices and ghee with the rice and beans and you are finished. Eat as often as you like.

I’ve never been big on resolutions, but I do like the spirit of renewal that January sweeps in. A gentle cleanse sets a nice tone for the year~ a reminder to think better, feel better, act better, and be better. Best wishes for health, fulfillment, beauty, and peace to everyone for the New Year.

Digestive Herbal Blend

Most of the herbs in our kitchen cabinets, such as basil, fennel, and ginger, not only taste delicious, they also promote healthy digestion in one form or another. I like to make up a powdered blend of digestive herbs that is basically a version of chai without the tea but with cacao. It not only improves digestion, helps balance sugar levels, improves circulation, and is anti-inflammatory, it also is anti-aging because it is chock full of antioxidants. Those are a lot of benefits for just a half teaspoon at a time, twice per day in smoothies and coffee! It could also be sprinkled on granola, added to oatmeal, fruit, or yogurt. You can add turmeric to this mix, or really any other powdered herb that you would like, and in fact all the ingredients are subject to personal tastes and can be reduced or eliminated if desired. As with all things herbal, this recipe is to be used as a rough guideline, not something that needs to be followed exactly, though you certainly can if you want to. The cacao has a bit of caffeine in it and is not a traditional component of chai, but I add it because I like the depth it gives the flavor profile, plus it is full of antioxidants. If you are mostly looking for an evening, after dinner tummy tonic, then leave the cacao out.

 

My blend is equal parts cinnamon, ginger, and cacao powder, then half the amount of cardamom, then about 1/2 again (1/4 cup) of ground cloves and nutmeg combined, with a few turns of a black pepper grinder added at the end.

So here’s an example mix:

1 cup cinnamon powder

1 cup ginger powder

1 cup cacao powder

1/2 cup cardamom powder

1/8 cup cloves powder

1/8 cup nutmeg powder

A bit of fresh ground black pepper to taste

I use it in morning smoothies and in my after lunch coffee. If my stomach needs a bit of digestive help after dinner, I tend to eat a small handful of fennel seeds and if that doesn’t help, drink an herbal infusion of whatever I have on hand that is caffeine free and has digestive benefits. Of course taking bitters 10-15 minutes before a meal helps start the digestive process off on the right track, and taking a probiotic can ease tummy woes as well. This blends smells amazing and is tasty enough for gift-giving. Please share with anyone who might need a little digestive support during the holidays.

Happy Solstice!

 

 

 

 

 

Adaptogens

 

As I said in my last post, adaptogens are herbs that help our bodies respond to stress. I like to think of them as ‘slow health’ workers, akin to the slow foods movement, where you are thinking strategically about long-term health goals and supporting those goals through small daily doses of herbs that help get the body out of ‘fight or flight’ mode and into a healthier zone. We want our bodies to be relaxed so imbalances can be addressed before they turn into illnesses. The demands of modern life are such that if we don’t consciously address the pace, stress, overwhelm, and information overload, we can get caught in a continuous day-in and day-out stress mode cycle, which is definitely not a thriving place for our health and well-being. We hear a lot about self care lately and that very often translates into hot baths or massages which are great things to do, but we also have herbal allies to keep it real on a daily basis, keep us healthy long-term, and remind us that there are no prizes for being the most stressed out.

You can take adaptogens in pill form, tinctures, teas (herbal infusions), or as powders. In powder form, you are getting the whole herb and nothing else, which is a nice way to do it. I like to add one of my adaptogen powder mixes into coffee or tea, and the other mix I make, which currently includes Eleuthro and Rhodiola, I put into smoothies for my family and myself. You can also mix them into juice or just water, or add them to foods such as yogurt or cereal. It’s best to start with just a 1/2 teaspoon per day of an herbal powder, then add another 1/2 teaspoon later in the day once the first half teaspoon is perfectly tolerated. More can be added in time if desired, but adding too much too fast is a recipe for digestive issues and that will only add stress, not help it. Concentrating on being consistent is more important than how much you take because only a small amount is needed if taken over a long period of time.

Switching up your adaptogens is advisable, and don’t worry, you will still get the benefits of sticking to adaptogens over time. If you are new to adaptogens, this article will introduce you to probably the best known adaptogenic herb, Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a great place to start if you are new to adaptogens, but there are plenty of others to choose from as well, from many different traditions around the world. This article gives a brief overview of a few others, and these are some of my favorites you might want to look into: Tulsi, Rhodiola, Reishi, Fo-ti, and Schisandra, and keep in mind that combining adaptogens lets them work in a synergistic way.

280F9A5A-A3EE-4CF2-9387-2AEACC88EBEE[1] Ashwagandha and other adaptogens are showing up more and more in functional foods and drinks, such as SpicePharm’s Golden Chai (pictured above) and Chocolate Elixir, and Gaia’s Golden Milk as well as Amazing Grass’s Brain Elixir. There are cold drinks by REBBL that have adaptogens in their full line of flavors which I’ve found at my local Whole Foods but not online yet. (They are tasty!)

All this is to say, that adaptogens are abundant in numbers, available in ready-made products, and easy to incorporate into daily life so there is no reason not to make a conscious choice to have them in whatever way works best for you. Don’t let stress mode become your everyday mode and if it already is, then know you can make choices to get to a healthier space. You deserve it. The holidays are fast approaching so this just might be the perfect time to start building up your body’s stress response for the better.

 

Natural Help for Thinning and Graying Hair

WP_20170605_12_43_57_Pro[1]It’s funny, now that I’ve entered my 40s a new conversation has become common among my friends~ worry about thinning hair. I’ve been dealing with grays for a couple of decades so that isn’t new, but the realization that all that ‘dealing’ with grays might cause hair thinning was partially what led me to switch to henna and other herbs instead of conventional dying. (More on that in another post.) Other friends have the same issue, and certainly hair thinning isn’t just related to heavy processing, it’s a part of aging just like wrinkles and wisdom, and it’s often men who have that issue earliest and most severe, though women suffer with hair loss too. There are things you can do, whether you want to work from the inside-out, or outside-in, or attack hair loss from both sides and hopefully stop it in its tracks or at least minimize it. Taking action sends the message to yourself that you have some control so that alone alleviates some stress over the situation, and everyone knows that stress contributes to all things bad, including hair loss and graying.

The first and most basic thing is to make sure you are getting enough B vitamins. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning they don’t accumulate in your body like vitamins A and E, so it’s important to get Bs everyday. Vegetarians and vegans especially need to supplement with B12, and I’d say a total B with added B12 because all the Bs are together under “B” because they need each other to work together. That’s why there is B1, Folic Acid, B12, niacin, etc in a total B supplement. B vitamins are also essential in stress and anxiety regulation, as well as energy production, so they are pretty important in how you feel on a day to day basis. There is sound science around B12 and graying hair and hair loss, but I’ll let you read about that elsewhere and just continue on here with some other things you can do for prevention and recovery.

Collagen has become an important ingredient lately in the beauty nutrients arena. Collagen, which you can read much more about by clicking that link, not only is important for healthy hair, it’s important for healthy skin, nails, and bones. There are quite a few products that incorporate collagen into their recipes so it’s easy to find something that works for you. Neocell makes these delicious chews which is a nice way to take a supplement if you are sick of pillsBiosil is a popular supplement that is a collagen booster, and you can read about the difference on their website. It comes in caps or powder, has great reviews, and has been featured in Vogue recently in an article on growing out hair.

Hair, Skin, and Nails is a classic beauty multivitamin which has been around for ages. If you want to just know that your multi is helping you achieve your beauty goals, Futurebiotics has you covered. I love that they have one specifically for men too. That might be a nice stocking stuffer for anyone trying to get their guy to take a daily vitamin for his New Year’s resolution. There are good formulas from other reputable brands as well, like Megafood’s.

Still working from the inside out, there are herbs that are traditionally known to help hair stay vibrant, thick, youthful, and even to prevent graying and reverse graying. I can’t guarantee results with the gray reversal because it seems to really depend on the person, but two things can be said about these herbs in regards to that~ 1. it takes time to work. Don’t expect results for months, possibly even 6 months, and 2. even if they don’t reverse graying, they will make your hair healthier, thicker, and more youthful and help to prevent more grays. Not bad side effects, eh? If you know anything about herbs you probably already know one of them which I’m referencing: Fo ti. This herb comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is an adaptogen with anti-aging effects on the entire body. It is traditionally used for longevity, disease prevention, and beauty, including beautiful hair. Also known as He/ho Shou Wu, which means roughly ‘Mr. Ho’s black hair’ because of the legend of a weak man (Mr. Ho or He) returning to vitality with the help of the herb, including his hair going back to black. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that not only all have wide reaching positive benefits including stress management and overall system balancing, they are also in that category because they are generally beneficial for all people without a great risk of harm. That said, they are also herbs to be taken in small doses over a long period of time, and as I’ve said before, keep in mind that herbs have fiber and adding them into your daily diet is something to be done with a light hand, else you might encounter digestive issues. Our bodies get used to the amount of fiber they generally have, and will get used to having more daily fiber, but it needs to be done slowly, especially in the case of Fo-ti. I’ll tell you how I take it below, after I introduce the other hair herb.

The Ayurvedic tradition gives us another herb known to reverse graying or at the very least, provide it with nutrients to increase its youthful thickness and luster. Amla is also an adaptogen with wide-ranging benefits, but specifically for hair, you can not only take it internally, you can also make a hair mask of the powdered Amla to invigorate your hair externally. It’s especially good on curls and texture, which is something I like to do when I henna my roots because it revitalizes the curl while henna can somewhat relax it. Internally, I take it by making a blend of Amla powder and Fo-ti powder and put a 1/2 teaspoon into my coffee in the morning and another 1/2 teaspoon in tea or coffee in the afternoon. I barely taste it and enjoy the earthiness, but if it bothers you, milk and/or a sweetener can be added, or throw it in a smoothie or mix it with juice. This is important: more does not make it work faster so start with just a 1/2 teaspoon and work up to two 1/2 teaspoons per day if you desire.

Working externally, a lot has been said about castor oil. If you want to fiddle with ingredients and concoct something more or less complicated, pinterest has you covered. If simple is more your style, put some castor oil in a dropper bottle and make your way around your head, rubbing it in gently, sleep with it and in the morning wash it out. Once or twice a week seems to be the recommended amount of doing this, with again, more not being better, but honestly I haven’t tried it yet because it also makes your hair grow faster and that’s not something I’m currently desiring.

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Bottle of 2 oz. Castor oil with 5 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil with a dropper
If I were to use castor oil for thickness, the only thing I’d add into it is Rosemary essential oil. Rosemary is of course a stimulant oil so I wouldn’t add more than a drop in if I intended to sleep with it, but it’s the best known essential oil for stimulating hair growth. There are many ways to incorporate Rosemary into your hair routine, including Rosemary hydrosol which can just be sprayed on your hair (aim for the roots) or adding Rosemary essential oil to your (all natural) shampoo, conditioner, and gel or mousse. Rosemary boosts memory and helps with brain fog as well, so don’t be surprised if your brain gets a boost along with your hair. I actually start every day with diffusing Rosemary and Orange essential oils to wake my sons’ brains up for school (and my own brain too!) with happy stimulation.

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As mentioned above, stress also plays a role in hair health just as it plays a role in overall health, so in the next post there will be more ways to combat stress and a little hint, you’ll be hearing more about adaptogens. In the meantime, why not make yourself some chakra oils and spend a few moments every day putting energy back into yourself. You deserve to be your healthiest self. Please share this with anyone you know who might be looking for some help with thinning and/or graying hair because we need to feel confident about taking action for our own best selves~ body, and mind, and to know we have options. I’ve read that November is men’s health month so especially pass this along to your favorite guys if it might be something that would interest them. The truth is, hair is important to how we feel, our self-esteem, and our self-concept, so let’s give it some love and care.

 

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