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Archive for the ‘Bath and Beauty’ Category

I like adventure in my life.  Living on the edge.  Trying new and exciting things.  Things that make people say, “What is WRONG with you?”
I hear that phrase quite often from people who knew me way back when.  I have to admit that, had someone told me twenty years ago that I’d be living on a farm and raising chicken and cucumbers, I’d have punched them in the nose for even suggesting such a thing.  Now, though, I just look at them and smile.

The truth is, I can’t imagine living any other life than the one I have. I step out my door, or stare out my window, and all I see is a world blanketed in the beautiful green of the trees  and the brilliant flowery bits of purple, yellow, white, orange, blue and pink that cover the ground.  I see birds in colors that I never knew existed.  I watch bees and squirrels and butterflies as they scamper and flit through the yard.

in the woods

And, then there are my gardens.  I don’t believe there is any possible way to describe the feeling I get when I step into view of one of them.  The peace that fills me.  The easing of ill feelings and anger and negativity.  The joy and hope.  The reminder of all things beautiful and enduring that life has to offer.  It’s a little corny, I know, but there it is…

Pink flowers

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m kinda proud of my gardens.  All of them.  Even my sorry, neglected vegetable gardens.  Well, not really neglected…more like I-let-them-get-out-of-control-and-there-aren’t-enough-hours-in-the-week-to-catch-up-on-them…  Not that it was completely my fault.  It was mostly Mother Nature’s fault.  She’s the one who sent two solid weeks of rain in the middle of the summer, making it impossible to even get to my gardens. By the time I finally built a raft and rowed out to check on them, I was pretty certain they were done for.  My poor tomatoes, so lovely and full, had started to burst from all the water.  My lovely zucchini were water-logged and beginning to rot on the plant.  Even my watermelons seemed to have gotten just a bit too much water.

wet garden

Alas, as the rain cleared, the sun began to shine and the waters began to recede.  Lo and behold, I discovered all was not lost, in fact.  I pulled the cracked tomatoes, rotting zucchini and water-logged watermelons and watched in profound joy as those hardy plants sprouted new blooms and pushed out another round of fruits and veggies that showed even greater promise! Oh, how I love those Heirloom plants!

Should you ever find yourself in this same position, here’s what you can do to save your garden veggies; as soon as you can get to them, pull all the dead, dying, waterlogged or otherwise affected fruit from the plant and throw it in the compost pile (or feed it to your chickens, goats, dogs and cats like I do).  Pull off any leaves that are spotted or ugly.  Sit back and wait.  New blooms should appear within a couple of days and you can be enjoying a fresh round of fruits and veggies in a couple of weeks.  It is that simple.

My flower gardens are another story completely.  They LOVED all the rain!  They burst to life, covering my walls and ground with glorious color.  My vines vined, my flowers flowered…I have loofa, morning glory, datura, bamboo, castor beans….all of them happier than I’ve ever seen them!

So, riding high on a tide of garden-induced euphoria, I made the decision to add a goat or two to our happy farm family…

That wasn’t completely my fault, either.  See, my grandson needs some goat’s milk to eat, and my cousin (who swears she really does like me!) convinced me I needed some, and I could use some goat’s milk for my products….Anyway…the Universe conspired to make it happen.  Who am I to fight fate?

Meet Latte and Buttercup.

Latte and Buttercup

Latte and Buttercup

You have to admit they are pretty darn cute.  They’re good sports, too.  They didn’t kick me once while I was milking them…not even when they probably should have.  Instead, they just kinda looked at me askance a time or two, and I’m pretty sure that Buttercup sighed in exasperation a few times… Still, I have a gallon of fresh goat’s milk that I got all by myself! Am I unbelievably cool, or what?

At this point, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  Well, I’m gonna tell you.  It’s all about the goat milk and how super-duper-awesomely-cool it is.

First, though, let’s get the legal portion out of the way….The FDA says that any kind of raw milk is dangerous.  Deadly, in fact.  It harbors evil bacteria that are lying in wait to cause illness and death.  You should never, ever drink raw milk, or eat any products made with raw milk, or smell raw milk, or bathe in raw milk.  Instead, you should only buy milk that has been pasteurized by an FDA-approved agency until there is nothing nutritional or naturally-healthy about it.  (Do you feel the scorn and laughter I’m not bothering to hide…?)

But, if you are like me and enjoy living life on the razor edge of danger, here are some benefits of goat’s milk…

  • It contains over 50 nutrients, including Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B6, B12, minerals, enzymes, citric acid, amino acids, fatty acids, electrolytes, unsaturated fatty acids, selenium, calcium, potassium, niacin and several more.
  • It digests in 20 minutes
  • It most closely resembles the structure of human milk
  • It is non-mucus forming and non-allergenic
  • It is believed to be of great benefit for many medical conditions, including: arthritis, ulcers, malnutrition, brain disorders, nerve disorders, liver disease, heart disease, fluid retention and cancer prevention.

But, what about the benefits of goat’s milk in skin care, you ask?

  • It slows the effects of aging by helping to rebuild collagen and sustain elasticity of the skin
  • It helps prevent and reverse age spots
  • It promotes moisture retention
  • It contains alpha-hydroxy acids that  are believed to help rejuvenate and heal damaged skin

Unfortunately, raw goat milk is kinda hard to find.  A few states have outlawed it completely.  Most states have severe restrictions on the sale of it.  The danger, you know….

But, if you can get your hands on some, snatch it and run!  Bathe in it.  Drink it.  Gargle with it. Sniff it.  Okay, not really, but you know what I mean, right?  You can cook with it, too.  You know I’m gonna be posting new recipes that include copious amounts of raw goat milk.  Next thing you know, you’ll be seeing my face on America’s Most Wanted. I told you – I like to live dangerously!

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Here’s my dirty little secret…one of them, anyway…I’m addicted to coffee and cigarettes.  I know ~ horrible, right?  I justify my two vices by telling myself that I counterbalance it with all the healthy things I do, but my teeth reveal the truth.  Or, at least, they did.

It wasn’t just the stains, either, although those were bad enough.  After all these years, my gums had begun to recede and I was developing a serious case of gingivitis.

Of course, I wasn’t about to take the ‘normal’ route.  I don’t do fluoride.  I don’t do dentists.  I don’t do antibiotics.  That kind of limited my options, but I knew there had to be some natural alternative. I was getting desperate.  My teeth were becoming an embarrassment.   I had to do something… So, I started researching.  Turns out, I was right.

Let’s run through the most popular natural options ~ baking soda, strawberries, peroxide.  While I won’t say they don’t work, I will say they don’t work well.  Baking soda tastes pretty bad and it scratches the enamel of the teeth.  Strawberries work minimally well, providing you have enough strawberries and time.  Peroxide…yuck!

My advice?  Skip the ‘trendy’ and move on to something that really works.

Ever heard of ‘Oil Pulling’?  I hadn’t.  I’ll admit that I was skeptical, at first. My desperation outweighed my skepticism, though.  Here’s the theory behind it:

You gently pull oil through the teeth and move it around the mouth for 10-15 minutes, avoiding letting it reach the back of your throat.  You don’t gargle it or swish it.  When the proper oils are used, they will help pull toxins from the body, tones and tightens the gums, whitens the teeth and generally improves overall health. You don’t want to swallow this oil once you have pulled it through your teeth because it is then full of toxins.

How does it work?  Some oils ~ especially sesame oil~ are known for their ability to draw waste and toxins from the body.  The mouth is a direct line to the blood stream and the digestive system, capable of absorbing and releasing vitamins, minerals, waste and toxins.  When you pull the oil through the teeth and move it around the mouth, it mixes with saliva and activates the body functions that control the cleansing process.  As you move it between the teeth, it picks up the bits of food and bacteria that like to hide there.  The oils capture toxins and food particles, bacteria, germs and other nasties, allowing them to be eliminated from the system. It also deposits healing properties ~ vitamins and minerals, moisturizing and healing agents.

Okay, I know it sounds  a little hokey, but after working with many oils on a regular basis, I’m confident in their ability to do all the things they are reported to do.  And, knowing how the body works, I’m convinced that the mouth is a viable detox organ.  The confusion came when I was trying to decide which ingredients to add.

Some advocates of oil pulling insist that only sesame oil would work.  Some suggested olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil…the list went on.  Finally, I narrowed down my choices and here is what I came  up with…

Sesame oil was a must.  It is one of the few oils that I have seen work well for pulling toxins from the system.  I use it in many of my products because of this characteristic.  However, it doesn’t have much to offer in the way of whitening, which was one of my main concerns.

Coconut oil, which has been touted as a miracle cure for everything from heart disease to dry skin, seemed to be a good choice.  In my research I stumbled across another lesser-known use for coconut oil.  It helps whiten teeth by loosening plaque and actually descaling the surface of the teeth.

Sunflower oil is not an oil that I often use, but the more I study it, the more I like what it has to offer.  It is healing, soothing and seems quite capable of being able to draw toxins from the system.

So, I started mixing.  I considered adding herbs and essential oils that are known for their dental-health properties, but decided against it.  Those, I would save for my mouth wash and tooth polish.

It took me a few days to work up the nerve to actually use the oil pulling method.  I have this thing about texture.  I can’t do slimy, and I was a little bit afraid that the texture of the oils in my mouth would make me gag.  Again, desperation overrode hesitation.  I was pleasantly surprised!  It was thick at first, but not gross or slimy.  After the first few pulls, it became the texture of any other mouthwash. Now, I kind of like it!

But, the real question is: Does it work?

Well, I’m a believer!  I noticed a dramatic whitening effect within 3 uses.  The gingivitis was gone in less than a week.  That ugly brown plaque that accumulates on the back of the teeth and around the gums…it was almost gone after less than two weeks.  My gums have tightened back up and the receding gum line is doing a rapid reversal.  I think the most amazing thing, though, is that even my crowns, which they say can’t be bleached or whitened, are becoming whiter by the day!

The routine: Use the oil first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before you eat or drink anything.  I use it again at night before bed.  It took a few times to work up to using it for the full 10-15 minutes.  Don’t swallow the oil and keep it in the front of the mouth.  Spit, rinse and brush.  Its that simple.

After the first week, I began using a tooth polish that I whipped up.  I made it with coconut oil, cocoa butter, baking soda, peppermint oil and clove oil.  It tastes a bit like a Mounds candy bar, which is just fine with me.

I chose cocoa butter because of some interesting research that has been done on it.  It seems that cocoa butter has much to offer in the way of dental health.  It contains phenols, which  reduce the presence of free radicals that damage cells and prevent fat like substances in the blood stream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries.  It has immune-enhancing properties, and it lightly coats the teeth and helps fight off tooth decay by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth and gums, helping to prevent the formation of plaque.

Clove oil, aside from its history as a pain reliever, is also anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and germicidal.  It has been used for a very long time to treat dental issues and has proven highly effective.  Besides, it tastes good.

Peppermint oil is a traditional flavor for tooth-care products, also, and its healing properties are backed up by loads of research from both the medical and the natural communities.  Sure, it tastes good, but there is more to it than that.  It stimulates blood flow to the gums, which helps heal damaged tissues, tones, and tightens the gums.  It contains a host of vitamins and minerals that benefit the teeth and bones, its a natural pain reliever and it freshens the breath.

Baking soda gently scrubs the teeth.  Unfortunately, it can also scratch the surface enamel of the teeth, allowing them to stain more easily.  I believe that the coating action of the cocoa butter provides a certain amount of protection from this, though.

The only downside to the tooth polish is the consistency.  I actually like the consistency, but if you are used to a thick, bubbly toothpaste, this will be a bit off-putting.  It is more liquid-y and it doesn’t bubble or foam.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t leave the mouth feeling oily, either, which was another fear I had.  The butters and oils soak in rapidly and leave your whole mouth feeling…well…clean!

I guess this isn’t for everyone, but if you are serious about finding a more natural approach to dental health and you are feeling adventurous, this routine just might be what you are looking for. I’m thrilled with the results and, for the first time in a long time, my teeth aren’t an embarrassment. Its wonderful to smile again without wondering how awful my teeth look!

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This has to be my favorite time of year.  Summer is dwindling away and with it the hot, humid weather.  Cooler temperatures make the daytime bearable and the nights perfect.  Except for the bugs.

spider

I hate bugs.  Well, not all bugs.  Just the ones that bite, sting or swarm me as I try to enjoy a little time outdoors.  The rest of the bugs I like.  Kind of.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  I have had multiple requests this year for products that will help keep away the bugs ~ from both the home and the body.  So, over the last few months I’ve been busy on my quest for the perfect bug repellent.

Maybe I should define ‘perfect’.   I’ve been on a quest to create a bug repellent that is safe for both the body and the environment, that repels mosquitos, bees, gnats, flies, chiggers, ticks and spiders without killing them and that doesn’t make me wanna hurl when I get a whiff of it.  I’ve scoured the internet, the library, the bookstore and the minds of fellow naturalists.  I’ve tried everything from orange peels and cinnamon to exotic oils and powders.

Now, my quest is complete. Wanna know what I came up with?  It’s awesome!

My first brainstorm came with my Bite & Sting Balm a few years ago.  You remember reading about that, right?  If not, you really oughtta.  Really.  Go ahead….I’ll wait!

Okay, so the Balm is fantastic for getting rid of the burn and itch from insect bites, but what about preventing the bite or sting in the first place?   So when, a customer requested something to help repel the ants, spiders and waterbugs that were plaguing her home, I knew it was time to undertake a new experiment.

I have to be honest…I didn’t hold out much hope.  I live in Missouri, land of changing weather, changing minds and massive bug infestations.  I’ve tried everything over the years.  Boric acid, that clear gummy gooey stuff, osage oranges,  herbs…even the so-toxic-it-runs-you-out-of-your-home stuff.  Nothing really worked for everything.  If it stopped the roaches,  the ants loved it.  If it stopped the ants, the waterbugs loved it.  And the mosquitos?  Forget it.  Nothing stops a Missouri Mosquito.  Or their companion, the pecker gnat.  Yes, I said pecker gnat.  I don’t know if that’s their technical name.  Probably not.  That’s what they are called here in the Ozarks, though, and anyone who’s ever visited a river in Missouri knows what they are.  They are the large group of tiny flying insects that swarm around your head and try to take up residence in any available orifice.

Anyway, not much hope, but, hey…I’m always  up for a good challenge!

The lady who requested the bug repellent is actually the one who pointed me in the right direction.  She’s a fantastic customer and endlessly patient, not to mention brilliant!  What I came up with is a blend of oils that, while a bit expensive, works like a charm.   It’s unbelievable!  Fantastic!  Amazing!

I bet you thought this was gonna be  a huge sales pitch, didn’t you?  You thought I was gonna tell you how awesome this product was and then make you come and buy it from me, didn’t you?

Nope.  Now, I’m not going to give you the recipe, mind you.  That’s all mine and I worked really hard to get it.  I’m gonna give you all the ingredients, though, so you can come up with your own version.

Be smart, though.  If you don’t know what you are doing when it comes to essential oils then educate yourself.  Some essential oils, while safe when used properly, can be dangerous. Don’t ever use any of them on your skin full strength.  Most essential oils, especially therapeutic grade oils,  need to be diluted in a carrier of some type ~ oil, butter or liquid, preferably organic and unprocessed.  In most cases, only a few drops of the essential oil needs to be used.

Also, don’t bother buying the cheap oils.  They don’t work.  If you are going to invest any money into oils, I suggest Aura Cacia, Young Living or Ananda.  They are a bit more expensive but well worth the extra cost.  They are more potent and last longer, so in the end you save money.  No, I don’t get any kickbacks for mentioning them, either.  I only wish I was that cool!

Okay, so the ingredients are…

Eucalyptus atlas cedarwood, tea tree, citronella, rosemary, basil, spearmint, pennyroyal and blue tansy.

I’ll be honest.  If you were to purchase these oils for yourself, whether online or through a local merchant, you are looking at a minimum of $75-$100.  Some of them are very expensive and difficult to come by.  Blue Tansy oil, for instance, is roughly (including shipping) $22.00 for  1/16 of an ounce.   That’s at the cheapest wholesale price.  That is a bottle about half as tall as my pinky.  However, it also has some amazing healing benefits and is very expensive to harvest and process.  This is an exceptionally potent oil that only needs 1 or 2 drops and it goes a very long way.  Plus, it is actually blue, which is so cool!

My husband, who works outdoors in terrain that ranges from open construction sites to heavily wooded areas, begged me to make a bug spray.  The chemical-laden sprays combined with the heat from being in the sun all day often made him physically ill and only kept off a minimal amount of bugs.  I modified my Body Spritzer formula, added 15 drops of the Bug Repellent Oil Blend to 8 0z of it and used it spray our bodies.

Don't Bug Me Insect Repellent

Don't Bug Me Insect Repellent

I added the same to a watered-down version of the Spritzer blend and sprayed our tents  and covers when we went camping a couple weeks ago.  Interestingly coincidental, my son, who chose not to spray his sleeping area down because it was “too much trouble”, woke up every morning to a tent full of spiders and 16 mosquito bites.   His sisters, in a tent not 5′ away, awoke spider-and-mosquito-bite free.

I add 10 drops to 2 cups of a borax/boric acid/salt powder blend and sprinkle it around our aluminum-can bin and trash dumpsters to contain all the ants that flock to them.   I also add a spoonful of diatomaceous earth to this and sprinkle it around our cat’s bedding area and anywhere she spends a lot of time.

I apply a single drop to a q-tip and rub it anywhere that I find ants sneaking in, like windows and cabinets.

Our results have been pretty unbelievable.  It has repelled every insect we’ve used it against, though a few of the more hardcore mosquitos have managed to get us.

If you are interested in a more in-depth discussion on each of these oils, feel free to send me an e-mail.  I’m always more than happy to share what info I have!

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If you’ve never suffered from a skin condition that causes itchy, dry, painful rashes that have you clawing the skin from your body, consider yourself fortunate. For the rest of us, I think it is safe to say that these skin conditions can drive you to drastic measures. You can find the most amazing tools to use as a scratcher…combs, brushes, knives, pencils…I must admit that I’ve even resorted to bathing my skin with alcohol on occasion because the burn was a relief from the itch. Of course, I don’t recommend it.

I suppose it was because of these experiences that I found it absolutely necessary to create my ‘Skin Soother’ salve. Unlike my Bite and Sting ointment that is specifically targeted to relieve the itch of venom and other toxins found in plants and animal bites/stings, this salve is made to sooth and help heal rashes and other conditions that our bodies inflict upon itself.

As is the case with eczema and psoriasis. While there is no single thing that causes our body to break out in a rash, the one thing they all have in common is that they are all reactions. Too many toxins in the system, skin care products, medications, environmental toxins, skin infections, sun exposure…these all play a part in skin conditions. These can manifest themselves in many different ways. A blistery patch, a dry patch, a sore, redness, inflammation.

Then, there is the trouble of diagnosing the rash. Is it eczema? Dermatitis? Psoriasis? Heat rash? Sun rash? A reaction to the new soap you used? Sometimes, even the best dermatologists have difficulty finding the root cause.

As an herbalist, my job is much simpler. Sort of. In the case of skin rashes, especially. It is my belief that illnesses of any kind, including skin conditions, is simply an indication that your body has overloaded on toxins (this includes both physical and emotional toxins like stress and fatigue) and/or lacked proper nutrition to keep your immune system strong.

Please take care to note: I am not saying that any single herb, ingredient, salve, tea or diet is going to fix all the known ills of man. Not by any means. While I do believe that every illness can be CURED using natural means, I believe it takes a combination of natural ingredients, exercise (especially yoga, tai chi, etc), diet and a positive attitude to achieve this.

That being said, I do believe that many natural ingredients can help us to treat both the symptoms and the root of our problems.

First, you need to use something that will help your body combat any virus, fungus or bacteria that my have entered your system, which is why doctors will often automatically hand you a prescription for an antibiotic of some sort. Please understand that, while this may help for a period of time, your body will eventually become immune to that antibiotic. Synthetic antibiotics do not help boost your immune system. In fact, they weaken it, so when the problem comes back it is often already angry over being tricked like this and comes back stronger, more resistant.

Natural ingredients work differently. Rather than tricking your immune system into submission, many natural ingredients are known for boosting the organs of the body that stimulate the natural immune functions. Now, here is where I could give you a terribly long and boring science lecture, but I won’t. However, if you find that curiosity is eating at you, Wikipedia has a wonderful overview of the immune system and how it functions.

You might be surprised to learn that there is a plethora of natural ingredients that boast wonderful immune-boosting properties. Many are antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. When applied topically, they are quickly absorbed into the skin and bloodstream where they are carried throughout the body, fighting off the nasties as they go.

Many of these ingredients are included in my Skin Soother salve. Olive, grapeseed, sesame, coconut oil, mango, kokum, shea butter, beeswax, aloe gel, honey, lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus all contain at least one of those properties.

Secondly, you need to soothe the itch. Let’s face it, if a product kills off the nasties like bacteria, fungus and virus but doesn’t relieve the pain and itch, who wants to use it? There are several natural ingredients that work beautifully to soothe itchy skin and are included in this Skin Soother salve.

Peppermint is a natural nervine and analgesic which makes it extremely useful for skin conditions that cause pain and itching. It soothes those nerve endings that are causing the itch and helps ease the pain associated with many skin conditions. Other potent nervines included in the formula are hops and chamomile.

Many herbs have also been chosen for their long history of soothing any kind of skin disease. Comfry, basil, marshmallow and burdock have all been used for centuries by many different cultures to soothe inflammation, cool the skin, calm the itch and help remove toxins from the system.

So, I used these ingredients (and a few others) to create my Skin Soother. I can’t give you my formula, of course, but I’m happy to discuss ingredients and how to use them. I can always be contacted through my website, Tamara’s Herbes, or through my Etsy shop.

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Mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, spiders, chiggers…all sure signs that summer is in full swing. Of course, they can’t just exist in peace with us humans. They far prefer to bite every inch of exposed flesh and leave us running for the bug spray and benadryl.

But, the bug spray and Benadryl come with their own set of problems. Here’s a few alternatives that will help you deal with these critters more naturally.

Load up on the garlic. Insects hate it, especially the biting ones. Besides being a natural immune booster that helps protect you from several health problems like high cholesterol and the common cold, it wards off biting insects because they don’t like the taste of it. A clove or two a day is all you need!

Then, we have the miracle liquid…apple cider vinegar. I cannot even begin to list all the amazing benefits of organic apple cider vinegar. It flushes your system, it boosts immunity, it helps with arthritis…and it wards off biting insects. As with garlic, it builds up in your system and insects can’t stand the flavor. A teaspoon twice a day and you’ll feel like a new person…one that is free of bug bites!

There are also several essential oils that make wonderful insect repellents and are much easier on the entire body than commercially available products. Here is my recipe for a natural bug spray:

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I prefer olive or sesame, but just about any of them will do)

1/2 cup distilled water

4-5 drops each of the following essential oils: rosemary, basil, pennyroyal, peppermint

7-10 drops of citronella essential oil

Spray on liberally and you are ready to go!

Of course, the occasional bug is going to find its way to your tender flesh and it will sink its mean little teeth in. When that happens, I grab my Bite and Sting ointment. It contains ingredients that are known for drawing toxins from the skin, reducing inflammation, calming the itchies and healing damaged tissue. Check out some of these ingredients:

Burdock promotes the healing of wounds and is a classic remedy for skin conditions which result in dry, scaly skin and cutaneous eruptions (eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, boils, carbuncles, sties), relieve bruises and inflamed surfaces generally. It restores smoothness to the skin and contains a good amount of several vitamins (especially A and B2 – thiamin) as well as minerals, especially iron, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, zinc, and potassium. It is alleged to neutralize and eliminate poisons in the system.

Black Walnut Hulls contain natural chemicals that are astringent, which helps improve the firmness of the tissues. These chemicals are also active against inflammation, can balance sugar levels in the blood, and detoxify your body. It has the ability to fight against fungal infections, and acts with an antiseptic property which helps fight bacterial infection. It cleanses the system of toxins and poisons.

Basil is a detoxifier, stimulting sluggish and congested circulation of the skin and can be used for acne and minor skin infections. It is also reputed to have antiseptic value and to neutralise the toxins of bites and stings.

This ointment isn’t just good for bites, though. It works wonders on stings from bees and wasps. When one of us inevitably gets stung, we pinch off the site to keep the venom from circulating through our system and lather on the ointment. Within minutes, the pain is gone and, if we catch it right away it doesn’t even leave behind a red mark on the stung area. This ointment is a total necessity in our house!

That’s not all, though.  The most amazing thing ever about this fantastic ointment?  You know those nasty spider bites?  Two of my customers ended up with some ugly, oozing holes in their skin from a brown recluse.  After antibiotics and painful scrapings that did no good, they tried this ointment.  I’m proud to report that after 3 weeks, the bites completely healed.  The scarring was minimal, the pain was gone and they now keep a tube of ointment nearby…just in case!

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It happens to the best of us.   Commercial shampoos, harsh hair treatments, poor eating habits,  environmental pollutants…they all wreak havoc with our hair at one time or another.  You know the symptoms, don’t you?  Brittleness, frizzies and split-ends are just a few of the problems that commonly pop up.

If you are like me, you’ve probably tried everything from hot oil treatments to salon therapy.  Some of them work a time or two.  Maybe three.  Then, nothing.

It’s frustrating.  Aggravating.  Discouraging.  Sometimes, it makes you wanna just chop those locks off and start over.  Before you do something drastic, you might consider trying a natural solution.

There are so many natural ingredients available that work wonderfully on damaged hair that it would be nearly impossible to list them all.  These are a few of my favorite stand-bys, all of which are available in my Hair Therapy and Rinse Combo.

~Honey ~

For the hair?  Absolutely!  Honey is a natural humectant, which means that it has the ability to attract and retain water, a valuable  characteristic if your hair is parched and dry.  Honey also contains natural antioxidant properties that make it ideal for helping to protect your hair from environmental damage including harsh UV rays and pollutants.

It doesn’t end there, though.  Honey also contains a wide range of B vitamins including B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3, as well as copper, iodine and zinc.  These vitamins and minerals are fantastic when you are dealing with hair loss, dandruff and graying.

Don’t forget honey’s natural  soothing properties and anti-bacterial action, which are wonderful for helping with an itchy scalp.

~Sesame Oil~

Besides being antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant, Sesame oil quickly penetrates the hair and skin, attracting toxins that can then be carried out of the system as waste.  It also has the ability to protect the hair from future damage and helps regulate cell regeneration, which can lead to better hair growth and less graying.

~Grapeseed Oil~

This wonderful oil is high in antioxidants, vitamins A, B & C, polyphenols and resveratrol, which makes it a powerful antioxidant, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial oil.   As a protectant, it adds moisture and lightly coats the hair to add a beautiful shine without being heavy.

~Shea Butter~

This rich, luxurious butter has been used for centuries to nourish and protect the hair.  It absorbs quickly into the hair and scalp to provide moisture and protection without clogging pores.  It is particularly good for repairing dry, brittle, damaged hair.  It has long been used as a natural hair conditioner because of its ability  to soften the hair without leaving it heavy or oily.

~Catnip~

This is one ingredient that always draws comment from my customer.  The most asked question is ‘will this make my cat attack my hair’.  The answer is no.  What it will do is promote hair growth and add luster to dry, dull locks.

~Rosemary~

This wonderful kitchen herb has been used for ages to promote strength in weak hair, to stimulate the hair follicle and to help promote a healthy scalp.  It has also been reported to help with graying and dandruff.

~Apple Cider Vinegar~

This is by far one of my favorite hair care ingredients.  It helps regulate the natural pH of both the hair and scalp, adds amazing softness and manageability, promotes hair growth and cleanses the hair and scalp of dirt and toxins.  It is a natural anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial and is full of potassium which is essential for healthy hair.

So, before you head back to the salon for your next hair treatment, give some of these natural ingredients a chance.  You might find that you can cancel that appointment…

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After months of bitter cold Summer has finally arrived, and with it comes the dry skin, sunburn, poison ivy and a whole host of other summertime complaints. Don’t get me wrong. Summer is my favorite season! Lazy days on the river bank, camping, float trips, music festivals…I love the summertime! I’m just not so crazy about the thought of coating my skin with commercial bug repellents and toxic sunscreens.

So, what’s a body to do?

If sitting inside in the air conditioning is your idea of summer fun, more power to you and this blog post probably won’t hold much for you. If you wanna get out there and soak up the sun, though, read on, my friend!

First of all, let me just say this…

With all the pollution, thinning of the ozone, global warming and the coming of the next ice age, our skin is facing grave danger every day. As someone with highly-sensitive, whiter-than-white, super dry skin, I know how important it is to keep it protected and moisturized.

I’m an avid swimmer and have been since I joined the swim-and-dive team at 6 years old. I swam before I walked. Literally. I even have pictures to prove it somewhere! I was at the pool bright and early from the day it opened until the night it closed for the season. Trust me when I say that chlorine, sunscreen and all your other summertime chemicals can really do a number on your skin and hair!

By the end of my 20’s, I had a whole host of skin and hair issues. I developed fabric sensitivities (nylon, rayon and a bunch of others), detergent sensitivities, hygiene product sensitivities (soap, shampoo, conditioner), psoriasis, eczema…I got them all. I was an itchy, flaky, acne-riddled mess with some fried-out hair to seal the deal.

Personal care products? I tried them all. Over-the-counter, behind-the-counter, under-the-counter, catty-corner-from-the-counter. Name brand, store brand, no brand. My bathroom had bottles and jars from every bath and beauty manufacturer known to man (well, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea, right?) Some of them would work for a few days…a week…maybe even a month. Never much longer than that, though.

It was about that time that I was beginning to study herbalism. Now, sometimes I’m not too quick. Even after all that I was learning about herbs and their ability to heal and protect the body, it took a while for the idea of herbal skin care to evolve for me. After all, the 90’s were not really about natural anything. We were a generation of quick, cheap and easy.

Finally, the idea dawned, though. It was an idea that changed my life. Simplified it, really. I wish I could say it was a quick fix and overnight my skin and hair magically changed. That wasn’t the case, though. I started small. Moved to a more natural soap (I thought), then ditched the soap all together. Yes, I still use soap for all those vital parts like between the toes, within the recesses of my inny-belly-button…places like that, but never on the parts that are most sensitive like the arms and legs or the belly or back. And never, ever, ever on my face. My face hasn’t felt soap on it for almost 5 years. Or acne. Or dry patches.

Then, we moved to the country. Now, I don’t know if you really know what I mean when I say country, but imagine this. It’s the Ozark Mountain Foothills. Rolling Mountains covered in dense, rich forests for as far as the eye can see. Even the power lines that connect us to the rest of the world are absorbed among the trees and mountains. To get home, we drove 3.7 miles down a dirt and gravel road before we reached our driveway, which was another quarter mile. Forget to grab milk on the way home? That’s too bad because it’s a 25 minute drive to the nearest gas station where they sell you a half-gallon of milk for $4.00. That’s the kind of ‘in the country’ I’m talking about.

My skin was so not happy. With country living comes mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, fleas and a whole host of other biting and stinging creatures that you just don’t see much of in the city or town. There is also the gardening to be done because that’s about the only way you are going to find fresh fruits and veggies in the middle of no where. And, there was tending to the animals…feed the horses, groom the horses, ride the horses, feed the chickens, feed the goats…a never ending stream of ‘to-do’s that had me out in the blistering Missouri sun through some of the hottest hours of the day.

At the end of one particularly miserable day in August I’d had enough. It was almost 110 degrees outside, I’d been stung twice by wasps, after which I stepped barefoot onto a patch of stinging nettle while getting the laundry off the line. My fair, sensitive skin was blistered because, like an idiot, I ran outside to do a quick chore without applying the usual layers of sunscreen and bug spray, and it turned into an hour long ordeal that ended with me covered in seed ticks and a severe sunburn. I was quite miserable and ready to peel my skin from my body.

So, I took a vinegar bath then coated my skin in aloe vera, sat down at the computer and embarked upon a journey that led me to where I am today…the owner of a bath and beauty business that is doing amazingly well and allowing me to help others who suffer from some of the many issues that had me a miserable mess.

I told you all that for a few reasons.

~ I feel like it is important for you to understand that I know whereof I speak. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that misery and pain, and that wishing that someone would just dip your body in a vat of acid because being skinless might hurt a lot less than dealing with all the skin problems.

~I’m not gonna bullshit you. Sure, I hope you’ll buy some of my fantastic products. Of course, I do. Would you believe me if I said otherwise? However, more than that, I just want you to know there are other options out there that really have worked for me. I’ll share my ingredients with you. I’ll share my knowledge with you. I got into this business to help people. Making a buck is secondary. If I ever lose that philosophy I’ll close the doors on my shop.

And, now that I’ve rambled on a spell, I’ll get to the point of this whole blog. How to handle summertime a little more naturally and a lot more comfortably.

Let’s talk SPF. If a product claims to have a certain SPF factor, you can be pretty certain that it contains one or more of the chemicals listed here. These are bad chemicals. Chemicals that will hurt you. Remember, the skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs more chemicals and toxins faster than any other organ. These chemicals will seep into your skin. The debate arises with two questions. Do the benefits outweigh the risks, and are there any alternatives?

So, do the benefits outweigh the risks?

You have to answer this question yourself, but my answer is a resounding NO! I hate sunburns. There are few things in life more miserable and uncomfortable than that first sunburn of the year. In fact, the only think I can think of that is more miserable than that is the itchy, dry skin, mild nausea and possible cancer that comes with most sunscreens.

Are there alternatives?

Most definitely. However, because natural ingredients often vary from batch to batch, it is nearly impossible to set an SPF value on them. The process of testing the SPF is long and very expensive and would have to be done on each batch of product that is made. I would imagine, too, that as the natural ingredients age and lose potency the SPF value would change. This is why most natural sunscreens cannot list an SPF. That doesn’t mean they don’t have one or that they don’t work just as well. A point I set out to prove four summers ago with remarkable results.

I studied avidly. While the rest of my family slept, I spent hours poring over books and websites. I contacted scientist (I’m fortunate to live in a small college town with very friendly professors!) and reached out to other herbalists and B & B makers. Then, when I was sure my brain was going to explode from all the info, I saved up some money and invested in a whole mess of natural ingredients to experiment with.

I mixed and blended and screwed up and repeated. When I had a couple formulas that I thought might work, I recruited volunteers from among my friends and family (and even a couple of brave strangers). All summer long that first year they slathered my crazy concoctions over their bodies in place of their favorite sunscreen, though I suspect many of them kept a bottle handy just in case! The first year produced mixed results. There were a couple of sunburns and a couple of rashes, though none severe.

When the summer was over, I sorted through my notes and studied the results. I tweaked and twiddled the formulas, took out something here…added something there. By the next summer, I was sure I’d perfected it.

I was pretty close to right. At the end of the second summer we had no sunburns and only two rashes, one of which we later discovered was a reaction to the natural latex in shea butter. I worried about this, since shea butter is one of the most magnificent natural UV protectants known. Still, I created a small batch without the shea butter that worked wonderfully, but I kept the original formula for the rest of us.

Despite it being one of the hottest, driest summers on record for Missouri and long hours spent outdoors, I’m happy to tell you that we had a rash and sunburn free summer last year. As an added bonus, this formula left everyone’s skin super-soft and flake free and only had to be reapplied every 4-5 hours.

I bet you want a batch of this stuff, don’t you?

Sorry. It’s not for sale. Yet. And, even when it is, I won’t call it sunscreen. I can’t. That would be making a medical claim and I’m not a doctor.

Here’s a few of the ingredients that are in it that are known for their superior ability to block UV rays, as well as some that are great for restoring and protecting skin from damage, though. Maybe you can mix up your own experiment!

~Unrefined, unprocessed Shea butter ~

Recent clinical studies have found that shea butter protects skin against climate and UV aggressors, and is also capable of helping regenerate and heal damaged skin cells. It was shown to prevent wrinkles, and is a natural emollient. Shea butter forms a breathable, water-resistant film on the film that makes it a great ingredient to use in sunscreens that you don’t want to have to keep reapplying.

~Unrefined Mango butter~

Like shea butter, mango butter is known for its ability to moisturize and heal, as well as protect the skin from UV radiation. It fights wrinkles and leaves the skin soft and supple.

~Honey~

This natural antioxidant has been used in skin care for more than 5000 years. It is a natural moisturizer that contains antimicrobial properties (which means that micro-organisms cannot grow in it) and has been used to help protect the skin from damage by the sun’s rays.

~Grapeseed Oil~

An Ohio State University study found that, when applied topically, grape seed oil helped wounds heal faster with less scarring. It works by building epidermal and connective tissue. The tissue, amazingly enough, grew back denser. Bulkactives.com has a website that explains the findings of a recent study concerning grape seed oil and UV radiation. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

~Zinc Oxide~

Remember the white-nosed lifegaurd image? Yeah…that’s zinc oxide. It works primarily by reflecting and scattering UV light so it can’t be absorbed into the skin. You can find some great info on zinc oxide (and titanium oxide, which is also in the formula) at Pinkquartzminerals.com. While you’re there you really oughtta check out her mineral makeup, too. Its absolutely fabulous!

If you check out my posts on natural ingredients, you will find a wealth of information on many of these ingredients. If you would like more info on my little experiment, all you gotta do is drop me a line.

In the meantime, here are a couple of other fantastic sites to check out for more info on SPF and natural ingredients.

http://www.majesticjus4u.com/gpage2.html

http://www.pureknowhow.com/content/sunscreen.php

http://www.raw-beauty.com/ingredients.asp

bite balm tube

Oh, and remember that August day that was so miserable for me? It also inspired me to create this fantastic Bite and Sting ointment that is available at Tamara’s Herbes. That’s a post for next time, though….

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