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Archive for the ‘Bath and Beauty’ Category

The world of natural and alternative health can be complicated. We, as a people, have forgotten so much about the benefits of using the plants around us to heal our bodies. Not only that, but we have forgotten how to use them. Salves, tinctures, extracts, essential oils, teas, syrups, glycerites…what’s the difference? Well, there is quite a bit of difference, actually, but today we are going to talk about a relatively new form of herbal medicine.

Hydrosols.

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White pine hydrosol

Haven’t heard of them? Don’t know what to do with them? Then, read on, my friend!

First, though, let me tell you what a hydrosol is NOT.

Hydrosols are not floral water, which is simply the process of infusing water with flowers by letting them sit over a period of time to absorb the essence of the flowers. Floral waters have their own limited range of healing properties, but they are not the same as a hydrosol

Hydrosols are not water with essential oil added to them, which can be dangerous when ingested.

True hydrosols are created using a steam distillation process to extract the beneficial properties of the herbs that cannot be obtained any other method. This is the same process used to obtain the essential oils from plants, but renders a completely different finished product. Instead of writing out the entire process, let me direct you to this website, HydrosolWorld, that has a wonderful explanation of the whole process.

To simplify for those of you who don’t want to read all the details, here’s a breakdown:

  • Hydrosols are the perfect balance between herbal teas and essential oils. They are safe to use internally and externally, unlike essential oils which should NEVER be used internally. Because they contain many of the same elements as the essential oils, they offer a wider range of benefits than a simple herbal tea.
  • Unlike herbal teas, hydrosols have a long shelf life. Depending on the herb, the shelf life can range anywhere from 6 months to several years, so they are much easier to keep on hand for a quick-fix when you don’t have the time or energy to whip up a batch of tea.
  • Hydrosols can be used topically for instant relief from many issues.
  • Hydrosols can be used safely on most animals and children
  • Hydrosols can be used to replace the water portion of your skincare recipes in things like soaps and lotions.
  • Hydrosols can be added to your cleaning routine to add a gentle fragrance, or to kill bacteria and viruses.

So, why aren’t you hearing more about hydrosols? Because they have only recently been studied for their medicinal benefits. In the past, hydrosols have been nothing more than the byproduct of essential oil making, rather then the main goal of the distillation process. The remaining water (hydrosol) was simply pitched out as being useless. It was a bit surprising to many when they realized that hydrosols were actually quite potent and effective in their own right. The multitude of benefits they provide is still being studied and experimented with, as is the range of plants that produce the best hydrosols.

Of course, being the enterprising soul that I am, I had to jump on the bandwagon.

The first step was obtaining a distiller. Thanks to a wonderful friend and business associate, I finally got my distiller. I admit, I was a bit scared of the whole process at first. It seemed so technical and science-y. What if I screwed it up?

distiller

My beautiful distiller!

Turns out, it wasn’t so scary or difficult after all. Now, I am a bit addicted to creating new hydrosols. I am distilling all of my favorite herbs….red clover, wild plum blossoms, yarrow, elder flowers, spearmint, white pine….and I have so many more on my list. If only there was more time in a day!

Now, I have a refrigerator full of fabulous hydrosols and I have been experimenting like crazy! The time has finally arrived to share them with you all.

Choosing where to start with hydrosols is the first step to forming a glorious addiction. My next few posts will cover the hydrosols that I personally have created and worked with. I will give a detailed list of all the things each of them is good for, how to use them, when not to use them, and which ones are good to keep on hand for emergencies.

Let’s start with one of my personal favorites, elder flower hydrosol.

The hydrosol has a mildly green, floral fragrance that blends well with many essential oils, making it perfect for creating spritzers, room and fabric deodorizers, and surface cleansers that provide antibacterial and anti-viral action.

elderberryFlower

Elder flowers in bloom

Most people are familiar with the healing power of elderberries. High levels of Vitamin C make it a must-have for cold and flu season, but there is much more to the elder plant than just the berries. Elder is known as the medicine chest of the country folk’ because of the many health-enhancing benefits it contains. Besides being a potent antibacterial and antiviral, elder flowers are also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, diuretic, styptic, analgesic, and a mild laxative. These qualities make it useful for a variety of issues, including:

  • Kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
  • To fight colds and flu
  • Sinus infections
  • Soothes respiratory disturbances by dispelling mucous and congestion
  • Boost function of the immune system
  • Applied topically, helps reduce pain and swelling in joints due to arthritis
  • Stops bleeding
  • As an oral rinse for dental issues and toothaches
  • Soothes the symptoms of allergies
  • Regulates blood glucose levels
  • Soothes inflammation of the eyes
  • Circulatory stimulant
  • Encourages perspiration
  • Treats viral infections like measles, chicken pox, shingles, and Epstein Barr.
  • Purifies the blood
  • Cleanses the lymphatic system of toxins and debris
  • A natural diuretic useful for eliminating water retention, bloating, gout, and edema
  • Beneficial for liver disorders
  • Heals urinary tract infections
  • Eases headaches
  • Applied topically, it helps heal cuts, wounds, and burns
  • Helps fade blemishes and age spots

When using it internally, we take 1-2 teaspoons in a glass of water. It has a pleasant flavor that blends well with fruit juices, too.

Elder flower hydrosol is handy when your pets are in need. A spritz or two on hot spots works wonders to heal the flesh and soothe the itch, and will help soothe anxiety. Adding a spoonful to their water is helpful in many conditions, including kennel cough and other respiratory issues, or to boost the immune system. It also works well for reducing pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in the joints.

For the more spiritual among us, the essence of the elder plant can add an extra bit of power to rituals and ceremonies. They are considered sacred to the angelic realm and Druids, who call it the ‘Tree of Life’, as well as anyone seeking to work with the Fae. It is known as the medicine chest of the country folk’ because of the many health-enhancing benefits it contains.

The Elder plant represents the 13th month as part of the Ogham, the calendar tree of the Celts. This is the month of the Winter Solstice which is a time of transition between light and dark ~ death and rebirth. Elder helps ease the transition between these two periods.

Elder has long been associated with the fairy world, and is considered to be a plant of the faerie land where wood spirits and elves make their home in her roots.

Elder’s spiritual essence is believed to open the psyche, and is associated with the heart chakra, helping to cool anger and ground the spirit.

I’m sure I haven’t covered all of its uses, but this is an excellent starting point.

As always, I must remind you all that, no, I am not a licensed physician, and all of the alphabet government agencies insist that herbal medicine has little or no healing properties, so this could all just be a big old mess of snake oil. I am not qualified to diagnose you, and I most certainly am not allowed to heal you or offer you any ‘medical’ advice. No government agency has approved any of these statements or claims. If you are taking any herbal medicines, you do so at your own risk. You should always consult with your healthcare provider before taking any herbal products, especially if you are currently taking any prescription medications.

If you are feeling brave or rebellious and want to see what all the hype is about when it comes to hydrosols, check out my Etsy store, Tamara’s Herbes, where you can find all of my hydrosols, as well as other natural health and beauty products created to help soothe the body, mind and spirit!

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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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