Friday, July 26, 2013

Baking soda... great for teeth, hair and skin

Another day to reach into the pantry and find an ever day household item that is great for your teeth, hair and skin. 

Baking Soda!

It all started with the ancient Egyptians who used natron, which is a natural deposit that consist of sodium carbonate decahydrate, and sodium bicarbonate. They used the natron in their soaps and as a deodorizer.

In 1846 The Arm & Hammer brand was created. In 1970 Arm & Hammer was the first sponsor of the first Earth Day and has since gained recognition for being an eco-friendly alternative to chemical cleaners.

Bicarbonate of soda is better known as Baking Soda, is a white powder with crystalline grains.  Its chemical formula is NaHCO3.  It is most commonly used as a leavening agent but over time it has grown in popularity because of it many usages. 

Lets talk about a few of those usages.  If you are looking to save a few dollars, you don’t like the taste of toothpaste, or want to move away for the chemicals in toothpaste such as sweeteners, emulsifiers, preservatives and artificial flavors then consider baking soda.

I remember growing up we would use baking soda in place of toothpaste from time to time.  I still do.  Just dip your toothbrush in baking soda and brush away.  You can amp it up a bit by using the following ingredients.

1/2 cup of baking soda
1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup of warm water

Mix all three ingredients together and store in a container so the ingredients do not dry out. Dip tooth brush in solution… brush!  If you have a squeeze bottle that is even better.

***remember to check with your dentist to make sure this a safe change to make for your teeth.

Tired of using costly hair shampoos that are filled with chemicals?  Try using 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 8 oz of warm water.  Use in place of your shampoo.  It will help remove the residue from shampoos, conditioners and styling products.   Your hair will feel lighter and more manageable.

Want a great mouthwash or better yet you want a mouth wash that you know what is in it? Rinse your mouth after brushing with 1 teaspoon of baking soda in half a glass of warm water. Swish and spit.

It is also great for soaking your retainer, mouthpieces, and dentures. Use 2 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 oz of water to help loosen food and neutralize odors.  It is also safe to brush these items with baking soda.

Looking for a safe, gentle and inexpensive scrub?  Mix 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water together.  Gently rub in a circular motion on your face to remove dry skin.  Your skin will be left soft and smooth.  Since this is a very gentle scrub you can be use it every day to remove make up and keep your skin feeling great.

Baking Soda is great in the bath.  Add ½ to 1 cup soda to your bath to neutralize the acid in your skin.  It helps wash away oils and perspiration that is on your skin and leaving it soft and smooth. You can also add Epsom salt, another inexpensive ingredient, to give your bath an extra boost.

Have sore ache feet?  Soak your feet in 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a bucket of warm water.  Make a little of the scrub paste mentioned about and give your feet a gentle massage with it.  You will have happy toes when you are done.

You can have great looking skin without a lot of expense.  You will be surprised with the compliments your get!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar... what doesn't it do?

What isn't vinegar good for?  The list seems endless from culinary uses to health and beauty. A great balsamic vinegar on caprese salad will put a smile on anyone’s face.  Got a sun burn, put vinegar on it… did it every year when I was young.  Got a bee sting, make sure the stinger is out and apply full strength vinegar.  Got stung by a jelly fish… vinegar!

But one of my favorite things to use it for is on my hair.  With all the chemicals and fragrance oils that are in over-the-counter shampoos and conditioners people are trying DIY beauty aids.

After shampooing, combine ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and 1 cup warm water if you have dandruff or frizzy hair. Vinegar is also a natural detangler.

If you have oily hair use one part ACV and one part water to get rid of the oil.

I know what you are thinking… "I am going to smell like a pickle".  Once your hair is dry the smell of vinegar will be gone.

It is great for your skin.  If you have acne use one part AVC to 2 parts water. Wash your face as you normally would.  Afterwards dab the water and vinegar mixture on your face with a cotton ball.  Repeat in the morning.  The vinegar will help balance the pH on your skin. Again, once the vinegar dries the smell will be gone.

Many people will use it as a deodorant. Wipe your arm pits with a moist cloth with vinegar and stay fresh for hours.

Problems with smelly feet? Soak your feet for 10 minutes every night in one ounce vinegar and a gallon of water.  No more stinky feet.

Want to do a natural body detox? Add 2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a 1 or 2 liter filtered water bottle. Drink this throughout the day to cleanse your body and kidneys all day long.  

Apply vinegar to a cold sore to help it heal quickly and relived the pain and discomfort.

Apple Cider Vinegar is great for keeping fruit fresh. Mixture of one part ACV and 10 parts water. Dump your fruit into the mixture and swish in the water. Drain, rinse and put in the fridge. The vinegar kills any mold spores and other bacteria that might be on the surface of the fruit. Fruits will last a week or two longer.  This is especially great for berries. 

So what else does it help with?
  • Upset stomach 
  • Bladder infection
  • Hiccups
  • Chronic fatigue and nighttime leg cramps.
  • Yeast infection
  • Tires achy muscles, hands and feet.
  • Poison Ivy
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Kills weeds

So before you run to the store for something expensive that could be loaded with unwanted chemicals, do a little reach.  Odds are you already have what you need in your kitchen cupboard.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Food For The Skin

Ever wonder why, even though you use natural or organic skincare that is either homemade or bought, your still have skin issues?  Consider the foods you consume on a daily basis.  Your skin grows from the inside out.  As new skin cells develop, old cells die and flake off.  So it only stand to reason what you consume will affect your skin.  As the nutrients from the foods you eat pushes through your skin so do all the toxins they carry.
I am not here to preach.  I am the first to raise my hand that I use a busy life, stress, convenience of prepared food to get though the day from time to time.  However I know not to fool myself when I do not take time to eat right.  I know why I don’t feel good or why I am having trouble with my skin.  I know I put nothing bad on my skin.  So I know when I break down and have a soda, I am going to get a “zit” somewhere on my face.  Never fails. 

One day I said no more Coca Cola.  I have given it up before but not for the reason I was going to give it up this time.  I wanted to be healthy.  I wanted to understand food and how we got so far away from home cooked healthy meals. It was hard because I like my Coca Cola.  I am sure at one point it was what flowed through my veins.  Again, I will say I am not perfect.  About once a month I have one and once a month I get my zit!

To make the change in my life fun I decided with my sister to start a cooking/food business, 2 Prickly Pears.   This time I had someone to learn things with and have a good time doing it.  Here are things I had to consider when I changed my eating habits and how it affected my skin. 

Make sure your diet contains antioxidant foods to help fight free radical damage.  Vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene, zinc and omega 3 are known to help nourish and protect the skin.

Vitamin C which is naturally found in the skin helps the skin fight off free radical damage.  Remember sun destroys vitamin C so it is important to replace what the sun takes if you are someone who is in the sun a lot. 
  • Items for the grocery list: citrus fruit; oranges, grapefruit, clemanintes, lemons, tangerines either in fruit or juice form.  Beets, bell peppers, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprout,  cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, fennel, green beans, kale, kidney beans, kiwi, kohlrabi, mangoes, mustard greens, okra,  papaya,  parsley, pineapple, plums,  raspberries, rutabagas, strawberries, snow peas, sugar snap peas, summer squash, tomatoes, turnip greens, watermelon, white potato, winter squash.

Vitamin E helps protect cell membranes and guard against UV radiation damage and aids in the skins aging processes. 
  • Items for the grocery list: asparagus, almonds, almond butter, avocadoes, beet greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, canola oil, cranberries, collard greens, dandelion greens, flaxseed oil, hazelnuts, mangoes, olive oil, peanuts, peanut butter, pine nuts,  red bell peppers, raspberries, spinach, Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, spinach, sunflower butter, tomatoes, turnip greens.

Selenium which helps in the elasticity in the skin and aid in sun damage to the skin. 
  • Items for the grocery list:  asparagus, barley, beef- grass-fed ,broccoli, brown rice, chicken, crab, cod, eggs, mushrooms, garlic, mustard seeds, oysters, tilapia, tuna, scallops, shrimp, spinach, turkey, venison.

Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body which helps grow and repair of body tissues, including your skin.
  • Items for the grocery list: Apricots, asparagus, butter head lettuce, butternut squash, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries, collard greens, kale, mangoes, mustard greens, pink and red grapefruit, pumpkin, red bell pepper, romaine lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, Swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon.

Zinc helps maintain the collagen that keeps your skin firm and aids in the skins renewal.  6 percent of the zinc in your body is found in your skin.  Keeping an ample supply of foods high in zinc is very important.  
  • Items for the grocery list: asparagus, Beans; black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lima beans.  beef, black-eyed peas, cashews, clams, crab, lamb, green peas, lentils, lobster, oysters, miso, mussels, peanuts, peanut butter, pecans, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, venison, yogurt.

Omega 3 is so good for you inside and out!  A proper balance of Omega 3’s will help with the integrity of the cell walls which in return will help the cells retain moisture and prevent skin inflammation which is the leading skin disorders. 
  • Items for the grocery list: anchovies, chia seeds, collard greens, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, green beans, herring, kale, mackerel, miso, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, seaweed, spinach, tuna, walnuts.

And… WATER!  

There is no way around it; try as you may you cannot replace the importance of water in your diet.   We need to make sure we get enough water in our daily diet.  Keeping yourself properly hydrated is so important.  Water help flush out toxins within the body.  Helps move nutrients through the body easily and smoothly.  

The amount of water in the human body ranges from 50-75%. The average adult human body is 50-65% water.  As our body expels fluid, which is what it needs to do, we need to replace it. The Institute of Medicine recommends 9 cups of fluid for women and 13 for men.  Some will say you can count the fluid in some foods as water or if you are a tea drinker you can count that.  I never do.  Water is water and that is what I count.  If I get in more then 9 cups of fluid in me, then that means I will go to the bathroom more.  

As you can see the list of foods do not contain fast food, junk food, greasy food or my beloved Coca Cola.  We all know the reason why.

It can be a hard change to make but removing the foods that damage your body is well worth it!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Avocados... some call the perfect food.

As some of you know I co-own a business with my sister, Terry, called 2 Prickly Pears.   We take a simple approach to cooking, while educating about healthy foods and how to add them to your daily meal planning.   Along the way I have realized how many food we consume are also good for your skin.  I recently wrote an article on cooking with avocados,  on 2 Prickly Pear blog.  They are the perfect food and yet so many of us do not eat enough of them.  We also do not us them enough for our skin.

We are all guilty of spending more money, sometimes a lot of money, on our skin care items.  We all want to fight back the aging process.  Yet how many times do we spend money on something only to be disappointed in the results?  We get frustrated only to let the unfinished jar of cream sit… money down the drain. What if we watched what we ate and what we put on our skin?  I bet we would find some pleasing results that will not cost us a lot of money.

Let’s take a look at avocado oil and it benefits.  It soothes, protects and moisturizes allowing the skin to soaks in all the vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants the skin needs.  Kinda sounds like the commercials or sales pitches we hear all the time.  Only this time Mother Nature is providing the answer with no chemicals and not a lot of money.

Avocado Oil is high in vitamin E that is a powerful antioxidant which helps fight against free radicals that cause unwanted aging.  As the oil penetrates the skin it helps promote circulation to the cell walls keeping the skin cells healthy.  Your skin will be able to retain the water it needs to stay smooth and moist.   For those who have dry skin, natural skin cream that contains avocado oil will be beneficial.

Avocado Oil also contains sterolins and essential fatty acids.  Sterolins help produce collagen and reduce age spots.  Essential fatty acids helps promote cell function and reduce inflammation. 

Avocado oil is high in omega-3 and is very effective in protecting against UV rays.  For those sun lovers or those who are sensitive to the sun it's a good option in a sun screen to protect again sunburn or skin cancer.

I know many people who use avocado oil straight from the jar for their skin or they mash up an avocado for a natural facial mask.  You don’t have to buy a skin cream with it in.  Mother Nature already has it bottled up for you without a lot of work on your part.

Here is a facial mask recipe I have tried and love. 
1 avocado
1 banana
1 teaspoon Jojoba oil.  Or an oil of your preference that works well with your skin type
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a food processor combine all ingredients.  Apply to skin and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes.  Gently remove with a damp cloth.  You are sure to like the results of your skin.

You can also jazz up the mask with other ingredients.  How about Kaolin clay, ground almonds or oatmeal?  You can add so many things to a facial mask without spending a lot of money and most important… no chemicals!

And raise your hand if you tried growing your own avocado tree :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great oil right off the vine... Grapeseed Seed Oil!

Lets just start with the benefits Grapeseed oil has.

  • Absorbs easily into the skin without leaving an oily residue.
  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Great anti inflammatory properties
  • Rich in antioxidants, even more than vitamin E
  • Aids in healing psoriasis and eczema
  • Great moisturizer for the skin and scalp
  • Helps even out skin tone

I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

Grapeseed oil is one of the most versatile oils you can use.  It helps fight premature aging while it stabilizes collagen.  What’s not to love!  It is great for those who are dealing with acne issues.  Grapeseed oil has very small chains of molecules which allows it to absorb easily deep into the skin where it can destroy the bacteria that cause breakouts.

Because Grapeseed Oil is so good for acne it is one of the main reasons I use it in my scrubs.  It is a great astringent which helps firm and tighten the skin as it moisturizes.   It is a great alternative to the other oils on the market that are used in skincare.

It is worth a try.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Olive Oil and the reasons to love it.

Olive Oil is widely used in cooking but it benefits go way beyond the dinner table and kitchen.  Its usage dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome because of it health benefits for the skin and the body. Quality can make a difference.  Try to buy a good equality oil.  However you do not have to spend your life savings on it.  

As you determine what oil works best for you keep in mind the following:

  • Look at the expiration date of the bottle.  Buy as fresh as possible.
  • Choose a dark color container as light will begin to break down the oil.
  • Purchase small amounts and buy more often.   Olive Oil can last 3 months to 3-4 years.  Unless you are going to use a lot of it, it is best to buy in small amounts so you are not wasting your money.
  • Store in a cool dark location in your home.  Again, light and heat can damage the oil. 

But why is Olive Oil so good for your skin?  It contains hydroxytyrosol a very rare antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage to skin cells.  Olive oil is able to penetrate deep into the skin naturally without any harmful side effects which makes it ideal for all skin types.  It also contains vitamin A & E.

Olive Oil is popular in anti aging and anti wrinkle creams.  It creates a protective barrier on the skin that does not clog pores but helps the skin retain its own moisture keeping it hydrated.  Because of this reason Olive Oil is safe to use on your face.

For those who deal with eczema or psoriasis, Olive Oil can help relieve some the itching and irritation.  Add about a quarter cup of oil to your bath water or apply a small amount of oil directly on the skin.  It will not cure eczema or psoriasis but it is a healthy alternative to lotions that will only clog the pores in the area you are trying to treat.  Remember read the labels of the lotions you are using.  Odds are if you have not heard of an ingredient or cannot pronounce it, it probably will be harmful to your skin.  Do your research!

Olive Oil is great for shaving.  Apply a thin layer over the skin like you would with shaving cream.  You will find less razor rash, bumps and nicks on your skin.  I know many people will use my skin scrubs to exfoliate their skin and after rinsing off the scrub they will shave the unwanted hair.   The skin is left clean, smooth and moisturized.

Here are 101 reasons why Olive Oil is so beneficial from Robbins Family Farm

Like many of the oils I use, Olive Oil is good for your body both on the inside and outside.  It is one of Mother Nature’s rules.  If it is good for the skin it is good for you internally.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Shea Butter and it many uses...

Shea butter is so wonderful for the skin, which is why it is in so many skincare products and so recognizable.
Shea-Karite Tree

The Shea-Karite tree grows wild in the savannahs of west and central Africa.   It takes 15 years before a tree will bear the nuts that the shea butter is harvested from and about 30 years before the tree will produce quality nuts.   It is commonly referred to as the “tree of life” because of its many uses.   The nuts, root and bark are used for food and medicine.  Shea butter and it use dates back to the Egyptian queen Nefertiti and the Queen of Sheba.  The Shea tree is so revered it is forbidden for anyone to cut down or damage a Shea tree and, thanks is still given to it in many religious ceremonies.

Shea butter is an all natural product that varies in quality, appearance and smell.  This all depends on where the tree is grown and how the butter is extracted and refined.  Shea butter is solid at room temperature but will quickly liquefy near body temperature. It is best to store Shea butter in a cool, dry place.  Refrigeration is not required.

Unrefined Shea Butter

Refined Shea Butter
Raw or unrefined shea butter is creamy in color like whipped butter and has a nutty smell to it.  Refined Shea butter is white and the smell has been removed.   If you buy refined shea butter make sure it is filtered through clay and is not refined using hexane or other solvents.  Unrefined shea butter smell will diminish over time and in about 2 or 3 years it will lose it nutritional value.  If the butter begins to have a bad odor it is probably too old to use or has gone rancid.   
Shea Nut
Women are usually responsible for the process of making Shea Butter. This process takes place in the rainy seasons from May to August when the Shea nuts are harvested. Shea nuts are extracted from the fruit by crushing and boiling. Shea nuts are picked, cracked, grilled and pounded to extract the butter which is then boiled in water until the fresh shea butter rises to the surface. It is then scooped into gourds and left to cool and set. This many sound easy but it is very labor intensive.   Traditional extraction is a very long process.  It can take between 20-30 hours to extract 2.2 pounds, but through this process, shea butter retains more of its nutritional, skin care and medicinal benefits.

Some benefits of Shea Butter…

  • Soothing for many skin issues like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis
  • Helps with premature facial lines and wrinkles.
  • Helps protect against the sun
  • Contains five essential fatty acids, (a major amount coming from stearic and oleic acids), phytosterols, vitamins E and D, allantoin and vitamin A.
  • Stimulates collagen production.
  • It helps with cracked and peeling skin
  • Great as a skin moisturizer
  • Helps with dry scalp
  • Aids in diaper rash
  • Soften skin on feet
  • Helps with stretch mark during pregnancy
  • Absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue
  • Helps restore elasticity to skin
  • Restores luster to hair
Not all Shea trees produce the same quality of butter. The varieties found in Northern Uganda and the Southern Sudan are of better quality but are very expensive due to political reasons and civil unrest in the areas.  Trees that produce a lower grade of butter that cannot be used in cosmetics or food are still put to good use.  This butter is commonly used as lamp fuel, candles, lubricants and weather-proofing. 

If you have never used Shea Butter it is worth giving it a try.  Make sure you do your research on the quality of Shea Butter you are purchasing.