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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

essential oils for hair care

All info here taken from Rosemary Gladstar's book, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.

"Have you ever noticed how few people over 50 have shiny, healthy hair -- hair that you'd die for? There aren't very many of them. Though it may be part of the natural aging process to lose some of your crowning glory, it's not a natural process for it to lose its gleam and glow. What we often see is hair that hasn't weathered well. This lack of life is almost always due not to aging but to the unhealthy practices of overwashing, blowdrying, and using chemical products such as sprays, perms, and gels."
(p. 147 of 2008 publication)

Essential Oils for Hair Care

Essential oil -- basil
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- promotes growth

Essential oil -- chamomile
Hair type -- fine to normal
Effect or treatment -- gives golden highlights

Essential oil -- clary sage
Hair type -- all types
Effect or treatment  -- dandruff treatment

Essential oil -- lavender
Hair type -- normal
Effect or treatment -- scalp treatment for itchiness, dandruff, and even lice!

Essential oil -- lemon
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- gives golden highlights; treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands 

Essential oil -- myrrh
Hair type -- dry
Effect or treatment  -- treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands 

Essential oil -- patchouli
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- dandruff treatment 

Essential oil -- peppermint
Hair type -- dry
Effect or treatment -- promotes hair growth

Essential oil -- rose
Hair type -- fine
Effect or treatment -- soothes scalp 

Essential oil -- rosemary
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- dandruff treatment; promotes hair growth

Essential oil -- tea tree
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- treatment for dry scalp, dandruff, lice, and underactive sebaceous glands   

Essential oil -- ylang-ylang
Hair type -- oily
Effect or treatment -- dandruff treatment

homemade wen

I have tried dozens of shampoos, regular and sulfate free, tried the baking soda and apple cider vinegar "no poo" method, made my own shampoo with glycerine liquid soap and herbals added. I have naturally wavy hair which frizzes with an overabundance of body in damp weather and lies lank in drought, splits and breaks easily, and a sensitive scalp that gets an irritable, itchy, stinging patch on the back of my head above the nape of the the neck if I use sulfate-containing shampoos for too long.

The BS/ACV works pretty well. It's not the easiest or most convenient method of cleansing, however, especially for those with long hair or while traveling. I didn't like the homemade shampoo. It left my hair too squeaky clean, which really isn't the point of cleansing. Hair of all types needs to be treated like a cashmere sweater -- cool water, gentle squeezing rather than wringing dry, not abused until it stretches out of shape and breaks to pieces, and above all kept moisturized. I'm not the greatest at sticking to those rules, as I get bored from time to time and play around with bottled color, but the need for moisture is a big one I can't ignore, especially with processed hair.

Once upon a time, I tried WEN cleansing conditioner. Loved the stuff. It's amazing. What is less cool is the price tag. Dunno about you, but I find it really hard to justify that price, no matter how fabulous my hair looks. So I faffed around with other products and methods, had a baby, faffed around some more, and have finally got around to making a homemade, cheaper version of WEN.

1 1/2 c conditioner
30-40 drops essential oils 

You see how simple? It can be very cost effective, too, by comparison. Basically, the essential oils change the pH of your scalp so excess oil rinses off more easily, stimulate nerves for renewed hair growth, balance sebum (oil) production, and when suspended in conditioner keeps your scalp as well as hair protected against dryness. If you've never tried cleansing your hair with anything but conventional shampoos, you'll have to trust me on this. It works. But you may experience some adjustment to the new regime, as your scalp is accustomed to producing way too much sebum as it tries to counter the shampoos you've been overdrying your head with for so long. It only takes a week or two. This is also okay to use on a daily basis, unlike shampoos, for that very reason that sulfate based soaps dry out the cells too much. You wouldn't cleanse your face with dishwashing detergent, would you? I hope not! It would dry things out way too much. Do you also know the benefit of finding the right balance of moisture for your face skin type? T-zone, combination, dry, oily. Your scalp bears similar qualities to your face in terms of dryness and needs to be cleansed and moisturized almost as regularly and gently as you would do your face. Clogged pores and drought in the scalp can lead to problems, such as hair loss, dullness, itching. Homemade WEN might just improve your life a bit more, because honestly, would there be so many successful hair product lines out there if we didn't care so greatly about how our hair looks? And the classic catches are moisture, softness, shine, strength, and thickness.

Many essential oils are good for the scalp and hair. You might want to do some further research on your own. Ones I like to play with include:
  • rosemary
  • lemon
  • orange
  • tea tree (melaleuca)
  • peppermint
  • eucalyptus
  • lavender
  • Roman chamomile   
  • lemongrass 
I'll give you a few combinations that you might enjoy trying. To use, apply several Tbs to the scalp and then through the length. If you have very long hair, you can use plain conditioner on the ends to save on essential oils that are not needed there. Massage into the scalp for several minutes. Rinse well with cool to warm water, not hot. You can use cleansing conditioner daily, several times a week, or alternate with regular shampooing if you can't quite kick the habit yet.

Bear in mind that you are going to pay more for high quality oils. And it's worth doing so. One of the simplest ways to test if an essential oil is of good quality is to smear a drop on your palm. It should absorb quickly and pretty much completely. If your essential oil leaves residue on your skin, even if it smells good it's not as pure as you want. DoTERRA and Young Living are both reliable sources for essential oils, and Mountain Rose Herbs has a pretty decent selection, too. However, for high quality oils paired with sustainable sourcing, I have found Native American Nutritionals to offer the best price tag. They come in at about 1/3rd less than the previous name brand oils that claim CPTG (certified pure theraputic grade) only belongs to them, but which title is not an officially bestowed or monitored one and is really just a very clever marketing scheme. If you love DoTERRA, great. Be loyal. They produce fab oils. But if you are open to a possible alternative route, a bit of research and hunting might save you a pretty sum of money.

Sebum Balancing Homemade WEN
1 1/2 c conditioner
10 drops lemon
8 drops rosemary
5 drops orange 
5 drops lavender
5 drops tea tree
5 drops eucalyptus

Growth Stimulating Homemade WEN
1 1/2 c conditioner
15 drops eucalyptus
10 drops tea tree
10 drops rosemary
5 drops peppermint

Dry Scalp Soother Homemade WEN
1 1/2 c conditioner
10 drops Roman chamomile
10 drops lavender
10 drops lemongrass

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

coconut manna

 I am newly in love with coconut manna. Basically, it's just whole coconut, finely ground into a paste. It tastes naturally sweet as coconut does. I've been slowly adding it into my cooking because of the healthy proteins and fats, and especially for the flavor. Thus far, we love it in muffins, banana nut bread, Indian curries, smoothies. I'm sure I'll continue to find uses. Have you tried coconut manna before? What do you like to use it in?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

mama's weight loss tea

Some women deliver their babies, nurse, and watch the pounds just be sucked out of them along with the milk. It's amazing. Fabulous for them.

I had hoped such would be the same for me. Turns out that even with regular exercise and healthy nutrition the weight doesn't just drop off me like that. It seems that my body is perhaps even more stubbornly holding on to every extra pound it can while putting so much out for my baby.

Well, toddler. He is now 25 months old. We had a tricky time getting him to take to food, so he had a brief spell of tasting around 12 months before reverting back to the old favorite, Mama's milk, which means he was basically EBF (exclusively breast fed) for a little over 15 months. Thank God, my body produces well and I generally didn't have trouble keeping up. In times when I was extra tired due to his increased demand during a growth spurt, a tea blend of galactagogue herbs helped me to keep up. Mostly, though, I have stuck to nutritional herbs while nursing as many herbs are not considered safe in the trace amounts they pass to baby via milk.

This blend is something I've more recently come to enjoy. I'm sure it's similar to many tea blends available for purchase, but you can give this one a go with the recipe for making the blend yourself. Make your own tweaks. See what suits your needs and your body.

I put together this tea not for helping me to sustain or increase my milk supply, as though I am still at this point nursing my son regularly each day I don't feel I need to keep it going for him. If it dries up, that's a timely part of his maturing. But there are a few galactagogue herbs in here -- fennel and fenugreek seeds, and dandelion roots and tops. They do more than work with the milk supply.

Fennel: Aromatic, antispasmodic, carminiative, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial. Affects the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems.
This means fennel brings an aroma to teas, helps smooth muscles in spasm, helps to depress the appetite, increases the flow of urine, increases mucus production and expulsion in the body, soothes inflamed cells.
Fenugreek: Mucilaginous, expectorant, tonic, astringent, demulcent, emollient. Affects the digestive, urinary, and respiratory systems.
Expectorant, increasing production of mucous in the bowel, which stimulates a sympathetic response in the respiratory and urinary systems. Absorbs toxins in the digestive tract. Hypoglycemic, uterine stimulant, as well as highly nutritional.

Dandelion root: Bitter, hepatonic, diuretic, stomachic, lithotriptic, astringent, cholagogue, galactogogue. Affects the digestive, glandular, and circulatory systems.
"The root is used as a laxative, tonic and diuretic and also to treat various liver and spleen ailments. It is also used to treat heartburn, rheumatism, gout and eczema. Dandelion is the principle herb of blood purifier, kidney and pancreas formulas." Dandelion is particularly beneficial in that it helps to neutralize and expel toxins, which may have been excited by weight loss or by the use of other mucilaginous herbs, from organs and blood in the body. Basically, it protects while it cleanses. Dandelion as a whole plant is also extremely dense in nutrients, especially electrolytes sodium and potassium, which help keep the body in balance despite increase urine output. The high vitamin A contained in dandelion root help replenish the liver and restore vitamin A to other parts of the body.

(Info and quotes taken from book, Nutritional Herbology, A Reference Guide to Herbs, by Mark Pedersen edition 2012 by Whitman Publications)

The other herbs I have included in this tea also have purpose, whether for flavor or nutrition, or for increased circulation, and are all currently considered safe for use while nursing. (Please use your own discretion. I am not a doctor or certified herbalist.) But back to fennel and fenugreek, briefly. I found out recently that they are supposed to contain high levels of tryptophan. Tryptophan increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone responsible for treating depression, which many people know, but is also important for healthy sleep. I don't know about you, but I haven't had an unbroken night of sleep in almost three years. So when I do sleep, I want to sleep soundly and get enough REM!

Try this out and see how it might work for you. You don't have to be a nursing mother. This might make a helpful, mild addition to your daily diet just on a nutritional level, or while losing weight, or if you are also interested in getting more sound sleep. I'd love to read your feedback.

Recipe formulated with the Simpler's Method, by volume not weight. Made with a Tablespoon measure, one recipe yields about a cup of blended herbs. Decoct by simmering, covered, in glass, stainless steel or unchipped enamel for 20 minutes.

Mama's Weight Loss Tea

1 part dandelion root, cut
1 part fenugreek seeds
1 part fennel seeds
1 part oatstraw, cut
1 part orange peel, cut
1 part shavegrass, cut
2 parts dandelion tops, cut
2 parts nettle leaf, cut
2 parts peppermint leaf, cut
1/2 part stevia herb, cut