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Thursday, July 2, 2015

stevia sweet, sugar-free coffee, chocolate, or mocha

Are you intrigued by that title? Pictured here, I am holding a mug of stevia sweet, milky coffee. Love it. I'm avoiding sugar right now. Actually, I'm avoiding processed stuff in general, where possible, and I don't drink coffee every day.

But I have a confession. I love coffee. I also love sugar. I love sweet, milky, creamy coffee. It's kisses in a cup.

Another confession. I drink decaf sometimes. There really is a jar of that processed, dehydrated decaffeinated granulated coffee flavored love in my kitchen. Really, really.

You don't have to do all or nothing, I believe. It is possible to choose some natural remedies, some clean eating, some healthy habits, and still enjoy stuff like caffeine, even decapitated caffeine-flavored stuff, and not wreck the whole project. If you can't give up the shampoo, you can still make herbal hair mask treatments. If you don't want to give up all sugar, you can still bake delicious muffins and take pride in home made breakfasts. There is no standard for how crunchy you "should" be!

Okay. Grin. Little bunny trail ended.

Yes, I am avoiding sugar. I need to lose a few extra pounds and I'd rather take out the sugar from my diet than count calories -- which I hate -- so this is my way. (If you are interested, check out the Harcombe way of eating for more info. It's worth it.)

BUT. I still like the occasional sweet mug of coffee. Even decaf. It's almost 9 pm as I type and yes, I had a craving for the flavor of sweet coffee! Decaf it is. And with stevia.

Now, I've tried stevia powders. Different brands. I tried making stevia syrup and tinctures to use from a dropper bottle. Mostly, I don't add sweetness to my tea or coffee, and if I'm off sugary stuff then I seldom try to make it taste sweet without sugar. Even a natural source of sweetness does something in the brain, I think, and I like my brain to know that it doesn't need sugar so often as it might sometimes think. But occasionally... You know. A bit of sweetness. But to fall off the wagon? Nuh-uh.

Stevia herb is really easy to use. I keep a jar of cut, dried stevia herb on the shelf next to all the herbs and teas in the kitchen, and every so often if I'm really wanting something sweet in the evening I'll add a bit to a drink to take the edge off the craving. Want to know how I made my coffee? You can even make hot chocolate the same way!

1 mug milk
1 level tsp cut stevia herb

Heat on the stove, stirring to prevent scalding, until the milk is good and hot.

Strain milk of herbs. Pour into mug.

Add 2 tsp coffee powder, decaf powder, plain cocoa powder, or carob powder. Stir smooth.

That really is it. I'm sure you can sass it up a bit with some more imagination. Add a bit of cinnamon, pumpkin spice, vanilla bean extract, whatever. But for basic need-sweet fix? It only takes 2 minutes and you really do have something delicious and healthy that won't derail your blood sugar levels while you're being so good!

cradle cap oil

My son never had cradle cap as an infant. Lucky me. Many babies do. My Little Pickle is almost 4 years old now, and we just recently experienced cradle cap for the first time. And now, of course, he has a whole head of hair in the way!

I was surprised to see the scaly looking yellow flakes on his scalp after I noticed him scratching the top of his head an unusual amount. Isn't cradle cap for babies? But this was unmistakable. After looking it up in a few books, my hunch proved right.

What is cradle cap?

Cradle cap is yellow or orange colored scaly, flaky skin on the scalp, usually on the top of the head rather than the sides or back. It sometimes falls off in large peelings of skin. Cradle cap is caused by an overproduction of sebum, or natural oils, in response to a change of environment.

Typically we see this in infants, as the total change of climate from cosy mama belly to big outside world can be rather shocking on the skin. Baby acne, cradle cap, sensitivity, all these are pretty normal in infants. Adults tend not to suffer from the same scaly appearance on the scalp. Head hair and far greater maturity and immunity in the body all help to prevent that, besides which, most western adults tend to treat over-production of scalp sebum by over-washing their hair, which doesn't really help the situation but does help to exfoliate and remove the flaking skin regularly.

My son recently had a 5-day fever. Poor kiddo. He ended up requiring antibiotics for a bacterial infection and is now doing very well, but fevers are drying. We have been applying Rapha Salve to his chapped cheeks and lips, and adding coconut oil to his baths to help moisturize his skin and also his hair. But since he does actually have hair, I suspect his scalp did not receive quite so much nourishing oily TLC as it would have preferred, and certainly not as much oil from splashing in a bath as a more bald child would have had. (You see, he doesn't like his hair being cut, and since he has lovely golden curls, we keep it trimmed around his eyes so that he can see without bother, and the rest of it is growing long. At the moment, it is all right about collar length but he's asked to grow it longer. I don't mind at all.)

How can I treat cradle cap?

I did some reading up in several different books, as well as cross checking with online sources provided by certified herbalists. Lavender is cited in several places, but even more sources suggest that lavender essential oil is too strongly stimulating for infants and young children, although for older children and adults it can be very helpful in correct dilutions. Geranium and eucalyptus herb and essential oil are both a repeated theme. Based on that, I have two massage oil suggestions for you to try. We used the first and it worked very well.

One. This recipe comes from Valerie Ann Worwood's book:
  • 2 Tbs (6 tsp) gentle base oil, such as almond or apricot kernel, but avoid heavy olive oil for infants
  •  1 drop eucalyptus essential oil 
  • 1 drop geranium essential oil 
For my son, I increased the base oil to 3 Tbs and the essential oils to 3 drops each. This increased the potency of essential oils to base oil to a ratio of 1.5:1 instead of 1:1. Just a little stronger, but since it's impossible to get half a drop at a time I had to increase the base oil accordingly.

Two. An alternative is to infuse dried lavender flowers into a mild base oil. Not essential oil, as again that can prove too strong, but to make an infused herbal oil. You can find directions for herbal oils in the above Rapha Salve link.

Infants. Massage the scalp gently with your oil of choice. Be very careful not to massage the fontanelle, the soft spot where the skull is not fully closed on the very top of the head. You can carefully smooth a little oil over it with a cotton ball but do not apply any pressure. Allow the oil to penetrate the skin for 30 minutes or so. Use a damp washcloth to stroke dead skin cells from the scalp. Rinse head with body temperature water. Avoid using shampoo or soap as this can aggravate the problem further, causing the body to think it still needs more sebum secreted onto the scalp. Apply the cradle cap oil twice daily until the flaking skin settles down. Apply as needed for maintenance thereafter.

Young children. Massage the scalp gently with your oil of choice. Allow the oil to penetrate the skin for 30 minutes or so. Use a comb to part the hair, working in small sections over the top of the head, and gently stroke brush the scalp and hair with a soft boar-bristle hairbrush. Do not press, just stroke. Keep working in sections until the whole affected area has been covered. Rinse well with running water to remove loose skin flakes from the length of the hair. Again, avoid using shampoo or soap too often with children. Once or twice monthly sudsing of the scalp is usually sufficient for children under the age of 12, although a finger massage with conditioner and/or running water is perfectly fine daily or every other day.