Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sometimes Starting Isn't Glamorous

Sometimes you start in the middle of dull winter, with the rind of old snow holding down every edge. Sometimes you don't really have a plan, just a need. Sometimes you start from a jittery kind of internal pressure that's hard to articulate, but sets your feet moving. Sometimes the start of something, maybe even something important, arrives at a walking pace.

Sometimes you start an adventure from someplace like the Quad Cities; which sounds like a place in a superhero origin story, but is in fact a snug little lichen hugging the crevasses of an intersection of historic travel. It's got that river town once-was grandeur in it's neighborhoods, and that unselfconscious cozy Midwest practicality. A strangely large number of chiropractic schools and excellent antique shops. Exactly one perfect used bookstore. In summertime it's probably got a relaxed bustle to it's multiplied Main Streets, but in winter it's mostly made of turned-up collars.

The small city patterns of the Quad Cities look very familiar, but it is strung on a lattice of movement. Mighty river branching, major and minor highways crossing -- actually, on reflection, it's a perfect launch pad.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Archive: Common Sense Sun Protection

In addition to teaching workshops and writing pamphlets at Community Pharmacy, I occasionally had the opportunity to publish articles about conscious consumerism and self health care in their bi-monthly newsletter, Infused. This article is updated from one published in May 2012.

Sunshine is wonderful! Every year, we see how sunshine coaxes free the strong grip of Wisconsin winters, urging leaves and flowers to open into the softness of spring. It keeps right shining, heating our lakes and streets into steamy summers. We know that sunshine brings us health, too: converting the skin’s cholesterol into Vitamin D, a powerful antioxidant; synchronizing the body’s internal clock for optimum altertness and sleep; lifting the mood from depressed states like Seasonal Affective Disorder. And, even without looking at the science behind the benefits of sunshine, we know that spending time outdoors in warm weather, bathing in the warmth and light from the sun feels good.

Idyllic as sunshine can be, it is also this planet's greatest energy and radiation source, and it's possible to overexpose ourselves. Depleted ozone and air pollution create a greater risk for damaging sun exposure, and skin cancer rates are on the rise around the world. That’s no reason to avoid enjoying beautiful weather, but common sense places sun protection as another valid facet of self health care.

The Sun is a star at the center of our solar system. It bathes our planet in a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, including Visible light (sunshine), Infrared rays (accounting for up to 50% of our planet’s heat) and Ultraviolet rays (UVR.) This radiation is vital to life on our planet, utilized in some way by almost every organism.
  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays (used in tanning beds) trigger melanin production in the skin without burning. However, studies show that UVA rays deeply penetrate the skin, and can ultimately cause long-term skin damage. UVA rays may also enhance UVB ray cancer-causing potential and suppress the immune system. UVA rays pass through cloud cover and most glass.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the burning and tanning rays, which are generally associated with skin cancer. UVB is filtered out by most glass used in building and car windows.
  • Ultraviolet C (UVC) rays are germicidal, and are largely filtered out by the ozone layer of the atmosphere; relatively little reaches the planet's surface.
There are many strategies for protecting ourselves from overexposure to the sun's UV. You may choose to avoid sunlight, especially at peak hours of intensity (usually 10am-2pm.) You may wear clothes that fully cover your skin, and even seek out specifically UV-blocking materials. Many people choose to enjoy sun exposure in moderation, and use a sunscreen lotion to protect their skin from absorbing too much UV. The huge range of sunscreen products can make this a daunting choice. Worse, the sunscreen industry has not done an excellent job explaining how to use their products most effectively. Investigating the labels and ingredients of sunscreens demystifies this overcomplicated products, and improves our ability to look after our wellbeing.

A sunscreen lotion’s SPF rating only indicates how long the product can protect your skin from UVB, the “sunburn rays.” Most people will see their skin sunburned if they stay out in the sunshine, unprotected, for about 15 minutes (though the skin may not feel sunburned for 2-4 hours, or look burned for up to 24). Multiply that time – the time it takes to get a “sunburning dose” of UV radiation – by your sunscreen’s SPF to get an idea of how long that product can protect you from sunburn. For instance, an SPF 15 sunscreen will give you (if you use it correctly – more on that below) 15 x 15 minutes = 3.75 hours (225 minutes) of safe play time to in the sunshine.

Sunscreens with extremely high SPF ratings have recently appeared on the market, creating some confusion about the efficacy of common SPF numbers. While it’s possible that these sunscreens could provide protection for a greater length of time if properly applied, you would be hard-pressed to find the 23.5 hours of sunshine for the protection implied in a SPF 95+ sunscreen! Higher SPF ratings do technically mean greater protection (SPF 15 sunscreens usually test at 93-95% protection, while SPF 30 offer 96-97%), but the new trend of extremely high SPFs is more about marketing than it is about offering a higher quality product. Most dermatologists advise people to wear SPF 25-30 for daily protection.

While UVA doesn't cause sunburns, we know it does damage skin, contributing to skin cancer, oxidation, and wrinkling. The FDA recently revised its expectations of sunscreen labeling to include UVA protection, in addition to the familiar SPF rating. Sunscreens with the phrase 'Broad Spectrum' on their labels meet the FDA's standards for UVA protection.

Sunscreen can only protect the skin it is covering; for your entire body to be protected, your entire body must be covered with sunscreen. In order to offer optimal protection, a sunscreen must be applied liberally, and reapplied often in order to maintain its protective value. For most of us, this means using a lot more sunscreen than we are used to! Industry studies have shown that, for anyone wearing swim trunks or bikini swimsuits, at least 3 Tablespoons (1.5oz.) should be used per application (1 teaspoon of that should be applied to the face and neck)

Lotions don’t last forever. Once applied to the skin, lotions are generally absorbed, worn or washed off, or evaporate in about two hours. This includes sunscreen lotions. Sunscreens also need to be applied well in advance of sun exposure. For optimal protection, apply sunscreen around 30 minutes before you leave the house. This gives the active ingredients a chance to bind to your skin and establish a protective layer. To maintain the coating of sunscreen necessary to protect the skin, reapply (with another 1.5 ounces!) every 90 minutes. If you are swimming or sweating heavily, you’ll want to reapply more often. Yes, this means you will use up an entire tube of SPF 15 when you go to the beach for the afternoon! Using enough sunscreen in each reapplication is the only way to maintain the full promised protection of your sunscreen.

Once you know a bit about the ways sunscreens work, when to use them, and how to make them work most effectively; you get to choose how sunscreening products can best serve you. Do you want to use sunscreen everyday, or just when you are going out for an afternoon in the sunshine? You also get to make decisions about active sunscreen ingredients and lotion base ingredients. It can seem like a complicated choice. Identifying your personal priorities and letting them guide your product choices is a skillful way of becoming a conscious consumer.

Sunscreens are basically body lotions which contain key ingredients that can either absorb or deflect UV radiation (UVR) in an effort to protect your skin from sun exposure. The most common conventional active ingredients are synthetic, or chemical, compounds which absorb UVR. These have recently been called into question by independent studies. Many chemical sunscreen active ingredients which are now considered photocarcinogens – substances that ironically break down on exposure to sunlight, damaging DNA in the process. Of particular worry are the -benzone and PABA families. The safest chemical active ingredients include the -cinnamate family and ecamsule, which cannot significantly penetrate the skin.
  • Avobenzone – UV absorber, May degrade when significantly exposed to light, Suspected photocarcinogen (has a destructive effect on DNA when exposed to light)
  • Oxybenzone & Dioxybenzone – UV absorber, Suspected photocarcinogic
  • PABA – UV absorber, Increases the formation of a particular DNA defect in human cells, thus increasing the risk of skin cancer
  • Padimate-O – UV absorber, PABA-derivative, suspected photocarcinogen
Mineral, or physical, sunscreen ingredients – which deflect UVR away from the skin – are inherently broad-spectrum protectors, are extremely stable, and come with a minimal risk of causing skin irritations (as they cannot generally penetrate the skin). In the past, mineral sunscreens were notorious for their visible whitening effect when applied to the skin, but current formulas use finely micronized minerals (very small particles), which greatly reduces the products’ opacity as it sets into the skin; these sunscreens should become invisible 10-30 minutes after application.

All mineral content in skin care formulas is technically “micronized” (another word for powdered.) Recent concern for safety of extremely fine particles (“nanoparticles”) has to do with minerals powdered to such a degree they can actually penetrate the skin. Particles smaller than 70 nanometers can be absorbed by lung aveoli if inhaled (more an issue in cosmetic powders than sunscreen lotions. Particled micronized to smaller than 50 nanometer can be absorbed into cells. Once absorbed, studies show these nanominerals may act as carcinogens in the body.

Active ingredients may make the protection, but the majority of our experience of a sunscreen is in the lotion we spread on our skin several times a day. Sunscreen lotions, like body lotions, come in many different densities, scents and ingredients profiles. Some are thick to withstand sweating, some set to a matte finish to improve comfort in warm weather. They come in a range of fragrances; from floral to tropical fruit to deliberately unscented. If you are concerned with skin allergies or chemical sensitivities, you can find sunscreens without synthetic filler ingredients or preservatives. Read labels, try testers, ask the opinions of your friendly neighborhood body care mavens! Choosing a sunscreen with a lotion base you love is key to regular sunscreen use.

Biodegradable sunscreen products became an important focus of the sunscreen industry as environmental organizations identified common sunscreen ingredients to be a major cause of recent coral reef and aquatic ecosystem degradation. To avoid contributing to this type of pollution, choose sunscreens made without synthetic or petroleum ingredients – particularly preservatives such as -parabens, camphor ingredients, or active ingredients in the -cinnamate and -benzone families.

Spending time outdoors is good for the body, mind and heart. Using sunscreen is just one way to keep ourselves safe and healthy over the summer season. We can also support our sun-worshipping hours by staying well hydrated and drinking water every day. Well-hydrated cells are more resistant to damage. Eat the summer's harvest of antioxidant-rich fresh veggies and fruits, especially those containing high levels of lycopene like tomatoes, kale and spinach. These can help repair cellular damage from radiation and may protect the skin from burning easily. Eating omega 3-rich foods like wild-caught ocean fish reduces inflammation in the body, and may help the skin heal from sunburn more quickly.

Navigating the sunscreen industry is complicated by marketing misinformation and frequently evolving research results. Common sense, critical thinking and attentive label reading are the hallmarks of conscious consumers. This summer, the big themes for safety in the sunshine to remember are: liberal use of sunscreen, regular reapplication, and keeping an eye on the active ingredients we choose. And don’t forget the picnic blanket!  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Archive: Henna & Mehndi

For many years I wrote the informational pamphlets at Community Pharmacy. I loved creating these tiny tri-fold tracts about self-care strategies and accessible herbalism. This text is modified from two of those pamphlets, originally self-published for CP's shelves in 2003 and 2011.

Henna (Lawsonia inermis) is a flowering shrub originally found in Northern Africa, Asia, and Australia, where it is traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory and dye properties. Fresh henna leaves have cooling antiseptic qualities and are used in poultices to treat injury and inflammation. Henna leaves are also valued for their lawsone pigment content. Dried leaves are powdered and mixed into a paste which is applied to hair, or skin in intricate patterns on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet for cosmetic and ceremonial decoration (known as mehndi.)

Henna’s lawsone pigment binds to the keratin in hair and skin cells, leaving a red-brown stain. On your skin, mehndi designs last 3-6 weeks. On your hair, henna permanently dyes the keratin in hair strands, but may lose intensity and the protein shine after 3-12 weeks. Henna is a very forgiving dye, adding color and shine to your hair (it cannot lighten hair color) without damage. Henna is nontoxic and unlikely to cause allergic reactions. Since the pigments in the henna plant can only leave a red-brown stain, other ingredients are often added to henna hair dyes (even truly natural ones) to achieve lighter or darker tones. In dried henna products, henna powder is often mixed with other herbs (for example indigo for darker colors, cassia for lighter) to create a range of natural hair dyes. These blended herb powder dyes are also non-toxic and applied in the same manner as henna.

Begin with damp hair (no need to wash). Apply petroleum jelly or a similarly protective salve around your hairline and ears to avoid unintentional dyeing. Since henna can easily dye cloth, floors, and skin, wear latex/vinyl gloves to prevent extra staining. Work in small sections, spreading the henna paste evenly from the roots to the ends. Work the paste onto your hair thoroughly, pile or twist atop your head, and cover with any leftover henna at the end. Cover your hair with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, and wrap in a towel or cover with a knit cap to keep the henna warm. (Keep your head warm extra warm with a heating pad to intensify the dye.) Leave the henna paste on for 30 minutes (for gray or light hair) to 2 hours (for dark hair) to 8 hours or overnight (for very strong color). Rinse your head thoroughly with warm water, and let air dry. For best results, do not shampoo for 24 hours.

  • EAR-LENGTH HAIR: 2-3 oz. henna
  • SHOULDER-LENGTH HAIR: 4-5 oz. henna
  • LONGER: Add 2 oz. henna for every 4 inches of hair

TIPS: The color of hennaed hair will change and mellow during the first few days, don’t worry if at first it seems brassy! It is always wise to do a patch test on a few strands of hair (especially if you have fair or gray hair) or on a small patch of skin for mehndi. If you have a commercial chemical dye or a perm in your hair, consider waiting at least three months before using henna; the henna may react unpredictably and cause inconsistent or unexpected coloring.

WATER AND HEAT METHOD (from RosemaryGladstar)
In a glass or ceramic bowl, using nonmetal utensils, mix henna powder with boiling water to make a paste the consistency of pancake batter. Let cool for ~20 minutes while the paste sets up and thickens to the consistency of thick yogurt. Apply the henna paste while it is still very warn. For extra conditioning use herbal infusions instead of water to mix your henna:
  • BLONDE: calendula, chamomile, lemon peel
  • RED: hibiscus, calendula, cinnamon
  • BRUNETTE: clove, lavender, rosemary, sage

ACIDIC LIQUID METHOD (from CatherineCartwright-Jones)
The day before you want to dye your hair, mix the henna with enough lemon juice (bottled works as well as fresh) or red wine to make a paste the consistency of oatmeal. Cover with plastic and let sit in a warm room (70’) overnight. In the morning, stir in more lemon juice or wine to make the paste the consistency of thick yogurt. Apply the paste while cool.

TIPS: For bolder color, add essential oils (2-5 drops per ounce of henna, mixed into the paste before applying) that will act as a mordant (dye-absorption aid) and nourish your hair and scalp: rosemary, cedar, cypress, eucalyptus, or tea tree.

  • 1 oz. mehndi-quality henna
  • 2 cups strong DYE TEA (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon tea tree essential oil

  • 1 lemon’s fresh juice
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves (pressed)

  • 100% cotton balls (unrolled) or gauze
  • jacquard bottles or cake decorating tube with a tiny aperture tip
  • olive oil

Begin with high-quality (“body quality”) all-henna powder (in most commercially available henna brands, all-henna powders will be the most basic “red” shade.) Most henna sold in stores is “hair quality” and will need to be thoroughly sifted (through a gold mesh coffee filter or yogurt strainer) before using to make a finely textured mehndi paste.

A day in advance, brew your DYE TEA. Into 4 cups of water, add 2 tablespoons loose black tea. Boil down this mixture until 2 cups remain. Let steep overnight. In the morning, add the juice of one lemon, strain thoroughly and reheat but do not boil.

Make the MEHNDI PASTE by adding 1 teaspoon tea tree essential oil to the sifted henna powder. Mix in enough hot DYE TEA to make a paste the consistency of cake icing. Make the MEHNDI PASTE and GLAZE fresh the day they are used. MEHNDI PASTE can be applied by squeezing from plastic cones or jacquard bottles fitted with fine metal tips. As your mehndi progresses, keep it moist by sponging the GLAZE onto the completed portions with a cotton ball. When your design is complete, wrap it carefully in unrolled cotton balls or gauze, then in plastic wrap and a warm sock or mitten, and leave on overnight. In the morning, scrape off the dried paste with a butter knife. Moisturize your skin with olive oil. For best results, do not wash your hands with soap for 12 hours.

TIPS: A full hand or foot mehndi design may take over an hour to complete, so make sure you are in a comfortable place and position! Heat activates the henna dye as well as acidity, so apply your mehndi in a warm room for the deepest stain.

Henna and mehndi go through waves of popularity in American consumer culture. Conventional hair dye manufacturers have started including henna in their liquid dye lines, and “henna tattoo” booths have been springing up street fairs, and tourist sites which sport body dyes in black, blue, green, and purple. If you are looking for a truly natural hair dye skin decoration, be sure to read the ingredients label carefully for synthetic ingredients before buying a pre-made “henna” dye. The two issues to consider critically are the specific colors of lawsone pigment, and the impermanence of plant dyes.

In commercial pre-made hair and skin dyes, even if the product packaging references henna, the colorant is almost always a synthetic dye ingredient. One particularly worrisome common synthetic dye is p-Phenylenediamine (PPD), a petrochemical that leaves a deep black stain on skin and hair. PPD is readily absorbed into the bloodstream, and can damage the liver and kidneys. Exposure to PPD can lead to cancer of these organs. PPD can also cause severe skin irritation and allergic reaction, resulting in chemical burns and scarring.

Like all truly natural body and hair care treatments, henna is meant to be used fresh, not kept on a shelf for months. Once activated by liquid, henna lawsone maintains its dye potency for only a few days, guaranteeing that liquid products rely on other/synthetic colorants. Beware buying pre-mixed henna paste unless you know it is freshly made; imported and sealed paste tubes are sure to contain chemical dyes. (Freshly mixed henna paste for hair dye and mehndi can be frozen, however, and will still give a good stain if used within 6 months.)

Most salons or fair booths offering henna hair dye or mehndi are staffed by skilled henna artists. But keep yourself safe: If the decoration or dye promised is any other color than red-brown, if it takes just an hour to stain or lasts only a week; the main dye ingredient is NOT henna! Before receiving a mehndi design or henna treatment, ask artists about the henna they use. Good henna artists will likely be very willing to talk about their ingredients, their designs and techniques, and how they learned the art of henna!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Archive: I Love Love ,,, and Crafts!

While many of my workshops at Community Pharmacy were oriented towards holiday gift-making, I also taught about DIY body care, women's health, chemical sensitivities, and aromatic herbalism. Here is an article in the spirit of those workshops, which was originally published in CP's newsletter, Infused, in Feb. 2010.

Valentine’s Day is my second-favorite holiday, a fact that most of my friends find eye-rollingly silly. Even though it may have originated as a greeting-card marketing scheme, Valentine’s has become the one day every year when we are all encouraged to think about love, and sensory pleasure. Think about it: an entire holiday for contemplating the infinite variety of loving expression in our lives. Whether you are happily relating or happily single, emotional wellbeing and sensuality are a part of a healthy life.

If our brains are our largest erogenous zones, then intentions are our strongest aphrodisiac. When we take the time to infuse oil with fragrant herbs, or flavor a honey with delicious spices, we spend time attending to our wellbeing. This attention, and time, helps us not only to slow down and focus on the important things in our lives, but also to create a durable niche in our lives for those important things. And just as there are many healthy ways to express emotions and explore sensuality, there are many delightful and daring delicacies for all your senses.

Herbs traditionally used in aphrodisiac formulas are gentle and effective, offering subtle fragrances, delicate flavors and unique medicinal nourishment. These herbs may calm the nervous system, stimulate the circulatory system and tone the adrenal system; each in their own ways soothing or exciting the body so it can more easily find pleasure. Getting to know these herbs, and the ways they benefit your individual physiology, is another exploration in sensuality.

Relaxing herbal aphrodisiacs calm the mind, lift the mood and alleviate any tension or anxiety which may be interfering with libido: Catnip, Fennel, Jasmine, Lemon Balm, Oatstraw, Rose, Vanilla

Flirting Tisanea fragrant, floral and feisty hot drink

  • 1/2 C rose petals
  • 1/4 C damiana
  • 1/4 C catnip
  • honey to taste
    Steep 1 tablespoon tisane blend in 1 cup boiling water, covered, for 10-20 minutes, and strain before enjoying.

Pillow Talk Infused Body Oil - a sweet and fresh skin oil

  • 2 C almond oil
  • 1 C catnip leaves
  • 1 C damiana leaves

    Combine herbs in a quart jar and cover with oil. Place jar in a pan of simmering water and heat in this double boiler for 2-3 hours. Remove from heat, strain and discard herbs. Store in dark glass and use for moisturizing, massage or as a base for salve and lip balm.

Stimulating herbal aphrodisiacs increase circulation throughout the body and raise energy levels and alertness. While strong stimulants (horny goat weed, yohimbe) should only be used occasionally and on a short term basis, gentle stimulants may be used on a regular basis: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, damiana, ginger, maca, ylang-ylang

Sun’s Spices Honey - a warming, stimulating sweet treat

  • 1 C raw honey
  • ½ T powdered ginseng root
  • 1/2 T powdered ginger root
  • 1 T powdered maca root
  • 1 t powdered cinnamon bark
  • 1 t powdered cardamom seeds
    Combine all ingredients in a tempered bowl placed in a pan of simmering water. Stir constantly, till honey melts and the herb powder is incorporated, then heat for another 30 minutes. Remove honey from heat and transfer to a clean glass jar with a tight lid. Allow the honey to further infuse in a sunny spot for 2 weeks before enjoying. Drizzle 1 teaspoon into your favorite tea, onto fruit salads, or a friend!

Spice Garden Aromatherapy Body Oil - floral with a kick

  • 1 C almond oil
  • 35 drops lavender eo
  • 25 drops cardamom eo
  • 10 drops bergamot eo
    Combine essential oils in a dark glass bottle, then add almond oil. Shake well. Let steep for 7-10 days to allow scent to mature before using as a moisturizer or massage oil.

Tonic herbal aphrodisiacs are used regularly to maintain good health and improve strength, stamina and vitality: Basil, Dong Quai, Ginger, Lycii, Maca, Oatstraw, Sandalwood, Sarsaparilla (for men), Shatavari (for women), Vetiver

Bright Eyes, Big Smile Body Oila sunny, come-hither moisturizer

  • 3 oz almond oil
  • 1 oz calendula-infused oil
  • 12 drops bergamot eo
  • 8 drops ylang-ylang eo
  • 4 drops sandalwood or cedar eo
  • 4 drops vetiver eo
  • 2 drops ginger eo
    Combine essential oils in a dark glass, 4-oz bottle. Add infused and almond oils, shake well. Letting steep for 3-7 days will allow scent to mature. Use after bathing, or for massage.

Daily Delight Tisanea long-steep tisane to drink every day for ongoing stress relief and deep reservoirs of wellbeing

  • ½ C oat straw
  • ½ C lemon balm leaves
  • 2 T rose petals
    Combine herbs in a quart mason jar, fill with boiling water. Cap tightly and let steep 8 hours or overnight. Drink 1-4 cups per day, warm or chilled.

Essential oils (eo) are the concentrated distillations of aromatic herbs prized for their therapeutic scents. In aromatherapy, there are two families of scents that are classically romantic in many people's minds: florals and sweet spices. Just as roses are a symbol of love, essential oils distilled from flowers offer us the aromas of beautiful bouquets and have nerve-calming, mood-lifting benefits. Essential oils distilled from sweet spices offer us cozy, comforting aromas with body- and heart-warming effects! Through the aromas of beautiful blooms and comforting kitchens, many people easily find feelings of affection, joy and intimacy. Using essential oils from these families in perfumes, massage oils or room scenting can be and an ideal way to invite aroma into a sensory feast for yourself and your home. 

Silk Sheets Aromatherapy Spray - a warm, sweet, spicy and deep bedroom scent
  • 3 oz distilled water
  • 1 oz 100+ proof vodka
  • 10 drops rose geranium eo
  • 5 drops cinnamon eo
  • 5 drops clove eo
  • 3 drops patchouli eo
    Combine in a spray bottle, let steep 3-7 days for scent to mature. Shake well before spraying anywhere.

Hothouse Flower Aromatherapy Perfume
  • 2 t jojoba oil
  • 35 drops petigrain eo
  • 20 drops ylang-ylang eo
  • 5 drops vetiver eo
    Combine essential oils in a 1/3 oz roller vial, then add jojoba oil. Letting steep for 3-7 days will allow scent to mature. Apply as desired.

Making your own Personal Lubricants can be an excellent alternative to commercially available lubricants, which are often made with synthetic ingredients that may upset delicate skin, contributing to irritation and infection. These simple recipes are made with food-grade ingredients. They are intended to be made and used fresh; having no preservatives they will only stay good for a week or so.

Flax Seed Lubea totally organic mid-weight lube
  • 1/2 C organic flax seeds
  • 3 C distilled water
    Boil water in a non-reactive saucepan. Rinse flax seeds in warm water. Add seeds to water and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, cover and steep another 5 minutes. Immediately strain liquid thoroughly (through a mesh strainer and 3 layers of cheesecloth). Discard seeds and store in a very clean bottle. Latex-friendly. Makes approx. 2 cups.

Lube of the Futurea light, superslick, nontoxic lube
  • 1 t xanthan gum powder
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 C distilled water
    Combine salt and xanthan gum in a non-reactive saucepan. Whisk in water, a few tablespoons at a time. Bring water to a boil, stirring constantly while formula thickens. Remove from heat and strain immediately through a mesh strainer. Discard any remaining solids and store in a very clean bottle. Latex friendly. Makes approx. 2 cups.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Working Cute

I love the diaphramic lift I feel when I look at truly cute things, I enjoy advertising, and I'm delighted by the combination of the two!

In autumn, hedgehogs update their laptops. Budapest, Hungary
Almond-filled pastry pet. Vienna, Austria
It's nice when the puns you made as a child finally come true. Vienna, Austria
The Tele2 spokesheep, Frank, is also apparently a killing machine from the future. Stockholm, Sweden

Food, Hilarious Food

A wise and clever foodie once assured me she starts learning any new language with food and kitchen words. I love food, I enjoy advertising, and I love humor in translation, especially when I can't tell if it's intentional!

"Angry Korean Fried Chicken ... So, So Angry" in Berlin, Germany
"Kakastöke Pörkött ... Rooster Testicle Stew" in Budapest, Hungary
"Holy Monkey! ... Tea & Dumplings" in Stockholm, Sweden
"Lovely Toffee Muffin ... Lovely Strawberry Muffin" in Östersund, Sweden
"Daffy's Junkfood House" in Östersund, Sweden
"Godstransporter" Restaurant pager at Daffy's in Östersund -- OK, I know it translates to "freight,"
and that's perfectly reasonable for one of those vibratey alert pucks they give you at restaurants,
but wouldn't it be better if it was a kind of divine Trek-transporter device? Yes, it would.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Still Making Gifts

Teaching the annual holiday craft workshop series "Get Crafty" was one of my favorite projects at Community Pharmacy. I loved developing new recipes that set a scentscape for a particular year, and building a gameplan for the workshop that was equal parts skill-raising discussion and hands-on play. Here is an article in the spirit of those workshops, which was originally published in CP's newsletter, Infused, in Nov. 2014.

Get Crafty for Healthful Homemade Holidays!
With a few weeks remaining til the holiday season is in full swing, now is a perfect time to create the fresh and fragrant homemade gifts you will bring to this season's potlucks, parties, and homecomings. It's a time for gratitude and celebration – of family, food, and good health!

Holiday Party Mocktail Syrups
The complex flavors and digestive benefits of craft cocktails are also an open invitation to those of us who look for unleaded beverages. Homemade bitters and flavored sugars can take weeks to infuse, but herbal syrups can be brewed in an afternoon. Blended into sparkling water, fruit juices, hot herbal teas or coffee, they transform dull draughts into drinkable delicacies. You may want to make a double-batch – every time I bring these to holiday potlucks, I come home with empty bottles!

Rosemary Tangerine Syrup
4 tangerine's worth of zest (I carefully use a vegetable-peeler)
2 6-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 C water
2 C sugar
    Add zest and sprigs to the water in a non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. When the water begins boiling, add sugar and stir until it is dissolved and the syrup begins to thicken. Remove from heat, cover, and steep 2 hours. Strain out the solids and store in a clean bottle. Makes 1 quart. Try 1-2 tablespoons in a glass of sparkling water or fruit seltzer.

Rose & Spice Syrup
¼ C cardamom pods (slightly crushed)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
½ C rose petals
2 C water
2 C sugar
    Add the spices to the water in a non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. When the water begins boiling, add sugar and stir until it is dissolved and the syrup begins to thicken. Remove from heat, cover, and steep 1 hour, then add the roses, and steep another ½ hour. Strain out the solids and store in a clean bottle. Makes 1 quart. Try 1-2 tablespoons in a cup of coffee or black tea.

Home Aromatherapy Sprays and Diffusion
Walking into a good-smelling house is always a pleasure, and especially so when the smells remind us of holiday celebrations! These essential oil (eo) blends smell beautiful, are antimicrobial to help clear the air during cold & flu season, and inspire good cheer. Each of these recipes will make 1 milliliter of aromatherapy blend, which can be used for scenting any number of formulas! For diffusion, add 10 drops of your aromatherapy blend to the water reservoir of a nebulizer and run 30-60 minutes, per room. To make a home scent spray, add 20 drops of your blend to 2 ounces of distilled water in a spray bottle made of dark (amber or cobalt) glass.

Deep Breath Aromatherapy Blend
12 drops douglas fir eo (Pseudotsuga menziesii/douglasii)
8 drops eucalyptus radiata eo (Eucalyptus radiata)
2 drops peppermint eo (Mentha piperita)
8 drops spike lavender eo (Lavendula spica)

Holiday Health Aromatherapy Blend
4 drops cinnamon leaf eo (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
8 drops clove bud eo (Eugenia carophyllata)
6 drops oregano eo (Origanum vulgare)
10 drops sweet orange eo (Citrus sinensis)

Gifts of Glowing Skin
Homemade body care gifts are my favorites to give, they are the perfect practical luxury – fresh, useful, and custom-created for those you love. Cleansing shower scrubs are an excellent gift for our dry Midwest winters. Scrubs help keep your skin soft with nourishing oils that protect from overdrying, while detoxifying salts and exfoliants polish away dry skin. Keep your friends and family in mind while you mix!

Squeaky Clean Scrub
1 C fine sea salt
1/2 C almond oil
1/8 C unscented liquid castile soap
4 drops lemongrass eo (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
4 drops tea tree eo (Melaleuca alternafolia)
    Combine salt and oil, mix well. Then add soap and essential oils, blend gently to prevent clumping or froth. This scrub is gently antimicrobial, making it it perfect for cold & flu season. It rinses cleanly away and is very moisturizing – try it in the shower, or beside the sink as a hand-wash. Makes 12 oz.

Everything Nice Scrub
1 C fine sea salt
1 C sugar
2 T grapeseed oil
3 drops vanilla absolute (Vanilla planifolia)
7 drops lemon eo (Citrus limon)
2 drops cinnamon leaf eo (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
1 drop ylang-ylang eo (Canaga odorata)
    Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, store in a jar with a tight lid to preserve the scents. This is a sweetly scented, lightly moisturizing scrub that can be used in the shower or the bathtub. Makes 16 oz. Will keep 6 months in a sealed jar.

Solstice Morning Circulation Scrub
3 /4 C. oats
1/2 C. kaolin clay
1 / 2 C fine sea salt
1/4 C. almonds
1/2 C dried orange peel
1/2 C dried ginger root (or ¼ C powder)
1 T cinnamon bark (or 2 tsp powder)
    Grind the herbs and oats together and mix thoroughly with the clay. Store in a glass jar with a tight lid to preserve the fragrance of the herbs. To use, mix 1/2 cup of the scrub mixture with enough water to make a paste. Massage into your skin in the shower or bath, and rinse with warm water. This oil-free scrub leaves the skin silky soft and is perfect for those with itchy winter skin, but please be mindful of nut allergies when giving this gift. Makes 5 applications.

Seasonal Perfumes
In addition to smelling fantastic and keeping seasonal bugs at bay, the aromatherapy of essential oils can lift our emotions, boost our confidence and put a smile on our faces. Positive scent-associations help build strong happy memories, and can help us be more fully present to moments of joy and caring. Wreathe yourself in beautiful scents, and carry the holiday spirit with you!

Chocolate Box Perfume Oil
12 drops cocoa absolute (Theobroma cacao)
10 drops vanilla absolute (Vanilla planifolia)
12 drops atlas cedar wood eo (Cedrus atlantica)
12 drops rose geranium eo (Cymbopogon martinii)
6 drops sandalwood eo (Santalum spicatum)
8 drops clove eo (Eugenia carophyllata)
2 tsp jojoba oil
    This is a sensuous sugar & spice perfume for anyone with a serious sweet tooth. Combine essential oils in a 1/3 oz (10 ml) glass bottle, preferably one with a roller-ball applicator tip. Fill with jojoba oil, shake well. Let infuse for 3-7 days for the scents to mature, then apply to pulse points and enjoy!

Woodland Spirit Cologne
2 drops patchouli eo (Pogostemon cablin)
8 drops atlas cedar wood eo (Cedrus atlantica)
6 drops douglas fir eo (Pseudotsuga menziesii/douglasii)
6 drops wild scotch pine eo (Pinus sylvestris)
4 drops cinnamon leaf eo (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
3 T (1 ½ oz) 100 proof vodka
distilled water
    This is a fresh and wild-scented spray perfume for magical creatures of all kinds; male, female and all other shades. Combine essential oils in a 2 oz (60 ml) spray bottle made of amber or dark blue glass. Add vodka, cap tightly and shake, then top off with distilled water. Let infuse 3-7 days for scent to mature. Shake well before spraying onto pulse points.

Happy Holidays – may your skin stay soft and your home always smell wonderful!