Sunday, October 30, 2005

Easy guacamole (Vegetarian food recipe)

I love guacamole. I'm currently eating already made guacomole from Costco (see my sister's blog for more on this), which is soooo good, but when avocados are in season, fresh is best since you can season it to your liking. This literally takes 5 minutes to make and is really tasty!

Easy Guacamole Ingredients:
1-2 avocados; Haas/the CA kind rather than the Florida kind
1/4 to 1/2 red onion
1 small to medium tomato
juice from 1/2 small lemon

black pepper
salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (optional)
1 clove of garlic (optional)
cilantro (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper (optional)

Half the avocados, remove the pits. Scrape the flesh from the skins, and mash it in a bowl. Add the lemon juice (to prevent browning). Chop the onion and tomato, add it to the avocado. (If using) Finely chop and then add the garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno (be sure to remove the seeds from the pepper). Season with the cumin, and the salt and black pepper to taste.  Make sure you mix well.  

I used to like to top this on quesadillas, or eat this with pita bread or whole wheat crackers (the 'triscuit' kind). For those that eat chips, corn chips are also good.

If you are grain free or gluten free, guacamole is good with almond flour crackers or try coconut flour crackers, or crackers made other gluten free flours.  Or you can eat it with vegetables like cucumbers, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, celery etc.

If you have any left over, be sure to cover the surface with plastic wrap (press down onto the surface), so that no oxygen gets to it.

Edited March 18, 2014, to fix the link to my sister's blog post.  Also to add some grain free and gluten free recommendations and links.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

All Natural Beauty forum and site (All natural skin care/beauty forum and website)

Since August, about the time I started this blog, I've been part of several forums. One of my favorites (and one of the ones I post most often on) is the All Natural Beauty forum. Hosted by Sharon Houghton, a licensed aesthetician and owner of SharAmbrosia, this forum is great for sharing ideas, and finding truly all natural products.
Another awesome source for finding information on all natural skin care products is the All Natural Beauty's website. This site is jammed pack with information on all natural skin care, recipes, and links to several wonderful companies. My favorite section on the site is the article section (reading room), which includes writings by Sharon, Debbie Bilezikian of Monave mineral makeup, aromatherapist and herbal marvel Jeanne Rose, and many others. I also love the recipe section; the lavender, honey, milk bath courtesy of the National Honey Board is particulary soothing, and leaves the skin so soft!

A special thanks to Sharon, who put a link to this blog on the All Natural Beauty's website!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Girl Kills Bear (News article)

There was a disturbing article in Monday's Metro section of the Washington Post. Last year, the state of Maryland started allowing bear hunting. This year's season started with the death of a 211 lbs bear killed by an eight year old girl. That's right, a child. I frankly don't know what is is more chilling, the death of the bear, or that this eight year old is gleeful that she has killed a bear and doesn't think there is anything wrong with the fact that she did.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pimple Juice (Skin care recipes/pimples/serums)

I used to have flawless skin as a teenager, but in my early twenties (right about the time I became allergic to synthetics) I began to develop blemishes. It caused redness and scaring around my nose, in addition to the rashes I'd get from using synthetic ingredients. I gradually switched to all natural products, which initially made my skin worse, as I applied the wrong ingredients (for oily or dry skin, instead of for dehydrated skin) incorrectly. The products were either too drying or too rich, and I was applying way too much product. It took me a while to figure out I had a little known skin type (dehydrated), and that natural products are concentrated (no fillers) should only be applied in tiny amounts to get the benefits without the greasiness. Right now my skin is pretty much clear, and though I still get an occasional blemish (around certain times of the month ;) ), my skin has healed and the redness around my nose is disappearing. I hope to eventually go over what natural facial cleaners, toners, and moisturizers each skin type should use (make it yourself and also brands) since as I've found out it is very important to use products that are catered to your skin, and to correctly apply them. To start out, I'd like to share with you my 'pimple juice', what I do put on my blemishes when I get them.


alcohol (such as vodka)
essential oils, such as tea tree, lavender, helichrysum (aka immortelle aka italian everlasting), bergamot (make sure you use only during the night or get bergaptene-free as it is phototoxic, makes the skin tan)

Per 1 ounce (30 ml or 2 Tablespoons) of vodka, add 6-12 drops of essential oils. This will make a 1-2% concentration. Shake gently, and apply with a q-tip or cotton ball as a spot treatment.

You may use either the essential oils individually or a combination of them in this recipe; no matter how many essential oils you use, only use a total of 6-12 drops of essential oils (and NOT 6-12 drops of each esential oil).

I wouldn't use this on extremely dry skin though, as alchohol is drying (or if you have dry skin, use this on top of your moisturizer). This spot treatment is really effective at zapping my pimples away! This is similiar to such products as Burt's Bees Parsley Blemish Stick or Desert Essence's Tea Tree Blemish Touch stick, though a lot cheaper if you make your own!

Some people find alcohol too drying, or want to make a moisturizer with pimple zapping power, so they prefer making a serum.


carrier oil for your skin type
essential oils

Make a 1-2% concentration.

Be sure you only use 2-5 drops of the serum on your face, and apply with plenty of toner, aloe, hydrosol, herbal tea, or water.

Making Aromatherapy Creams part 2: books/resources (Skin care/Natural Cosmetic resources/book reviews)

For a good online resource for recipes check Make Your Cosmetics. This site is sponsored by Donna Maria and Handmade Beauty Network. I really love this site, there are lots of good recipes and great ideas! Some recipes may use a few synthetic ingredients (like emulsifying wax and fragrance oils) but most are all natural.

Here are some of my favorite books with cream recipes (mini book reviews):

Dina Falconi's Earthly Bodies and Heavenly Hair : This book explains techniques and the differences between creams/lotions, salves/balms, herbal oils, tinctures, herbal vinegars, powders, etc (check out the last chapter book). It has very easy and wonderful recipes for all kinds of skin and hair care products, including creams (emulsified with beeswax, with and without borax).

Erich Keller's Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care. This book is jammed pack with information, including aromatherapy/essential oil info and usage (which essential oils to use over others for specific skin conditions; there are lots of charts), how the skin and hair functions, skin and hair conditions, and contains a wide range of skin and hair cosmetic recipes. The cream recipes are well detailed; they clearly describe what temperatures the water and oils phases should be at, for those that are concerned with accuracy.

Donna Maria's Making aromatherapy creams and lotions. Depending on who you ask, people either really love this book or they hate it. I think it gives a great technical explaination on cream making, and also has recipes on how to make a few other goodies. It does an awesome job (even better than the other two books above) at describing the various ingredients, except that it neglects to mention natural preservatives. The only thing I didn't like is that it uses a lot of emulsifying wax in its recipes (which is not a natural ingredient), but there are some beeswax and borax recipes too. It may not be a good book for the beginner, as it uses many rare and expensive ingredients, which may be frustrating for some people to find. I, personally, haven't had a problem finding the ingredients, but then again I know where to find most of the ingredients since I make crafts all the time. In a way this is good for the beginner in that it describes the process in great detail, but at the same time some people get frustatrated in trying to track down the ingredients, or the recipes may seem daunting because they contain so many exotic ingredients. These are good recipes for 'fancy/exotic' creams. It has a basic beeswax cream, but mainly has complicated recipes if you want to play with textures (like creams with the floral waxes). I highly recommend it for the technical information.

Dorie Byers' Natural Beauty Basics : Create Your Own Cosmetics and Body Care Products. This book has nice beeswax (with no borax) recipes, and if you want to make a cream with lecithin, this is the only book I've found that has recipes that uses ONLY lecithin to emulsify creams (Donna Maria has recipes with lecithin but if I recall correctly she uses it with a mix of other emulsifiers). The recipes are for hand creams, but they are very nice, and you could use them all over the body/face. There is a fantastic shea butter cream recipe too. This book has many other wonderful recipes in it too. They only thing I didn't like is that ocassionally a few synthetics creep up in her recipes (like using baby shampoo to make an herbal shampoo), but for the most part the recipes are 100% natural.

Rosemary Gladstar. One of the best cream recipes ever. Get either the 'Family Herbal' or 'Herbs for Natural Beauty' (which has the same information; the Family Herbal is like a compilation of many of her little books like Herbs for Natural Beauty). Although it is only one recipe, the instructions for that recipe are awesome. This cream recipe is my favorite for my body skin, and the one recipe that I've based most of my porportions on. It is so rich and versatile, and is simply the best. Gladstars books have many other recipes on skin care, and if you get the Family Herbal book, it is a good resource on herb descriptions, and contains good recipes on natural remedies for all kinds of problems. And the rest of the book--gorgeous layout but extremely useful information. Gladstar is considered one of the best herbalists in the country. One of my favorite herbal remedy books.

Janice Cox books. Very easy recipes; beeswax based creams and some creams made just with stearic acid (which I haven't seen in other guides). I think the stearic acid creams are in her 'Natural Beauty at Home' book (make sure you get the expanded, revised edition which has more recipes). It is a good beginner guide and excellent for a wide range of simple recipes, not just creams. I like her books, and the recipes are nice but they are VERY basic (not very technical, simple ingredients). The creams I've tried from her were ok; I liked recipes from other authors better though. The bulk of the book consists of recipes; a good place to get ideas from. You can usually find Janice Cox books in your local library too (the others may be harder to find in your library though).

Friday, October 21, 2005

Mighty Mouse (Apple computer product review)

After two weeks of slight tracking problems, my mouse (the one that came with my Emac that I got 3 years ago) decided to act up even more last weekend, and then sputter out completely and die. Needless to say I was not happy, since I had a lot of work to complete and could not finish it. It seems like most people (including me) never realize how important something that appears small and insignificant is--that you don't think much about when using--until it's gone. I think I really learned that lesson last weekend.

So a few days ago I purchased Apple's Mighty Mouse, which set me back about $50. I did not have time to go to the Apple store, nor could I wait to order it online, so unfortunately had to pay full price for it at my school's computer store. (FYI, if you are a student or educator, and can get to an Apple store or order at the Apple store online, Apple offers an educational discount. I usually prefer ordering online since it is free shipping and no tax). Though I could have gotten a non-Apple mouse for cheaper (shudder), I could not bring myself to buy a non-Apple product, especially after I went to a store and tried some of them out, and found that they were not only an eye-sore, but they were so bulky, and the tracking didn't seem as smooth as an apple mouse. So far I am liking my new mouse. Though it was a tad expensive, it is an optical mouse (like my old one) except it has several new features. My favorite so far is the scroll ball located on top of the mouse; it is so awesome! I can now scroll up and down, or left and right without moving the whole mouse, which is helpful in reducing strain. The thing I am still getting used to is that (though you can't see it; the top is smooth and not split) it can work as a two button mouse. This doesn't other me too much, except when I accidentally click the right side of the mouse instead of the left. I may reconfigure it to be a one button mouse, if it drives me too crazy though! I don't have OS 10.4 yet, but the mouse can provide easy access to several of Tiger's features. I plan on upgrading my computer soon though, so will be sure to try out those additional features. The tracking is really smooth, and the mouse isn't bulky at all. Overall I am pleased with my purchase, and am once again happy I have access to my computer.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Maryland Renaissance Festival (Festival Information)

**edited: removed a link for Herbalist Delight because this company either went out of business or their site has been hacked.

On Sunday, I went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival with my sister, Edward, my mom, and the Rices: Adam, Lorraine, and their children, Ian Sol and Z. Luna (thanks Adam and Lorraine for the free passes!). I hadn't been to a RennFest in a while (maybe ten years), but it was a lot of fun! For those of you that don't know, RennFests are 'renaissance/middle ages' inspired festivals that usually run once a season in an area during the weekends for several weeks. And the Maryland RennFest is supposed to be one of the best! There are musicians, theater performances/shows, games, and of course all types of vendors selling anything from middle ages type clothing (cloaks, head wear, peasant shirts and skirts), pottery, herbs, metal and glass work, leather work (like boots), jewelry, hand crafted products, and even psychics providing tarot card readings. Like many of the fair-goers, Ian, Edward, and I dressed up (Ian as a knight, who then later switched to Robin Hood; Edward in a velvet cloak as a 'techno-mage', and me in a peasant shirt and skirt). I really loved visiting all the different vendors stalls--not only are all of the vendors super friendly (and not to mention fully dressed up in medieval type clothing), but all of the products are hand made, and some of the vendors, like the blacksmiths and glass blowers, were making some of their wares onsite. One of the best parts of the day was watching this glassblower shape a colored glass rod into a beautifully designed dragon. It truly amazes me, yet saddens me, watching people make such beautiful artwork; it truly is a dying craft.

I didn't buy any glass or metal work, but I did buy some beautiful pieces of pottery (a small glazed bowl and cup) from Tessem Stoneware (from PA; no website or business cards, but they are at the MD RennFest every year and will be at the MD Sugarloaf Craft Festival this year), wonderful naturally scented handmade soap (in lavender; orange, oatmeal, sage; and ylang ylang, sandalwood, nutmeg, cinnamon) from the Bee Folks, and a few ounces of herbs (some delicious smelling bayberry, orris root powder, slippery elm powder, cayenne chili powder, and a sage smudge stick) from Herbalist Delight (from Baltimore, MD). Edward and Bexn also brought some delicious honey from the Bee Folks. One thing that surprised me was the prices--they were pretty good! The pottery prices were only $5 each (though another potter was selling higher quality prices for a lot more), and the soap only $10 (usually $4 per bar, but they had a special at the RennFest). The prices of the herbs were not bad (I could have gotten larger quantities for a little less online, but since I have so many herbs, and since the quality was so good, I didn't mind paying a bit more for smaller quantities, especially since I brought several herbs I haven't tried yet. And the prices weren't that ridiculously overpriced). And though it's too late for me, they have a 10% coupon off for herbs purchased at the RennFest on their website.

The food was also much less expensive than I remembered, and the variety was also much better. There were tons of choices for vegetarians, and though I'm veggie and hypoglycemic, I still found something to eat (a whole wheat veggie wrap). Everyone else enjoyed all kinds of potatoes, sweets (like cheesecake on a stick), and deep fried cheese and macaroni on a stick (my mom who is the world's pickiest eater LOVED this). A few things were still a bit pricey (like wooden cups, wooden boxes, and of course some of the blacksmith pieces) but considering that it's all hand made, it really wasn't bad at all.

Aside from shopping and eating, we also saw a joust! And the Rices saw a short play. You can also rent costumes for the day, and get henna 'tattoos' and your hair braided.

This coming weekend is the last weekend the Maryland RennFest will be running, until next year. I believe it cost $17 for adults to get in (groups, seniors, and children 7-15 are less; kids 6 and under are free), unless you have good friends with passes!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Natural Preservatives in Natural Cosmetics (Skin care/Make it yourself info)

In using natural cosmetics, one concern is the use of synthetic preservatives. Some like the parabens are known to weakly mimic estrogen (which is thought to be linked with increases of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer). Many others are mild to serious irritants. There are many companies who sell otherwise natural cosmetics, and then will add synthetic (and often slightly toxic) preservatives. My question is why, when there are so many good all natural preservatives?

Some natural preservatives include:

Strongest: grapefruit seed extract (NOT the essential oil) (which is often used to purify water)

Strong: essential oils (most essential oils are antibacterial and antiseptic, and some like lavender and tea tree are also anti-viral. Many such as tea tree and euclaptus are known to kill a wide variety of germs), vitamins A, C , and E (some forms of vitamin C are not stable/degrade fast though), and herbal extracts like rosemary (which are usually herbs infused in alcohol).

Good: Herbs in general will preserve the product. You can also add a little bit of vinegar (which would also pH balance your product). Replace the water in your recipe with aloe or a hydrosol. Also Citric Acid is also a natural preservative.

I've made creams (which contain water) in which I've only used essential oils and vitamin E and they were fine for a couple months. Body and facial oils (no water) made this way, may be good for 6-8 months. Some companies like Aubrey Organics use a combination of grapefruit seed extract, vitamins, and essential oils/herbs, and those products are good for a year. Other companies, such as Dr. Bronner's/Sun Dog who makes lotion now, preserves their product with a combination of alcohol, essential oils, and vitamin E (Tocopherols). So if you used a combination of some of the preservatives, your product should keep fresh anywhere from 1 month to a year, depending on the product, and combination of preservatives used.

Other things that will help: store your natural products in the fridge (may change the texture of some products a bit), making sure your fingers are very clean if you actually touch the surface of the product (better to use a squeeze bottle or a clean spatula to scope out the product) and not keeping it in the bathroom (the humidity may cause mold to grow faster; but I'm sure a small bottle would be fine).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

How to make your own aromatherapy creams and lotions, part 1 (Skin care/Aromatherapy creams/carrier oil information)

Note: I usually don't edit that many old posts. But thought I should edit this one since this entry is read a lot by crafters. This post was first written in 2005, but I edited it a bit in April 2012, since my understanding of some ingredients (like preservatives) and also some methods has changed over the years. It's still in the process of being edited.

One of best 'make it yourself' projects is crafting your own all natural creams and lotions. Akin to making mayonaisse, crafting creams and lotions may seem a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you realize how much fun (and affordable) it can be! And of course the best thing is that you can cater the cream to your own skin's needs.

Basic steps in making a cream or lotion. Compiled from various books and personal experience (part of step three is from Donna Maria's book, see my post on making aromatherapy creams part 2 for references/books).

Step 1; oil phase: measure and then add the liquid and solid fats, emulsifiers, and solid thickeners to a double broiler, and gently heat it (medium heat) until the ingredients have melted. So you would add the oils, butters, and waxes or emulsifiers here (though not the floral waxes). If you are using lecithin (granules or liquid) to emulsify add it to the oil phase.

Step 2; water phase: while the oil phase is melting, in a separate double broiler, measure and heat the different waters you are using (distilled or spring water, aloe, hydrosols, herbal infusions, vinegar, witch hazel, etc) under very low heat. Heat them gently; do NOT bring to a boil. You basically want them at the same temperature as the oil phase. Basically I let them heat up until the oil phase has melted.

Step 3 (optional): If you are using certain CO2 extracts (the ones that are more solid), concretes and floral waxes, add these to the oil phase mixture, let melt and and throughly mix. If you are using things like borax and xanthan gum (powdered and gel like ingredients) add them to the water phase and throughly mix (the exception which Donna Maria doesn't mention is aloe gel, which I usually just add in step 2 since it is so liquidy).

Step 4: Make sure the oil phase and the water phase are at the same temperatures. You can use a thermometer, and some authors specify a specific temperature, but I usually just test a drop of each on my skin--making sure it is still VERY warm but not scalding hot. Make sure it is not too cool or it will separate. Typically let it cool to 80-100 degrees F. Mix well.

Step 5: In a blender add the oil phase. Begin mixing. In a slow and steady, thin stream (key words slow and steady) add the water phase, and continue mixing until the cream becomes the texture of buttercream frosting, and the blender 'chokes'. You can do this step with a mixer if you like, and very small amounts by hand, but it will take longer. Typically it takes only a few minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the ingredients, if it is a lotion (longer) or cream. Don't over mix (or it'll start to separate. Too little mixing and it won't emulsify but too much and it'll separate).

Step 6: Add your antioxidants (like vitamin E, rosemary oil extract, grapefruit seed extract. These are not preservatives; they are antioxidants. They prevent oxidation of oils). Also add your essential oils, most co2 extracts, absolutes, oleoresins, etc (you add them last so they don't evaporate). And also add your broad spectrum preservatives here too. I like using 'more natural' ones or eco cert like leucidal or geogard ultra (which is the trade name. It goes by many other various names, but geogard is basically gluconolactone (and) sodium benzoate, which are also used in foods as preservatives).

Many natural formulators think that essential oils are broad spectrum, and many formulators who use synthetics think they kill bacteria and/or fungi at all. Personally, based on my knowledge of botany/science/biology, aromatherapy/herbalism, and ethnobotany, I believe that certain essential oils can be used as short term preservation, but they are not broad spectrum preservatives, in my opinion.

Step 7: Store in clean sanitized (preferable colored glass) jars. Allow cream to cool before putting on the lid.

Basic ratios:

It really depends how thick you want the cream and the texture. It's like making cookies (or anything for that matter!), there are hundreds of variations of proportions, and ingredients etc. All my recipes are different, I usually look at an already established recipe to get an idea, and then use my own oils, etc, and use similar amounts, and tweak a lot! (hence why I recommended writing everything down). In general I like using similar amounts like 4-6 oz of oils/fats/butters to the waters (though sometimes I use a little less than 50% water, like 1/2 to 1 ounce less water than the amount I use for oils), 1/2 oz to 1 oz of beeswax (depending on how many of the other ingredients I used. Start with 1/2 oz). For antioxidants like vitamin E, grapefruit seed oil, and rosemary oil extract--follow what it says on the label for concentration (since every manufacturer has different recommended concentrations for what they make, since these ingredients are made at different strengths). For essential oils I use 1/2 to 1% total concentration for the face, or up to 2% total concentration (so about 3-12 drops per ounce. It is better to use less instead of more because they are concentrated substances). I recommend using a scale for best and the most accurate results. Don't be afraid to experiment! Try using an author's recipe first (with the same ingredients and proportions) and then start tweaking and experimenting! For borax, I generally a pinch-like 1/4 teaspoon or so.

Random notes:

Some authors like Donna Maria mention to add the hydrosols in the last step, but other authors like Rosemary Gladstar mention to add it in the water phase (step 2). I usually add it in the water phase.

Some people like to add the oil phase to the water phase instead of the water phase to the oil phase.

You can refrigerate your creams to make them last longer; but this might change the texture a bit.

Use clean hands or a spatula to scoop the product out, so no mold grows on it.

Trouble shooting:

Separation problems??

It helps to use a blender, unless you are making very small amounts (like 3 oz or less). If you are making only a tiny amount, then just use a small wire wisk.

Make sure you right down all your measurements (including the number of drops that you have used of essential oils). This will help you replicate a good recipe in the future, and also learn from your mistakes (see what DIDN'T work).

Do not use a microwave to heat any of the ingredients up (it gets too hot).

If it does separates, I just use a mini wire whisk (right in the jar) to quickly whisk it all back together.

I like using waters in oils (though many authors cite using oils in waters). I've found it separates less.

Too greasy???

Try varying the oils and butters you are using:

For oily skins (well absorbed):

Grapeseed (very light)
Hazelnut (an astringent)
Jojoba (similar to sebum; really ALL skin types love this)

For normal skins (absorbs well):
almond (light)
apricot (light)

Dry skin oils (sits on skin longer):
Avocodo (very heavy)
Extra Virgin Olive (some normal skin people like this too)
Coconut (too much can be too drying though)
Macademia nut (absorbs pretty well, antiaging/fine lines, similar to sebum)
Rosehip seed aka rose mosqueta (antiaging/fine lines, scars of all kinds)

Hemp seed oil is easy absorbed too.

I've found that shea butter is more easily absorbed than cocoa butter is; it's non greasy. Shea is good for blemishes, tired muscles, fine lines, and dehydrated skin. Though it is well absorbed by the skin, it forms a breathable barrier against the elements. A lot of people do not like it in creams because of the grainy texture. Try using only small amounts and use a combination of other fats/oils/butters with the shea butter. Make sure it is throughly melted and well mixed with the other oils/fats. It is possible to make a smooth shea cream, but even if the creams are a little grainy, it will melt on the skin on contact and won't really change how well the cream works.

If you are finding your creams too greasy, even when using oils catered to your skin type, then either make lotions(which contain more waters), or reduce the amount of cream you are using. Apply only a very small amount (use less than an 1/8 teaspoon of cream/lotion) to very damp skin. I typically spray my skin with toner, water, hydrosol, or aloe, dab my skin with cream, spray my hands with water or whatever I'm using, and then gently massage it in. Then I spray more water and massage again. When I first switched to natural cosmetics, I didn't know why the creams felt greasy on my face too--it was a combination of using the wrong oils, and using too much cream on my face, and not enough water when applying. Now that I use less, and apply with lots of water, I don't have a problem with the greasy feeling. (FYI: if you want to use facial oils/serums that contain no water and waxes, use only 2-5 drops of it and apply with lots of water. When I used my first serum I applied lots of it without water and got acne!). Natural creams are very concentrated--no fillers like the chemical stuff--so you really only need to use a tad to get its benefits.

It's thin!!!

That could be because of the ratios you are using. Typically in creams the water phase is 50% or less (usually less) of the total mixture. In lotions, water accounts for more of the product.

Use aloe rather than water or hydrosol for a thicker cream. Also good if you soak marshmallow root or flax seeds in water, they produce gels too that help thicken the cream. Strain and use the gel in the recipe.

What are the ingredients CO2 extracts, concretes and floral waxes?
CO2 extracts are just a new method used to extract essential oils. The traditonal way is distilled (main method), extraction/pressing (citrus oils), or solvent extracted (some of the flower ones like jasmine, some but not all rose oil). They use CO2 in this process (they remove the CO2 at the end), so the end product is a thick 'essential oil' that has much more of the natural constitutes of the plant and also some of the plant waxes, and has no chemical residue. I haven't used them yet, but they are supposed to be thick (due to the waxes), and smell more like the real plant, and have more medical/cosmetic benefits. They are more expensive but it is recommended you use even less than the amount you'd use for a traditional essential oil; very concentrated.

Concretes and floral waxes are by products of the solvent extracted method of making essential oils. The flowers are subjected to a solvent, resulting in a concrete, and then an alcohol is applied to the concrete, and that results in the absolute (essential oil) and the floral wax.

You can read more about essential oils and some of these things at these websites

Aromaweb; good online source for all things aromatherapy.

Nature's Gift is a good place to buy essential oils, CO2 extracts, floral waxes, and has more information on extraction methods.

One of my favorite places to buy essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs. They do not have floral waxes or concretes or CO2 extracts though. Many products are organic and they have GREAT prices (even with shipping). I recommend their essential oil starter kits.

Can I use plastic equipment (magmix or store in plastic jars?)

No. Essential oils eventually eat through plastic (some are nautral solvents). Or you can use plastic equipment to make the cream, and just mix in the essential oils with a wire wisk at the end. But please don't store them in plastic jars, unless you use a very durable plastic!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dry lips? (Skin care/lip care)

Since fall is here and winter is coming on, I thought I'd post some information on lip care, since I don't know about you but my skin can get quite dry during this time of year!

Lip care:

Lips get dry because it is one of the few places on the human body that doesn't have sebum glands. Sebum is the natural oil secretion of your skin that helps your skin retain moisture (water). Ingredients that you can use to help retain in moisture are natural oils and waxes.

Some good ingredients are apricot oil (light), almond oil (light), jojoba oil (which is really a wax, but it is similar in composition to the skin's own sebum), macademia nut oil (also similar to sebum), cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil (good for dry skin though too much can be drying), avocado oil (heavy), etc.

Don't use petroleum (vaseline) or mineral oil on your lips or skin. They clog pores, and dry out the skin.

Some good all natural companies to use:
burts' bees
badger balms (some organic ingredients)
terressentials (organic)
aubrey organics (natural lips, clear formula, vegan).

Pure shea butter (aka kartite or african butter) is also good:
Mountain Rose Herbs
Shea Terra Organics.

Also it helps if you exfoliate your lips with a wash cloth in the shower.

How to make your own herbal tinctures, vinegars, and infusions (Herbal information/teas)

Herbal extracts, herbal vinegars, and herbal infusions are very easy to make. As many of you know from reading this blog, I really love making my own products. It's fun, easy, and extremely cost effective! When people first start out with making their own products, it may seem like a bit of an investment of time and money, but once you start, you realize that it really isn't that hard at all, and it ends up being much less expensive than already prepared products. (That, however, does not stop me from buying commerical products though--I'm busy too, after all!

Herbal extracts/tinctures:

Herbal extracts aka tinctures are made by infusing plant material in alcohol or sometimes vinegar or glycerin, usually for 3-6 weeks. Depending on the ratio of plant to medium, you can make quite a concentrated solution; there are usually more active constituents extracted from plants in an extract than in a water based infusion. Plus they have a long shelf life (1-3 years) and the small bottles (if you purchase them) don't take a large amount of room in your cupboard. They are a great way to store and expand the shelf life of herbs, and make a concentrated solution (they are more potent).

Generally they are used in cosmetics (to add the benefit of the herb to the product, and as a natural preservative), and also as medicine (typically 1-4 drops are comsumed, one to a couple times a day). For those of you that are sensitive to alcohol (children and hypoglycemics) you can add the tinctures to a cup of boiling water, which will evaporate the alcohol but leave the herbal constitutes, or try a glycerin based tincture.

To make a herbal extract: to a very clean and sterile glass jar, fill it with fresh or dried herbs, and cover the herbs with vodka or brandy. Keep it in a dark place and let infuse 3-6 weeks. Strain. Ratios of herb to medium can vary: some authors suggest a 1:1, some a 2:1, or a 4:1 ratio. I usually just fill the jar with herbs and then pour enough alcohol to cover the herbs.

It is better to use fresh herbs (as they contain more of the essential oils). Lightly use a damp paper towel to clean the dirt off them, and then let them air out and slightly wilt in an open brown paper bag for a day before using the herbs. This will also give time for bugs to escape! Then on the day you are making the tincture, lightly chop the herbs and then add to the jar. Some people will also infuse the mixture TWICE (after steeping the first time, strain out the old herbs and then add new herbs and then steep again), but this isn't neccessary unless you are using herbs that are old (not recommended), or use herbs that don't have a lot of essential oils in them.

Glycerin based tinctures; if I am not mistaken, are made first using alcohol, then somehow companies will remove the alcohol and then combine what's left with the glycerin.

Places to purchase tinctures: Mountain Rose Herbs and local health food stores. If you purchase them make sure you read the ratios of herb to medium. Better companies will typically use higher ratios (more herbs).

Herbal vinegar:

A herbal vinegar is made in the same way as a tincture, however, instead of alcohol, vinegar is used. I like using apple cider vinegar, but I've also had good results with red wine vinegar too. But you can really make them with all kinds of vinegar.
I've made herbal vinegars successfully with dried and fresh herbs. Some herbalists recommend placing herbal vinegars in a warm, sunny place to steep (like making a sun tea), though to me that doesn't make sense since sunlight typically destroys/degrades the natural essential oils faster. But then again, there is that whole concept of infusing your vinegars with solar and luna energies, so maybe next time I'll try that! To shorten the time of steeping, you can also try gently warming the vinegar before adding the herbs, and the steep for only ten to fifteen days. Long shelf like 1-3 years. Store in a dark bottle.

Some uses of herbal vinegars:
-cleaning (made with white vinegar)
-a toner, hair rinse, or body rinse (in the shower; very deodorizing), or a natural deodorant. Be sure to dilute!!! 1-2 teaspoons or less per ounce of distilled/spring water. Don't worry, you won't smell like a pickle; the smell quickly dissapates. Drier and sensitive skins may not want to use this.
-for food! A sage vinegar is excellent on salad, or you can use them as marinades. You can make some very tasty combinations: like a balsamic vinegar/sage combo. Yum.

For a quick herbal vinegar add 10 drops of essential oils per ounce of vinegar! (I wouldn't eat this kind though, unless you used small amounts of essential oils (1-3 drops), and used the oils from known 'food' (like orange or lime, or peppermint). Some essential oils are solvent extracted, and they are very concentrated indeed!

To make an herbal infusion:

That said, water herbal infusions (a fancy name for tea) are great too; but they don't have a long shelf life. They aren't nearly as potent but to make a strong infusion for cosmetic/medicine uses, bring the water to a boil, take the water off the stove, add the herbs, make sure your pot is capped tightly (to make sure no essential oils escape; or you could use a jar), and infuse for 20 minutes to an hour, then strain. One book that I have suggests 1 to 8 hours. Roots and berries and heavier materials need to be simmered for at least 20 minutes and then infused for at least an hour.

I think extracts and vinegars (used on the skin) are also better for oily prone skin (since it contains alcohol or vinegar which can be drying) while infusions are great for drier skins.

Have fun crafting!