Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Vegan Baked Goods at Whole Foods (Vegetarian/Vegan Food Information)

I was just walking in the Philly Whole Foods this weekend, when I noticed they had vegan baked goods. For those that are relatively new to Whole Foods and buy regularly at the bakery department this may not be a surprise to you, but it was to me. I remember that before Whole Foods bought out Fresh Fields (in the DC area) Fresh Fields used to have a very good assortment of vegan desserts: from cookies to cakes and everything in between. I used to enjoy them on the rare occasions I went to Fresh Fields (I was young and didn't have a car) but to my dismay after Whole Foods bought them out, all the vegan desserts disappeared. Now I don't know when exactly they brought them back (I obviously haven't been looking at the baked goods section for the last three years) but it was really nice to see vegan desserts back on the shelves--even if my hypoglycemia is worse and I can't eat them (they contain white flour and sugar). I didn't get to check to see if the DC/VA Whole Foods carry the vegan desserts/baked goods, but will post when I do. My mom, who tried the vegan carrot cake, loves it (my mom is one of the pickiest eaters in the world, and also--after all this time--still hasn't accepted the fact that me being veggie is healthy).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts

I've been crafting like mad recently. I've been trying to craft natural cosmetics no less than three times a week--ideally I'd like to craft at least 5 times a week, but with school work (mainly consisting of my thesis and work for my seminar class on ecotourism), and just every day living spending time with my family, friends, and boyfriend, and trying to get my health back completely on track that isn't possible right now. But in the last few months I feel like I've been more focused on crafting than I ever have: I've been thinking a lot about my future, about opening my own business and what types of products I'd possibly like to make and sell. In the past I used to just concoct one product, and once made, start working on a different product, usually never experimenting with the proportions, or even ever making the exact same recipe again (too many different ingredients to play with, and too many recipes to think up of). I still do that to some extent now, but I've been focusing more on trying to get the texture right, revamping the formula, and just trying different proportions, etc.

Recently I've mostly been crafting vegan lip balms, vegan creams, and also (melt and pour) soaps, but I've also been experimenting with perfume combinations as well. Some of the recipes have turned out wonderful (I've made two vegan balms and a vegan cream I love very much), and others have turned out not quite to my liking (either I just use them as is--dealing with the weird textures--, or I melt it down and play with the proportions, or I use it to make an entirely different product. Quite a few of my balms have been made into creams). But over all I've been really happy with what I've been crafting.

I've gotten quite a few new carrier oils (I think by now I've tried over thirty different oils), been playing around with different emusifiers (waxes and gums), and recently just restocked my essential oil collection. My essential oils now consist primarily of organic oils, though a couple of them (the more expensive ones, or a couple that I don't use as much) are conventional. I've also bought many essential oils I haven't tried yet. I can't wait to start experimenting with them but my credit card sure has been burning! ;)

I am still intent on crafting vegan cosmetics, though I do miss some ingredients (like yogurt, honey, and beeswax). I still have a ton of beeswax left still, and am debating what to do with it. Candles, maybe?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Essential And Carrier Oil Storage; Droppers; Recognizing True Essential Oils; Using PEOs neat; Shelflife (Aromatherapy)

I've already blogged about storage and shelflife of aromatherapy products and also storage and shelf life of essential oils but several more questions have come up in recent months so I thought I'd post more about this topic.

Can I store my essential oils in a glass container with a rubber bulb?

I do not recommend storing any essential oil with a rubber bulb, because over time (to my knowledge) all essential oils will dissolve the rubber, releasing toxins into the essential oil.

Can I store carrier oils in clear bottles? What about essential oils? Can I change the bottles?

It is fine to store carrier oils in clear bottles (but just don't store them in direct sunlight). But for a mix of carrier oils and essential oils, I prefer dark colored glass because essential oils eventually eat through plastic (I've had this happen to me when I first began crafting), degrade easily when exposed to light, and may cause leaching of the plastic's toxins into your product. For short term storage it would probably be okay to use dark colored plastic bottles, but I just generally use glass.

I usually store my essential oils in the bottles they come in (dark 10 ml to 1 ounce glass bottles). If you change bottles make sure they are sterile and also that there is no room for air in the bottle (air=oxidation). (blue or amber is standard but I'm sure other colors would work well too).

Which dropper is the best to use: the orifice reducers or glass droppers? Where can I buy them?

To measure drops I usually use a glass dropper. I usually remove the plastic drop dispenser aka orifice reducers that comes with the essential oils for two reasons: I buy essential oils from several companies so all of the drop dispensers are different (so drop size would be different if I used the drop dispenser, which may alter scent blends), and over time essential oils eat through plastic releasing toxins (so I never really understood why they were included, other than for convenience).

Most companies include the drop dispensers if it is a small sized bottle (under 30 ml in most cases), but really small bottles (1-3 ml) and larger bottles usually don't have them). And some companies do not use them at all--even for the regular 10 to 15 ml sizes.

Some places that sell glass droppers:

Camden Grey

Garden of Wisdom

Mountain Rose Herbs

You may also find them locally (vendors that sell essential oils or in a pharmacy. They are sometimes called medicine or eye droppers)

If you have children, you may prefer the orifice droppers for safety reasons (also some people prefer them since they are convenient).

How do I recognize if an essential oil is a true, undiluted, pure essential oil (PEO) or if it's been diluted/adulterated?

An easy way to test if an essential oil is pure or not is to put one drop on a piece of paper and let dry. Steam distilled or expressed essential oils will usually not leave an oily residue behind. However this will not work if the essential oil is an absolute (extracted with solvents), as this will probably leave a residue behind. Also if it was diluted with another essential oil, fragrance oil, alcohol, etc, it may also not leave an oily residue.

Can I apply PEOs "neat"/undiluted?

Always dilute essential oils before use. Though some can be applied neat, applying an essential oil neat is only for during emergencies (like insect bites) and not for every day usage. Most essential oils should not be used neat as essential oils are highly concentrated substances, and some of them in high doses are toxic. Some, like cajeput, can be very irritating to the skin.

I've had this essential oil for a while, how do I check to make sure it's still okay to use?

The strength of the smell. When you open the bottle, slowly wave your hand across the top and breathe it in. Is it strong smelling or can you barely smell it?

As a general rule, citrus essential oils have a shelf life of 6 months to a year. Most others have a shelf life of 1 to 2 years. And some, like a few of the resinous ones or a few of the woody or grassy ones, get better with age: sandalwood, patcholli, etc. According to Tisserand and Balacs (1995), refrigeration can double shelf life. If you've had them for a while, you may just want to use them to fragrance things like paper, rooms, etc since many of the medicinal, antibacterial, and cosmetic properties would be diminished.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Puffy Eyes (All Natural Skin Care)

My eyes are really puffy; what natural products can I use for puffiness and general eye care?

The classic remedies for puffy eyes are to apply either cold cucumber slices or chamomile tea bags (dampen; okay to use used tea bags) to the eyes for 15 to 20 minutes.

If you don't have time for that, try a serum or cream with german chamomile or helichrysum essential oil (6-12 drops of essential oils in 1 ounce of carrier oil or cream), which are both good for inflammmation and puffiness.

For general eye care, I recommend using shea butter around the eye area. Since west shea may be a little hard to spread, either let it melt in your hands before applying, or use east shea which is easier to spread. Also some good carrier oils to use are rosehip seed oil, camellia oil, and kukui nut oil (all are anti-aging and nourishing). For those that don't want to use straight oils and butters, try buying a natural eye cream that has some of these ingredients.