Friday, September 28, 2007

Local Fall Festivals (D.C./VA/MD area) (Fall Festival Information)

Quick post on local fall festivals

Fall for Fairfax: tommorrow, Sept 29 . In addition to the activites, they will be recycling old computers, and they will be conducting a blood drive. Free admission.

National Book Festival (D.C.): tommorrow, Sept 29 Free admission (some activities have a small fee).

D.C. Green Festival: Oct 6-7. Admission: Children under 12 are free; $15 for general; students, seniors, union members, and bike riders for $10. Admission is good for both days, and you also get coupons. When I went a couple years ago, there were many environmental organizations (if you are looking for a job, bring a resume).

Maryland Renaissance Fest: every weekend through Oct 21

I have previously written reviews on the Green Festival, National Book Fest, and Renn Festival, see links on right side of (main page of) blog. But for the Green and Nat. Book Festivals, not all the same organizations, vendors, and speakers are attending this year. For the renn fest, most of the same vendors will be there.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

IUCN 2007 Red List: The Conservation Status of Animals and Plants (Environmental News and Information)

A couple weeks ago, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) released their 2007 Red List of Threatened Species (news link here). IUCN is the largest international environmental information network, composed of many states/nations/countries, NGOs, government agencies, and conservation scientists. Their Red List is one of the most respected and comprehensible resources available on biodiversity and the conservation status of flora (plants) and fauna (animals). The news is not looking good: 188 more species were added to the list this year, bumping up the total of species threatened with extinction to 16,306 species, and 41,415 species now listed. According to IUCN: 25% of mammals, 1/8th of birds, 1/3rd of amphibians, and 70% of plants (known species) are now in danger. For the first time corals have been added to the list (corals are like the ‘rainforests of the ocean’; a high concentration of marine life lives around or near the coral reefs) and they think that the Yangtze River Dolphin (whose status is listed as critically endangered) may possibly be extinct.

Li’s FAQ:

What are some of the causes of population degradation?

A few environmental issues that may affect species biodiversity include habitat encroachment and degradation, urban development, deforestation, global warming/climate change, invasive/exotic/non-native species, lack of available prey, chemical discharge, and pollution.

What are some of the things people can do to help species and the environment?

-donate to your favorite environmental or conservation organization (like IUCN)
-volunteer at your favorite environmental or conservation organization
-donate to colleges/universities (and support grad school level research in these topics)
-support local environmental issues
-write to your local congressmen to let them know your viewpoints on the environment
-buy/consume less
-but when you need to buy something, use eco-friendly products (or at least higher quality products that can be reused or that last longer)
-for food/plants/herbs: buy organic or ethically harvested plants (healthier for you, less chemicals that poison wildlife and the Earth, and it's sustainable)
-drive a more fuel efficient car or take public transportation (to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming)
-plant native/local trees or a wildlife habitat/garden in your yard to attract and provide a home for small mammals, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Carrier Oil Books and Shelf Life (Aromatherapy/All Natural Skin Care Resources and Information)

A couple FAQ on carrier oils :)

I am looking for a book on carrier oils but haven't been able to find one; any suggestions?

Most aromatherapy and natural skin care books have a small section on carrier oils but there are only two books that I know of that are devoted solely to carrier oils. Both are kind of hard to find and are a bit pricey (mainly only easily available in England). They are Liquid Sunshine by Jan Kusmirek (2002), and Carrier Oils by Price, Price, and Smith (Len Price is the main author; 3rd edition 1999. There may be a 4th edition, see below). They are both very good resources; many people talk about Liquid Sunshine, and Len Price and Shirley Price are well known British aromatherapists.

I recently got my hands on these books, but have only read part of Carrier Oils so far. It has profiles for over 40 oils, including my beloved kukui nut oil, but it didn't have camellia oil which I thought is strange since that is quite a popular skin care oil! It also didn't have a complete profile for shea butter (only a couple sentences on it). Overall I love this book--Price makes the chemical composition of carrier oils easy to understand, better than my undergrad chemistry books! And one of the best things about this book is that at the end of each profile, Price lists the sources/references he used for each profile/chapter (of course now I want to go find the ones I haven't read! LOL!). In my opinion this book is a must have for understanding oils.

I haven't read Liquid Sunshine yet but it has many oils that aren't in Price's book, including some that I've never heard of. It also has a profile on camellia (though a species I haven't used yet) and shea butter :) I'll post more on it once I read it :)

To buy:

For Liquid Sunshine, I got mine at Sun Rose Aromatics (right now it's being sold for $35 plus shipping and handling. Handling is $4 and shipping for me was $6, but you can request essential oil samples with each order, and the samples are extremely generous, so they off set the cost of shipping and handling fee). You can also try England's Amazon site, and can get it for cheaper (though you'd have to wait longer to receive the book). I do not recommend getting it from the U.S. Amazon site since people were selling it for ridiculous prices there, but sometimes someone will sell it for a decent price, so it's still worth a look. NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy) presently sells it for $30, but I haven't bought from NAHA before so can't comment on their shipping (I could not find any information on their shipping costs on their site).
Nature's Gift is also currently selling this book for $30 (sale price). It is a great price and now I am wishing I had known that they were going to reorder them (they hadn't carried this book in a while).

For Carrier Oils, I got mine at Amazon for an awesome price a couple months ago (about $25). The thing about Amazon, you have to wait for a decent price. Currently, there's this one British company (called the_book_depository) that sells it from time to time on the U.S. Amazon site for $25-34, and the other times other sellers charge anywhere from $50 to over $100 for it. This company ships fast so I got my copy in a few days. You can also try the British Amazon site, but may have to wait up to 2 weeks for it to ship. According to the British Amazon site, there is a fourth edition that was released a couple months ago but it is listed as unavailable, so I am not sure if this actually came out or not.

Other suggestions: If you can't get your hands on these books (either by buying them or from your local inter-library loan :)) I highly suggest reading the profiles that many vendors list online. Good companies include Mountain Rose Herbs, Nature's Gift, From Nature With Love, and also Garden of Wisdom's site has a little information on it as well (and you can always ask me or everyone :) on the forum about a particular oil if you have a question)

What is the shelf life of carrier oils/butters, such as camellia oil, shea butter, and coconut oil? And how do I store them?

Carrier oils last 6 months to 3 years, depending on the oil. Camellia: I'd say about a year, maybe longer. Shea butter: 1-2 years. Coconut: 2 to 3 years. But shelf life is just an estimate. For example I've had rosehip seed oil last for 3 times as long as the expected shelf life, and I've had coconut oil go rancid on me after 1 and 1/2 years, so if the oils smell rancid (like stale nuts or french fries), toss them out.

I highly recommend not storing any natural product in the bathroom. It is too humid and warm and will greatly shorten shelf life. Refrigerating oils and butters can (in some cases) double shelf life (from personal experience, refrigerating my oils has tripled shelf life for some oils).

I usually keep all my oils and butters in the fridge, and just put a little in a glass container for daily use.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts 09-13-07

Edited a bit for clarity:

A few things I've been crafting recently :)

Hair tonic:
While I was in Philly, I finally strained the herbal hair tonics I made for my sister (made with fresh herbs like sage from her wonderful garden) and added a blend of various essential oils that are good for hair (such as rosemary). I hope she likes it! :)

Cream:I ran out of cream a while back so just made a new batch. I formulated and crafted a new recipe but I think I added too much shea or wax so it's a bit slick on the skin but the strange thing is that it's thin! I guess next time I won't try to craft a cream from memory, LOL! :) (need to look at previous recipes for the right wax proportions)

I'm still thinking of/working on a preservative system for lotions (for a shelf life of at least 6 months, if not longer). There are a lot of problems with trying to formulate a completely natural preservative system, namely that all natural or nearly all natural lotions have a much reduced shelf life compared to conventionally preserved products, and also the most effective natural preservatives are very fragrant or contain alcohol (a problem for those with sensitive skin).

Serums:I am still working on serums for my line. I just received many new carrier oils (thanks Markey!). I now have close to 60 carrier oils to work with, and still need to finish figuring out which oils work for which skin type. The problem is that many of these oils are new to the market (either newly available on a wider scale, newly available to the retail market, or totally new) so there is not much information on these oils in books (so most of my research is based on my own observations on how they react on the skin and also sometimes from online vendors). When I first started crafting and using natural skin care, I thought that no carrier oils worked for my skin--I went through nearly a dozen of the most popular, basic ones before I found a few that worked. Nowadays, with the range of carrier oils on the online market, it is easy to find something that works! I am having so much fun crafting serums for different skin types!

Perfume and Aromatherapy Blends:I've been working on a jasmine perfume for a while and I think it is almost perfect. Crafting an aromatherapy perfume is different than crafting a simple aromatherapy blend, since you need to pay special attention to top, middle, and base notes, and how each essential oils melds with the other (and a perfume, of course, is typically at a much higher concentration). When I craft aromatherapy blends, I just craft whatever I think would go well together, and don't pay too much attention to whether I have all three notes in a blend. They smell lovely but they aren't really technically perfumes (though I admit I do wear single or simple blends as my scent sometimes ;P ). I am still kind of an amateur at crafting perfumes but I am proud of how my jasmine perfume is coming along.

I made an aromatherapy blend for a family friend during one of my out of town trips; it did have a top, middle, and base note but only had 3 essential oils, and I made it at a perfume concentration (so I guess it was kind of like a hybrid!). Very simple but lovely blend.

In general, I've been doing a lot of research on ingredients and how to run a business, and (of course) crafting like mad. I've been crafting most of my own skin care/aromatherapy products and remedies for a long while (about seven years now), but there is so much to consider before starting a business, that most people never think about. One thing is for sure, I will never again complain about the prices that some vendors sell their goods at, since I'm beginning to discover there are so many hidden costs in running a business!

Monday, September 03, 2007

All Natural Beauty website/Jeanne Rose chat (Aromatherapy/Herbalism/All Natural Cosmetics information)

This Wednesday, Sept 5th, the All Natural Beauty Website will host a web chat with Jeanne Rose. Jeanne Rose is one of the pioneers in both herbalism and aromatherapy, and is one of my favorite aromatherapy/herbalism/all natural skin and hair care/cosmetics/beauty authors. The chat will take place at 2 pm (EST) on All Natural Beauty's delphi forum. If you are not a member of delphi, it is very easy to sign up, and after you sign up you'll have access to all of delphi's forums (including the forum I help moderate: Garden of Wisdom). Personally I can not wait until Wednesday and am very excited and hope that I don't miss it! Thanks Jeanne Rose and Sharon! (Sharon is the owner of the All Natural Beauty Website, All Natural Beauty Portal, All Natural Beauty forum, and Shar Ambrosia/All Natural Spa store)

The ANB website and ANB Portal have many great articles on all natural beauty products and ingredients (including articles and recipes written by Jeanne Rose, and, on ANB portal, a couple of my own recipes :) ) and links to many (truly) all natural cosmetics. Shar Ambrosia sells many great spa products as well. The ANB forum is a great place to ask questions and is one of my favorite forums to visit :)

Jeanne Rose's site is an awesome resource for anyone interested in herbalism and aromatherapy. It is a gold mine for articles in those fields. Her books are among the first I reach for when deciding upon essential oils for cosmetic and medicinal uses (her profiles/tables of essential oils, herbs, and hydrosols are among the best out there). She is the person who coined the term 'hydrosol'. So if you have a question about herbs, essential oils, hydrosols, and other natural ingredients, join the chat! :)