Saturday, February 7, 2009

Classic Herbal Aftershave

Here's an easy-to-make herbal aftershave with a classic spicy scent.

Tools

  • measuring cups/spoons
  • small jar with tight-fitting lid
  • small strainer or coffee filter
  • bottle for finished product

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 tablespoons rum (may substitute witch hazel)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
  • zest from one small orange
  • drop or two grapefuit or cypress essential oil (optional)

Directions

  • Simply mix the ingredients together.
  • Pour the liquid into a jar and seal it.
  • Leave the jar in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.
  • Strain the liquid and pour it into a clean bottle.
  • To use: Splash a small amount onto the face following shaving.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Free Natural Beauty & Health Projects

As I mentioned in my last post, I started adding groups of tutorials over at Squidoo. I like the pages there because I can list several related recipes or instructions on one page so you can scan for the information you need. Here's a look at what I have so far:


Lip Gloss Recipes

How to Make Perfume

Make Your Own Shampoo

Make Your Own Conditioner

Head Lice Treatments that Really Work

Make Your Own Toothpaste

Bach Flower Remedies

Portuguese Man of War Sting First Aid

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lip Gloss Recipes (and Diaper Ointment)

When I wrote for All Info About, I had a long list of natural lip balm, lip stain, and lip gloss recipes. As much as I love Blogger, it's not the greatest venue for posting recipes, so I started a page over at Squidoo that lists different types of lip gloss recipes. The recipe for a general lip gloss is good for more than your lips though. When my oldest son was born, that balm was a lifesaver as a diaper ointment. It protected his bottom and was (apparently) soothing when he did get a rash. When you think about it, a product that protects and soothes chapped lips is good for other sensitive skin, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Remove Moles with Bloodroot

Bloodroot for Skin Conditions

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) paste is a folk remedy used by native North Americans that has been documented as effective for removing moles, warts, and skin tags. When I say 'documented' I mean there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the plant removes these conditions, but I didn't see peer-reviewed studies regarding the effectiveness, safety, or permanence of the treatment. That seems fairly typical for folk remedies, in part because there is no way to standardize the treatment.

The sap from the plant resembles blood. The dried root produces a paste that is gritty and reddish. Bloodroot contains a high level of chemicals called alkaloids. Examples of alkaloids you may be familiar with include caffeine from coffee and salicylic acid from willow bark (precursor of aspirin). While some alkaloids are healthful, some are extremely toxic.

Removing Moles with Bloodroot

After reading about bloodroot, I decided to try it out for myself in a very uncontrolled experiment. Basically, the treatment for moles is to cover the affected area with a damp paste or poultice of bloodroot (sometimes other ingredients are found in commercial preparations), cover the mole/wart/skin tag with a bandage, and let nature take its course. I read the speed of the treatment could be increased by exfoliating the skin with a pumice stone or by scratching it with a sterile needle.

I chose three moles, including two that were raised, and tried it out. The preparation is pretty unattractive, drying to a dark reddish brown, so if you plan to address a skin condition on your face, be aware of this. For two of the moles, I felt a mild burning sensation after applying the poultice. It wasn't unbearable or distracting. After a day, the moles had formed scabs. There was redness in the region surrounding two of the moles as well. For one test area, a scab formed over the entire area that had contacted the poultice, not just the mole.

I read some people think the treatment should be discontinued and the skin allowed to heal as soon as a scab has formed. Others recommend applying the poultice for another day or longer. Several sources say it may take up to 30 days for a mole to be removed. I took the minimalist route and discontinued applying bloodroot as soon as a scab had formed. In my case, two of the moles basically fell off after 48 hours. Both healed with a lightened area around the area where the mole had been. One mole returned, the other did not. The third mole did not form a scab after a day, and I had discontinued treatment to see how the other two would end up.

Does Bloodroot Work?

I think there is some trial-and-error involved in the bloodroot treatment, but I also think it may be a viable alternative to cryotherapy or other surgical techniques to remove a skin condition. In my opinion, it's definitely worth trying, both because it's relatively inexpensive and because you may successfully remove the condition without scarring. On the other hand, I would advise anyone considering trying bloodroot to expect burning and irritation, to realize there is a risk of infection with any treatment (surgical or non-invasive), and that scar formation is a possibility (again, with any treatment), plus there may be reactions to the substances in the plant, including an allergic reaction.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Natural High Blood Pressure Remedies

What Is Hypertension?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure exerted on the body's blood vessels is higher than normal. Normal blood pressure is usually accepted to be a systolic pressure below 140 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure below 90 mm Hg, depending on age (blood pressure is stated with systolic first and diastolic second, such as '120/80' is a systolic of 120 and a diastolic of 80). The systolic pressure is the force applied when the heart beats, while the diastolic pressure is the resting pressure maintained in the blood vessels between contractions of the heart.

Why Is Management Important?

High blood pressure causes exessive force to be exerted against the walls of the blood vessels. Over time, this can permanently reduce the elasticity of the vessels and make them more susceptible to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Even over a short duration, high blood pressure increases the risk of rupturing one or more vessels, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

In 85-90% of cases, a physician will be unable to determine an underlying cause for high blood pressure. This type of high blood pressure is termed essential hypertension or primary hypertension. In secondary hypertension, high blood pressure results from a known condition, such as kidney disease, hormonal imbalance, thyroid disease, excessive alcohol intake, or use of certain drugs including oral contraceptives, licorice, and corticosteroids. Essential hypertension probably results from a combination of factors more than from any one cause. Heredity is known to have an effect, as do diet, high cholesterol levels, stress, atherosclerosis, obesity, and diabetes. There is also some evidence that exposure to heavy metals (e.g., lead, mercury, cadmium) can promote high blood pressure.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure tends to be asymptomatic until it reaches severe levels. Some of the warning signs of excessive or prolonged hypertension are:
  • dizziness
  • nervousness headache
  • flushed face
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • difficulty breathing
  • nose bleed
  • emotional instability
  • intestinal discomfort
Ultimately, the following problems may result from hypertension:
  • kidney failure
  • heart attack
  • stroke

Diagnosing Hypertension

Hypertension isn't diagnosed based on a single high blood pressure measurement. Instead, higher than normal blood pressure needs to be demonstrated over multiple measurements. Causes for the high measurement need to be ruled out. Urine tests, blood tests, and eye exams may be used to help identify the cause of the high blood pressure and to assess tissue damage that may have already occurred.

Natural Hypertension Treatments

  • Diet

    The body requires sufficient calcium, magnesium, and potassium for blood pressure control. Also important is a balance of electrolytes, so the intake of sodium chloride in relationship to calcium, magnesium, and potassium is also important. This is why some physicians recommend limiting salt for persons with hypertension. Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheese, yogurt, fish with bones, greens (e.g., collards, kale), oysters, and molasses. Foods containing magnesium include nuts, rice, bananas, soy, potatoes, wheat germ, kidney beans, lima beans, and molasses.Potassium is found in bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, asparagus, avocados, honeydew melon, grapefruit, nectarines, oranges, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, green peas, and potatoes. As you can see, some foods contain more than one of these essential nutrients (e.g., molasses, bananas, potatoes). Supplementation with minerals may be helpful if these elements are not obtained through the diet or if medications are used or other conditions exist which interfere with absorption of the elements.

  • Exercise

    If you haven't started exercising, consult with your physician first. Exercise confers many health benefits that can aid in the management and reduction of high blood pressure. Exercise improves circulation, reduces stress, decreases the resting heart rate (a sign of good cardiac health), helps maintain elasticity of blood vessels, and lowers blood pressure.

  • Watch Your Weight

    While being underweight or overweight has an association with cardiac health, the relationship between weight and blood pressure is less clear. Obesity may contribute to high blood pressure, especially in people with a genetic predisposition to hypertension.

  • Don't Smoke

    If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start. Smoking can elevate blood pressure, in addition to reducing the effectiveness of the pulmonary and circulatory systems in other ways.

  • Don't Overindulge with Alcohol

    If you drink, try to limit your alcohol intake to no more than 2 beers, 2 glasses of wine, or 2 ounces of liquor daily. Moderate alcohol use has been linked in some studies to a decrease in heart disease, yet chronic moderate alcohol use is also strongly associated with an increase in blood pressure.

  • Stress Management

    Numerous studies have shown that stress management helps manage blood pressure. Techniques to help manage stress include biofeedback, tai chi, yoga, meditation, qigong, relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, and hypnotherapy.

  • Supplemental Garlic

    Use of supplemental garlic tends to lower blood pressure ~5 to 10%. In addition, garlic can also lower cholesterol, reduce triglyceride levels, increase circulation, and inhibit clot formation. A typical dose of garlic is 900 mg of garlic powder per day, standardized to contain 1.3% alliin (12,000 mcg of alliin per day). Garlic thins the blood, so it should not be combined with prescription (e.g., warfarin, pentoxifylline) or natural (e.g., gingko, vitamin E) blood-thinners. It is usually recommended to stop taking garlic weeks prior to and following surgery.

  • Supplemental Hawthorn

    The flowers and berries of the hawthorn plant (Crataegus oxycantha) are used to reduce blood pressure, increase the strength of heart contractions, increase circulation to the heart muscle, and slow the heart rate. The herb generally supports the heart, increases intracellular vitamin C levels, and acts as a mild sedative. Therefore, hawthorn tends to be used for mild cases of hypertension. It is more commonly used to treat coronary artery disease, as it dilates the coronary vessels (those serving the heart). A typical dose of hawthorn is 100 to 300 mg three times a day of a dose standardized to contain about 2 to 3% flavonoids or 18 to 20% procyanidins. Alternatively, a tea may be made using one teaspoon of dried hawthorn herb to one cup of boiling water, administered at the rate of up to two cups per day.Several weeks or months are required for the full effects of hawthorn supplementation to become manifest.

  • Supplemental Vitamin E

    Supplements of vitamin E appear to be effective in helping to manage some cases of mild hypertension. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which may reduce blood pressure by binding to nitric acid in the blood, which has the effect of dilating the blood vessels and decreasing pressure. Other antioxidants may offer similar protection, such as vitamin C. Vitamin E also protects blood vessels from oxidation and damage, so it may deter some of the negative effects of hypertension as well as help alleviate the condition.

  • Supplemental Coenzyme Q10

    Coenzyme Q10, also called ubiquinone or simply Co Q10, is an antioxidant that is synthesized by the body and is obtained in the diet from fish and meat. Deficiency is believed to be associated with a problem in enzyme synthesis and not with diet. Adult levels of supplementation are often 30–90 mg per day, although most of the research on heart conditions involved 90–150 mg of CoQ10 per day. One double blind, placebo-controlled study of 59 men who were taking blood pressure medication found that 120 mg of Co Q10 taken daily for eight weeks reduced blood pressure by ~9%, as compared to placebo. A typical dose of Co Q10 is 30 to 100 mg three times a day. Coenzyme Q regularizes heart rhythm in addition to lowering blood pressure, in part by reducing blood viscosity. Co Q10 may react with or dimish the effectiveness of certain prescription medications.

  • Ayurvedic Medicine

    Avurveda treats hypertension according to a person’s dosha, or constitutional type. High blood pressure is associated more with pitta and kapha types than with vata types. Ayurvedic treatments for hypertension may include use of the herbs sankhapuspi (Convolvulus pluricaulis) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a diet low in salt and fat, and yoga focusing on breathing.

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine

    Traditional Chinese medicine associates high blood pressure with problems in circulating the body's qi or energy. For essential hypertension, a combination of acupuncture and herbs may be recommended to balance energy flow, improve diet, and restore emotional balance. Secondary high blood pressure is believed to be due to exhaustion of energy reserves called kidney yin deficiency. The treatment regimen involves rebuilding and maintaining the body's energy. Seek the care of a physician trained in traditional Chinese medicine to explore these treatment options. Here are the ingredients for two common herbal formulas used to treat hypertension:

    Siler and Platycodon Formula (Sang-Feng-Tung-Shen-San):
    Indicated for hypertension accompanied by constipation and obesity.

    • Siler root 3.0 g
    • Talc 3.0 g
    • Skullcap root 2.0 g
    • Licorice root 2.0 g
    • Gypsum 2.0 g
    • Platycodon root (balloon flower) 2.0 g
    • Paichu (White atractylodes rhizome) 2.0 g
    • Rhubarb rhizome 1.5 g
    • Nitrous sulfate 1.5 g
    • Chinese angelica root 1.2 g
    • Ma-Huang (Ephedra) 1.2 g
    • Cnidium 1.2 g
    • Peony root 1.2 g
    • Gardenia fruit 1.2 g
    • Ginger 1.2 g
    • Field mint 1.2 g
    • Forsythia fruit 1.2 g
    • Chinchieh herb (Schizonepeta) 1.2 g

    Rehmannia Formula:
    Most commonly used for older people with hypertension, fatigue, and nephritis or kidney atrophy or nephritis.

    • Chinese foxglove (rehmmania) 8.0 g
    • Yam (dioscorea) 4.0 g
    • Cornus 4.0 g
    • Hoelen 3.0 g
    • Tree peony bark 3.0 g
    • Aconite root 1.0 g
    • Cinnamon bark 1.0 g
    The ingredients in the traditional Chinese formulations are potent and not without potentially dangerous side effects: do not use them except under the advice and care of a physician.

Natural Earache Oil

This easy-to-make herbal oil makes use of the antibacterial properties of garlic and the bacteriostatic properties of mullein to help prevent earaches and to ease the irritation and wax buildup that can accompany them. The formula is safe for children and adults. It should not be used in cases where the eardrum has ruptured. Always consult your healthcare practitioner for severe ear infections.

Tools

  • measuring cups/spoons
  • clean jar with lid
  • blender (optional)
  • strainer or coffee filter
  • dropper
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh clove of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh or dried mullein flower
  • approximately 1/2 cup (118 ml) of olive oil or almond oil
Directions
  • Crush the garlic clove and break up the mullein flowers. (This could be done in a blender with the oil)
  • Cover the garlic and mullein with oil and blend well.
  • Pour the mixture into a clean jar and seal the jar.
  • Store the jar away from light and heat. Shake the jar daily. The herbs need to be kept submerged under the oil (prevents spoilage), so add more oil as necessary.
  • After 2 weeks, strain the mixture. Discard the herbs. Store the oil in the refrigerator.
  • Use the oil by placing 2-3 drops of the oil into the ear canal. Allow the head to tilt back so that the oil can more easily flow down the ear canal. Massage the back of the ear to help disperse the oil through the ear canal. Repeat as needed.

Natural Cold Remedies

The common cold is the result of a viral infection. The average person catches 2-4 colds a year. While there is no definitive cure for the common cold, there are natural remedies you can take to boost your immune system so you are better able to resist catching a cold. If you catch a cold, there are natural options to reduce its duration and severity.


  • Zinc

    Zinc is believed to reduce the length and severity of a cold, if taken when symptoms first appear. Zinc isn't recommended for long-term supplementation because excess zinc can impair the body's ability to absorb another important metal, copper.


  • Vitamin C

    While present research does not indicate that vitamin C helps prevent getting a cold, it seems to be effective at lessening the severity and duration of cold symptoms. Also, having sufficient vitamin C can help increase resistance against infections in general (supplemental doses don't appear to improve this effect).


  • Astragulus

    Astragulus root has antiviral properties and can help boost the immune system. Astragulus may help protect against getting a cold, but probably won't be helpful once you have a cold. Astragulus is most commonly seen in capsule, tea, or extract form.


  • Honey

    Honey is used to calm coughing and soothe a sore throat. It is believed to work by coating the throat, to ease the irritation. Honey also contains antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Honey is a popular remedy for children, though it shouldn't be given to children younger than one year of age because of the risk of botulism poisoning.


  • Ginger

    Ginger is a traditional remedy for the coughing and sore throat that can accompany a cold. One of the most popular ways to take ginger is as hot ginger tea, sometimes with honey and lemon. Normal amounts of ginger, as would be found in foods, are tolerated by most people, but you should avoid taking ginger in supplemental quantities if you have gallstones, are taking blood-thinning medications, or will be undergoing surgery.


  • Echinacea

    Echinaecea is taken when cold symptoms first appear. A typical dose would be to take echinacea every two to three hours with a total daily dose of three grams per day for several days. Present research does not indicate the herb statistically reduces the duration or severity of a cold, but it remains a popular remedy.


  • Eucalyptus

    A steam inhalation containing eucalyptus can help thin mucous and provide temporary relief for a sore throat and congestion that can accompany a cold.


  • Garlic

    Garlic has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is mainly taken to boost the immune system to help a person resist getting the cold or flu, though it can help prevent secondary infections if you catch a cold. Raw garlic is considered to be much more effective than cooked or dried garlic.


  • Elderberry

    Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a popular home remedy for sinus infection, colds, and the flu. Elderberry juice has antiviral properties. Elderberry is available as juice, syrup, and in capsules. Only the berries from the plant are edible. Other parts of the plant (including the unripe berries) contain cyanide and are toxic.


  • Ginseng

    The type of ginseng grown in North America (Panax quinquefolius) may help protect you from catching a cold or the flu and may reduce its duration and severity if you contract it. However, ginseng interacts with many other medications, so if you are taking an over-the-counter or prescription drug, it's best to consult your medical professional before trying this remedy.