Lotus {Nelumbo nucifera}

ALSO, KNOWN AS:

  • Bean of India
  • Indian Lotus
  • Lotus
  • Sacred Lotus
  • Sacred Water Lotus

The aquatic plant family Nelumbonaceae comprises two species and one of them is Nelumbo nucifera. Currently, the recognized name of this species is Linnaean binomial Nelumbo nucifera, which is classified under its several earlier names, including Nymphaea nelumbo and Nelumbium speciosum. This is a perennially growing aquatic plant. When the conditions are favorable, the seeds of this plant continue to be viable for numerous years. It is amazing to note that the oldest seeds of lotus that germinated successfully are those that were 1,300 years old and picked up from the dry bed of a lake located in the north-eastern part of China.

There are several instances where the lotus has wrongly been referred to as the water lily (belonging to plant family Nymphaea), a completely dissimilar plant that is evident from the flower’s center that does not have the structure that later on develops into a characteristically rounded seed pod in the case of Nelumbo nucifera (water lotus).

The roots of the lotus plant are firmly set in the mud or wet dirt and it gives out elongated stems. The leaves of the plant are attached to these long stems. While the lotus flowers are at all times found above the surface of the water, sometimes even the leaves can be seen floating on the water. The flowers are large, gorgeous and aromatic and they open in the morning. By the afternoon, the petals begin to fall.

As mentioned earlier, the lotus roots remain planted in the mud under the ponds or the river bed. The leaves are found floating on the surface of the water along with the flowers. Generally, the flowers grow on thick stems that raise a number of centimeters higher than the leaves. Normally, the lotus plant grows up to a height of roughly 150 cm and extends up to a maximum area of 3 meters horizontally. However, a number of reports, which have not been verified, state that the plant grows up to a height of more than 5 meters. The leaves of the lotus plant are circular in shape and very large, often growing up to 60 cm (two feet) in diameter. The attractive flowers usually measure 20 cm across.

The fruits of the lotus plants are cone-shaped pods and they enclosed seeds inside the holes found in these pods. It is worth mentioning here that the term ‘Nucifera’ denotes ‘having hard fruit’. When the lotus seeds become mature they become loose inside the pods. Subsequently, the pod tips downwards to the water and releases the seeds on the water surface.

PLANT PARTS USED:

Flowers, leaves, roots, seed, stem.

SACRED, THERAPEUTIC USE:

Ritan Park
Ritan Park

The water lotus is considered to be a sacred plant in the Orient and, for more than 1,500 years, it has been used in the form of a therapeutic herb. This aquatic plant is extremely versatile and all its parts are used for various purposes. The plant is astringent, febrifuge, cardiotonic, stomachic, resolvent, tonic, styptic and also a vasodilator. The juice extracted from the water lotus plant is used for treating diarrhea. In addition, a decoction of the leaf juice with licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.) is used for treating sunstroke. In addition, a decoction prepared from the lotus flowers is employed to treat premature ejaculation (PE).

Herbal medicine practitioners often recommend the use of lotus flowers in the form of a cardiac tonic. The floral receptacle too is used to prepare a decoction, which is used for treating bloody discharges, abdominal cramps, and other conditions. The stalks of the flowers possess hemostatic (a medicine that stops bleeding) attributes and are generally used to treat conditions like excessive menstruation, bleeding gastric ulcers and post-partum hemorrhage. The stamens of the lotus are used to treat frequent urination, epistasis, premature ejaculation, uterine bleeding, and hemolysis. The fruits are used to prepare a decoction, which is employed to treat fever, agitation, problems related to the heart and other conditions.

The lotus seeds enclose several therapeutically active elements, which include alkaloids as well as flavonoids. The seeds are sedative, hypotensive as well as a vasodilator. It has been found that the lotus seeds help to lower the levels of blood cholesterol as well as unwind the smooth muscles present in the uterus. The seeds are used to treat enteritis, poor digest, diarrhea, insomnia, spermatorrhoea, palpitations, leucorrhoea and other health conditions. The radicle and plume of the lotus plant are used for treating intense thirst that accompanies diseases with high fever, restiveness, and hypertension. The root possesses tonic properties and the root starch of this aquatic plant is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, and other conditions. It is used to prepare a paste with water and applied directly to ringworm as well as different skin problems. In addition, the root starch is also used internally for treating hemorrhages, nosebleeds, and excessive menstrual flow.

The roots of the lotus plant are harvested either during the autumn or in winter and dried out for use when necessary. The nodes of the roots are used for treating hemoptysis, nosebleeds, the uterus’ functional bleeding and hematuria. In folk history, the plant also has a reputation for having the aptitude to treat cancer. In recent times, scientists have successfully isolated specific compounds from the lotus plant that reveal its anti-cancer actions.

Lotus

Believe it or not, the water lotus is the most famous and admired flowers throughout the world. Since time immemorial, the lotus flower has been raved about in religion, folklore as well as the arts either in one way or the other. In addition to the flower’s magnificent exquisiteness, the lotus is considered to be sacred owing to its ability to produce spiritual effects. The mature seeds of this aquatic plant have a healthy influence on people suffering from menorrhea, Neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion) and spermatorrhea. A decoction prepared with the plant’s leaves as well as the seed cores is helpful in treating hemorrhage and insomnia. In addition, several parts of the plant, including the tender leaves, flowers, seeds and rhizomes are safe for human consumption. The rhizomes form the basis of a lotus meal that contains elevated levels of starch. Often, the rhizome was smoked or used to prepare a tea that people believed would bring about a joyful feeling that seeped into the body as well as the mind. The big, circular leaves of lotus, which often measure two feet across, are used for wrapping food. The stamens, which are the male organs of any flower, may be dried out and later used to prepare an aromatic herbal tea in the same manner as we prepared tea with the dried leaves of different herbs.

The seeds, which are often referred to as nuts, are also used in a variety of ways. They can be consumed fresh or dried out and popped as popcorn – the little kernels of the corn explode when heated. Alternatively, you may also boil the seeds till they become soft and make a paste with them. In fact, this paste is generally combined with sugar and is used as a familiar ingredient in pastries like daifuku, moon-cakes, pudding, flour (the finely powdered food that is obtained by pulverizing and sieving any cereal grain), and rice (the grains that are utilized in the form of food, both polished as well as unpolished). The leaves, as well as the rhizomes of the lotus plants, are also used in combination with different herbs for treating several health conditions like fever, sunstroke, dysentery, diarrhea, blood vomiting and light-headed. The entire lotus plant is also used in the form of a remedy for mushroom poisoning.

CULINARY USE

The seeds of the lotus plant can be consumed in various ways – fresh and uncooked or ripened and cooked. The seeds form a well-liked ingredient in desserts, such as ‘cheng thing’, which are prepared locally. The rhizome of the plant is also edible. The rhizomes are elongated and have the shape of sausages with their central portion being hollow. In fact, they are connected in the same manner as sausages using a string and boiled in soups, used to make pickles or even candied for use as desserts. Even the petioles, as well as the tender roots of this aquatic plant, are consumed. This plant bears large circular leaves which are often used to wrap different foods, especially a preparation called lotus rice. It is worth mentioning here that people in China have been cultivating this plant since ages – probably from the 12th century B.C.

Precisely speaking, almost all the parts of the lotus plant, including its rhizomes (roots), flowers, tender leaves as well as the seeds are edible. People in Asia occasionally use the petals for garnishing purpose, whereas the large spherical leaves are used to wrap foods like zongzi. Although usually the leaves are not consumed, the tender leaves, petals, and rhizome may be eaten uncooked. However, consuming them raw may often result in transmission of parasites like Fasciolopsis buski. Hence, it is advisable that one should essentially cook these before consuming.

The rootlets of the lotus plant are regularly used to make pickles along with rice, sugar, vinegar, garlic and/ or chili. The texture of this preparation is crunchy and it tastes sweet-tangy. The rootlets are also popular in various Asian cuisines and well-liked with prawns, salads, coriander leaves and/ or sesame oil.

Even the stamens of the lotus flower can be dried out and use to prepare an aromatic herbal tea, which the Chinese call liánhuā cha. In Vietnam, people often use the dried lotus stamens to add essence and aroma to tea leaves. The lotus tea prepared by people in Vietnam is known as chè ướp sen, chè sen, or trà sen. The seeds or nuts of the lotus plant can also be used for several purposes. They can be consumed raw and also popped as popcorn – the popcorn from lotus seeds is called Phool makhana. In addition, you can also boil the seeds/ nuts till they become soft and make a paste or boil them with dried out longans plus rock sugar to prepare a sweet soup called tong Sui.

People residing in the southern part of India slice the lotus stem, marinate it using salt and allow them to dry. Later, they fry these dried lotus stem slices and use them in the form of a side dish. People in south Indian states Tamil Nadu and Kerala called the fried lotus stem slices ‘Thamara Vishal’.

In Vietnam, people use the bitter-flavored lotus seed germs to prepare a tisane called trà time sen.

It is interesting to note that only people residing in the Inle lake area in the Union of Myanmar use the fibers of the lotus plant to make an exceptional fabric, which is used to weave unique dressing robes for the images of Buddha. These robes are known as lotus robe or kya thing an.

CRAFT USE

The seeds of lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) are also used for craft purposes. Typically, the dried out seed heads of lotus have an appearance similar to that of the watering cans sprouts. They are sold across the globe for the purpose of decorating and also used in dried flower arrangements.

HABITAT OF THE LOTUS:

Lotus flowerThis aquatic plant is indigenous to the regions of Asia as well as Queensland in Australia. Generally, the lotus is grown in water gardens. Significantly, the lotus is also the national flower of two Asian countries – India and Vietnam.

Commercial cultivation of lotus requires a very fertile loamy soil. The plant grows well when cultivated in 2.5-meter deep water. However, if you are cultivating the plant in places having cooler climatic conditions, it is necessary to grow it in less deep water, but never less than 30 cm in depth. Growing the plant in shallower water will help to warm up the plants more rapidly and, at the same time, promote superior growth as well as flowering. The lotus plant thrives best in water having temperature levels ranging from 23°C to 27°C during its growing season, which extends for five months. These plants do not like any disturbance to their roots and need to be transplanted directly into the stable positions at the earliest.

When the plants are well established, they may often turn out to be invasive, especially when they are being cultivated in appropriate conditions. The lotus is an extremely ornamental plant and a number of its named varieties has been developed for edible purposes. Commonly, the variety producing pink flowers is preferred as its seeds are best for consumption. On the other hand, the roots of the varieties producing white flowers are said to be best for consumption. The aroma of lotus flowers is sweet and fruit-like. In India, the lotus is considered to be a sacred plant and the flowers are used in various religious ceremonies. In the Orient, the lotus is often cultivated for its edible properties.

The lotus plant is mostly propagated by its seeds, which need to be filed across their center, being extremely careful so that you do not cause any harm to the seeds’ flesh. Prior to sowing, the seeds need to be soaked in tepid water and it is essential to change the water two times every day till they show indications of germination. Usually, the seeds start germinating within three to four weeks of soaking in warm water, provided they are maintained at 25°C. The new seedlings should be planted in separate containers, initially in very shallow water, but the level of water should be increased depending on the growth of the plant.

The lotus plant can also be propagated by root division, which should be ideally undertaken during the spring when the growing season of the plants begins. It is advisable that you need to be extremely careful while propagating the lotus plants through this method, as these plants extremely loathe any kind of disturbance to their roots.

CONSTITUENTS:

Chemical analysis of the lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) rhizome has revealed that it encloses several alkaloids. The leaves of this aquatic plant also enclose alkaloids luciferin, nerenyuferin, and romerin. The dried out seeds of the lotus plant enclose 66.6 percent carbohydrate, 17.2 percent protein, and 2.4 percent fats. In addition, the herb also contains calcium, sugar, iron, and phosphorus. The stem of this herb lies underground and contains 83.8 percent moisture, 9.25 percent starch, 2.7 percent protein, 0.41 percent sucrose and 0.11 percent fats. Besides these, it also contains a number of vitamins – vitamins Band C.

It has been found that the roots of the lotus plant contain elevated amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese. They also contain little amounts of saturated fats.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS AND PRECAUTIONS:

When consumed in standard doses, this herb does not have any toxic effect. However, like any other herb, consuming it in excess may result in health problems.

A Few Soothing And Nurturing Skin Care Recipes To Tempt You!

Soothing Massage Oil.

1/2 cup safflower or sunflower oil

Dried pot marigold petals

12 drops essential oil of rose geranium

12 drops essential oil of lavender

10 drops essential pine oil or oil of cypress

Place the safflower oil in a glass jar and add as many freshly dried pot marigold petals as possible.

Cap the bottle and place in the sun for 4-5 days. Filter off the petals and squeeze out any retained oil from them before discarding. The oil will now be deep orange and fully charged with the active healing principles of calendula. Mix the other essential oils into the infused oil of marigold, bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Soothing Foot Bath.

This relaxing foot soak will work wonders for your entire body.

Use a large dishpan or kiddie tub if you don’t have a special foot tub.

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 drops lavender essential oil

1 drop rosemary essential oil

1 drop bay essential oil

1 drop geranium essential oil

Rose petals {optional}

1. Fill the soaking pan or tub with enough warm water to cover the feet.

2. Stir in the sea salt until it dissolves. Use your toes to stir, if you wish. Add the essential oils, mixing them well. Float rose petals on the surface.

3. Soak your feet in the basin for 10 minutes, or until the water has cooled off. Pat your feet dry with a towel.

Eucalyptus Foot Lotion.

Use this rich and refreshing foot lotion to follow the *Soothing Foot Bath, or simply to salve sore feet.

1 tablespoon almond oil

1 teaspoon avocado oil

1 teaspoon wheat germ oil

10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

1. Put all the ingredients in a small, sterilized glass bottle with a tight-fitting stopper. Shake the liquid vigorously until it is completely combined.

2. Store the bottle in a cool, dark place. Shake well before using.

Love Your Feet Cream.

Our feet take a lot of abuse.
Here’s a special treatment to apply to dry, cracked feet that will leave them soft and pretty and costs less than a visit to the salon for a pedicure.
1 ounce grated or shaved beeswax
3/4 cup almond oil
1. Place the beeswax and almond oil in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir together until they are blended and the wax has melted. Remove from heat and pour into two 4-ounce sterilized containers with tight tops.
2. Allow mixture to cool before applying to feet. Spread on feet at night before bedtime. Wear a pair of clean cotton socks over the cream. In the morning, your feet will be much softer.

Leg Massage Cream.

Treat yourself to a massage from your knees to your toes with this easy-to-make cream especially for the legs.
3 tablespoons anhydrous {water-free} lanolin
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apricot oil
1. Put all the ingredients together in the nonreactive top of a double boiler over simmering water. Heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the lanolin has liquefied.
2. Pour the mixture into a sterilized 4-ounce jar with a tight-fitting lid and allow to cool. Keep in a cool, dark place.

Strawberry Foot Scrub.

Can’t get to the spa for a luxury treatment for those tired feet?
Work this simple and sweetly scented natural scrub into your feet and feel like a queen.
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 fresh strawberries
1. Pour salt into a mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir to combine. Remove caps from strawberries and slice or chop them. Add strawberries to the salt and oil mixture and mash with a potato masher or fork. The resulting mixture should be chunky but well blended.
2. Rub this mixture onto your feet, massaging the balls of the feet and the heels. If desired, use a body puff or foot brush. Rinse off and coat feet with a gentle lotion.
Makes enough for one treatment.

Inspiration for Winter Skin {Any Time of the Year}

When the weather is cold and dark, nature still provides us with seasonal herbs to help us look and feel our best. Warm, pungent cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and mace emit a comforting and delicious aroma while evergreens like juniper, fir, and cedar offer a crisp and invigorating breath of fresh air.
Here are a few recipes that incorporate these fragrant herbs.

Rosemary and Juniper Skin-Smoothing Scrub

Grapefruit, rosemary, and juniper essential oils are often used in cellulite-reducing formulas. While I certainly can’t promise that this blend of essential oils will eliminate cellulite, I will say that these herbs are reputed to improve skin tone, promote healthy circulation, and reduce water retention. Pure sea salt has a scrubbing texture that cleanses, purifies, and exfoliates dry winter skin while hazelnut oil moisturizes and tones. Hazelnut also has gentle astringent and skin-toning properties. {If you can’t find hazelnut, jojoba oil is a great substitute}.
1 cup fine sea salt
1/2 cup hazelnut oil
4 drops juniper essential oil
4 drops rosemary essential oil
6 drops grapefruit essential oil
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place in a wide-mouth plastic jar with a tight lid. To use: Rub gently all over the body. Rinse. Yield: one application.

Deep Forest Detox Bath

Before you get rid of your holiday tree or wreath, consider saving some of the needles to use in this calming bath. This formula is particularly nice if you have needles from the fragrant balsam fir greens, but the scent of most evergreens, such as fir, pine and cedarwood, are calming and helpful for detoxifying. Most of us can use a little post-holiday detox session.
1 cup sea salt
1 handful pine or fir needles {fresh or dried}
5 drops fir essential oil
5 drops cedarwood essential oil
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight plastic or glass container. To use: Tie a generous handful of this mixture into a muslin bag, square of cheesecloth, or an old, thin, washcloth. Draw a warm bath and add the herbal mixture. Soak for at least 20 minutes.

Eastern Spice Body Powder

I discovered the sweet, spicy scent of mace on a trip to my favorite spice shop. Not to be confused with the self-defense spray {originally manufactured under the name “Chemical Mace”}, the herb mace refers to a lace-like outer covering found on nutmeg seeds. It has a softer and sweeter scent than nutmeg, with a delicious hint of spice. The exotic and heady scent is well-suited to massage oils, perfumes, and bath products. Use a small, handheld coffee grinder to powder the dried mace for this recipe. {Mace adds a delicious flavor to coffee, but if you don’t want the two to mix, use a separate grinder.}
2 teaspoons dried mace, ground
1/2 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
Combine ingredients thoroughly. If you desire a little extra “spice,” add ground cinnamon powder as well. Store the powder in an airtight container. To use: I prefer using a wide-mouth tin or jar and applying the powder with a soft fabric “puff.” However, you can also use a shaker powder or even a salt or cheese shaker to store and apply the powder.

Sweet Spice Milk Bath

This was a recipe I came up with as I was cleaning out my spice cupboard to make room for a batch of fresh new baking spices. The combination of the old spices smelled so divine, I had to create this recipe, and I’ve made it many times since. You can use any combination of spices that you have, but I find this recipe works best when it relies heavily on cinnamon and cloves, with smaller amounts of the other herbs. Milk baths in the winter are soothing and moisturizing to dry, winter skin, and don’t have the mess or slipperiness of a bath oil. I use a non-fat dry milk powder in this recipe because it’s easy to find and fairly inexpensive. If you’d like to make this recipe a bit more luxurious, substitute a full-fat dried milk powder. You can usually find this in the refrigerated section of your health food store.
1/4 cup dried spices, such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and clove
2 cups dried milk powder
 Combine all ingredients; stir well. Store extra milk bath in an airtight container.
 To use: Add 1/2 cup to a tub full of warm water and soak.

Body Care Extras

Skin and hair aren’t the only pieces of your body care puzzle. Healthy and beautiful lips and nails are every bit as important to appearance, left untended, they can become quite irritated.

Chapped Lips

Rough, cracked lips not only feel uncomfortable but also look unattractive. You can protect your lips from summer’s drying heat {and winter’s wind and cold} with a soothing herbal lip balm. The balm I recommend is a good alternative to petroleum oil-based ointment sticks that can dry out your lips more than moisturize them. Indeed, many people complain that lip balm sold in stick form makes their lips even drier, and they find themselves needing more and more of it.

Herbal lip balm comes in a tasty selection of flavors, including orange, tangerine, lemon, and vanilla. If your lips are very chapped, avoid essential oils that sting, such as peppermint. Plastic lip-balm containers that snap shut can be purchased in stores that sell backpacking supplies.

Honey Lip Balm for Chapped Lips

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 ounce shaved beeswax

1 teaspoon honey

10 drops lemon essential oil or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oil in a pan. Stir in honey and essential oil or flavoring. {Expect a little residue at the bottom of the pan from the extract and honey.} Pour the balm into lip-balm containers while still warm {be sure the mixture is not too hot or it will melt the plastic containers}.

Fungal Infections

Fungal skin and nail infections can be extremely annoying, not only are they unsightly and uncomfortable, they are also difficult to eliminate. Ringworm, which causes athlete’s foot and occurs most often on the feet, scalp, beard, fingernails, and toenails, is one of the best known, but there are many different types of fungal infections. Jewelweed, garlic, yellow dock, pau d’arco, the lichen Usnea and the fresh husk of black walnut all contain compounds that deter fungal growth. {The tincture of jewelweed and usnea are particularly good, but they are also extremely hard to find.} Many herbs high in essential oils are also antifungal, especially tea tree, oregano, lavender, eucalyptus, rose, rose geranium and myrrh. Small amounts of peppermint relieve the itching associated with many fungal infections.

A herbal salve can be used on fungal skin infections, but your best bet is a herbal vinegar and/or a bentonite clay dusting powder to dry out the moist environment in which fungus thrives. Although dabbing a gourmet vinegar on your skin may seem odd, oregano and garlic vinegar’s make excellent remedies. Vinegar itself directly destroys fungal infections, and its effectiveness is increased by adding eight drops of tea tree essential oil per ounce of vinegar.

tea tree oilMy brother found great success using herbs to fight fungal problems. He had a terrible case of athlete’s foot which he thought he had picked up at the gym. He tried various pharmaceutical preparations, but they only brought temporary relief. After a few days, these preparations always made his feet burn and feel worse than the athlete’s foot itself. Because his feet were so raw and because herbal vinegar stung, he used a salve containing tea tree and lavender essential oils. At first, his feet did not look any better, but they certainly felt better, much better, in fact. It took only a few days for the crusty rings to start subsiding. He still needs to use the salve every once in a while when the athlete’s foot flares up again, but he says the attacks are happening less often. Part of the reason for this may be his discovery that it helps to wear shoes that keep the feet well-ventilated and as dry as possible. He also noticed that the fungal infection becomes worse whenever life becomes stressful.

Antifungal Vinegar

4 ounces vinegar {for extra strength, use oregano vinegar}

2 tablespoons tincture of pau d’arco

1/4 teaspoon each tea tree and lavender essential oils

1/8 teaspoon peppermint essential oil

Combine ingredients. Apply a few times daily with cotton balls or swabs or use a compress soaked in vinegar to cover a large area. I use oregano vinegar. You can make this yourself or buy a culinary oregano vinegar.

Antifungal Dusting Powder

1/4 cup bentonite clay

1/8 teaspoon each tea tree and lavender essential oils

Combine clay and essential oils in a plastic bag. Drop in essential oils, tightly close bag and mix well by turning bag over a few times and breaking up any clumps. Let sit three days, then store in an airtight container.

nail care

Nail Care

Your fingernails are subjected to daily assault. Detergents, fingernail polish, glue for artificial fingernails, formaldehyde-based nail hardeners, and household chemicals are just a few of the attackers. You can protect your nails by wearing gloves while washing dishes or hand-washing clothes, and by avoiding contact with gasoline, paint, and other harsh chemicals. Nail polish, lacquers and especially nail polish remover are very drying to nails, often causing them to crack and split. If you use these products, choose formulas without formaldehyde and add half a teaspoon of castor oil to every ounce of an acetone polish remover to moisturize nails and surrounding skin.

Brittle nails that crack easily indicate possible dietary problems. Healthy nails need a sufficient amount of calcium, magnesium, protein and silica. Drinking a tea made of equal parts oat straw, nettle, and horsetail or taking capsules or tinctures of these herbs daily can improve your nails from the inside out since these herbs are high in silica and other minerals important for nail growth. Supplements of GLA in the form of evening primrose, borage or black currant seed oil also help.

How else can you achieve beautiful fingernails?  Soaking them in herbal teas or oils of comfrey, oat straw and horsetail strengthens nails and cuticles, the thickened skin at the base of your fingernails. For fungal problems, first, soak your nails in the Antifungal Vinegar, then follow by rubbing in the Nail Soak Oil.

Antifungal Vinegar

4 ounces vinegar {for extra strength, use oregano vinegar}

2 tablespoons tincture pau d `arco

1/4 teaspoon each tea tree and lavender essential oils

1/8 teaspoon peppermint essential oil

Combine ingredients. Apply a few times daily with cotton balls or swabs or use a compress soaked in vinegar to cover a large area. I use oregano vinegar. You can make this yourself or buy a culinary oregano vinegar.

Nail Soak Oil

2 tablespoons jojoba oil

4 drops each lavender and sandalwood essential oils

Combine ingredients. Soak nails in the mixture for 10 minutes. Buff nails to stimulate circulation and bring out a healthy shine.

Nourishing and Protecting the Skin {Entangled Botanicals by Ashley November}

The skin is our body’s largest organ and serves as the interface between our internal and external world. It gives rise to our sense of touch, the only sense that does not diminish with age. Because our skin is what we present to the world, billions of dollars are spent every year on creams, lotions, and cosmetic surgeries. I have long been fascinated with the world of skin care, learning a great deal about the physiology of the skin.

I have shared my knowledge of how plants could be used to restore barrier function and reduce oxidative damage, inflammation, and irritation. But over the many years, I’ve cared for those with skin problems, I’ve also learned that it takes more than just applying moisturizer to have healthy skin.

Safe in the Sun: Balancing the Benefits and Risks of Sun Exposure

Balancing the risks and benefits of sun exposure can be difficult when looking at the shocking rates of skin cancer diagnoses and soaring numbers of vitamin D deficiency. Not so surprisingly, the answer to this debate lies not in the sun, but in the way we live our lives.

— Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.

When was the last time you let yourself feel the sun on your face without worrying about the damage it may be doing? Before fear of skin cancer sent us all scurrying for the shade, people used to be outside all throughout the day, working in the garden or playing in the backyard. Now we spend most of our lives indoors, except when we choose to sunbathe during the hours of the day when the sun is most intense—a practice that actually increases skin cancer risk. Far from protecting our health, avoiding the sun completely can have serious consequences. As Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at Australian National University who led a study on sun exposure and disease points out in an interview with U.S. News & World Report, more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than those caused by too much.

 

Importance of Vitamin D

Called the sunshine vitamin because it’s made when solar energy converts a chemical in our skin to D3, vitamin D’s importance to the body can’t be overestimated. In addition to keeping our bones healthy, it increases our resistance to infections, protects the heart, and may help prevent some types of cancer. This is why it’s so disturbing to consider how many people have vitamin D insufficiency—more than 66 million Americans, according to the CDC Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population. As I discuss in my blog about vitamin D and children, studies show that obese, minority children are hit especially hard. Why are we seeing such dangerously low levels of vitamin D? Compared to our ancestors, we get a lot less sun. While sunscreen protects us against the damaging effects of UV radiation, an SPF of 8 blocks the production of vitamin D by a whopping 95 percent.

 

Nature’s Healing Power

Growing up, I loved to play outside with the neighborhood kids. When I came home from school, Mom would say, “Take off your school clothes, then go outside and play. Be home for dinner.” How different would my life be if I’d spent my afternoons indoors staring at a screen rather than running free under the sun? I believe that for us to be whole human beings, we must be mindful of our deep and intimate relationship with nature. This is especially true for children. In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv uses the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the increasing separation kids have from natural spaces when they grow up in urban areas and/or spend a lot of time indoors. He cites a number of studies showing the positive effects of nature on the behavior and attention of kids with ADHD. This is confirmed by other research where the inclusion by schools of green space and environment-based education leads to improved test scores and a reduction in classroom discipline problems. Consider how peaceful you feel after soaking up the beauty of a summer day, and how well your little ones sleep after time spent tumbling around in the grass. A little sunshine goes a long way toward boosting our well-being.

 

Safe in the Sun

Knowing the benefits of being outside versus the risk of overexposure, how do we keep ourselves and our kids safe in the sun? Your needs will vary based on circumstances like skin color, geographic location, and time of the year. People with very light skin may require only ten minutes of sun exposure three or four times per week to make the necessary amount of vitamin D, while those with very dark skin might need one to two hours. If you’re close to the equator and/or it’s summer when the sun’s rays are strongest, you should modify accordingly. Also, try to avoid spending too much unprotected time in the sun between the hours of 10 and 2 when its radiation is strongest. If you are out during this time of day or you’ll be in the sun for a while, use a safe, chemical-free sunscreen. The Environmental Working Group offers an excellent guide (see below), as well as tips for making sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV damage. By using a common sense approach, you and your family can play at the park, splash in the pool, or simply enjoy the sensation of sunshine on your shoulders without fear.

 

To Learn More: 

Interested in learning more about the healing power of nature? The book Life Is Your Best Medicine is a great resource:

https://drlowdog.com/books/life-is-your-best-medicine/

 

For more information on vitamin D and other nutrients, see the book Fortify Your Life:

https://drlowdog.com/books/fortify-your-life/

 

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18276627

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?linkname=pubmed_pubmed&from_uid=22311168

https://drlowdog.com/vitamin-d-children-good-idea/

http://richardlouv.com

http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Calendula Salve Recipe

The cheerful calendula flower is a wonderful bright accent to gardens and porches, as well as an impressive medicinal plant. By nature it is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral, so calendula is especially helpful for skin irritation. I love it for treating cuts and scrapes as it feels quite soothing and helps to reduce healing time. In an ointment, tincture, or a wash, calendula offers cool relief for the pain of superficial wounds and helps begin the healing process on contact. Some experts think calendula works by encouraging blood flow and bringing oxygen to the affected area. No matter its mechanism, though, it feels wonderful on those accidental cuts and scrapes of everyday life and has been proven to speed up recovery. It’s also wonderful on sunburns, allergic skin reactions, and even diaper rash. It’s perfectly safe to use on kids, but I do warn pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid calendula as its effects in these populations has not been fully studied yet.

My Favorite Herbs for Skin Health

Vitamin D and Children: A Good Idea?

It’s well established that vitamin D is paramount to bone development, bone fracture resistance, and mood regulation. This “sunshine” vitamin also supports our immune and cardiovascular systems, and endocrine function, so it’s vitally important that we maintain adequate blood levels. Children especially need vitamin D to develop strong, healthy bones.

In a nation struggling with obesity, it’s hard to believe that we are once again seeing borderline deficiencies. Though rickets, scurvy, and pellagra seem like stories from the days of pirates and early settlers, modern science shows that we are now seeing borderline and frank deficiencies of many vitamins and minerals in the American population. It is clear that though we are overfed, we are undernourished. Furthermore, our messages regarding low-salt and skin-cancer awareness have decreased consumption of iodine and significantly impacted vitamin D levels.

Perhaps the most concerning take away from modern nutritional data is that children, particularly obese, minority children, seem to be heavily impacted. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study found that a large number of children 6-18 years of age are deficient in vitamin D.  The deficiency percentage goes way up in children who are overweight, and amongst obese kids – one-third of white, 50% of Latino, and 87% of African American children – were deficient in vitamin D.

 

Why are we lacking?

With so many fortified foods in our grocery stores and the ability of our body to make vitamin D with exposure to sunlight, why are so many kids lacking?

The most obvious answer is probably the fact that all of us, including our kids, are spending more and more of our lives indoors and engaged in sedentary pursuits, such as watching TV and working/playing on our computers and smartphones. Not only are we spending less time outdoors, we are also much more aggressive about using sunscreen to protect our skin, which dramatically decreases our ability to make vitamin D.

While vitamin D is found in some foods, it is not easy to get adequate amounts in our diet. For example, to get just 600 IU of vitamin D in your diet you would need to eat one of the following every day:

* 3–4 ounces sockeye salmon, cooked
* 11.4 ounces water-packed tuna
* 26 oil-packed sardines
* 15 large eggs
* 5 cups fortified milk OR
* 30-45 ounces yogurt

In the case of vitamin D, the best bet to ensure adequate intake is probably through the use of supplements, which are readily available at pharmacies and natural foods stores. In general, breastfed infants should be given 400 IU per day; older children 1000 IU per day, while obese children probably need closer to 2000 IU per day. Talk to your pediatrician to know what is best for your child. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, look for those that contain D3 (cholecalciferol), the most bioactive form, and take with dinner for optimal absorption.

 

More is not better

While you want to make sure you and your kids are getting adequate vitamin D – more is not better. The Institute of Medicine has set the following upper limits for vitamin D, meaning you should NOT exceed these amounts unless under the supervision of your healthcare provider.

* 1,000 IU/day for infants to age 6 months
* 1,500 IU/day for ages 6 months to 1 year
* 2,500 IU/day ages 1 to 3 years
* 3,000 IU/day for ages 4 to 8 years
* 4,000 IU/day anyone older than 8 years

Vitamin D, like most nutrients, does best when it is taken with its partner nutrients. Vitamin D partners well with calcium and vitamin K2. Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed and vitamin K2 directs it to the bone.

 

Sources

http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2436596

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/vitamin-d/background/hrb-20060400

Turer CB, et al. Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among overweight and obese US children. Pediatrics 2013; 131(1):e152-61