Wildcrafted Beauty

Explore the natural world and search for the perfect ingredients for your DIY all-natural personal care products.

Harvesting and wildcrafting plants was a necessity for our ancestors who depended on plants for everything from homesteading to medicine to personal hygiene. Today, purchasing products made with natural, plant-based ingredients is a lifestyle choice – one many person have chosen in an effort to move away from using questionable chemicals on their skin and hair. But while we may look for words like “natural” and “organic” or even “clean” on the label, there’s only one way to truly know what’s in your body care items – make them yourself. Beauty products containing wild and foraged ingredients have become more popular than ever, as more people want to use safer ingredients. These homemade items also offer an opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy the satisfaction of creating something from plants. Here are some recipes to get you started.

Wildcrafting Basics

Foraging or hunting for wild plants is fun, but it’s important to know what you’re doing. If wildcrafting is a new activity for you or you intend on exploring an unfamiliar area, make sure you study {and bring along} a local plant guide, and/or take a class or guided herb walk. A good rule to follow when it comes to using wild plants: if it’s all right to eat, it’s usually safe to use on your skin and hair.

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As with any new ingredient, do a patch test inside your arm or behind your leg before spreading something on your face and body. Many local natural food stores may have some samples of wild plants you can try ahead of time.

Finally, harvest responsibly. Never take endangered or at-risk species or forage in protected conservation areas. Don’t pull from one area, potentially decimating a stand of plants – spread out your harvest and don’t take too much. For these recipes, you will need only a small amount of wild ingredients. Finally, make sure you bring the proper tools to avoid damaging the plant.

Nettle Hair Rinse

Nettles like to grow in moist areas, so you will find them along streams or in the cool part of the forest. These plants grow several feet high and, as many of us know, have hair-like bristles on their leaves that cause a stinging sensation when touched. The young shoots and leaves are edible and lend themselves to various body care items, including hair rinse. Nettles stimulate hair follicles on the scalp, yielding healthier hair. The apple cider vinegar in this recipe also treats the skin on your scalp, keeping it clean and healthy and helping to balance its pH.

1 cup fresh nettle leaves or 1/2 cup dried nettle leaves

2 cups boiling water

2 Tbls apple cider vinegar

Place the nettle leaves {use gloves if you’re handling fresh leaves} in a ceramic or glass bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the mixture steep until cool, then strain. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and pour into a clean container. To use: As a final rinse after shampooing, pour some of the rinse onto your head and massage into your scalp. Rinse with cool water. Yield: 16 ounces.

Juniper Berry Foot Soak

Many species of juniper produce edible berries, but the fruit of common juniper {Juniperus communis} is what most people prefer. There is some controversy over the safety of consuming the berries – eating large amounts over an extended period of time may cause illness – but applied topically, they’re safe and natural antiseptic, making them well-suited for a cleansing and refreshing soak. Fall offers the best time to collect fresh berries, and you can dry them for year-round use.

1/4 cup fresh juniper berries, slightly crushed

1/4 cup Epsom salt

2 Tbls baking soda

Fill a large tub or basin with warm water. Add the juniper berries, Epsom salts, and baking soda and stir well until the salts and soda have dissolved. Soak your feet in the fragrant water for 15-20 minutes. After your footbath, massage your feet with some natural oils or a rich cream. Yield: 4 ounces, enough for one footbath.

Wild Berry Facial Mask

Wild berries such as blackberry, elderberry, and mulberries all contain antioxidants and vitamins A and C, which help cleanse and nourish the skin. Used as a facial mask, berries soothe the complexion and also help rid it of surface impurities and dead skin cells. This not only leaves you with glowing skin but also helps your skin function more efficiently and absorb more moisture. When harvesting, make sure to gather only edible berries – if you can eat them, you can apply them topically – that are free from pesticides and herbicides.

1/2 cup fresh berries, slightly mashed

1 Tbls almond flour or white clay powder

In a small bowl stir together the berries and flour or clay until you have a smooth, creamy mixture. You may need to add a bit more flour or clay depending on how juicy your berries are. Store in the refrigerator until ready to apply. To Use: Spread the mask mixture on clean skin, avoiding the eye and mouth area making sure to cover your neck {a part of the body often overlooked}. Let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water and pat skin dry. Store any leftover mask in the refrigerator, where it should last a week or two. Yield: 4 ounces.

Blackberry Leaf Hair Rinse

From July through August, the peak season for this favored fruit, blackberries pop up along country roads and in the woods, lending themselves to jams, pies, and other confections. The plant also provides some key beauty-boosting ingredients. Wild blackberry and raspberry leaves are naturally cleansing, serving as an excellent final rinse for your hair and scalp. Naturally acidic, they restore hair’s natural acid level, which is often stripped away by alkaline shampoos. To add a bit of color to your product, toss a few fresh berries in this recipe. If you don’t have access to fresh leaves, find them at natural food stores or look for herbal teas made with the leaves.

1 cup fresh blackberry leaves, washed and chopped, or 1/2 cup dried leaves

2 cups boiling water

Place the leaves in a ceramic or glass bowl. Pour the boiling water over and allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes. Strain and pour into a clean bottle. To use: After shampooing, pour through your hair as a final rinse. Dry and style your hair as usual. Save any leftover rinse in the refrigerator; it should stay fresh for a few weeks. Yield: 16 ounces.

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Wild Violets Cold Cream

Violets grow wild in shady areas and are a very “friendly” plant, meaning that they love to spread out and take over a patch of ground. They’re also useful in teas and add a lovely pink shade to vinegars. Some people like to candy them for cake decorations. For cosmetic use, they have a gentle, soothing, and mildly astringent effect great for facial steams, as a mouthwash, or in perfumes. In this cleansing cream, wild violets provide a delicate fragrance that soothes all skin types.

1 Tbls coconut oil

1/4 cup sweet almond oil

1/4 distilled water or pure water

2-3 tsp fresh violet flower heads

Mix together the oils in a heat-resistant container. Heat until the oils begin to melt, remove from heat, and stir until melted and well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix together the violets and water. Heat this solution until just boiling. Pour the heated oil mixture into a blender and turn the blender on low. Slowly add the hot violet infusion and continue to blend. You will have a pale-colored cream. Let the cream cool completely, then pour into a clean container. To use: Massage into your skin and rinse well with warm water. Yield: 4 ounces.

Horsetail Nail Strengthener

We can trace Equisetum arvense all the way back to prehistoric times when it grew and flourished some 200 million years ago as dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Some people consider horsetail a pesky weed since it grows profusely and is difficult to remove once established. It’s found along roadsides and in the woods. The hollow stems absorb important minerals such as iron, magnesium, and potassium from the soil, and they boast a high silica content, which can help treat brittle nails. Use this strengthening nail soak daily.

1 tsp fresh horsetail stems, chopped

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tsp pure honey

Place the horsetail stems in a glass or ceramic dish. Pour the boiling water over them and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain off the stems and discard. Add the honey and stir well. Let the solution sit for a few days, then pour into a clean bottle with a tightly fitting lid. To use: Brush the solution over your nails using a clean cotton swab or small brush and let dry. Do this every day for 10-14 days and you should see an improvement in the condition of your nails. You can also soak your nails in this solution when giving yourself a manicure. Yield: 4 ounces.

Dandelion Age Spot Oil

It seems as if dandelions may finally be getting the respect they deserve, as many homeowners have started letting these sunny plants pop up in the yard. Edible from flower to root, these “weeds” serve as useful food for pollinators in the wild. When harvesting, make sure you pick wild dandelions from an area that has not been sprayed with harmful chemicals. {Oftentimes, road crews spray for weeds, so you’ll have better luck in a known yard or out in the woods.} The name dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, “lion’s tooth,” because of the plant’s deeply jagged leaves. For beauty purposes, the yellow flower heads make a wonderful bath and hair rinse. In this recipe, the leaves help naturally fade away stubborn freckles and brown age spots. {Since this is an all-natural treatment, it will take several applications before you see results.}

1/4 cup fresh dandelion leaves, chopped, or 2 Tbls dried leaves

2 Tbls castor oil

2 Tbls sunflower oil

Make sure the dandelion leaves are clean and dry; pat with a clean towel to remove excess moisture. Place the leaves and oils in a heat-resistant container and gently warm. Do not boil. Let the mixture sit for at least three hours. Strain out all the leaves and pour into a clean bottle with a tightly fitting lid. {Those little roller bottles work well.} To use: Rub a small amount of the oil into your skin daily. It may take several weeks, but you will soon see your freckles and age spots begin to fade. Yield: 2 ounces.
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Floral Botanical Wrap

You don’t need to go to a spa to enjoy a full body wrap. For this treatment, you just need to dry brush or scrub your body, moisturize it thoroughly with natural oil, and then wrap up in herb-soaked towels to tone and hydrate the skin. You can manage on your own, but enlisting a partner can make the wrap much tighter. Depending on where you end up lying down, you may want to use an old sheet or something water resistant like a shower curtain.

Relax outdoors if it’s a nice day and you have some privacy. For the wildflowers in this recipe, choose your favorite edible ones such as elderflower, violet, dandelion, wild rose, milkweed flowers, bee balm, pineapple weed, mint, or lemon balm.

2 cups fresh wild flowers

1/4 cup dried fennel seeds

Place all the fresh herbs and flowers inside a large ceramic bowl or bucket. Fill this container with very hot tap water and let steep for 5 minutes. Then soak your sheet or cotton towels in this solution. As they soak, prepare your body by gently dry brushing your skin, then massaging in your favorite natural oil {almond, avocado, coconut}. Wring out the hot, wet sheet or towels and wrap snugly around your body. Lie down and cover yourself with a dry towel or blanket. Lie quietly for no more than 10 minutes. When time’s up, slowly unwrap. You should feel refreshed! Massage more natural oil into your skin if you wish. Yield: one full body wrap.

pineapple weed

 

Pineapple Weed Bath

Often overlooked, Matricaria discoidea is a common weed that grows in a variety of climates. When crushed, the small yellow flowers emit a fresh, pineapple aroma, making it a perfect ingredient in tea and flavored syrups. Of course, it’s also enjoyable in the bath as an energizing soak.

1 cup Epsom salts

1/2 cup pink Himalayan salt or sea salt

2 Tbls baking soda

2 Tbls pineapple weed flowers, slightly crushed

Fill a large muslin tea bag or a small piece of fabric with herbs and tie up. To use: Toss the fabric bag into your bath as you fill the tub and allow the salts to dissolve and the pineapple weed to perfume your bath. Soak for 20 minutes; you can use the cloth bag as a washcloth. Yield: 12 ounces.

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Healing with Frankincense Essential Oil

Make the most of brain-health-boosting and cell-building frankincense essential oil.

If I was stranded on a deserted island and could choose only one essential oil to have with me, I would select frankincense, an oil that is both versatile and potent. Perhaps that’s why it has been in use for thousands of years and considered a precious gift according to Christian beliefs — the perfect present from three wise men.

Healing with Frankincense Essential Oil

While frankincense can be used for a host of health concerns, here are a few of its many amazing healing properties:

Skin, Nail and Scalp Antimicrobial: An exciting study in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology found that not only was frankincense effective against several organisms linked to skin, nail and scalp infections, it also helped break down the biofilms that often underlie these difficult problems. Biofilms are thin, potentially health-damaging layers of microorganisms that secrete substances to help ensure their survival in or on the body. The presence of biofilms is usually a factor in infections that are difficult to eradicate. Earlier research in the same journal also found frankincense helpful against Candida Albicans and Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. Frankincense essential oil is one that may be safe to apply directly to skin, nail and scalp infections; however, some experts recommend never using essential oils undiluted. If you want to try it, use caution and test the oil on a sensitive patch of skin, then wait 48 hours. Otherwise, use the oil diluted in a carrier oil — three to four drops of essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil.

Multipurpose Antibacterial: Frankincense is effective against many other types of bacteria, in addition to those of the skin, nail, and scalp. In one study, researchers found that the essential oil showed significant antibacterial action against the three types of bacteria tested, which included E. coliBacillus subtilis, and S. aureus. These antibiotic-resistant bacteria are linked with food poisoning and other serious health-damaging infections. In addition to directly killing the bacteria, the oil prevented the bacteria from proliferating. The oil also demonstrated antioxidant capabilities, which means it can destroy harmful free radicals linked to cellular and tissue damage.

Oral Health: Because of its antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities, frankincense is a good supporter of oral health. To use it, look for a toothpaste that incorporates frankincense, or make a homemade mouthwash using high-quality essential oil.

Anti-Pain Power: Researchers set out to determine the validity of frankincense as a traditional remedy for arthritis, muscle and stomach pain. They validated its natural analgesic effects and effectiveness, and for these types of pain frankincense may be applied directly to affected areas (use caution, or dilute in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil for sensitive skin). Some health experts recommend using internally, but always consult a medical professional before doing so.

Mood Booster: In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a natural compound in frankincense was found to have antidepressant qualities. The compound, known as incensole acetate (IA), can regulate hormones secreted by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are located in the brain and are involved in mood regulation, while the adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and help address stress in the body. The researchers concluded that IA has potential as a novel treatment for depression.

Wrinkle Reducer: Numerous small-scale studies found that daily use of frankincense essential oil diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut or sunflower reduced the appearance of wrinkles and sun damage. It may also be useful to reduce stretch marks and eczema.

Using Frankincense Essential Oil

There are many frankincense essential oil products on the market, but they’re not all of equal quality. When choosing an essential oil, look for one that has been reviewed by independent third-party laboratory testing.

High-quality frankincense essential oil is one oil I sometimes recommend be used neat (undiluted); however, some experts recommend always diluting essential oils. As previously mentioned, always conduct a 48-hour skin test of frankincense essential oil diluted in the carrier oil of your choice prior to more extensive use. If you have sensitive skin, dilute three to five drops of frankincense essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil (a liquid version of coconut oil).

To benefit from its ability to disinfect and freshen the air, diffuse five drops of frankincense in an essential oil diffuser (preferably not an oil burner, as heating the oil can destroy its therapeutic properties). Diffuse for up to an hour.

Frankincense is classified as a base note, meaning that when added to essential oil blends it tends to last longer than many other oils. Usually, base notes should comprise between 5 and 20 percent of a blend. Frankincense adds a rich, warm, incense-like quality to essential oil blends.

 

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Frankincense Antiwrinkle Cream

Skin-soothing and moisturizing, this fresh face cream helps reduce the appearance of blemishes and wrinkles.
Because this luxurious cream does not contain preservatives, use it within a month or store it in the fridge for up to three months.

This luxurious moisturizer helps soothe skin, reduce blemishes and minimize the appearance of wrinkles. Unlike most of the anti-aging creams on the market, this one does not contain petrochemical-based products or chemical preservatives, making it a real treat for your skin. Keep in mind that because it is free of preservatives, it doesn’t last as long as chemical-laced commercial products, so you’ll want to use it within a month or keep it for up to three months in the refrigerator. You may want to use an old blender for this recipe, as the beeswax can leave a film that is difficult to completely remove.

• 3/4 cup sweet almond, apricot kernel or fractionated coconut oil
• 2 tablespoons shaved beeswax
• 30 drops frankincense essential oil
• 1 cup of filtered water

1. In a small saucepan over low heat, stir almond, apricot or coconut oil and beeswax together just until beeswax dissolves. Do not allow the oil to become hot. Immediately remove the saucepan from heat and add frankincense essential oil.

2. Pour water into blender, cover and begin blending it on high speed. With blender running, slowly pour the beeswax-oil mixture through hole in blender lid. The mixture will begin to thicken after about three-quarters of the beeswax has been incorporated.

3. Once all the beeswax has been blended, immediately pour cream into a 16-ounce glass jar or two 8-ounce glass jars. Use a spatula to remove any remaining cream from the blender. Makes about 1- 3/4 cups.

Activated Charcoal: 15 Benefits & Uses for Health and Wellness

Activated charcoal is a hot topic in health and wellness these days, gaining recognition as a powerhouse agent for detoxification with a wide range of potential uses. We see activated charcoal in everything from facial masks and teeth whiteners to digestive remedies and even an exotic new food trend that uses its charcoal hue for an element of surprise (think jet-black ice cream).

Activated charcoal benefits are no secret. A staple in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, activated charcoal remains to this day a common emergency room antidote for cases of toxicity and poisoning in developed nations around the world. As for activated charcoal uses in daily life, this natural healing product is extremely versatile and generally considered safe. Yet activated charcoal should be handled with care (scroll down for an overview of activated charcoal side effects).

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a byproduct of burning coconut shells, bamboo, olive pits, wood, or various other substances. For your natural medicine cabinet, we recommend purchasing activated charcoal that is organic and made from coconut shells.

Processed at very high temperatures, this unique charcoal is “activated” in a way that changes its structure to increase the surface area and make it more porous. It is the porousness of activated charcoal that makes it effective at attaching to (“adsorbing”) toxins and flushing them out of the body. This is the principle behind activated charcoal detox.

Unlike the charcoal briquettes you use to light your barbecue, activated charcoal is free of toxins and carcinogens and is generally safe to consume and apply topically. Never substitute regular charcoal for the activated charcoal used for health and wellness!

What Are the Benefits of Activated Charcoal?

With its purifying qualities, activated charcoal offers potential benefits including detoxification, alleviating gas and bloating digestive health, lowering cholesterol, reducing the effects of radiation, and anti-aging.

Detoxification

The most scientifically proven of all of the activated charcoal’s benefits, detoxification happens naturally with this powerful agent. Because activated charcoal’s porous surface has a negative electrical charge, it attracts positively charged molecules such as toxins and gases for safe removal from the GI tract. In hospital emergency rooms throughout the developed world, a high single-use dosage of activated charcoal is the most frequently used method of gastrointestinal decontamination after certain kinds of poisoning, toxic exposure and drug overdose.

Activated charcoal is considered to be effective for acute poisoning from a wide variety of drugs and poisons including acetaminophen, aspirin and tricyclic antidepressants. However, it is not useful for poisoning from lithium, iron, cyanide, potassium, and ethanol.

While some use activated charcoal as a hangover cure, there is currently no evidence to support this. More than one study has shown that activated charcoal is not effective at absorbing alcohol.

Alleviating Gas and Bloating

Activated charcoal’s ability to reduce gas and bloating in the digestive system is scientifically proven. A double-blind clinical trial found reduced gas and bloating in subjects that used activated charcoal compared to the placebo group. And in 2011, the European Food Safety Authority presented its scientific opinion in favor of using activated charcoal to reduce excess gas in the digestive system.

Digestive Health

When used for digestive cleansing, activated charcoal can promote overall digestive health. Considered a natural gut cleanser, activated charcoal can help lighten the body’s toxic load — potentially reducing allergic reactions and oxidative damage, as well as strengthening immune System.

Lowering Cholesterol

Some researchers have found that activated charcoal can help people lower their cholesterol. Just as it does with toxins, activated charcoal can attach to (adsorb) and flush out cholesterol in the intestine, preventing its absorption in the bloodstream. In a controlled study of people with high cholesterol, activated charcoal was effective at lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels.

Reducing the Effects of Radiation

Piggybacking on its powers of detoxification, activated charcoal can also reduce the effects of radiation. Through the process of adsorption, activated charcoal attaches to radionuclides in the same way that it attaches to other toxins.

Anti-Aging

Through its ability to rid the body of toxins, activated charcoal has the potential to be a natural approach to healthy aging. With a reduced toxic load, the body experiences less of the oxidative damage that drives the aging process. In the same way, it may help to prevent cellular damage to our natural detox organs (the kidneys and liver) and also support adrenal gland health.

Activated Charcoal Uses

Activated charcoal use runs the gamut from gut-cleansing detox to purifying facials, teeth whitening, bug-bite care and more. Keep activated charcoal on hand for natural healing remedies like these.

Digestive Cleansing

The digestive tract is where a myriad of toxins can enter our bodies, from pesticides and heavy metals in food, to chemicals in water and exposure to mold. When you eliminate toxins with a digestive cleanse, you can feel lighter, stronger, and more energetic. While there are many different kinds of digestive cleanses, a simple approach is to eat whole, organic foods and avoid sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

Activated charcoal can supercharge your cleanse by assisting with the removal of toxins through the process of adsorption — that is, the toxins attach to the activated charcoal like metal to a magnet, and then pass safely out of the body with a bowel movement.

Recipe: To add activated charcoal to your cleanse, take 10 grams (either as a powder added to water or in pill form) 90 minutes before each meal for two days. Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

First Aid for Poisons or Toxins

An antidote to certain types of poisoning or exposure to toxic substances, drugs, or household chemicals, activated charcoal is handy to keep in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet. It is essential, however, to first contact 911 or a poison control center immediately. Depending on the type of poison, they may instruct you to administer activated charcoal at home before going to an emergency room.

Note: Having activated charcoal in your first-aid kit or medicine cabinet can help jump-start the recovery process but should never replace a healthcare professional.

Facial Mask

In the same way that activated charcoal draws toxins out of the digestive system, when applied topically, it can draw oils, dirt, bacteria and other impurities from the pores, leaving skin clean, clear and less prone to breakouts.

Recipe: Mix a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder with a tablespoon of honey to make a paste. Apply to face and neck with a cosmetic brush. Keep on for 5 to 10 minutes, then wash off with your favorite natural cleanser.

Note that activated-charcoal powder is very messy when spilled! Avoid using it over hard-to-clean areas such as tile grout.

Acne Spot Treatment

Mixed with a bit of aloe vera gel, activated charcoal makes an effective acne spot treatment.

Recipe: Break open one capsule of activated charcoal in a small bowl. Using a cotton swab, mix with a half-teaspoon of aloe vera gel to create a thick paste. Apply paste to acne. Let dry about 30 minutes. Wash off with warm water.

Teeth Whitening

It may seem counterintuitive to turn your teeth black in order to whiten them (don’t worry — the black washes off!), but many people have success using activated charcoal as a natural teeth whitener. Because activated charcoal is abrasive to the teeth, dab it on gently rather than using a toothbrush.

Recipe: In a small bowl, break open two capsules of activated charcoal. Using a cotton swab, mix in just enough water to make a thick paste (less than 1 teaspoon). Dab paste onto teeth, let sit three minutes and rinse.

Flatulence Relief

Activated charcoal’s ability to alleviate gas and bloating is clinically proven. If certain foods trigger gas, activated charcoal is one way to keep flatulence at bay.

Tip: Take 1 gram of activated charcoal at least 30 minutes before you eat and 1 gram an hour after you eat.

Bug Bites

Activated charcoal can be a great remedy for mosquito bites and bee stings, as it can alleviate the itching and discomfort that they cause.

Recipe: In a small bowl, break open one capsule of activated charcoal. Using a cotton swab, mix with a ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and apply to the bug bite or bee sting.

Water Filtration

Just as it can remove impurities from the body, activated charcoal can also remove contaminants from water. Activated charcoal is a key component in many commercially available water filtration systems, and works in a similar way to the carbon filtration in the popular Brita water pitchers.

Activated charcoal in water filters may be effective at removing pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals. However, it is less effective at removing fluoride, viruses, bacteria, and hard-water minerals.

Air Purification

In the same spirit, activated carbon is also effective as a filter for air purification. Much like baking soda, commercially available charcoal bags can be placed in the refrigerator, car, pet areas, gym bags, and other places to freshen the air, neutralize odors, and combat mold.

Activated Charcoal Forms

Activated charcoal is available in pills, tablets, capsules, and loose powder for multipurpose use. In all forms, activated charcoal is odorless and neutral-tasting.

Pills & Tablets

Activated charcoal to reduce gas and bloating is often taken in pill or tablet form. Generally, two pills or tablets are recommended to be taken at least 30 minutes before eating gas-producing foods, and one hour after.

Capsules

Purchasing activated charcoal in capsule form is a handy way to use small amounts for recipes. Simply break open a capsule into a small bowl to release the powder, and mix it with water, coconut oil or another ingredient to make a paste for DIY healing.

Powder

A jar of fine, jet-black activated charcoal powder is handy for a variety of uses. In cases of poisoning or the ingestion of toxins, the activated charcoal powder is mixed with a liquid and given as a drink (or, in emergency rooms, administered through a tube from the mouth to the stomach).

For more common household use, the activated charcoal powder can be used in small amounts for teeth whitening and other remedies.

Are There Side Effects to Using Activated Charcoal?

It is important to remember that activated charcoal not only adsorbs to toxins and unwanted chemicals in the body but it can get rid of good things, too, such as nutrients from food, supplements, and prescription medicines, making them less effective.

It is best to take activated charcoal on an empty stomach between meals so that it does not affect the absorption of nutrients. Activated charcoal should be taken 90 minutes to two hours prior to supplements and prescription medications.

Keep in mind that activated charcoal can make your stool turn black, but this is a temporary and harmless side effect. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent constipation when taking activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is generally considered safe for use during pregnancy. At least one study supports its use for cholestasis, which is a condition marked by the reduction or stoppage of bile flow, during pregnancy. Some pregnant women use it to alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) as well as diarrhea, though its effectiveness in such cases is not well documented. In some people, activated charcoal can cause side effects of vomiting and diarrhea — the very symptoms it may be used to relieve.

The Fragrant Way to Beauty: Wrinkles and the Aging Skin

We don’t always notice ourselves aging, nor perhaps do our close friends and family, yet when we meet someone we haven’t seen for several years, we notice they have aged, and they notice that we have too. That’s often when we are struck by the thunderbolt of recognition that age has crept up on us silently.

The search for the elixir of youth is as old as the hills. Ancient texts abound with tales of alchemists striving to satisfy that demand from their rulers. Today, exclusive clinics offer natural cosmetic treatments to those who can afford them, and celebrity clients keep the source of their youthful appearance a closely guarded secret. After all, if everyone looks as great as they do, it defeats the purpose of looking better than the rest! Cosmetic surgery is an almost commonplace, and injectable treatments are so ubiquitous they’re something people now have done at home. Investment bankers know that if they can find the fledgling company with the latest answer to the ancient question – how to stay young? – they would be flying high!

Behind the scenes of all this frenetic activity, nature’s essential oils have been quietly playing their part. Aromatherapy began in Europe, where it’s widely incorporated into all aspects of life, including at the ritzy Swiss clinics reserved for les clients privee. Cellular regeneration is the key to youthful skin, and because skin cells renew themselves all the time, there’s hope for improvement. Cells need oxygen, which some essential oils may encourage with their circulation-stimulating properties. They also have antioxidant activity, which is needed to deal with free radicals that can easily destroy molecules, including those of all skin layers. Also, some essential oils contain phytohormones, hormonal-like properties that may account for their being able to give skin a firmer and more youthful appearance when used over time.

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Essential Oils for Aging Skin

Many essential oils have properties that can help prevent the onset of the telltale signs of aging. The following are used in various combinations by aromatherapists to treat the effects of declining skin tone. Some essential oils have more potent effects than others, and these are often used in combinations. However, some – such as neroli, spikenard, rose, and jasmine – are used singly in luxury anti-aging products.

Anti-Aging Essential Oils

Rose Otto {Rosa damascena}

Rose absolute {Rosa centifolia}

Juniper berry {Juniperus communis}

Marjoram, sweet {Origanum majorana}

Violet leaf {Viola odorata}

Mastic {Pistacia lentiscus}

Clary sage {Salvia sclarea}

Neroli {Citrus aurantium}

Spikenard {Nardostachys jatamansi}

Cardamom {Elettaria cardamomum}

Rosewood {Aniba rosaeodora}

Chamomile German {Matricaria recutita}

Carrot seed {Daucus carota}

Frankincense {Boswellia carterii}

Immortelle {Helichrysum italicum}

Magnolia flower {Michelia alba}

Geranium {Pelargonium graveolens}

Palmarosa {Cymbopogon martinii}

Petitgrain {Citrus aurantium}

Ylang ylang {Cananga odorata}

Lavender {Lavandula angustifolia}

Sandalwood {Santalum album}

Orange, sweet {Citrus sinensis}

Cistus {Cistus ladaniferus}

Jasmine {Jasminum grandiflorum/officinale}

Patchouli {Pogostemon cablin}

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}

Coriander seed {Coriandrum sativum}

In this section, you will find special combination formulas for face treatments for four age groups, because the skin has different requirements at different stages of life. Using the correct essential oil for your facial skin serum or oil can be more than just taking into account the skin condition and the hoped-for outcome. Before blending a personal anti-aging facial oil, a holistic aesthetician specializing in essential oil skin care will examine the skin and take into account your well-being, overall health, stress levels, and any emotional factors that might be affecting your skin’s condition and rate of aging. So before you choose your oils, cross-reference to see which would be the most appropriate for you. And because you are making these products yourself, you can adapt them over time to take account of changes in your personal circumstances.

Each essential oil has its own particular qualities. For example, geranium can help with specific skin conditions such as drying or dry patches on the face, increased oiliness, enlarged pores, wrinkles and lines, dark circles under the eyes, and lack of elasticity – all of which can result from going through difficult emotional experiences. But it can also help with the underlying trauma by reducing stress, tiredness, and anxiety – the sort of anxious feelings that can keep a person awake at night and contribute to an aging skin.

Life presents many hurdles, and even on a day-to-day basis, most of us are juggling a career, personal relationships, and child care, not to mention maintaining financial security. Any resulting anxieties could inhibit the action of the immune, digestive, and lymphatic systems – all of which can have an effect on the skin. Despite all this, forget about aging gracefully. No one wants to look their age, and I’ve never met anyone – male or female – who doesn’t want to age as well as they can. So fight it every step of the way.

organic skin care

Skin-Enhancing Oil Extracts for Use in Face Oils

You have heard of the Gold Rush? Well, welcome to the Oil Rush! Patent offices all over the world are receiving applications from cosmetic company research labs trying to corner the market on processing methods for and commercial use of plant oils – with any variation thereof you could possibly imagine! Fortunately, this drive for monopoly doesn’t affect the normal user of these oils – you and me – so we can still take advantage of them.

Before getting to the antiwrinkle oils for the various age groups, we will look at some of the most beneficial additions you could incorporate in small quantities into your oil blends. These can be used on the face, neck, and decollete area of the upper chest.

Acai berry oil {Euterpe oleracea}: Emollient, nourishing skin oil used in anti-aging preparations; has moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties; suits damaged, extra-dry skin types; conditions the skin; includes omegas 6 and 9 and vitamin E; antioxidant.

Blackberry seed oil {Rubus fructicosis}: Skin nourishing and conditioning oil; suits mature, dry, and sensitive skins; includes omegas 3, 6, and 9 and vitamin E; antioxidant.

Black raspberry seed oil {Rubus occidentalis}: Helps retain elasticity; suits most skin types; anti-aging; includes omegas 3, 6, and 9 and vitamin E; antioxidant.

Blueberry seed oil {Vaccinium corymbosum}: Skin protecting oil with antioxidant properties; suits most skin types; including those with acne or blemishes.

Borage seed oil {Borago officinalis}: Moisturizing and nourishing; effective for skin maintenance oils; suits most skin types; high in gamma-linolenic acid {GLA}.

Chia seed oil {Salvia hispanica}: High in omega 3.

Cranberry seed oil {Vaccinium macroscarpon}: Good moisturizing and nourishing properties for anti-aging; suits damaged, irritated, or prematurely aged skin; includes omega 3 and vitamin E; antioxidant.

Cucumber seed oil {Cucumis sativus}: Good moisturizing and skin protection properties; cell regenerating; revitalizing, improves the elasticity and strength of the skin; anti-aging; suitable for most skin types.

Evening primrose seed oil {Oenothera biennis}: Skin conditioning and skin strengthening; useful in anti-aging skin care and scar-reducing facial oils; can be used on most skin types; high in GLA.

Gotu kola {Centella asiatica}: Macerated oil; skin regenerative; stimulates synthesis of collagen.

Hemp seed oil {Cannabis sativa}: Nourishing and skin conditioning; helps retain moisture and skin elasticity in troubled and distressed skin.

Olive squalane extract {Olea europaea}: Skin soothing and softening; suits most skin types; suits extra-dry skin; Anti-aging.

Pomegranate seed oil {Punica granatum}: Nourishing and moisturizing; improves skin elasticity; rejuvenating; conditioning; high in omega 5 fatty acid {conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA}.

Red raspberry seed oil {Rubus idaeus}: Skin protective; anti-inflammatory; nourishing and conditioning for damaged and dry skin; includes omega3 and 6 and vitamin E; antioxidant.

Rosehip seed oil {Rosa rubiginosa}: Cell regenerating and cell-stimulating; improve the appearance of scarring; improves texture and elasticity of the skin; anti-aging; suits mature and sun-damaged skin types.

Sea buckthorn berry oil {Hippophae rhamnoides}: Nourishing and revitalizing; cell regenerating; suits most skin types including prematurely aged skin; Anti-aging.

Strawberry seed oil {Fragaria ananassa}: Moisturizing and texture improving; suits most skin types including oily skin types; blemishes.

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The Antiwrinkle Night Oils

The following blends are suggestions for general applications and should suit most people. The blends take into account the various health and well-being issues usually associated with the different age groups.

Antiwrinkle Night Oil for the Over-Twenties

Petitgrain – 4 drops

Lavender – 5 drops

Rosemary – 5 drops

Chamomile German – 2 drops

Chamomile Roman – 2 drops

Lemon – 4 drops

Geranium – 7 drops

Plus the plant oils:

Rosehip seed oil – 20 drops

Evening primrose seed oil – 10 drops

First, blend the essential oils together. Then add the plant oils into the essential oils. Dilute this blend of oils by adding 1 or 2 drops to each teaspoon {5mL} of your chosen carrier oil – such as hazelnut, almond, or apricot kernel oil. Lightly apply a small amount of the fully diluted oil over the face, neck, and decolletage.

Antiwrinkle Night Oil for the Over-Thirties

Sandalwood – 4 drops

Palmarosa – 5 drops

Lavender – 4 drops

Rosewood – 5 drops

Orange, sweet – 4 drops

Chamomile Roman – 2 drops

Carrot seed – 3 drops

Plus the plant oils:

Rosehip seed oil – 20 drops

Sea buckthorn oil – 10 drops

First, blend the essential oils together. Then add the plant oils into the essential oils. Dilute this blend of oils by adding 1 or 2 drops to each teaspoon {5 mL} of your chosen carrier oil – such as hazelnut, almond, or apricot kernel oil. Lightly apply a small amount of the fully diluted oil over the face, neck, and decolletage.

Antiwrinkle Night Oil for the Over-Forties

Neroli – 6 drops

Lavender – 4 drops

Frankincense – 5 drops

Rosemary – 2 drops

Cistus – 3 drops

Lemon – 3 drops

Immortelle – 2 drops

Carrot seed – 3 drops

Plus the plant oils:

Evening primrose seed oil – 10 drops

Rosehip seed oil – 10 drops

Sea buckthorn oil – 15 drops

First, blend the essential oils together. Then add the plant oils into the essential oils. Dilute this blend of oils by adding 2 – 3 drops to each teaspoon {5 mL} of your chosen carrier oil – such as hazelnut, almond, or apricot kernel oil. Lightly apply a small amount of the fully diluted oil over the face, neck, and decolletage.

Antiwrinkle Night Oil for the Over-Fifties

Cistus – 3 drops

Immortelle – 3 drops

Geranium – 5 drops

Rose absolute – 5 drops

Lavender – 3 drops

Ho wood – 4 drops

Plus the plant oils:

Rosehip seed oil – 30 drops

Sea buckthorn oil – 30 drops

Evening primrose seed oil – 10 drops

First, blend the essential oils together. Then add the plant oils into the essential oils. Dilute this blend of oils by adding 2 – 3 drops to each teaspoon {5 mL} of your chosen carrier oil – such as hazelnut, almond, or apricot kernel oil. Lightly apply a small amount of the diluted oil over the face, neck, and decolletage.

Is Meditation the Answer to Cognitive Decline?

In a study endorsed by the Dalai Lama, individuals who regularly meditate were followed over 7 years. The authors conclude that meditation can enhance mental abilities and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
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Can meditation slow down the inevitable age-related cognitive decline?

As we age, our cognitive ability slowly slides. The resulting deficits could impact reasoning, memory, and processing speed, among other things.

It can also affect our ability to concentrate and focus.

Since people in the United States are now living longer lives, researchers are keen to find ways to keep our brains healthy and alert for longer.

To help us retain a sharp focus, scientists have trialed a range of potential interventions — including computer-based cognitive training programs and lifestyle changes.

Meditation and mindfulness as interventions have also shown promise. For instance, meditation is considered to boost a range of cognitive abilities, such as mental clarity, stability, and creativity, while increasing the length of time that someone can hold their focus.

Importantly, meditation is easy to practice at home, relatively cost-effective, and unlikely to cause side effects.

Several studies have investigated mindful interventions and witnessed certain benefits, such as a reduction in mind wandering. However, few have assessed whether meditation’s benefits can endure over longer periods of time.

Meditation over the long-term

Over the past few years, an ongoing study has been attempting to fill this gap in our understanding. Scientists from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Center for Mind and Brain have been following a group of people who attended a meditation course 7 years ago.

Their study was recently published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

The “Shamatha Project” was led by Anthony Zanesco, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Miami, FL, who started on the project before beginning his Ph.D. in psychology at UC Davis.

The project followed 60 experienced meditators who attended two meditation retreats held at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, CO.

The attendees were schooled by a Buddhist scholar, teacher, and author called B. Alan Wallace, from the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies in California.

During the retreats, the participants had two group meditation sessions every day, and, for the remainder of their days, they meditated for an average of 6.75 additional hours.

The benefits of meditation

The attendees were assessed before, during, and just after the retreat. Then, they were followed-up at 6 months, 18 months, and the 7-year mark.

By the end of the study, 40 subjects were still involved, all of whom reported that they continued to use meditation in some form for an average of 1 hour per day.

Straight after the retreat, the participants were compared with a control group who had traveled to Santa Barbara but not been part of the course. The meditators demonstrated improvements in general psychological well-being, their ability to cope with stress, and maintaining attention.

Seven years later, the gains in attention were still present to some degree — particularly among older group members who practiced meditation the most often. These people did not show the expected levels of age-related decline in sustained attention.

The authors conclude, “These findings provide initial, yet provocative, evidence that continued meditation practice may be associated with a moderation of age-related decline in attentional components known to be sensitive to aging.”

This study is the first to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition, with the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across a person’s life.”

Anthony Zanesco

As the meditation-based benefits appeared to plateau immediately after the retreats, Zanesco believes that this might inform us about how much influence meditation can have. Perhaps the ceiling was reached in this relatively short intervention.

Cautions and potential issues

Although this is the largest and longest study of its kind, more work will need to be done. There is a raft of potentially confounding variables to be considered. At this stage, we cannot definitively conclude that meditation was responsible for the benefits that they measured.

For instance, someone who attends a meditation retreat and continues to meditate is likely to have other lifestyle differences, such as a more healthful diet. They are also more likely to read up about meditation and related mindfulness texts, which could impact cognitive ability and general outlook on life.

As the authors write in their study paper, “[C]ausation cannot be attributed to the moderation of aging-related decline with continued meditation practice in our sample. It is therefore critical that more research is conducted before advocating meditation practice as an intervention for cognitive aging.”

Beauty From the Roots

Roots are an essential part of plant growth. They help plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil, and they act as an anchor, keeping them in place. We know them as staple ingredients in the kitchen, with vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, and radishes often making an appearance as side dishes, and herbs like burdock, ginger, or turmeric flavoring hearty stews and curries.

And while these roots benefit our bodies, including skin and hair, as a source of food, they also work wonders when applied topically. Turmeric and ginger in the bath provide those same anti-inflammatory properties as they do when consumed, and fresh carrots and radishes help revive and renew dull, dry complexions. The thick mucilage of marshmallow root produces a hydrating, soothing texture to many commercial and homemade cosmetic products.

You may use these useful plant parts in several ways. Fresh and finely grated, they can be added to facial mask recipes or bath soaks. Dried and ground into a powder, roots can give a beauty boost to body powders and skin scrubs. If made into an infusion or tea, these roots help treat a variety of skin issues, from insect bites to dandruff. Finally, a simple application of some plant roots can even help fade scars or soothe sore muscles. Here are a few recipes for you to try at home.

Carrot-Turmeric Mask

We know consuming carrots provides an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is essential for healthy skin from the inside out. Applied topically, freshly grated carrots hydrate the skin and help to clean and clear away dead skin cells. The turmeric in this recipe reduces inflammation and also brightens a dull complexion. All skin types can use this mask weekly.

2 Tbls white kaolin clay

1/4 cup fresh carrot, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric root

1/2 Tbls distilled water {as needed}

In a small dish mix together all ingredients until you have a smooth mixture. You may need to adjust the amount of water depending on the moisture content of your carrots.

To Use: Spread onto clean face and neck and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water and moisturize with a natural oil or favorite face cream.

Yield: 2 ounces.

Anti-Aging Fresh Ginger Mask

This spicy root rejuvenates dull skin by stimulating your circulation for a radiant effect. It also deep cleans your pores to retain more moisture.

2 Tbls oatmeal or oat flour, finely ground

2 Tbls strong chamomile tea

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger or 1/8 tsp dried ground ginger

In a small dish mix together all ingredients and stir well, until you have a smooth mixture.

To Use:  Spread onto clean face and neck and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry.

Yield: 2 ounces.

Energizing Ginger Root Soak

In the bath, ginger’s circulation-boosting power has a rejuvenating and detoxifying effect on the body, which is especially great for sore muscles. This is a good bath recipe for the morning or after exercising.

1 Tbls finely grated fresh ginger root or 1 tsp dried ginger

1 cup baking soda

1 cup Epsom salts

2-3 drops essential oil of rosemary

In a clean bowl mix together all ingredients.

To Use: Pour into your bath as you fill your tub with warm water. Stir well to distribute and dissolve all the salts. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 16 ounces.

Soothing Burdock Root Soak

If you want to promote rest, this bath recipe combines muscle-soothing Epsom salts with the aromatherapy of lavender for the ultimate night-time soak. The creamy roots of burdock target dry skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. {A tea made from the roots offers antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties.} Find dried burdock root at most natural food shops.

2 cups strong burdock tea

1/4 cup baking soda

1 cup Epsom salts

2-3 drops essential oil of lavender {optional}

In a small container mix together all ingredients and stir until the salts dissolve.

To Use: Pour into the bath as you fill your tub with warm water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Yield: 16 ounces.

Orris Root Dry Shampoo

The root of white iris {Iris florentina} has been used for centuries as a fixative in perfumes and powders. The dried root has a light, violet scent. In this recipe, it works as a dry shampoo, when washing your hair may not be an option.

1/4 cup orris root powder

1 Tbls rice flour or corn flour

1 tsp baking soda

Mix together all ingredients.

To Use: Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of the powder between your hands and rub directly into your scalp and through your hair. Leave the dry shampoo on for 10 to 15 minutes. Then brush out all of the powder.

Yield: 2.5 ounces.

 

Beetroot Lip Balm

Most natural food stores sell beetroot powder, which is often used in place of sugar as a natural sweetener. It also has a lovely purple-red color that’s perfect for tinting lip balms for a bit of natural color. You can also use fresh beetroot juice in this recipe; experiment with the amount depending on how deep you’d like your color.

2 Tbls almond oil

1 Tbls grated raw beeswax

1/8 to 1 tsp fresh beetroot juice or beetroot powder

Mix together the oil and wax and heat gently on a stovetop or in the microwave to melt the wax. Add the beet juice or powder slowly and stir well, until you have the shade you desire. Do not worry if the mixture seems to separate; it will stay together when cooled. Place in a small, clean container or lip balm tube.

To Use: Apply to your lips with a clean finger or small lip brush.

Yield: 1 ounce

Fresh Radish Skin Scrub

Rich in vitamins, minerals, and folic acid, radishes also have a high water content, helping to keep your skin moisturized. In this exfoliating scrub, they target flaky, dry skin and reduce inflammation.

2 Tbls fresh radishes, finely grated or chopped

1/4 cup raw sugar

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Mix together all ingredients and spoon into a clean container.

To Use: Massage scrub into damp skin; pat skin dry.

Yield: 2 ounces.