Thursday, 24 October 2013

Tips for a good nights sleep

Causes of insomnia are numerous, but commonly, stress, tension, anxiety or stimulants such as caffeine can result in a lack of sleep. 

To help induce a restful nights sleep, do something relaxing leading up to going to bed such as reading, taking a warm bath or listening to soothing music. 

Ensure your bedroom is dark and quiet with plenty of fresh air; so keep your window open a little even in winter. A stuffy, warm room will prevent you from getting quality sleep. Add 10 drops of essential oils to a warm bath. Bergamot, rose or lavender are ideal as they contain soothing, calming properties and so are perfect for preparing you for sleep. Don’t drink coffee or tea in the evening as these stimulants can interfere with your sleep patterns (and, incidently, cause headaches, rapid heartbeat and excessive urination). Instead try fruit or herbal teas such as passion fruit or chamomile. 

If your insomnia is persistent, it may be worth trying a natural remedy such as Valerian. This sweet scented flower has been shown to have mildly sedative properties and may be useful if your insomnia is related to being anxious or stressed. Supplements are widely available and should be about 1 hour before bedtime, or as advised. They takes about 2 weeks to work and shouldn’t be used for more than 3 months at a time. 

Note: Always consult your doctor if your insomnia or anxiety persists.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Tip of the day - Eucalyptus

Always have a bottle of eucalyptus in your first aid kit. It's antiviral action works on the respiratory tract to soothe inflammation and ease mucus. It is excellent in times of influenza, throat infections, coughs and catarrh and is effective in lowering temperatures, and cools and deodorises the body.

If it's a cold or hayfever you have, try inhaling eucalyptus oil before reaching for the paracetamol. It is very effective at clearing a stuffy head and may even reduce the painful effects of migrane. 

Eucalyptus has a cleansing effect on the skin, and will aid in the healing of cuts, wounds and inflammatory conditions. As a powerful oil, it should not be applied neat, but instead applied diluted to the skin to cleanse or tone.

Review your skin care for Autumn

Autumn has always been my favourite season. The colours, the smells, brambles, the change in
light and the sense of dark cosy nights just around the corner. (Although that may be just me reminiscing my Yorkshire childhood)! Of course, in those (long ago) days my skin was fresh, rosy and peachy smooth with not a care to protect or moisturise it. These days, of course I give my skin a great deal more care.

Autumn is a season of change which fosters both beginnings and endings. It’s the end of the summer and strawberries, but start of the gardening year. The weather is changing with crisp, fresh mornings and cool evenings, and it’s these conditions that make hair and skin drier, particularly as we also turn up the central heating and huddle up at home.

We should therefore look at our skincare regime. Look for oil-rich products which strengthen and
brighten the complexion. Look for avocado, apricot kernel, macadamia nut and almond oils as ingredients as they are rich, nutritious and protecting. Feed the skin with fresh fruit masks.

Ensure your diet is healthy and seasonal, as the tendency is to resort to comfort food on cold dark nights. Luckily autumn produce can be warming and versatile and apples, grains, greens, nuts and potatoes are at their seasonal best and all are good for the skin. Continue to drink plenty of water as it keeps the skin and body hydrated. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

The preservative dilemma - a balanced view

Cherylin Skin Therapy does not advocate the use of synthetic preservatives.  However, commercially mass produced skin care generally contains a group of synthetic preservatives called parabens.  They are chemically produced from petroleum and natural gas and are usually used together to inhibit the growth of a broad spectrum of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and moulds. Parabens are also used in food, medicines and eye products and are usually preceded by the prefixes Ethyl, Propyl, Butyl and Methyl.  Preservatives are essential in products which contain water otherwise potential bacteria is quick to form.

Parabens are thought to be safe. 

Research shows that there is no link with cancer 'despite' parabens being detected in breast tumours (Ref: Study, 2004 in the Journal of Applied Toxicology). However, parabens contain estrogen-like properties and estrogen plays a role in certain forms of breast cancer. Despite their perceived safety (ahem), they do cause allergic reactions and contact dermatitis, are harmful if swallowed and cause irritation to eyes and the respiratory tract.  

We should remember that the decaying process is natural and happens regardless of preservatives.  Skin care products will eventually go rancid, and any natural active ingredients will loose their potency more quickly anyway.  Chemical preservatives are used because commercial skin care is mostly water and are cheaper than natural alternatives so products can be produced on a large scale for corporate profit.  

Be aware of greenwashing. Do not buy so called ‘natural’ skin care which include such ingredients as ‘vegetable derived’ Glyceryl Stearate SE (which is produced by chemical reactions between fatty acids and glycerol - synthetic glycerine) or Sorbic acid (these days chemically synthesized and a toxic preservative).

Most of my skin care does not contain water and are natural and free from any synthetic ingredients. Essential oils, beeswax and grapefruit seed extract are used as practical preservative alternatives. I like to keep my skin care alive, active and full of the plant's energy.  I also only prepare the product upon receipt of order and this ensures optimum potency.  They are prepared using sterilized equipment, containers and fresh ingredients. They have a realistic shelf life (between 5-10 months) and are safely absorbed by the skin. 

Related article: What's in your skincare?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Peppermint: properties and uses

Like many herbs, peppermint was known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It was used as an ingredient in wine, a detoxifier, and perfume. A native of Europe, the best type of peppermint
comes from England as it favours the damp conditions.

Peppermint is a hybrid of Watermint and Spearmint and is a powerful oil with many properties. In fact I believe this is an essential oil, along with Lavender, that every household should have in its first aid kit. It is antiseptic, astringent, a carminative, cephalic and a decongestant. Whilst not best used in massage treatment (unless in very small quantities and in local areas) it is ideal treatment to help the respiratory system and circulation through inhalation or in infusers.

A very uplifting herb, peppermint is a natural balancer, a so-called adaptogen. It can act as a stimulant and relaxant, and is cooling yet warming. This makes it a very good remedy for colds and flu as it helps calm mucus and fevers and encourages perspiration.

Peppermint is best known for its extremely useful action on the digestive system, particularly acute conditions. Due to its relaxing and slight analgesic properties, it is a useful treatment against many digestive related ailments such as food poisoning, vomiting, nausea, constipation, travel sickness and colic amongst others. It is also said to be helpful for kidney and liver disorders.

Peppermint is also a valuable remedy for producing a tonic effect on the heart and can help in the treatment of shock, vertigo, dizziness, anemia and fainting. It is an effective pain reliever and can be used to treat headaches, migraines and toothache. It is one of the best remedies for treating aching limbs and feet and offers some relief from rheumatism and neuralgia.

Although it should never be used directly on the skin, in dilution it can help with cases of dermatitis, ringworm and scabies. Its cooling effect can help itching, inflammation and sunburn. Greasy skin benefits greatly as it removes blackheads, balances sebum and softens a rough texture.

Precautions: Peppermint is a powerful oil so care should always be taken with dosage. It may cause

irritation to the skin and mucous membranes and should be kept well away from the eyes. It is best avoided during pregnancy and may antidote homoeopathic remedies. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Gardening the bio-dynamic way

As someone who is interested in healthy eating I believe one of the best ways of getting fresh seasonal food is by working an allotment to grow your own fruit and vegetables.

Having run my own allotment for some time now (organically of course), I have recently experimented with biodynamic gardening. I tried it half-heartedly a few years ago (with some success), but I wanted to see if I could grow better quality produce which possessed even greater vitality and the greatest flavour. Well, I have to say, the results have been quite amazing.

At time of writing this, and by embracing some of the principles of biodynamic gardening, I have produced nearly twice as much produce from the plants. I should note that as a vegetarian, I do not embrace the whole practice. For example, I do not use animal manure, horn preparations or make ashes from insect pests. Instead, I prepare my own nettle and comfrey feeds, my own compost and have sown, maintained and harvested according to the rhythms of the planets and phases of the moon (which is what gardening by biodynamic principles essentially is). And no, I have not had to steal out in the middle of night and garden under the light of the moon (even if it sounds appealing)!

So what is biodynamic gardening?

Essentially, all life processes on earth are influenced by the rhythms of the planets, sun and moon with the constellations of the zodiac working through these. The planets, sun and moon in turn pass on their own properties to the plants through the elements of fire, air, water and earth.

Biodynamic agriculture recognise that the plant is bound with the life of the soil and that the soil should be alive and vital. However, the plants' growth is also influenced by planetary influences. From the beginning of the process through to the harvesting and storing, it is important to note the right time for each stage. The sowing time, for example, exerts the strongest influence. Planting out or moving a plant is also important as this can enhance or weaken the impulse which the seed received at the sowing stage. Even before sowing, it is important to prepare the soil at the right time as this opens up the earth to planetary and zodiac influences which can enhance growth. Harvest time is also critical depending on what is being harvested, for example seeds or parts of the plant which is to be used for sowing or propagation for next years crop, will be weak or sickly if harvested at a time of unfavourable cosmic conditions.

The sun, moon and planets all influence the weather using the elements of fire (warmth), air, water and earth. The weather effects the best times to grow and harvest crops. For example, favourable sowing days for leaf growth (lettuce or leafy herbs for example) always tend to be damp as these ‘leaf days’ have the greatest moisture or highest rainfall of the month, or favourable sowing days for root growth (potatoes, carrots) always tend to be cold or cool. Such weather observations demonstrate that the elements should be assigned to different parts of the plant. As the moon passes every two to four days from one constellation to another, the character of cosmic influence changes. So water, for example, changes to warmth. As three constellations are assigned to each element, known as trigons, it is roughly every nine days the moon reaches the same group again.

To decide the best time for sowing, maintaining, harvesting and storing, therefore, we must known which part of the plant we want to harvest. With carrots for example, it is the root that is of importance so sowing should take place on a ‘root day’. Years of research have established four broad categories, as follows:

Flower days

Flower plants are sown, tended, cultivated, cut and harvested on flower days. They include flowers of all kind, broccoli, bulb plants and many medicinal plants.

Fruit days

Fruit plants are sown, planted, hoed, cultivated, harvested and stored on fruit days. Fruits include fruits and berries, beans, courgettes, cucumber, peas, peppers, pumpkins and tomatoes.

Leaf days

Leaf plants are sown, planted and tended on leaf days. However, leaf vegetables for storing are harvested on flower days. Plants include cabbage, cauliflower, leafy herbs and lettuce.

Root days

Root days should be chosen for sowing, transplanting, hoeing, harvesting and storing. Plants include beetroot, carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes and swede.

It is interesting that the leaf plants (cabbage, kale) I sowed on leaf days have flourished compared to the those that I sowed on dry, hot flower days and my courgette plants sown and cultivated on fruit days have provided me with so much fruit, I really could open up a shop (well, a market stall)!

Biodynamic agriculture is based on the original ideas and recommendations of Rudolf Steiner, which he presented in a series of lectures to farmers and gardeners in 1924. It is the oldest non-chemical agricultural movement and predates the organic agricultural movement by 20 years. The work has been further developed and researched over many years by Maria and Matthias Thun.

Further information:

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Softening hand balm recipe

  • 1 tsp coconut oil or butter
  • 1/2 tsp wheat germ (or almond) oil
  • 1 tbl sp cocoa butter
  • 1 natural vitamin E capsule (optional)
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 6 drops geranium essential oil

Melt the coconut, wheat germ and cocoa butter in a bowl and gently heat over a pan of boiling water. When all ingredients are thoroughly melted, remove from heat. Pierce the vitamin E capsule and whisk into the oils. Leave to cool until mixture just starts to thicken. Add essential oils and pour into a sterilised low wide mouthed jar and leave to cool completely before covering with lid.
Use as required to soften and smooth your hands and elbows. It is also gentle enough to use on the face. However, it is a rich treatment so use only a small amount per application, otherwise your skin will feel oily.

If stored away in a dry place and away from sunlight, your balm will keep for about 9-10 months.

Properties of ingredients used:
Coconut butter has protective and skin softening properties;

Wheatgerm oil is useful in the treatment of premature ageing;

Cocoa butter is very mild and superb for dry skin conditions as it helps to nourish, protect and soothe;

Vitamin E protects against the destruction of the connective tissue caused by free radicals;

Lavender essential oil helps the skin by stimulating cells to regenerate more quickly;

Geranium essential oil balances sebum to keep skin supple;