Monday, 31 March 2008

Chick pea face mask

This is a recipe from my Indian hairdresser - apparently it can be used as both a face and hair pack. It is simple to make, just mix up some chick pea flour (also known as gram flour) and natural yoghurt (2 teaspoons of each is about enough for the face).

I've looked around the web and this seems to be fairly popular as a recipe. I saw one that also included turmeric (in a ratio of 1:8 turmeric: chick pea flour), and another that included honey (probably for it's softening qualities). Turmeric is a respected ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine with uses including skin conditions. 

Now... :-) I've made some up, as you can see from the picture, ready to try on! However (and it is quite a big "however") having researched this recipe, I'm not at all sure that what I bought from the Asian shop is in fact chick pea flour. LOL! It says "flour peas" on the label and the shop owner thought it might be the right stuff. Hmm... I'll try this one out (wish me luck). I'll update this post once I've managed to source the definite, bonafide flour, and tried out some of the variations above. :-)

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Sunday, 30 March 2008

Calendula Cream

A couple of weeks ago I made Calendula cream from an Aromantic recipe, with Jojoba as the base oil. I'm so pleased with it! It's simple, unscented and has a healing feel to it. My skin wasn't feeling so great at the time and I've been using it as my daily face cream - as well as hand cream - since, and to a positive effect (although I think that generally I would keep it for particular skin issues).

The humble pot marigold - or calendula (calendula officinalis)- is an amazingly healing plant. The famous herbalists Nicholas Culpeper and John Gerard apparently called it a "comforter of the heart and spirits". It makes a soothing cream that is good for many skin complaints including dry, cracked or chapped skin, eczema, cuts, grazes and wounds, insect stings, and varicose veins. Phew - is that all?!

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Tea for a good night's sleep

This is a Maria Treben's recipe for insomnia from her wonderful book 'Health through God's Pharmacy'. One of the things that I love about this book is that it is full of Maria's stories of her experiences with her patients, that bring the remedies vividly to life. About this recipe she writes:
"At a dinner I sat next to a gentleman who was taking the waters nearby. This treatment had been his last hope but now that it was drawing to a close and no improvement in his health was in sight, he was at his wit's end. Despite taking strong sleeping pills he could not find sleep. As soon as he lay down, a pain - as if someone was stubbing out a cigarette on the sole of his foot - shot through him. He felt close to a nervous breakdown. I told him I knew an excellent tea for insomnia. But would it help him, he who had taken sleeping pills for so long? He tried it. It was on the 7th December 1976 when we met. Seven days later I met some of his friends who told me that our common friend could sleep again. At the same time he had lost the pain in his feet. The tea had helped in such a short time, given back his health and taken away the nervous disorder. His physician asked him for the recipe of the special tea for insomnia."
I've just mixed up a half batch of the tea (which is quite enough to be going along with):
  • 25 grams of Cowslip
  • 12.5 grams of Lavender
  • 5 grams of St. John's Wort
  • 7.5 grams Hops cones
  • 2.5 grams Valerian roots 

All the ingredients were from Baldwins except the hops which I had to get from a beer making store online. Because the hops and cowslip are quite a bit bulkier than the other ingredients, I whizzed them up in a blender and then added the other ingredients at the end - it makes the kitchen very fragrant! :-) I've made this tea up for a friend a while back and am now making it for my father - I'll ask them both to comment here on it's effects, and will give it a try myself...

Cowslip (Primula officinalis) is recommended for nervous headaches, restlessness and sleeplessness.

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) is also recommended for nervous head
aches as well as physical and mental exhaustion, to relieve stress, and for it's calming, relaxing effect.

St. John's Wort (Hypericam perforatum) is recommended in
 cases of shock, anxiety, depression or stress.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) well, just think of a beer or two and then a sleepy kind of feeling. LOL! Yes, it has a sedative effect and is recommended for nervous anxiety, hysteria and insomnia.

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is described in 'Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine' as "One of Nature's gentlest, non-toxic, non-addictive tranquilisers" and is recommended for it's calming effect, for nervous tension, excitability, restlessness and insomnia. Apparently, after chamomile, valerian is Europe's most popular herb.

Pictures of Cowslip (top) and Valerian (bottom) from Flickr with thanks to: Cathredfern and Eric in SF.

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Friday, 28 March 2008

Cayenne pepper for colds!

I recently started reading up on cayenne pepper in a book called 'The Health Benefits of Cayenne' by John Heinerman (you can get it secondhand for 1p on Amazon!). 

It's always exciting to discover that something that has been sitting in the cupboard all that time has so many amazing uses as a home healer. I'll blog more about it soon, but here I want to share a simple suggestion from the book that acts as a preventative for colds. I tried it recently, feeling the onset of a cold, and... well, I didn't get one.

You mix 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of honey and the juice of 1 lemon in a mug with some hottish water. And then (don't stop to think about it) just drink! It will warm you up, I promise. ;-)
Apparently cayenne pepper helps massively with the absorption of Vitamin C by the body. I've started using it more often: a sprinkle on my veggies, or sometimes I do just have a little bit in an ordinary lemon and honey - for a bit of added kick!

Update! Although I still eat lots of lemons, my favourite cold remedy is now Echinacea and Siberian Ginseng.

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Rosehip & Hibiscus tea

This is a good winter warmer! You can get rosehip and hibiscus tea fairly readily as a tea bag. I've just bought rosehip granules and dried hibiscus flowers from Baldwins and made up my own loose mixture - of which I put a teaspoon in for 1 cup.

Rose hip (Rosa canina) are gathered in the autumn and then dried. They are a good source of Vitamin C, but even before this discovery it was used for colds and to treat inflamed or bleeding gums. Apparently it is also good for rheumatoid arthritis. When something is so healthy it's good to find as many reasons as possible to eat/ drink it - and here we have a recipe for rose hip schnapps! Time to get picking in the autumn. :-)

Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) also known as Jamaican Sorrel, of the many varieties of hibiscus this is the one used in teas. Apparently hibiscus tea is very popular in Africa as a drink sold on the street, and in the Caribbean as part of the Christmas celebrations. It is said to lower high blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol levels. I just saw a suggestion to drink it with mint as a tea - I have to try that!

Photos from Flickr: Waves & Waterfalls and Karl Simpson - thank you!

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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Fabric conditioner

I'm still experimenting with homemade fabric conditioners. There are lots of recipes on the internet which are usually contain one or more of: white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, water, and essential oils or scent. These aren't bad but I haven't yet experienced that "mmm" just washed effect from them. The other downer is that the bicarbonate of soda tends to sink to the bottom of the bottle so you have to give it a really good shake before use, and end up with lots left in the bottom. Not the end of the world, but a bit of a pain. I will add to this post as I try new recipes...

Experiment no.1
I just did a full wash with homemade laundry liquid (that's for another post) and fabric conditioner - the latter contained:
  • 90ml vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 6 drops lavender & 2 drops geranium
Results: I find this is fine in terms of the clothes being soft, I can smell the essential oils but it would be nice if the smell was a bit stronger.

Experiment no.2
Same basic ingredients/ amounts, but with a fragrance oil instead of essential oils. The fragrance oil is "Sea breeze" from The Soap Kitchen, and I added about 14 drops.

Results: total failure in the smell department! I can't smell the fragrance oil at all on the washed clothes. :-(

Experiment no.3
Same basic ingredients/ amounts, but with essential oils, lots! I added 15 drops lemon and 15 drops orange. 

Results: there was a nice citrus smell when the clothes came out the washer, but it seems to have faded. Sigh! Methinks a new approach is needed... back to the drawing board. 

I met a lady yesterday who said that she sprays the clothes with lavender in water when she irons, which leaves the clothes with a nice smell and makes the job of ironing more relaxing! :-)

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Getting over the vinegar blues

One of the ingredients that figures often in homemade household products is white vinegar. But once it goes into a few products such as air freshener and window cleaner you start to get the chip shop effect from it's smell. I've started to use acetic acid which can be diluted about 7:1 to produce vinegar (apparently table vinegar is a 5-8% dilution). As well as being cheaper, it has the advantage of not having the strong smell (once diluted).
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Jam Jars for herbs

A few bags of herbs in the cupboard, slowly but surely, turned into a lot of bags of herbs! And as I couldn't find a good storage solution I decided to have some fun making my own - enter Jam Jars! I bought a tray of jam jars and some glass paints, a ball of string and a paint brush, and - well you can see the results. The jars are baked after painting so they can go in the dishwasher (if I had one).  All my herbs are now happily housed in jam jars. I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about each herb, so each label has some of the common uses on the back. Now each time I finish some honey, I add to the collection. ;-) 
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Introducing Jam Jar Junction

Jar Jar Junction? It's the place for all the bits & bobs, crafty things, and what-not that doesn't fit anywhere else. In my next post, you'll see why... :-)
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Scent up North

This is an aftershave recipe that I found online ages ago (can't remember where at the moment) and made for a friend, and have since had a repeat request for it (always a good sign). I christened it "North" and it has a woody, slightly smoky smell.

I made it up in a mini spray bottle from Boots (75ml) and it contains:
  • 40ml denatured ethanol (you can also use 100% proof vodka)
  • 7.5ml water
  • 7.5ml essential oils
The essential oils are made up from:
  • 24 drops sandalwood
  • 18 drops cedarwood
  • 18 drops juniper
  • 12 drops frankincense
  • 12 drops myrrh
  • 6 drops black pepper
  • 6 drops pine
It's meant to have 3 - 6 weeks to "mature" while the essential oils get to know each other. 

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Variations on a theme of... shampoo

I've been using the Aromantic shampoo recipe and ingredients for about 6 months now and I think they're great - gentle and effective. I've got three variations that I've made so far:

1. A decoction of rose petals for the water content, and then the essential oils of rosewood, sandalwood and ylang ylang added at the end. I used this myself for quite a long time and it is a good all round shampoo. I stopped using a conditioner as I found that I just didn't need it anymore.

2. A decoction of chamomile flowers (good for lighter hair), and then a little more chamomile essential oil, honey moisturiser and sea silk added. This is my current favourite, leaving my hair really soft and conditioned.

3. A decoction of rosemary and nettle, and then the essential oils of sage, thyme and a little ginger added as well as (I almost forgot) D-Panthenol. I haven't tried this one yet (although the first report I've had back has been positive), but again I think it's going to be a good all-rounder. It also has the properties of being good for dandruff and unhappy scalp (rosemary) and hair loss (nettle and ginger).

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Nettle tea

Nettle tea is never going to form the taste sensation of the tea collection (ok, so I'm being kind), but nettles are meant to be very good for you and have lots of surprising uses... like making fishing nets, and dye. How do I know this? I'm one of probably very few people who have purchased '101 Uses for Stinging Nettles' by Piers Warren. :-)

Anyway back to nettle tea... I started drinking this tea as it is reputed to help with hayfever, which I've suffered with quite heavily in the last few years. Also known as Urtica dioica to the Latin-educated few, it's supposed to have quite a few other uses such as: iron-deficiency anaemia, gout, stimulating the kidneys, detoxifying the blood, preventing hair loss and more! According to Hilda Leyel
No plant is more useful in domestic medicine
And besides that, it's growing everywhere and freely available (but for a few stings here and there). I was just out walking and spotted that the nettles are coming up now, so picked a few stems to make tea with - which I'm sipping now. It has a healthy sort of feel to it. 

I've also recently used nettles (dried) in shampoo and last year in a very tasty cordial.

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Putting the ZEST in Ceylon tea!

I recently made this recipe from a book (with lots of pictures!) called 'Herbal Tea Remedies' by Jessica Houdret. I've adapted it a bit in the making...

Peel the rind off of an orange and a lemon in thin strips and then dry it slowly in a warm place. I put it on saucers on top of the radiator, which also gives a lovely scent while they're drying. When dry I broke them into small pieces and mixed with about 55g of ceylon tea (the original recipe mixes in twice this amount of tea). Jessica also suggests adding a drop or two of orange and lemon essential oils which I haven't tried yet...

This isn't about to go in my favourites list as I still prefer a slice of lemon in my tea - but if you allow it a good brew it makes a subtle and tasty cup! Perhaps as iced tea in the summer as well? I think it would make a nice present and it smells and looks pleasant.
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Tulsi (holy basil) tea

I came across holy basil while researching remedies for a friend who was suffering from a very run down system and fatigue. It is one of a family of herbs known as adaptogens which basically aid the body in coping with stress and pressure. I will research and write more on adaptogens at a later stage (and I have a book waiting for me on my bookshelf called 'Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief' by David Winston and Steven Maimes).

Unlike some herbal teas which, while being excellent for health, look like muddy pond water and taste... well worse! Holy basil has a delicious, naturally sweet taste. I tend to enjoy a cup in the morning and am aware of it's gently uplifting effects.

I recently ordered some from a supplier on Ebay who was very fast and sent me a sampler back of teas where holy basil is mixed with another ingredient (e.g. - ginger, green tea). They were all delicious!

Here is a quote about holy basil from the book I mentioned above:

Holy basil is sacred to the Hindu god Vishnu and is used in morning prayers to insure personal health, spiritual purity, and family well-being... For perhaps three thousand years, holy basil has been considered one of India's most powerful herbs. The daily use of this herb is believed to help maintain the balance of the chakras (energy centers) of the body.

In terms of moderns uses, the book lists it as helpful for: stress reduction, enhancing cerebral circulation and memory, antidepressant, allergic rhinitis - and more!

Well I'm converted - but don't forget, only drink herbal teas as part of a balanced diet that includes things such as chocolate! ;-)
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Get ready for a blog blast!

This blog has been sadly neglected, but it is now firmly in my sights and I have lots and lots of recipes to add over the coming weeks, and months, and... :-)
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