19 March 2015

Au Natural

hummingbird moth with revived lavender

Infused Epsom salts as an effective defense against arthritis have been in my arsenal for about six years. Initially, I used the store-bought salts pre-infused with rosemary, spearmint and eucalyptus. A soak at the end of a long, hard, winter day, was just what my arthritic back needed for my whole body to attain a good night's rest.

The store-bought Epsom salts became more and more difficult to find, as well as more and more expensive. A couple of years ago, I bought a book about essential oils to learn more about natural remedies. It taught me I could try making my own bath salts. Since then, I've bought regular Epsom salts and used whatever oils were appropriate for whatever I was experiencing at the time. I saved money, and I didn't have to go searching for a specific mix of pre-infused Epsom salts anymore.

Win, win!

As I learned more about essential oils, I began to rely upon them more than over-the-counter remedies. Less chemicals. Less expense. More self-reliance. More control over what goes on and into me.

Win, win!

lavender love
homegrown lavender

During the rampant forest fires two and three years ago, I found essential oils in a humidifier to work better than any allergy medications I've ever taken.

A couple of years ago, I bought homemade soap from a co-worker and absolutely LOVED the way I felt after using it. I'll never use store-bought soap bars again unless necessary. I'm convinced we have so many chemicals in most everything we buy these days, much of the real purpose of any store-bought household or body cleansers is diluted beyond helpfulness. I'm hoping to begin making my own soap this year, but until then, my co-worker's homemade exfoliating oatmeal soap is one of my best cleaning investments.

About a year ago, I decided to try something a few of my friends and many people I didn't know were trying. I took the plunge into a shampooless world.

I had been a Breck or Herbal Essence girl ever since I was in grade school. I have been a conditioner addict because my baby-fine, thin hair is so tangly. I've longed for beautiful hair like what I see in advertisements and in the various forms of media, but I just didn't think I had the genes for beautiful, shiny hair.

For the past several years, I've unsuccessfully fought dandruff. I knew part of the problem was the shampoo and conditioner remnants on my scalp, and each time I shampooed, I was adding to the build-up. I have tried to use good products, but the problem just didn't get any better.

Last year, I followed a friend's advice and tried using nothing but baking soda, tea tree oil and lavender oil (mixed with water) as my shampoo, followed by apple cider vinegar as conditioner. I was skeptical of the apple cider vinegar. Until after that first wash.

HOLY COW!!!!!

My comb went through my hair as easily as ever, and my hair felt better. With just one baking soda/ACV shampoo, I had already made a difference in the texture of my hair. My hair was soft and shiny, my scalp tingled, and oh, the natural curl!!!

I'd learned how to wash dishes with baking soda and ash from the camp fire back in seventh grade during girls camp. I should have known all this time baking soda is a great cleanser. I think I remember my grandmother using it instead of soap products in a pinch.

I'd read the smell of the apple cider vinegar doesn't last. It doesn't, but it's a whopper while you're using it. Also, I learned the very hard way, don't get this stuff in your eyes!

2011
2011

2011
2011

Now
Now

Now
Now

Initially, the most difficult thing about making my own shampoo and conditioner is they are water-thin. I was accustomed to gooey stuff that was easy to see and feel saturating my hair and my scalp. I had to get used to the thin and penetrating nature of making my own.

After the first poo-less shampoo, I researched how to make the home solution thicker. Easy enough; stuff readily available in the kitchen may be added. The same stuff used to thicken gravy and sauces. Corn starch, arrowroot powder or guar gum. I tried mixing a tiny bit of arrowroot in my homemade baking soda, water, tea tree oil and lavender oil shampoo, and although the mixture did thicken up nicely, I didn't like the feel of my hair using it. So I went back to using the thin mixture.

It took a while to become accustomed to the thinness of homemade, but now it doesn't bother me, and I've found I don't use as much. The drippy stuff goes down the length of long hair without having to keep reapplying. It literally goes everywhere all by itself. Gently, and without tangle-imposing work. I do still massage my scalp, and the dandruff is gradually subsiding. The overall feel of using baking soda, apple cider vinegar and essential oils on my hair has been magnificent. I can never go back now.

I've since learned sage oil in the shampoo, in addition to the lavender, supposedly helps darken gray (or silver in my case), plus it smells good, and I grow my own. One day, I hope to be able to make all my own essential oils. I now add sage or lemon oil to the lavender oil in the apple cider vinegar, and I'm now using apple cider vinegar "with the mother" because it's just all kinds of healthy in several different ways, a second of which I'll get to in a minute. In the meantime, I've already shared why I like sage; lemon is supposed to bring out shine. Plus, it smells really, really good.

I've also used chamomile, which is supposed to be good for conditioning. The oil is pretty darned stinky. I didn't mind the smell as much when I infused the vinegar myself with chamomile blossoms growing in my backyard.

Suncatchers
Grapefruit, Orange, Lemon and Lime Suncatchers

Before all this, I had tried African black soap (for both hair and skin), and I liked it, even though it does have some chemicals. I'm not sure it will be feasible to take my pre-mixed little baking soda and ACV containers that are viable only a few days after I mix them for a whole week of shower trucks during Ride the Rockies, so I've decided to pour the leftover African black soap into empty hotel shampoo bottles to carry along with us. The African black soap doesn't have an expiration date, and it doesn't have an many chemicals as other commercially popular brands of shampoo.

neem seedling
neem seedling

Another thing I've learned along the way is lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme are supposed to help reduce mosquitoes. I have been growing these spices in the garden for years. I grow them in the kitchen and living room in an effort to help fight indoor predators.

Unfortunately, white flies in my neck of the high-plains-meet-foothills seem to be ignorant of spice technology. These pests even try to feast on my two miniature indoor neem trees, and that's not supposed to happen. (Neem oil is supposed to repel all insects.) However, the other pesties seem to take note of what we're growing, and I have noticed an improvement in the reduction of fruit flies, spider mites and even mosquitoes.

I LOVE the smell of lavender, so last summer and fall, I tried using straight lavender oil instead of Avon's Skin So Soft during my biting fly bicycle rides. Biting flies HURT. Period. They, too, sometimes ignore repellents. But the lavender seemed to do the trick. I did find I have to carry a small bottle of it with me and reapply to sweaty areas often, but that's not such a bad thing. Smells really, really nice!

Some people have a low tolerance for applying undiluted essential oils to their skin. I am one of the lucky ones. I have no problem, and as long as the lavender works, I'm going to stick with it.

This brings me to another natural skin application I heartily recommend.

While doing all this research and testing different homeopathic remedies, I came upon several recommendations for the mother of apple cider vinegar as a treatment for acne.

I do not have acne, but I have had the complexion of a teenager since I became a teenager. It's the one aspect of aging that has not taken a stranglehold on me. My mom used to tell me when I was a pimply 13-year-old, "One day you will be so glad you have oily skin because all your friends will be wrinkly, and you'll still be smooth." She didn't mention zits would be included in that smoothness, but she did try to drill into me that oily skin was not the end of the world.

I have tried every commercial product. A was a Noxema girl. I was a Strident girl. I was a Clearasil girl. I was a witch hazel girl. I have always washed every morning and every night. I carry little pads around with me so I can dab problem areas throughout the day. Nothing worked. Nothing. No one ever told me about apple cider vinegar. Of course, I had to try it the moment I first read it might be a great remedy for some cases of acne.

For the first time in 42 years, I'm finally beginning to see some zit relief. I still get them, and they still drive me nuts. But breakouts are not anywhere near as bad as they have been my whole life. I get two or three at a time now, as opposed to... well, I'm not going to divulge the count. Just trust me when I say there's a reason I learned to retouch photographs of teenage girls with problem skin.

I know the horror. I know the embarrassment. Still today, at age 55, I still wake up every once in a while with a Klingon gorch. I don't wear makeup because that only clogs my oily pores. So I must grin and bear it. Zits bother me more than crooked teeth, split ends, dandruff, hose runs, broken fingernails, chin hair or even the unforgiving accidental unexpected release of methane gas. I have hated my skin for 41.5 years. Apple cider vinegar with the mother has made a new woman of me!

wormhole
fibery apple without the mother

Of course, apple cider vinegar is supposed to have multiple other health benefits, too. I tried putting a teaspoon of it in my filled water bottle. I don't know if it lives up to all the claims made about it, but weight loss might be 100% true. After just one gulp of my ACV-infused water, I wasn't thirsty anymore. Perhaps I should drink a gulp of this stuff before every meal. Ha ha!

And now, for another, and possibly the best, use of natural stuff on skin...

I recently read an article claiming lavender and tea tree oil, mixed with a bit of carrier oil (such as jojoba, coconut or almond) works great to help with arthritis pain. No need to tell me twice!!! I already knew from experience these oils in a warm Epsom salt bath help relieve muscle pain.

I tried the lavender/tea tree/coconut oil mixture almost immediately. As soon as I could get the brew mixed.

It worked so well, my husband is trying it now, too. I know this might not work for everyone, but it works for me better than the Bengay, Icy Hot and Flexall I've used for years. Smells a heck of a lot better, too. Mineral Ice comes close and doesn't smell as obnoxious as some of the others, but my preference now is lavender and tea tree oil. Oh, how I wish I'd known about this remedy eight years ago!

There's a great deal of satisfaction in knowing I'm making my own body and hair products, knowing what goes into each and the way I feel after using them. I love not having so many plastic bottles to throw away every month. I love not having to buy more shampoo and conditioner every time I go to the store. And you can't beat the cost benefits of baking soda and water. Pennies per use. Pennies!

Next up, I'm going to try making my own deodorant. I've already been experimenting with my own body balms. I can't wait to try homemade bath bombs. I can remember using baking soda as toothpaste as a child; maybe I'll even go back to that one day.

Naaa... I like the flavor of the commercial cinnamon stuff I'm using!

homemade fingerling potato soup with homegrown rosemary
homemade fingerling potato soup with homegrown rosemary

12 comments :

  1. There is so much we can do on our own, but people just get slack and want to use the crap. A lot of it surely is dumbed down and doesn't do much good. The natural way can help a lot.

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    1. I think sometimes people pay more attention to the packaging than what's inside, Pat. Buy a pretty bottle because it has a pink ribbon on it, and it doesn't matter what's inside. shivers...

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  2. It's been a hoot watching you become a homeopathist. Perhaps we should move to our favorite corner of the state and raise other homeopathic products, in addition to lavender.

    As I recall, my grandmother used baking soda for a lot of stuff, too.

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    1. It's been a hoot having you by my side, supporting every crazy thing I come up with, Lizard. Thank you for being receptive to all my ideas and letting me get so carried away on tangents.

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  3. A Klingon gorch... I'm sorry to hear that. I'm impressed you can make those products yourself.

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    1. No worries, Blue. They don't happen as often anymore. And yes, I do like to make my own stuff as much as I can. I make my own clothes and bread, too!

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  4. wow, wash your hear and eat a salad all at once. I am amazed at that post. I might even try some or all of that if I can tolerate the oils. I have lots of sensitivities. LeeAnna

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    Replies
    1. Funny, LeeAnna! I do use my homegrown lavender in my body products AND in my kitchen! I hope you are able to tolerate the oils. Especially lavender... sigh!

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  5. Next up for you, my girl, is Oil Cleansing. Best thing ever for oily skin!

    This was a great post. It's wonderful to hear stories of people (especially friends) who have managed to get off the commercial cosmetic/toiletries grid. We don't need that stuff!

    By the way, I brush my teeth with just baking soda and peppermint oil. Not pre-mixed - I put a dab of the oil on my finger, rub it on my moistened toothbrush, rub the finger around my gums, tap the toothbrush in baking soda, and brush with whatever clings to it. Haven't had a cavity in years, and I used to get them regularly. :)

    P.S. Massive curl envy going on here. Lucky you!

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    1. Definitely going to have to look into the oil cleansing, Sue. Thanks for being one of the Poo-less inspirations and for all the moral support when I took the plunge.

      My grandmother used to do baking soda and peroxide, and I remember it being sort of tingly. I may be trying that, with your peppermint suggestion.

      Yeah, curls, I got 'em!!!

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  6. P.S. I use tea tree oil and peppermint oil in an olive oil base for my bug repellent. Works really well!

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    Replies
    1. Interesting combo, Sue. I wonder if the tea tree oil/lavender combo would work as well? I sure love it on my back...

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