Monthly Archives: October 2011

Close to My Heart

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The Importance of Avoiding Aluminum

Not too long ago, a friend gave me a call to inform me of her results from her last doctor’s visit, she was devastated to learn that she had the onset of Alzheimer’s disease .  She asked me for some help, so I went straight to work for a plan tailored to her personality and needs.

As I was standing in her kitchen, I was stunned to see how many unhealthy and even harmful items were in her kitchen.  I have no intentions of going into detail,however, there is one thing I want to mention to my readers.  once thing I want for you to do is to clear out everything that is made of aluminum!  Although we still do not know what all leads up to Alzheimer’s, we do know that heavy metals deposited in our bodies for years are a strong factor.  So, not only replace your cookware with stainless steel, or better yet, cast iron, but think about all of those carbonated beverages in cans and the canned goods packaged in tin!  Personally, I stay clear of any deodorant containing alumium (my recommendation, as always –  read the label!).

Alzheimer’s disease is a fast growing problem and accounts for 50-80% of all dementia cases and it is not a normal part of growing old!

 

 

Stay Away from Phthalates!

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No Room for Chemicals

In one of my earlier posts I had talked about the endless list of chemicals found in our everyday cremes, lotions and other hygiene products, their harmful effect and in the uselessness in the products overall.  Today I want to dive into this a bit further because we need to be more aware of how these chemicals surround us in common everyday items and even in foods so we can avoid them whenever possible.

I know it is hard to find the time to make all of the skin care items, soaps and household cleaners yourself, I know how much easier it is to just go ahead and grab whatever it is you need right off of the shelves of the nearest store.  However, I am convinced, that we owe ourselves much more than that, we deserve better!

Once again, I would like to bring up the phthalates.  This is a big nasty found in all products which contain fragrances.  It is found in Shampoos, perfumes and cleaners.  This chemical is also used to make plastic soft and squishy and is added into your infant’s toy or in your pet’s rubber chew toy.  This is a chemical, which will lead to disruptions of the hormone system; reproductive abnormalities and it can be an additional cause for higher risks for diabetes.  True, we can’t stay away from this chemical entirely since it is also used in medical tubing and PVC, but we can ban it from our bathroom shelves.  Get into the habit of reading the labels and opt for fragrance free products or choose items that list essential oils on their labels.

Sadly enough, these phthalates have found their way into our foods, a place they most surely do not belong!   My mantra ” keep it simple!!

 

 

The Elder

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Sambucus nigra, Adoxaceae, Elder, Elderberry, ...

The Queen of Herbs

“Elder” is an Anglo-Saxon word (aeld) and means “Fire” because its hollow twigs would blow sparks into the flame.  Rarely is the elder wood burned, there are many superstitions such as bringing death to the family.  The Elder is assigned to the 13th consonant of the Ogham Alphabet, the Ruis and the 13th  month in the Celtic Tree Calendar, which reigns from November 25th until Winter Solstice on December 21st.

The Elder is more of a bush than a tree, although it can grow up to 30 feet tall.  In June the bush is covered in creamy, flat-topped sprays, each containing hundreds of delicate five-petalled flowers.  The delicious aroma  reminds one of Muscat grapes.  In the folklore it is said, that the fragrance of the elder flowers can transport you into the realms of the fairies.  The flowers turn into small green berries and then ripen into a purplish-black color.  The tiny fruit, plum with juice hang in dense bunches called drupes.

The ripe drupes can be harvested, but it is not advised to eat them raw.  Boiled into a nutritious syrup it is wonderful to fight off cold,  flu  and soothes sore throats.  Great support of the immune system.  Made into a wine it is also very tasty and homemade elder berries jam is delicious for crepes.  A standard infusion of elder flowers is a great skin toner and it can be added to face creams or masks.

The Celts used it to make hair dye.  The roots and leaves are still used today to dye wool black.  Mixed with alum, the leaves dye green and the berries dye in various shades of blue, purple and violet.  Crushed elder leaves make a practical and chemical free insect deterrent and an infused of the same sprayed about he house will keep insect away.

The Elder is the most often used to undo spells of evil intent, although the Elder is also mostly connected to Witches.  The Elder Mother is believed to dwell in the tree.  She works a strong earth magic and punishes those who use the Elder selfishly.  The Elder is under the protection of the goddess of the waning moon and the waning year, the Queen of the Dead, also known as the Old Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess.  All throughout Europe the Elder is associated with death and regeneration, with magic.  The Triple Goddess, who as mentioned lives within the Elder, is known in the northern countries in Europe as Elle or Hyldemoer, and in Germany she is called “Frau Holle” from the german word “Hollunder” meaning Elder.  It was considered bad luck to have a crib made of Elder wood for the newborn within one’s family, however, ancient traditions does call for a coffin made of Elder for the dearly departed.

European farmers appreciate Elder bushes on their land still today, it is honored and respected, although having it grow too close to the house makes them feel uncomfortable.

Again, caution leaves and bark should not be used for self medication and the fresh root from the American Elder is poisonous and not be used at all!

Facial Pampering

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Herbal Facial Steam

Get into this routine – steam, mask scrub and tone.  Great for all ages and skin types.  Lets talk about a steam which prepares the skin for a wonderful face massage later on.  Chop a handful of fresh melissa leaves and chamomile flowers.  Pour some nearly boiling water into a heatproof bowl until it is half full.  Scatter the herbs into the water and lean over the bowl and cover your head with a towel..  Allow the steam to rise onto your face for about 15 minutes, then wipe your face dry or pat it dry.  Of course, as we know, the steam opens up the pores and eliminates impurities, while the melissa and chamomile are fabulously soothing to the skin.

Follow up with an Avocado, Cypress and Lavender Nourishing Mask

Aguacate / Avocado

Image via Wikipedia

In a bowl mash the flesh of half a ripe avocado, add a spritzer of lemon juice and then add 2 drops of cypress and 3 drops of lavender essential oils (make sure they are not synthetic oil). Vitamins A, D and E from the Avocado nourish and protect The cypress and lemon juice tone and the lavender soothes the skin.  Be generous when applying the mask , and remember to avoid the eye area.  Let the green paste be absorbed into your skin for 15 minutes, then wash off with warm water and dry face and neck gently.  Also, use the treatment on the day you mixed it.

For my next post we will be making the facial scrub and toner, step three and four of our facial pampering.

P.S.  I am now on Twitter!  Follow me @OnyxTweets

October Moon/Samhain

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Samhain

witch flying over pumpkin during full moon by ron byrum

witch flying over pumpkin during full moon by ron byrum

The October moon is also called the  Hunter’s Moon or the Blood Moon.  It is also the month when our planet withdraws energy and prepares nature for  annual slumber.  The nights are getting longer and our desire to nestle down for the dark period has increased.

I enjoy October for the magic it holds along with the traditions and rituals surrounding the month.  Samhain is usually celebrated on the New Moon, for 2011 this would be on October 26th, but somewhere along the way, it settled in for October 31st hence becoming for what it is known for today – Halloween.

Samhain is of Celtic origin and has little to do with ghouls, demons and terror.  However, it does signal death.  The leaves are falling from the trees, plants are fading, fields lie bare, livestock have been brought in from the pastures and nature all around us exhales. Samhain is celebrated for three days; to me the entire month is mystical.   It is also the Celtic New Year since it lies directly across from the Beltane celebrations and therefore completes the circle.  You may think of it as Yin & Yang, white and dark.  During this period we think about anything we may have left unsolved or unsettled for the past 12 months and make attempts to put them to rest.  Once that is done, we can move on to making resolutions for the New Year.  I write my wishes on paper, fold it thrice and throw them into the bonfire after a brief meditation.  Samhain is also the time when the realms of the living and the dead is very thin and communication is at its easiest.  Many of us celebrate this time in the memory of our departed and honor our ancestors. Since the veil is so thin you can expect to hear within your heart the advice and guidance of family members being passed on to you.  Personally, I bring out my grandmother’s set of wooden cook spoons, my grandfather’s photograph and some other personal items of various members who have crossed over.  I display these items on an altar decorated with acorns, chrysanthemums and candles.

I practice several rituals throughout the month, I honor the God and Goddess by putting out some water and bread on my house stoop, I honor my ancestors as stated above and I perform a protection ritual for my pets.  I celebrate the cycle of Life and Death as well.  Needless to say I do also enjoy the fun aspects of Samhain too, the dress up for Halloween, the candy corn and the Jack-o-Lanterns, although these traditions evolved much later in the timeline of Samhain.

It wasn’t until the 8th century or so, when the Catholic Church declared November 1st as All Saints Day.  Since the pagans were already celebrating anyway, the Church decided to use the Celtic celebration as a church holiday, reasoning that this way they could eradicate the pagan holiday all together.  All Saints Day became the day to honor any saint who did not have a day dedicated to him/her already.  The mass which was said on November 1st was the Allhollowmass (= the mass of all who are hallowed).  The eve of Allhollowmass was – you’ve guessed it – All Hallows Eve (= Halloween).

Keep it Simple

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Natural Skin Care

As stated in one of my earlier posts, we all should be more aware of the many commercial cosmetic products we put onto our skin.  We are so smitten with the sleek cosmetic advertising and the promises they never can deliver on.  We do not care enough to learn that only 5 % of the over 10,000 ingredients known to the FDA have been evaluated for safety.   We let out bodies absorb about 130 various chemicals on a regular basis coming from all the prettily packaged lotions, creams, rubs and sprays.  While the industry and the FDA insist that many of the ingredients are safe (which they very well may be), why is it then that the European Union has banned over 1,100 ingredients from skin care and beauty products vs. only 10 that are banned here in the U.S.?  Just about every day we hear of new studies of commonly used products that after many of years on the market suddenly are declared as harmful because of then unknown side effects of complex chemicals.  We do not know how certain chemicals affect us over the years; on others we do.  As an example, phthalates, often in artificial fragrances, is known to cause sperm damage, infertility and birth defects.

I hope my readers have gained some knowledge and are going to start being more critical of what they put onto their bodies as well as to what they put  into it. Our skin is like a sponge and while small portions may hardly be deadly, the accumulative amount over the years can be very harmful  My best advice is to keep it simple.  Examine labels, know that “natural” and “all natural”  still contain synthetic chemicals which may be toxic.  The terms are not regulated.  Stay clear from fragrances in your lotions, creams and soaps.  Companies are not required to declare the dozens of toxic chemicals  that can be in a product’s mix to mimic the smell of fresh pomegranate.

If  shopping for beauty or grooming products, this is when you really should go with organic  products – or make your own.

Get rid of dark eye circles!

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Heart potato

Image by cuorhome via Flickr

No Dark Eye Circles

Out dancing the night away and then having to rush to work  can leave visible, sure tell-tale signs around your eyes.  To get rid of them fairly quickly, grate a raw potato and place it in a small square of cheese cloth and place on eyelids for about 15 minutes.  Splash residue off with warm water and apply eyecream.