holistic healing

two-step face: apothecary style

FullSizeRender

So you wanna talk beauty?  That’s a little outside my comfort zone.  I’m not a RA RA natural beauty cheerleader, and those mantras about beauty being skin deep and on the inside get really twisted in my dark mind.  I will say: the best way I’ve found to stay glowing is to surround myself with people who love all aspects of me (especially people who think I’m funny, because I will make lots of jokes and do lots of bits and generally be my silly self), and to live in such a way that I feel I’m doing the best I can.  I like to eat well (real food and soul food), hang out by the ocean, belt my favorite songs, snuggle my favorite animals (and humans!).  I also stick to my comfort zone when it’s important for me, like what I wear and where I go.  You won’t find me in a miniskirt in a bar, because I’m probably in a sweater in the backyard with a good book and the dog.  In all this, I may not have the best hair or flawless airbrushed skin, but I can look at myself in the mirror and actually see myself.  I don’t have to avoid myself, and I don’t have to try very hard either (which is key).  

You must know: I have weird aversions.  It’s not that I don’t care about being clean (although sometimes I truly don’t), it’s that I seriously hate showering so much I’ll endure until I want to scratch my head off.  I only shower at night because I hate being cold and wet in the morning.  I only wash my face in the shower because splashing water on my face in any other context makes me cringe.  I literally tense all my muscles and try to curl up in a ball while standing.  So this process was borne out of an extreme desire to avoid doing anything unnecessarily time consuming and uncomfortable, including washing my face.  TMI TMI TMI.

I stopped wearing makeup in college, in true granola fashion. Until recently, I didn’t even own anything that could be smudged onto the facial plane to elicit effect. I bought a mineral powder a couple months ago to hopefully tone down what was a particularly tomato-bright sunburn, and I’ve worn it probably three times since (to job interviews). The point is, I got very comfortable with my naked face. Thought it wasn’t always in the “fall in love with your natural self” way; it was often out of extreme disinterest and an inability to grip why something like that might be of necessity.  (Ask me why it took me 25 years to maintain a hairstyle, and see above for why it’s an awful chore to even wash my hair.) It was one of the easiest old habits to shelve – despite being one that begins incredibly early for women as my peers and I started dabbling in grade school. Whether or not you wear makeup, maintaining healthy skin is important to look and feel our best.

So many of us who take interest in the health and presentation of ourselves (including our face!) are in pursuit of those young features: even skin tone, blemish-free, firm elasticity. I basically don’t want to be thinking about my face all day; I want it to be there, doing it’s job, not causing problems. As I also strive to be a minimal consumer of products, I wasn’t interested in hunting down this or that serum that might do the trick – with unholy chemicals to boot. So I looked where I normally would: the apothecary kitchen.

I’ve been doing step one for about four years now, and recently committed to step two (I had been using a natural lotion sporadically, and started committing to actually moisturizing my face for the past six months). It’s never felt better!

Today, my skin routine is merely two steps. It can be done morning or night, or both, or whenever it’s warranted. I don’t have to worry about over-cleaning my face, or struggling with a dry face all day if I forget to moisturize. It’s so simple and keeps me thinking on the daily, “How is my face this soft?!”

TWO-STEP FACE: APOTHECARY STYLE

What you will need:

IMG_3073

STEP ONE: cleanse

  • Witch Hazel → you can find organic options in your natural foods store. I have also found it in my regular grocery store’s first aid aisle.
  • Apple cider vinegar → you know the drill; it’s in EVERYTHING these days
  • Cotton balls
  • A glass jar

STEP TWO: moisturize

  • Sesame oil → when I open a new jar of tahini, I pour off the oil that gathers on top and jar it specifically for bathroom use. You can also purchase sesame oil in the grocery store; I’ve found it in the ethnic foods aisle, and you can seek out organic options if you like.
  • Bonus: natural sunscreen!

Ingredient Spotlight

WITCH HAZEL – is a natural astringent made from the bark of the witch hazel shrub. It works to tone the skin and calm hives and rashes. I use it primarily as a cleanser instead of the whole soap-and-water routine. It can remove makeup, under-eye bags, and soothe a variety of skin conditions. I also use it on my underarms and anywhere I’m worried about razor burn.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR – is full of vitamins and minerals that fight bacteria and regulate the body’s pH levels.

SESAME OIL – has long been used in the practice of Ayurveda to promote health and balance VATA dosha (grounding, moisturizing). It can be swished in the mouth to pull out toxins and mucus buildup. In self-massage, it moisturizes and maintains health due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.

How to prepare

In a small jar, mix 1:1:1 → witch hazel : apple cider vinegar : water.

How to use

  1. Remove all heavy makeup using coconut oil or other makeup remover. Light makeup (such as a light dusting of mineral powder) can be removed with the witch hazel solution.
  2. To cleanse face: dip a cotton ball in the witch hazel solution and squeeze out excess liquid. Apply to face. There will be a noticeable lift in dirt on the cotton ball. You may do this multiple times if desired until cotton ball comes clean. Dispose.
  3. To moisturize: dip a few fingers into sesame oil and rub fingers of both hands together. Distribute evenly to face and neck (if desired). A little goes a long way, but be sure to apply enough to moisturize the skin properly.
  4. Optional: if desired, mix sunscreen and sesame oil together before applying.

Other helpful tips

  • If I run out of witch hazel or ACV, I have simply used one or the other. I like them best together, but I’m also economical and lazy, so I get it. Just know that they both have tonifying effects and do the job on their own.
  • If applying oil to your face sounds counterintuitive, know this: your face (your whole body, in fact) has its own proper process for producing whatever it is your body needs, and in the correct amount. A lifetime of soaping our face and hair and skin can strip our body’s natural sensors and this process must be reestablished. Your body will regulate, and applying a sensible amount of oil to your face will not make you the grease monster. It may take days or weeks to regulate, but when you do, your skin will keep the proper moisture necessary to stay hydrated and elastic.
  • The sesame oil does have a cooking-in-an-Asian-kitchen kind of smell when you first apply it, but it tones down quickly. No one has ever commented that my face smells like food or anything… 😉
  • It’s also important to drink a lot of water to keep your skin hydrated.

 

Advertisements

herbal tinctures and mental wellness

FullSizeRender

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional or medical practitioner.  I speak only of my personal experience and do not attempt to make any recommendations for tincture usage by anyone else.  Please use caution when using herbal tinctures.  Use at your own risk.

I’m no where near being able to talk myself out of the dark place.  It’s not unlike arriving at your destination and having no memory of having driven there, like sleepwalking.  Like the general routine of taking medication, opening windows around the house in the early morning.  Your day – your life – will be affected by these things, but the small actions of doing them are seemingly inconsequential.  Living at a low vibration is cumulative and one day you realize you’re not where you want to be.

I’ve never been known to self-medicate.  I rarely remember self-care.  Something I have returned to again and again, however, is a home remedy using herbal tinctures.  Tinctures, like essential oils, are powerful vehicles in that they squeeze many essential benefits out of a few potent drops.  I don’t have to spend hours grooming or bathing or brewing elixirs or whatever else we’re often encouraged to do to make special time for ourselves.  Too much time to myself is quite likely what has been driving me mad.  I can instantly (and discreetly) imbibe a few drops of tincture onto my tongue or into my water glass and carry on.

I have made a few of my own tinctures and sought out others, and through a bit of personal experimentation have figured out the right dosage for my needs.  I wanted to share with you here the ones I have turned to again and again.

The process for making tinctures is very simple.  It requires about 4-6 weeks of soaking time for potency.  Typically, I fill a mason jar three quarters of the way full with herbs, and pour in soaking alcohol to cover.  It is recommended to use 80 proof or higher.  I then cover with a piece of parchment paper and seal with the outside ring of the lid.  Brew at room temperature in a dark cupboard.  

Dosage: Theoretically, everyone should consult their healthcare practitioner when taking any substances, and a naturopathic doctor can help determine the proper dosage for your needs.  If you are interested in supplementing with herbs and other natural substances, find a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner that will support your quest for holistic health.

********************

CAYENNE – I made this one myself using whole dried cayenne peppers and organic vodka.  I like this one for a burst of energy or focus.  I’ve also used it after a dehydration hangover or during a tension headache because cayenne can increase blood flow to an area and works as an anti-inflammatory.  Additionally, the rumor mill speaks of capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne and other peppers, as being mood-boosting.  A typical dose is one drop on the tip of my tongue or a few drops in warm lemon water.

PASSION FLOWER – I purchased this from a natural foods market as I was having trouble sourcing the herb and didn’t want to wait an additional month to brew.  Anxiety will do that to you.  This tincture is recommended for social anxiety, and I have been using it a lot recently while starting a new job.  I’ve also taken this right before I go into therapy because I tend to constrict my muscles and get the shakes when I’m emotional.  I generally find that a half of a dropper-full in a glass of water is a decent dose for this store-bought version.

CHAMOMILE – Homemade with organic dried chamomile from an apothecary shoppe, soaked in rum.  I use this in a similar way to passion flower, but mostly I use it to wind down before bed and for a good night’s sleep, especially if the events of the day have been particularly emotional.  Mine is full-strength, so I only need about five drops on the tip of my tongue to feel its effects.

KAVA KAVA – This is a half-strength brew with leaves from an apothecary shoppe mulled with brandy.  Kava is known as the “social” herb, in that it loosens inhibitions similar to alcohol.  When I take a higher dose, I have noticed similar effects to marijuana; particularly a relaxing of the muscles, drowsy eyes and loss of mental focus.  I only use this tincture in the comfort of my own home at the end of the day, typically to prepare for social interaction or to take an “emotional chill pill” (so to speak) before bed.  Because of the weakness of this brew, five drops will just begin to elicit its effects, and I generally take 10 drops on the tongue, though occasionally I will take more.  I do not take this tincture very often as Kava has been implicated in some kidney distress.  However, as I do not regularly tax my kidneys by alcohol consumption or other means, I figure I’m not at high risk.

MARSHMALLOW ROOT – This was gifted to me by a friend in a sort of “hippie trade” (I think I gave her some homemade salve…).  Marshmallow has a soothing effect inside the body (much like ghee, coconut oil, chia, and slippery elm) in that it coats our innards so things pass through more efficiently and resists bacteria growth and infection.  Because of this, it is great for cough and respiratory issues as well as digestive and stomach issues.  I take it when I start to feel pain in my “lady area” to prevent UTI and other infections.  I have found that five drops in a glass of water gives me results by the end of the day.

fluff free: wellness trends that should stay

IMG_1992

It’s no secret that I’m a leeeeetle bit skeptical of the trendy wellness world. Even still, I’m a card-carrying member for a reason: wellness matters to me. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it looks different for everyone, and that’s how it should be. I do tend to avoid anyone that’s trying to sell me a better life, so a lot of the emerging health craze has me doing a constant eye roll. There are, however, trends that I can get behind whole-heartedly. Want to know what they are?

MINIMALISM

Minimalism is having a moment. For some, minimalism is an inherent part of their nature; like a nervous tick, an inability to function unless everything is just right. For others, it’s more of a learned skill: consciously looking around the room and noticing when something is out of place or in excess. There’s an aesthetic minimalism, often meaning clean lines, muted tones, and just a few perfectly placed pieces of furniture. In that kind of setting, it’s highly noticeable if a pillow falls a little too far to the right, or if the dog left his toys in the middle of the floor again (savage!). Minimalism is also about keeping only what is necessary and serves an immediate purpose, and having a spot for everything – and I mean EVERYTHING. Never fear! That kind of minimalism can most definitely exist in a home with busier décor.

To me, minimalism just makes good sense. When I have clutter of any kind (even Monica Geller and I have junk drawers), I’m exponentially frazzled. It often means being unable to find what you need, especially during higher-stress moments like trying to leave the house on time.

There’s a lot of inspiration out there for how to get better at minimalism, and I’ll do a more in-depth post someday. For today, I’ll leave you with these tips that may not be as obvious:

  1. The best way to fight clutter is to stop it before it ever enters your home. Only buy items you need right away and when you get home, put everything away.
  2. When you leave a room, quick glance around and see if anything is there that doesn’t belong. Pick it up and walk it to its rightful home.
  3. When it comes to things that seem to pile up to no end (like flower vases, shopping totes, markers, notepads, undergarments), have a few high-quality items on hand that you really like and toss or donate anything of low-quality every time it comes into the house. No need to wait until the clutter builds up!
  4. Purge fridge and pantry often (weekly if possible) and get rid of things you don’t use or like. Also use this time to keep it organized (fruit on one shelf, leftovers on another, etc).
  5. Never leave anything in your car that does not have a specific function within your car. Tidy up your car every time you arrive home.

HOLISTIC HEALING

You know what else is having a moment? Alternative medicine. The US is finally embracing ancient medicinal practices like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda (India’s medical practice), 5000+ years later. This is a very good thing! It means we are stepping away from our typical toolkit of popping acetaminophen every day and racing to urgent care whenever we feel a head cold coming on. Instead, we’re brewing ginger tea, imbibing probiotics, and trying to breathe more deeply. The modern medical world has developed in large part to deal with modern issues, like migraines and obesity. And I must note that US doctors saved my life when I contracted a life-threatening illness at age eleven. However, I cannot deny that humans have lived a looooong time before modern medicine, and they must have developed some pretty rad tools to evolve this far. Seeking nature as my day-to-day healer has helped keep me healthy and asks me to consider my physical relationship to the energetic world whenever I feel dis-ease coming into my body. Whether one is turning to elderberry syrup to soothe a cough or receiving weekly acupuncture treatments or meeting with a psychic healer, there are a number of things people are doing to tackle challenges of having a human body (and mind!) and I hope this awakening can continue to be there for people when they seek it.

HOME COOKING

Two things:

It is so neat to me when people know how to cook. It tells me you are intelligent and ambitious, conscientious and self-reliant. Your stomach rumbles don’t send you straight to the drive-thru. You’ve thought enough in advance to know that you’re going to be hungry later, and you might like an avocado with spinach and chicken. And you can keep your kitchen stocked with whole foods ingredients and make these things for yourself! Don’t get me wrong: I love a fancy dinner out. I’m a foodie first, remember? On a day-to-day basis, however, I like to keep it simple and mega-tasty in the comfort of my own home. And I love that so many people – especially younger folks – are into this, too.

The other thing is that I am proud of womankind for taking back this domestic task and propelling themselves to the forefront of creativity and innovation when it comes to food. It may be true that most restaurant-employed chefs are male, but just look at the internet food scene and you’ll know that women are neck-and-neck with the big boys. If I google a recipe, I want to know how it comes out for home cooks, so I skip over food network websites and the like, and find blogs written by women who have dreamt up and created and artfully shared flavorful and nourishing meals.

And because primates are food-oriented, I believe, for this trend, there’s no end in sight!