Conquer Your Holiday Cold with Natural Remedies

What’s one way you don’t want to be spending the holidays?  Being sick.  Every year, like clockwork, I catch a cold or flu before Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I used to just swallow some over-the-counter drugs, drink a little tea and try to sleep it off.  But I’ve slowly seen that supporting your body with natural remedies can actually speed up recovery time and bring you back more ready to rejoin the holiday whirl.

Here are my five tips for conquering your cold the natural way:

  • Use a Neti Pot once or twice a day.  It’ll help flush out some of the mucus that keeps you hacking and barely able to breathe.  I recommend the Baraka Neti pot, which I’ve been using for years.
  • Mix up a blend of flu-fighting essential oils.*  If you’re feeling feverish, stuffy or sore, blend 5 drops of tea tree oil, 2 drops of lavender and 2 drops of thyme and add either to a warm bath or disperse using a diffuser.  I strongly believe in using a cold-air diffuser so that the oil molecules aren’t manipulated.  My top pick: the Aroma-Breeze, which I will be writing about soon.
  • Heat up a towel and rub on Gaia Kids Warming Chest Rub.  I like to bypass the conventional chemical mixture know as Vicks VapoRub and use the herbal, organic alternative.  Though it’s pricey – around $20 – it has lasted me a few flu seasons and really works.
  • Drink warm liquids throughout the day, including a homemade Ginger, Lemon and Honey Tea.  To make, pour 8 cups of water into a sizeable pot. Peel a two-to-three-inch section of fresh ginger and cut into ¼ to ½-inch slices.  Add to pot and bring to a boil.  Once the water begins to boil, set a timer for 20 minutes and continue boiling.  After 20 minutes, scoop out the ginger slices and add 3-4 heaping tablespoons of honey and the juice from one lemon to the hot water.  Sip and enjoy.
  • Swallow a teaspoon of Gaia Herbs’ organic Black Elderberry Syrup daily.  Mary Poppins may have needed a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, but you’ll actually look forward to taking this antioxidant-rich syrup, which studies have shown reduces the duration of colds by at least a few days.

And, of course, make sure you stay warm (wear a hat!), gargle with salt water and get ample rest.

*Only use quality organic oils since you are breathing them in.  I buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.  The blend I provided is from Valerie Ann Worwood’s phenomenal guide “The Complete Books of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.”

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November 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

Winter Skin Woes

As of late, many of my conversations with friends have focused on complexion woes – zapped moisture creating flakiness, harsher weather bringing on redness, or a number of other factors causing malcontent.  Every season inevitably brings change, but there is a natural secret to keeping skin healthy and balanced all year long: moisturizing with oils.

For quite some time, we’ve been conditioned to turn a weary eye on oil, believing it is the culprit behind breakouts and other pesky skin problems.  However, it is an essential building block to beautiful skin as it penetrates and nourishes the deeper layers of the skin, unlike conventional moisturizers or creams that sit on the surface.  Whether you need the anti-inflammatory properties of hemp oil or the silkiness of grape seed oil, there are a ton of options to choose from.  And winter is the perfect time to begin incorporating oils into your routine.

My great-grandmother, who was known for her incredible skin, massaged her face daily with almond oil.  I’ve adopted her regimen and massage a nicked-sized amount of sweet almond oil onto my face every night.  It’s good for all skin types and is easily absorbable.  To further tone down any redness, I add one drop of either pure chamomile or lavender essential oil to the almond oil, which heals broken capillaries and spots.

A word of advice when shopping for your beauty oils: shop in the kitchen section of your grocery store and buy organic, unrefined cooking oils when possible.  The food-grade versions of these oils are regulated by the FDA, while the oils you find on the beauty shelves are not and cost at least double the amount – and many actually contain fillers instead of pure oil.

Slather away and settle in for a season of happy skin!

November 21, 2011 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

Eating the Buddha Way

Image Courtesy of FlavourDesign.com

When it comes to food portions and conscious eating, the ancient natural science of Ayurveda recommends that you only eat what can fit in your cupped hands. This simple guideline has really helped me get a better sense of how much I should be eating to feel satisfied, not stuffed. Though I like to think portion size doesn’t matter as much since I pile my plate with organic vegetables and grains, the fact remains that calories are calories – no matter where they come from.

With this new eating philosophy, I have become addicted to using my handmade Buddha Bowl for my at-home meals. Created by designer Elan, who runs a small studio in Vancouver, BC and a collaborative studio in Southern California, my bowl is local and sustainable. All the materials, from the clay to the glazes, are from North America, which is great since most other Buddha Bowl manufacturers source internationally.

Holding the bowl while eating gives me a new sense of awareness of what is going into my mouth. Because I can feel the weight of the food, I am more conscious and thankful of the sustenance I am receiving. Try it and see how your perspective on nourishment changes.

I bought two Buddha Bowls – in Butter (yellow) for myself and Pacific (blue) for my boyfriend – on UncommonGoods.com for $19 each.   I recommend those colors – they are calming, beautiful and are a shot of color among our neutral-colored dishware!

November 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm 1 comment

Something Doesn’t Smell Right

A few days ago I wrote about Funk Butter, the natural deodorant I’ve been using and loving for the past six months.  However, after looking a little bit deeper into the product’s ingredients, I was surprised to find that one of them – Kaolin Clay – contains aluminum. According to trusted source Mountain Rose Herbs, Kaolin Clay has sizeable traces of the mineral aluminum oxide, also known as alumina.  The EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database gives alumina a moderate toxicity rating, which, though not terrible, is a category I try to avoid.

This is a reminder that many natural and synthetic ingredients are in a grey zone – not the best, but also not the worst.  For example, Mountain Rose Herbs notes that Kaolin Clay’s “high mineral content rejuvenates the skin while the clay exfoliates and stimulates blood circulation to the skin…removing debris from the pores and bringing about a smooth healthy glow.”  That sounds pretty appealing to me!

It’s important to note that it’s not just aluminum that makes mainstream deodorants and antiperspirants unhealthy – it’s the mix of other chemicals including parabens, fragrance, petroleum, palm oil and additional synthetics and derivatives that mimic hormones and keep your underarm skin from being able to breathe.

Funk Butter is still a phenomenal option over mainstream personal care products, as is Soapwalla Deodorant Cream, which, I discovered, also contains Kaolin Clay.  So unless I try my hand at making my own homemade deodorant, these two are currently the best natural options out there.

In the end, what’s critical is keeping ourselves educated and acknowledging that we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good – within reason, of course.

I have sent emails to the companies asking if their Kaolin Clay is aluminum-free.  I don’t know if this is possible, but am keeping my fingers crossed!  I’ll publish responses if I get them to offer more perspective on the different types of aluminum.

November 9, 2011 at 1:57 am Leave a comment

Staying Fresh with Funk Butter

Image Courtesy of commonhealth.wbur.org

Our bodies have incredible self-healing capabilities, but many times the products we use aim to stop these natural processes.  October was breast cancer awareness month, and it was disturbing to see how many mainstream products were plastered with pink ribbons yet contained ingredients that have been shown to contribute to cancer cell growth.  However, these examples of misaligned values are a good opportunity to examine what simple changes or product tweaks we can make to lower our own risk of getting breast cancer.

Stepping out of the pink haze, one of the most controversial products that comes to mind is antiperspirant.  Put simply, antiperspirant goes against the wisdom of the body.  Your armpits house lymph nodes, which are immune system supporters that clear the body of toxins.  Underarm skin acts as one of the main centers to allow these toxins to escape the body, leaving lymph nodes unburdened and able to continue doing their job.  Antiperspirants and mainstream deodorants though, especially those containing aluminum, plug up your underarm skin and keep toxins in the body.  These same products also add to your toxic burden with their questionable ingredients, leaving your lymph nodes feeling assaulted daily and unable to keep your body clean, let alone battle cancer cells.  Talk about double-duty harm!

Image Courtesy of oyinhandmade.com

Luckily, natural deodorants can be just as effective as your regular drugstore brand and allow your body to do its, well, natural thing. My current favorite deodorant is unscented Funk Butter from Oyin Handmade.  The cream-to-powder formula keeps me dry and fresh all day – and doesn’t leave any residue on my clothes.  It took a little bit of time to get used to warming the cream with my fingers and applying it directly under my arms, but now I don’t even think twice.  And one tin lasts for a long time!

I’ve tried other natural deodorants like Soapwalla’s Deodorant Cream, which was great, too, but I like that Funk Butter doesn’t have a scent and has worked just as well in different climates.  The only drawback is that I can’t apply Funk Butter to freshly-shaven skin as it stings, but I just wait 30 minutes and am good to go.

Take it from a previous CertainDri addict –once you give au natural deodorants a chance, you’ll never want to go back to the lower-quality chemical stuff!

Funk Butter is $5 and can be purchased through Oyin Handmade’s online store.

November 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

Happy Food Day!

Today marks the first official Food Day, which celebrates and promotes access to healthy and sustainable food nationwide. Started by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and backed by sustainable agriculture heavyweights like Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, Food Day is a reminder that what is on our plates is inextricably linked not only to our personal wellbeing, but also to our local economies, national legislative policies, food access inequalities and overall health as a society.

Food Day’s main goal is to raise awareness around “healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.”  Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can participate and make a difference, such as attending organized events happening all over San Francisco and the Bay Area – or join the Marin Organic gleaning team today at Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach. You can also support the movement by buying produce from local farms (go to LocalHarvest.org to find a farmer’s market near you) or eating at restaurants that offer farm-to-fork options. Check out Marin Organic’s list of Supporting Producers and Business Members for some ideas on where to get delicious, real food!

Disclosure: This post originally appeared on MarinOrganic.org, where I recently became the Supporting Business Program Manager.

October 24, 2011 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

A Morning Shot of Raw Juice

There’s something about Fall that propels us from the lazy days of summer into a whirlwind of activity.  Chalk it up to back-to-school vibes or the crispness of the air around us, but this season always seems to spur transitions of all kinds.  A few of my personal changes this Fall have included starting an exciting new job and putting the finishing touches on the re-launch of this website (coming in November 2011!), so I understand how important it is to maintain balance and wellness – and keep the flu at bay.

One of the ways I’ve tried to keep myself healthy is drinking raw juice blends in the morning.  Typically I juice whatever is in the fridge – beets, celery, carrots – and throw in apples for sweetness and ginger for spiciness, adding more or less according to taste.  Gorgeously Green’s Sophie Uliano recently wrote about the importance of an alkalizing diet this time of year, so many of the vegetables and fruits she recommends are perfect for juicing at home. Or if you need more of a set recipe, check out Kris Carr’s popular Green Juice recipe.

Green Energy Blend from Sidewalk Juice

However, if you’re like me, breakfasts are typically rushed and I don’t have time to prepare juices daily.  If I know I’m in for a crazy week, I make a Sunday stop at Sidewalk Juice on Valencia Street, which sells delicious, made-to-order organic juices.  Ideally you are supposed to drink raw juice the day it is pressed, but I purchase their Green Energy juice (made with spinach, kale, apple, lemon, ginger, celery, parsley and cucumber) in the half-gallon size and drink it daily over the course of a week.  The business will even deliver to your home if you’re really swamped.  To your health!

Sidewalk Juice is located at 3287 21st Street at Valencia.  Call them at (415) 932-6221.  The business is open every day from 9am-7:30pm and from 9am-6:30pm during the winter.  The half gallon Green Energy blend I buy is $24.  Cash only business.

October 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

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