Your body

8 Affordable Anti-aging Skincare Products for over-50s

affordable anti-aging products

A woman’s skin goes through major changes after menopause when estrogen levels dip.  The structure of the skin changes completely and although the top layer becomes thinner, the epidermis becomes more impenetrable. It’s essential to use the right skin products  if you want to slow down the signs of aging and minimize any skin damage you already have.

If you think that anti-aging skincare products cost a fortune, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that many products selling for under $25 on Amazon contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and retinol which are recommended by top dermatologists.

Hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the body and it attracts and retains water to keep the skin hydrated.  It promotes healthier, more supple skin.  Retinol exfoliates the skin and increases collagen production. It is a  powerful anti-aging tool and can make your skin look younger, brighter and more radiant.

Avon Anew Clinical Line Eraser with Retinol

anti-aging skin productToday interviewed professionals about the anti-aging products they actually use to keep their skin looking young. Dermatologist Dr Kim Nichols, recommends this product for those who have not used retinol before. She says you only need to use a small amount of the product and that you you should always use retinol with a moisturiser.  Retinol can minimize fine lines and winkles, diminish dark spots and reduce inflammation.

Over 50s who use this product say it softens the lines between their eyebrows and reduces the deep lines on their upper lips.

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Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum by Cosmedica Skincare

Susan Harmsworth, skincare expert and ESPA founder, was interviewed by Good Housekeeping for some advice on skincare in your 50s. She recommends layering products for maximum benefit. For instance, she suggests using a  lightweight serum under your moisturizer.

Hyaluronic acid serumPure Hyaluronic Acid Serum contains a 100 percent pure hyaluronic acid serum formula with proven anti-aging skincare properties. It will make your skin visibly softer, plumper and smoother.

The serum is gentle and effective, suitable for even those with sensitive skin. It is also vegan, paraben-free and contains no oils, dyes, fragrances or fillers.

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Belei Triple-Peptide Eye Cream

anti-aging eye creamBelei eye cream is another product that works well under your makeup and is formulated without fragrances, sulphates, phthalates or parabens.

The tri-peptide blend of hyaluronic acid, caffeine and aloe vera firms your skin, smooths fine lines, reduces dark circles and puffiness.   The cream has a lightweight texture and suits all skin types. A little goes a long way and all you have to do is apply a small amount gently under and around your eyes every day.

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Face Moisturizer by Olay Regenerist

anti-aging moisturizer

This red jar contains the go-to moisturizer for millions of consumers. The product is infused with vitamin B3, collagen boosting amino-peptides, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants. It removes dead skin cells and penetrates deeply through the layers of the skin. Used as the last step in your skincare routine, this moisturizer visibly diminishes fine lines and wrinkles.

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Drunk Elephant Rise and  Glow Duo

affordable anti-aging productsDr. Jessica Weiser, another  dermatologist interviewed by Today,  discovered this gel and serum combo when she was wanting to replace her hydrating gel that was not performing well. She applies the serum and gel every morning and says the combination leaves her skin radiant and fully prepped for applying sunscreen which is the final step in her skincare routine.

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RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

anti-aging night cream

This cream is designed to work while you sleep. The one ounce tube containing anti-wrinkle retinol has been tested by dermatologists and clinically proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. You apply it to your face and neck at night when your skin is most receptive to repair and renewal. The formula penetrates deep within the skin’s surface to help fill in even your deep wrinkles.

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Elta MD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

anti-aging sunscreenMost dermatologists strongly recommend applying sunscreen daily as a protection against aging. Exposure to UV light speeds up the natural aging process of the skin, causing rough, uneven pigmentation and wrinkles. You should be using a broad spectrum sunscreen moisturizer  on your skin all year round.

Elta MD Skincare is Amazon’s number one best-seller in the sunscreen category.  This mineral-based face sunscreen recommended by dermatologists is lightweight and the oil-free formula is good for those with sensitive skin prone to rosacea, discoloration or acne. It is a little more expensive than the other products recommended here but customers consider it worth the price with more than 4,000 customers writing reviews on Amazon of which 76 percent gave it a five star rating.

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Honey Drench Facial Mask

Anti-aging face maskThis metallic sheet mask by Beauty Co contains hyaluronic acid and collagen to firm and rejuvenate the skin.  It contains no parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, chlorine or alcohol and is vegan and cruelty free.  It will hydrate and revive your complexion, making your skin feel much softer after use. Look gorgeous while you’re hydrating with the stunning gold pattern!

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If  you’re on a budget and think you can’t afford to spend a fortune on anti-aging skin products, think again. The above products contain the same ingredients as many more expensive ones and will make a difference to your skin as you age.

The impact of divorce on your physical health

blueberries

When you are going through a divorce, you may be so traumatized that you stop caring for yourself physically. You may stop exercising, binge on comfort food or neglect to eat, battle to sleep and even resort to drinking too much. This obviously takes its toll on your physical health. Just knowing what happens to your body can help because you become more aware of what you need to do to prevent any permanent damage.

Weight gain or Loss

It’s common to lose weight or gain weight after a divorce. You may just not feel up to cooking for one so you tend to skip meals. You may find that you have little appetite anyway.  On the other hand, you may find yourself reaching for comfort food to get you through the tough times.  Whether you find yourself eating too much or too little,  the one is as unhealthy as the other. Weight change can cause depression and many long term health effects.

Insomnia

A common complaint when you are going through a divorce is that you can’t sleep. Apart from battling to fall asleep, you may also experience disrupted sleep or have nightmares that cause you to wake up.

Continued insomnia can put several of your bodily functions at risk.  Some studies have associated lack of sleep with higher blood pressure as well as increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Alcohol or drug abuse

You may find yourself using alcohol or drugs after a divorce to help to numb feelings of anxiousness, depression and loneliness. They may offer temporary relief but in the long term, they can be very destructive.  Some studies have shown that men are more likely to become substance abusers after divorce, possibly because they are conditioned to suppress their feelings.

There’s certainly no harm in drinking alcohol in small quantities, especially if you are drinking with friends.  This is very different to drinking alone, and heavily. Socializing and having a drink with others can be uplifting but drinking heavily when you are alone can lead to depression and other serious health consequences.

Weakened Immune System

Any kind of stress, including post-divorce stress, puts pressure on your immune system. A weakened immune system means your body can no longer protect itself effectively from illnesses. You may find yourself coming down with frequent colds and being more subject to injuries.

Heart Disease

Current research has revealed that the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women.  This is because when their cortisol levels spike due to stress.  This in turn causes raised blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Lack of exercise

The stress of a divorce can cause people to stop exercising or working on their fitness. They simply can’t get their bodies to co-operate.  I know that my anxiety and sleepless nights left me drained and unmotivated when it came to any physical exercise.

The good news

Many people report that when they reach the two year mark after divorce, they feel much better mentally and physically.   In fact, many found that their divorce was just the wake-up call they needed for them to pay more attention to their health. It is only when you use unhealthy ways to cope with your divorce and these become habits, that your health may suffer permanent damage.

A complete disruption of your normal routines and eating patterns may be difficult at first. However, it also provides the opportunity to make positive changes. After that initial period when you may not want to eat or eat too much, you can start introducing new healthier eating habits. After all, you have more time to focus on yourself when you don’t have meals to prepare for a partner and you don’t have to cater to his/her likes and dislikes.

Eating more healthily and including foods containing plenty of antioxidants helps to strengthen your immune system at a time when you really need this.

Common sense tips for dealing with sleeplessness include cutting down on caffeine and having a winding down routine before bedtime. You can even breathe yourself to sleep.  There are dozens of natural ways to deal with sleeplessness.

If  natural remedies do not work for you, a last resort is to have some sleeping pills prescribed. Taking these for a temporary period usually does no harm and can prevent your insomnia from turning into a long-term problem.

Exercise is a great way to relieve the stress of divorce and channel negative emotions. Some people have found it very helpful to join local walking or running groups where they can make new friendships and release pent-up emotions.

A relationship breakdown often means you have less physical touch. For this reason, getting massages regularly can be very therapeutic.

The stress of divorce can cause permanent damage to your physical health. However, if you are aware of the possible damage, and do everything you possibly can to address it, there is no reason you can’t come out of it healthier than ever.

Looking for the best turmeric supplement? Ask these questions

What do you really need to be aware of when purchasing a turmeric supplement? This is a valid question when there are so many supplements  available, all varying in price, quality, purity and strength.  It can be quite bewildering to be confronted with such an array and it is easy to be fooled into thinking you are buying the best when you listen to all the hype surrounding certain products. The best way to make sure about a product is to check the label (make sure it details ingredients and quantities), find out where it is made, consider the reputation of the brand, look at cost per serving and read customer reviews.  The following questions will help guide you to the right product:

1. What is the key active ingredient?

Many companies use the word turmeric and curcumin interchangeably, but curcumin is the bioactive ingredient in turmeric. Turmeric contains only about 2-3% of curcumin.  Don’t be confused when the words curcumin and curcuminoids are used interchangeably either. Researchers differentiate between curcumin and curcuminoids but the pharmaceutical industry often refers to all curcuminoids as curcumin.

Some supplement are made from drying out the cut termeric root and making a powder. Others manufacturers extract curcumin from turmeric and then concentrate it to make standardized powders.  The standardization process is necessary to ensure some consistency in the amount of curcumin found from bottle to bottle.  In many clinical trials and medical studies, the best results come from dosages containing 95% standardized curcumin. A product solely consisting of turmeric root powder may only contain about 2-4% curcuminoids. A product that contains 95% standardized curcuminoids,  is typically the highest available form.

Doctor Danielle’s Turmeric Curcumin with BioPerine

Dr. Danielle's turmeric

Dr. Danielle is a biochemist and licensed naturopathic physician whose product has over 7,000 customer reviews on Amazon. The product is 100% vegan, vegetarian friendly and gluten free. The veggie capsules contain 500mg of organic turmeric and 5mg of BioPerine.  Some people simply want an organic tumeric supplement to enhance their health and for that purpose, this one is a good choice.

2. What quantity of the active ingredient does the extract contain?

The quantity of each active ingredient should be clearly stated on the product label. Products that contain a proprietary complex may look high quality at first glance but this can be misleading. When a proprietary blend is used,  individual ingredients and their quantities may not be listed so you are not quite sure exactly what the product contains.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, the permissable dosages of the following types of turmeric for adults are as follows:

  • Cut root: 1.5 – 3 g per day
  • Dried, powdered root: 1 – 3 g per day
  • Standardized powder (curcumin): 400 – 600 mg, 3 times per day

Turmeric has been used for thousands of years and millions of people consume it on a daily basis in their food. Consuming about 1tsp of turmeric powder a day is unlikely to have any negative effects but at the same time, therapeutic benefits are probably minimal. Adding a very large amount of turmeric spice to food is unwise – it has been reported to cause an interaction with other drugs being taken. When it comes to an extract of turmeric, its potency is much higher – you have to be cautious with regard to dosage and length of time it is taken.

Vitabalance Limited Turmeric Plus 

Turmeric Plus  is a product that contains 600mg of turmeric root, 50mg of 95% curcuminoids and 5mg of BioPerine (Black Pepper). Each bottle contains 60 veggie capsules, made in an FDA registered and GMP certified laboratory. The company is currently giving one bottle free for an order for 3 bottles at $63.95.

3. Does it contain piperine?

Black pepper contains a substance called piperine. Piperine is often added to curcumin extracts because curcumin is eliminated quickly from the body. On the  labels, piperine may be  listed as black pepper extract, piperine or BioPerine.   Piperine inhibits a certain process called glucuronidation in the liver. This means that the curcumin is eliminated more slowly and it has more opportunity to have real benefit.

In some cases, because piperine slows down elimination, it can lead to elevated levels of certain medications, such as blood-sugar lowering and blood-thinning ones. Elevated levels could be good or bad depending on context; regardless, piperine should be used with caution. It may cause problems if it is taken in high doses over long periods.

Me First Living Premium turmeric curcumin

A bottle of Me First Living contains 60 capsules and each capsule contains 1000mg of 95% curcuminoids with 10mg of Black Pepper as Bioperine, This product is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, free of preservatives and made according to certified good manufacturing practices. 

4. How pure is the product?

It is important to realize that products using turmeric root can claim to be organic but when it comes to an extract, the issue is more complex. So many constituents go into making an extract and making it compliant with FDA regulations.  If you choose to use a turmeric powder, find out whether only pure turmeric root is used or whether the product contains fillers etc.   All products should be produced in an approved facility to avoid contamination. Other factors to consider are use of preservatives, artificial colour and whether it is gluten-free or not. 

5. How is the curcumin absorbed?

It is a well known fact that curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream and once it gets there, it is quickly eliminated from the body. If you want to get the full healing effects of curcumin, it has to stay in the  body for long enough to get to the target tissues.  Piperine may be able to delay elimination but fat helps to increase its absorption. This is why taking it with a small amount of fat (coconut oil, olive oil) or after a fatty meal is recommended. Curcumin is lipophilic so it binds to the fat and this increases its absorption. Some of the latest products on the market include BCM-95, which offers greater bioavailability.

Curcumin Extreme, Curcumin BCM-95 400mg

 

curcumin exremeCurcumin Extreme™ with BCM 95® has superior bioavailability and absorption. One bottle contains 30 tablets with 400mg of BCM-95 (containing 95% curcuminoids complex with volatile oils of turmeric rhizome.

6. What do other customers think of the product?

Have you read reviews written by satisfied customers?  It’s a good sign when a product has a significant number of good reviews.  For example, Schwartz Bioresearch Turmeric Curcumin is a best seller on Amazon with reviews written by over 5,000 customers.

Schwartz Bioresearch Turmeric Curcumin

Schwarts turmeric

It contains 1350mg of turmeric (Curcuma Longa root), 150mg of Curcumin with 95% standardized curcuminoids per serving and 10mg of Bioperine. The extract is formulated by doctors and manufactured in the USA in an FDA-approved facility, following GMP guidelines. It is also third party approved. Each bottle contains 90 veggie, gluten-free capsules.

7. What about the price?

Nutricost Turmeric Curcumin

 

nutricost review turmericMost of us do have to consider price when buying supplements and we want to buy the best quality we can afford. If you’re looking for affordability and quality, this product is a good choice. Every bottle contains 120 capsules which provides 500mg of Curcoma longa in every serving, containing 95% curcuminoids. It also contains 25mg of BioPerine. Each bottle contains 120 capsules,  made in the USA in a quality GMP assured facility and is gluten-free.

Last word

Any person in good health will benefit from including turmeric in a diet for its proven anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.  It may simply be used as a spice in food or taken as a powder supplement which has a subtle effect over the long term.  However, those wanting relief from the pain and inflammation that comes with debilitating health conditions will need the potency that comes with taking one of the better supplements containing turmeric extract. It should be taken in the right dosage and accompanied by ingredients that slow down elimination and increase absorption or they are unlikely to experience any significant relief.  Whether turmeric cures cancer and other diseases in humans has not been proved but this does not take away from its health benefits and who knows what future possibilities it might present with further testing on humans.

 

Are all the claims about Turmeric wildly exaggerated?

turmeric

Turmeric has been touted as a miracle spice that can cure all kinds of diseases, from cancer and indigestion to Alzheimer’s.  Is there any substance to the claims made about Turmeric or are they wildly exaggerated? I am always suspicious when I hear about a miracle cure-all. However, just because turmeric may not do everything it is said to do, we cannot dismiss the fact that it appears to have significant healing properties. For a start, there is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that it is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.

Turmeric is the spice that comes from the turmeric plant. It belongs to the ginger family and is native to South Asia. It is used in cooking, and gives curry its distinctive yellow colour and flavour.  It has also been used for centuries in Chinese and Indian medicine. Modern medicine has now begun to recognize its importance and many studies are being done on curcumin, the compound that makes up about 3-5 % of turmeric and gives it its healing properties.

Natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant

Inflammation has a useful purpose in the body and occurs  when it is fighting off foreign invaders. However, when inflammation continues long term it becomes problematic. Chronic inflammation is thought to play a role in cardiovascular, neurodegenerative,  autoimmune and many other diseases.  That fact that curcumin helps fight inflammation at a molecular level without significant side effects shows promise in the fight against these diseases. Curcumin is also an antioxidant, fighting free radicals that cause damage to cell membranes and can cause cell death.

Conditions where turmeric has proved helpful

According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, studies suggest that turmeric may be helpful for the following conditions:

  • Indigestion
    Curcumin stimulates the gallbladder. It produces more bile and therefore is thought to improve digestion. One double-blind, placebo-controlled, study found that turmeric relieved gas and bloating.
  • Ulcerative Colitis
    In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people with ulcerative colitis who were in remission took either curcumin or a placebo, along with conventional medical treatment, for a period of six months. Those who took curcumin had a significantly lower relapse rate than those who took the placebo.
  • Osteoarthritis
    With Turmeric’s ability to reduce inflammation, there is evidence that it may help relieve osteoarthritis pain.  
  • Heart Disease
    Early animal studies found that an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol and helped prevent the buildup of plaque that blocks arteries. However,  another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that taking a 4g dose a day of curcumin did not improve cholesterol levels.   The Statin drugs commonly prescribed to treat high cholesterol today have so many negative side effects. Using turmeric extract as an effective, natural alternative would be ideal but there is not enough clinical evidence yet to support its effective use for this purpose in humans.
  • Cancer
    Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancers, including prostate, breast, skin, and colon cancer. This may be related to its antioxidant properties. However, again, more research is needed when it comes to its effect on humans.
  • Bacterial and Viral Infections
    In traditional medicine, turmeric has been used for treating infections. This is backed up by test tube and animal studies showing that turmeric does kill some bacteria and viruses.
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the iris of the eye)
    Some preliminary research suggests that curcumin may be as effective as corticosteroids that are usually prescribed for this condition.
  • Neurogenerative Conditions
    Tumeric’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and circulatory effects may help prevent and treat neurodegenerative diseases. A decrease of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a type of growth hormone in the brain, is linked to many common brain disorders. Curcumin appears to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier and increase brain levels of BDNF.  By doing this, it may be effective at delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related decreases in brain function. More studies are required to determine whether curcumin can really slow down or even reverse the progression of neurogenerative conditions.

Some studies on mice have indicated that curcumin may help with depression. The effects of 560-mg/kg turmeric on mice were found to be more potent than those of the antidepressant fluoxetine.

In 2009 Biochemistry and Biophysical Research Communications published a study out of Auburn University that examined the potential anti-diabetic mechanisms of curcumin. It was found to be 400 times more potent than Metformin, a common drug used to lower blood sugar and insulin resistance.

However, a new review of the scientific literature on curcumin does not support all the many claims of its therapeutic benefits. Research groups teamed up to extract key findings from thousands of articles on the topic.  They found that curcumin is not readily absorbed by the body and is unstable under physiological conditions.  However, they did state that this was not a reason to halt studies on turmeric extracts and preparations. They could have health benefits, although probably not for the number of conditions currently claimed.

Why use a Turmeric extract?

The curcumin content of turmeric is not high and in most of the studies turmeric extracts were used that contain mostly curcumin itself. Consuming between ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with food has been found to have certain digestive and cognitive benefits. However, in extracts, concentration is often increased to as high as 95%. It is not unusual for a capsule to provide as much as 400mg of curcuminoids while the ground spice might provide only about 15mg.

Curcumin is also poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. Taking it in combination with black pepper, which contains piperine, enhances its absorption significantly. Piperine slows down the metabolic breakdown of turmeric compounds in the gut and the liver. This allows higher levels of turmeric compounds to remain in the body (i.e., it increases its bioavailability).

The biggest problem with turmeric is that not much is absorbed from the gut unless it is taken along with oils and fats. This is why it’s best to take it with a meal containing oils or fats.

There are thousands of turmeric supplements on the market and it is difficult to make a decision about which one to purchase. They vary widely according to the amounts of key curcumin compounds they contain, and some formulations are absorbed better than others. When looking for the best turmeric supplement, there are a number of questions one needs to ask.

When to be cautious about turmeric

Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. However, taking large amounts of turmeric for long periods of time may cause some stomach upsets. High doses of turmeric have been observed to cause nausea, diarrhea,  increased risk of bleeding and even uterine contractions in pregnant women.

People taking certain medications should also be careful when using turmeric extracts. It may interfere with anti-coagulants like aspirin or warfarin.

People who have gallstones or obstruction of the bile passages should talk to their doctor before taking turmeric. It can make gallbladder problems worse.

Taking turmeric might slow blood clotting. This might increase the risk of bruising and bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. It’s better to stop using turmeric a few weeks before undergoing surgery because it might cause extra bleeding during or after surgery.

Turmeric should be used with caution by diabetics. It is better to talk to your doctor first if you are taking medication for diabetes as it might make blood sugar too low.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Turmeric can cause stomach upset in some people. It might make stomach problems such as GERD worse.

Hormone-sensitive conditions (breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids) Some research shows that turmeric reduces the effects of estrogen in some hormone-sensitive cancer cells so it might have beneficial effects on hormone-sensitive conditions. However, until more is known, it’s best to use extracts cautiously if you have a condition that might be made worse by exposure to hormones.

Turmeric might lower testosterone levels and decrease sperm movement when taken by mouth by men. It should be used cautiously by people trying to have a baby.

Taking high amounts of turmeric might prevent the absorption of iron. Turmeric should be used with caution in people with iron deficiency.

A Last Word

On the one hand, turmeric, the golden spice, is seen as an almost magical cure-all. On the other hand, scientific studies have been promising but they have not backed up this view. A more precise understanding is needed of effective dosage, safety and exactly how it acts in the human body.  Studies have offered indications that it has the potential to be significant in our fight against diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.  However, only more clinical studies will determine whether this is true. Before these studies have taken place to prove this, taking a turmeric supplement at recommended dosages will certainly not hurt and is highly likely to be beneficial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea is far more than just a hot beverage

cup of tea and book

Tea is second only to water as the most popular drink in the world. In my house it’s always time for tea. There is so much more to a cup of tea than a mere hot beverage.  It provides comfort in a time of grief or loss. It is a relaxing way to take a break.  A book and a cup of tea makes all right with the world. Good chats accompanied by cups of tea are an essential part of my friendships. Tea has been with me through thick and thin, at moments of crisis and during some of my most meaningful conversations.

When I was a student, coffee was king. It’s caffeine kick was essential for late night studying. Pregnant with my first child, the taste of coffee became repugnant to me. Its strong, exotic flavours had no more appeal and it was the more subtle flavours of tea that became my addiction. My coffee drinking friends can never remember that I don’t drink coffee. They can’t seem to even entertain the possibility that someone may not drink their favourite beverage.

How to drink your tea

Black tea is one of the most popular teas with 3,200,000 tons produced worldwide every year. However, its popularity is being challenged by green tea with production expected to exceed 3 million by 2023.  Of course by 2023 black tea may have reached the 4 million mark.  There are many different ways of drinking both black and green tea, with most tea lovers being extremely particular about the way they drink it.

Arguments over whether milk should be added first, last or left out altogether are common. Evidently, the traditional way was to pour the milk into the cup first to avoid cracking the delicate glaze on the cup. We do not have that problem any longer and most of us add milk after pouring the tea so we can judge how much to add based on the colour change. Scientists say that adding milk to your tea helps to neutralize the tannins and reduce acidity. I am probably stepping on many toes when I say that there is no right or wrong way to drink a cup of tea, other than the way you like it.

tea partyThose who grew up in Victorian times would be horrified by the fact that I drink my tea out of a mug rather than a fragile teacup. The size of the mug has to be exactly right too or somehow the tea doesn’t taste quite the same. Of course the fact that the teabag goes straight into the cup instead of into a teapot also totally violates tea etiquette. Another habit I have is to squash the teabag against the side of the cup. Evidently this is totally wrong too as it squeezes out all the natural astringent tannins, making the tea bitter. Maybe I’ve just become used to the strong, bitterness and I am actually missing out on some of the delicate flavours I should be experiencing.  Every tea lover I know has their own particular quirks when it comes to how they drink it. This is part of the comforting nature of the ritual, whether its adding just the right amount of milk or drinking it out of a special cup.

Does tea contain more caffeine than coffee?

According to the variety of tea, the caffeine it contains corresponds to a quantity ranging between 30 and 90 milligrams to a cup of approximately 250 ml.  Black tea contains the most caffeine: about 22-28 milligrams to 1 gram.  A cup of black coffee contains about 100-200mg of caffeine per cup. If you’re talking about weight for weight, tea contains more caffeine than coffee but less tea needs to be used to make a cup.

6 Health benefits of tea

The type of tea you drink does make a difference but tea drinking definitely appears to have a number of health benefits.

  1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
  2. Research has revealed that at least three cups of tea a day can help to prevent the risk of a heart attack.  Some animal studies have demonstrated that tea also lowers cholesterol levels.
  3. Tea drinking has also been linked with protection of cell loss in certain areas of the brain. Studies on mice show that EGCG, a polyphenol in green tea, may guard against neurological diseases.
  4. The mild diuretic effect of tea does not counteract its benefit as a rehydrator.  It helps you to rehydrate with something other than water alone.
  5. The high levels of catechins in tea help with healthy bone formation. People who drink tea on a regular basis are less likely to develop osteoporosis.
  6. Since 2006, numerous studies have compared drinkers of black and green tea to non-tea drinkers. Results have been inconsistent but there does appear to be some link between drinking tea and reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Going green

organic matchaWhereas black tea is left to oxidize,  green tea is made by using heat to prevent the fermentation process.  This preserves its green colour and natural properties. Many studies have showed the benefits of drinking green tea.  Green tea has been a staple in the East for centuries but its only in recent years that its popularity has spread. When I began drinking green tea, I found it a poor substitute for my black tea but after a while I started loving the freshness of its taste.  If you find green tea a bit difficult to drink, you can add a slice of lemon or choose one with added mint or jasmine. Organic Matcha is a special form of green tea that seems to be everywhere these days. You can’t miss its vibrant green hue when it is used lattes, desserts and smoothies.

In the Red

Rooibos

Rooibos is a South African tea that I drink on a daily basis. It is caffeine-free and packed with antioxidants, even more than found in green tea. It’s also low in tannins and rich in Vitamin C. I drink this tea in the afternoons as its zero caffeine content means it won’t keep me awake at night. It’s great to drink this tea when suffering from digestive cramps. It also contains many minerals such as calcium, potassium and zinc that help to support  your immune system.  The flavanoids found in Rooibos tea are well known for their cancer-fighting qualities.

My top 3 Herbal Helpers

Herbal teas are considered as infusions rather than proper teas by the purists but drinking them offers many health benefits. I am including a few of the ones I usually reach for to help with a specific complaint.

Chamomile

Chamomile herbal tea helps me with insomnia. It also helps with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. A chamomile tea with honey and vanilla is one of my favourites.

chamomile

Peppermint

This tea is great for bloating, overindulgence, nausea and flatulence. It also helps with headaches and congested sinuses.

peppermint tea

Ginger

Ginger is a life saver when you’re dealing with morning sickness, nausea or travel sickness. It is also good for menstrual cramps.

ginger tea

Too much tea is not a good thing

Drinking too much tea can cause heartburn, jittery feelings and insomnia due to the caffeine content. High tannin intake can interfere with iron absorption. Stick to a maximum of five cups of tea daily – and make sure it’s not too hot. Research has showed that very hot beverages can increase the risk of oesophageal cancers.

Last word

It’s good to know that a beverage I love so much is good for my health, as long as I don’t drink too much of it. I can freely indulge in my three cups of tea a day and know that it’s of benefit to my heart and much more.  Funnily enough, the smell of coffee still appeals to me and sometimes I’m fooled into thinking that I might enjoy a cup. As soon as I start drinking it, I know immediately why I gave it up and go straight back to my tea. I’m an unrepentant tea addict. What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why your sleep cycle is so important

alarm clock

Our world is very different to that of our ancestors who had no clocks or electricity. They woke when the sun came up and went to sleep when it set. Today, we often get up when our alarm clock rings and go to bed long after the sun has set.  When our natural sleep cycle is broken, what effect does this have on our bodies?  Research seems to show that the constant tug-of-war between our external and internal clocks definitely does have an effect on them.

What is a sleep cycle? 

Your eyes are light sensitive and your brain responds to the signals they send. Your brain regulates body temperature, eating patterns, when to sleep and rise and even hormones according to these signals. This is referred to as your ‘body clock’ or circadian rhythm.  The word circadian comes from the Latin word ‘circa’ that means ‘around’ or ‘about’ and ‘diem’ that means day. A sleep cycle of roughly 24 hours co-ordinates with the light-dark cycle of the earth.  Sleep cycles differ from person to person and also depend upon age.  A child, adolescent and adult all have different sleep cycles.

Stages of sleep

Your sleep cycle begins with non-REM sleep, made up of 3 stages, each one of which can last for about 5 to 15 minutes. Once you have completed this cycle,  you enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep before the cycle starts all over again. Most non-REM sleep happens early on in the night and the length of REM periods increases as the night goes on.

Stage 1

When you nod off, brain wave activity gradually starts to slow down. Your eyes roll around and may open and close from time to time. You are sleeping so lightly that you can easily be woken up.

Stage 2

In this stage muscle activity decreases and conscious awareness of the outside world begins to fade completely. Dreaming is rare but twitches are quite common, often accompanied by a falling sensation.  The brain starts to emit larger waves.

Did you know?
More time (45 to 50% of total sleep time) is spent in stage 2 sleep than any other stage.

Stage 3

This stage consists of what was previously known as stage 3 and stage 4. Your brain starts producing slower delta waves. It becomes harder for you to wake up because you are responding  less to outside stimuli. Eye and muscle movement stops.  Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and brain temperature are at their lowest levels in this stage. Dreaming is more common during this stage than the other non-REM sleep stages but not as common as during REM sleep.

In this stage tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones are released. These hormones are essential for growth and development.

Did you know?
Other names for this stage include “slow-wave sleep” and “Delta sleep.”

REM sleep

You usually enter Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Each REM stage can last up to an hour. You may go through five or six of these cycles every night. In this final phase, your brain is more active. Your eyes jerk quickly, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. Your breathing is fast and shallow and you dream most in this phase. The brain waves you emit at this stage look a lot like those recorded when you are fully awake.  Another paradox of this phase is that even though your brain is very active, your muscles are paralyzed and unresponsive.
During REM sleep, your brain replenishes neurotransmitters. This is essential for problem solving, learning and remembering.  The images and information you receive during the day are processed and stored in your long term memory.

Did you know?
The average adult only spends about 20% (1.5 hours) of eight hours of sleep in REM sleep.

When your sleep cycle is disrupted

If sleep is disrupted, the sleep cycle is reset and may cause you to miss time in the final stages. If you do not experience REM sleep for even one night, your body may go directly into REM sleep the next night until you ‘catch up’.  Waking up to an alarm clock means that you might wake up in the wrong stage of the sleep cycle.  If you wake up in stage three you will probably feel as though you have had hardly any sleep. When you suffer from a sleep disorder or are woken up frequently, your body is often not able to move into deep sleep and REM sleep.

Effects of living against your natural clock

The discrepancy between internal time and external time affects everyone, from children to those of retirement age. We use alarm clocks to wake up in the morning and then try to make up for lost sleep on weekends.  We tend to spend too much time indoors, stay up too late, and use caffeine and sugar to give us energy.

At first scientists studying this discrepancy between internal and external time focused on night-shift workers and others whose jobs meant that they suffered the most disruption to their sleep-wake patterns. However, now research appears to be showing that it is not only these people whose bodies are affected. As long as our sleep cycle is controlled by external rather than internal factors, we are not at our best mentally or physically. Exposure to so much unnatural light and waking up with alarms seems to be extracting a toll on our bodies.

In 2012, a large scale study by Till Roenneberg and his team at Ludwig-Maximilian University found that the conflict between circadian and social clocks resulted in chronic sleep loss. They saw a link between sleep disruption (which they called ‘social jet lag’) and increased BMI. Their results reflected that living “against the clock” may be a factor contributing to obesity.

In 2015, a study at University of Pittsburgh also revealed a link between disruption in sleep cycles and known metabolic risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.  It was found that chronic disruption of circadian rhythms could contribute to metabolic imbalances that cause glucose intolerance and obesity.

Major neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s may also be connected to disrupted circadian rhythms.  Findings of a recent study suggested that poor sleep, of a fragmented or short duration in older adults, could cause a disrupted circadian rhythm. This in turn,  lead to increased accumulation of toxic beta-amyloid proteins – a known precurser of Alzheimer’s.

Tips to help you get a good night’s sleep

Here are a few tips to help you increase your chances of a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Our bodies respond well to consistency. It means that our bodily systems are able to prepare in advance. Our digestive systems become activated in advance of regular meal times so we can process are food. We begin to feel sleepy prior to our bedtime.
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Surfing the internet or watching TV from your bed is not a good idea. These devices emit light and receiving too much light at night can make it harder for you to fall asleep. Listening to music is relaxing.  Learning some breathing exercises may be very helpful when you are battling insomnia.  A spiritual activity like praying is also a good way of handing over any worries and feeling peaceful. If you find that breathing exercises do not really work for you, it’s worth trying a sleep device called 2breathe. It helps you to breathe yourself to sleep when you don’t know how to meditate or empty your mind.
  •  Stay away from big meals at night. Eating late at night, especially if you eat heavy foods, is a recipe for acid reflux which can keep you awake.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Drinking alcohol before bed might help you fall asleep faster but research shows that you quality of sleep is poorer. It seems to lead to warring alpha delta patterns which is disruptive to sleep.
  • Pick up on your body’s natural cues.   Your body tells you when it needs sleep and you need to listen to its cues rather than ignoring them by staying up and watching TV.
  • Expose yourself to sunlight.  Just as you need to be in the dark at night, you need to be in the sunlight during the day. Exposing yourself to sunlight a few times a day helps to reset your sleep cycle and also increases vitamin D production.
  • Make sure that you are warm or cool enough. Temperature is often overlooked as a factor preventing sleep. Open windows to clear out any hot, stuffy air. A cool shower before bedtime is better than a hot bath as it takes the body a long time to cool down.
  • Don’t just lie in bed for hours feeling more and more frustrated. It should usually take about 20 minutes to fall asleep. If you have been lying awake for much longer than that, get up and go through your relaxation routine again.

Last word

James B. Maas, PhD, and author of the best-seller Power Sleep says “Most adults are moderately to severely sleep deprived, and it affects their productivity, their work and their relationships. If we treated machines like we treat the human body, we would be accused of reckless endangerment.” In his book, this pioneer of sleep research at Cornell University, has created an easy, drug-free programme to improve your body and mind.

The quality of our sleep, not necessarily the quantity,  affects how we feel and perform on a daily basis.  When sleep is cut short, muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite are affected.  We need to do whatever it takes to make sure that we have enough good quality sleep.

 

 

 

 

What is the best essential oil diffuser?

Deciding which diffuser is most suitable for your needs can be confusing. These small units used to diffuse essential oils come in many models and styles.  Essential oils have many health benefits such as improving sleep, increasing energy and uplifting mood.  Using a good diffuser is key to getting the most benefit from them.

My interest in essential oils has begun recently as I started looking for more natural ways to improve my health. This triggered a need to look for a good diffuser. I was amazed to find how many there were to choose from, making a decision fairly difficult. In the process of my research, five diffusers made it to the top of my list.

The four different types of diffusers – ultrasonic, nebulizer,  evaporative or heat  – all function differently and each one has its pros and cons. A nebulizing diffuser dispenses a heavy concentration of oils but it is expensive, consumes more energy and has a higher noise level.  Essential oils work best when they are used cold which means evaporative and heat diffusers are less effective therapeutically.  When weighing up all the different criteria, it became evident to me that an ultrasonic diffuser was the best option for my needs.

What to look for in an essential oil diffuser

The design of a diffuser is probably the first thing that catches your eye. You can choose from a great variety of shapes and sizes. The tank capacity of a diffuser determines how long it runs. If you want one with a lengthy running time, you will need to look for one that holds more water in the tank.  Some diffusers can be set to run continuously or intermittently. An intermittent setting allows the water and oils to last longer. You will also need to find out the area coverage  – do you want to use it in a small or large space?  Some diffusers allow you to adjust the airflow to high or low. You will also need to consider noise level. Many diffusers are whisper quiet and you will hardly hear the buzz or the sound of water trickling whilst others are noisier. Light settings are another important factor.  On some diffusers you can even choose brightness levels, ranging from very dim to very bright.  Automatic shut-off means that the unit shuts off when the water tank is empty. Warranties and guarantees are provided by most manufacturers. The warranty is often for a year and most of them offer money back guarantees if you are not satisfied with the product. Find out how easy a diffuser is to use and to clean. The last thing you want is to struggle to fill and clean your diffuser, especially if you want to use a variety of different oils.


1. PureSpa Natural Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser


pure spa diffuser


Design: This ultrasonic diffuser is made of durable BPA-free plastics. It  has an angled top for more control of the mist and comes in soft, glowing colours. It’s portable so you can even take it with you when travelling.

Tank capacity: 100ml (3.38 ounces)

Mist Settings: A three-touch power button gives you the option of turning on the mist by itself, turning on the mist with the color-changing light, or turning off both.

Running time: Lasts for about 7 hours.

Noise level: It is nearly silent when running with a barely audible whir and occasional soft dripping noises from condensation falling back down from inside the cover.

Lights: It has soft color-changing long-life LED lights.  The changing lights slowly fade and rotate between white, green, blue, red and purple.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use:  It has only one button so it’s really simple to use. To fill the tank you simply lift off the the top, add water to the level on the tank and then add your essential oils.  An adapter, measuring cup and user manual are included.

This Pure Spa aromatherapy diffuser is backed by Pure Enrichment’s industry-leading 60-day money back guarantee for defective parts/products. You are also able to register your product on their website too so you get the latest updated information.

PROS:

  • no beeping sound with auto shut-off so it won’t disturb your sleep.
  • Simple one touch button with three operating modes makes it easy to use.
  • Good aroma diffusing coverage and running time.

CONS:

  • Unlike other diffusers, you cannot set the Pure Spa diffuser on one solid color of your choice.

 


2. Radha Beauty Essential Oil Diffuser


 

Radha diffuser


Design: This portable, ultrasonic diffuser is made of strong durable BPA free plastic and has an aesthetically pleasing candle-like shape.

Tank capacity: 120 ml (4.05 ounces)

Mist Settings: Continuous or intermittent mode. When changed to intermittent, oil and water is released at 30 second intervals.

Running time: It works for 3-6 hours, depending upon whether continuous or intermittent mode is used.

Noise level: It is very quiet and makes no gurgling sounds.

Lights: The long-life LED lights come in 7 colours and a button allows you to set the light to run through each color, set at one color, or turn the light off.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use: It is easy to open by twisting the globe in order to fill the tank.  It has clearly defined lines of water levels on the tank and comes with a measuring cup to ensure that you don’t overfill it.  An A/C adapter and a user’s manual are also included.

PROS

  • inexpensive and yet comes with some features that you find on more expensive diffusers.
  • You can choose to have the lights cycling, or settle on a particular light to set a certain mood.
  • 2 working modes – constant misting and intermittent misting
  • the extra 20ml tank capacity (other compact diffusers have 100ml tank capacity)  adds some extra running time.

CONS

  • It makes a beep when it turns off automatically (some people find this disturbs their sleep)
  • Even if you turn off the mood lighting, the indicator light remains on (this can also be a distraction for some).
  • It’s run time may not be sufficient for some needs.

This is a best-selling diffuser on Amazon with over 5,000 reviews.

 


3.URPOWER® 500 ml Essential Oil Diffuser – Humidifier


URPOWER diffuser


Design: This minimalistic, curved diffuser with a large tank  is made from BPA-free plastics.

Tank capacity: 500ml (17 ounces).

Mist settings:   Press the mist button and then choose a timer setting from 60 mins, 120 mins, 180 mins or ON.  There is a high/low setting to set the mist to disperse for a greater or less intensity (one beep for high, two for low).

Running time:  The continuous mist runs for 8 to 10 hours and when set on low it runs for longer.

Noise level: It operates quietly but does make a bit more noise when the water level is getting low.

Lights: The LED lights come in 7 different colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and pink. Press the  light button to turn on the LED light and the color will change automatically. Press it again to fix the color. Press it again to change color. If you need to turn it off, long press the button for one second.

Automatic shut-off: Yes.

Ease of use: Setting up is easy. Simply open up an outer and inner lid and fill. It has a clearly marked water line in the tank and the side on which to drain the tank is also marked to avoid getting water in the air intake on the opposite side. If there is no water in the tank, the unit will not come on. You need to remember to plug in the power adapter before you put in the water. An adapter, user manual and a measuring cup are included.

PROS

  • 5-in-1 operations. It’s not only a diffuser but also a humidifier and can operate without oils. It purifies the air and acts as an ionizer to provide negative ions. Finally, it can be used as a night light.
  • With its capacity it is able to cover a wide area with a strong mist and run for a long time.
  • The timer is helpful when you don’t want to run the diffuser all day or all night.

CONS

  • Normally the diffuser works very quietly but it can make a bubbling sound when the water level gets low.
  • The large tank needs more maintenance.

This is another Amazon best seller with over 3,000 reviews.

 


4. InnoGear Real Bamboo Essential Oil Diffuser


Innogear bamboo diffuser


Design:  This diffuser has a  low key zen style. Its natural outer shell is crafted from exotic bamboo wood. It will add to the serenity of any interior and the other materials used are BPA-free.

Tank capacity:  160 ml (5.41 ounces)

Mist settings:  It has four working modes: Continuous mist (yellow)/ interval mist (red)/ 2 Hrs mist time (blue) / 1 Hr mist time (green).

Running Time:  It runs for up to 8 hours in continuous mode or 16 hours in interval mode.

Noise level:  Very quiet.

Lights: It has 7 LED lights (purple, dark blue, red, orange, yellow, green, light blue). On first press it cycles through the 7 colors, a second press fixes it on one colour and a third press turns the light off.

Automatic shut off: Yes

Ease of use:  Easy to set up. The lid is lifted off to fill up the tank.  You have to be be careful not to fill the tank above the maximum line or mist might be insufficient. Comes with adapter, measuring cup and manual. 

PROS

  • It doesn’t beep when it shuts off automatically.
  • Aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Great for nighttime use as the lights only show in a small strip and on top. It provides a little bit of light but not enough to keep you awake, unlike some other diffusers.

CONS

  • It does not have a low output setting for the mist – it is either a strong mist or intermittent puffs.

This new product is rapidly becoming a popular choice for many who appreciate its appearance and how well it functions.

 


5. Bellasentials essential oil diffuser


diffuser


Design: Its bamboo finish gives it an elegant appearance. The wide, flat shape means it does take up more surface area than some other diffusers.

Tank capacity: 350 ml (11.83 ounces).

Mist settings:  The mist setting is on the right side. The first time you press it, it is in high mode. If you hit the button again, it changes to low mode.

Run time: Up to 8 hours in high mode or 12 hours in low mode.

Automatic shut-off: Yes

Noise level: Quiet – produces a slight hum while operating.

Lights: The 7 rotating colour-changing LED’s can be turned on/off or stopped on your favourite colour.  Press it once and it starts rotating colours, press it again to stop it on a specific colour and a third time to switch it off.

Ease of use: The inside of the tank lacks an obvious fill line, so you must measure your water prior to filling. An adapter, user manual and measuring cup are included.

PROS

  • the attractive finish fits in with most decor.
  • huge tank with predictably lengthy running time.
  • when it runs in lights-off mode, no light at all is emitted from the device.
  • colour-cycling LED’s are very soft and unobtrusive when trying to sleep.
  • bonus with your purchase – BellaSentials The Healing Power of Essential Oils eBook

CONS

  • Its main disadvantage is its cost. This is more expensive than many other diffusers.
  • It is not as portable as its peers.
  • You have to measure the water before filling it due to lack of obvious fill line.


 

Last word

As you can see, each diffuser has its pros and cons. I liked the aesthetic appeal of the Innogear Bamboo diffuser and the Bellasentials diffuser was the one I thought would fit in best with my decor.  The appeal of the URPOWER 500ml lay in its large tank capacity and running time.  I liked the fact that the PureSpa was so simple to use and it was compact and portable. The Radha was also inexpensive and yet it came with some features found on more costly diffusers.

Eventually I settled on the Bellasentials despite the higher price. I found it the most attractive of all the diffusers and liked the fact that it had a long running time.  However, my main reason for choosing it was because I want to use it in my bedroom and I am very sensitive to light and noise when trying to fall asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 popular essential oils and their health benefits

essential oil

Essential oils have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. They are extracted from various parts of plants and trees – the leaves, fruit, flowers, bark and wood. Each oil has unique active ingredients, a distinctive aroma and the ability to support natural healing processes. These essential oils have powerful medicinal benefits, much of which lies in selecting the right oil for the right purpose.

Essential oils can be used topically in numerous ways such as mixing them into a carrier oil and massaging into the skin or using them in a bath.  They can inhaled in various ways too such as adding them to an indoor aromatherapy oil diffuser. Ingesting them is more complex and for many of them, this should be done under the guidance of a licensed health care provider. The list of essential oils is extensive, so to help you decide which ones to have in your home for diffusion and topical use, here is a list of 16 of the most popular essential oils and their main health benefits. This list appears in alphabetical order.

1. Bergamot

Bergamot essential oil

Bergamot is a delicate citrus plant that needs a special climate and soil for it to thrive. The rind from the Bergamot orange tree is pressed to release the oil.  It has a citrusy, floral aroma. It’s well known for its stimulant and relaxant properties and is also an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It can:

  • calm anxiety and reduce stress. It contains relaxants that soothe the nerves.
  • uplift mood and stimulate systems such as the circulatory system and the digestive system.
  • help with infections of the skin and other parts of the body.
  • regulate peristaltic movement, reducing constipation and preventing gastrointestinal problems.

Precautions

This is one of the oils that must be diluted with a carrier oil – if used in its pure form, it can cause the skin to burn. Note that it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight – stay out of the sun. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like eyes.

Did you know? Earl Grey Tea contains Bergamot. Change your brand to Earl Grey and your digestive system will benefit.

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2. Chamomile

chamomile essential oilChamomile oil is extracted from the flowers of the Chamomile plant. There are two types:  Roman or German Chamomile and the oils from each have slightly different uses. They both have analgesic,  antibiotic, and an antidepressant properties.  Chamomile has a light fragrance that is sweet and herbaceous.  It can:

  • be used for bruises, cuts, bee stings, boils, dry skin, acne and eczema.
  • help to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Precautions

Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding as it can cause uterine contractions.

Did you know? A drop of Roman chamomile can be used in a bath to sooth a child at bedtime.

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3. Clove

clove essential oilThe flower buds are picked by hand and dried until they turn brown. After grinding, they are converted to an essential oil. Clove has a spicy, woody, warm aroma and makes a great compliment to citrusy essential oil blends. It is known as the “protective” herb due to its antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and antiseptic properties.  It can:

  • help to keep disease at bay and supports the health of your liver, skin, hair as well as your mouth due to its a high antioxidant count.
  • offer pain relief making it useful for insect bites, cuts and wounds and even ear ache.
  • relieve toothache and act as an antiseptic for all oral infections. It cleans the teeth and gums and freshens the breath.
  • help with fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.

Precautions

Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding as it can cause uterine contractions. Frequent and repeated application of clove oil in the mouth or on the gums can sometimes cause damage to the mucous membranes. Stop using clove at least two weeks before surgery as it slows blood clotting.

Did you know? It is a natural remedy to help get rid of acne.  Use 3 drops clove oil and mix with 2 tsp raw honey.

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4. Eucalyptus

eucalyptus essential oilEucalyptus essential oil comes from the leaves of the evergreen eucalyptus tree.  It has a fresh, minty aroma.  It has antispasmodic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, stimulant, and diuretic properties. It can:

  • treat fever and reduce body temperature which is why it is also known as ‘fever oil’.
  • help with a runny nose, sore throat, cold, cough, nasal congestion, asthma, sinusitis and bronchitis.
  • heal cuts, scrapes and sores.
  • relieve muscular aches and pains.  Rheumatism, sprained ligaments and tendons, fibrosis and even nerve pain can benefit from massaging with this oil.

Precautions

Do not use when pregnant or breastfeeding.  Do not ingest in large doses.

Did you know? A few drops added to a compress and placed on skin affected by shingles can ease the pain associated with that condition, and may speed the healing process.

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5. Frankincense

Fankincense essential oilFrankincense has long been a prized and valuable oil, used for everything from perfume to salves for soothing skin. It comes from the resin of the Boswellia sacra tree and has a mellow aroma that combines earth, wood, citrus and balsam. It has many great health benefits due to its antiseptic, disinfectant, astringent, digestive, diuretic,  expectorant, and sedative properties. It can:

  • calm and soothe the emotions, slow and deepen breathing, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.
  • reduce the appearance of skin imperfections. Topically, you can use it to improve scar tissue, cysts, insect bites, warts, boils, acne, cuts and scrapes.

Precautions

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like eyes. Possible skin sensitivity.

Did you know? Diffuse this oil during meditation or a yoga ritual for an extra sense of wellbeing.

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6. Geranium

geranium essential oilGeranium essential oil is produced from the flowers and leaves of the Geranium. It shares many of the same traits as Rose essential oil and is often used as a substitute because it is not as expensive. It has an aroma that encourages peaceful feelings. It has been used for centuries for symptoms of menstruation and menopause and it has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and astringent properties. It can:

  • relieve sore throats and colds.
  • be used on cuts and bruises like any other antiseptic and cover with gauze for quick healing.
  • treat a variety of skin problems and  heal scars and dark spots.
  • soothe the stomach, bowels and intestines, helping to stop cramping.
  • increase the rate of urination, thus removing toxins. 

Precautions

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Some people can develop a burning sensation when it is applied to the skin. Keep away from sensitive areas of the face – it can cause eye irritation.

Did you know? Geranium provides an excellent cure for laryngitis. Put a drop on a sugar cube and let it melt in your mouth or gargle with a drop of the oil mixed in honey in a cup of cool water.

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7. Ginger

ginger essential oilThe essential oil comes from the rhizome of the ginger plant.  The oil is the most potent form of ginger and has many health benefits. It is best known as a digestive aid and for reducing nausea. It can:

  • help with morning and motion sickness.
  • reduce bloating, gas, and occasional indigestion.
  • help with poor circulation, colds, achy muscles and migraines

Precautions

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. Dilute with a carrier oil to avoid skin sensitivity.

Did you know? If you experience car sickness during a long trip, you can place a drop of ginger essential oil in the palm of your hand and inhale. Place a drop of the oil on a tissue and inhale to sooth a cough.

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8. Jasmine

Jasmine essential oilJasmine is an expensive oil extracted from the flowers of Jasmine and it has potent healing properties. Its fragrance is strong and sweet. It has antidepressent, antiseptic, antispasmodic and expectorant properties. It can:

  • stimulate the release of certain hormones in the body, including serotonin, which helps to uplift mood and increase energy.
  • prevent wounds from becoming septic.
  • help to clear congestion from the nasal and respiratory tracts
  • help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • relieve any type of spasm, from intestinal cramps to spasmodic coughs.

Precautions

Jasmine is not toxic but it can cause an allergic reaction to those sensitive to its properties. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Did you know? Jasmine enhances the libido and can help cure problems such as impotency and frigidity.

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9. Lavendar

Lavender oil is extracted mostly from the flowers of the lavender plant. It has a sweet, floral scent. It is useful for its antidepressant, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and sedative properties. It can:

  • soothe skin conditions like acne and eczema.
  • help with insect bites, minor burns and skin rashes.
  • help with headaches and nervous tension.
  • soothe, calm, relax and de-stress.
  • help with insomnia.
  • help with urinary and respiratory disorders.

Precautions

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. Possible skin sensitivity.

Did you know?

You can add this oil to bath water to soak away stress or rub it into temples and the back of the neck to relieve tension headaches. Add a few drops  to pillows or to the bottom of feet at bedtime for a good night’s sleep.

10. Lemon

Lemon essential oil comes from the rind of lemons. It’s powerful citrusy aroma has made it one of the most widely used essential oils. Its anti-microbial properties and fresh aroma make it popular for usage in household cleansers and air fresheners. Its health benefits come from its astringent, detoxifying, antiseptic, disinfectant, and antifungal properties. It can:

  • support weight loss.
  • decrease acid in the body and help with digestion.
  • improve moodwhen diffused, lemon is very uplifting and energizing.
  • dispel anxiety and nervous tension.
  • boost the immune system.
  • help with circulation and skin problems.

Precautions

It is not toxic but can cause a skin rash in those who are sensitive to its properties.  It should be diluted with a carrier oil as it can burn the skin.  It is photosensitive so avoid going out in the sun after using it.

Did you know? Lemon oil helps to increase concentration and alertness. Rub the lemon oil on your hands and inhale it for a quick pick-me-up or use it in a diffuser in your office space.

11. Lemongrass

It is extracted from dried Lemongrass and has an aroma like lemon but milder and sweeter. It is useful for its analgesic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, diuretic, fungicidal, antidepressive and sedative properties.  It can:

  • uplift mood and relieve anxiety and depression.
  • reduce fevers and pain. It helps your body cope with cold and flu symptoms and is often used in in tea for this purpose.
  • knock out bacteria.
  • treat joint inflammation in conditions like arthritis and rheumatism.
  • increase urination and clean out the kidneys.
  • improve digestion and help with constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, stomach cramps and vomiting.

Precautions

Some individuals may experience irritation when applying lemongrass essential oil to the skin. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements,  speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.

Did you know? Lemongrass is good in a foot bath for aching restless legs.

12. Marjoram

The herb’s flowers and leaves are used for the oil and it has a warm, herbaceous, woody aroma. It is useful for its many soothing and curative properties – analgesic, antiseptic, hypotensive, diuretic and sedative.  It can:

  • relieve anxiety, depression, and nervous tension.
  • reduce the pain associated with colds, fevers and inflammation.
  • help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
  • help with convulsions, pulled muscles, cramps, and muscular spasms.
  • increase urination thus lowering blood pressure and cleansing the kidneys.
  • promote digestion by stimulating the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach.

Precautions

Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. For example, medicinal use can slow down the heart rate which is not good for people who already have a slow heart rate.

Did you know? Taking a sniff of Marjoram essential oil right before sleeping is thought to greatly reduce snoring.

13. Neroli

Each year the blossoms of the Seville orange tree are gathered to make essential oils.  Neroli is extracted from the flowers which are handpicked due to their fragility and the oil has a citrusy, floral scent. It is costly because it takes so many flowers to produce a small amount of oil – but a little does go a long way.   One of the essential oil’s most popular uses is for skin care as it maintains moisture and balance as well as fading scars and spots. It also functions as an antidepressant, antiseptic, disinfectant, sedative and antispasmodic. It can:

  • calm frayed nerves and give relief from anxiety, anger, distress and depression.
  • reduce blood pressure and improve mood.
  • improve skin elasticity.
  • protect wounds from infection.
  • give relief from spasmodic coughs, cramps, and relax muscles.

Precautions

Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use. For example, medicinal use can slow down the heart rate which is not good for people who already have a slow heart rate.

Did you know? If you’re going through menopause, Neroli can be very helpful to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, uplift mood and improve libido.

14. Peppermint

The peppermint plant is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. It has a minty, fresh, herbaceous aroma. Historically, the oil is known for its health benefits, many of which have been proved because it has been used for so long.   Peppermint oil is also known to have powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. It can:

  • provide relief for numerous respiratory problems such as coughs, colds, sinusitis and asthma.
  • treat indigestion and promote digestive health.
  • boost energy and increase mental alertness.
  • increase blood circulation that helps to oxygenate the body’s organs and oxygenates the brain as well as boosting metabolism.
  • deal with bad breathe and help teeth and gums fight off germs.  It’s often used in toothpaste and mouthwashes.
  • reduce chances of fungal nail infections.
  • reduce the effects and frequency of urinary tract infections.

Precautions

It can be irritating to the skin so it should be diluted with a carrier oil. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  Avoid contact with sensitive areas like the eyes.

Did you know? Massage your abdomen with a carrier oil that has a few drops of peppermint essential oil added to it to relieve stomach cramps and nausea. It relaxes the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

15. Rosemary

Earthy, refreshing, invigorating aroma.

  • treat dandruff, dry scalp, promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss.
  • boost memory, mental alertness
  • improve oily and dry skin, acne, eczema and skin tone.
  • reduce congestion and respiratory problems.
  • fight germs and ward off a cold
  • soothe aches, cramps and muscle tightness, headaches and migraines.
  • help with liver and digestive conditions.

Precautions

Avoid use if pregnant because it can stimulate uterine contractions.   If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, speak with a qualified healthcare provider before use.  It can raise blood pressure so if you have high blood pressure you should avoid using it. Epileptics should also avoid using it.

Did you know? Rub Rosemary essential oil on your scalp for stimulation and circulation for better hair growth.

16. Tea Tree

Tea Tree essential oil comes from the leaves of a tree. It has a fresh, sharp odour  and is quite toxic if ingested. However, it has a whole host of external use benefits that have earned it the title of “medicine cabinet in a bottle”.  It is well known to boost the immune system and fight infection with its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial qualities. It can:

  • soothe aching, tired muscles.
  • treat dandruff, lice, acne and other skin infections.
  • treat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
  • soothe insect bites.

Precautions

It should not be taken internally. Use it topically and in low concentrations.  Do not use it on serious cuts. Keep it away from eyes and the mucous membranes of the nose.

Did you know? Add a few drops to unscented shampoo to alleviate dandruff and psoriasis.

A last word

Remember that essential oils are powerful. They can interact with other drugs or aggravate rather than heal an existing health condition.  It is vital to learn about how they should be used and how much to use.  Consulting your health care provider before use is advisable if you are unsure. The above list should only be considered as a guideline, giving some indication of which oils are useful to have in the home.  Please remember, too, that if you have these oils in your home, keep them out of reach of children.

essential oil kit

If you are just finding out about the health benefits of essential oil and don’t know where to start, doTerra offers an introductory kit with a CD and a 5 ml bottle of Pure Therapeutic Grade Lavender, Lemon, and Peppermint essential oils for purchase on Amazon. essential oil beginner's kitThis also makes a great gift for someone you know who might want to start using essential oils.

Eden’s Garden offers a more expensive beginner’s set that includes 12 oils (Cinnamon Leaf, Eucalyptus  Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lime, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rosemary (spanish), Spearmint, Sweet Orange, Tea Tree). You save 25% by buying the set rather than selecting each oil individually. It comes with a handy brochure to help you make the most of your oil.

 

 

 

Short haircuts – women over 60

cutting hair

When your face and body are starting to show their age, it’s time to reassess that old hairstyle you’ve been wearing for years. A new style may be exactly what you need to make you look younger, fresher and more stylish. Hairstyles for women over 60 have come a long way and you can wear just about any style as long as it flatters your type of hair and features.

Women of 60 and older are carrying off casual, trendy, chic styles with ease today. They are confident about their individual style and have come to know what looks best on them. They don’t have to settle for boring or matronly and with the trend for even young women to dye their hair gray, there is no better time to take the plunge and go gray.

Finding the best hairstyle when you are older means taking a good look at your face and seeing where it is most affected by ageing. If you have lines on your forehead, think about styles that will cover them up. Perhaps it’s the lines around your mouth or a sagging jawline you want to disguise. You also need to take into account the colour and texture of your hair.

Is short or long hair the way to go?

long gray hairSome people have the perception that long hair is for the young and as you grow older, your hair should be shorter. A number of older women are wearing long, gray locks very successfully today and have shown that this is not necessarily the case. The truth is that some hairstyles make us look older than others but it’s not so much to do with length and more to do with styling and care. However, the majority of women still tend to opt for a shorter style as they get older.

Your hairstyle needs to:

short haircuts over 60

  1. Emphasize your good features
    Layers will draw attention towards a good feature by ending at the same level. For example, chin-length pieces will draw attention to your smile. As you age, you want people to pay more attention to your good features than to your lines.
  2. Boost volume
    Your hair tends to get thinner as you get older. Layering and highlights add volume to hair and open up the face. Feathered layers with light, wispy bangs will help to disguise the fact that hair is thinner than it used to be. Using a very dark colour on your hair is too harsh and can make you look older.  Add multi-tonal, face-framing highlights instead.
  3. Draw attention away from lines and wrinkles
    Wear bangs to hide forehead wrinkles effectively and draw attention to your eyes. However, thick, straight-across bangs are too severe –  go for light and wispy instead. Even something as simple as using your part in the right spot can take years off your face. A slightly off-center side part is often more flattering.
  4. Firm up your jawline
    Layers that are chin-length in front can give the illusion of angles where they are needed.
  5. Flatter your face shape
    A cut should always flatter your face shape, no matter what your age. A round face is wide and long so you need to create an illusion of more length. Angular layers around the face create this illusion. An oval face means your brow, cheekbone and jaw width are almost equal and you can wear many different styles.  If you face is square, you want to soften the features around the chin. Lots of layers and movement can soften harsh lines. A bob with texture and layers will help to widen a long, narrow face.

Choosing a flattering cut

Cuts that are very blunt with geometrical shapes and lines can be ageing.  If you’re going to do short hair, most older women look better with some softness. Softer lines, wispy bangs and waves are more forgiving.   The pixie and the bob are two short styles that have been around for some time but hairstylists are interpreting them in so many different ways that everyone is sure to find one that suits them.

The Pixie

graduated pixieAs far back as the 1950s Audrey Hepburn wore a pixie cut in her debut film Roman Holiday and in the 1960s Mia Farrow and Twiggy helped to popularize the style. Today women of all ages opt for pixie cuts because they are so easy to maintain. They can go from spiky to soft and anything in between. Judie Dench has a short, sassy pixie cut. Halle Berry wears a spiky pixie with style. Some pixie styles are a little harsh on certain women. You can ask your hairstylist to customize a pixie specially for you using a  length, texture and colour that will suit your face shape and personality.

Spiky pixie

Hair is spiked on top to give height.

Sleek pixie

Hair lies flat and the top is longer than the sides.  When parted to the side the look is chic and asymmetrical.

Soft, textured pixie

Sweeps forward and frames the face with long pieces left in front of the ears.

The Bob

If you want short hair but don’t want to to go as short as a pixie, a bob is one of the most flattering options for women over 60. There are hundreds of variations on the bob . Helen Mirren is the queen of ageing gracefully and over the past 10 years she has worn many different variations of the classic bob.

asymmetrical bobStacked or angled bob

Go for an angled bob that grazes the bottom of your jaw in front and gets progressively shorter toward the back. The volume at the back modernizes it and the angle helps to give definition to the jawline.  If you have fine hair, edges cut in a straight line makes it look thicker. If you have coarse hair, soft layers keep your bob from looking bulky.

Soft, wavy bob

A bob with soft, wavy layers give great dimension and has a youthful edge.

Choppy layered bob

A choppy bob highlights the jawline and draws attention to the cheekbones. The layers add volume and fullness.

Last word

A good hairstyle that really suits you can take years off your age. Remember that taking good care of your hair and cutting regularly is even more important when you are over 60 as your hair is thinner and more subject to split ends.   With a good hairstyle and regular upkeep, you will look your best no matter how old you are.

 

 

 

An empty nester’s guide to cooking for one

cook for one

When nearly two decades of shopping for food, planning meals and cooking for a family have taken up a large percentage of your time, adjusting to cooking for one is difficult. It’s tempting to rely on ready-cooked meals and neglect healthy nutrition. This is one of the worst possible times to stop eating healthily. Your body requires better nutrition than ever when you are experiencing stress due to changes in your life. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to improve the quality of your diet in ways that do not require that much effort.

Shop wisely

shopping for oneShopping for a family is very different from shopping for one.  When I first started shopping for one, my mindset hadn’t yet adjusted and I still tended to buy for a whole family.  My fridge was always full of rotting produce. I had to learn to cut down drastically on what I bought. I would also buy impulsively without any proper planning.  It just seemed like too much effort to plan when it was just for me.  I found a simple formula that helped me. Using this formula, I regularly buy certain items on a weekly basis that I enjoy eating and that mix and match easily.

Don’t think that you only have to buy small portions of protein. I love roast chicken so I tend to buy a whole chicken, roast it on a Sunday and then I use the leftovers to make chicken salad or chicken wraps during the week. A roast beef also lasts the whole week and can be used in many creative ways.

Other than your weekly purchases, it helps to stock up on long-lasting staples like tins of beans, chickpeas, brown rice etc. Think about what basic staples you usually use to make your meals and always keep them in stock.

Still cook your favourite recipes

Just because you are only cooking for yourself does not mean you can’t use those favourite recipes you have collected over the years. You can simply reduce the ingredients by dividing. Of course, it’s easier to do this with some recipes than others – try dividing one egg!. It also may seem like hard work to always have to bring out your calculator – it’s probably better to sit down one day and do all the work at once. Remember that if you divide the ingredients, you also need to  adjust the cooking time (I learned this the hard way!).

Find recipes for one

Today it is easy to find a number of sites that offer interesting recipes for one. Jamie Oliver’s site caters for solo cooks with Meals for One Recipes. I also enjoyed these 29 insanely easy healthy recipes for one.

Many cookbooks today are also devoted to cooking for one. Going solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer contains over 350 simple recipes. It also contains strategies for buying to save on wastage. She gives detailed advice on storing foods too – cooked chicken, for example, tastes better and has better texture when stored in liquid (like a broth or a sauce).

cooking for one

Make friends with your freezer

When you live alone it makes sense to utilize your freezer, buy microwave-friendly containers and perhaps even a food vacuum sealing system.  This allows you to make large quantities and then freeze portions for easy meals at a later time. You can still make the lasagna or pot of soup you used to feed your whole family and easily divide it into smaller meals and freeze them. You’ll find that you spend less time in the kitchen, but still enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals.

Scale down your utensils

mini sauce panIt pays to invest in some smaller pots and saucepans. A small amount of food is lost in a large pot or pan and the food is more likely to dry out or burn. Why not keep a notepad in your kitchen for a while –  it may be interesting to jot down what cooking pots and pans you actually use. Do that for a week or two and you will soon be able to decide what you don’t need anymore. Pack these items away for a while and if you don’t miss them, get rid of them. You can always keep a few larger pots for cooking for friends and family.

Enjoy ‘grown-up’ food

Foods, like salmon or steak, that were once too expensive to buy in quantities may suddenly be within your budget. Make simple meals with some fancy ingredients.  Truffle oil, for example, turns an omelette into a gastronomic delight.  You can also phase back into your diet the ‘foods that your family may not have enjoyed but that you love. I hardly ever cooked butternut because my son hated it. I love butternut soup so now I can make a large pot, freeze ‘me-size’ amounts and eat it whenever I feel like it.

Use more spices, herbs and condiments

Dill, chives, sage, rosemary, coriander, ginger and dry mustard can transform plain food. Using them also means that you will tend to use less salt. Items like pesto, sun-dried tomatoes or Dijon mustard can also change ordinary food like pasta, tuna, or eggs into appealing, fast meals.

Store food safely and reheat correctly

Don’t store your food in old containers. Buy certified BPA-free reusable microwavable meal prep containers with lids, label and freeze. When reheating food in the microwave, make sure you don’t leave cold spots where bacteria can thrive. Stir and rotate the food while reheating.

Take a Cooking Class

If your cooking skills have been focused for many years on cooking for a whole family where your repertoire consisted of hearty soups, stews and casseroles, it may be fun to take a cooking class. It can do a great deal to revive your interest in cooking and open you up to new tastes. I attended a cooking class where the theme for the week revolved around a specific country.

Breakaway Experiences Hands on Cooking Class in Ottawa, Canada - $120/person for 3 hours

A final word

You still have to make food – it’s just that the way you think about it and do it has to change. Change your mindset, plan more, buy less, cook less and you will find that it’s easy to still eat healthy, nutritious meals.

 

Over 50? Eat these 20 useful healing foods

As we age, the food we eat can make a great difference to how our bodies function and cope with the ageing process. Our metabolism is gradually declining and what we eat becomes vital to ongoing health. Foods with a high nutrient content need to take the place of those that are not beneficial to our health. We need to be aware of foods that can help to lower our blood pressure and cholesterol as well as protect against disease.  All of the 20 useful healing foods on the list below are not difficult to find and relatively inexpensive to buy.

1. Apples

apples

If you have room for only one tree in your garden, plant an apple tree. Eating apples daily is good for your heart and can lower both total and LDL cholesterol.  An apple contains soluble fiber that helps with digestion and maintains healthy blood sugar levels. Eat those peels too because they contain ursolic acid which is believed to help build muscle mass and reduce fat accumulation.

2. Artichokes

artichoke

Globe artichokes are good for all liver complaints and gallstones. They lower cholesterol, relieve fluid retention and are excellent for rheumatism, arthritis and gout. Artichokes are underrated when it comes to their antioxidant benefits – a serving contains more antioxidant benefits than other foods like dark chocolate and red wine we normally think of as rich in antioxidants.

3. Bananas

bananas

Bananas are nature’s magic fast food. The fiber, potassium, vitamin C,  B6 and zinc content are all good for heart health. They also promote the health of the digestive tract. Studies have shown that the amino acid called tryptophyn they contain plays a role in boosting mood and preserving memory.

4. Beets

beets

Beets do have the highest sugar content of all vegetables but most people can safely eat them a few times a week and it’s worth including them for their potent health benefits. They contain phytonutrients which lower blood pressure, boost stamina, lower inflammation and help with detoxification.

5. Berries

berries

Berries are being studied for their potential to boost the brain and slow down age-related memory loss. They increase blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. They are also are high in soluble fiber, helping to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar.

6. Carrots

carrots

The betacarotene in carrots is converted into Vitamin A by the body which is good for the eyes, excellent for liver problems and great for healthy skin. They also contain antioxidants that protect against heart disease and lung cancer.

7. Garlic

garlic

This is a king of healing plants – antibacterial, antifungal and good for everything from bronchitis to athlete’s foot. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure and improves circulation.

8. Grapefruit

grapefruit

Grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C so it helps to support the immune system. Pink and red grapefuit contains lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient and research suggests that this can reduce the risk of getting prostate cancer. Eating a grapefruit before each meal will help you to lose weight as it speeds up the metabolism, helps break down fats and reduces appetite.

9. Kiwi

kiwi

Kiwis are very rich in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E, and contain lots of potassium. They aid digestion, boost the immune system, help manage blood pressure and can even protect your eyes against macular degeneration.

10. Leeks

leeks

Leeks were highly prized by  ancient civilizations. They are beneficial for all breathing problems, are cleansing and diuretic, and excellent for gout, arthritis, and rheumatism.

11. Legumes

legumes

Research shows that eating a daily serving of beans or lentils can help to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Beans and lentils are complex carbohydrates with high amounts of soluble fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are good for the digestive system and protective against cancers, particularly of the bowel.

12. Lemons

lemons

Lemons help to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the stomach and purify the blood. They help with indigestion and constipation and can be used to treat throat infections and dental problems as well as respiratory disorders. They are beneficial to the hair and skin and help with rheumatism and high blood pressure.

13. Nuts

nuts

Make a habit of snacking on nuts instead of cookies and chips and you will feel the benefit. They are full of nutrients – minerals like selenium, zinc, iron, lots of protein, healthy oils and the B vitamins.  Eating an ounce of mixed nuts daily reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease. Fresh, unsalted nuts should form a part of everyone’s diet.

14. Oats

oats

Adding a cholesterol-lowering food like oats into your diet is smart. It contains a soluble fiber that reduces total and LDL cholesterol levels.  It is also rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins E and B and minerals.   Plain oats is inexpensive and other healthy ingredients, like nuts, seeds, and fruit can be mixed with it.

15.Olive Oil

olive oil

An extra-virgin olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. It helps to  lower cholesterol levels but do remember that it is high in calories so be careful not to overuse it. It helps to improve blood sugar control and is rich in vitamin E which protects against cell damage. It is also good for liver and gallbladder problems, protects against arthritis, senility and some cancers.

16.Onions

onions

Onions are from the same family as leeks and garlic. They are important in the treatment of all chest infections and should be eaten by anyone with high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, or heart disease. They are an excellent food for for those suffering from anemia, asthma, urinary tract infections and even hangovers.

17. Salmon

salmon

Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids.  These have been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and help lower blood pressure. If you can get hold of wild salmon instead of farmed salmon, they contain fewer calories and less fat. This protein improves bone density and strength as well as being beneficial in the treatment of inflammatory joint conditions. Eating salmon can also  reduce the risk and incidence of depression and cognitive decline. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, an essential vitamin for optimal health. It’s selenium content helps keeps tissues healthy, preventing cell damage.

18. Spinach

spinach

Popeye knew a thing or two as spinach is full of nutrients. Its potassium and iron content are important for regulating blood cells and blood pressure. It is high in carotenoids which helps to prevent age-related macular degeneration. It also contains vitamin K which helps to strengthen bones.

19. Watercress

watercress

Watercress is high in vitamins A, C, and K and very low in calories. Like its relatives – cabbage, broccoli, sprouts and turnips, it is a great protector against cancer, rich in potassium and a type of mustard oil. It is powerfully antibiotic, without killing off natural bacteria, helps with urinary infections and is also a good stimulant of the thyroid gland.

20. Yoghurt

yoghurt

A  live yoghurt helps digestion and  provides essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. Live yoghurt is rich in beneficial bacteria that boost the immune system and protect against fungal infections.  It’s not just any yoghurt that will do – some of the yoghurts in the supermarkets are more like desserts than health food with plenty of sugar and high levels of fat. Of course, if you make your own yoghurt, you know exactly what is in it and its not as difficult as you may think.

 

 

 

What is Candida and do I have it?

Candida Albicans

The term Candida is used to refer to the Candida Albicans fungus. It is a common yeast that exists in small colonies in your gut.  Do you have it? Yes you do. Everyone does. The idea that Candida does not belong in the body and you have to rid of it is not true. Candida has a function in the gut as it consumes debris. It prevents other harmful bugs from feeding on this debris and growing stronger. It is kept under control by the other microorganisms in the gut. When the healthy balance in the gut is disturbed, Candida can start taking over and that’s when it becomes a problem.

In the 1980s three books were written that did much to introduce the topic of Candida to the general public.   Dr. Orion Truss published his book The Missing Diagnosis with the idea that Candida overgrowth could trigger reactions that affected the whole body—even the brain. In 1983 Dr. William Crook’s  book The Yeast Connection  helped to popularize the idea and The Yeast Syndrome, by Dr. John Parks Trowbridge was also influential in spreading the concept.

The Candida controversy

The idea popularized in the 1980s was that once Candida overgrowth occurred in the gut, it leaked through the intestine wall into the bloodstream, causing a wide variety of symptoms such as bloating, allergies, fatigue, brain fog and muscle aches. In 1989 when I started suffering from a bewildering array of symptoms just like these, it was no wonder that Candida was suggested as a probable cause of my problems.

The  medical community at this time recognized Candida infections that were visible such as thrush and vaginitis. The idea of Candida spreading throughout the whole body and causing a multitude of health problems was unacceptable to most of them and they dismissed the idea as a ‘fad’.   One difficulty they had was that the symptoms were not just related to Candida and could apply to many different conditions. Another problem was that there were no diagnostic tests for the condition.

Since the 1980s, an entire industry has developed, focused on providing help for those who believe that they are suffering from what is called by many different names – “Candida overgrowth syndrome (COS)”, “Candida Related-Complex” or “Candidiasis”.  Some medical doctors now believe that  the effects of Candida overgrowth can be systemic although the infection itself is not. They agree that  toxins produced by Candida overgrowth can be  absorbed into the blood stream and reach all parts of the body.  However, many MDs still do not acknowledge that Candidiasis exists.

What is being revealed in current studies is that there is more to what goes on in our gut than we realize. Research is showing that an imbalance in the gut (dysbiosis) can contribute towards a wide range of health problems. Many researchers believe that studying what takes place in the gut can provide us with many answers to disease.  Understanding more about how to develop and maintain the balance in the gut may lead to changes in the way we manage our health and even prevent some diseases from developing.

What triggers a Candida problem?

Any situation in which the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is disturbed can allow fungus and certain bacteria to take over. Some of the triggers are:

  • Diets high in refined foods and sugar
  • Stress
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormones – use of oral contraceptives or oestrogen hormone therapy
  • A compromised immune system or drugs that suppress immunity (like corticosteroids)
  • Diabetes

How can I find out whether I have a Candida problem?

Patient assessment

Before useful laboratory tests existed, diagnosis depended upon taking a medical history, checking out risk factors such as antibiotic use and filling out questionnaires or symptom checklists. Today there are other ways of diagnosing Candidiasis but an assessment by a doctor can still help as a way of establishing how likely it is that you have Candida overgrowth and whether laboratory tests are necessary.

Self-testing

According to the National Candida Center, self-testing can give you some idea as to whether you may need further testing. They suggest the following tests:

  1. What food do you crave? If you crave packaged, processed, refined foods loaded with sugar, it can mean you’re feeding the ‘yeasty beasty’.
  2. A spit test. Spit into a glass of water first thing in the morning before you eat, drink or brush your teeth. This test  is supposed to show the density of your fluids. Your spit should float on top of the water and if within 15 minutes you see strings extending downward into the water, you may have Candida overgrowth.  Saliva that is cloudy and sinks to the bottom of the glass is another sign.
  3. Review a list of 80 symptoms to see if they apply to you. A vast array of symptoms are listed. Those specific to the gut, for example, include constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, persistent heartburn and bad breath. Mental problems may include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, irritability and mood swings.

Self-testing is not adequate on its own for a proper diagnosis and these tests are hardly scientific. They can perhaps indicate a possibility of the existence of Candida overgrowth but that is all.

Laboratory tests

In the 1980s when the concept of Candidiasis became popular, it was not possible to go for reliable laboratory tests to determine whether you had it or not. This is not the case any longer and various tests can be conducted:

A comprehensive stool test

A comprehensive test where samples of stools are taken for several days will give a good idea of what’s going on in your gut. It will uncover bacterial, fungal and parasitic overgrowth in the gut as well as levels of good bacteria.

A urine Test

A Urine Organix Dysbiosis Test determines the level of  D-Arabinitol. This is a waste product of Candida and high levels indicate Candida overgrowth.

A blood Test

A Candida Immune Complexes test or Anti-Candida Antibodies test can be done where the blood is examined for specific antibodies related to Candida overgrowth.  If antibody levels are high, there is a strong likelihood that Candida overgrowth is present and your body is reacting to it.

You can find out more about specific tests here.

How to beat the Candida problem

There are hundreds of options for treatment of Candidiasis – diets, prescription drugs, and all kinds of natural antifungals and probiotics. One of the major difficulties when treating the problem is to choose what will be effective for you. There is no common consensus on the perfect treatment.  There is consensus, however, on the fact the approach needs to be multi-faceted.  The Candida overgrowth has to be dealt with,  friendly bacteria restored to help keep it in check and a healthy balance maintained in the gut to prevent re-occurrence.

Diet

The idea of an anti-Candida diet is to exclude sugar in all of its forms so as to starve the Candida, causing it to die off.   For this reason the diet normally includes a long list of foods to avoid. Fruit, sugar, grains , alcohol, dairy, starchy vegetables, dairy products, coffee and even carbohydrates that are not easy to digest are excluded.

A diet based on non-starchy vegetables, high-quality proteins and gluten-free grains such as millet and brown rice is usually suggested.  Avoiding fruit  is also commonly recommended although many believe that sticking to low fructose fruit such as lime, grapefruit and lemon is better. They see no reason to eliminate all fruit from the diet and feel that it can be counterproductive because of all its benefits.

The very low-carb aspect of most anti-candida diets has also come under fire. One problem mentioned is that very low-carb diets lead to ketone production and studies show that neutrophils (white blood cells) are not as capable of killing Candida when ketones are present. Another area of debate is whether or not healthy fats should be included.

As long as you follow a diet that excludes sugar and starch, you will be going a long way towards making it easier to kill Candida overgrowth.

Antifungals

Antifungals help to kill off Candida overgrowth. You can make some progress with diet, but you also need to use an antifungal.  Antifungals should not be taken for too long or they start killing off all the beneficial yeast in the body that protects against bacterial overgrowth. Resistance is also a problem and researchers to starting looking for alternatives to conventional antifungals.

Natural antifungals

You may prefer to use natural antifungals because no prescription is required and they are readily available. They are generally considered to have fewer side effects and some of them are very effective.  It’s probably worthwhile attempting a natural approach first to see if it works for you.

Some natural antifungals are:

  • Oregano Oil
    Oregano Oil has been found to be highly effective in treating Candida overgrowth. The easiest way to add it to your diet is probably in gel form.  Liquid phyto-capsules are available from Gaia Herbs.
  • Aloe Vera
    This can be taken in the form of Aloe Vera juice or a capsule. It is gentle on the body, yet helps to control Candida and stimulate the immune system.
  • Caprilic Acid
    This is one of the three fatty acids found in coconut oil. It is available in gel capsules and acts as a potent antifungal. Gradual release, buffered Pure Encapsulations Caprylic Acid  allows the antifungal properties to work properly in the intestinal tract. 
  • Garlic
    Many studies  support the use of garlic as an antifungal. The major advantage is that garlic is easy to include in your diet and can be used as a compliment to other antifungals.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract
    Studies have found that Grapefruit seed extract performs better than many other antifungals.  Grapefruit seed extract is available as a liquid concentrate.
  • Olive Oil and Olive Leaf extract
    Olive oil and olive leaf extract contain a plant chemical with excellent anti-fungal properties. It also  stimulates the immune system and helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Horopito Leaves
    In 1982 scientists discovered that an extract from Horopito leaves found in New Zealand and used by the Maori population as a medicine, was rich in the natural antifungal polygoidal. It has proved more effective at killing Candida than some commonly used pharmaceuticals.  Kolorex Advanced Candida Care contains polygodial from the Horopito leaf. It can be taken together with probiotics so that while it is busy destroying unwanted Candida, the probiotics are re-establishing healthy bacteria and creating an environment that reduces Candida overgrowth. It comes in a softgel capsule that’s easy to swallow and does not leave a bad aftertaste.

Before using antifungals, even natural ones, it is important to check with your health practitioner whether it’s advisable. Certain prescription medicines and chronic conditions preclude using some antifungals.

Prescription Antifungals

Diflucan and Nystatin are two common prescription antifungals. Nystatin was the first widely used antifungal and it is effective against Candida without killing off other beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics

Probiotics are used to re-introduce healthy bacteria into the gut. The healthy bacteria form colonies that prevent the Candida from getting out of control, regulate the acidity in the stomach and help to boost the immune system.  There are thousands of commercial probiotics to choose from. Some of the considerations when choosing one is how many billions of bacteria are found in a capsule, how many strains it contains and which ones they are (Lactobacillus Acidophilus is a popular strain). One that is recommended is the Healthy Origins Probiotic  which is a blend of eight friendly bacteria strains and it’s resistant to stomach acid. Prescript Assist, a soil-based probiotic. is another good choice.

Probiotics usually come in supplement form but there are some foods that act as probiotics. Fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut contain lots of ‘good bacteria’. One of the most popular probiotic foods is live cultured yoghurt.

What else can you do?

You can try to avoid other pre-disposing factors as far as possible. Don’t take antibiotics, steroids, or hormones unless absolutely medically necessary. Candidiasis is difficult to diagnose and confusing to treat. Even if you are diagnosed with Candida and diagnostic lab tests show a current Candida infection, it is not a straight forward issue like finding out that you have a broken limb and putting it in a cast. My conclusion is that the only real way to know if Candida is causing your symptoms is to follow a course of treatment. If your symptoms improve, they were most likely to have been caused by the Candida.

 

The best shampoo for gray hair

Touch of Silver

Deciding to go gray can be liberating but for it to look its best, you do need to change your hair care routine. Products that are specially formulated for gray hair can make a huge difference. A silver/purple shampoo is essential if, like me, your gray hair easily develops a yellow tinge.

Why does gray hair develop a yellow tinge?

Hair goes gray as the follicles stop producing melanin. Without pigment, it is more porous and tends to show the colours of all the foreign stuff it picks up. This may be from water (from the shower or swimming pool) or pollutants in the air. The chlorine in water can make gray hair look dry, brittle, and yellowish. Residue from hair care products can also cause yellowing. I have personally found that when I use too much heat to straighten my hair, it immediately looks more yellow. Gray hair is more vulnerable to sun damage as well and your medication, food and  general health can also affect your hair.

Get rid of the yellow

All the experts suggest using a purple shampoo to get rid of the yellow tinge. If you know anything about colour mixing, you will know that a purple tone counteracts a yellow tone.  The purple pigment in the shampoo clings to the hair shaft and neutralizes the yellow.

… but don’t turn it blue

The more porous your hair, the more a product “takes”. Sometimes the ends are more porous than the roots and your tips may end up a little blue. When using a purple shampoo, you need to follow the directions carefully leave the product on your hair for the correct length of time.

I use my purple shampoo every other day and in between I use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner.

A few home remedies

I can’t guarantee the results you will get using these home remedies.  I am all in favour of natural products but in this case I must say that using a  silver shampoo is easier and I have found the results more consistent than when trying natural remedies. Nevertheless, if you object to the sulfates in shampoos and would rather try some natural options, here are a few:

  • Gentian Violet: We’ve all seen grandmothers with their snow white hair who used Gentian Violet to achieve this result.  We’ve also seen those who left the Gentian Violet on a little too long and ended up with blue hair. Gentian Violet definitely works to neutralize the yellow but  you have to be extremely careful or it will stain everything from your hands to your clothes, the bathroom tiles, the sink and your scalp. I would be super careful when putting drops into my shampoo but I still managed to spill. On one of our camping trips,  I stupidly took along my whole bottle of gentian violet – the lid of the bottle came off and stained everything in my toiletry bag and the floor of the tent bright purple.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda:  Pour 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle and dilute with a cup of water. Make a baking soda paste with 2tbsp. of baking soda and 2 tbsp. of water and rub the paste onto hair. Rinse it off carefully and then spray on the apple cider mixture, fully saturating your hair.  Comb through hair and then rinse thoroughly.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Mix equal amounts of 3% hydrogen peroxide, water and your conditioner in a spray bottle and spray your clean, damp hair with this mixture. Comb through and leave on for about 15 minutes before rinsing. Repeat once a week to prevent build-up. When I tried this I found that it worked but despite the conditioner, it tended to dry out my hair.
  • Purple flower infusions: Purple flowers like Betony or Hollyhocks can be infused in hot water until the water becomes purple. A concentrated infusion makes a strong purple colour. You will need to use an infusion like this regularly for it to be effective.

My favourite silver shampoo

PRO-VOKE Touch of Silver is a salon-inspired product that tones, brightens and adds vibrancy to my white hair. I use it every second day and despite the frequent use (the recommendation is to use it twice a week) my hair remains gloriously white without any blue hue. It is also relatively inexpensive and I find it a much easier option than when I added Gentian Violet to my normal shampoo. Although my shower is covered in purple streaks after using this shampoo, at least they are easily washed away.  It is more liquid than some other shampoos but it foams well and has a pleasant, grapelike smell.  A pre-toning primer (applied before shampooing) and intensive conditioner are also available in the Pro-Voke range.  

Provoke Touch of Silver

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • effective
  • foams well
  • pleasant smell
  • a little goes a long way

CONS

  • may stain porous surfaces
  • contains sulfates
  • cannot be used for two weeks after perming, bleaching or dying

A yellowish tinge to white hair is very unappealing whereas a dazzling, well styled head of white hair is a crown of glory. What is your favourite shampoo to keep your gray hair looking great?

 

 

Zambesia Botanica skin cream review – sausage tree cream

Inspiration for the name of Zambesia Botanica came from the Zambesi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, where the Kigelia Africana (sausage tree) grows along its bank. This tree is found in South, Central and West Africa. It is called the  ‘sausage tree’  because of its huge sausage-shaped fruits that hang from long stalks. The bark, roots and fruit of this tree have long been used by Africans for everything from digestive and respiratory disorders to treating infections and wounds. As more clinical trials are taking place, they are confirming the many medicinal properties of the sausage tree.

The brand

The Zambesia Botanica brand came into being due to a personal experience of the healing properties of the Kigelia Africa tree.  Derek Mann had suffered from psoriasis for over 45 years. On a business trip to Africa, the local remedy was recommended to him by a doctor.  He was so impressed with the results that he asked Ming Majoe, a pharmacist and director of AE Hobbs, a retail pharmacy,  to investigate its medicinal properties and uses. They began selling a range of skin care products called Zambesia Botanica as a result of this investigation.

Scent and Texture

There is a very slight, earthy scent to the cream which is not unpleasant. It has a smooth, creamy texture.

Application

It always wise to Initially apply it to a small area to test for any irritation. Sensitivity to this product is rare but but can occur with any product. It is easy to apply and disappears quickly as it is absorbed by the skin.

Ingredients

Aqua, Kigelia africana, petrolatum,cocos nucifera (coconut), prunus amygdalus dulcis (almond oil), cera alba,polysorbate 60, cetearyl alcohol, sorbitan stearate, phenoxy ethanol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, disodium EDTA.

All ingredients are from non-animal sources. The addition of coconut and almond oil make this cream particularly suited to very dry skin.

What does it do?

The cream is absorbed into the skin and starts to repair it at a cellular level.

Conditions, firms and heals

The Tonga women of the Zambezi Valley regularly apply Kigelia Africana to their faces to improve their complexions. Several scientific studies in recent years have established that it reduces inflammation and stimulates healing. It also helps to improve skim firmness and elasticity as the active ingredients stabilize and strengthen the collagen fibers supporting the skin.

Psoriasis

psoriasisPsoriasis is a problem where the skin turnover rate is much faster than normal. Sufferers have noticed that using Kigelia Africana can dramatically improve this condition over time.  It appears to ‘damp down’ overactive cell growth. It is even effective for treating those who have suffered from psoriasis for many years, such as Derek Mann who had suffered for over 45 years.

Eczema

People with atopic eczema often have very dry skin and the dryness makes it more likely to react to triggers that make it red and itchy. This cream has a soothing effect on the dryness, flakiness and redness.

Dr K. Findlay of Rusthall testifies on Zambesia Botanica’s website saying “Thank you for your help and information regarding Zambesia Botanica. I have a patient who is a seven month old baby. When he was approximately two months old, he suffered from bad exzema on his face, his head, his body, his arms and around his neck. We have tried lots of different creams and emollients to try and help this. Unfortunately, it is a persisting problem. For the past month, his mum has been using Zambesia Botanica. She started using it twice a day, and now uses it four times a day and has noticed a vast improvement.”

Katy says “Probably the best thing I have ever found! I had eczema as a child, I am now 26 and still sometimes get it. My parents came across this, and it literally seemed to kill it off, I had years of my parents trying everything else possible, and this was the only thing that ever worked. I will always recommend this to anyone with any type of skin problems!”

Age spots and sun damage

In 2000 researchers at Kings College in London took crude extracts of the bark and fruit and isolated components that were found to have cell-destroying effects on melanoma cells. Dr Peter Houghton, a biochemist of Kings College in London said that the product is “active against various cancer lines and melanoma cells”. In 2009, authors Olatunji A. Gabriel and Atolani Olubunmi published an article  on the use of Kigelia Africana as a viable medicinal plant and said “It has a high potential for development into viable drugs as more facts emanate from its uses, especially as a strong anti-cancer agent.”

MH says “This cream was recommended to me by a lady who had lived in Zimbabwe for 30 years. she used it for sun damaged skin. I used the cream as advised and a small area of sun damaged skin on my nose has disappeared after 3 weeks. It is also working on a similar area on my leg. I would advise getting a check by a doctor as well, but this cream has certainly done the trick for me.”

My personal experience

I have personally used Zambesia Botanica for the past two months on my seborheic keratosis. I found that with three applications a day for two months, it was completely healed. Instead of an ugly growth on my skin, it was clear and smooth.

Seborrheic keratosis is a common type of skin problem that first appears in middle age or later. These growths can look quite ugly and appear almost anywhere on the skin. The fact that they are unsightly may cause some worry but they are benign. Keratosis is an excessive growth of keratin, a skin protein, and there are different types such as solar keratosis and seborheic keratosis.

A diagnosis

seborrheic keratosisI have had several rough, brown patches on my back for years but was never really concerned about them – I couldn’t even see them unless I made an effort. Recently my daughter caught a glimpse of one of them and she didn’t like the look of it. She took a photo of it with her cell phone and showed it to me. I agreed with her – it didn’t look good. I went to my GP who took a close look and said “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s not a melanoma. The bad news is that it’s a seborrheic keratosis. I can ‘freeze’ it for you but you already have quite a few and you are only going to get more”. As I walked out of his office he called after me “They are also called ‘senile warts”. In my case, my GP was able to diagnose a seborreic keratosis just by looking at it. If he had any doubt, I know he would have referred me to a dermatologist.

No-one knows the precise cause of these growths. Some people seem to inherit a tendency to develop a large number of them.  I remembered that as he grew older, the skin on father’s back was covered with huge, warty patches and his sister had the same problem.

What does a seborreic keratosis look like?

It most likely starts as a small, rough bump. The bump slowly thickens and starts to develop a wart-like appearance. These bumps range in color from skin coloured to light brown, dark brown and black. Several of mine even have a mix of colors and this is apparently normal. They look as though they are pasted onto the skin and some are described as looking like a dab of candle wax and others like barnacles. I have a few that look exactly like candle wax but most of mine look far more like barnacles.  They are crusty rather than waxy and dark in colour. The one my daughter was concerned about was roughly 1cm in diameter.

Using Zambesia Botanica

keratosisThe ‘sausage tree’ cream was given to me by a friend but I was sceptical and it stayed in my medicine cabinet. However, when I developed a skin-coloured warty lump on my face,  I decided to give it a serious try. I began applying it three times a day. At first I was quite disturbed about the results. It became uglier, rougher and browner. I decided to just keep going as it was obviously having some kind of effect. After about two weeks of applying it every day, my mother and sister kept telling me they were concerned about it and I questioned whether it was improving. After another month of assiduous application, I began to notice a distinct difference. The patch started to shed pieces and became smaller and smaller, eventually resembling a small spot on my skin and then disappearing altogether. I was totally blown away. My experience made me want to find out more about what made it so effective and I realized that I had discovered what the indigenous people of Africa have known for centuries and what researchers have discovered more recently –  sausage tree extract definitely has healing qualities. I am going to start using it on the patches on my back as well now. They are harder to reach but at least I may be able to prevent suffering the same fate as my father.

The good:

It targets the causes of skin conditions without the harmful effects associated with the long-term use of other systemic medications, like steroids. Sausage Tree Cream targets the metabolic processes that cause skin conditions and thus provides long lasting results.

  • Soothing
  • Non-greasy
  • Free of lanolin
  • Does not stain
  • Not messy
  • Easy to apply
  • Safe to use for all ages

The bad:

  • Costly
  • Takes time
  • Possible sensitivities

Where can you get it?

It is available from the Zambesia Botanica website.

Zambesia Botanica Skin Cream Extra 50ml is also available on Amazon.com.

Zambesia Botanica

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Best makeup for women over 50

makeup for women over 50

When makeup is applied using the correct techniques and products, it enhances our natural looks. When it is applied with a heavy hand, particularly when we are older, it can add years to our faces.  For a woman of over 50, less is definitely more.

As older women we are exposed on a daily basis to hundreds of adverts urging us to buy anti-ageing skin products that will turn back the hand of time.  As Rosalind Russell once said “Taking joy in living is a woman’s best cosmetic” and we are often tempted to buy too many products. That being said, we do want to look as good as we possibly can. Many of us over the age of 50 are being inspired to rethink our approach to makeup. We are often stuck in a rut of using products and outdated techniques that are no longer suited to our ageing skin. Buying the right products, learning some new techniques and applying makeup with subtlety is key to creating a dewy, fresh look.

8 Makeup mistakes to avoid

  1. Don’t apply a thick layer of foundation in an attempt to hide wrinkles and blemishes. It gives a cakey look and emphasizes lines.
  2. Don’t use too much under-eye concealer, especially one that is too light. Trying to conceal dark circles, especially with a lighter concealer, will only emphasize bags and wrinkles.
  3. Don’t just keep wearing a shade of lipstick that has always worked for you. Your hair colour and clothes have changed over the years and your lipstick needs to change too.
  4. Don’t go outside your lip’s natural line. The color tends to get caught in the lines around the mouth and ‘bleed’, making you look much older.
  5. Don’t apply blush too far above or below the cheekbone. Blush that is applied too high will emphasize the area under your eyes and if applied to low, it makes your lower face droop. Blush that’s too intense can make you look like you’re trying too hard to look younger.
  6. Don’t forget about your eyebrows as they frame your face. However, make sure you enhance them softly as a harsh, overdone brow is a real faux pas.
  7. Don’t apply heavy eyeliner on your lower lashes as this can add years to your face.
  8. Don’t experiment with frosty and glittery eye shadows in later life. It will just draw attention to saggy eyelids.

Transforming makeup tips and techniques

  • Use primers under make-up—it will help even out skin tone and texture, and keep a lightweight foundation on for longer.
  • Powder has gained a bad rap for ageing women but there are powders today that make your skin appear translucent, like an HD pressed powder.
  • Pat concealer from the inner corner of your eye to the mid-point. Using it under the outer corner highlights wrinkles. Don’t apply it directly under the eye but a bit lower so that it reflects upwards, hiding dark circles.
  • Experiment with lipsticks and look for tones that match your gums or inner lip. Some say older women should not wear dark coloured lipsticks but the danger of lipstick is more in the texture than the shade. A sheer red can look stunning on an older woman.
  • Give a sparse brow emphasis by defining the arch and subtly shading in any thin areas with quick, short pencil strokes. Use a slightly lighter colour than your natural colour. Defining your brows correctly can give your face an instant lift.
  • If you apply eye shadow, stop short of the end of the eye to achieve a lifted, wide eyed look.  A tasteful matte shade defines your eyes subtly without being too overpowering.
  • A foundation should be carefully selected to match your skin tone. Spend a little more on a foundation that gives coverage without adding texture. A great tip is to test foundations on your chest area. Try three different shades and choose the one that disappears.
  • When using mascara, you want your lashes to look full and lush. Avoid lengthening mascaras and focus instead of a thick, full formula product.

Good makeup choices for older women

Andrea Robinson, author of a book called “Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks and Truths for Women 50+.” says “Forget about makeup reclaiming youth,”  She believes instead that good makeup reclaims you.

She advises, “:Get down to the six bare necessities: tinted moisturizer or foundation, cheek color, lip liner and lipstick, mascara and eyeliner. It should all fit in a small makeup bag. ”

Ili leather cosmetic pouchThe Ili Leather Cosmetic pouch on the left is made from genuine leather with a sturdy zip top closure. It has a fully lined fabric compartment with a zip wall pocket. It comes in different colours and is really cute but really small. Take Andrea Robinson’s advice and pack in the bare necessities. It may be a little small for a full-sized pencil but but it will hold foundation, mascara, primer, lipstick, lip liner and blush.  It has a tiny pocket inside where you can keep nail scissors and tweezers.  Pack it and slip it in your purse for everyday use. I absolutely love this little pouch but I must warn you it will challenge your packing skills if you want to include more than the bare essentials.

Here are some great products for older women:

Smashbox primer

Smashbox Photofinish Foundation Primer is an oil-free, 60% water based primer. The revolutionary formula has oil absorbers for a smooth matte finish all day, light diffusers to minimize the appearance of imperfections, and vitamin C and peptides to help even skin tone and promote collagen production.

 

Lancome foundation

The key thing to consider when choosing a foundation for older skin is texture and lightness. You don’t want anything too matte. Light-reflecting products are best and Lancome’s Teint Miracle fits the bill admirably.

 

Laura Mercier secrete camouflage

Laura Mercia Secret Camouflage contains a unique two shade system so you can custom-blend your own shade. One shade matches the undertone of the skin and the other the skin’s depth of colour. You don’t need much product to achieve perfect coverage because it contains a high level of pigment.

 

boomstick-colour

Cindy Josephs, super model and makeup expert, has a new line of multiple use cream sticks. She believes in celebrating your age and wearing it proudly. She says “Beauty is about natural color, glow, moisture and joy! You don’t have to ‘put on’ your face anymore. You already have one. Are you ready to reveal your skin and features and let them radiate the natural beauty you have?” Apply her sheer berry to your cheeks, eyes, lips, forehead and neck. Use an irridescent champagne for the inner corner of your eye, cheekbones, shoulders and decollete. An olive oil and beeswax moisturiser will help plump up your lips and can also be used on your cuticles and around your eyes.  These products are only available from her store.

L’oreal Paris Voluminous Extra-Volume Collagen Mascara can be worn all day with no clumps, flakes or smudges. The Patented Instant Impact Brush is 50% bigger than a classic brush so it builds volume fast. This product is opthalmologist and allergy tested – it’s suitable for sensitive eyes.

L'oreal mascara

Bobbi Brown has some great eye pencils and natural brow shapers that will help you to create the perfect frame for your face.

Bobbi Brown eye pencil
Bobbi Brown Brow Pencil in Ash

Bobbi Brown brow shaper

Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper and Hair Touch Up – blonde

Some other brands with great products for older women are Mary Kay, Revlon, Elizabeth Arden, Origins, Josie Moran and Chanel.

The bottom line

Join the revolution and turn your focus away from anti-ageing to positive ageing. We have many positive role models of women who look their best in their fifties, sixties and even their seventies.  Ralph Lauren says “Real beauty, like real style, has no age.”  Gone are the days when we have to overpaint ourselves to try and look younger.

With the philosophy of less is more, we do not have to buy hundreds of products but rather focus on those that will enhance our beauty as we age. We are fortunate to be able to buy new products that create a more natural softer look. Finally, we need to apply products with the right techniques. Many of us get stuck using outdated techniques that have worked well for us since our teens and twenties. We need to  learn what works best for us as older women, using light and shadow to our advantage to minimize wrinkles and make our skins look fresher.

Coconut oil and hair growth

coconut oil and hair growth

Coconut oil has been used on hair for thousands of years to help keep it strong, nourished and protected.  Excessive use of hair products can strip away natural oils in the hair, leaving it weakened, damaged and dull. When hair is damaged, it starts splitting up the hair shaft and it breaks off little by little. Coconut oil’s fatty acids help to moisturize and protect the hair follicles,  preventing breakage, damage, and split ends.

What nutrients are found in coconut oil?

The main reason that coconut oil is so good for your scalp and hair is because it is composed mainly of saturated fatty acids. A good percentage of these are medium chain fatty acids. Lauric acid accounts for half of these and it binds easily with the protein in the hair.  Coconut oil also contains Vitamin E, Vitamin K and iron.  Vitamin E is helpful in maintaining the integrity of the cell membranes of the hair follicles.

Refined or unrefined?

Natural unrefined coconut oil has a pale yellow appearance at room temperature and becomes firmer and whiter at lower temperatures. It starts to melt at +25° C.  When it is refined it becomes more transparent and has less odor. For this reason, some people prefer using refined oil on their hair. However, others recommend using only extra virgin, raw organic oil.

5 Benefits of Coconut Oil for Hair

1. Prevents breakage

Hair dye, blow dryers, and styling products cause damage to the hair, making it brittle and dry. The medium chain fatty acids in the oil of the coconut are able to penetrate the hair follicles. They bind with the natural protein found in the hair, thus helping to protect the strands and roots from breakage.

2. Retains moisture

Coconut oil helps to retain moisture because it does not break down or evaporate easily. These moisturizing properties keep the hair shaft strong, lessening chances of breakage and damage. It does not just keep moisture in but also helps to protect against heat and impurities in the environment.

3. Improves softness and shine

Some shampoos can leave the hair dry and brittle, even preventing a comb from going smoothly through it after shampooing.The  fatty acids found in the coconut oil helps to deal with dry or frizzy hair and improves softness and shine.  When we age, our gray hair can seem coarser because the oil glands produce less sebum. This means that it becomes drier and more roughly-textured.  Coconut oil can help to keep it soft and manageable as it is much like the sebum found on the scalp. Gray hair is also more vulnerable to sun damage because it does not have as much melanin, and here again, coconut oil can help to protect it.

4. Boosts blood circulation

Massaging the head with coconut oil helps to stimulate circulation. This enables more nutrients and oxygen flow to the hair follicles. Sebum build-up is removed, the scalp is nourished and hair growth is stimulated.

5. Deals with bacteria and fungus

The hair and scalp are full of bacteria. In the presence of certain enzymes the fatty acids in coconut oil are converted into antimicrobial and anti-fungal agents. These agents offer protection against dandruff and lice, potential problems that can cause hair loss and limit new growth.

How to apply coconut oil

Different hair types respond differently: It is not surprising that different hair types respond differently when applying oils.  If your hair is naturally healthy and has enough moisture, it is better to apply coconut oil before washing. Some people have hair that becomes greasy with even a little of the oil and they should also apply it prior to washing. Those who have very dry or unmanageable hair may benefit from applying it after washing.
Amount matters: It is better to start with a small amount. See how hair reacts and apply more if necessary.  Slathering too much onto the hair may be counterproductive.

Method

Heat oil: Heat the jar gently in warm water until liquid.

Dampen Hair: Use warm water to dampen your hair thoroughly.

Massage in: Spoon a tablespoon of the warmed coconut oil into your hands and begin to apply to your hair. Massage it in with your fingertips for at least three minutes. You will usually use one to four tablespoons depending on the length of your hair.  It spreads quite easily over your scalp and a little goes a long way.

Cover: Cover your hair with a shower cap and wait for about twenty to thirty minutes.

Rinse, wash and dry: Rinse with warm water, wash with a natural, sulfate free shampoo and towel dry.

Repeat: Do this three times a week for the best results.

 

TIP: Add 4 drops of rosemary essential oil. This also helps to increase circulation to the scalp, prevent hair loss and encourage new growth.

Some product suggestions

Choosing a particular brand can be difficult as there are so many different ones, all of which differ in aroma, consistency and color. The following two brands have been given excellent reviews by well over 5000 customers on Amazon. Nutiva is cold-pressed and never refined, deodorized, or bleached. It is USDA Organic and Non GMO project verified. Viva Labs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is a best seller on Amazon. It is made from unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil. It is USDA certified organic, kosher and gluten free. It is also free of pesticides, bleach and trans fats.

The bottom line

Coconut oil has been used as a hair oil for thousands of years for good reason. Its fatty acids keep the hair strong and the scalp nourished, preventing breakage and hair loss as well as keeping it shiny and soft. Although it should not be thought of as some miracle potion that makes your hair grow faster overnight, there is no doubt about its many benefits for the hair.

Adding essential oils, like Rosemary, which is known to encourage hair growth, can be very effective.

Remember that it is no good to just try to solve problems from the outside – be mindful of your diet too. Good nutrition will go a long way towards keeping your hair in the best possible condition.

 

 

Fight aging with pomegranite power

pomegranate for anti-aging

Many of us have been introduced to the health benefits of pomegranates. However, it is only recently that a study has revealed the anti-aging potential of this superfruit. Modern scientists have managed to prove what ancient physicians believed – that the pomegranate can help us to fight aging.

Forbidden fruit?

The pomegranate, with its jewel-like seeds, has been a symbol of life, fertility and vitality through the centuries. It was one of the earliest fruits to be cultivated and has been written about in Greek myths, Shakespeare’s plays and the Bible. Part of the reason why it became so significant symbolically was probably because it was used successfully to treat a wide range of illnesses through the centuries.  Now, thanks to a team of scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, some of the beliefs about the benefits of the pomegranate have been proved scientifically.

A miracle molecule

As we age, our cells struggle to recycle mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell). Their build-up affects the health of many tissues, causing muscle weakening, and possibly causing diseases that come with aging, like Parkinson’s. Within the humble pomegranate lies an answer to this problem.  Our intestinal bacteria convert natural substances called ellagitannins found in the pomegranate into a molecule called Urolithin A. Urolithin A drives the process that allows the parts of the cell that become defective to be cleared away.

The scientists doing the recent study conducted tests on the nematode C. elegans. This worm is often used in such tests because it ages rapidly. Its lifespan increased by more than 45% when exposed to Urolithin A, a truly amazing result.  Rodents were tested too and it was found that the older ones showed 42% better endurance while running than those in the control group – another significant result.

Human studies

Study co-author,  Johan Auwerx, thinks there is good reason to expect positive results from human studies too.

He says “species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.”

The amount of Urolithin A produced does vary widely depending upon factors such as the flora present in the gut. For some people, no matter how many pomegranates they eat, they don’t produce Urolithin A because they do not have the right microbes in their gut. However, the scientists are already working on a solution to this, and  start-up company, Amazentis, is currently conducting clinical trials on humans. They have developed a way of delivering calibrated doses of Urolithin A.

An Antioxidant powerhouse

pomegranates for anti-aging

The value of antioxidants is common knowledge.  We are aware that they slow the aging process, protect our health in many ways  and reduce the risk of numerous diseases.  How does pomegranate juice compare with other beverages that are heavily promoted as being rich in antioxidants?  In a UCLA study comparing different polyphenol-rich beverages, pomegranate juice came out tops. It beat out grape juice, blueberry juice, cranberry juice, red wine, iced green tea and other well known sources of antioxidants. The main reason was because it contained the most of every type of antioxidant.  

Ways to add pomegranates to your diet

Fresh – enjoy fresh pomegranates when they are in season – it’s easy enough to remove the edible arils by cutting around the diameter, splitting it in two and then pounding the back with a large spoon. You can even store arils in the freezer to get the health benefits of pomegranate all year round.

Use the arils as a topping for granola or add to red wine based sauces.  Pomegranate gives a Pomegranate and Cucumber Salad a juicy kick.

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1  can garbanzo beans
  • 1 large clove garlic
  •  fresh basil leaves
  • red wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

pomegranate juicePomegranate Juice – when drinking a juice make sure it contains no additives like sugar, other juices as fillers or taste enhancers – it should just be pure pomegranate juice.  A pure juice is obviously going to be more expensive but at least you know  that you are getting the full benefit of its antioxidants.  It is  important to realize that the juice does contain a high amount of natural sugar. Lakewood Pure Pomegranate Juice can be found on Amazon (A pack of 6 32oz bottles).  As you should do with any herbal or dietary supplement, you should talk to your doctor before adding pomegranate juice as a regular supplement to your diet. It can interact with certain prescription medications.

Conclusion

With recent studies, a host of new possibilities have opened up in the fight against muscular degeneration and other health problems that develop as we age. An old age free of some of the health problems we normally associate with aging is an exciting thought.  We don’t just want longevity – we want to have quality of life for longer – and maybe that dream is not so elusive after all.

 

What is in green tea?

what is in green tea?

Green tea, like black tea,  is made from the Camellia sinensis shrub. The major difference between the two types comes in the processing method. For green tea, the leaves are picked and sent straight off to be steamed or dried to prevent fermentation. Black tea leaves are left to ferment after picking.

How is it made?

Green tea is grown and processed in a number of different ways. Harvesting usually takes place three times a year. After the leaves are harvested, it is important to prevent any oxidization from taking place. Oxidization is the process that occurs when enzymes in the leaves react with oxygen in the air and the leaves turn brown. By gently heating the leaves, this chemical reaction is stopped and the leaves remain green.  Leaves are heated using both traditional and modern methods. In China, green teas are often pan-fired in large woks where the leaves are stirred constantly for even drying. They are also sun dried or oven dried. In Japan the leaves are steamed – they may be steamed in a bamboo tray over water or processed by mechanical means.

What does it taste like?

When green tea is brewed it is a light greenish, yellow color. What it tastes like depends on many factors. There are different types of green tea grown and produced all over the world today and the environment in which they are grown affects their final flavor. Tea grown in a hot, tropical environment tastes different to one grown in a cool, mountainous climate.

Other factors that can affect the final product are cultivation practices, parts of the plant used, time of year when tea is plucked, whether the plants are treated with chemicals and how the leaves are shaped, rolled and dried. The taste of green tea is commonly described as earthy, nutty, toasty, seaweed-like, lush and grassy. If brewed correctly, its taste is mildly astringent.

What is in it?

The main green tea nutrients are polyphenols (catechins), caffeine, tannin (flavonols), theophylline, theobromine, fat, wax, saponins, essential oils, carotene, vitamin C, vitamins A, B1, B12, K and P, fluoride, iron, magnesium, calcium, strontium, copper, nickel, zinc, and other trace of elements.

Catechins

The catechins are the component that makes the tea astringent. Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols. The fact that green tea is made from unfermented leaves, means it contains a higher concentration of powerful antioxidants or catechin polyphenols.  A catechin called apigallocatechin gallate (known as EGCG) is  the most active of these compounds.

Researchers think the reason green tea is good for your health is mostly due to the powerful antioxidant potential of the catechins. In fact, the antioxidant effects seem even greater than vitamin C.  Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body that damage the DNA and even cause cell death. Free radicals are believed to accelerate aging and can cause many health problems.

Caffeine

Green tea contains about 30 to 50 milligrams of caffeine per cup, but the percentage is influenced by various factors such as the growth stage of the leaf.  The effects of caffeine on the body have been studied extensively. It stimulates the nervous system, heart and muscles by increasing the release of certain chemicals in the brain. It is well known to improve various aspects of brain function, including thinking and alertness.

Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been studied for the calming effect it has on the nervous system. It promotes the formation of the neurotransmitter, dopamin, and changes serotonin levels in the brain.  Studies of L-theanine and caffeine in combination have showed how they act together to improve brain performance. This is a way of getting the benefit of caffeine and yet feeling calm at the same time.

Vitamins and Minerals

Green tea is a rich source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. It contains a number of the B vitamins as well as vitamin C and K.  The carotine it contains is a precursor to vitamin A.  Folic acid, manganese, potassium and fluoride are all minerals that contribute towards its beneficial effect.

Health benefits

The health benefits of drinking green tea have been widely discussed. The most significant benefits are covered briefly below.

Cardiovascular diseases, including strokes and heart attacks are a major cause of death. Studies show that green tea improves some main risk factors for such diseases. One study proved that the antioxidants in green tea can help to significantly reduce LDL cholesterol as well as protect the LDL particles from oxidation. The results of various studies have lead researchers to conclude that consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Multiple studies have showed that green tea drinkers have a lower risk of various types of cancer. The University of Maryland Medical Center cites several of these studies. Researchers believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing. Some of the studies have showed reduced risk for several types of cancers, including skin, breast, and bladder.

Data from several studies show that green tea polyphenols may possibly protect against neurodegenerative diseases. They have some protective effect on neurons.

When combined with the natural caffeine content of green tea, EGCG seems to stimulate the central nervous system and transform fat into fuel (thermogenesis). One study, a randomized controlled trial in 240 men and women that went on for 12 weeks showed significant decreases in body weight, body fat percentage, abdominal fat and waist circumference. Various other studies have been done that don’t show significant weight loss and inconclusive results mean more research is needed in this area.

Some controlled trials have showed a mild reduction in blood sugar levels from green tea. This could possibly lower the risk of developing type II diabetes with long term consumption.

Not all green teas are created equal

An analysis of the purity and strength of 30 green tea products by ConsumerLab.com offered some interesting results. They found greatly varying EGCG levels in the various brands, including bottled and brewable green tea. Brands also varied considerably in the amount of caffeine they contained. While some contained virtually none, others contained a similar amount to what is found in a regular cup of coffee. Their tests of brewable teas even revealed lead contamination in the tea leaves of some of the products.  None of the products exceeded the USDA lead limit when brewed but high amounts of lead remained in the tea leaves.

What to look for in a green tea

It is critical to choose and use green tea wisely.

  • Green tea brewed from loose tea leaves appears to offer the most potent source of antioxidants like EGCG. Drinking some bottled green teas is just as good as drinking flavored water!
  • You have probably heard of Matcha which is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. When you drink this tea, you are consuming the leaves so you get the fully potency of the antioxidants. However,  some of these powders contain additives and sweeteners. Another concern is the possibility of contaminated leaves being used to make the powder.
  • When selecting tea of any kind, it should preferably be organic (no pesticides!)
  • Even when you buy organic tea, you need to check where it is grown. Heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water subjected to pollution can penetrate into the tea leaves. The purest, high quality tea will come from a pristine growing environment.
  • Remember that caffeine content can vary widely.

Precautions

It is important to drink green tea in moderate amounts. Drinking excessive amounts  is not advised as this can cause some serious side effects.  Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid green tea. To be safe, it’s always best to check with a health care provider before drinking green tea, especially if you also take other medications.

Conclusion

Drinking green tea every day has the potential to benefit your health in many ways. It can even prolong your life by lowering your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. It may help you to lose weight and feel better too.  However, you need to make sure the brand you are drinking is of good quality and be wise about the amount you drink.

Is there a natural mosquito repellent that works as well as DEET?

mosquito

The red bump and itchiness of a mosquito bite is familiar to most of us. Mosquitoes can ruin our sleep with the persistent buzz of their wings and they have an uncanny way of avoiding our attempts to swat them.  Beyond the mere nuisance factor, they are carriers of some of the world’s deadliest diseases. There are plenty of commercial products on the market that will kill them with just one squirt – and they are claimed to be completely safe. Concerns about the safety of DEET, however, have led many of us to search for a natural mosquito repellent that works as well.

Why we need protection against Mosquitoes

Mosquito bites cause skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the saliva. Itchiness and a red bump is normally the extent of the reaction. However, some mosquitoes are well-known disease carriers and mosquito-borne diseases kill millions of people worldwide every year, particularly the elderly and children in developing countries.  Malaria, Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and Zika are all carried by mosquitoes . The Zika virus, discovered in 2014 off the coast of South America, is  currently causing concern in the United States.

The DEET debate

Repellents in the form of sprays, coils or electric socket tabs usually contain DEET.  DEET is a powerful chemical the US military created in the 1940s.  The EPA has completed several assessments of DEET over the years. They say “we continue to believe that the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children”.

This is contrary to opinion of Mohamed Abou-Donia, a pharmacologist at Duke University, who  has spent many years researching the effects of pesticides.  He studied the effect of DEET on rats and he found that when they were exposed for a long period, regions that controlled muscle movement, memory, learning and concentration were affected. The rats were treated with an average human dose of DEET (40mg per kilogram of body weight) and they performed far worse than the control group.

Abou-Donia was of the opinion that ” frequent and heavy use of DEET, especially in combination with other chemicals or medications, could cause brain deficits in vulnerable populations.”  In 2012, he studied the combined effect of Permethrin and DEET  (Permethrin is not applied to the skin but is used on clothing and gear) and found that combined exposure to these compounds produced behavioral, biochemical and metabolic alterations in rats.

There are other studies that have shown that while some people have a sensitivity to DEET  most are unaffected if they follow the instructions on the label and do not expose themselves over a prolonged period.

DEET versus natural repellents

In 2002 a study was made of the effectiveness of DEET in comparison with seven widely available botanical repellents. It was found that DEET was much more effective than the botanical-based repellents. No non-DEET repellent  was able to provide protection that lasted more than an hour and a half.

Ingredients in natural repellents

Fortunately, the situation has changed since the 2012 study and many new natural repellents are now available. In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) granted approval to two alternatives —picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Picaridin

Picaridin is a synthetic compound developed from a plant extract, the same group of plants that are used to make table pepper. This compound has been widely used as an insect repellent in Europe and other countries like Australia but it only became available in the United States in 2005.  Picaridin does not kill mosquitoes but repels them and makes them less likely to bite.

Recent studies show that a concentration of 7% of Picaridin is equivalent to about 10% DEET (one to two hours of protection), and a 20% concentration offers the same protection (four to five hours) as an equivalent DEET concentration.

Sawyer natural repellent

Natrapel 8 hour

Consumer Report tests by the CDC showed that two products kept mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. The two products, Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, both  contain 20% Picaridin.

The Sawyer repellent is safe to use on the whole family. It can not only be applied to the skin but also to clothing and outdoor gear.

The Natrapel has a gentle floral fragrance.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus

This is the only plant-based ingredient in insect repellents that has been approved by the CDC.  Oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural oil extracted from the twigs and leaves of the gum eucalyptus plant.  It is available in several different forms.  P-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD),  a synthetic version of the oil, has excellent repellent activity.  “Pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (e.g. essential oil) has not been tested for efficacy and safety and is not registered with EPA as an insect repellent.

These products do not repel mosquitoes but seem to simply mask the attractive signals that humans send out so mosquitoes can’t locate their target. In tests PMD products were shown to prevent bites from aggressive mosquitoes for 4 to 7 hours and for more than 12 hours from less aggressive mosquitoes. This was a greater period of prevention than a product containing 10% DEET.  Studies have shown that concentrations of PMD at 20-50% provide between 2-12 hours of protection against different mosquito species.

Repel natural repellentCutter lemon eucalyptus insect repellentRepel Lemon Eucalyptus contains a 30% Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus with a concentration of 65% PMD. It has a refreshing scent and repels mosquitoes for up to 6 hours.

Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus also contains a 30% concentration of PMB that will keep the mosquitoes at bay for about 6 hours.

Overall, users are very enthusiastic about these two mosquito repellents. Some reviews say that they are effective but do not last quite as long as a DEET-based spray.

Essential Oils

Hundreds of homemade formulations for mosquito repellents are available online and essential oils are often used in these recipes.  There is a strong history of use of essential oils dating back to Ancient times. Some of the oils used are thyme, geraniol, peppermint, cedar, patchouli and clove. Essential oils appear to help to mask the chemicals from the human  body that attract mosquitoes.

Catnip Essential Oil

Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family and Nepetalactone is the organic compound in catnip that is extracted through distillation.

In a study in 2001, US researchers put mosquitoes into tubes treated with either DEET or catnip oil  and then counted the insects left in the treated ends of the tubes after 10 minutes. The study used  the species of mosquitoes that carries Dengue fever. They found that Catnip oil repelled the mosquitoes 10x more effectively than Deet.  “Often repellents are quite specific to the insects,” said Dr Walter, one of the researchers, “so this result does not necessarily mean that catnip oil will be a universal alternative to DDET”.

plant therapyThe Nature Shield Synergy Blend product contains pure essential oils of citronella, eucalyptus, cedarwood, lemongrass, lavender, Litsea, Tea Tree, Patchouli and Catnip.

As these are 100% pure essential oils, they need to be diluted with witch hazel or rubbing alcohol.  A carrier oil like coconut or soybean can be added too, for longer lasting protection.

Citronella

Citronella oil is extracted from various species of lemongrass.  Citronella and geraniol candles are widely sold as outdoor repellents but they are not that effective against mosquitoes. Citronella needs to be applied frequently and only appears to provide about 20 minutes of protection.

Essential oils evaporate quickly so the problem is that they only protect the user for a short while and then need to be re-applied.  By mixing an essential oil with a large molecule like vanillin, protection time can be prolonged because the release rate of the volatile oil is prolonged (vanillin is a vanilla extract alternative).  Another way to prolong the effect is by using gelatin-arabic gum microcapsules.

Neem Oil

Pressed from seeds of the Neem Tree, this oil has been widely advertised as a natural alternative to DEET.  However, the results of studies have been variable. Several field studies from India have indicated that it is highly effective whilst other studies have shown mediocre results.  The EPA has not approved Neem for use as a topical insect repellent. Neem has a strong scent that some describe as being like that of burnt peanuts.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil appears to increase the protection time of other ingredients, like citronella, rather than being effective on its own. A soybean-oil-based repellent protects against mosquito bites for an average of about an hour and a half.

All Terrain natural mosquito repellentBite BlockerAll Terrain Herbal Armor uses six natural-repelling oils (soybean, citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass and geranium) at 25% total concentration. It has proven to be 100% effective for two hours and 95.8% for three hours. Herbal Armor is non-irritating, allergy tested, and safe for sensitive skin.

Bite Blocker Herbal Spray  contains soybean oil, purified water, coconut oil, glycerin, geranium oil, and citric acid. It needs to be re-applied every 2-3 hours. It is great for sensitive skin.

Other plant-based oils that are often used are coconut oil and palm nut oils. They are useful as carriers for other ingredients because they contain unsaturated fatty acids and emulsifiers. The product spreads more easily and evaporation is slower.

Conclusion

We all want a means of protection against mosquitoes that is safe, pleasant to use and effective. The good news is that natural mosquito repellents are improving all the time. PMD and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus have been approved by the CDC and are proving to have long-lasting protective qualities.  Many plant-based ingredients are effective for a while but the problem is that they are not long-lasting. Ways are currently being explored of prolonging their effectiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the difference between mind and brain?

neurons

The question about the difference between mind and brain has been debated by scientists, theologians and philosophers for centuries. The functions of the mind and the brain are so interwoven that it is hard to separate them, despite the fact that the brain has a definite shape and can be seen and touched. The mental health, psychiatric and medical professions all use different definitions of the mind.

Some people believe that the mind exists independently of the brain and others believe that it does not.   Interesting studies of people who have undergone traumatic brain injury or who were born without certain parts of the brain add to the debate about the complexities.

Take, for example, the  44-year old man who went to the doctor in 2007 because he was experiencing  weakness in his left leg. When he was 6 months old he had a shunt installed because he was suffering from postnatal hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain). He was now a married father of two, working as a civil servant. He had no idea anything was wrong with his brain but scans showed that his lateral ventricles were so filled with liquid that the rest of the brain had been replaced, leaving only a thin layer of neurons.  He was a normal, functioning human being although he lacked vital brain regions.

A  case was reported in 2014 of a woman who is missing her cerebellum. Despite the fact the the cerebellum contains about half the brain cells, this woman lives a normal life and is married with a child.  She only experiences minor issues such as clumsiness.

It would appear from stories like this that brain functions are supported by many regions instead of just one and that if one structure breaks down or is missing, others are able to step in and take over. The brain doesn’t function like technology where one part has one function. Very slowly, over time, the functions of defective or missing parts seem to be taken up the other areas.

brainThe brain looks rather like a huge walnut. The skull is like the shell of the walnut, protecting the soft brain inside. The organ is quite heavy and by the age of six it has reached its full weight. It is the control center of the body, receiving and sending messages to and from all parts of the body.

The brain can be seen as an incredible machine that responds according to the signals it receives. Some people liken the brain to a vehicle and the mind to the driver of the  vehicle. Others say the brain is like the hardware and the mind is like the software. Another way of looking at it is to see the mind and the brain as two different frameworks.  It’s a complex issue that the greatest thinkers throughout the ages have debated and none of the illustrations used to try and explain the difference between the two adequately capture the complexity.

More understanding of how the brain functions is of the utmost importance for developing treatments for illnesses such as schizophrenia, Alzheimers and Parkinson’s.  The technology being used to study the brain is improving daily and understanding of the brain as a physical organ is increasing by leaps and bounds. More understanding of the realm of the mind that holds our desires, beliefs, attitudes, emotions and perceptions is equally important if we are to understand what drives our behavior as human beings.