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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Comfrey, A Living Medicine Chest




Comfrey or Symphytum officinale is a must have for the garden, whether you want it for medicinal healing purposes or for vegetable and flower growing, it is an invaluable plant. A European native and member of the borage family, comfrey acts as a soil conditioner, weed barrier, compost booster and fertilizer.

A hardy perennial to Zone 4, comfrey thrives in just about any type of soil (though moist and fertile is best), is drought tolerant and grows fine in full sun to partly shaded locations. Seldom bothered by disease or insect pests it really is a low maintenance herb. It does need its space, as it can grow to a height and width of about five feet.

The large dark green fuzzy leaves are full of potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium and iron.  A reason for this is it has a long taproot which takes up nutrients from the soil. The deep roots make this plant great for preparing a new vegetable or flower bed. The taproot acts as a clay breaker to penetrate compacted soil. 

The leaves can be spread around garden plants to keep down the weeds or they can be shredded first to form a mulch. To make a liquid fertilizer, steep the leaves in a bucket of water to form a compost tea. Do this outside, since the resulting "tea" can be described as none other than "it stinks". Anyone who infuses comfrey in olive oil to make an herbal oil for salves learns quickly that if they want to use the fresh leaves the resulting salve will have an odor. Taking the time to dry out the leaves a bit before infusing greatly reduces the risk of not only the smell but against spoilage. The fuzzy leaves of comfrey can be irritating to some people and cause contact dermatitis, so it is advised to wear gloves when handling them. 

Add comfrey leaves to the compost bin or pile as an accelerator, and be sure to turn the pile to thoroughly mix and combine everything.

Also, comfrey makes a great trap crop to lure slugs and snails away from other garden plants or flowers. Just remember its size so it doesn't choke out other plants.

The fact that comfrey is also called Knit-bone and Bruisewort makes it easy to remember the medicinal purposes of this herb. Broken bones, pulled muscles, sprained ankles, wound care and bruises can all use this plant to aid and speed up healing. Difficult to heal pressure sores or slow to heal wounds often respond amazingly well to the use of comfrey salves. Just remember to be sure there is no risk of infection and to let the would heal a bit for a day or two before applying. The allantoin in comfrey may cause the skin to close over too quickly, causing the outer skin to heal before the inner wound is ready. Wounds need to heal from the inside out. Don't use it internally because there is controversy about its effects on the liver.

Lastly, bees and pollinating insects love it! A win win all around!











MEADOW MUFFIN GARDENS


Monday, January 20, 2020

Back To Basics Skin Care Routine...Starting Over




The case many a time when people do seek out products not easily found on the commercial market is a result of wanting to eliminate synthetics and chemicals in their lives or a frustration with the condition of their skin. Often it is a matter of going back to basics and starting over.
A mistake people often make with cleansing their face is that the products used are too harsh and strip the skin of their natural oils, leaving the skin pH out of whack resulting in too dry skin lacking the balanced oils that normally protect the barrier. In trying to get back to normal there can be an overproduction of sebum which we then try to scrub off by washing even more and the cycle continues.
A good routine to follow includes: a cleanse, an occasional steam and/or mask, then a toner and last a moisturizer if needed

I have two types of FACIAL CLEANSE, one is like a serum and the other is a honey/glycerin/castile soap blend:
First we have the oil cleanse method.
Remember years ago when women used cold creams? That method was basically using cleansing oils that removed makeup and dirt from the skin. It was a gentle approach to cleansing both dry and oily skin. I got this recipe from an old herbal book. 
Aloe Rose Facial Cleanse

Some people like this to cleanse and additionally use a moisturizer, others think this is enough for both cleansing and moisturizing. It consists of olive oil (this could be replaced with a "drier" oil such as grapeseed for oily skin), rosewater and aloe vera gel. You would apply this to a cotton round and simply wipe over your face to cleanse and moisturize and the same time. Second option is to use it like you would any other facial wash and rinse off with water.

Cleaning your face with oil may sound unappealing but contrary to popular belief, oil does not contribute to oily skin or breakouts. The sebum that the skin creates is there to protect the skin. When we use commercial cleansers to remove this natural oil, the body reacts by producing more oil. Dry skin is often the result of stripping away this natural barrier and things get out of balance. It is the same as how our hair adjusts to constant shampooing.
In washing our faces we want to remove the dirt and bacterial which builds up in our pores but we have to think about the chemistry behind it. Oil dissolves oil, like dissolves like. Water and oil do not mix; commercial cleansers contain ingredients to break up the oils but in doing so may strip away the natural protective layer. By using a nourishing oil like olive oil, the dirty oils are being replaced with beneficial ones.

Some people like to use the above serum type cleanse on some days and then the more traditional wash with water on other days, just to mix things up and get the benefits from both types.
There are three versions of the honey/glycerin/castile soap washes, mainly its personal preference. The first one uses essential oils orange or lemon which you may like for oily skin since they are more astringent. The next one is made with the honey infused with rose petals and the third the honey is infused with lavender.

Citrus Honey Facial Wash

Rose Honey Facial Wash

Lavender Honey Facial Wash

Wildflower and clover honey already have the beneficial attributes of various herbs and flowers within the honey itself. Honey is a natural humectant which means it retains moisture and plumps up skin cells. It helps to rebuild the moisture level in the skin without making it oily. The high sugar, low protein content create an acidic environment with limited availability of water therefore bacteria cannot thrive.
Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that when combined with water produces hydrogen peroxide, a mild antiseptic. Honey also contains antioxidants and flavonoids that may function as antibacterial agents. It calms down troubled skin without irritation.
Vegetable glycerin is what is known as a humectant which means it draws moisture from the air and holds it in. As part of a cleanse it bonds to dirt and oil and washes away.


To open up the pores, you can follow the cleanse with a 20 minute facial steam in which you fill a bowl with steaming water (add an herbal tea bag for extra benefits), make a tent by covering your head with a towel, and lean over the bowl.


Follow the steam with a RAW HONEY MASK or an exfoliating SUGAR SCRUB for wonderful benefits.
Masks and scrubs are great for periodic use for deeper cleansing to draw out impurities or for exfoliation to remove dead skin cell build-up. These aren't meant to use every day, once or twice a week is sufficient. Add variety by mixing it up a little, and there is no need to use both the mask and the scrub at the same time.

Unpasteurized honey contains all the live enzymes and life of the hive without being destroyed by the heat of pasteurization. Typical store bought honey is pasteurized to make it nice and pourable and remove bits of wax and stuff from the hive. Having a high anti-oxidant level and being the natural enzymes have not been destroyed by heat, raw honey is a much healthier product.
Facial masks are wonderful for deep cleaning in that they penetrate below the surface and draw out impurities. Honey masks are nourishing, moisturizing and gentle enough to not strip the skin of its natural protective oils.
When you wash the honey off your skin, a small amount remains in the pores. As a result, the sugars in the honey attract water from the air, which keeps your skin hydrated.

The first mask has tea tree and chamomile and is good for blemishes. The second one is good for blemishes too but in using lavender is more gentle. The third one is great for oily skin as it contains peppermint and lemongrass which are astringent and antiseptic.
Blemish Honey Mask
Lavender Honey Mask
Oily Tired Skin Honey Mask

Scrubs are optional as they may be too harsh for already irritated skin.
The choice between sugar or salt for scrubs depends on how it is to be used. For the delicate skin of the face sugar scrubs are gentler. People often make the mistake that if they scrub they'll scrape those blemishes right off when actually they are irritating the skin further causing more inflammation.
One uses vegetable glycerin instead of an oil and the other two use coconut oil. The glycerin scrub is "goopier" and good if you like a looser scrub. The coconut oil ones tend to be more compact since coconut oil solidifies under 75 degrees. But as soon as you touch it it melts and gets soft again.

Vanilla Sugar Scrub
Vegetable Glycerin Lavender Sugar Scrub
Coconut Sugar Scrub Lemongrass


Finish up with a gentle TONER:
The herbal vinegars are great for getting and keeping the skin pH back in balance. It's personal preference as any of them are tonics for the skin.
The first one uses herbs for their anti-inflammatory benefits and the second is an old-fashioned blend of roses and elderflowers which were used for their high vitamin C content.
Calendula Nettles Chamomile Toner

Rose Elderflower Toner

Herbal Blemish Spot Treatment

This third one is stronger than the other toners because it doesn't have the dilution of distilled water. It's more of a spot treatment for blemishes. It does make a great everyday toner too if it's diluted a bit which is an option when purchased.

The natural pH of the skin is what keeps bacteria levels in check Disruption of the skin's pH can be detrimental to your skin, because bacteria thrives in an environment only a little more alkaline than your skin's natural acidity. Once bacteria thrives it can lead to inflammation and generating more clogged pores.
Good quality raw vinegars restore the natural acid balance of the skin, leaving it soft and smooth.
By promoting circulation in the small capillaries that irrigate the skin, vinegar becomes a tonic for the complexion. Raw vinegars don't go through the processing and distilling of the typical clear vinegars, therefore raw vinegar still contains the living nutrients and beneficial bacteria of the "mother".
Vinegar acts as an antiseptic, meaning it prevents proliferation of bacteria, viruses and yeast that could trigger infection. As a facial toner, it removes oily residue as it dissolves fatty deposits at the surface of the skin.


Third step on a daily basis is to MOISTURIZE
There are several facial cream choices and one lighter lotion. They vary in ingredients just to offer options for personal preference or allergies but they all are very good for different skin types. The oil to water ratio is almost 50/50 whereas most lotions in pump bottles are 20/80. The key is how often and how much to use at a time. People with dry skin find these creams nourishing and great relief for parched feeling skin and those who don't need a heavier cream may find they only need a tiny bit or perhaps only need it as a night cream.

Herb Floral Facial Cream
Elderflower Rose Facial Cream

Rose Facial Cream
Serenity Facial Cream
Scent Free Facial Cream
Wrinkle Wrath Facial Cream

Touch of Bliss Facial Cream
Vanilla Wrinkle Wrath Facial Cream
This lotion has a higher liquid portion and doesn't have a solid oil such as shea butter or coconut oil. This lotion was originally the request from a woman who had skin troubles and was allergic to coconut oil. But since some people just want a lighter lotion rather than a cream I left the listing as it is. The essential oils chamomile and tea tree are the usual ones in the lotion only because it originally was wanted for and to prevent future blemishes. But if you don't need that, you can leave it unscented or add something else.
Sensitive Skin Lotion


Everyone has different needs and preferences, therefore there is no one product or routine that fits all. Getting to know what works best for you may be trial and error, but hopefully with options like these products you can be reassured the "first do no harm" philosophy is a priority.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Stinging Nettles..Undervalued for Hair Care


Nettle is a group of plants that have stinging hairs and even though the plant is so very valuable medicinally and environmentally, not everyone can or would want the plant on their property for an unsuspecting person to stumble upon. But there are sources where you can find products utilizing this undervalued plant.

The nettle plant is nutrient dense in that it is rich in Vitamins A, C, D, K and B, a good source of minerals Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Silica, Iodine, Silicon, Sodium and Sulfur. Taking advantage of this green pharmacy in the form of a tea can do wonders for your health. But you can also take advantage of using the plant for topical use as a benefit to your skin and hair care. 

Nettles are one of the oldest treatments for helping with hair loss. It stimulates the hair follicles which results in healthier growth. Better nutrition is always best for seeing an overall improvement in the appearance of our skin and hair, but applying nettles topically in the form of after shampoo herbal infusion rinses, nettle-infused vinegar hair rinses or nettle-infused oil conditioning treatments can also bring wonderful results. People dealing with dandruff and scalp funk can get rid of the problem by taking advantage of the antifungal properties of stinging nettles.

1. First, lets talk about the use of nettles as an herbal vinegar hair rinse. Many of our hair care products are strongly alkaline and cause a dull buildup on the hair shaft. Continuous use of shampoos, conditioners and styling products can dry out and leave open the protective cuticle scales of the hair shaft which results in hard to manage, fly away hair. Healthy hair is on the mildly acidic side of the pH scale between 4.5 and 5.5. Apple cider vinegar has a pH of 2.9. Occasional after shampoo vinegar rinses help to balance the pH, remove that buildup and restore a softer, shinier head of hair. Vinegar rinses also help prevent or get rid of a flaky or itchy scalp. The acids and enzymes in the vinegar kill the "bottle bacillus", a bacteria that is one of the causes for many scalp conditions. The bacteria clogs the hair follicles which allows dry crusts to form that itch and flake off. Adding the benefits of nettles to the vinegar rinse adds a powerful boost to maintaining a healthy scalp and hair care.



Vinegar Rinse Dark Hair


2. An occasional oil conditioning treatment can help restore damage done from hairdryers, curling irons, color treatments, summer sun, winter wind and swimming pool chemicals. Infusing stinging nettles in a carrier oil such a jojoba oil is a great blend for not only the hair on your head but for men's beard care.
Jojoba oil isn't actually an oil, but rather the liquid wax extracted from the plant's seeds. Jojoba oil so resembles human sebum that it acts as a protective coating, quickly absorbed by the hair shafts. By infusing the jojoba oil with nettles, the hair and scalp benefit greatly and helps prevent scalp funk.
Conditioning oils can be used in a few ways: massage a bit into snarls to help comb out tangles, scrunch a bit just onto the ends to help with dry ends and split ends or use as a full head treatment by applying to the hair and scalp, wrap with a towel for a period of time and shampoo.






Further information on how stinging nettles can bring butterflies to your garden can be found in this post