Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Homemade Face/Hand Cream with Calendula and Lavender Essential Oils

I was inspired to make my own face cream during a recent class on herbal medicine. Our lecturer brought in a batch of amazingly fragrant and soothing cream and I got to thinking about how amazing it would be to make my own batch. Wonderfully moisturising cream but without all the preservatives and chemicals which are added to other expensive products. I do like coconut oil and I think it has incredible benefits but being a saturated fat, it is always solid - I find it difficult to get it to spread enough on my face and even then it can be quite greasy.

It also find the use of essential oils fascinating too - they really do have such powerful medicinal effects on the body and I think we have forgotten how useful they can be.

Today I decided to use calendula as it is a wonderful healing oil making it ideal for any breakouts or inflammed skin. This means it is great for skin which is prone to breakouts or eczema. Calendula is also a wonderful healing cream and is commonly used on infants for nappy rash. It also has antiseptic properties.

I also decided to include lavender oil as I plan on using this particular cream at night going to bed. I hope the lavender oil will allow we to unwind and go to sleep peacefully! Lavender oil also has many other lesser known benefits such as a first aid treatment for minor burns and cuts, dandruff, the treatment of nausea, and cold sores. It also has a nice scent.

To make the cream:

1/2 cup almond oil (you can use olive oil)
2 tbsp calendula oil
8 drops of lavender oil
2 tbsp beeswax (broken into small pieces)
140ml of warm water (it must be warm to allow the emulsification to take place properly, if it is too cold or too hot it will not work)

Place a bowl over some boiling water in a saucepan (in much the same way as you would melt chocolate)
Add your oil and your beeswax and mix over a simmer until the beeswax has completely melted into the oil

Remove your bowl from the heat. Add your calendula and lavender oils now.
Moving quickly (so as not to allow your oil to cool to quickly), place a handheld blender into your bowl and blend. While doing so slowly add your warm water, blending all the time. It is important that you do this slowly. You are forming an emulsion so you must incorporate little by little.

The mixture will emulsify quickly. Continue to whisk until all the water is added and the mixture begins to thicken. You may have to scrape the bowl down once or twice.

Do not over mix or you will make a butter like mixture. Keep an eye on the consistency and stop when it is to your preference.

Pour into jars and leave uncovered until cooled.

Store in the fridge until required. Keep a small amount out for using now but use within 30 days. Keep an eye on the cream for signs of going off.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Harmful Effects of Sugar: Why You Should Avoid It At All Costs

Forget Fat. We have been brainwashed into thinking the root of all evil and the cause of all illness is fat. We couldn't be more wrong. Introducing sugar - the most harmful food being eaten today. 

Sugar is everywhere. It is more than the white substance you store in a bowl and add to your tea. It is in so many different forms - table sugar, glucose syrup, dextrose  and honey - and it all affects the body in the same ways. 

The problem is we are also consuming more sugar than ever before - alot of it in hidden forms. The average Irish person consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar every week - often without being aware of it. I often hear people exclaim "But I don't have sugar in my tea" but sugar is in foods we might not even be aware of. 

The Hidden Sugar

Many people do not realise how much sugar is in their foods. The following is the amount of sugar in some popular foods: 

Can of Coke - 10 tsp
Mars Bar - 11 tsp 
Chocolate Milkshake - 13.5 tsp

Even "healthy" foods can have surprising amounts:

Yoplait Strawberry yogurt - 5 tsp
Granola Bar - 2tsp 

Refined sugar offers us zero nutrients - that is zero protein, zero fat and zero vitamins or minerals. In fact it is creates a nutrient deficit as our body actually robs nutrients from the body in order to process refined sugars in the body. Nutrients like potassium, calcium and sodium are robbed from your healthy cells meaning you are putting yourself at greater risk of osteoporosis. 

Sugar consumption also puts us at risk of developing diseases such as diabetes. High intakes of sugar leads to increased production of insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas to help bring sugar into cells). Over production of insulin can lead to our cells becoming overworked and overstimulated - putting us at risk of diabetes. Diabetes is a life long illness and nothing to be sneezed at. Many people die every year from complications relating to diabetes.

Sugar also increases inflammation in the body. Inflammation is like a kindled fire. Normal inflammation is an important part of our bodies natural defence strategy and is important if we injure ourselves for example. Inflammation becomes an issue when it is persistent or chronic. It can contribute to the development of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or dementia.

Sugar also contributes to imbalanced gut flora as it feeds bad bacteria. Gut flora is incredibly important for immune function and brain health.  

Sugar has been found to be as addictive as cocaine with it's chemical makeup being very similar to this other addictive white substance. 

It is also known to lower immunity substantially. Always sick? Your daily sugar intake may be contributing! 

Everything in Moderation
We all hear this mantra every day. But when it comes to sugar, there really is no safe amount. We should avoid it at all costs. Sugar should not form a part of your daily diet. 

Three Ways To Avoid Sugar

1. Read your labels: Know your sugar. If there is glucose, fructose corn syrup, maltose, sucrose or any of the other sugar derivatives in it - avoid it. Find a healthier alternative. Also worth noting is that the higher a food is up the list of ingredients, the more there is in it. (The first food is the most plentiful) Avoid if it in the first three ingredients. 

2. Ban Sugary Drinks: Soft drinks are laden with sugar. This also includes fruit juice which is high in fructose. Replace soft drinks with water and eat the whole fruit instead of their juices. 

3. Avoid Processed Food and Baked Goods - These foods contain more sugar than you realise. Manufacturers know we love sugar so they pack loads of it into their foods to make it taste nice and to encourage us to eat more of it. Our taste buds have been over sensitized to sugar and we now can't taste the natural sweetness of fruits. Cut these bad foods out of your diet and eat natural sugar in fruit form instead (2-3 portions a day, choose berries, apples or pineapple as they are lower in sugars than many others) 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Five Easy Ways To Boost Your Immunity This Winter

Autumn is most definitely here. There has been a noticeable change in the weather and it has been a lot chiller in the past few days.

With the colder weather comes the inevitable cold and flu season complete with the unenviable red swollen nose! 

Follow these 5 tips to boost your immune system and ensure you don't succumb to the sniffles this cold and flu season! 

1.   Eat Fermented Foods 

A huge portion of your body's immunity is in your gut. There is a delicate balance between the "good" bacteria and the "bad" guys with many factors impacting the ratios. These include stress, diet, genetics and medication. An imbalance or dysbiosis can contribute to poor absorption of nutrients and a compromised immunity. It is therefore vital that we eat fermented foods to ensure we get a good intake of healthy bacteria. Fermented foods include kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut. All can be purchased in a good health food shop or made quite easily at home. If fermented foods really is not your thing take a good probiotic supplement instead with as many bacteria strains as possible.

Get a better gut and be better prepared for fighting off those ailments! Find out how to make sauerkraut here

2. Eat The Rainbow
Colourful fruit and vegetables contain important nutrients and anti-oxidants which are very important to improving immune health such as Vitamin C and Zinc. The more colourful your food, the more different anti-oxidants you take in, so try to pack as many as you can into your meals. Why not try a tasty rainbow salad with tri-colour peppers, beetroot, tomatoes, red onion, rocket and avocado?

3. Vitamin D
Studies show that a great portion of those living in the Northern Hemisphere are lacking in Vitamin D. Whilst our bodies can manufacture Vitamin D from sun exposure, shorter days and lower sun height mean we cannot make the levels required for proper immune function. Take a good Vitamin D supplement providing around 1000IU during the winter months to ensure you get adequate levels and don't forget the kids too! Look for an oil based supplement and take with food to ensure good absorption.

4. Get Plenty Of Sleep 
Sleep plays a vital part in ensuring we stay fit and healthy. Sleep deprivation suppresses the bodies natural immune function and increases inflammation. This all means that the more late nights you pull, the less likely your body is to fight off cold and flu. Not only does it affect how often we catch a cold, it also affects how quickly we get over an illness when we get one.
So get enough kip! Aim for 8 hours sleep each night.

5. Drink Bone Broth 
Homemade bone broth has been used by different cultures through history as a way to build immunity and fight off illness. Bone broth is made by simmering bones slowly, in doing so breaking down bones and collagen. Doing so allows the bone marrow to release minerals, proteins and fats - which are all benefital and healing to the body. Collagen present in the broth also benefits the digestion and is absorbed quickly and easily. Most importantly bone broth also helps to improve the immune system by carrying oxygen to blood cells in the body.
So use that chicken carcass this weekend and make some bone broth, it really couldn't be easier!

I hope this helps you all fend off those colds!