Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to Make Savior Salve

Yesterday I spoke to the current state that comfrey is in. It is unfortunate that it cannot be recommended for internal use, but this doesn't mean that we won't make the best of it and external applications can be very effective. Today I want to show you have easy it is to make your own salve. This salve is super effective for cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, torn ligaments, diaper rash and sore muscles. The main recipe was derived from a Rosemary Gladstar recipe; however, I tweaked it a little to fit my own needs. This is what you will need:
  • 1/2 oz of comfrey root
  • 1/2 oz of comfrey leaf
  • 1/2 oz of calendula flowers
  • 1/2 oz of St. Johns-wort
  • Essential oils of your choosing (optional)
  • 1 pint of olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated beeswax

Mix the herbs and the olive oil in an airtight jar and let the mixture steep for about two weeks.

At the end of the two weeks, empty the contents of the jar into a double boiler on the stove and warm the mixture for about an hour. Be sure not to heat the oil to high, you may end up destroying some of the active ingredients.

Strain the mixture.

I use paint strainer bags to strain my infused oils and tinctures because they are reusable. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Once the liquid is strained, place the liquid back on the double boiler on the stove and add the beeswax. Add 1/4 cup of grated beeswax for every 1 cup of infused oil.

Once the beeswax has fully melted, take you salve off of the stove and add the essential oils. I added 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 10 drops of tea tree essential oil for their added anti-microbial and vulnerary properties. Spoon your salve in airtight jars. I like to put it in a lot of little jars to give samples away to friends. 

This is one of my favorite topical applications for all sorts of skin issues and wounds and it is so easy to make. I call it the "Savior Salve" because it is for sure a savior helping with so many problems. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Comfrey Controversy

Comfrey root and leaves (Symphytum officinale) has been an herb used for most of human history. Nicknamed "knitbone" and "boneset," this sweet, cool and moist herb, yielding from damp places in Europe, has long been used in the repair of damaged tissues. Its large oblong leaves have a hairy quality to them and when cultivate here in the US, it has the tenaciousness to take over your garden.

Comfrey: The Wound Healer
Comfrey is, in my opinion, the best herb for repairing broken bones and treating strains, torn ligaments, bruises and joint issues. Internally and externally it is amazing at promoting the healing process of tissue, bones and muscles and also helping to mediate proper scar formation. Allantoin, one of its constituents, is said to be responsible, at least partly, for its wound healing properties by stimulating cell proliferation, increasing the body's immune system and decreasing inflammation. Comfrey is so amazing at wound healing that if it is used topically on deep wounds, there is a chance that the surface tissue can heal, sealing in infection and creating a possible abscess.

Other Uses
Comfrey is also helpful for ulcers and ulcerative colitis. It contains mucilage that soothes ulcers and the wound healing properties help to heal them. Other uses of comfrey include being an expectorant for bronchitis, dry coughs and TB and its tannins make it an astringent, helping to control hemorrhaging.

Comfrey Has Been Bastardized!
Comfrey has been used for hundreds of years; however, over the last 30 years its credibility and reputation have been tarnished due to the presence of pyrrolized alkaloids (PA's) in this plant. PA's have been shown to cause hepatic toxicity, particularly hepatic veno-occclusive disease, which is when the small and medium sized veins in the liver become blocked. Comfrey root contains more PA's than the leaves, and the young leaves contain a higher concentration than the mature leaves. S. officinale has the lowest PA concentration of the comfrey species.

The Lowdown on Pyrrolized Alkaloids
Most of the human data on PA toxicity comes from cases of consuming plants high in PA's other than comfrey. In the 1980's and 90's several cases of hepatic toxicity from comfrey were reported and several people died. But these reports of toxicity did not take into account other factors such as other underlying illnesses that may be responsible, the use of hepatotoxic over the counter drugs or the nutritional state of the individuals. Most of the other research done with comfrey is done on rats and as David Hoffmann points out, Rode gives us 4 limitations of the research done so far with comfrey:
  1. Not all PA's have the same toxicity and the ones in comfrey are far less toxic than in other plants, which can cause serious human toxicity. Is it acceptable to generalize the toxic nature of some PA's to all PA's?
  2. Not all animals have the same reaction to PA's. For example, pigs are easily poisoned by the PA's present in other plants, but they can eat large quantities of comfrey as food and show no toxicity. If rats were to consume the same percentage of comfrey (based on the weight of animal), they show significant toxicity. Are rats acceptable models for the human consumption of PA's, particularly the ones found in comfrey?
  3. Comfrey species vary in PA content. S. officinal contains less toxic PA's than Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum). If research is conducted using Russian comfrey than the results are not reliable and should not be generalized to all forms of comfrey.
  4. Studies of isolated PA's and extracts are not representative of the whole plant. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. One example of this is white willow bark. This plant contains salicylic acid, commonly known as aspirin. Aspirin is known to cause ulcers. Even though white willow bark contains salicylic acid, it does not cause ulcers; in fact, it can be used to help treat them. This is because white willow bark also contains other constituents that buffer the effects of the salicylic acid. So even if the PA's in comfrey, when isolated, cause toxicity, there might be another ingredient in the plant that helps to buffer this toxicity.

Overall, these safety assumptions are based on inadequate data and as a result, comfrey has been banned in Australia, restricted in New Zealand and the UK offers no oral medications that contain comfrey. In the US, the FDA has banned comfrey for internal use and even question its safety topically (there is only a very small amount of PA's that are absorbed through the skin). So the FDA has banned the internal consumption of comfrey which may be linked to two deaths and may show some liver toxicity (which is not well demonstrated); however, the FDA ignores the thousands of deaths every year that is caused by pharmaceuticals. Prescription narcotic drug overdoses now claim 1 life every 14 minutes in the United States and as for the people who took exactly what was prescribed to them in exactly the correct dose, they account for 100,000 deaths a year. Why aren't theses FDA approved pharmaceuticals banned for internal consumption?

Even though there needs to be more research and human studies done to prove or disprove safety concerns regarding comfrey, I DO NOT recommend using comfrey internally for anyone. I, personally, take comfrey internally for short periods of time for certain issues because I feel that the therapeutic advantages outweigh the risk involved. For legal purposes, I am sad to say that not until comfrey is shown to be safe within the medical community and the FDA will I be able to recommend it to others for internal use.


Duke, J. A. (2000). The green pharmacy herbal handbook: your comprehensive reference
to the best herbs for healing. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Reach.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine.
Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock,
N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health

Tierra, M., & Frawley, D. (1988). Planetary herbology: an integration of Western herbs

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tell someone you love them today

I’m feeling slightly sentimental and emotional today and I just wanted to stress how important it is to tell your loved ones that you care about them. Life can be short and there is no telling when it is your time to go. So today, let go of some of the grudges that you may be holding and tell someone you love them. Life is too short to waste time and energy on insignificant bitterness.  Embrace the love and light within yourself and hold close the love and light of the people you care most about. You never know when that embrace might be your last.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to make Homemade Lotion

Today, like most other days, I want to show easy it is to make your own health and beauty products. Today I made face and body lotion. As with the few preceding posts, I have tried to stress that anything that you put on your skin will be absorbed into the blood stream and lotion is no exception. I live in a very dry climate so I'm no stranger to using lotion. No matter how much water I drink my skin always seems to need a little extra moisture, but so many lotions contain synthetic ingredients or artificial scents. And the "All Natural" lotions can be pricy. So I decided to make my own lotion. I was a little intimidated at first because I knew that lotion was mixing oil and water. Typically the two don't mix, however, at the right temperature the two solutions will mix, forming the lovely mixture we know as lotion.

The recipe I use is taken from Rosemary Gladstar's book "The Family Herbal." I know that I've said it before, but I will say it again, this book is a must have! For anyone interested in knowing more about herbalism or for the seasoned herbalist looking for some new recipes, this book is a wealth of knowledge and information about herbal living. So the recipe is as follows:

2/3 cup of distilled water
1/3 cup of aloe vera gel
1 or 2 drops of essential oil
Vitamins A and E as desired

3/4 cup of apricot, almond or grapeseed oil
1/3 cup of coconut oil or cocoa butter
1/4 teaspoon lanolin
1/2 to 1 ounce of grated beeswax

Mix all the waters into a measuring cup. I feel that the 1 to 2 drops of essential oil that Rosemary called for is far too few. I would use up to 40 drops of essential oil depending on the oils you are using. The essential oils also add healing properties as well as a wonderful aroma. Once the waters are mixed, Set them aside and let them get to room temperature.

Mix all the Oils into a double boiler over low to medium heat.

Heat the oils just enough to melt all the ingredients together. Remove from the heat and place the oils in the blender.

Let the oils sit in the blender until they reach room temperature. When this happens, the mixture will get thick, creamy and turn a beige color. I like to poke the top of the mixture to see what it looks like on the bottom. If there is still some oil that has not solidified you need to let the mixture cool a little longer. Once the solution has reached room temperature put the lid on the blender, removing the small circle on the top of the lid. Turn the blender on its highest speed and slowly start adding the water to the center of the mixing oil. You may need to stop the blender and at times to hand mix the mixture. but resume blending and pouring water until all has been mixed together.

What you will end up with is thick, creamy lotion. When you rub it on your skin it may seem greecy at first, but after a few minutes the oils will absorb into the skin. Place into jars and label. I like to put some into little sample jars to hand out to my friends (they always like to try my latest and greatest). If your lotion doesn't turn out the first time, try again. It is well worth the perseverance.


Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Clear face and skin with natural remedies for Acne

Acne is not a fun condition to have. Not only does it have the obvious effect of lesions on the skin, but it can also be detrimental to the self of steam of the individuals that it wreaks havoc on. The western allopathic treatments for acne include awful drugs that are so dangerous to the user that mandatory birth control is issued with the drug because of the birth defects that are associated with taking the drug while pregnant. The topical applications aren’t much better. They are often harsh chemicals and pharmaceuticals that a lot of times don’t make much of an impact. But there is hope with alternative treatments for acne. First, for a little info on the condition.

The Science of Acne

Acne vulgaris occurs when there is an inflammation of sebaceous gland. The canals of these glands become blocked causing blackheads (open comedones), whiteheads (closed comedones) and pustule clusters that are located on the face, neck, back and chest. Blackheads turn black because the contents of the comedo, or the hard plug blocking the pore, is exposed to the air, thus turning it black. Closed comedones are not exposed to the air and therefore do not oxidize.


Acne is the most common skin disorder affecting nearly 17 million Americans, most of which are between the ages of 12-25. Severity of the acne depends on the extent of the hormone imbalances, keratinisation, sebum production and bacterial colonization. Androgen imbalances, because of its control over sebacious glands, is said to be linked, in some cases, to the severity of acne.

Natural Alternatives for Acne Treatment

I know that when you have acne it may seem like there are no options and this is something that you are stuck with. But have hope! There are many alternatives including herbs, essential oils, nutrition and supplements, along with a few random tips to help you and your face become free from the mask of acne. But figuring out what works best for you may take some time. Many of the herbs take several months to see a difference and when you don’t find it is helping, keep trying different things until you find what works best for you.


Nutrition is, perhaps, the most important battle to tackle when addressing acne. Here is information regarding nutritional links with acne: 
  • High glycemic loads seem to make acne worse so try a diet high in protein, fruits and veggies and low in carbs.
  • There has been some links made between food allergies and acne. The most prominent culprits are dairy and wheat but corn and soy may cause problems as well. You may wish to do an elimination diet to determine if you have any food allergies.
  • Menstrual related acne has been shown to improve with a high intake of vitamin B6. Some foods high in vitamin B6 include bell peppers, turnip greens, summer squash, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, tuna, beef, chicken and turkey.
  • Improving overall digestion and elimination helps to insure that toxins and excess hormones are being removed in via the appropriate pathways and not through our skin. Eat plenty veggies to keep things moving.
  • Drink plenty of water!!! Flush the system as much as possible, removing toxins and keeping the body and skin well hydrated.
Essential Oils
Essential oils can be very beneficial to topically helping with acne. The oils can be helpful in decreasing infection, decreasing sebum production, promote skin healing and decreasing scaring, decreasing inflammation and helping soothe the emotional stress and anxiety associated with acne. Helpful oils include geranium, lavender, lemon, lime, neroli, rosemary, rose otto and tea tree. These essential oils can be used in a facial steam or a warm compress.

Supplements that you may wish to take include:
  • Probiotics: everyone should take them. With the amount of antibiotics our doctors over prescribe, our bodies can use some more defenses.
  • Vitamins A and E and other antioxidants: In studies, patients with acne were tested and shown to have lower levels of vitamins A and E.
  • Supplementation of zinc has been shown to reduce the number of pustules, papules and closed comedones.
HAA (Herbs Against Acne)
When it comes to herbs, there are many approaches you can take and I feel that hitting on all areas can insure that you are treating the whole picture.
  • Stimulate the lymphatic system with cleavers, echinacea and calendula
  • Purify and clean the blood with burdock, yellow dock, holy basil and chickweed
  • Detoxify the help to stimulate the liver, improving digestion and excretion. It is so important to make sure that you are having more than one bowel movement a day so that toxins and hormones are not sitting in the colon and reabsorbing into the blood stream. Dandelion root, burdock root and nettles are a few that can help
  • Antibacterial herbs, including echinacea, goldenseal and garlic, can help to get rid of bacteria that is colonizing on the skin
  • Nervines to calm the nerves and address the stress and anxiety associated with this condition especially during adolescence. Lemon balm, scullcap and valerian can all be helpful.
  • Topical applications of calendula can help to promote healing
Other random tips:
  • Keep your face clean. Use a all natural, genital cleanser to make sure the skin is being kept clean
  • Use facial cosmetics sparingly. Makeup and lotions can add to the already congested pores making the condition worse
  • Do not pick or squeeze black heads. Doing so can further lodge bacteria in the skin making things worse.
  • Do not touch the afflicted area unless your hands are very clean. Failure to do so can make the condition worse.
  • Keep your stress to a minimal. Stress can exasperate the issue.
  • Get at least 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day (without sunscreen). Studies have shown that this can help clear up acne.
  • Exercise can be used to relieve stress and to help with a better body image.
Overall, keep the faith that there is a solution out there for your acne. Meeting with a trained herbalist can help you to better pinpoint the cause and better find a solution.

Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Green, J. (1991). The male herbal: health care for men & boys. Freedom, Calif.: Crossing Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beautiful and Radiant Skin

Everyone likes to look their best and in todays culture that means looking young. The first sign of getting older tends to show up on our skin as wrinkles and sun spots. So today, I'd like to talk about the integumentary system and natural ways to keep our skin looking healthy and vibrant.

The IntegStructure of the Skin
The integumentary system consists of 3 main layers:

· The epidermis: the outermost portion of epithelial cells. This layer of skin has no blood vessels.
· The dermis: the connective tissue, and the accessory structures of the skin, such as blood vessels, nerve endings and sweat glands, hair and oil glands.
· The hypodermis: the innermost layer of the integumentary system. This subcutaneous layer consists of loose connective tissue and fat.
Because there are no blood vessels in the epidermis, skin epithelial cells reproduce in the layer closest to the dermis where they are well nourished by the blood supply of this deeper layer. As the cells reproduce, older cells are pushed farther away from the dermis and closer to the top layer of what we see as "skin". This journey to the top causes the cells to become malnourished and as they die they undergo a change. The cytoplasm inside the cell is replaced by keratin, causing the cell to become hard and flat. Once the cell reaches the surface of the skin it doesn't stay there for long before it is shed and replaced from below.

Functions of the Skin
There are many functions of the skin.

· The skin acts as a barrier. Keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. The shedding of skin is also a means to mechanically remove pathogens from the surface of the body.
· The skin helps us to regulate body temperature. The skin is a large surface area that can release heat when the body is overheating. Blood vessels dilate bringing more blood to the surface of the body and allowing the heat to disperse. Sweat glands also release perspiration, cooling the surface of the body. When the body becomes cold, subcutaneous tissue acts as insulation and blood vessels in the dermis warm the skin.
· Receive and relay information about the environment via nerve endings in the skin to the brain. This includes information about pain, heat, cold, pressure, etc.  
· Assists in both elimination and respiration (the skin is known as the third lung).
· Form Vitamin D
Healthy Body, Healthy Skin
Now that we know a little bit about the structure and function of integumentary system, let’s talk about a few ways to keep your skin healthy.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that whatever you put on your skin, it is being absorbed into your blood stream. When it comes to skin products, if you don't know what an ingredient is or what it does then you should not smear it on your face and body. I also like to do the pronunciation test: if you can't pronounce the ingredient, it probably isn't good for you. Avoid products with preservatives, coloring agents, synthetic scents and synthetic chemicals.

Make sure you are properly cleaning the skin. Dirt and makeup can clog the pores leading to imbalances in the skin. Exfoliation, the shedding of skin cells, is a process that happens naturally, however for added assistance and pleasure, try dry skin brushing. This is the link to a previous blog post about dry brushing http://theverbalherbal.blogspot.com/2012/07/health-benefits-of-dry-brushing.html 

Proper nutrition is, perhaps, one of the most important contributions to healthy skin. The outside of the body reflects what is happening on the inside of the body and if the inside is not properly nourished then the outside of the body will show this. A low glycemic diet seems to be the most beneficial at providing a large array of vitamins and minerals while limiting foods that cause inflammation including: refined and processed foods, sugar, coffee, soda and white flour products. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of high quality proteins including fresh fish, shellfish and organic, grass fed meats. A colorful array of organic fruits and veggies should be eaten every day, including lots of leafy green veggies (kale, chard, collard greens...). Healthy fats are a must have in every diet. For too long, fats have been demonized in American diets. Low fat diets show a lack of knowledge about the body and have lead to many problems including gall bladder stones and heart disease. Healthy fats can be obtained from fish, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and flax seeds. Other healthy supplements include probiotics and B vitamins.

Are You Pooping Enough?
Make sure your other elimination pathways (i.e. bowels, urinary tract and respiratory system) are working properly. When there is dysfunction in these systems, the skin, as another way to eliminate toxins, becomes overloaded. This can result in skin rashes, spots, pallor and puffiness. Bitter herbs are my favorite way to keep myself regular. For more information, check out: http://theverbalherbal.blogspot.com/2012/05/daily-herb-o-scope-feel-better-with.html

Other Tips
Lastly, make sure you are getting adequate sleep and drinking enough water. 8-10 glasses of water are recommended; however, you may need to drink more to depending on your level of activity. Adequate sleep is also necessary for healthy skin, not only because we tend to look like crap when we don't get enough sleep, but also because human growth hormone (HGH) is released during the deepest form of slow wave sleep and is responsible for growth and cell reproduction, an important part of healthy skin.  

Overall, I don't feel that beauty is only skin deep, but I do know that if I am healthy on the inside, my beauty will show through to the outside producing beautiful and radiant skin.
Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane:
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Verbal Herbal on Facebook

The Verbal Herbal has hit facebook. If you like what you read here at The Verbal Herbal please "Like" my facebook page.

Also, thre are two bottles of free bug spray still available to the next two people who become members of this blog, so get yours soon.

Thank you for your continued support of The Verbal Herbal.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Natural Relief from Dandruff

Our skin cells are constantly renewing themselves. When new cell are formed, the dead skin cells are pushed to the surface of the skin where they are shed and flake away. On the scalp, an excessive flaking of skin cells is known as dandruff. Aside from it being itchy and a constant irritation, it can also be kind of embarrassing especially when you wear a black shirt. Medicated shampoos can be harsh on the scalp and although it may clear up the problem for a day or two, chances are the dandruff will return with a vengeance especially if you are allergic to any one of the many chemicals in the shampoo. So let’s talk about some alternatives.
When trying to treat an issue it is always important to identify the cause. Some of the simpler causes to dandruff include using harsh hair products (solution: stop using them), poor rinsing after shampooing (solution: rinse your hair more thoroughly) or poor scalp circulation (solution: massage your scalp or brush your hair more often).
There are also some more involved causes of dandruff. One symptom of food allergies can be dandruff. If you suspect you might have food allergies you may wish to do an elimination diet, excluding common allergens like dairy, wheat, corn, soy and processed foods.
Chronic dandruff may also be showing toxicity in the body. When other elimination pathways (bowels and urinary) are not working optimally, the body may excrete more toxics through the skin, including the scalp. The best way to remedy this problem is to detoxify the body by stimulating the liver, and assisting the body’s main elimination pathways (through the bowels and the urinary system). Many herbs can be helpful in this area including burdock, milk thistle, cleavers, nettles and dandelion to name a few. Bitters can also be beneficial http://theverbalherbal.blogspot.com/2012/05/daily-herb-o-scope-feel-better-with.html
Excessive dandruff may also be the result of a fungal infection. This can be treated internal or externally with herbs such as pau d’arco, burdock, Echinacea or garlic. Be sure to add some tea tree essential oil to your topical application. Tea tree helps to clean clogged pores of dead skin while balancing the pH of the scalp.
For general scalp health, I think that vinegar and oil applications are wonderful. So you don’t feel like your applying salad dressing to your head, the two applications are done separately. A vinegar rinse is helpful for oily hair and is done by mixing apple cider vinegar and water in equal parts and then the mixture is poured over the hair and scalp. Essential oils such as cedarwood, rosemary and tea tree can be added for extra benefit and help to tame the smell (making you feel less like a salad). With or without essential oils, the vinegar smell quickly fades, leaving your hair shiny and dandruff free.

An oil application can be beneficial to individuals with dry hair. Jojoba oil is the best to use because it’s similar to our own sebum. It can also balance out our skins pH and has no oily build up. Massage into the scalp and leave on for as little or as long as you’d like. Olive oil can be used as well and chamomile, geranium and lavender essential oils can be added to the oil.
I suggest using many different approaches to finding relief from dandruff. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are brushing your hair and massaging your scalp frequently. I hope this helps you to get rid of the flakes and allows you to wear black shirts again.


Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Holmes, P. (2007). The energetics of Western herbs: a materia medica integrating Western and Chinese herbal therapeutics (Rev & enl. 4th ed.). Cotati, Calif.: Snow Lotus Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock,
N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Homemade Herbal Shampoo

I love making my own health and beauty products. I feel that it adds an extra glow to my features knowing that I can make a quality product, that doesn't negatively effect my health and costs pennies to make. Who says that beauty has to come with a high price tag?

The recipe I am making today is easy to make and can be tailored to your own personal needs, using different base oils, essential oils and herbs. The recipe I use is based off of one out of Rosemary Gladstar’s book “The Family Herbal.” This is my favorite book to suggest to individuals that are just getting started in herbs because it provides a number of herbal recipes for so many different issues. I have tweaked a few thing that I feel make the recipe better for my personal use.

The recipe is as follows:

  • 12 ounces of distilled water
  • 1 ounce of herbs (combination selected from the list below)
  • 3 ounces of liquid castile soap
  • ¼ teaspoon oil (type selected from the list below)
  • 25 drops of essential oil (type selected from the list below)

  • Bring the water to a boil and then add the herbs. I suggest using 3 or 4 different herbs at equal parts. Cover the pot and let the herbs simmer for 5-10 minutes. Cool and then strain.
  • Mix the other ingredients together and store in a shower safe container. I like to rinse out an empty shampoo container and fill it with my homemade mix. Make sure it is well labeled.
  • Shake well before using.
Normal Hair
Herbs: Comfrey, lavender, red clover
Essential Oils: Roman chamomile, geranium, lavender, mandarin, neroli, rose otto, clary sage, rose, ylang ylang
Base Oils: jojoba oil

Dry Hair
Herbs: Calendula, marsh mallow root, nettles, lavender, comfrey root
Essential Oils: Roman chamomile, lavender, rose otto, sandalwood, clary sage, myrrh, peppermint
Base Oils: olive oil

Oily Hair
Herbs: rosemary leaf, witch hazel bark, yarrow leaf and flower, lemongrass
Essential Oils: Basil, patchouli, rosemary, tea tree, bergamot, cedarwood, grapefruit, clary sage, lemon
Base Oils: sweet almond oil

Dark Color Hair
Herbs: Sage, black walnut, comfrey leaf
Essential Oils: Clary sage, rose

Light Color Hair
Herbs: Calendula, chamomile, comfrey
Essential Oils: Chamomile, clary sage, lemon

I will give a warning that this shampoo doesn’t foam up as much as normal shampoo. If you feel that you need more suds, add more castile soap to the mix. I like to rotate my homemade blend with a store bought shampoo. I hope your hair likes this shampoo as much as mine does. 


Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane:
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts

Monday, July 16, 2012

Holistic Hair Care

The main function of the hair on our head is to provide protection from scalp injury and sun burn, but the importance of hair extends deep into our cultural views of beauty. Cut, color and style of our hair are all important in our social views of what makes someone attractive. But the most important quality is whether or not the hair is shiny and smooth. So let's discuss a little about how to have beautiful and healthy hair.

Hair is mainly composed of keratin, which is not living; however, each hair develops in a sheath know as the hair follicle and the hair itself develops from a living cell at the base of the follicle. The shaft of the hair is known as the portion above skin and the root is the part of the hair below the skin. A sebaceous gland, located next to the root of the follicle produces sebum. Sebum is responsible for maintaining the acidic pH of the skin, keeping the hair from drying out and becoming brittle.

Hair grows in response to the amount of nutrients in your diet and in relation to your emotional health. Eating a diet high in fruits and veggies will provide adequate nutrients to maintain hair health. If your diet isn't all that great, you can supplement with B vitamins and Vitamin A, C or E or with the herbs listed below. I most clearly see the emotional effect on my hair when I am overly stressed. Not only is the texture of my hair become overly greasy but my hair falls out very easily. Try and keep your stress to a minimum, not only for the sake of your hair but for the sake of your overall health.

As far as herbs go, there are three aspects of herbs that make them effective at helping to strengthen the hair. The first group is the herbs that are high in vitamins and minerals. This includes nettles, raspberry leaf, oats and horsetail. The second group is herbs that nourish and tonify the kidneys, including cleavers, reshi, eclipta, walnuts remannia and black foods such as black sesame seeds. The final group of herbs is applied topically to stimulate the follicle, strengthen the hair and cleanse scalp. This includes sage, lavender, calendula, licorice, chamomile, and henna. One recipe for a hair tonic wash involves a handful of sage leaves and a handful of rosemary leaves simmered for several minutes and then steeped for three hours. The resulting liquid is then massaged into the scalp every night to tone the hair, improve color and remove dirt and dead skin.

Other tips to a healthy head of locks include:
  • Don't over wash your hair. It will dry it out and wash away important oils from the scalp. If you can stand it, once a week is an adequate amount of washing.
  • Use a shampoo that is pH balanced. The scalp is naturally acidic so you want to use a product that fosters that acidy
  • Try to do a couple days a week or one week a month when you don't blow dry, straighten or use chemical products, sprays or gels. All of this contributes to poor hair health.
  • Have two or three different shampoos and rotate using them every few days. If you use the same one all the time, it can cause imbalances in your hair and scalp.
  • Massage your scalp and/or brush your hair often. This will help to bring circulation to you scalp and make your hair healthier.
  • Avoid conditioners that contain glycerin. Although it is natural and makes the hair shiny and smooth, it also attracts dust and dirt to your hair.
  • Extra virgin olive oil or castor oil rubbed into the scalp can help to moisturize the scalp and thicken the hair.
Tomorrow, I will provide the recipe to herbal, all natural shampoos so stay tuned!


Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane:
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with
energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock,
N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health

Tierra, M., & Frawley, D. (1988). Planetary herbology: an integration of Western herbs
into the traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic systems. Twin Lakes, Wis.: Lotus Press.

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts

Thursday, July 12, 2012

All Natural Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Nowadays everyone is worried about germs and how to protect yourself from all the dirt and grime in the world. Hand sanitizers have become extremely popular among our germaphobic culture, but most hand sanitizers on the market are not all that effective and some of them are even dangerous. Today I’d like to provide you some information on why not to use the mainstream hand sanitizers and what alternatives we have.

When it comes to commercial hand sanitizers you have two options: chemical based or alcohol based. Sanitizers that have a chemical based active ingredient are dangerous to the user. In April of 2011 the FDA started cracking down on companies that claimed that hand sanitizers prevent infections from bacteria and viruses. Not only were they making false claims, but triclosan, an ingredient in many “antibacterial” products, is proving to be more harmful than helpful. Triclosan, and other "antibacterial" chemicals, are readily absorbed through the skin and into the blood stream disrupting the body’s endocrine system and helping create antibiotic resistant superbugs.
If your hand sanitizer doesn’t contain nasty chemicals then the active ingredient is alcohol. If the percentage of alcohol is greater than 60% then the sanitizer will reduce the number of germs on the skin but will not kill them. The downfall is that it stops working after about two minutes when the alcohol has evaporated. If there is visible dirt and grime on the hands then there is little chance that the sanitizer will be effective.
So my goal is to provide an easy to make product that is safe and effective (for more than 2 minutes). Even many of the homemade hand sanitizers use alcohol as their main active ingredient. I wanted to focus the antimicrobial activity of my homemade hand sanitizer on essential oils (EO’s). Essential oils are lipid soluble allowing them to dissolve the cell walls of bacteria, where most of the energy metabolism takes place. They can also stay active for 60-90 minutes after they are applied. This recipe is also well rounded in its ability to fight bacteria (lavender, tea tree, rosemary and lemongrass), viruses (eucalyptus and tea tree) and fungi (lavender and tea tree). Lavender, tea tree and rosemary also activate the immune system by increasing the activity of white blood cells. Witch hazel extract also has some antiseptic and antimicrobial properties as well. The recipe is as follows:
¼ cup of lotion or aloe vera gel
1 Tbs Witch hazel extract
10 drops of tea tree essential oil
10 drops of lavender essential oil
8 drops of rosemary essential oil
8 drops of lemongrass essential oil
5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil

Mix all ingredient together and place in a glass gar with a pump. For a more traditional feel to the hand sanitizer use the aloe vera gel. If you prefer to have a more moisturizing feel, use the lotion.
Do not use on serious burns, cuts or wounds and avoid using if nursing or pregnant and on very small children. It may cause minor skin irritation. Don’t forget that nothing beats the germ fighting ability of soap and water but when you are unable to wash your hands, use this all natural, homemade hand sanitizer.


Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane:
International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

Wildwood, C. (1996). The encyclopedia of aromatherapy. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Clever Cleavers

Yesterday I talked about the structure and function of the lymphatic system and how dry skin brushing can help to stimulate and cleanse this system. Today, I’d like to discuss one herb that can also assist with issues of the lymphatic system, cleavers.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is, in my opinion, one of the best and most effective lymphatic tonics. It has a slightly bitter, sweet and salty taste and is cold and dry. Cleavers’ hairy stems have downward pointing hooks that cling to neighboring plants and/or people or animals that my pass by. The above ground plant can help to promote detoxification by resolving damp and dissolving deposits. This action takes place through the body’s waterways.

Cleavers is a wonderful lymphatic tonic and cleanser. By reducing lymphatic congestion, cleavers can be safe and effective for swollen lymphatic glands especially the tonsils and adenoids. Cleavers also has an affect on the urinary tract, acting as a diuretic. This action makes cleavers a well rounded herb in the detoxification process because it cleanses the lymphatic system, which helps the body collect toxins from the tissue, and then releases the toxins through the urinary system. Its action on the kidneys also makes it a wonderful herb for water retention and edema, stones, gravel, burning urination and kidney inflammation.

This herb is also helpful for heat toxins of the skin, including boils, sores, ulcers and acne, and its high mineral content makes it great for hair growth and tooth decay.

Cleavers is often found growing next to chickweed. This is nature’s way of telling us they should be used together because these two herbs complement each other in formulas. Together they are both mild diuretics that are helpful for kidney and urinary irritation.

As far as a dosage goes, Hoffmann suggests 4-8 ml three times a day (1:5 in 25% alcohol). An infusion can be made of 8-16 grams of herb or 2 tablespoons of the fresh juice can be added to pineapple juice for a tasty beverage. The fresh greens can also be added to salads and eaten like spinach. This herb is most effective for chronic conditions when it is taken over a long period of time, at least 6 weeks to 3 months. Cleavers do not store well once they are dried, so if you would like to save it for future use it is best to tincture the herb fresh. There have also been no side effects or drug interactions reported.

I find cleavers to be the most efficient herb for the lymphatic system. Its actions on the kidneys, as well as the lymphatic system, help the body to effectively collect and excrete toxins and foreign debris from our bodies.


Duke, J. A. (2000). The green pharmacy herbal handbook: your comprehensive reference to the best herbs for healing. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Reach.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.

Holmes, P. (2007). The energetics of Western herbs: a materia medica integrating
Western and Chinese herbal therapeutics (Rev & enl. 4th ed.). Cotati, Calif.: Snow Lotus Press.

Levy, J. d. (1997). Common herbs for natural health (Rev., expanded ed.). Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub..

Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.