Okay, every woman who’s ever been pregnant knows about this. People who suffer from a chronic lack of eating fiber know too. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless also knows about it. And it is for her that I’m posting this. It’s a recipe I developed some time ago and have (cough cough) had reason to refine over the years and pregnancies. One of those things they don’t tell you before you have the baby. (And for God’s sake, who has time for a “sitz bath”??)
(And if you’re the woman who’s done pregnancy and childbirth who didn’t get hemorrhoids, don’t even tell me, because I’d have to resent you thoroughly.)
Okay, I’m not going to go through the whole diagnosis/pile types/descriptions/various ickiness here; you can do your own bloody Google search. (Er…no pun intended.)
This post is for my easy do-it-yourself recipe to relieve and/or shrink the dreaded horrid things. Recipes, actually–two different ones, both pretty good. In my unfortunately informed opinion. I call them both “Preparation Ouch.”
Recipe I (liniment):
In a small clean bottle, combine about 4 oz. witch hazel, 40 drops lavender essential oil, 20-30 drops cypress essential oil, and 20 drops roman chamomile essential oil. Shake well. As needed, soak a cotton pad and…well…apply. (The witch hazel, which you can get from any pharmacy, and the cypress oil, will shrink the blood vessels and make the things back off. The lavender and chamomile are very soothing and will help with pain relief.) Always shake before use!
Recipe II (salve):
In a pyrex measuring cup, measure about 2 tbs. of some solid oil or oils–any combination of beeswax, coconut oil, cocoa or shea butter, something like that. Add some liquid oil, preferably olive oil, to make a total of 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz.). Melt over double boiler or very carefully microwave until the solids are melted. Stir well with a chopstick until it’s well mixed. Add 40 drops lavender essential oil, 20-30 drops cypress essential oil, and 20 drops roman chamomile essential oil. Stir very well till fully mixed. Pour into small clean container (tupperware even works fine for this, or little jars leftover from something else you already used) and refrigerate until solid.
That’s it! Really very easy. The liniment (witch hazel) version is quicker and good for more immediate relief; the salve lasts longer and has more time to do its thing. Wouldn’t hurt to have both of them around.
Regarding the essential oils–you can buy them in a lot of places, including probably your local Whole Foodsy kind of place. If not there, Mountain Rose Herbs and Natures Gift sell really good essential oils. Lavender oil is one that’s just good to have around anyway, since it’s good for so many things; for this recipe the cypress oil is the key ingredient, and the others are just for added effect, so if you don’t feel like springing for the chamomile, it’ll still work. And while cypress isn’t exactly one of the cheapest of the oils, you can get a small container of it–remember you use these things by the drop, so even half an ounce goes a really long way!
So…sit well and prosper.
We are sick. Nothing dramatic, just the Common Painintheass Cold. The whole household. My husband and I have it the worst. And he’s horribly busy at work, and I’m entering the toughest week of the year with the longest hours, so “sick days” aren’t really an option. (Besides, we have kids. No sick days for parents.)
No one has time to cook, no one wants to cook. Or shop. And we’re both fairly alt-med and aren’t big on most of the over-the-counter meds, since they don’t seem to work anyway. So we are going into our default mode:
Traditional Medicinal Teas: Throat Coat and Cold Care PM. The Traditional Medicinal line of teas is awesome, and we have about seven different boxes in our drawers–but these are the two we come back to again and again. The Throat Coat has licorice, slippery elm, marsh-mallow, wild cherry, and fennel–with some cinnamon and orange peel for flavor. I actually really like it, and it’s the absolute best ever for healing a trashed voice. (I had to sing a church service this morning, and between the Throat Coat and Dr. Thayers Slippery Elm Lozenges, I did not disgrace myself.) The Cold Care has elder, linden, chamomile, yarrow, eucalyptus, and more licorice, with a few other things–good for relaxing, decongesting a bit, building up the immune system, and such. When both of us are sick, it’s easy–we just brew a pot at a time, sometimes with two tea bags of each of the two teas, and just slurp them down. (Key is brewing them as instructed–15-20 minutes, and keep the tea covered while it’s brewing!)
I’m also a fan of liquid echinacea, a few drops in some juice or water several times a day. I’ve taken to making my own tinctures, and have an “immune booster” tincture of echinacea root, lemon balm, yarrow, lavender, chamomile, and a few other goodies…but you can easily buy it or something like it at Whole Foods or other natural stores.
At night we spray our pillows with a eucalyptus essential oil spray. I used to actually use a diffuser more often, to keep the essential oils in the air–they are actually one of the best “room sanitizers” you’re ever going to find, if you put the right blend of oils in there. Nature’s Gift has some really good anti-germ blends that are great diffused through the house or office. I haven’t been doing it lately for the deep philosophical reason that I never found the box with my diffuser in it after we moved a year and a half ago. Coincidentally, I’ve been sick a lot during that year and a half. Hmm. But the eucalyptus is good for clearing our sinuses out a good bit a night and helps us sleep.
We are also huge hot soup fans, even if the kids won’t eat it. So tomorrow, since no one will feel like cooking, it’ll be crockpot mushroom and barley soup:
- Chop up an onion and some celery and a few carrots and throw them into the crockpot
- Quarter a few small golden potatoes, toss ‘em in too.
- Chop up half a pound of mushrooms, any kind
- Add a cup or so of barley
- Over it all pour 6 cups mushroom broth, or a little more, or a little less, whatever
- Cook on low all day, maybe 8 hours. Season if needed with garlic, tarragon, salt, pepper…
- 20 minutes before serving, if desired, toss in some chopped frozen spinach
Hard to beat this. And it’s one of many soup possible variations–the crockpot was invented for soup, as far as I’m concerned. And we’ll eat this stuff for days–you can add new things to the leftovers, add more broth, add more veggies, and it’s like The Soup That Never Dies. (As long as there’s no meat in it, it keeps quite well for several days.)
The best cure for the common cold is prevention, of course, and the best prevention I’ve ever found is staying rested and avoiding stress, something I’ve failed at miserably these past couple of weeks. But with any luck, some good rest now can help kick it quickly enough that I can get through my next week…
Over on The Green Phone Booth today I posted about how to make one’s own face/body creams and lotions. (That’s Part UN) It’s honestly much easier and involves many fewer ingredients than I ever would have thought, and it works better for my skin too–no space age magical potions, just simple natural stuff, and my skin has never looked or felt better. Click on over there for the basic recipe…what’s below won’t make a whole lot of sense until you do.
I thought maybe over here, at the same time, I could post some of my recipes for more specific “formulas” for specifically targeted body parts. The basic recipe will still be the same; what changes will be the base oil (since some oils are more absorbent and some are heavier) and/or the essential oils you use to give it fragrance.
If you’re not interested in going the whole lotion route, these recipes could also be made by just adding the essential oils to an oil base and rubbing a little bit on moist skin; for the non-facial blends, you could also mix a little oil-and-fragrance-blend with epsom salts or coarse sea salt, or brown or raw sugar, and make a nice salt or sugar scrub for before a shower…
I use lavender oil as a sort of basic fragrance oil for almost everything; it’s a great blendable scent which easily takes on the fragrances and healing qualities of other oils it’s blended with. Plus it’s fairly inexpensive. Also, remember that the proportions below are just my own preferences, what’s worked for me–feel free to mess around! Note: many aromatherapists caution against using any citrus oils on the skin at all, because they can cause allergies and sensitization. Sweet orange oil is considered one of the most benign of the citrus oils, and I have never had any problems with it. But just so you know!
For lotion–Facial blend: grapeseed, apricot kernel, or sweet almond oil (or any combination) as liquid oil, beeswax with maybe a little cocoa or shea butter as solid oil, with one of the following combinations:
- 15-20 drops lavender oil
- 12 drops lavender oil, 5 drops chamomile oil
- 10 drops, lavender oil, 5 drops chamomile oil, 2 drops sweet orange oil
- 15 drops lavender oil, 3 drops sweet orange oil
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly.
Facial blend for mature skin: Grapeseed, apricot kernel, and/or almond oil as liquid oils, and a 3:1 ratio of beeswax to shea butter for solid oil, with:
- 15 drops lavender oil, 5 drops rose geranium oil, 2 drops sweet orange oil (opt)
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly. Great for mature skin!
Facial blend (oily skin): Grapeseed, apricot kernel, and/or almond oil as liquid oil and only beeswax as solid oil, with:
- 15 drops lavender oil, 5 drops rosemary oil
- Note: may substitute up to 1 oz. jojoba oil for some of the liquid oils. Jojoba is more expensive but is wonderful for use on the face and absorbs rapidly.
Tired Foot Blend: 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup grapeseed oil as liquid oil and half and half mix of beeswax and cocoa butter (or heavier on the cocoa butter if you’d like!) as solid oils, with one of the below: (these make great sugar/salt scrubs! Once the salts and oils are mixed they don’t keep very long, though, so mix just before using)
- 10 drops peppermint oil, 5 drops tea tree oil, 5 drops sweet orange oil (opt)
- 8 drops peppermint oil, 6 drops rosemary oil, 5 drops tea tree oil
- 10 drops lavender oil, 5 drops peppermint oil, 4 drops rosemary oil
- Note: If you’re making lotion instead of scrub or salve, go heavier on the cocoa butter and lighter on the beeswax
General Body Cream–Women’s blend (believe it or not, this is a great PMS combo for me and does wonders to lift my spirits):
- 15 drops lavender oil, 10 drops clary sage oil, 5 drops lemon oil (or substitute sweet orange–again, take care with the citrus oils!)
- Choose carrier oil type based on your own skin type; olive oil for drier and more mature skin and lighter oils for oilier skin or more humid climates. Cocoa and shea butter are better for mature skin but avoid them for oily skin
Salve for tired muscles:
- eliminate the whole water/blender/lotion thing here–just melt 3/4 cup of a combination of olive and grapeseed (or almond or apricot) oils with 1/4 cup beeswax/cocoa butter mixture, add essential oils, and let cool. (Well, you could make a lotion if you wanted to, but this is more specifically medicinal…
- Essential oil blend: 15 drops lavender oil, 10 drops chamomile oil, 10 drops ginger oil, 5 drops helichrysum italicum oil (opt–great stuff, but very expensive). A little eucalyptus is nice for this too.
Important: feel free to play around with your carrier oils till you find the combination that suits you–but be careful not to introduce any other organic material to your lotions, or they will grow mold within the week. No matter how many places you read that cucumber or strawberries are great for the skin, mixing them into your lotions will result in an incredibly short shelf life! Same goes with herb-infused carrier oils: essential oils are fine, but oil that’s had fresh rosemary macerating in it for two months and is then strained will make a lotion that might smell lovely for a week but which won’t last much beyond that.
I actually got into this whole aromatherapy/cosmetic-making thing from learning to make some of my own baby products–diaper ointments, baby oils, and such. If you have a friend with a new baby, these could be a nice gift:
Butt Goo (Yes, that’s what we always called it in our house. We used it for everything, though–diapers, first aid, rashes, whatever.)
- In double boiler (or pyrex in pan of simmering water) melt 1/4 cup beeswax in 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup grapeseed oil.
- Test hardness by dripping a little bit onto something from the freezer–if it hardens immediately into a consistency you’re happy with, you’re done. If it needs a little more beeswax or a little more oil, do that and try again. Remember if you’re not happy with the finished product you can always re-melt it (salves only–re-melting doesn’t work as well for lotions!)–but the essential oils can’t take too much heat, so try to avoid this if possible.
- Into melted oil/wax, add essential oils of lavender and chamomile (Roman or English) in a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio. Newborn infants should only have 2-3 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier (i.e., if you follow this recipe and have 10 oz. total liquid oils, you’ll want maybe 15 drops of lavender and 5 of chamomile.) Older children can increase this a little. By the time a baby is maybe 6 months old, I’d increase the essential oils in the blend slightly, and also probably add a few drops of tea tree oil; this is a great antifungal.
- Stir well; pour into containers and let cool. Label. (Always label!!!)
Baby Oil: This is the easiest of all! Follow the above instructions, but leave out all the heating and melting and wax–just add your essential oils to your carrier oil and mix well. I like sweet almond oil as a base for babies, but grapeseed or apricot work really well too. A little of this as a massage oil after a baby’s bath is lovely. (Mom can use it too!)
So…I hope this gives folks some ideas! Buying essential oils can get expensive if you try to build up your stock too quickly; a small bottle each of lavender, orange, and chamomile oil will get you a long way, and if this turns into something you enjoy you can always build up your collection over time. I’ve been doing this for about 5 years and I’m only on my third bottle of lavender oil, which is by far the one I use more than anything else; remember that you use this stuff by the drop. For me it’s been a worthwhile investment on a really great adventure–if you try any of this, drop me a comment and let me know how it goes!
For the past few years I have tried to avoid using conventional deodorants, the ones with aluminum chlorohydrate and other such compounds in them. There are concerns in some quarters about those compounds being absorbed into the skin and not being properly flushed out, with possible links to breast cancer (hey, it makes sense when you consider the proximity of breasts to newly-shaved armpits!) and/or Alzheimers.
I tend to also be very leery of marketing, especially of natural products. (Like the whole “multigrain bread” thing–all they have to do is put a couple of grains of oat flour into their bleached white stuff and suddenly it’s multi-grain. Harumph.) So when I can find actual chemistry to support something, it makes me feel a little more confident.
On the other hand, my own knowledge of chemistry pretty much comes from tenth grade and two parents who are chemistry teachers. (My mom sometimes reads this blog…maybe she’ll comment?) So if they are blowing chem-talk up my smelly armpits, I won’t necessarily know. However, the below does sound fairly sensible:
(copied from www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/natural-deodorant.html )
“Alum or Aluminum – What’s in your Deodorant?
Deodorant stones are made of potassium alum. It is a pure product made without the addition of chemicals, fragrances, oils or alcohol. The chemical formula for potassium alum is K2SO4Al2(SO4)324H20. Potassium alum is a colorless substance that forms octahedral or cubic crystals.
Bauxite is the ore from which alum is drawn. It is formed by the rapid weathering of granitic rocks in warm, humid climates and can be purified and converted directly into alum.
Potassium alum is soluble in seven times its weight of water at room temperature and is very soluble in hot water. When crystalline potassium alum is heated, some of the water of hydration becomes chemically separated, and the partly dehydrated salt dissolves in this water, so that the alum appears to melt at about 90 degrees C. (approximately 392 degrees F.), potassium alum swells up, loses all water, and becomes a basic salt called burn alum. Potassium alum has a density of 1.725.
Alum’s are used for a variety of uses including as a powerful astringent.
If an aluminum compound, such as aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium, which is very soluble, is used as an antiperspirant, that compound is readily absorbed. Once in the body, the aluminum portion of the molecule ionizes, forming free or radical aluminum (Al+++). This passes freely across cell membranes, and forms a physical plug, that when dissolved is selectively absorbed by the liver, kidney, brain, cartilage and bone marrow. It is this concentration of aluminum that has been the source of concern in the medical community and has prompted the research being done on alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer victims. Potassium alum molecules have a negative ionic charge, making it unable to pass through the cell wall. They are not absorbed. This is why our deodorants are safe to use and will not cause high levels of aluminum in your system. Alum and aluminum are two different substances, with distinct chemical signatures. They possess different chemical properties which create different chemical attributes.”
(notice how they slip the words “free” and “radical” in there in the same sentence? Not sure if that’s hype or mere accuracy…)
I just bought two new deodorants, since my crystal one seems to have sort of bit the dust after about 4 years. (That, I tell you, was $7.99 well-spent.) One is made by “Kiss my face” and has potassium alum as its main ingredient. It’s a roll-on, which means it will run out and need replacing (unlike the stones), but it seems to do the job very well. (ETA: after a couple of weeks of use, this is my new favorite deodorant; it does the job to the extent where at the end of a steamy June day my pits still are basically odorless. This is a good thing.)
The second one I couldn’t resist–it’s by Avalon Botanicals, and its main ingredients are exactly what I put in my own deodorant blend when I made it myself, and coincidentally are also exactly the ingredients in my anti-postpartum-depression blend: clary sage, lemon, and lavender. This also has a little standard sage (a really good odor-controller) and orange. It’s a spray rather than a roll-on, and so far it’s doing me very well!
Another note about the deodorant thing: when I first stopped using commercial deodorants, I went througha week or two of really appalling (to me) odor–serious skunkpits. It was sort of gross. Nothing seemed to quite cover it up or make it go away. But oddly enough after that, it was like my system settled down into a new routine, and the natural deodorants have done really well for me since then. Some better than others. And the alum ones definitely better than the plain essential oil ones, though I’m still just a little leery of them.
For what it’s worth.
I have the flu. This time it’s my stomach, and my equilibrium–dizzy spells every so often, for no apparent reason.
So it seems like a good day to share my favorite natural tummy remedy.
**note: only very rarely do I take any essential oils internally. They are extremely concentrated and can be harmful or sometimes fatal in too-large doses; most should never be taken internally at all. Do your homework. And keep out of reach of your kids. **
Yucky Tummy Potion
Heat up a mug of water in the microwave
While it’s heating, drizzle a little honey onto a spoon.
Onto the honey drop one drop each ginger essential oil and sweet fennel essential oil. (ONE drop each. Two max.)
Drizzle more honey over that. (This helps the eo dissolve a little; it is still very volatile and most will just escape into the air.
Stir mug of hot water with the honeyed spoon.
At this point you should have a lovely fragrant steaming beverage; inhaling the fumes is honestly about as helpful as actually drinking it, IMO, but it tastes lovely anyway.
And now I’m going to go make some more.
This is the last week of school, and I’m suddenly realizing I have no idea what to have the kids give their teachers as an end-of-year little gift. (There’s actually a “class gift” that everyone contributes to, which is nice–they’re building a butterfly garden outside the school, and each child paints a stone that becomes part of the environment–very cool.)
I discovered melt-and-pour soaps last Christmas at teacher gift time; there was a bit of a learning curve, but we’re much better at it now, so I feel okay about doing it again. (Actually, only three out of the six got soap at Christmas, and they were tiny little bars.) Since then I’ve bought soap molds and experienced a lot of trial and error, and I have something like six pounds of unmelted soap block sitting in the closet. It’s a great project for kids, as long as the adult does the melting, because they can pour and stir and color and blend themselves.
So…off we go.
Below is a really good site for basic instructions; if I’d had this in December, I probably would have screwed up a little less:
Melt and pour soap base is available in a lot of places, but if you get it from, say, Michaels, it is a lot more expensive. (I’m still glad I did that for my first pound–it was a good way to ease into the process.) I think I paid about $10 for a pound-size soap block, which makes maybe 4 bars of soap depending on the size you use, which isn’t that much less than buying nice glycerin soap somewhere else.
I honestly can’t remember where I bought the 6 lbs I have in my closet, but any internet search for “melt and pour soap” will give more hits than anyone can possibly need. www.goplanetearth.com/index.html has some good-looking prices and products; I’ll probably try them next.
Just a few hints, after one has read the basic falling-off-a-log instructions:
Color: I bought three little bottles of soap coloring from Michaels, in the three primary colors, and I’ve managed to work within that palette so far. One would think there’s a whole lot of variety to be found from mixing red, blue, and yellow, but somehow in practice…not so much. Probably with better colors I could get better results, but our first few bars of soap looked a bit like radioactive waste…
This batch, for 12 ounces of soap, we used 3 drops of red and 4 drops of yellow, which gave a fairly nice coral-pink. The next batch Bear wants to be green, which unfortunately was the hue we never managed last time and wound up with the radioactive waste look, but we’ll give it a try…
Fragrance: Some websites have suggested about 1.5 tsp of essential oil per pound of soap, but in reality that’s going to depend a lot on what oils you use. Peppermint overpowers almost anything, as does Tea tree…Lavender blends too quickly into the background, as does Clary, but Geranium Rose leaps to the forefront. They seem, to me, to be behaving differently in soaps than they do in ordinary aromatherapy blends, but that could be just my own impression. Also, as nice as the spices and citruses may smell, it’s not a good idea to use them in skin care products, because they are sensitizing. (Sweet Orange in small amounts I admit i do use…but I also want to be clear when I say that that I know I’m going against other advice, and no way would I advise anyone else in that direction.)
For this batch, I went the easy route and am trying to use up some of a much too old bottle of “Peace and Calming” from Young Living Oils. (Note: the Young Living company has been at the center of a lot of controversy in the aromatherapy community, regarding questionable business practices and irresponsible medical advice that flies in the face of the research of the aromatherapy community at large–advice which, incidentally, involves the use of way larger amounts of the oils than is widely deemed safe. Every shopper must make his or her own choice, but I have chosen not to continue purchasing their oils and once what I have is gone I won’t be buying any more.) I don’t know about its theraputic value, but this blend does smell very nice and ought to make a lovely soap.
Molds: Pretty much anywhere you can get soap base, you can probably also get molds. but molds aren’t absolutely necessary, especially if you want to really go for the “natural handmade” look. A loaf pan or square baking dish can work just as well, although you’ll want to test out quantity to make sure you have the right container for whatever amount of soap you’re using. (If you melt your soap in a Pyrex measuring container, you can then use a different cup to measure that same amount of water into the container you want to use and find out exactly how high your soap will come and thus how thick your bars will be.)
I swear by silicone baking dishes, and using silicone for soap molds is just as easy and wonderful. Sometimes in hard containers the soap gets stuck and is hard to unmold (though usually a quick immersion of the mold part into hot water loosens it enough to get it out), but silicone is really easy.
Additives: One word; beware. I had this lovely idea of bars of soap with lavender blossoms scattered through it, or oatmeal, or whatever…but unless one gets the soap base that’s designed to suspend things in it, it all falls to the bottom of the mold. Which, actually, gives a very nice exfoliating thing on one side, but not the effect I was looking for.
So…we’ll see how it goes!
EDIT: We now have 12 lovely bars of soap, with 3 more to be made tomorrow (ran out of time!). My oval mold holds 3 4oz bars, so we made 4 different batches:
1. coral-colored shea butter soap base with “Peace and Calming”
2. green goats-milk soap base (sort of a nice green this time!) with lavender and roman chamomile
3. lavender goats-milk soap base with lavender and just a touch of sweet orange
4. yellow clear glycerin with lemongrass and a teeny bit of lemon and orange (I know, the citrus thing, but I couldn’t resist)
5. (to be made tomorrow) orange clear glycerin with bergamot mint and sweet orange
The kids have 7 teachers, and we’ll give 2 bars to each teacher. These ones came out really nicely. And we have one additional funny little bar made in tupperware that contains dregs from several of the different batches, that’ll be ours. The kids will get a kick out of it.
(Okay, standard warnings–I’m not a doctor, and anyone who takes anything I say as actual medical advice is sort of ill-advised. Do your own research and talk with your own health care providers. I’m a musician, not a doctor. But I read a lot.)
After my daughter was born, a little delayed, actually, I got slammed witha case of post-partum depression. (Had it after my son was born too, but at the time I really didn’t know what I was dealing with–I thought I was just a bad mother who couldn’t cope.) Suicidal thoughts, self-damage, bursting into hours of tears at the slightest thing, retreating into my room in fetal position for hours at a time (or until a child needed me). It lasted several months before beginning to back off.
My midwife, who couldn’t prescribe anything for me, recognized the signs during my pregnancy that it would likely hit me later, and urged me then and throughout to get help, but my doctor (the one who could actually write prescriptions) thought I just needed to relax and “do less” and “not be so hard on myself. This is the same doctor who said, based on nothing more than a family history, that another family member would probably be on SSRI’s for the rest of his life. The family member stopped on his own almost 4 years ago and has been doing really well. That’s a story for another time–the short version is simply this: don’t try this at home, get your doctor’s help. Unless your doctor is an idiot like ours was, in which case I don’t know what to tell you. (By the way, this man is no longer our doctor.)
So here I was with a crazywild case of PPD working me over and nothing to treat it with. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have gone for the SSRI’s even if I had the option; I’d seen and done research on what can happen when one later tries to get off them (or some of them), and it would have been a scary step for me to take. (Note: I know a whole bunch of people who swear by their meds, whose lives have quite literally been saved by them. Please don’t take my hesitation to go there as in any way a slight on those for whom they make the difference between life and death, or between non-life and life, shadow and sun, etc.)
So I started doing research into alternative methods. In the end, I used three main things: