A few years ago, my sister and brother in-law adopted a dog through Mex Pup, a non-profit dog rescue organization based in both Mexico and Canada that rescues dogs from the streets of Puerto Vallarta and eventually finds permanent homes for them in Canada.
The streets can be a scary, mean place for dogs, especially little ones. When their humans can’t afford to keep them, pups are often left to fend for themselves. When they should be bonding with their mother or human caretakers, they are begging, scavenging, learning to protect themselves, and trying their best to avoid getting yelled at, beaten, abused. In addition, they can get flea and tick ridden, which can lead to serious and often fatal illness. Yeah, no. Not a good way for any species to have to live.
Mex Pup finds homeless, sick and sometimes traumatized dogs and removes them from the street to foster homes in Puerto Vallarta. During that time, the dogs receive medical attention, are spayed/neutered and socialized until permanent homes are found for them in Canada. A volunteer Guardian Angel will eventually fly with the Mex dog safely to its new Canadian home.
Enter Joey (aka Joey-Girl, JoDog, JoBean, BeanDog, Bean-Bean) into our family. Joey came as an answer to many prayers for caring and companionship, both doggy and human. It all happened quickly, serendipitously, just the way things that are meant to be do.
Mex Pup had rescued Joey and her siblings from streets of Mismaloya (Puerto Vallarta) just in time. A day more and she might have died from elichia, a tick-borne disease. In the same time period, my sis-in-law received a newsletter looking for Canadian families to adopt Mex dogs. Without thinking about it, she impulsively said yes, and the good karma train left the station.
At first, when she arrived in Canada, Joey was skittish, a little jumpy, exhibiting a doggy version of PTSD and possibly immigrant-style culture shock. Understandable, a reaction to trauma and big change. Its seems dogs and humans are not so emotionally far apart; they are “best friends” after all. But just as traumatized, relocated humans benefit from kindness, loving care, friendships and activity, so too did Joey. Over time, she settled in and it is hard to imagine that her household was ever without her.
Joey has fully embraced the West Coast lifestyle. She loves the outdoors and loves all of our seasons (except for maybe the really rainy days). A couple of years ago, I got a text from Joey’s Mom asking if I could make some paw wax for Joey. Her paws were drying up, getting chapped and cracked in the cold weather. I was happy to give it a go and equally happy to have it test driven by Joey.
Her paws responded well to the wax. It protected her during the snowy-cold days and just before bed, her Mom would put some on again for a little extra overnight moisturizing. The wax is made without harmful ingredients, so if she does lick her paws it wasn’t a concern.
A Final Word on Free Lion Paw Wax from Joey's Mom
“Free Lion’s Paw Wax has gotten our girl Joey through the last 2 very long cold snowy winters. Her paws are not cracked or chapped anymore. When she did get a crack in her pad it caused her some discomfort. This has definitely helped with that and I’m so thankful for the natural, handmade product from Sherazad/Free Lion. I would highly recommend this product!”
– Cori Andrews (Joey’s Mom).
Neem Oil would have been a staple in my Nanima’s ayurvedic medicine cupboard. The neem tree grows predominantly in the Indian subcontinent and is prized for its non-toxic antiseptic, antifungal, antipyretic (as in ‘can reduce fever’) and antihistamine properties. Neem Oil is extracted from the seed kernel of Neem fruit.
Its use goes back centuries to ancient times. The Sanskrit word for Neem is ‘nimba’, meaning ‘good health’. Every part of the neem tree was used, back in the day--bark, seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves and roots. It was planted in gardens and it was said that benefit also came from simply interacting with the tree. A case for talking to plants if I ever heard one!
So, neem oil. What is it good for?
Neem and Skin
It rocks skin care! Neem's regenerative and immune boosting compounds help skin fight pathogens that are present below skin’s surface, keeping skin smooth, soothed and blemish-free. It is really beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin. The high amount of fatty acid in neem oil helps prevent and treat scars left by acne. And it likes to dissolve blackheads, too. Neem leaves have been effective for people suffering with itchy skin, rashes allergy and inflammation. Regular use of neem in oil form or powder in, say, a face mask, helps smooth, soothe and keep skin blemish free.
Neem and Hair
Neem oil is an ancient wise woman solution for healthy hair. It strengthens roots, and helps accelerate growth. It’ll tame the frizzies with deep conditioning and brings shine and vibrancy back to dull hair. Use Neem oil regularly as a hair mask for a healthy scalp and stronger, thicker, untangled hair. Yeah, it takes some time--it's not a quick fix. But it's the kind of fix that buildings on itself slowly for more long-term benefit. That’s just Nature’s way.
Got Dandruff? Neem to the rescue. Its medicinal properties will help moisturize and heal your scalp while maintaining PH levels. Mix up some All Purpose Neem Oil (see recipe below). Apply to hair and comb it through. This helps spread the oil evenly. Leave the oil in for an hour or two. Wash with a gentle shampoo.
Lice? No problem! Neem oil interferes with the feeding and reproduction of many insects, including lice. But you’ll need to up the amount of Neem in your All Purpose Neem Oil. Apply to hair. Leave in for an hour or two. Comb out with a lice comb. Wash with a gentle shampoo.
Neem and Feet
Got Cracked feet? Neem oil is rich in essential fatty acids, triglycerides, vitamin E and calcium. So its pretty effective at nourishing and repairing skin. This is really good news for people with dry, cracked heels. Neem oil will seep deep into the skin and help repair those cracks. Neem deals with common fungal skin infections--athletes foot and nail fungus--like a boss. And its antibacterial properties will help combat infections, while its soothing properties help calm itching and irritation. It's one of the reasons we include it in our Foot Salve.
Neem oil contains a compound called azadirachtin which repels insects like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and ants. So it can be an natural alternative to commercially produced bug spray. Again, it does need to be diluted in a carrier oil before applying it to your skin. Try All Purpose Neem Oil at regular strength; go stronger if needed. Or if that seems like too much work, check out our natural bug repelling Shoo Fly! Neem is one of the key, active ingredients in it.
So are you ready to try a few recipes at home?
All Purpose Neem Oil
Neem is pretty concentrated stuff that needs diluting in a carrier oil, like Jojoba, before use on the skin or hair. You can use this blend to help with:
• Moisturizing your face
• Conditioning Hair and scalp
• Repelling Bugs
• Getting rid of Dandruff and Lice
You will need:
100 ml Carrier Oil. This could be Jojoba Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Almond OIl. Pick your favourite. Get some here
1-2ml Neem Oil (increase to 5ml for lice removal). This is the one we like.
Put carrier oil of your choice in a bottle, preferably one with a treatment pump or a nozzle for easier use. Add neem oil. Cap the bottle tightly. Mix by agitating -- that means hold the bottle on its side and tilt it back and forth until the neem oil is blended into the carrier oil. Apply as required.
Neem exfoliating Face Mask
This gentle, ayurveda-inspired blend is easy to whip up at home for some skin soothing and brightening while clearing breakouts. It brings together the healing properties of Neem powder, the moisturizing and antibacterial properties of honey and the cooling, astringent properties of rose petals.
You will need:
¼ cup dried rose petals. Here's one of the places I get mine.
2 tablespoons neem powder. Here's the one we like.
3 tablespoons raw or manuka honey. Go for one that is more liquid than thick. Here's one from Canada.
A coffee or spice grinder. Make sure its coffee or spice-free and cleaned before you use it.
1. Finely grind rose petals in the coffee grinder. It should be powder-like.
2. Combine neem powder, rose petal powder and honey in a bowl.
3. Test first. Put a small amount on part of your face to see if your skin likes it. If yes, proceed to 4.
4. Apply a small amount all over your face, avoiding the eyes. Let it sit on your skin for 15 or 20 minutes. If you’re tackling a breakout, leave it on for 45 minutes to an hour so that the ingredients have more time to work their magic. Put your feet up. Relax.
5. Gently rinse off with a warm washcloth.
So that's the skinny on Neem Oil. Give it a go if you have oily skin or dry, cracked feet.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Woohoo! Spring is here and sandal weather is just around the corner. I know i’ve neglected you, feet. You work so hard all year round. But I’m going to make it up to you. Bye Bye boots and heavy socks. Not that I don’t love you and the way you keep my feet warm and dry through the winter. It’s just that I can’t wait to feel the warm summer air tickling my toes.
Here are some tips to love your feet from funky to fabulous.
1. Go polish free for a bit. Remove any polish you may have applied for the winter and let your toenails breathe for at least a week or so.
2. Give them a good soak in warm water and bath salts. Soaking gives your feet that relaxing Aaaah feeling. it also helps soften up skin to make exfoliating easier and gets toenails polish ready. Grab a bucket or a small tub. Add some bath salts some lemon or cucumber slices, flower petals or mint leaves and a few drops of the essential oil of your choice. . Kick back, relax, read a book. Let feet soak for about 10 minutes.
From our shelves: Free Lion Relaxing Bath Soak.
We make it with mineral and Dead Sea salts, whole milk powder (to help soften skin), Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium and Cedarwood Essential Oils (to soothe and relax) and rose, lavender, chamomile and calendula petals (because they're just so damn PRETTY!)
3. Exfoliate. After the foot soak, your skin is softer and ready for exfoliating. Tough skin can build up over the winter Remove dry, calloused skin from heels and foot bottoms with a foot file or pumice stone. Follow with a or sugar or salt scrub to remove the layer of dead skin from your legs and feet.
From our shelves: Free Lion Body Scrubs.
Namika is a salt scrub and polish, made with mineral salts, ground azuki beans, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay, nori flakes and Vitamin E. Perfect for tough skinned feet.
Lavender is a salt scrub made with mineral salts, ground apricot kernel seed shell, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. A lighter salt exfoliant that works wonderfully for most feet.
Espresso is a sugar scrub made with organic cane sugar, ground coffee beans, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. A gentler exfoliant with the added kick of coffee to perk up the skin.
Rose Garden is a sugar scrub made with organic cane sugar, oat flour, ground brown rice, chick pea flour, sunflower oil, shea butter, kaolin clay and Vitamin E. An even gentler exfoliant designed for sensitive skin.
4. Moisturize. Keep that dry skin nourished. Follow exfoliation with a lotion, cream or body butter. Ideally, you want to do this when you are not using your feet. Apply moisturizer to your feet, put on a pair of cotton socks and put your feet up. Its Netflix time!
From Our Shelves: Free Lion Foot Salve
We make it with a highly moisturizing blend of shea butter, coconut, sunflower, sweet almond and castor oils to soften your skin and cuticles. Then we add neem oil to help repair cracked skin; tea tree, lavender and rosemary essential oils for their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal properties and peppermint essential oil to stimulate circulation and bring some healing oxygen to your feet.
5. Cut and File. Now that your skin has been refreshed, time for those toenails. Trim your nails into a square shape and not too close. No, that’s not just a fashion thing. Having a square at either edge of your toenails helps keep ingrown toenails and the pesky bacteria that can make them hurt in check. Use a nail file to gently smooth nail edges and any rough spots. Or get a professional to do this part.
6. Care for Cuticles. Gently push your cuticles back to make room for some bold, bright polish. You can use the end of your nail file, a special cuticle tool or, if you're a minimalist like me, your fingernails.
7. Get out your paint box. This is the fun part. Choose a colour that makes you feel happy and bright because you’ll be the one that gets to enjoy your toe colour all the time--in fact, everytime you look down at your feet. Start with a nourishing base coat, followed by a 2-3 layers of your colours. Get creative. Paint each toe a different colour; add stickers; paint on a pattern; add sparkles. Just have fun with it. Finish with a protective top coat. You can DIY it or have a professional make that magic happen for you.
There! You're done. Now it's time to take your toes out for a night on the town or to the beach or any place that says, "Play time!" to you. Choose a pair of sandals that make you feel comfortable, relaxed, happy in your own skin. Look down at your feet periodically and enjoy the walking work of art that is YOU!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are your favourite ways to pamper your feet? Leave us a comment below.