The Power of Neem
The Neem Tree is a power plant with healing goodness for breakout-prone skin, dry, cracked heels, bug bites and stings!
From leaves to bark, Neem has been used for millenia for maintaining wellness, body healing, skin and hair care and for repelling insects. In the ancient Siddha system of medicine originating more than 10,000 years ago in the Tamil Nadu region of South India, Neem is among the core plants used. It met the Siddha medicinal goal of maintaining health for long life. All parts of neem tree were (and still are) used in traditional Indian medicine remedies for various human dis-eases.
The word NEEM comes from the Sanskrit, Nimba, meaning bestower of good health. As far back as 5000 BCE, Indian Ayurvedic texts have described the Neem tree and its remarkable healing properties. In fact healing compounds containing its leaves were found at the excavation of Mohanjo-Daro and Harappa, ancient city sites that date back to this time period and older.
Back in that day (to this day), a Neem tree was considered sacred, symbolizing good health and protection. One would be planted in public gathering spaces or in the front garden of the temple or the home where became part of daily life. Kind of like living among the Ent healers. The Neem tree provided shade from the sun while naturally repelling insects for those sitting under its protective canopy. When wind blew through the Neem tree and into the home, it was believed that the winds carried with them the anti-bacterial properties of the tree, keeping the homes free of bacteria while providing residents with a cool breeze in the summer months. Neem was also used to protect animals, food and grains. Livestock and cattle were fed Neem leaves for relief from ailments; soil was fertilized with seeds, leaves, and bark which all doubled as pesticides.
Used in medicinals, its properties strengthened health and boosted immunity. Infusions from leaf and bark would be drunk to help maintain blood sugar, clear lungs and keep the digestive tract running smoothly; neem twigs would be used oral care; young neem leaves were included in vegetarian curries; the gum from the tree was sucked on to ease a dry throat; and in the summer, the fruit of the tree would be eaten. All this Neem goodness worked together to strengthen the immune system.
Traditionally, Neem was used topically to address such ailments as fevers, respiratory issues, tetanus infections, rheumatism, arthritis, jaundice, malaria, ringworm, lice, fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, scabies, hives, eczema and psoriasis. And to help help hair grow and remain thick and lustrous. Historically, Neem Oil was even used as a topical contraceptive.
That is one versatile plant, right?
Why Neem is so Good for Your Skin
Neem oil is extracted from the seeds of neem tree fruit. Neem Plant Powders are basically dried and finely ground Neem Leaves. So, what is in Neem that makes it so amazing for skin? Both Oil and leaves have serious Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, Anti-oxidant, Astringent, Oil Regulating and Moisturizing properties:
Free Lion Body Care Products That Feature Neem Oil
When I was formulating Face Chai for Oily and Breakout Prone Skin, I researched ingredients extensively, looking into their properties, lore and historical uses. With all its benefits to healing breakouts and acne scars and its ability to balance out sebum production, Neem just had to be a featured ingredient. It works beautifully with the other Oily Skin supporting ingredients in this formula. FYI, Neem Oil has a really strong smell. But worry not. I mixed in other skin supportive carrier oils and essential oils to compensate. Your nose will be happy! Your skin will be happier.
Facial Oils for Oily and Breakout Prone Skin
Our Facial Oils are a complex blend of lightweight oils specially chosen for their ability to soothe, protect, repair and regenerate healthy skin. I love Neem Oil for its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antioxidant properties. I am also excited by how these properties help kill the bacteria that gets into pores to cause the infections we know (and don't love) as "zits". Hello Neem, bye bye breakout.
Neem also does its part to stimulate skin cells to regenerate. it also helps heal acne scars and sooth acne irritation, while balancing out the sebum in your skin to reduce the chance of future break outs. Such a win win!
Neem has antioxidants that help protect your skin from environmental stressors. It moisturizes and helps keep skin soft and supple by boosting skin collagen and elastin production to increase thickness, elasticity and firmness. It also helps to reduce hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation, hormones or acne.
The Facial Oils can be used daily as a moisturizer, for oil cleansing, for overnight moisturizing or The feedback from peeps in my test crew who used the Facial Oils for Oily Skin is that pimples and other skin eruptions disappear overnight. The oils are light and easily absorbed, leaving a lovely skin glow.
Mask Grains for Oily and Breakout Prone Skin
I have included Dried Neem leaf powder in this wonderful combination of plant powders and clays that blend up into a mask with a pump or two of Facial Oils plus some yogurt, honey or just plain old distilled water. It all depends on what your skin needs in the moment due to hormones, diet, stress. You know, LIFE.
Neem brings its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties to work once more, to help kill the bacteria that could lead to zits, regulate your skin sebum production, and soften and protect it. The formula is quite robust with ingredients that are soothing, oil absorptive, cleansing, astringent and exfoliating.
Feedback from my testing crew included loving the way the Mask Grains soothed their skin, settled eruptions and gave a gentle exfoliation, leaving a lovely skin glow.
I included neem oil in this formulation for its moisturizing properties. I love its ability to deeply penetrate skin and repair heel cracks caused by dryness. It works with the other oils to soothe itchy, red, inflamed skin.
I also chose Neem Oil for its anti-bacterial properties. It teams up with Tea Tree Oil, which has some serious anti-bacterial properties of its own. By soothing skin irritation and eradicating the bacteria that causes them, Neem Oil and Tea Tree Oil can calm Athletes Foot and nail fungus. Then there is Neems ability to help ease joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain. Neem works with Rosemary Oil to help ease your feet into relaxation.
Shoo Fly! For a Little Help with Bug bites and Stings
Neem oil is one of many amazing ingredients in this formula that helps soothe bug bites and insect stings. Neem oil has an impressive, well-researched track record of not only being incredibly moisturizing for all skin types, but anti-inflammatory and soothing as well. Shoo Fly! Is full of ingredients like Neem oil that will take the itchy edge off a bug bite and help decrease swelling of even nasty ones, like wasp stings.
I had originally formulated Shoo Fly to help keep bugs away. The ingredients I chose do have properties that do that, naturally. But as a small biz maker, my products are classified as cosmetic by Health Canada. Bug repellent, however, is classified as a drug. So I am not able to make direct repellent claims about Shoo Fly! But I CAN tell you about Neem and itâs amazing properties. You can try it to soothe bug bites. And if it keeps bugs away, well BONUS!!
Nature is full of wise plants who work with us to support our health and wellness. Thanks for hanging out with Neem and me,
Lavender tea's delicate, aromatic flavour drifts you to a good night's sleep. Here's why + a sleepy time tea recipe
We love our lavender, don't we? It's one of the most loved fragrances in the world, known for its restful calming effects, making it an essential in a sleepy time tea. Move over chamomile, make room for lavender!
Lavender tea is made from the fresh or dried buds of the Lavender flower, Lavendula angustifolia. Originating in the Mediterranean, it is now cultivated all over the world, including in my garden! Lavender brings a distinctive flavour and aromatic fragrance to foods. My son, Javid, flavours the most delicious ice creams with it; his gal Bri likes to flavour cakes and icing with it; and we make a simple syrup to add to drinks. Gin and lavender tonics anyone? I also use Lavender in my body care products for its calming scent and capacity to maintain clear skin complexioned boost cellular health. And I use it in a tea blend I make for a relaxed night's sleep. Between care taking of Thom and the garden, running all things Free Lion and being there for my boyz-to-men as required, I find getting a solid sleep can make all the difference to my day ahead.
But let's get back to talking tea. Lavender is a herb and a member of the mint, oregano and rosemary family. So it comes by its health benefits honestly. But what can a lavender tea do for you?
1. Improve Sleep
Lavender induces calm. Its relaxing effects can help improve sleep and be used to help you get there. According to Health Canada, Canadians are not getting enough sleep. 1 in 2 adults have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep; 1 in 5 adults do not find their sleep refreshing; and 1 in 3 adults are having trouble staying awake during the day. Health Canada puts this trend down to sedentary lifestyles and chronic stress. Not a surprise, given everything we're having to deal with these days. Enter Lavender Tea!
Drinking Lavender tea before bed can help you achieve a more restful sleep. According to a sleep study in Taiwan conducted with women post partum, Lavender tea helped participants' sleep quality improve. They also reported decreased depression symptoms and were able to be more present with their infants for better bonding. In another study of lavender and the nervous system, lavender taken orally, inhaled or massaged into the skin was found to decrease anxiety and improve mood levels. Yet another study conducted by psychologists at Wesleyan University with 31 men and women found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Participants slept more soundly with lavender than without. They also reported feeling more energetic in the morning.
2. Preventative Holistic Health
Western medicine is an allopathic system. That means it treats symptoms and not the whole person. Its goal is to eradicate, mend and repair, which is brilliant when you have a condition that will benefit from such treatment. The holistic approach is more about prevention, a philosophy that underpins many "Alternative" medical approaches.
Lavender tea fits in here perfectly. It can be taken as a preventative measure, to maintain balance in your body, delivering many desired health effects. Lavender tea is full of antioxidants to help you eliminate those pesky toxins from your system, working to prevent them from wreaking havoc on human cells through mutation, degradation or oxidative stress.
Lavender tea contains high amounts of antioxidants and antibacterial compounds (like Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium) that can help boost your immune system against colds, bacterial, fungal and viral infections. It has properties that can reduce inflammation which, in turn can help prevent a host of eventually serious ailments like heart issues or arthritis. Its antispasmodic properties can also help with joint pain while helping to minimize muscle spasms. The same can be really helpful with menstrual cramps.
Lavender tea can also help soothe digestive issues like nausea or diarrhea or indigestion. More importantly, it can help stimulate production of bile while will help your body break down foods more effectively. It can also help open up chest airways, making it easier to breathe. That's the added bonus of smelling your lavender tea between sips.
Lavender Borage Sleepy Tea
This calming warm tea is just the thing to help you unwind. The best time to drink a sleep tea is 30 minutes before crash time.
You can infuse the flowers into water. Or for an extra pre-bedtime sleep kick, infuse the flowers into the milk of your choice. Dairy milk and almond milk both contain tryptophan which increases serotonin, the precursor to the sleep regulating hormone, melatonin. I've honey as a sweetener but also because it helps release melatonin in your brain. You can replace honey with another sweetener for a vegan option.
You can have your lavender tea straight up, no chaser. Or you can blend it with other plants that promote relaxation and calm. For this recipe, I have included Borage flowers, a calming, cleansing staple in the Persian diet, for its relaxation and stress relieving properties.
1 cup of water, milk or almond milk
1 tsp dried borage flowers
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
1 tsp honey or stevia
1. Place the water, milk or almond milk into a small saucepan on medium heat. Heat to very hot, not a roaring boil.
2. Add the dried lavender buds and dried borage flowers to the saucepan
3. Allow to steep for 5 or 6 minutes.
4. Pour into a mug through a strainer
5. Add honey or sweetener of your choice.
6. Drink. Rest. Reset. Relax. Nite Nite!
Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. The information I have provided about herbs and sleep are from my own research experience. I encourage you to find your own answers for what works best for you and your body.
The healing magic of turmeric
8 AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS; 4 WAYS TO HELP YOUR BODY ABSORB TURMERIC AND 1 YUMMY TURMERIC MILK RECIPE
When I was young, Mum used to make Hardar Waro Doodh (Turmeric Milk, known on the internet these days as Golden Milk or a turmeric latte) to help boost our immune systems. She'd also spice her curries with it, make tea with it and use it medicinally and in skin care. I use turmeric in much the same way, because I've experienced its efficacy in my health and wellness since childhood. Turmeric powder has an intense taste, which is nature's way of telling you not to have too much. Wise woman wisdom that I grew up with places the consumed limit at about 1 teaspoon a day.
A QUICK LIST OF 8 AMAZING TURMERIC HEALTH BENEFITS
So what makes Turmeric such a health boosting all-star?
Quite a list of benefits, is it not? Hooray, Turmeric!
I’m not sure turmeric, or its active ingredient curcumin, should be taken as a supplement, honestly, due to poor bio-availability. This means that in order for turmeric to be effectively absorbed into the body, it has to be combined with other ingredients or prepared in particular ways, as my mother’s old school methods of using turmeric show.
I see curcumin supplements more as a last resort than the best option. I’m more in the camp of incorporating healing plants into diet and skin care in their most simple form. It is my belief that if we live in alignment with nature, her cycles and her gifts, then we are most likely to experience significant improvements in well-being, from the inside out. That means living more holistically and taking care of all aspects of health and happiness, rather than trying to fix a problem with a pill. Of course this is only my opinion and not intended as medical advice.
4 WAYS TO HELP YOUR BODY ABSORB TURMERIC
USE THE WHOLE ROOT
Turmeric is more than just curcumin. There are over 100 compounds in the turmeric root which have been found to have potent pharmacological properties. When the root is processed, many of these compounds are lost, and some supplements contain only extracted chemical curcumin. Old school Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cooking has always used the whole turmeric root because the various compounds in turmeric work synergistically together and can aid in the absorption of curcumin. This reflects the belief that whole plants are usually better for health.
Mum would use Turmeric in its dried and powdered form, mostly because, back in the day, it was more easily accessed in North America than fresh roots. If you're using turmeric powder, choose organic. Use less as it’s more concentrated than fresh root. If using fresh roots, add much more to your cooking. Rule of thumb: 1tsp of turmeric powder is equal to 3 tsps of fresh turmeric root.
ADD BLACK PEPPER
My mother’s curries, as in most of Indian cooking, are a complex blend of spices that support each other’s efficacy for health and healing. One of her ingredients that directly helps your body absorb curcumin directly is black pepper. According to UMass Medical School’s Center for Applied Nutrition:
“Curcumin only makes up about 5% of turmeric, similar to black pepper where the active ingredient, piperine also makes up about 5% of the spice. Piperine is responsible for black pepper’s rich flavor and helps inhibit drug metabolism. For example, the liver gets rid of foreign substances by making them water-soluble so that they can be excreted, and piperine can inhibit this process so that curcumin is not excreted. This explains how piperine can help to make curcumin more bioavailable. With just 1/20 teaspoon or more of black pepper, the bioavailability of turmeric is greatly improved, and turmeric’s benefits are further enhanced.”
MIX WITH HEALTHY FATS
Mum would make her curries using ghee or high fat oils like coconut or sunflower. She would make Hardar Waro Doodh (Turmeric Milk) with full fat milk. This makes sense for bio-availability. Curcumin has limited solubility in water, but it does like to attach to fats, which are then more easily absorbed into the bloodstream by the gut.
HEAT IT UP
Many spices become activated by heating, which can be the key to releasing their best effect. Research shows that heating turmeric increases its solubility in water, enhancing the overall antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin. Turmeric is moderately sensitive to heat, so there is no need to boil it for a long period of time. Short cooking times (under 15 minutes) do not destroy turmeric, but will in fact increase the bio-availability of turmeric's many compounds, inclduding curcumin. So heating turmeric in Turmeric Milk or a turmeric wellness tea, or adding it to your cooking, such as in curry or scrambled eggs, will maximize its absorption by the body.
1 YUMMY TURMERIC MILK RECIPE
This is a fabulous drink to help boost your immune system. My mother would give it to us regularly as a preventative measure. More cups would be downed in the event of an illness. You can incorporate Turmeric Milk into your day as your morning drink or in the evening, after a meal or before sleep.
A WORD ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
Milk - Choose the milk that works best for you. If using dairy, choose grass fed and full fat; or give goats milk a go. If not, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to increase fat content for better absorption of turmeric into your body.
Black Pepper - Packed with manganese and Vitamin K, pepper stimulates the taste buds to get hydrochloric acid going, revving up digestion. When combined with black pepper, turmeric becomes 5,000 times more bio-available.
Ginger - Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral, ginger is pro phytonutrients, especially potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C. Loved all over the world as a digestive aid, it calms upset stomachs while improving nutrient absorption and circulation.
Cardamom - Loaded with naturally occurring minerals calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin C, cardamom is the go-to spice for mellowing out respiratory ailments, colds and flus, and sluggish, unhappy guts.
Turmeric - Already ‘nuf said above!
Coconut oil - Helps your body absorb curcumin while adding more fatty acids that that are beneficial brain food.
1 cup milk of choice. If using dairy, choose full fat. If not, add a teaspoon of coconut oil to increase fat content.
¼- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
A Pinch to ⅛ tsp black pepper
¼ teaspoon ginger powder
⅛ tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp honey or to taste
Place all the ingredients into a pan. Whisk together into the milk. Simmer on medium to low heat until the milk starts to steam (not so hot) or bubble (hotter). Whisk again to foam milk (optional) Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy!
Make your Own Mint Tea
3 benefits of drinking mint tea; Make your own from fresh mint
I first met Mint tea in Morocco and I was smitten. I loved the sweet, hot, pungent flavours of the tea and could completely understand why it could be drunk all day long. Mint not only tastes good, it's good for you. And it's an easy perennial to grow in small gardens, outdoor or indoor, giving you your own organically grown supply. Making your own mint tea leaves from scratch? Easy, you've got this.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF DRINKING MINT TEA
1. AIDS DIGESTION. Mint tea can help settle an upset stomach, calm nausea. reduce bloating and gas. It's a wonderful drink to have after a meal to help your stomach calmly digest.
2. ANTIOXIDANTS. Mint tea contains a large amount of antioxidant compounds that help your body protect against and repair damage caused by harmful molecules that can lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. In the skin department, these antioxidants can help in the anti-aging process, as oxidative stress breaks down skin collagen, without which wrinkles happen. Antioxidants also help the skin repair itself by reducing inflammation.
3. REDUCES STRESS AND HELPS SLEEP. Mint tea can help decrease anxiety and improve sleep. The menthol in the plant has a relaxing, sedating effect on the body.
MOROCCAN MINT TEA RECIPE
If you have fresh mint growing, you can make Moroccan Mint Tea, . Cooking with Alia has a recipe to make it, authentic style, using Gunpowder Green Tea and fresh mint. She offers the recipe from her home country in text as well as a video. You get the foam on top by raising the tea pot spout 2 feet above the glass and pouring in a steady stream. This way of pouring also helps cool the boiling tea to a temperature comfortable for your mouth. By the way, this is also how chai is served, old school, foaming in a glass.
DIY YOUR OWN DRIED MINT TEA
While we love the convenience of buying a box of mint tea, the potency of the leaves fades the longer that box sits on the shelf. If the mint tea leaves are looking brown, they're old and stale. But no worry, it's easy to make your own from fresh mint that you grow or buy. And tea leaves made from fresh mint is hands-down tastier than store bought.
Mint is such a hardy perennial that loves to propagate itself. Our mint growth has doubled over since last year. By the way, I don't consider myself a gardening genius. This is just Nature doing her best work, for which I'm grateful because I really like drinking mint tea right through the year. Especially on those nights I'm having trouble sleeping. So I'm taking this time, while it's freshly growing in the ground, to make the most of our mint harvest, which will likely continue through the growing season.
We're growing both Spearmint and Chocolate Mint. We harvested about a 1/3 of our small bed. But you don't have to be growing the mint to make the tea leaves. You can buy fresh mint. You'll need 4 -5 bunches to get a decent amount of dried leaves out of it.
Here's what we did to dry the mint leaves for tea:
1. Separate the leaves from the stems
2. Lay wax or kraft paper on a flat surface, like a cookie sheet or cutting board or even a piece of cardboard.
3. Spread a single layer of mint leaves on your wax paper. Make sure the are not over lapping.
4. Leave them to air dry completely. This should take a few days.
5. Once the leaves are dry, run them through a food processor or chopper.
6. Put your dried mint tea leaves into a clean, dry bottle.
Now it's tea time! I put a tablespoon of the dried mint leaves into a drawstring paper tea bag. My son uses a tea ball. Or you can put it into your tea mug and strain out the leaves after the tea has steeped. I came across Bonesa Honey from Bulgaria who make a simply delicious rose flavoured honey. I add a teaspoon to my mug and then pour boiling water over my leaves and honey, letting it steep. If you want a stronger tea, boil the leaves (with or without teabag) in a pot of water on the stove on a roaring boil for 3-5 minutes. ENOY!
What are your favourite plant leaves to make tea? Do you grow your own? Please share any tips or experiences you have in the comments.
May 29th, 2020
CHIA SEED OIL: A SUPER MOISTURIZING ROCK STAR
Sometimes you meet a oil that you just love, and loves you back, inside and out. Chia Seed Oil is one of those ingredient rock stars for which I just can't sing enough praises. On the inside, Chia Seeds are a super food that bring so many health benefits. On the skin, it's pure magic. It's moisturizing, soothing, softening, protective and anti-aging.
A BIT OF CHIA SEED HISTORY
They ascribed their military prowess to the power of Chia in their diets. It was also used in their sacred and worldly ritual. Chia was given as sacrificial offering to the gods; extracted as tribute payments from conquered nations; and often used it as currency. Now, that's one valuable plant!
WHAT MAKES CHIA SEED SUCH A NUTRITIONAL SUPERSTAR?
Chia is rich in essential fatty acids, specifically omega-3 and omega-6. They are 5 x richer in calcium than cow’s milk; extremely high in vitamin C, 7 x more than oranges; high in iron, 3 x higher than spinach. Last but not least, chia seeds are also high in potassium, selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, E and B6. Not to mention fibre and protein. Added bonus: they are gluten-free.
So with all that nutritional power, chia seeds promote the correct functioning of the heart, brain and immune system while helping blood circulation by exerting an anti-oxidant function. They benefit teeth and bones, help improve your mental acuity, keep blood sugar and pressure in check, and are quite filling, should you be on a diet. All that in a tiny little seed.
WHAT MAKES CHIA SEED OIL FOR FABULOUS FOR SKIN?
Once again, it's that Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid content that skin just soaks up. These fatty acids help maintain moisture levels in the skin which reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as relieving dryness and flaking. Chia seed oil can also help with issues like rosacea or eczema on the face. It leaves your skin feeling soothed, smooth, soft and replenished. This is wonderful for dry and sensitive skin.
Chia seed oil is also a great source of vitamin B3 and zinc, which helps with oily skin and clogged pores. It also can help take down the inflammation and irritation that comes with break-outs.
It's also full of amazing antioxidants, including chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, as well as myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonoids, all of which protect your skin from environmental stressors. In fact, the antioxidants in chia seed oil have shown to be even stronger than vitamin C and vitamin E, two common and powerful antioxidants. This is exactly the kind of care normal skin needs to fight off signs of aging.
Put all of chia seed oils properties together—moisturizing, protection, and calming you have the perfect natural ingredient for maintaining your skin through all its changes. And that is why I chose to include it in all our Facial Oil blends.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE