Lavender flowers have been keeping humans fresh in potpourris and baths for centuries. And its essential oil has been used in perfume and medicinally for just as long. The word Lavender could have come from the Latin lavare, meaning ‘to wash’. Or it could have come from livere, meaning ‘bluish’.
Lavender is a member of the mint family, indigenous to the mountain regions of the Mediterranean and Middle East and valued back in the day for its therapeutic, culinary and beauty benefits. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used it to scent baths, skin, beds, clothes and hair; to help them sleep; to dress battle wounds, in food preparation and for air purification. Bundles of dried lavender were given to women in labour to squeeze during contractions, as the fragrance released was known to relax the pain. It was used extensively for body, mind and spirit health.
Lavender proved indispensible in combatting The Plague in the 17th Century. It protected against infection. Bundles of lavender, or ‘posies’, were carried or tied at the wrist to help ward off infection. Gloves were infused with Lavender Oil to do the same. The story goes that the entire town of Bucklersbury completely escaped the plague, due to it being the center of the European Lavender Industry, where everyone had access to the healing powers of Lavender Oil.
In the Victorian Era, English royalty were particularly fond of Lavender. It was used throughout the castles for everything. Floors and furniture were washed with lavender; linens were perfumed with it. wanted a supply of fresh flower bundles brought to her daily. Lavender flowers, strewn over stone castle floor, released its scent under foot. Queen Vic started a trend and soon all fine English ladies followed suit and scented themselves and everything else with Lavender, which was grown in just about every home herb garden. During the First World War, Lavender oil gained widespread use for its antiseptic properties. Lavender washes were used to bathe wounds and it was an essential in every soldier’s burn kit.
What say you, Science?
Fast forward to now. Recent scientific and medical research (Biological activities of Lavender essential oil. 1. H.M.A. Cavanagh and 2. J.M. Wilkinson / Article first published JUN 2002) has proven that the essential oil of lavender has properties that rival—and even surpass—many modern antiseptic chemicals and antibiotic drugs. Lavender oil’s powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, sedative, calming and anti-depressive properties make it a ‘must have’ in any contemporary medicine cabinet.
The Infographic below from www.ayurvedicoils.com breaks down Lavender's chemical properties in a simple way.
In short, Lavender oil has what it takes to calm us down, alleviate pain, kill bacteria and fungus, take down inflammation, help us breathe better, suppress coughing, repell some insects and fight free radicals on the skin. That’s one powerhouse plant! Thank you, Mother Nature. Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are your favourite ways to use Lavender Oil?
Please share in a comment below.
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.
Spring is finally here! I look forward to this time of year, like most people who live in northern climates. The snows thaw, temperatures warm and nature begins to come back to life. It’s time for the fresh and the new; and it’s also time to let some old things go. Yep, Spring Cleaning time! Pull out, dust out, clean out, throw out. Works great for our outer stuff. But what about our inner stuff?
Our inner worlds are also cluttered with old emotional habits and patterns that no longer fit. If we were to analyze our negative internal dialogue, for example, we would likely find that underneath all its layers lies a fear of some kind that holds us back from being or expressing our most awesome selves. The question is: how do you throw that fear stuff out?
Recognize your fear and how it expresses itself.
That’s not always an easy thing. The tell-tale, fear red flags are anxiety or worry. Our bodies are really good at carrying these signs. You might feel your stomach turning or butterflying; you might have a headache; you might feel down or like you’re carrying a heavy weight; your heart might literally ache a little or be beating a little too fast. These physical sensations are usually quickly followed by some self-talk, usually judgemental, mean and self-deprecating. Yep. That be Fear going on inside you.
Here’s a little story from my Life’s Safari to help illustrate. When I began Free Lion, I was making Vegan Leather bags (available through my Etsy Store. I still make them to order). After graduating from Architecture school, I had been a stay-at-home and then part-time working Mom. After my divorce, I had to focus on making a full-time living. I had always wanted to work for myself as an artist/artisan, selling what I made. But, I was broke and terrified, with no real confidence that I could run my own business.
When I sat to work at the sewing machine. I would feel that knot in my stomach and my heart would race a little. Then the thoughts would start. “You’ll never succeed. You think that’s even good enough? No one is going to buy that! Everyone is going to see you have no talent.”
I would argue with those voices in my head to hold them at bay while I sewed. This went on until I noticed that it was taking me forever to make a bag because I was spending more energy and time focused on fighting with the voices than on sewing. That was the day that I started questioning the voices in my head.
Question the Voices in your Head
I was working with a counsellor at the time who introduced me to Byron Katie and The Work, a meditative approach to opening to your heart’s voice and your personal truths. The goal is to be who you ARE, not what others think you SHOULD be. The process is not to simply replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation, a la Louise Hay or The Secret. It goes much deeper than that. It helps you become mindfully aware of your thoughts and the effect they have on you, so that you can change your relationship with them.
Most of us react in situations on auto-pilot, using stress survival habits we learned as children. Katie lays out 4 questions to ask yourself in the face of negative thoughts or fear feelings. My counsellor added one more, which helped me to stop taking on other people’s stuff by identifying which beliefs/thoughts were mine and which belonged elsewhere. Asking yourself the questions gives you a moment to slow down, witness, analyze, evaluate and choose how to respond. It takes you from reacting on auto-pilot to responsively using your own agency.
Here are Katie’s questions, plus the one more from my counselor. Sit with each question one at a time, in order. Go inside and listen for the answers that come up, paying attention to your internal dialogue, body sensations, etc. As in, "What comes up for you?" I found it useful to record my answers in a journal so that I could go back over them, analyze and re-evaluate.
So back to the story of me struggling at the sewing machine with vinyl and voices in my head. Care to walk through the Katie questions with me? Ok. Close eyes. Deep Breath. And then another one. And one more. Blow it all out. Now, take one more. Breathe.
The Statement under question,
"You’ll never succeed."
1. Is it true?
Hmmm. I don’t know. I’ve never run my own business before and actually, I’m just fricking scared right now.
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Meaning do I have Actual Factual, tangible evidence that it’s true, that I won't succeed? Uh, well no. I guess i don't. I haven’t done it before so i have no concrete experience or numbers to prove I won't succeed. So it might be possible, right? I might actually be able to do this.
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel sick, my stomach turns; i feel anxious, scared, like a loser, helpless, crippled, disempowered, unworthy, alone, kinda abandoned. Yeah. This sucks.
4. Where did you learn this idea?
Hmmm. My dad, rest his soul. He was a talented artist who wanted to be a graphic designer. In fact, in 1964 he was all set to start a job with an advertising firm in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to family circumstances, he had to join the family restaurant business. He quietly set aside his dreams, and never talked much about his own disappointment, or how he lived with it. He was, however, the voice of doom in all of our own career explorations. Sadly, Dad didn’t have a Byron Katie to help him out. But I do.
Ok, so this isn’t my own belief at all. I learned it from Dad. It's a limiting belief that comes from his experiences and fears. His idea of success was a professional career, not one based on craft or manual labour. I have professional credentials, but I haven't worked in architecture for 11 years. I'm behind on the career track. and the industry has become computerized. I would have to retrain, something I don't have time for. Besides, I would rather run my own business, designing, making and selling my own work.
I am not my father. I don’t have to listen to his fears and values anymore. I don't have to let them hold me back. "Thanks for worrying about me, Dad but I'm not a lesser person for enjoying designing and working with my hands. I am not a lesser person for not meeting your expectations."
This is huge! I can give myself permission to make another choice. I can work at wiping Dad’s broken dream from my inner dialogue, without shame or guilt; I can listen to my heart’s truth; I can shift my perspective; I can focus on bringing my own dream to life, one step at a time. And if I get stuck, I can ask for help. Hell Ya! A hallelujah door just opened up in the sky (cue choir of Angels)!
5. What happens when you believe something else?
When I believe that success is possible, the way that feels true to me, I feel more relaxed, grounded, capable, determined. While I am looking at a mountain to climb, I feel scared yet excited, hopeful. Maybe I WILL be able to do this after all. Woohoo!
Choose your own Adventure
The beauty of this process is that you can CHOOSE your own beliefs, your own feelings, your own adventure. You do not have to be weighed down by beliefs that are the projections of someone else’s broken dreams or expectations. Nor do you have to be wracked with guilt for not living up to them. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel fear or have limiting beliefs ever again--you will. But now you’ll have a method to face each one, break it down, shift your perspective and choose something else.
Did you notice that the answer to the question involving my Dad was the longest of all the answers? That’s not an accident. The stuff that we inherit from childhood is actually the most complex stuff to dismantle and throw out. But it is possible to do. Just go slowly, layer by layer. And be kind with yourself.
Just remember that you were born with abilities, predispositions and talents written right into your DNA. That’s your nature. How you are raised and taught (that's Nurture) can sometimes wreak havoc with your inner balance. So, it’s down to you to honour your own nature and nurture yourself back into wholeness
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
How do you overcome fears? Do you have a process that works for you?
Humans have been rocking rocks and crystals probably for as long as we’ve been in existence. Talismans and amulets are unearthed in countless archeological digs all over the world. The Ancients, it seems, had an understanding that matter is affected by the flow of energy (Chi, Prana, Life Force) and vice versa. Today, thanks to the genius of scientists like Nikola Tesla, we understand that all things in the universe are forms of energy with their own frequency and vibrations--including crystals. Tesla declared this the key to understanding the universe, proving how certain forms of energy can alter the vibrational resonance of other forms of energy when they occupy the same space.
Human trust in the Stone People (as they are known by many Aboriginal peoples) and crystals hasn’t ebbed away. Healing crystals and stones are still a thing, used to align and alter the vibration of body cells, chakras and subtle bodies (that's your emotional, mental field and intuitive fields). These ancient practices still continue while scientists and doctors develop their medicinal solutions. What I’ve come to understand is that one can support the other. Healing is dependent on many, many variables, and no one healing practice has all the answers. Our critical thinking, discernment, feelings and intuition play a huge role in the choices we make for ourselves in these areas. And what works for one may not work the same way for another.
When I was growing up, talismans for support and protection were definitely a part of my life. My mother would tie a cord around my neck made from red and green string strands twisted together. The red stood for passion, life blood; the green for verdant peace. Seven knots were tied into the cord, a protection prayer solemnly spoken over each one. Its job, she said, was to keep me safe and surrounded by some positive vibes.
In Gujarat (where my people and Gandhi come from) there is a long, ancient tradition of wearing Navratan Jewelry. Navratan means, “nine gems” and refers to the nine different stones set into a single piece of jewelry, very often a pendant. The stones are chosen for their healing and balancing properties and their association with the nine planets in Indian astrology. By wearing this jewelry, it is believed you call in the qualities and energy of each stone and corresponding planet to yourself, thus making life a little easier to navigate. An interesting side note in the lore of these gems: each one is described as having a positive AND negative qualities, just like your average human (hence “Stone People”). When placed together in the same jewelry piece, the stones work to support one another but also to keep each other in check and balance.
Are the stones themselves the actual source of healing; or is it our BELIEF in them? Or is it both? I don’t know for sure. But I will say this: Medical research has shown that positive beliefs, attitudes and the determination to heal play a huge role in recovery. So if the Stone People do nothing more for us than act as a catalyst for a perspective shift from “I am a victim of life” to “I have Choice and Agency in my life,” then I, for one, will wear them and say, “Thank you.”
Lately in the Free Lion Studio, we’ve been making beaded Aroma bracelets combining Lava and gemstones to bring together the benefits of stone and crystal healing with Aromatherapy. In the spirit of my ancestors’ Navratan jewelry, I have been wearing a number of bracelets so that the Stone Peeps can work their magic together: Lava, Green Jade, Sodalite and Aventurine. Placebo or not, gotta tell ya, I’ve been feeling help to stay grounded as I go through some changes in my business and personal life. Guess I can thank the Lava for that. I’m working at growing Free Lion which means some creative thinking and dreaming the new dream. Yay, Green Jade! And staying balanced and centered in my emotions and self-care has been critical to navigating the changes. Woohoo, Aventurine! Writing these blogs has been an excellent adventure so far. I spent many years in self-doubt about my writing abilities and was nervous about putting myself out there. Thanks for the solid, Sodalite!
Check out our Lava Bead Aroma Bracelets. They allow you to take your Aromatherapy with you wherever you go. Aesthetically simple and clean; elasticated and easy to wear, they can be worn alone or in combination, depending on your Stone Peep needs. And they are a really good option for kids who benefit from Aromatherapy.
In the end it comes down to personal experience and choice. Trust your gut: it knows you better than anyone else.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
When I say “Avocado”, do you say “Guacamole”? Well hopefully by the end of this article you’ll be saying, “Beautiful Skin and Hair”.
Avocado Oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E, which provide skin with deep moisturizing. The oil of an avocado easily penetrates and is quickly absorbed by the skin. And it’s also thick enough to serve as a protective barrier.
Avocado can also help repair damaged hair. Its rich fatty acids coat your hair shaft and help it retain moisture while providing your hair with long lasting and deep hydration. Its rich cache of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals help condition hair, promoting damage repair, healthy hair growth and nurture frizzy hair. And it just may soothe that itchy scalp issue, too!
Where Does Avocado Oil Come From?
The fruits of the Persea gratissima – better known as the Avocado tree – are native to Mexico, Central, and South America. For its countless benefits, the Avocado was considered a precious fruit. It was believed to bestow immense vigour, maintain good health, relieve intestinal issues, and promote healthy hair growth. The Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans also spread the fruit pulp on their skin for cosmetic purposes. Yep, these wise people knew a thing or two about how to stay healthy and beautiful.
And then along came the Europeans. Due to the value placed on the Avocado, European conquerors loaded up their ships with it and other fruits and vegetables they then introduced to other parts of the world. And this, folks is how avocados, potatoes and tomatoes (among many other plants) circumambulated the world.
Avocados Are Nature's Gift to Good Health
Avocado fruits have greenish or yellowish flesh with a buttery consistency and a very rich, nutty taste. Avocado oil is pressed from this yummy fleshy pulp, making it one of the few edible oils not derived from seed. Most fruits are high in carbohydrates, but not avocados--they are uniquely high in healthy fats. including oleic acid and essential fatty acids. They are also rich in Vitamins A, B, C and E. Studies have found avocado oil helpful in preventing the onset of diabetes, high cholesterol, triglyceride levels and obesity. In France, it even has prescription drug status because of its proven ability to counter the negative effects of arthritis
Avocados are a wonderful fruit or oil to eat, for health and beauty from the inside out. And a beautiful oil to use on the skin due to hits very high skin penetration and rapid absorption properties. Yay Avocado! Oh but wait. There’s MORE!
Aids in Treating Wounds
Avocado oil can help heal wounds, according to a 2013 study. Researchers found that avocado oil can promote increased collagen synthesis while decreasing numbers of inflammatory cells during the wound-healing process. How cool is that?
Soothes Sunburned Skin
In addition to providing the skin with moisture, the antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic acids found in avocado oil can help soothe sunburned skin. Ok, this is even “cooler”. :)
If you’ve been in the sun and feel your skin is a little dry from the heat, or sunburned, try this hydrating and cooling body mask. Combine mashed avocado, 1/2 teaspoon of honey, and 1/4 teaspoon of lime juice in a bowl. Apply liberally over the skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes to enjoy the healing and hydrating effects.
Boosts Collagen Production, Reduces Itching and Inflammation
Avocado oil also contains sterolins, natural steroids that may be effective in boosting collagen production and in treating age spots. Sterolin is known to soften the skin and reduce the appearance of age spots. Its also high in lecithin, a lipid that helps deliver nutrients directly into the bloodstream and deeper layers of skin.
With its high level of vitamin E, avocado oil may reduce itching and skin inflammation and is also beneficial in softening rough and cracked patches. Dry skin needs soothing foods like avocados to stay moisturized and hydrated. Ok, Menopause, bring it on. I’ve got Avocados!
Can help repair damaged hair
Avocado’s rich fatty acids coat your hair shaft and help it retain moisture while providing your hair with long lasting and deep hydration. Its antioxidants, vitamins and minerals condition hair, promoting damage repair and healthy hair growth. It’ll also help nurture frizzy hair and repair split ends. And it just may soothe that itchy scalp issue.
We use Avocado Oil in some of our products, too!
We use Avocado Oil in some of our formulas, like our Body Butters. I’ve designed these butters to keep your skin moisturized, smooth and supple. Avocado oil plays a big role in making that magic happen.
It’s also a big part of our Face Chai face care system for Mature/Dry skin, soon to be explored in further detail in forthcoming newsletters. Stay tuned. In the mean time, here are some DIY recipes you can try at home. See if Avocado is YOUR magic fruit.
Coco-Creamy Green Moisturizing Mask--
An anti-wrinkle, healing option for dry skin
1/2 teaspoon plain yogurt
1 tablespoon Oat flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Scoop out avocado and mash it in a bowl until its smooth, no lumps. Add yogurt, lemon juice, oat flour and oil. Mix well. Spread a small amount over the face. Pick a good book to read for about 20 minutes. Wash from face followed by gentle massaging motions. That’ll help stimulate your circulation so you don’t have to go get one of those crazy face vibrators that are out there right now. Seriously. Not making that up.
Simple Hydrating Avocado Hair Mask
This one is very old school.
1 avocado, mashed smooth, no lumps
After shampooing your hair, apply mashed avocado directly onto your hair, massaging it into the scalp and the hair, from root to tip. Work some extra into those split ends. Clip up your hair and wrap in a towel or put on a shower cap.Leave the mask on for about 10 minutes before rinsing clean.
Avocado And Banana Hair Mask
Deep Conditioning Treatment For Dry Hair: This recipe can even maintain your naturally curly hair gloss.
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil, such as lavender, rose, sweet orange or jasmine.
Mash banana and avocado together in a bowl, until they form a smooth paste without any lumps. Add olive oil and essential oil drops. Stir all the ingredients together until you have a smooth mixture of uniform consistency.
After shampooing your hair, apply mashed avocado directly onto your hair, massaging it into the scalp and the hair, from root to tip. Work some extra into those split ends. Clip up your hair and wrap in a towel or put on a shower cap. Leave the mask on for about 20 minutes or longer before rinsing clean. Rinse as many times as needed to remove the mask entirely.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What's your favourite Avocado health or beauty recipe?
It's flu season, and I’m down for the count with sniffles, cough, congested chest, sinus pain and a headache to beat the band. My go-to in this situation is a wellness tea passed on from my grandmother. Back in her day, Nanima was the neighbourhood Ayurvedic concoctionist. People would park themselves in her kitchen, chatting, while she blended them a healing brew. She wasn't a purist, though. She'd take the best of Western medicine alongside her home remedies.
In that spirit, I have Tylenol at the ready for head and sinus pain. And Nanima's tea to ease cough and congestion.
What’s in the Wellness Tea?
Freshly sliced ginger
Ginger contains a high quantity of antioxidants that help boost your immune system against the common cold or flu. Its potent anti-inflammatory properties effectively sooths a sore throat. It’s has antimicrobial properties help your body fight cold causing viruses. Ginger is also helpful for settling upset stomachs, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and cold sweats.
Flesh lemon slices
Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C which works to neutralize the disease causing pathogens along with boosting your body’s immune system.
Tumeric is full of curcumin which is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. It can help relieve chest congestion, runny nose and open up the sinuses, especially when put in boiling water.
Honey soothes a sore throat, making it an affective, natural cough suppressant. It’s anti-microbial properties help reduce inflammation.
Activates the healing properties of these natural ingredients and adds the physical sensation of warmth and comfort.
Optional : Brandy
Brandy also has anti-microbial properties that help cut up the mucus built up by a cold. It is warming to the chest and throat. In small doses, it can be calming and settle you in for a good night’s sleep.
Free Lion Wellness Tea
1 tsp sliced fresh ginger
2 slices fresh lemon with zest
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp honey
1 cup boiling water
Optional: 1oz Brandy
Place sliced ginger, lemon, turmeric powder, honey (and Brandy, if desired) in an 8-12oz mug.
Pour boiling water over ingredients, filling mug. Stir and let steep. Sip slowly until it’s all gone.
This flu season, rest up and be good to you!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion
I live a pretty stressful life, like many of us on this planet. I can be found rushing around, to do list and iPhone calendar in hand, doing all the things I need to do to make a living, run a house, care-take my loved ones. I'm a big culprit of multi-tasking, even on Down Time. Yep, I'm that girl who would read or watch TV while she ate. Until I met the concept of Mindful Awareness and its cousin, Mindful Eating.
About Mindful Awareness. What is that? It is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself - in your body, heart and mind; and outside yourself - in your environment, the Actual Factuals around you. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement. The last sentence is very important. Mindfulness is not about comparing yourself to anyone else or judging yourself or others. You are simply witnessing the many sensations and thoughts that come up as you move through life.
Why is Mindfulness important? When you practice mindfulness, you stay in the present moment; you aren’t anxious about the future or depressed about the past. You aren’t swallowed up by the insatiable dragon of self-doubt. You don't take everything that happens personally. Mindfulness helps you develop appreciation, for yourself and others and the world around you. And most important of all, for your own connection to yourself, your own inner knowing. Some would argue that it’s the direct hotline to the Soul!
So What is Mindful Eating?
After my second son was born, I hit the Weight Watcher scale and lost pounds all the way to a gold membership. Triumphantly, I accepted my goal achievement award with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I did not expect the hollow, sinking feeling that came in the weeks to follow. “Is this it?” I thought. “Am I going to have to keep thinking about food, weighing it, measuring it, craving it for the rest of my life?” Rather than feeling free, I felt trapped, handcuffed to a scale. There had to be a better way.
Which is when I met Mindful Eating. Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. It’s about slowing down and tuning out the voice in your head long enough to pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds of your food. It’s about being present in the sensual experience your body is having. Where in the body do you feel hunger? Where do you feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full? Eating slowly keeps you from overeating because your body has enough time to register “fullness”. It relays that important message to your brain, which will then tell you it's time to put the fork down.
When eating mindfully, you’re also observing the voice in your head with its judgements or criticisms. It's about disentangling from this internal drama to pay attention to what your body is experiencing. When your mind gets distracted, pulling away from full attention to what you are eating or drinking, or you have an impulses to grab a book, or check your FaceBook, witness the impulse and return your attention to eating, the tastes, the sounds. This actually, eventually, turns eating into a calming, meditative process.
The more you practice mindful eating, the more aware you become of your relationship to food. You begin to notice how eating affects your mood and how your emotions, like anxiety or loneliness, influence your eating. You can begin to make more conscious choices--about food, your thoughts and your beliefs about yourself. The goal is to gradually regain the sense of joy, ease and freedom with eating that you had in childhood. It is your natural birthright.
I continue to work on this one...mindfully, of course! When I first started, I experienced a lot of resistance. I just didn't want to do it. I noticed self-deprecating thoughts, and feelings of loneliness, boredom and anxiety come up. All I wanted to do was escape into a book like I did when I was a child/teen, so that I wouldn't have to listen to those thoughts or feel those feelings. In practicing observing and just letting the feelings pass through me, some days I really had to force myself to sit through just eating. I did my best to focus on the food, how good it tasted, what foods I truly enjoyed, what foods made me feel heavy and yuck.
Eventually, I started to listen to my body’s idea of appropriate foods for me. Gone were the endless authoritative eat lists from Weight Watchers. When my mind started telling me I was a loser because I was a Weight Watchers Fail, I would tell it, “ Dude, hold that thought. I'm a little busy right now,” and go back to savouring my salad and barbecued chicken tikka, made to order, just the way my body liked it. When I felt lonely or sad and reached for Netflix and snacks, I’d give my emotions a hug and tell them, “This sucks, but it will pass. We’re stronger than this.” Then l’d listen to my body, choosing its Viewing Snack of choice: raw sunflower seeds in shell (a slow eat, full of nutrients for my skin, gut and brain) and a tall bottle of water. Occasionally, some chocolate. Yes, I was multi-tasking while eating, but in a way that honoured my body.
The tide truly turned when I started to reframe some self-perceptions about my worth, likeability and attractiveness. Soon I was able to disengage thoughts and emotions from food. Food was not about filling emotional emptiness or distracting from boredom. It was about self-nurturing, self-appreciation, pleasure and enjoyment. Too much food was not the thing that made me judge myself harshly as fat and ugly. Those critiques came from the judgements and standards of others that i accepted as more authoritative than my own voice. Now, I choose to believe something different: that my body knows it's ideal healthy weight and eating preferences; that I am one of a long line of curvy lovelies; that my worth comes from what I do, not what I look like; that I like myself just as I am. This award has been a long time coming--20 years to be exact. I am proud to have earned it and thankful to claim it as my own.
Some mindful eating homework
My partner, Thom, lives with MS and needs help to eat. We usually graze from the same plate, alternating forkfuls, as we have done from our first date on. I can't tell you how much this simple daily practice does for our intimacy and connection, on every level. 😉
Here are some mindful eating exercises, if you feel so inclined.
(1) Try taking the first four sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee with full attention. Savour the flavours; notice temperature and the sensations on your tongue; pay attention to the movement in your throat as your swallow; follow the swallow down to your stomach and notice when your start to feel full or satisfied.
(2) If you are a reader and eater, like me, try alternating these activities, not doing both at once. Read a page, then put the book down and eat a few bites, savoring the tastes, the textures, the sounds of your food, then read another page, and so on. Mix it up, observe what feels right to you, and do that.
(3) Try eating one meal a week mindfully, alone and in silence. Be creative. For example, could you eat a picnic in the woods; or savour a latte while sitting at the beach. Be present, observe sights, sounds, smells, tastes. Connect with Joy.
(4) Make meals social. Put away the tech. Connect with other humans, eat, converse, engage and laugh. A lot.
Another opinion from
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion
You are what you eat, popular wisdom tells us. While I don’t feel overly like a grass fed cow, I’m going with the truism. What you eat DOES affect your overall health and most definitely your skin’s health. Whether you’re soothing dry, flaky skin, preventing wrinkles or healing acne, paying attention to what you put IN your body can make a huge difference. The overall guiding principle is keep it simple and as close to raw and unprocessed as possible, drink lots of water, stay away from trigger foods and most of all, really enjoy what you’re eating.
There are some foods for the skin that are on my must-have list, and a few to stay away from. Full disclosure: I am not a trained doctor, nurse or dietitian. I’m sharing some things i’ve learned through experience and research over the 50 years I’ve spent trying to solve my eczema issues. We've put them together for you in a handy infographic, Eat your Way to Healthy Skin. You can also download it using the link at the bottom of the page. We hope, though, it gives you some inspiration, ideas and food for thought.
And now the disclaimer: Our Eat Your Way to Healthy Skin infographic is intended to provide information only and should not be considered medical advice.
Sherazad Jamal, The Free Lion Team