How to Make An Herbal Vinegar Hair Rinse

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One of my most popular offerings is my natural shampoo bars. My customers love them because they are gentle, effective and don’t strip the oils from their hair, so no conditioner is required. But, depending on the hardness of their water, some of my customers find it helpful to do a vinegar rinse once per month to keep their hair its shiniest.

No matter what type of shampoo you use, vinegar rinses are helpful in restoring your hair’s pH balance. They are also great for oily hair, itchy scalp, dandruff, dull hair, and other scalp conditions. You can easily make your own vinegar rinse, and the addition of dried herbs allows you to customize it to the needs of your particular hair.

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To make your own herbal vinegar rinse, mix 4 tablespoons of dried organic herbs with 8 ounces of organic apple cider vinegar.

For light hair, you can use a blend of 2 tablespoons organic rose petals and 2 tablespoons dried organic chamomile.

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For dark hair, you can use a mixture of 2 tablespoons dried organic nettle and 2 tablespoons dried organic lavender.

IMG_8807Place your herbs and vinegar in a clean glass jar, cap tightly. Label the jar with your herbs and the date. Allow to infuse for 6 weeks in a cool dark place, shaking the jar daily.

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After 6 weeks, strain out the herbs and pour your herbal vinegar into a sterilized glass jar with a plastic cap (vinegar can erode metal over time). The infused vinegar will keep for at least a year if stored properly in a cool and dry place.

vinegar8 vinegar9To use, mix 1-4 tablespoons of your herbal vinegar with 1 cup of water. Pour this mixture over clean hair, working into scalp. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then rinse with clean water. Or, you can leave it in and allow hair to dry. Enjoy your happy, shiny hair!

This can also be used as a facial toner. Simply apply to clean skin with a cotton ball or cotton cosmetic pad. Because this formula is alcohol-free and non-drying, you don’t need to rinse it off.

 

Artist of the Month: Anne Ferrari of Vita Pulita

055_0The following post was written by Anne Ferrari, Owner and Founder of Vita Pulita, the first Herban Lifestyle Store Artist of the Month. During the month of December, Anne’s soaps will be featured at our new brick and mortar store in Fairfax, VA.

I was always fascinated by soap. As a child growing up in the Bronx, NY, I didn’t have many soap options, but I was still fascinated with making soap pretty. My holiday gift to my first grade teacher was an ordinary bar of soap on which I pinned a homemade pompom. The obsession with soap remains. It wasn’t until my good friend Mary Kearns shared with me that she had started making soap herself that I was finally inspired to give it a try. And once I did, there was no turning back.

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As a professor with a PhD in psychology, I am accustomed to using research in my work experience. This serves me well as soap ingredients need a great deal of research too. One customer of mine confessed that she didn’t worry too much about what she put on her skin as she believed that it was not absorbed by her body. Unfortunately, research on breast cancer and the use of parabens in beauty products shows us otherwise. Vita Pulita products never contain parabens, as they never contain artificial fragrances or colors. They are products that I feel confident using and sharing with my family. In fact, Vita Pulita was born of necessity, when my pregnant daughter could not find a safe yet still luxurious body butter. I whipped up a combination of unrefined shea butter, unrefined cocoa butter, rice bran oil, and essential oil. I still sell that body butter, and it is a customer favorite.

Although I am not an artist, one of my favorite things about making soap is making it beautiful. Many of us assume that” beauty” and “natural” do not go together and quite frankly, there are some colors that simply cannot be made naturally in soap, such as a vibrant blue. However, natural soap can be just as lovely, especially when one dives into her creative side. Check out my White Wedding Soap, Carrot Orange Soap with Cocoa, Black Charcoal Facial Detox Soap, Cupcake Soap or Pink Sea Salt Bar and see what you think. All of the colors and scents in Vita Pulita Soaps are from natural and healthy sources, such as plant essential oils and ground up spices. If a color or scent cannot be made using this method, then it will not be made.

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It wasn’t until recently that my father shared with me that his mother made soap in Italy from olive pomace left over from the farm. I was shocked, but not surprised. I was named for her after all (over the protests of my mother who did not care for the sound of “Anna Maria”), as I was born on the anniversary of her death. And I chose to name my company Vita Pulita, which means “clean life” in Italian, although I don’t speak Italian myself. Perhaps the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, would say that my need to “soap” is part of my family collective unconscious, inherent in me. It certainly feels that way at times.

You can find Anne’s products online at the Vita Pulita website, on Etsy and seasonally at markets in Westchester County.

Simple Advice for Healthy Skin

Skin Detox unscented soap made with organic oils and cosmetic clay

Skin Detox unscented soap made with organic oils and cosmetic clay

Hi Mary,

Nice to make your virtual acquaintance! I was talking with our friend, Sarah, recently about natural skin care solutions – I don’t really know a lot about the subject, but I’ve found myself buying more and more expensive products while wondering if there’s a better way to take care of my skin. I asked Sarah if she had ever tried any homemade skin solutions, and she referred me to you :)

My biggest trouble is moisturizing – my skin seems to dry out a lot, and I also get small, single hives on my face pretty regularly, which exacerbates the redness and irritation. Do you know of anything that might calm that down?

Katie

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Hi Katie,

I don’t claim to be an expert on skin care, but I can point you in the right direction. I have had a long-time routine of washing my face with just soap (real soap made with oils, not commercial “soap” which is actually petroleum-based detergent), then using a light moisturizer. The simpler, the better. I also stay away from foundation, which tends to clog my pores and dry out my skin.

Many facial products contain chemicals that can dry out and irritate your skin. I recommend that you check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which lists various personal care products that don’t contain harsh chemicals. You can also look up the ingredients in your current products to see if they are associated with irritation, etc.

Also, it seems that our skin is like the canary in the coal mine, letting us know that something we are putting on our skin or in our bodies is hurting our systems in a bigger way. Here are links to a couple of articles on the most commonly found harmful ingredients in personal care products, one from Care2 and the other from Mother Earth Living magazine.

It also helps to keep an eye on your diet. You might want to keep a food diary for a month to see if there are any correlations between what you are eating and any hives you develop. I, for example, have found that if I eat certain foods, I am more prone to breakouts or hives the same or following day.

Hope this helps, and please feel free to ask me to clarify any of this.

Thanks!
Mary

How to Make Violet Cordial

It’s that wonderful time of the year when violets make their brief appearance, and my yard is filled with the beautiful little deep-purple flowers. A few years ago, I posted a tutorial on how to make violet syrup, and I thought it would be fun to revive that recipe with a twist. I made the same basic syrup, but added some vodka to the mixture to make a lovely violet cordial that can be sipped by itself or added to other beverages to make a light floral cocktail. The variety of violets I have in my yard are only slightly fragrant, so the cordial has a mild floral flavor. Different varieties will yield different tastes.

violetsyrup02I began by gathering 2 cups of violets, making sure to choose only those blooms that were open and free of bites and blemishes. When you are harvesting edible wild flowers, make sure that you are picking them from locations that are free from pesticide or other chemical applications.

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I placed the violets into a colander and rinsed them thoroughly.

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Then placed them in a Mason jar and covered them with 2 cups of boiling water. The water almost immediately began to turn a gorgeous sapphire blue! I let the violet infusion cool, then placed it in the refrigerator and let it steep for 24 hours.

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After 24 hours, I strained out the violet blossoms, squeezing them to get out all the gorgeous purple hue. I placed some in a bowl so that I could show you what a brilliant color it made.violetsyrup07

I placed the strained liquid into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

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Then added 2 cups of organic cane sugar and let this mixture come to a boil.

violetsyrup11I then turned down the heat to medium and let it cook at a low boil for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

violetsyrup10I removed the syrup from the heat, then added the strained juice of half a lemon. The acid from the lemon made the syrup go from deep violet to a beautiful magenta color.violetsyrup09

I then mixed the syrup, 50/50, with organic vodka and bottled it in sterilized capped glass jars, which I bought at the Container Store.

violetsyrup12After letting it sit for 2 weeks, it was ready to decant. It is very sweet by itself, but makes a lovely addition to champagne or sparkling water. Enjoy!

How to Make Vegan Welsh Rarebit (aka Rabbit)

rarebitA while back I posted a recipe for vegan mac and cheese. And although it was the best recipe I had produced at the time, I have to admit that I haven’t been quite satisfied with it.

Recently, I had a craving for vegan nachos with cheese sauce, so I did some searching on and found this excellent recipe on Food.com. This one has a higher proportion of cashews, which results is a rich, creamy texture.

Ingredients*

  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • 2 cups raw cashews (roasted won’t give you the nice creamy texture)
  • Another 2 ½ cups of filtered water
  • Strained juice of 1 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular works, too, but smoked provides a deeper flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup of beer (a dark beer, like porter, is preferred)
  • 4 slices of whole grain bread, toasted

Directions

1. Soak the cashews in filtered water overnight.

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2. Drain the water from the cashews and place them in a blender with all of the ingredients, except for the beer and bread, and blend until smooth.

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3. Pour the blended mixture into a saucepan, add the beer and heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently

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4. Spread over the toasted bread and serve with a salad for a simple, delicious meal!

To make nacho cheese sauce, eliminate the beer, replace the mustard powder with garlic powder and add 1 tablespoon of chili powder.

*Most Welsh Rarebit recipes call for Worcestershire Sauce, but this contains anchovies. If you are not a strict vegan, this adds a nice depth to the flavor.

Cleaning Up the Greenwash

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

Back in July, I moved back to Arizona and I’m now newest member of the my Econista friend’s household. With the move came a shift of my lifestyle to the greener side of things, one of them being greener household cleaners. Basically the only things we use are vinegar, baking soda, and thieves all purpose cleaner.

More people are using natural cleaning methods because most cleaning products on the market contain chemicals and toxins that create indoor air pollution and can lead to health side effects such as lung damage.

Because there is no industry certification for what is “natural” or “eco-friendly” or “healthy,” household cleaner manufacturers can get away with greenwashing their products. So the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched their “Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning” a few weeks ago, to let consumers have a better idea of what’s in their products and what effects these products might have on their consumers. Unlike food and cosmetics, it is not required that cleaning products list all of their ingredients, so EWG had to do some real digging to determine the full ingredient lists.

Like EWG’s Skin Deep Database, the Online Guide to Healthy Cleaning really surprised me with the items that got a bad grade. Here’s an example: When I think toxic cleaners for some reason the first thing that popped into my head was Windex. So I typed in Windex, expecting to have a bad grade come up, which it did. Windex Original Glass Cleaner got the grade of D, so did Windex Nature’s Source Glass Cleaner and Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar Cleaner. So I wanted to try a more eco brand, thinking for sure the eco brand would get a better score. I looked at Seventh Generation’s window cleaner, Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner, Free & Clear, the score was better, but not by much, with a C grade, mainly because of the ingredient methylisothiazolinone. Frustrated, I clicked on the category “Glass/ Window Cleaner” to see who could best the C grade. Turns out of the 49 glass cleaners out there, 4 received an A: Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care, Rosemary Mint; Whole Foods Market glass cleaner, unscented; Green Shield Organic Glass Cleaner, Fresh; and Citra-Solv Citra Clear Window & Glass Cleaner.

For the record, there are simple homemade DIY recipes out there, including pure vinegar; you can check them out here. Or try our Four Thieves Vinegar or All-Purpose Cleaner recipes! Happy Non-toxic cleaning everyone! Have any favorites?

Meet Us at The Mother Earth News Fair this Weekend!

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate.

This weekend, Herban Lifestyle will be exhibiting at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania.

This fun-filled family festival is a three-day event held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort starting at 12:00 pm on Friday and going until 6:00 pm on Sunday. The event is like a state fair, but better, because it’s all about rocking the sustainable lifestyle. So it’s like a Sustainability State Fair (as this Rogers and Hammerstein geek starts to sing, “Our State Fair, is a great State fair, don’t miss it don’t even be late!”)

Back to the fair… When you go, you’ll find a slew of activities to partake in to boost your sustainable expertise. First off, there are the workshops (with very entertaining titles), featuring hands-on experiences on topics ranging from modern homesteading to composting to DIY solar panels. Then there are the animal husbandry workshops with a variety of animal workshops on chicks, and ducks and sheep (oh wait, that’s another R&H musical) and llamas, alpacas, horses, and so on. I am torn between whether I would get a bigger kick out of “Hare-Raising Possibilities with Heritage Rabbits” or “Everybody Duck! The basics of raising ducks.” For those who are not as amused with word play as I am, there are also classes like “Pastured Pork Basics” and “Incubation 101.”

So where does Herban Lifestyle come into this mix? Well, we will be exhibiting in good company with an array of vendors including Affordable Barn Co., The Apothecary’s Daughter, Featherman Equipment, Flying Fibers, Gita Naguri Yoga Farm and Grandma Whimsy’s Cupboard. And I really like the name, Love at First Sit, which happens to be “portable, fair trade, ergonomic back support systems made of organic cotton and hemp.”

Tickets are $35 at the gate for a three-day pass or $20 for one day. By using this coupon, you can get $10 off those prices. Sounds like we are going to have a blast. I hope you can join us this weekend to get your State-Fair-Fix-with-a-twist. Mmmm pass the raw cultured veggies and vegan goodies this way!

Striving Toward Veganism

The following post is by guest blogger, Julia Guarino. 

When I was five years old, I arrived home one day from kindergarten and announced to my parents that I was going to become a vegetarian. They were surprised, but as I seemed determined, they obliged, asking advice from my pediatrician as to how best meet my nutritional needs. By age ten, I had completely eliminated the fish and poultry that I sometimes ate, and I have been completely vegetarian ever since. In my final year of college, I moved into my first apartment, and in the excitement of newly possessing a kitchen, I subscribed to Vegetarian Times. It is full of wonderful recipes and tips on products to buy and restaurants to frequent for both lacto-ovo vegetarians (those who still consume eggs and dairy products), and vegans (those who have eliminated all animal products, including eggs, dairy and honey). I had never really considered becoming vegan, because though I had long since chosen to use soy milk over cow’s milk and to replace butter with non-hydrogenated-oil-based margarine (like Smart Balance, which tastes remarkably similar), but I knew giving up cheese and eggs would take immense effort, and I wasn’t sure it was worth it. After all, not only did I enjoy these things, but as a vegetarian it was extremely difficult to order a meal at a restaurant with any protein in it that didn’t come from one of these two sources.

However, as the year continued, several articles on the health benefits of veganism published in the Vegetarian Times encouraged me to eliminate more and more animal products from my diet, and the more I did so, the more I realized that it felt really good. I began to do some research. Could I really do this? Did it make sense to become vegan? Would the benefits outweigh the inconvenience?

My research gave me a fairly clear answer: it is difficult, and you have to do it right, but if you’re willing to put it in the effort, it is worth it. I came across several medical studies done on vegan groups, providing evidence that a plant-based diet has enormous health benefits, including helping to prevent cancer, reversing the need for medication in type-2 diabetes patients, and more. Concern over the risks of malnourishment (as in the infamous case of the Queens baby) are not entirely unfounded, but seem to be fairly easy to avoid; as long as attention is paid to the vegan’s consumption of protein as well as some vitamins found in less concentrated amounts in non-vegan diets, such as vitamins B12, iron, calcium and zinc, even children live quite healthily on it.

I cannot say that the switch is easy, and I have still not made it completely, but the less eggs and dairy I eat, the better I feel. Perhaps it is simply a feeling of accomplishment, but either way, I know I am doing better for my body, and it is worth it, despite the inconvenience.

[Editor's note: if you're looking for some yummy vegan recipes here are some that I've posted in the past]

Just Brush It Off

image copyright Yupedia

The other day I visited a new massage therapist/holistic health practitioner in Falls Church who recommended, among other things, that I use dry brushing.  Several years ago, my naturopath recommended that I include dry brushing in my daily routine, so it was already something I was accustomed to, and genuinely enjoy.

This technique has been used for hundreds of years. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and increases blood flow to the surface of the skin, which stimulates the lymphatic system and increases the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. Dry brushing also stimulates hormone and oil-producing glands, opens your pores, removes dry skin cells, helps break up fat deposits, and leaves your skin feeling soft and looking rosy. Plus, it feels wonderful!

While it is important to clean our skin regularly to get rid of dirt, oils and environmental pollutants in order to keep our pores clear and our skin healthy, skin also plays an important role in our health – it is our largest eliminative organ, excreting 25-30 percent of the body’s toxins every day! The less our skin is able to eliminate waste, the more strain is placed on our liver, kidneys, lungs and mucous membranes, and the more likely our bodies our to harbor toxins, which can lead to disease, weight gain and, horrors, cellulite!

Giving yourself a dry brush massage is easy. It is best to do it before a bath or shower so the dead skin cells can be rinsed off. Use a soft, natural, vegetable bristle brush that is designed specifically for this purpose. You can find them in spa stores and many natural food stores. You can also use a dry loofah. Begin by brushing from your fingers and toes and work in circular motions up your limbs toward the heart. Brush all of your skin, using light pressure, except the sensitive skin of your face and inner things. Finish off by brushing from your back towards your stomach. If you don’t have a body brush, you can also use washcloth or loofah, but the dry brush feels the best!

If you integrate dry brushing into your regular bath or shower routine, you will see noticeable improvement in the appearance of your skin. Enjoy!

Tea Tree Toothpaste and Other Natural Ideas for Dental Health

image copyright Preserve Products

The following post is by guest blogger, Allison Brooks.

Since we humans come from nature, why separate ourselves from her bountiful remedies? Studies over the past 15 years have shown an increasing interest in natural healing, and many integrative doctors use complementary treatments to treat patients for a variety of ailments. Increasingly, dentists are adopting the trend by helping treat certain oral ailments using non-invasive therapies. There are several Maryland and DC dentist offices that use herbs and other natural remedies to treat a plethora of ailments. They also offer advice on the subject to practice natural routines at home.

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis or periodontal disease, is one of the oral ailments that can be treated with natural and herbal remedies. It affects the deeper supporting tissues of the gums and the infections then spread to the lower parts of the tooth. Gum disease is triggered by plaques formed around the enamel of the tooth. The plaque is formed from a mixture of bacteria, starch and sugar. If the plaque is not removed mechanically by frequent brushing, the plaque will harden underneath the gum line, which leads to gum disease. The main symptoms of gum disease are swollen gums and/or bleeding gums.

image from healthysnips.com

Tea tree oil is a natural substance that has been associated with dentistry for hundreds of years. And in the 1920s, Dr. A. R. Penfold published research showing that a tea tree salve could be used to rid gums of infection and leave behind a completely germ free surface. After more scientific evidence proved the tea tree’s effectiveness, it became a basic household remedy for oral and skin infections. Tea Tree toothpaste is now commercially produced and is very effective in alleviating the symptoms of gum disease (although it does not remove plaque surrounding the tooth).

Brands like Desert Essence and Jason Natural offer toothpaste with tea tree, and are available at natural food stores, including Whole Foods. It is best to go with tea tea products like these, since it is not recommended that you use undiluted tea tree for oral care. The Intelligent Dental blog offers recommendations and cautions to keep in mind when using tea tree. For example, tea tree oil should never be taken internally, since it can cause nerve damage and other problems if ingested. People with celery and thyme allergies should not use tea tree oil, since tea tree shares a potential allergen, d-limonene with these plants. And pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using tea tree oil.

image copyright The Telegraph

Cranberry Juice really helps in the prevention and the progression of gum disease. It does this by taking away the bacteria’s ability to stick to the tooth. Concentrated cranberry is available in a pill form at most natural food stores. Cranberry juice is also a rich source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is one of the most popular cures for gum disease. Vitamin C repairs cell damage and connective tissues especially along the gum lines. This vitamin is also a very powerful antioxidant which helps by removing free radicals. The antioxidants help to eliminate the free radicals that are responsible for most of the gum damage being caused. And Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore strongly reduces the chances of developing gum disease. While it is available as a supplement in many milk products, sun exposure is an excellent source for vitamin D (although you have to balance this with the need for sun protection to prevent skin cancer!).

While these natural remedies are a great way to enhance healing and prevent disease, the mechanical action of brushing the teeth is the best method of preventing gum disease. Brushing regularly, flossing, eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of Vitamins C and D, and regular dental checkups are important in supporting your dental health.

Allison Brooks recently graduated from University of Mississippi, with a degree in biomedical  anthropology. She is currently living in Florida, and doing field studies to support an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures. Her current studies have peaked her interest in traditional and natural healing remedies, and have inspired her to spread the word about nature’s healing bounties.