Lavender Essential Oil

LavenderOne of the first essential oils I ever got was Lavender.  Besides being one of my favorite scents, it’s been my go-to in many different ways for a few years now.  It’s known to be the most versatile of all essential oils with many healing and restorative properties.  Lavender oil is extremely concentrated; it takes 27 square feet of lavender plants to make one 15ml bottle.  And it’s fairly inexpensive at $30 retail for a bottle of around 240 drops – plus, it’s easy to make one drop go really far and still be effective.

Each night, I use a mixture of coconut oil and lavender as my face moisturizer.  I keep a glass cosmetic container of it in my makeup drawer all ready to go.  One jar will easily last me a couple of months as a little goes a very long way.  I simply warm coconut oil to bring it to a liquid state and then add a few drops of lavender oil – I use about a 1 Tablespoon coconut oil to 1 drop lavender ratio.  Once you put it in the jar, it will harden back up (this also helps it from going rancid) and the warmth of your skin will re-liquefy it as you apply.

Since I implemented this moisturizer into my routine, I have noticed my complexion improve a great deal. Lavender’s many properties make it really effective towards any type of skin irritations, so I have found that it both helps prevent acne (by fighting the bacteria that causes blemishes) and helps promote healing.  There’s been many a morning that I woke up to discover my face blemish-free after not being so the night before.  It is also extremely moisturizing and is quite helpful at relieving dry skin.

The other great benefit to applying lavender to my face each night is that it promotes sleep.  It calms and relaxes – diffusing it by my bed also helps me fall asleep quickly on those nights that my mind can’t seem to settle down and give into the tiredness of my body.  The calming effect is also helpful with reducing anxiety or stress after work and has helped relieve headaches that I’ve had caused by that tension.

Lavender is also a staple in my medicine cabinet.  I keep it handy for minor cuts and burns as it promotes healing and provides relief.  There is simply nothing more soothing than applying coconut oil + aloe + lavender to a sunburn. And it is fantastic for those annoying, little paper cuts… with all the use our hands get, I always find those take so long to heal, but with lavender, I often find they close up in just a few hours!  It’s also helpful at relieving the pain and inflammation for a bug bite or sting or can altogether help prevent – apply lavender to your exposed skin to repel mosquitoes.

Most recently, I discovered how much lavender could help act as an anti-histamine during allergy season.  Usually cedar season really gets me down, but it was so much more manageable this time.  I was applying and diffusing lavender constantly to reduce my inflammatory response.  Lavender is also really effective with respiratory issues; when I had a sinus infection over Christmas, I noticed how much it helped with my congestion. The stimulating nature of the oil makes it help loosen things up in the respiratory system.

One last note to leave you with is from a bit of personal experience – after great success with my first bottle of lavender, I went to go buy more at the grocery store.  Started using it again and much to my surprise, it didn’t work at all anymore. I was baffled.  A couple years later, I began researching more about essential oils and realized that not all essential oils are made equally.  Many (usually cheap ones at the grocery store, unfortunately) are not pure and/or have fragrances added, so they will not be beneficial beyond just smelling good.  After a lot of research, I’ve decided to purchase my oils from only a couple of brands, one being Young Living.  Learn more about essential oils and how to purchase here.

Have you used lavender before? What has it helped you with? I love hearing personal success stories!

Note: The above testimony is purely from personal experience.  I am not a doctor and none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA.

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Emphasis on Hopeful

Apologies for the lack of new posts recently – life’s been a bit crazy lately, with little time left for blogging! Although I have a couple of posts I really want to write & share soon, I thought it was about time for an update on my health…

A few months ago, in reaction to an extremely stressful time at work, I got an ear infection.  Let me tell you, friends, ear infections are the worst.  The only pain was terrible and nothing seemed to help.  I tried home remedies – living clay, essential oils and loading up on all kinds of vitamins – without any luck.  I visited the doctor twice to no avail and, in my desperation, I opted to take antibiotics.  Unfortunately, as expected, they made me super sick, gave me a rash & didn’t help at all.  Finally, a visit to the ENT to insert a sponge helped get steroids directly into my ear and multiple visits to the chiropractor drained the fluid eventually.

Our trip to Europe provided some reprieve from the stress this summer; the break gave me a renewed mind and optimistic perspective.  But as the hours at work picked back up, all of my post-vacation resolutions – talking the dog for nightly walks, spending more time with friends and family, cooking meals, even shopping for groceries – got neglected quickly as there just weren’t enough hours in the day.  As my work-life balance suffered, the stress creeped back in and, therefore, back into having it’s effect on my immune system.

RelaxOne day in early August, I woke up with hives all over the back of my legs.  I thought it was odd and attempted to find what the cause could be; but, nothing in my routine, diet or hygiene/beauty products had changed.  Figuring the hives would go away soon and it had to be a fluke, I just dealt with the itching.  But they lasted, spreading and progressively getting worse and worse.  After a week, I made an appointment with my naturopath doctor.  Asking questions about every aspect of my life, sleeping habits and diet, she got the full picture of my health.  She suggested that while I could be experiencing an allergic reaction, she was pretty positive that stress was the cause.  Hoping to learn more about what was going on with my body, she prescribed a blood test and hormone panel. In the meantime, I would stay away from gluten and really focus on my nutrition to lessen the inflammatory response my body was having.  After four long weeks, my hives finally subsided; the stress was still there, but I think that a better focus on my diet and a supplement I got from my chiropractor finally helped my body stop overreacting.

The CDC states that emotional stress causes 80-85% of all illness. It makes sense – stress suppresses our immune function, so, long-term it gets even worse.  This month, I’ve been sick twice – a bad cold and then food poisoning for the third time this year… ugh!  But I returned to my doctor last week and the results were in: stress is the culprit.  Even after all my time at the pool this summer and daily Vitamin D supplements, I was still deficient and need to increase my intake.  I’m anemic, so will be taking a liquid iron supplement to give me more energy.  And although I drink lots of water and even add Himalyan pink sea salt, my electrolyte levels were still low – I foresee lots of coconut water (NOT sugary gatorade) in my future!

Most importantly, my DHEA levels were extremely low.  Although known for overuse by athletes, the presence of DHEA in our body is essential.  Most people in their twenties are producing more DHEA this decade of their lives than any other.  DHEA is a steroid hormone secreted by your adrenal glands; during times of stress, your adrenals are pumping so much cortisol that they produce very little DHEA. But that has massive effects as DHEA is the precursor to estrogen, progesterone & testosterone.  As a result, my hormones are totally out of whack.  So, instead of “doping” up on unnatural DHEA, I’ll be taking a custom supplement designed by my doctor to provide the building blocks to hormone development, bringing the levels back up. I’ll also be on a high-protein diet of 60-80 grams per day to balance my blood sugar – prolonged high-cortisol response causes problems there too.  So, if anyone has some good ideas for high-protein snacks (especially low-budget options), please share!

While the news was not good, I am thankfully at a point where I can step in to make these changes now and get my body back in balance before things get more serious.  It will take many months to recover, but I am committed to focus on my health – this body is the only one I get.  In the meantime, I would appreciate any & all stress-management recommendations!  I am rejecting the identity of illness that I’ve had my whole life; I am so hopeful that healing is near and I will choose joy & faith.

Meditating on this verse lately: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5

Healthy Hygiene Routine

 

Healthy Hygiene RoutineMany people make a good effort to eat healthy and limit the toxins they ingest, but what about the chemicals you are spreading over your body or putting in your mouth during your hygiene routine?  Today I want to share some basic products I use daily and talk a bit about why they are way better than their mainstream alternatives.

Living Clay MaskCalcium Bentonite clay is full of trace minerals and literally vacuums toxins out of the skin. It’s been used throughout history and has so many healing and detoxifying uses.  It’s alkaline 9.7 pH brings the body into balance.  I use it as a mask at least once a week on my face and have seen dramatic improvement in my skin.  If my hormones are going crazy and causing me to break out, then I will use it daily to remove my makeup each night.  You can instantly feel how it stimulates blood circulation and your skin will feel so refreshed and energized afterwards.  When I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics, it helped decrease the severity and redness of the rash. I use the powder form in detox baths and even mix it with water & drink to detoxify my body when I’m sick.  It’s also the perfect shaving cream for those of you who struggle with dry skin and razor burn.  This is one of those products I really could not live without; it’s made my skin clearer than ever!

Coconut Oil – I recently wrote about my absolute obsession with coconut oil and all it’s miraculous healing abilities. In addition to cooking with it, I also use it as a moisturizer all over my body and even on my face.  As it absorbs and moisturizes your skin, you also get it’s benefits internally.  It has anti-aging properties and will help prevent wrinkles; it also helps your skin adjust to sun exposure giving it SPF effects.  And it’s great for removing eye makeup and lip stains.  Best of all, it’s super affordable (especially when you compare it to what you would spend on lotion and expensive face moisturizer) because a little goes a very long way.  I simply melt a few tablespoons on the stove and put it into a small travel sized container for my bathroom counter.

Lavender Essential Oil -I actually mix this with the coconut oil in the container I use for my face moisturizer.  Besides smelling absolutely amazing, lavender oil has many anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  It will help heal pimples very quickly, minimizes the appearance of scar tissue, and helps heal cuts and bruises by stimulating circulation.  It’s a great moisturizer for chapped skin, so I use it on my lips too.  Plus, it’s scent helps calm your mind and body, decreasing stress and helping you wind down for a night of restful sleep.

Orawellness HealThy Mouth Blend – The simple fact that you’re never supposed to swallow regular toothpaste always made me suspicious of its safety for putting in my mouth at all.  This is the best “toothpaste” I’ve ever used and I’ve seen incredible improvement in my mouth health over the past year (my dentist has too!).   This is a blend of organic essential oils that fight bacteria and helps heal cavities.  Plus, it doesn’t contain any of the toxic chemical fluoride.  If you have gum problems, cavities, or are just looking for a safe way to clean your teeth, this is a must-try!

Mineral Salts Deodorant – Antiperspirant deodorant works by using aluminum to stop the sweat and odor.  Unfortunately, it also causes breast cancer and Alzheimer’s, so I knew I needed to get it out of my routine.  (TMI) I sweat a lot, which made this the toughest natural hygiene solution to find.  Most products would work for a while or at least stop odor, but I finally found a great solution that is consistently helping with both.  Lafes Deoderant is made with simply 3 ingredients: aloe vera, essential oil and natural mineral salt; it comes as a spray or a roll on.  The mineral salts combat the bacteria that causes odor. I love the lavender scent and while it’s not technically an “antiperspirant,” I’ve noticed that my sweating has decreased the more I use it.  I buy mine at my grocery store, Natural Grocers, and it lasts months using only once a day.  Lastly, it doesn’t leave stains or marks on your clothing like the regular ones always do – a great bonus!

As for the “beauty” department, I am researching and testing different makeup and hair products to find healthy options that actually work.

Hair Products – I am currently using Kevin Murphy shampoo, conditioner, hair spray and dry shampoo.  They are sulfate and paraben-free and work amazing, but still use a lot of chemicals I am not comfortable with.  I’ve tried many of the organic options from the grocery store but found my hair was oily and flat within just a week of use.  I am considering making my own as soon as what I have runs out, and I will certainly keep you updated on that adventure.

Makeup – I’ve used Origins, Arbonne, and MineralFusion from Whole Foods, but they are all so expensive and don’t have the lasting power that I really want.   I feel like when I come home from work it looks like I didn’t even put makeup on that day.  Looking for any and all recommendations!!

Have you found safe, natural beauty & hygiene products that you love? Please share them here!

One Year Down!

New Years 2014At the beginning of 2013 I made two resolutions: to become healthy and to write this blog as a way to keep myself motivated & educated.  As I have been reflecting on this past year the last two days, I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to meet and exceed my goals.

A year ago, I was starting to learn more about nutrition and natural healing and seeing some results, but I wanted more.  I wanted freedom from my chronic pain and illness.  I knew that it would take a lot of work… sorting through all the confusing, contradictory and controversial information on health out there to decide what I should follow and what would work for me, as well as consistently following the new diets and routines that I needed to integrate into my life.  I have plenty of room to improve on my health habits this year, but I certainly did better than ever in 2013.  While it’s easy to let vanity take over and feel bummed about the weight I never lost, I must focus on the true healing I’ve experienced.  I can’t remember a time where I got sick as little as I did this past year. And I went from being in near constant back pain to only every once in awhile now… y’all, it is life changing.  I enjoy life so much more now that I don’t have the cloud of pain hanging over me. I am so thankful to feel great almost every day when I wake up.  I pray that you’ve experienced healing too, this year.  If you have, I’d love to hear about it, and even share it here!

As for this blog, I could have never imagined all the success it’s had this year (even with my lack of consistency!).  I felt compelled to start it because of all that I was learning… I wanted my friends and family to be able to share in the healing that I was experiencing.  Honestly, I never imagined that this blog would reach as many people as it has.  I simply wanted an avenue to share with people I knew, and if only 20 people ever read it, I would have been thrilled.  But I’ve gotten visitors from all over the world!  In 2013, I had nearly 6,000 unique visitors to this site and I simply cannot believe it!  I’ve received great feedback from readers that my blog has helped them find reliable sources for health recommendations, that it’s opened their eyes to information they hadn’t heard before, or that it’s been nice to have a summary of topics that they wouldn’t have the time or energy to research otherwise.  I love this stuff, so I am happy to help 🙂 To close out the year, I thought I would share my most popular posts of 2013 in case you missed anything!

Most Read Post – Kombucha Home-Brew during Fabulous Fermentation Week

Most Pinned Pinterest Image – Whipped Coconut Milk

Most Popular Recipe – Parmesan Pesto Chicken & Herb Stuffed Brussel Sprouts

Most Controversial – Why I’m Not a Vegan

Most Reader-Shared – Soy it Ain’t So and Why We Get Fat

I have been reading lots of interesting books lately and I’m excited to share lots more in 2014, so stay tuned for more posts soon.  Be sure to hit the “Follow” button at the top right corner of my site to get an email whenever I publish a new blog if you don’t want to miss anything!  And leave a comment to let me know what you would like to see more of on this blog… documentary reviews? book summaries? health controversies? recipes?  I’d love your feedback!

Wishing you a healthy & hopeful 2014!

My Health Journey

Strawberry PickingI’ve been battling intense allergies for the past two weeks, so I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post.  I have to admit that I became a bit discouraged, starting to believe that this new healthy lifestyle wasn’t helping at all.  But I realized that I need to reflect a little and remember how far I really have come with my health. Since I haven’t shared my story with you yet, I thought this would be the perfect time…

For as long as I can remember, I have been sick or in pain most of the time.  While it’s never been anything super serious, I’ve definitely had a few debilitating days.  For the most part, it’s simply just kept me from enjoying life to the fullest.  Throughout my childhood, I got sick pretty often, mainly suffering from respiratory illnesses, and I’ve always had nearly constant back pain.  I moved to Austin at age 6 and developed allergies and asthma, often developing into a sinus infection, pneumonia, bronchitis, you name it, and then of course, taking lots of medicine. I always complained of back pain as a kid and my parents did everything they could to discover the cause: taking me to multiple doctors & specialists, having MRIs & xrays and doing physical therapy.  No one could figure it out. When I reached middle & high school, participation in sports only made it worse, and I started to have shoulder pain as well.  Doctors prescribed muscle relaxers, Advil or physical therapy to manage the pain.  Then, with the onset of puberty came acne (and other hormonal problems).  My dermatologist prescribed an antibiotic for the acne, which I proceeded to take for only the next 8 years.

In college, everything got even worse.  I was sick with bronchitis for the entire second semester of my Freshman year.  Then, winter of Sophomore year brought even more illness.  It started with my typical holiday seasonal allergies, developing into an apparent sinus infection compounded with bronchitis.  Over the course of a month and a half, I was prescribed 6 courses of antibiotics and 3 steroid packs.  Since I had a fever every day, the doctors also suggested Advil every 4-6 hours… for a whole month.  My back pain became so intense that one doctor even said I “probably” had ovarian cancer… I didn’t.  I saw 10 different doctors, trying to figure out what was actually wrong.  No one could diagnose me.  By March, my stomach became so inflamed from all those medications that I couldn’t keep any food down or sleep.  It eventually culminated in a trip to the ER and a week-long stay in the hospital for gastritis.

I was furious, depressed and hopeless…  I still didn’t have any answers and doctors were making me worse, not better.  This was my turning point.  As a last straw, I made an appointment to visit an “alternative doctor,” who immediately put me on probiotics to rebuild my immune system and my gut.  She gave me some vitamins and changed my diet from the bland, carb-heavy “sick diet” to lots of protein and vegetables.  Within a week, I was a different person, and continued to get better and better.  That experience made me realize that there had to be something to this alternative, holistic medicine thing.

Since that time, I’ve been healthier – staying away from fast food, eating more veggies and taking vitamins.  But, I still felt like my immune system just wasn’t performing up to par… it takes me awhile to get over being sick, I’ve suffered from hormonal issues (girls, you know) and I struggled with back pain daily.   After watching a couple of great documentaries and reading some surprising health articles, I realized that even this was not normal and that I didn’t have to live this way.  Providing even more motivation, after getting married a year ago, I inevitably began to think about my future children.  I certainly didn’t want my kids to be sick all the time, and, I was frightened by the epidemics of food allergies and autism in kids today, not to even mention the possible (again, epidemic) fertility problems I could face trying to get pregnant someday.  If you know me, you know I don’t accept “well, that’s just how things are” very easily.  I was going to find answers.

Now, I read books, watch lots of documentaries, and keep up with new research and articles.  I learn something new every day that I can put into practice immediately.  Now, my healing comes from food that I can buy from a local farmer, not from medication – it’s much more delicious and there’s no long list of terrible side effects! I know that it may take my body a while to recover from all the toxins I put in it for so many years, but I have complete confidence that it will rebuild itself.  God designed our bodies to heal themselves given the right nutrients. I’ve already seen a huge difference – pain and sickness are now in the minority in my life and I’m feeling better every day.  Plus, I’m giving my future children a real chance to be healthy, and that will be the most rewarding result of all.