Natural Remedies Tip #2: Honey mask for oily, blemished skin

August 12, 2009

honey_herbal_4Raw, unprocessed honey is ideal for treating oily, blemished skin. Even better, an herbal-infused honey can add more ‘punch’ to the already wonderful qualities of raw honey. Generally speaking, honey’s antibacterial properties, combined with being a wonderful humectant, serves to moisturize the skin without clogging pores or contributing to excess oil production. A ‘humectant’ attracts moisture, actually drawing water right out of the air, and thus, honey has fabulous hydrating abilities.  Jeanne Rose, the famous essential oil distiller and aromatherapist, recommends a “honey pat” or a facial mask (best done in the bath tub!), wherein raw honey is applied to the face and then tap-tap-tapped with the fingers until it becomes tacky (‘type your face like a keyboard’). When you remove the mask with warm water, best done with a warm washcloth, you will find your skin to be supple and soft. Adding cosmetic clay to the mask provides more drawing & detoxifying properties, thus increasing the cleansing potential of the mask.

Honey & Clay Mask

2 Tbsp raw, unprocessed honey or an herb-infused honey (with antiseptic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage)
1 tsp cosmetic clay (French Green, Bentonite, Fuller’s Earth, Rhassoul, or Dead Sea)
2 drops lavender essential oil (soothes inflammation, antiseptic, healing

Bonus: If you have it, try adding a tsp of seaweed (powdered or ground in a coffee grinder) to benefit from seaweed’s balancing, mineral rich properties too!

What’s all the fuss about Seaweeds?

August 11, 2009

048seaweed_468x313Thalassotherapy, from the Greek word “thalassa”, meaning “sea”,  involves the medical use of beneficial aspects of the marine biosystem, including seaweeds, mud, sand, and sea water.  Long used by Mediterranean peoples, thalassotherapy has been enjoying more global attention in recent years, and indeed, seaweed wraps, dead sea clay masks and scrubs, and sea mineral soaks have been popping up in spas everywhere. Many Americans are a little more leary of actually eating seaweed, though its nutritional benefits are tremendous. It’s well worth acclimating oneself to the taste and texture of seaweed, which is actually quite subtle and lovely, especially when made in ways traditional to Mediterranean or Asian cultures who have long experimented with in local cusine.

Nutritionally, seaweeds are an exceptional source of bioavailable, essential minerals necessary for proper functioning and optimum health. It is well understood that the peoples who consume high rates of seaweeds, such as the Japanese, have high amounts of seaweed in their diet. Indeed, I have heard more than once that Japan’s great health secret is not soy, increasingly found as a controversial food that actually blocks the update of vital minerals, but rather, seaweeds. Gail Faith Edwards, in her lovely Herb Quarterly article, “Seaweed:  Herb of the Ocean,” writes that Kelp (brown algae; Luminariales family) contains the broadest range of minerals of any food: “the same minerals found in the ocean and in human blood, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.” (Edwards, 2007:29)  Luminaria longicruris is one variety of kelp to be found on the NE coast; it has lovely long golden fronds and exceedingly high levels of these minerals, as well as being an unparalleled source of other essential trace nutrients, including iodine. Kelp apparently has a normalizing effect on the thyroid and parathyroid, which help the body absorb all of these minerals, and this leads to a reduction in the risk of hypertension and high blood pressure (Edwards, 2007:29). Other research suggests that kelp destroys cancer cells and stimulates immune function, as well as an intriguing finding that kelp even has the ability to bind with radioactive isotypes in the body, alllowing them to be safely excreted. This leads one to believe that consuming kelp during radiation treatment may protect you from some of the nasty side effects many fighting cancer endure. Indeed, herbalist Susun Weed writes about kelp’s protective, anti-cancer, anti-radiation, anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-toxic, anti-rheumatic, antibiotic, antibacterial, and alterative properties in her well-known book, Healing Wise (Weed, 1989:222).

Dulse (Palmaria palmate) is a deep, red algae with a very high protein content of more than 22% of the daily recommended allowance. Dulse is a better source of protein than chick peas (gram), almonds, or whole sesame seeds, and is also high in iron, potassium, fiber, and vitamins B6 & B12. I often use dulse flakes sprinkled liberally over my rice, vegetable stir fries, or other savory dishes. You don’t need to use much to gain tremendous nutritional benefit. You can rinse it a bit to tenderize it before adding it to salads and other foods where the steam of cooking won’t soften it a bit. But otherwise, no cooking necessary for this useful supplement. It is interesting to note that adding seaweed to cooking beans actually helsp tenderize the beans, shortening cooking time and aiding in their digestion.

Worried about the salts in seaweed? Unlike sodium chloride (table salt), which is made up of sugar, aluminum salts, and several other agents along with sodium chloride and may cause cardiac stress, sodium itself is not to blame for high blood pressure. The naturally-occurring sodium in seaweeds relieves tension in blood vessels. Real, evaporated sea salt is pinkish in color, so be sure you know what you are using! (Weed 1989:225).  Seaweed is a heart-healthy food that can help correct cardiac problems (Kosuge, et al 1983: 683-685).

Finally, seaweed appears to be a wonderful endocrine regulator, providing optimum nourishment for hormonal, lymphatic, urinary, and nervous systems.  In other words, you can’t go wrong by incorporating this superfood into your diet. For daily supplemental use of seaweed, try a teaspoonful (5 g) of seaweed daily, combined with other nourishing herbal infusions as needed. This is a wonderful adjunct therapy for addressing problems with thyroid malfunction, goiter, impotence, infertility, obesity, anorexia, prostate enlargement, lack of ovulation, menopausal distress, allergic reactions, and hives.

Dead Sea clay facial mask

Dead Sea clay facial mask

Japanese beauty customs have long incorporated seaweed into rituals. The electorlytic magnetic action of seaweed is said to release excess body fluid from congested cells and disolves fatty waste, replacing it with depleted minerals. A regular seaweed bath may even help insure more well-balanced hormones, due to high levels of vitamin K, which helps regulate adrenal function. You can easily make your own bath tea using mineral rich dead sea salts and dried seaweed (see recipe below).  Create a seaweed infusion for your hair to help remove dirt and excess oil, while nourishing hair with necessary nutrients for beautiful locks. Just add 2 -3 Tbsp of seaweed to hot water and infuse for 30 minutes before using as a hair rinse at the end of a shower or bath. I  also love using dead sea clay along with seaweeds (kelp, Irish moss, and dulse)  and medicinal mushrooms in a balancing, deep cleansing, and mineral rich facial mask, such as my dead sea clay facial mask, pictured above.


(Sunomono) Wakame & Cucumber Salad:
1 small cucumber
1/2 tsp salt
(.5 oz) 1 cup wakame seaweed (softened in cool water for 10-15 min & sliced)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 lb. small cooked shrimp (optional)
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Cut softened wakame seaweed into about 2inch-long pieces. Slice cucumber into very thin rounds. Put salt over cucumber slices and set aside for 20 minutes. Squeeze cucumber slices to remove the liquid. Mix vinegar, tamari, & sesame oil in a bowl. Add wakame seaweed and cucumber slices in the bowl and mix well. Add optional cooked shrimp if desired.
Thalassotherapy Seaweed Bath Soak:
1 cup (.5 oz) dried seaweed (wakame, kelp, etc)
1 cup dead sea salts or other mineral -rich bath salt
2 Tbsp dead sea clay or other cosmetic clay
1 large muslin bag or cheesecloth
Blend the above ingredients (dry) and use it to fill a large muslin bag or fold into a square of cheesecloth and tie. Of course, you don’t have to enclose the ingredients if you don’t mind the loose blend in the tub! Fill a bath tub with warm water (not scalding) and add the seaweed bundle. Allow the seaweed & salts to infuse into the bath water and soak in the tub for thirty minutes or so.

Edwards, Gail Faith (2007) “Seaweed: Herb of the Ocean,” The Herb Quarterly. Fall 2007: 28-31.
Kosuge, T, H. Nukaya, T. Yamamoto, & K. Tsuji (1983). “isolation and Further Identification of Cardiac principles from laminaria,” Yakugaku Zasshi, 103(6), 683-685.
Madlener, Judith C. The Sea Vegetable Book. 1977. Potter Pub. (nearly 200 recipes! Look in Used Book sites)
Weed, Susun (1989). Healing Wise. Ash Tree Publishing: NY.

Sources of locally-sourced US seaweed:
Maine Coast Seaweed
Pacific Botanicals
Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company (including Sea Vegetable Gourmet cookbook)

Natural Skincare 101 ~ nourishing from within

August 11, 2009
Skin Care 101 @ Herb Companion

Skin Care 101 @ Herb Companion

Achieving naturally glowing skin starts with nourishing the body from within. Check out my latest post for the fabulous periodical & blog, Herb Companion. In this post, I outline just how the skin ‘operates’ and what it needs in order for you to achieve a lovely healthy tone & tenacity. I also provide recipes for a Skin Food Smoothie & an herbal infusion that will greatly aid your skin by providing you with the bioavailable vitamins and minerals that you need most.

This is the first in a series of posts for Herb Companion that will address natural skin care as well as treating troubled skin issues such as eczema and acne. Fortunately, we have many wonderful herbs and other helpful ingredients in our arsenal!

Do visit Herb Companion’s site and leave me a comment! I’d love to hear from my readers.

Natural Remedies Tip #1: Heal Skin Rash with Clay

August 5, 2009

Welcome to my new series of weekly tips introducing some easy, home-made, DIY tips for handy remedies using natural, inexpensive, readily available ingredients. These might include remedies for your body, pets, home, natural environment, cooking, or garden. Thank you for visiting to read my first tip. For these posts, I also welcome you to ask me random questions that could be addressed in future tip posts, so please do comment!

Green Clay: Mountain Rose Herbs

Green Clay: Mountain Rose Herbs

Clay! Waaaaay more useful than you might think. Yes, you can make pots with it, but it also helps clear up skin conditions such as rashes, even those caused by bacteria, including MRSA. French green clay is a cosmetic clay that is especially good for bacterial infections, including Methicillin-Resistant Staph. Aureus (MRSA) and is also useful for killing salmonella and E.colli when used internally.

If you have a skin rash caused by a poisonous plant and/or insect bite that is red and inflammed, apply a poultice of cosmetic clay (including bentonite, french green, dead sea, fuller’s earth, kaolin, and other cosmetic clays, though the first two listed are probably the best choices), aloe vera gel, and peppermint essential oil. The clay is drying and draws out toxins, aloe vera promotes healing, and peppermint oil is cooling and temporarily relieves itching. Add a few drops of lavender for added anelgesic (pain-relieving) strength.

2 Tbsp cosmetic clay
Aloe Vera Gel
2 drops peppermint essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil.

Mix the clay with just enough aloe vera to make a paste. Add the essential oils, spread the paste on the rash, and let it dry (15-30 min). Reapply the poultice mixture as often as you wish until symptoms subside!

My favorite source for French Green Clay is Mountain Rose Herbs, and thank you MRH for the photo above!

Educational Partnership: Lilith & Blossoming Bellies

August 4, 2009
Post-Partum herbal sitz bath

Post-Partum herbal sitz bath

First of all, dear readers, I must thank you for your generous response to my “restructuring” post and for all of your wonderful support for your favorite products!

One of the reason for making more room in the Lilith landscape is so that I can move forward with my herbal study, a path that has been certainly aided but also hindered by an ever-expanding herbal bath & body business. I spend so much time processing orders and preparing products that I can’t properly focus on my true love: herbal medicine.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to reach out to some local services supporting natural childbirth and mothering–to let them know that Lilith’s Apothecary products for pregnancy, post-partum, and new baby exist, but also just to perhaps engage more with a community of services very much in line with my own interests in herbal medicine. I was incredibly fortunate to have made contact with an amazing woman, Brittany Sharpe McCollum CCE(BWI), CD(DONA), the trained and experienced doula behind Blossoming Bellies birth services.

Far beyond a mere introductory exchange, Brittany and I enjoyed an enthusiastic conversation that progressed into plans to create curricula around the use of herbs during pregnancy, labor, delivery, post-partum, and childcare, with intended audiences of doulas, midwives, and possibly new women. Just in the same way that Brittany advocates the empowering of women to take control of their own bodies in the natural birthing process, I am an advocate of empowering women to use herbal allies at these critical times. Along similar lines, I believe, the hegemonic medical ‘establishment’ has created fear about and certainly a medicalization of birth that takes women away from the control of this very natural process, and certainly has created fear around the use of even the safest of herbs during pregnancy and childbirth. It is important that, through education, we advocate the use of safe, empowering, and natural approaches toward natural pregnancy, child birth, and mothering. In this, Brittany and I are brilliantly in alignment.

B.S.McCollum_HeadShot2As for Brittany and Blossoming Bellies, her story is a wonderful one. After the birth of her son in 2006, Brittany discovered a passion for women’s health, informed decision making through the process of labor and birth, and the need for support in the postpartum period. Moving away from her roots in journalism and creative writing, Brittany began devoting much of her energy to the study of natural pregnancy and childbirth. Her fascination with the body’s amazing abilities and her desire to aid women in rediscovering these abilities inspired her to enter the world of the birth professional.

Brittany completed childbirth educator certification with Birth Works International and completed birth doula certification with DONA. She now teaches several different formats of the Birth Works childbirth education preparation class series and supports women and their partners in labor through emotional, physical, and informational support. Brittany is also trained by Birth Arts International, a program based on the midwifery model of care, which includes basic information about the ancient wisdom of herbs. As a breastfeeding advocate, she has also completed breastfeeding counselor certification with Nursing Mothers Alliance. Her services also include postpartum doula support, in which she fills the traditional role of assisting the new mother transition into parenthood through breastfeeding support, discussion of infant care, and help with household necessities such as laundry and pet care.

Through regular attendance at workshops and conferences and through hands-on support, Brittany continues to embrace her passion for informed decision making and the power of the female body in birth. In supporting families through pregnancy, labor, and postpartum, Brittany helps ease the transition into parenting and build confidence in childrearing in both the mother and her partner. Information about all of the services Brittany offers can be found on her website at Her services and workshops are supportive of the Philadelphia region, but if you are trying to find a doula in another region of the country, Brittany would no doubt be of assistance in directing you to a good resource.