It’s the season for everyone’s favorite autumnal spices. Crisp fall scents and flavors are in our lattes, our pastries, our diffusers, our perfumes, and more. They’re also in one of my favorite Mountain Rose Herbs lotion recipes! Although I love thicker creams and body butters for everyday moisturizing, I like to keep lotion in a pump bottle by the sink to use after hand-washing. This DIY lotion recipe is so easy to make, which means it’s simple to switch up the scent to match the seasons or my current mood. This time of year, it’s all about the satisfying aromas of autumn.
Let’s talk for a moment about shelf life. Although this is a fun and easy way to make lotion, it does not have a preservative and includes water in the form of chamomile hydrosol. This means it’s going to have a shorter shelf life than a product that includes preservatives. Water breeds life, including microbial life, so mold and other bacterial spoilage can become an issue with any formulation that includes water, hydrosols, witch hazel, aloe vera juice, flower waters, milk, etc. Without a broad-spectrum preservative, water-containing emulsions like lotions, hair rinses, room and linen sprays, and cleaning products all need to be made and stored properly to achieve their longest shelf life.
On a warm October afternoon in 2021, roughly 40 personnel from Oregon forest agencies, area tribes, and conservation groups, including the Long Tom Watershed Council, gathered on the Andrew Reasoner Wildlife Preserve outside Eugene. Among them were a dozen Native American firefighter trainees who had spent the week learning the essentials of wildfire suppression. That the culmination of their training would be the deliberate burning of an eight-acre parcel of land might strike some as contrary, even outrageous. As a former National Park Ranger who served as a firefighter in the early 90s, this certainly flew in the face of the training I’d received.
Irradiation of food is a topic that is increasingly showing up as a point of concern for Mountain Rose customers, so I want to take a minute to talk about this timely subject. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of food irradiation in 1963 to kill bacteria, molds, insects, etc. in wheat and flour. Today, the FDA has approved irradiation for fruits, vegetables, eggs in the shell, spices and seasonings, sprouting seeds, poultry, crustaceans and shellfish, and red meats. Food irradiation involves exposing foods to one of three different types of ionizing radiation: gamma rays from cobalt-60, x-rays, or electron beams. The FDA uses this technology to improve food safety and extend storage and shelf life. Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organics Program (NOP), which oversees the nation’s organics labeling, prohibits the use of irradiation to treat organic products because the process alters the natural state of food. These two opposing views present consumers with something of a conundrum.
If I told you there’s a pantry staple that can soothe sore muscles and calm irritated skin, would you guess it’s vinegar? It’s true! From minor aches to dry or itchy skin, I turn to herbal vinegar baths. On its own, a cup or two of vinegar in the tub will leave skin soft and rejuvenated with a healthful glow. But herb-infused vinegars take this concept a step further, using plant constituents to boost the already impressive benefits of a vinegar bath.
This juniper-rosemary blend was formulated to increase circulation, soothe sore muscles, and calm irritated skin. If tension and muscle stress build up during your work week, whether from commuting, computer work, or overdoing it in the garden, make this restorative soak a regular weekend or mid-week ritual.
Since time immemorial, people have looked to herbs to support healthy, beautiful hair. In the modern world, however, mainstream haircare products are typically made from chemicals: including sulfates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, phthalates like DEHP, and other toxic ingredients. When we use these products, we increase our exposure to potentially harmful chemicals every time we wash and/or style our hair. It behooves us to take a look at natural herbal haircare practices. As well as being chemical-free, the best haircare herbs are time-tested; they have been used by humans for thousands of years. Herbal blends, infusions, extracts, and other botanical formulations bring the power of nature to nourish and stimulate the scalp, strengthen and moisturize follicles, soften hair, restore shine and bounce, help with manageability, and more.
For many of us, the prevalence of chemicals in our hair and skin care products has become personal. Diagnosed multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) have increased by over 300% since 2008. Symptoms can include skin rashes, burning or watery eyes, increased or irregular heartbeat, migraine headaches, dizziness, asthma symptoms, breathing issues, swollen lymph nodes, muscle or joint pain, and more. Worse, some of the chemicals regularly used in over-the-counter haircare products are known endocrine disruptors and are linked to cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic issues, and problems in pregnancy. Regular use of these products exposes us bit by bit to chemicals that accumulate.
Humans have been cultivating sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) for over 6,000 years. Sometimes called the “hair of Mother Earth,” it is said to please the spirits and is an excellent choice to prepare spaces for prayer, ritual, and meditation. In its hydrosol form, sweetgrass brings this same sense of “clearing” in its subtle, honeyed aroma and offers a green-earth undertone that makes it a perfect ingredient in a wide variety of skincare formulations including facial toners, body sprays, and lotions. We wanted to give people an easy way to experience sweetgrass hydrosol for themselves, so we whipped up a new homemade lotion recipe we think you’re going to love!
“Guasha” (刮痧) translates as “scraping petechiae.” Gua (刮) is scraping, the act of pulling a guasha tool across the skin. Sha (痧) is petechiae: pinkness or redness on the skin that can arise from scraping, a result of increased blood circulation to the area. Guasha is one of the many tools in our East Asian medicine toolkit, which also includes acupuncture, herbs, massage, moxibustion, energy work, lifestyle medicine, and more.
Benefits of Guasha
By drawing a guasha tool, or guasha ban (刮痧板), across the skin with varying degrees of pressure, we can elicit different effects on the body. Guasha can be used for facilitating tissue repair in musculoskeletal injuries, breaking up scar tissue, lymphatic drainage, and more. Traditionally, guasha has also been used in the early stages of a cold for “releasing the exterior.” In this article, I will focus on gentle facial guasha.
I often recommend facial guasha as an evening ritual, particularly in clients experiencing chronic jaw tension that can lead to bruxism, or grinding teeth during sleep. Chronic jaw tension can also lead to headaches, especially temporal (side of head), or occipital (nape of neck) headaches. I also love recommending this facial guasha evening ritual for folks with dry skin and too many thoughts, as a way to simultaneously nourish the skin, cultivate an easy self-care ritual, and relax before bed.
Have you ever had the opportunity to experience guasha? This traditional East Asian practice is sometimes used as a complement to massage, acupuncture, herbalism, moxibustion, energy work, lifestyle medicine, and more. Practitioners draw a guasha ban (刮痧板) (guasha tool) over the skin with varying degrees of pressure to elicit different effects on the body.
Although guasha is used to treat complex bodily issues, one wonderful way to experience this age-old art is a gentle facial guasha. We’re excited that our friend, herbalist, and East Asian Medicine practitioner, Jiling Lin, has a new blog with all the information we need to do facial guasha at home!
Here we are again in the dog days of summer. We all know how important it is at this time of year to pay extra attention to our hydration and wellness. When the days and nights are too hot and your whole body is screaming for something cold and refreshing, herbal extracts and herbal syrups are an easy, delicious way to whip up nutritive, beat-the-heat fizzy drinks at a moments notice. The base of these “functional fizzies” is the same—with just ice, lime juice, and a carbonated water of your choice, you can mix and match simple syrups, herbal extracts, and herbal syrups to get exactly the flavors and wellness boost you need. We’ve got 3 delicious fizzy drink recipes to get you started: a Strawberry Aphrodite Fizz and Gingery Hibiscus Fizz with Ultra Elder extract, and a Gingery Green Tea Fizz with ashwagandha and cinnamon extracts. Keep your favorite simple syrups, extracts, and herbal syrups on hand to make the best summer refreshers.
On this episode of Plant Stories on Herbal Radio, we had the opportunity to speak with the acclaimed and enthralling herbalist, Richo Cech. We dive deep into Richo’s life and passions, discussing everything from his seed-seeking adventures in Africa, to captivating stories of how he grew Strictly Medicinal Seeds from the ground up (pun-intended).
Richo Cech started his professional work as an archaeologist and ethnobotanist in East Africa. Upon his return to the United States in 1978, he began cultivating and saving the seed of medicinal plants. Over the years, his gardens have become the basis for Strictly Medicinal Seeds, growers of organic, open pollinated and GMO-free seed and plants of medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, succulents, trees, and garden vegetables. Richo and his family produce a popular, bi-yearly, hand-illustrated seed catalog that provides access to this collection of common, quirky, eclectic, and bizarre seeds and plants. Richo is author of “Making Plant Medicine” (2000), “Growing At-Risk Medicinal Herbs” (2002), and “Growing Plant Medicine” (2009).
Richo has botanized in China and Africa, resulting in the introduction of many new and exciting medicinal herb species to gardeners throughout the world.