Heliotrope San Francisco

5 Reasons to Use Organic Care Products

Traditionally, plants were gathered for both food and medicinal uses. Even after people began farming, many plants which were used as medicine were harvested from the wild. Humans have been trying to protect their plants from pests for centuries.  In some neighborhoods around the country, the soil still contains high levels of arsenic from it's use as a pesticide in the 1800s. This was true where I lived as a child and it's true in the neighborhood I now call home. In neighborhoods that were once farmland and orchards, the soil must be tested and care taken when choosing what sort of vegetables to plant.

I first became acquainted with organically produced food in college. This was also when I started to learn about plant medicine, so perhaps for me the two are intrinsically linked.

Agricultural field in foot hills of mountains with a stormy sky above.

Living in California, and in the Bay Area in particular, it's easy to find fresh organic produce. Just about everything you can imagine is available at the farmer's market from a local organic source. In many parts of the country, organic fruits, grains, vegetables and meats are becoming more available and accessible.  Many of us learned of the benefits of organic through our food, but what about the herbs and plants that go into Heliotrope SF skin care products? Much of our line contains organically grown plant ingredients.

Here are 5 of the reasons, we choose to use Organics in our skin care products...

1) Organically produced crops are healthier for the land they are grown on. Most organic farmers rotate crops and during the fallow season sow plants which will  replenish the land. This ensures that the soil doesn't become overly depleted and remains rich in minerals and nutrients necessary for plants to flourish.

Botanical Green leaves

2) Organically produced crops are healthier for the local ecosystem and for the planet in general. Not only do pesticides, chemical fertilizers and herbicides stay in the soil and land, but they also run off the fields into the local water system. This mix of chemicals can pollute the water supply and kill species. An example of this from the recent past is DDT, which was used heavily starting in the late 1940s and was banned in 1972 after it was linked to the decline in the Bald Eagle population.

Grass and flowing creek

3) Growing up in farm country, I remember crop dusters flying over the fields. The sky hazy with droplets of the chemicals they were spraying. There were people working in or near the fields, but the spraying was never exact. I'm sure methods have advanced since then but the pesticides and other chemicals not only stay on the plants themselves, they affect the people working with the crops. Organically grown crops are healthier for the all of the people working directly in the production chain.

4) Organic products are healthier for the people who consume the end result whether that is a tomato or a face cream. Our skin absorbs toxins from the skin-care products that we use. These toxins can build up and cause the skin to experience premature aging and to not look it's best.

Bird in field

5) Organic skin care products usually contain ingredients naturally derived from plant materials. They don't contain synthetic chemicals or petroleum products. Many people experience allergic reactions - ranging from unclear skin to break-outs to rashes - from petroleum products, such as mineral oil, and other chemicals. It can be difficult to find which chemical is causing the reaction. So if your skin isn't clear and doesn't feel healthy from the inside out, a switch to natural products might benefit your skin.

Our products are designed to be as healthy as possible. The ingredients are naturally derived and bio-active, so of course we seek out and use organic ingredients whenever possible.

The Essential Oils we use to customize the scent of our products are certified organic.

So many of our body care products contain certified organic ingredients. Some of our most popular include: Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream, the Organic Olive Oil Nourishing Soap, and the Sunflower & Shea Butter Foot Treatment.

For the face: The Aloe & Comfrey Shave Gel, The Rosewater & Vitamins Eye Lift Cream, and the Cucumber Hydrating Mask to name just a few.

Along with the wide range of face and body care products which contain certified organic ingredients, many of our textiles, from the Handkerchiefs to the Kontex Flax Towels are organic.

Written by Jen Bator — May 22, 2017

How to Customize Natural Care Products and Aromatherapy

In every culture and society around the world, fragrance has been used for thousands of years. Fragrance has served many purposes. It has been used as medicine, to sanctify or clean a space, as an offering to the local deities as part of a religious ceremony and as a symbol of status are a few of the many ways aromatics have been used throughout history.

Ancient China is thought to be one of the first cultures to use fragrant plants to promote well-being. In China, fragrance was imparted by burning incense or using fragrant ingredients in a special room. Scent was used to purify or disinfect as it was believed that certain scents could dispel diseases. In medieval Europe, scent was also used to eradicate illness as it was thought that many diseases were suspended in foul smelling, unhealthy air. Certainly, the practice of using plants for their fragrance extends back in time beyond the written record.

FrankincenseBoswellia sacra - frankincense

Valuable perfume ingredients were among the first goods traded between cultures as nobles competed to find and make the best scents. Until about the 1800s, personal perfume was the province of nobility and the well-to-do. In general, most people did not have access to perfumes for personal use. I speculate that most people were familiar with aromatics but they might not have had access to a lot of fragrant plant materials beyond those which grew wild in the fields and woods around them.

An aromatic ingredient is where aromatherapy begins. You may have examples of aromatics in your house, especially among your herbs and spices. Aromatherapy developed because people appreciated a scent and attached importance to it. The plant itself may have played an important role in the life of the community, perhaps it has healing properties, perhaps it grew in a site found sacred.

Aromatics - rose buds, star anise and other seeds and leaves in Marrakech market

The word aromatherapy was coined in 1928 by a French chemist named René-Maurice Gattefossé. He accidentally discovered the benefits of lavender essential oil when it sped up the healing of a burn on his hand. He began doing experiments with essential oils to treat other wounds or burns on the skin. His goal was helping the returned wounded soldiers of World War I.  

In short, the definition of aromatherapy is using parts of a plant - the flowers, the bark, leaves, root, etc -  to promote emotional, spiritual and physical health.  The part of the plant itself can be infused into an oil or an alcohol like vodka, or an essential oil might be made from it, or the leaves or flowers might themselves be used for aromatherapy.

 Essential oils have become one of the most common tools in aromatherapy. The distillation process was first developed in ancient Egypt to distill cedar, and was improved upon in the 11th century when a man named Avicenna invented the coiled tube.  In 2005 a clay alembic still was discovered in Crete, that is approximately 4,000 years old. The bowls indicate that the still was used to distill rosemary, lavender and other herbs. Despite the fact that the technology of the still existed, in most places, the healing properties of herbs were extracted through infusions either in oil or into water.

In the distillation process, the healing properties of the plant are concentrated into the essential oil. It takes many pounds of plant material to make a few ounces of essential oil.

In the 20th century, synthetic forms of plant properties were developed for both medicinal and use in the perfume industry. In the 1980s, essential oils started to gain more popularity as aromatherapy became more widely practiced.

According to Jonathan, the founder of Heliotrope, there are at least two ways to approach adding aromatherapy to Heliotrope products. The first is that you want a particular benefit from a plant. For example, lavender is known to help calm stress and to promote relaxation, so you might want to add a bit of lavender essential oil to the lotion you use just before going to bed. Conversely, you might want to add an energizing essential oil, such as peppermint, to the hand cream you use at your desk at work.

 

The second approach is simply that you like a certain scent or blend. Scent is powerful because of what it evokes. Although liking something may seem like a simple criteria, pleasure is a powerful force and it can influence both mood and outlook.

Heliotrope SF essential oil vials

Most of our body care products are unscented allowing you to customize and find your own signature scent! In the shop, you can customize using the range of single essential oils and blends.

Jonathan worked with our aromatherapist to develop the blends so that they correspond with different moods or concerns. For example, the Relieving Blend combines eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary and geranium and provides relief from muscle aches. Add this blend to a massage oil or body cream or lotion and use it to massage away your tension. Traditionally, eucalyptus has also been used to relieve congestion. During cold season, you could add a few drops of this blend to a bowl of hot water and create a steam bath for your sinuses.

When ordering on-line, if customization is possible, the available aromatherapy blends appear in the drop-down menu.

When customizing, the selected aromatherapy oils are thoroughly mixed into the product and care is taken to ensure that the scent is correct. If you are able to come into the shop, you can make sure that the scent is to your liking and add different scents. It's a bit hard to subtract if you go too far!

All of our oils and blends can be combined combined with a body care product or used in an aromatherapy diffuser. A diffuser can also be as simple as a few drops of essential oil put into a cup or bowl of water.

Drops of oil on the surface of water

 If you are curious about exploring aromatherapy I suggest that you start with a scent you know you like. Perhaps from there, try a combination, either through one of our blends, or based on a mood or concern you'd like to address. Aromatherapy is open for experimentation and personalization.

Written by Jen Bator — May 14, 2017

5 Natural Body Care Tips That Will Leave Your Skin Glowing

The skin is a boundary between our inner world and the environment. It is one of the main ways that we connect with the world. Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It both absorbs and expels and is one of the main methods the body uses to relate with the outer world. Whether we consciously notice it or not, the skin is constantly taking in information about external circumstances.

We are constantly picking up on stimuli - whether we need a sweater or to remove a layer, the breath of a breeze across our face, the prickles of a cactus, the texture of another's skin. The skin also connects and communicates in ways we may not be conscious of. For example, nerves of the skin communicate with proprioceptors in the joints and muscles that determine the location of the body in time and space. This helps us to stay physically balanced and oriented.

Hand outstretched toucing green wheat in a field.

We also ingest chemicals from the air and water and the products we use. We can't control the weather, or what's in the air around us, but we can use skin products that are lovingly made from healthy ingredients and make other choices the may benefit our overall health.

Healthy, soft skin begins with hydration. The recommendation to drink clean water can't be repeated often enough. Water helps to create a foundation for all of the cells in the body to function.

Diet is of course important but the subject of diet is too large and individual to tackle in depth here. Every body has unique requirements for optimal health and many believe that eating a diverse diet filled with plentiful sources of minerals and vitamins will improve physical health and the health and appearance of the skin.

Here are 5 things you can do to make your skin glow and feel soft to the touch.

1. Dry Brushing your skin before you bathe.

Dry brushing has many benefits including exfoliation, which stimulates cell growth because old and dead cells are removed and no longer layered on top of skin. This refresh automatically brings softer, new skin to the surface. Dry brushing improves circulation as it brings blood to the surface of the skin. This removes any lingering toxins. Many people claim that dry brushing also stimulates the circulation of lymph. For more on the benefits of dry brushing read below the article!

Short handled Sisal Body Brush

We have several excellent dry brushes. The Bamboo Bristle Bath Brush has a long handle making it easy to reach areas on the back. The long handle also ensures that you don't apply too much pressure when brushing. The Sisal Body Brush is another perfect choice for dry brushing. Made from all natural fibers with brush surface on 4 sides. The shorter handle makes it easier to control the pressure as you brush.

2. Exfoliation 

Paint peeling off of side of building

As stated above, removing dead skin has many benefits. If you don’t want to take on the habit of dry brushing, there are plenty of other ways to exfoliate,. The bath brushes mentioned above can be used wet in the shower to foam up your soap. Our Sisal Exfoliating Gloves work very well with a liquid shower gel. The Sisal Soap Pouch turns your bar soap into an exfoliating powerhouse.

Another option is a body polish. All three of our body polish options combine exfoliation with herbal ingredients designed to cleanse while they attract and lock-in moisture to your skin.

Close-up of Foaming Body Polish

Though it is gentle enough for the whole body, the Bamboo & Walnut Foaming Body Polish is perfect for the rough skin of the heels and elbows. The foaming action lifts away impurities. Combining Aloe and Black Walnut our Walnut & Botanical Exfoliating Wash is gentle and the combination of Aloe and Jojoba brings hydration deep into the cells of your skin.

Treat your skin with our Organic Agave & Shea Butter Scrub. Herbal powerhouses comfrey (reduces inflammation) and calendula (beneficial to dry skin) combine with the power of anti-oxidants such as grapeseed oil and vitamins D and E to smooth and revitalize your skin.

3. Soap

Ideally, the soap should clean your skin of grime - the layer of dirt and sweat - that we invariably pick up and produce throughout the day. It’s a delicate balance. When bathing, you want to remove the excess oils and the grime it contains, while leaving enough of the naturally occurring oils to protect and maintain the integrity of the cells. When made with humectant ingredients, soap can attract moisture to your skin and set the foundation for hydrated cells.

Many commercially made soaps use a chemical cocktail to strip all of the healthy and necessary oils away off of your skin. Our soaps contain carefully selected ingredients that nourish and moisturize the skin while gently cleaning.

Our Organic Olive Oil Nourishing Soap brings three gentle and nourishing oils - Palm, Olive and Coconut - as the base to the bar. Each ‘flavor’ has different botanical additions such as charcoal for drawing out impurities, red clay, rose petals, and apricot to customize your bath even further.

Olive Oil Nourishing Soap

Our Aloe Sulfate-Free Foaming Shower Gel starts as a gel and turns into a foam to lift away impurities, while the aloe leaves your skin feeling soft and moisturized.

Choose our Coconut Oil & Goat’s Milk Moisturizing Soap when you want to pamper your skin. Superfood coconut brings essential fatty acids and vitamin E combined with skin-softening goat's milk, this soap is bliss in a bar!

4. Cream

The thickness of a cream is luxurious and deeply hydrating. Choose a cream for those times when you want to repair your skin and treat those places on your body that never seem to soak in enough moisture. Creams are great to use during the winter months when we are exposed to drying cold winds and artificial heat. They are also fabulous to use in the warmer months after sun exposure and the drying effects of air conditioning. Our creams are great for treating rough patches and used all over, they penetrate the skin effectively leaving no surface residue.

You might have guessed by now that We Love Aloe. It is a featured ingredient in our Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream and you’ll probably see it mentioned again before this list is through. Aloe is a gel in the fleshy leaves of the succulent Aloe Vera plant. It is rich with minerals and vitamins and is a powerful anti-oxident. Shea Butter and Jojoba are both excellent moisturizers and help protect and enhance the natural oils the skin produces. Shea butter softens the skin  and encourages collagen production. The Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream is a whipped cream so it has a light texture while containing all of the benefits and anti-oxidants of its ingredients.

Aloe Vera plants

Don’t let the name fool you: the Shea & Beeswax Hand & Cuticle Therapy is for more than just hands! Thick and creamy this therapy can be used all over the body. The Comfrey root extract soothes inflamed skin, and plantain naturally supports the skin’s cellular structure.

Many people moisturize right before bed so that the effects of the moisturizer can sink in and the nutrients can be integrated into the skin cells while the body rests.

5. Lotion

Lighter and liquid in texture lotions smooth onto the skin and penetrate the cells quickly. You might choose a lotion in warmer months, when the higher temperatures mean that you want something a little less heavy. Lotion is also wonderful to use in between treatments with a heavier cream. Some think that here in the Bay Area we are lucky that  temperatures above 75 are rare.When the thermometer does register in the 80s, many of us seek relief from the heat. As the Northern hemisphere heads into summer, follow the old wisdom and put a small bottle of lotion in the refrigerator for a refreshing pick-me up and cool down.  

Our Organic Five-Oil Moisturizing Blend brings silky hydration to  the skin. The combination of oils nourish and penetrate deep into the skin’s layers. Shea nut trees in Africa and Jojoba in the western United States have been used for centuries to moisturize the skin. Both plants grow in arid and very hot conditions so it isn’t surprising that they have adapted to retain moisture and turn their available resources into rich, nutritious oil to sustain themselves through the lean months of summer. Jojoba oil is the closest in structure to the oil that the skin produces. As a close match, it is able to meld naturally with the skin and give it exactly what it needs.

Cucumber, Lemon, and Aloe

Wondrous Aloe features again in our Organic Aloe, Olive & Avocado Lotion. Aloe is rich in vitamins and minerals including the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. The rich fatty acids combine with the fatty acids contained in avocado and olive oil to deeply nourish the skin.

Many of us slip into auto-pilot and do the bare minimum to care for our skin. Integrating one or more of the steps above can begin a new pattern of self-care or boost your existing ritual. Life can be hectic and spending time with one’s self, enjoying sensation and doing small acts of self-care reward you with soft skin but can increase your overall health and well-being.

 

The lymphatic system and the benefits of dry brushing

The lymphatic system is a key to a strong immune system. The lymph system collects, and transports cellular waste to the blood where it can be processed and removed from the body. The lymph system doesn't have a pump and so it is easy for white blood cell rich lymph to become stagnant. As part of the lymphatic system, there are organs, nodes, ducts and vessels. It is separate yet ultimately connect to the blood circulatory system. The lymph system are just below the skin and proponents of dry brushing believe that the brushing helps to stimulate the flow of lymph in the body.

a) It is important to start at the feet and work on the extremities first. Do the top and bottom of one foot then move up the leg using small circular strokes. Do the front and back of the shin and along the sides. Using counter-clockwise strokes, spend some time brushing the front and back of the knee, as there are lymph nodes here. Continue up the leg until you reach where the leg meets the pelvis. Do the other leg in the same way.

b) Move to your hands, and using the same small circular strokes, brush up from the palm and top of the hand, to the elbow then the shoulder. Be sure to brush all areas of your arms, the top of the arm and the palm side. Do both arms in this manner.

c) Next brush your stomach in a counterclockwise circular motion starting at the edges and working your way inward. Brush your back starting with your lower torso and working your way upwards. Brush down both sides of your neck. Then brush your right shoulder towards the heart. Finally, brush the left shoulder towards the heart.

The lymph system drains at the heart and this or a similar circuit ending in the area of the heart might help the lymph system to circulate and drain. Some proponents find that dry-brushing stimulates them, so you might want to experiment with the time of day you brush. Taking a shower, and varying between hot and cold water will help remove any lingering dead skin. Follow-up with a moisturizing cream, oil, or lotion.

Wash your dry brush about once a week and it is important to let it air dry completely. I don't recommend keeping it in the bath or the shower as this increases the chance it will develop mildew.

Written by Jen Bator — April 30, 2017

8 Reasons to Love Cardamom Aromatherapy

The word Cardamom generally calls to mind Indian cuisine, or if you are dessert minded, perhaps Scandinavia, or the Middle East. Personally, I know I’ve found a coffee shop I’ll like if I can detect the aroma of cardamom layered with fragrance of coffee. The uses of Cardamom go far beyond creating delicious food.

In India, where the plant originates, it has been used for thousands of years medicinally, to season food, and in ritual. In Ayurvedic medicine, it has been used for thousands of years to treat everything from digestive issues to freshen breathe and to improve mood and as a treatment for depression. It is thought to bring balance to all three doshas - the energies that circulate in the body and determine the physiological processes. It is a warming spice and has long been used in India to increase digestive fire.

Botanical illustration by Franz Eugen Köhler

Cardamom is related to ginger and it is a perennial; it lives for two years. Along with cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, among others, Cardamom was one of the highly valued spices traded between India, Asia and the Middle East. It was among the first spices and commodities traded between civilizations.

From the Middle East, it made it’s way into the ancient cultures of Greece, Rome, and Egypt.  Cardamom was one of the plants grown in the Gardens of Babylon and it is cited in the tales of the Arabian Nights as an aphrodisiac. It is also connected with love in ancient India. In 3000 b.c.e. Cardamom is mentioned in the Vedic text, Taittiriya Samhita which says that it was used in the ceremonial fire burned to solemnize a Hindu marriage. In this era, the Vikings experienced Cardamom in what is now Turkey and brought the spice back with them to Scandinavia. In Sweden and Finland it is used to flavor many traditional baked goods.

For thousands of years, cardamom has been used everywhere it touched medicinally, in ritual and in cooking. The Greeks and Romans expanded on those uses and created aromatic oil and used it for perfume. It was also mentioned in their medical texts

Cardamom pods some of which are broken open and seeds are visible.

The pod is the main part used from the plant. It is a greenish color and is shaped a bit like a football. Often the pod is used in cooking, but after the pod is dried, the seeds, whole or ground into a powder, is the part that is most often used. Essential oil is extracted from the seeds as well.

Currently, cardamom is the third most valuable and expensive spice after vanilla and saffron. In the 1800's British colonists developed cardamom plantations in it's native Southern India and in the early 1900s a German business man introduced it in Guatemala. In some parts of Guatemala, it is considered a more valuable crop than coffee. This country is the world's largest producer and exporter of cardamom.

The scent is unique and impossible to reproduce synthetically. It's fragrance has been described as sweet and spicy with woody undertones.

Here are some of the reasons we use Cardamom in aromatherapy:

1. In traditional aromatherapy, the scent is thought to improve concentration and to fortify mental functioning. 

2. It is considered to be a calming tonic for the mind and emotions.It soothes nervous tension.

3. Mixed into massage oil, it's antispasmodic properties help to soothe muscles. This can be particularly useful when massaged on the belly / abdomen to help bring ease to an upset stomach or digestive system.

4. The scent is effective in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with both pregnancy and chemotherapy.

5. The scent can help one to feel more grounded.

6. As an aphrodisiac, it revives appetite for life. The spicy scent brings clarity to the mind and the earthiness awakens our sensual side. The scent works well in a sensual massage.

7. The scent promotes respiratory health and can bring relief from coughs.

8. In Ayureveda, cardamom tea is used as a treatment for depression. Although not yet studied in the west, the scent is considered by many to lift the mood.

On sale through the end of this month, experience the muscle relaxing and mood lifting benefits of Cardamom blended with black fig in our Soy Wax & Shea Butter Massage Candle or the Coconut Oil & Goat's Milk Moisturizing Soap.

The fragrance of cardamom blends well with bergamot, rose, cedar, cinnamon, clove, orange and ylang ylang. You can experiment and blend your own special fragrance or choose one of our unique blends to use as a personal all natural perfume or to customize one of our unscented products. Be sure to use a carrier oil with essential oils and avoid putting them directly on your skin.

Enhancing features cardamom blended with blood orange, ylang ylang and black pepper in a mood enhancing combination.

Stimulating combines black pepper, bay laurel and cardamom in a blend that invigorates.

Nostalgic uses black pepper, bay laurel, sandlewood, bergamot and cardamom together in a scent that is spicy and meditative.

Experience cardamom combined with sweet vanilla and the floral jasmine in our Relaxing scent.

 

 

 

Written by Jen Bator — April 24, 2017

5 Best Natural Skin Care Products for Chapped Lips

Whether it’s chapped lip season or not, lips need special care. The skin of the lips is thinner and more delicate than the skin anywhere else on the body. The skin of the face is made up of at least 16 layers, while the lips are only 5 or 6 cells thick. The lips are a place of boundary between the outer world and our inner world. This meeting place is called the vermilion zone, and it is named after the red color the lips often have. There are many nerve endings and blood vessels in the dermis and they are close to the thin, translucent epidermis and these blood vessels give our lips their red color. The lips gather information about the world around us - mainly temperature - and as we all know, lips are very sensitive to touch.

Formation on a tree shaped like lips

Many things can affect the health of our lips. It seems counter-intuitive, but licking your lips actually dries out the skin. Also, saliva contains enzymes that start the process of digestion. Over time, these enzymes can damage and dry the skin. Normal lip licking won’t cause harm, but if your lips start to feel dry, refrain from licking them and apply a product that will soothe the skin.

Because lips are so thin and have no oil or sweat glands, they do not moisturize on their own. We can’t always choose the external temperature or humidity but there are several steps that we can take to help our lips stay soft and supple. Dry weather or offices can take the moisture from our system, and this shows on our lips when they become dry and cracked. Drinking plenty of water can counter this, and living with a humidifier at home, and in your office if you can manage it, will help to keep your system and your skin hydrated.

Whenever you notice that your lips are feeling dry, apply our Shea Butter and Almond Lip Balm. It contains Beeswax, which absorbs into the skin quickly and also create a protective barrier on the skin but Beeswax doesn’t block the pores.

Beeswax in a honeycomb formation

The Beeswax acts as a humectant, which attracts hydration into the cells making your lips feel moisturized and refreshed.Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and is added to the balm as a unique ingredient as well as being one of the vitamins present in Shea Butter. Antioxidants help protect your skin from pollution, one of the causes of free-radical damage to the skin’s cellular structure. The tube makes applying convenient.

When your lips are chapped and cracked, treat your lips to an exfoliation and hydration session before you go to bed at night. Exfoliating will remove the dead skin and damage from the day and the thicker cream or therapy will lock in moisture and re-hydrate the delicate skin while you sleep. If your lips are really chapped and damaged, you may have to do this treatment for a few nights in a row.

With care, apply a small amount of Organic Agave & Shea Butter Sugar Scrub to each lip. I find it easier to exfoliate one lip at a time. You want to be gentle and not use too much pressure. The combination of Sugar with Agave will help to remove the dead skin cells, while the moisturizing effects of Shea Butter, and Coconut oil will soothe the delicate skin. The antioxidants present in grape seed oil combine with vitamins D and E create an environment for your skin to heal.

For this healing treatment, I recommend the Shea Butter & Pomegranate Face Cream, the Shea & Beeswax Hand & Cuticle Therapy and the Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream. They have different consistencies and textures and as with everything, your preference should guide you to the product that would best heal your lips. Shea butter makes an appearance in each of these beneficial creams and Hand & Cuticle therapy. All of our products are made of therapeutic grade and plant ingredients so it won't cause any harm if you ingest some accidentally. Whenever possible, choose the fragrance free version.

Open pomegranate with close-up of seeds

The Shea Butter & Pomegranate Face Cream brings the antioxidant power of pomegranate into the mix. Pomegranate has a small molecular structure making it able to penetrate deeply into the skin. It has a natural ability to soothe dry and cracked skin. Pomegranate is high in antioxidant vitamins A and C, which help to speed cell regeneration. The combination of Pomegranate with Shea Butter protects, and hydrates skin and helps to minimize signs of aging.

The Shea & Beeswax Hand & Cuticle Therapy is the thickest choice. A little dab goes a long way! It is designed to bring intensive healing to cracked and dry skin. While it feels thick, it goes on lightly and absorbs quickly into the skin, leaving the skin feeling supple and moisturized. Aloe Vera, one of the main ingredients has enzymes that help to remove dead skin cells and several plant hormones which combine with the high water content to heal inflammation. The antioxidants in aloe vera will aid cells to heal and rejuvenate.

Close-up of aloe vera plant

The Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream has a light, almost ‘whipped’ texture. The cream is rich without being heavy, and as with our other products, absorbs quickly into the skin. The ingredients in this cream are 70% certified organic. Jojoba seed oil is unique in that it has such a low melting point that it is a liquid wax. It is an evergreen plant that is native to the United States in the arid southwest. The oil closely resembles sebum, which is the oil produced by the skin. Because of this similarity, it integrates seamlessly into the skin and acts as a natural conditioner. The jojoba and shea butter will leave the skin feeling soft and smooth.

None of our products contain petroleum derivatives such as petroleum jelly, or mineral oil. These ingredients are common in many skin care lines, and especially in products made for lip care and for chapped lips in particular.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, please feel free to come by our shop on Valencia Street in San Francisco and try the different creams for yourself! You may find your new favorite products to use when you have chapped lips and find that you also want to use them everywhere on your body!

Written by Jen Bator — April 17, 2017

2 ways to bring soothing Marshmallow Root to your skin care routine

Ancient Greece provides the first written record  of Marshmallow. The Athenian philosopher Theophrastus, (372 bce - 287 bce) recommended drinking a combination of sweet wine and marshmallow as a cough remedy. Along with philosophy, he was interested in the natural sciences and is credited with being the first person to create a classification of plants. This classification laid the foundation for the scientific study of plants, botany.

Botanical drawing of Marshmallow plant depicting flower, leaf structure on stalk and root

In Greek, Althea means "to heal"  and the plant was referred to by this name in Ancient Greece. The people of Greece and later Rome were using all parts of the plant to treat conditions ranging from wounds to toothaches to digestive issues. The fact that around 200 bce there were close to five recorded medicinal uses for different parts of the plant indicates that it was likely being used as a treatment long before this  The Romans ate it as a vegetable, and it was considered a delicacy. It was also eaten as a vegetable and used medicinally in China and the Middle East. It is more than likely that historically the plant was used for food and in traditional medicine in every area where it grew.

The root, stems, and to some degree the leaves have mucilage qualities, which means that they secrete a substance that is gel-like and is cooling and slippery. In Europe during the Medieval period, men and women accused of crimes were put through an ordeal and made to hold a red-hot iron rod to determine their innocence or guilt. The innocent would have no serious burns, the guilty, of course, would be burned badly. There is lore that both the guilty and the innocent would apply a mallow ointment to their hands before the ordeal to protect themselves from bad burns, and thus trick the system.

Marshmallow is native to much of Europe, Asia and North Africa. In England, where it was introduced by the Romans, it received it's lasting common name Marshmallow as it prefers to be near water, and grows in salt marshes and damp meadows, ditches and tidal rivers. The plant is a perennial and can grow to be 3 or 4 feet high.

Four petaled cream coloured Marshmallow flower. the stamen forms a pink barrel shape in the center.The green of leaves is in the back ground

The plant is in the same family as hollyhocks, hibiscus and other mallows. All are medicinal but the Marshmallow contains the highest concentration of mucilage. The leaves are best harvested in springtime when there is new growth. Flowers appear in late summer August and September, followed by a fruit. The flowers and seeds can be harvested after they develop. The roots need to be harvested from plants that are two to three years old in late fall and in winter.  It contains high concentrations of several minerals such as iron, selenium, magnesium and calcium.

As the plant is prolific, during times of crop failure and famine, the root was relied on as food. In Europe, the root was boiled to soften and then fried in butter, or other fat with onions. The young leaves and tops may still be eaten in parts of France as a spring kidney tonic. I say 'may be' because many of the traditional uses of plants have been lost except in increasingly isolated and small pockets.

The French are credited with creating a confection that evolved into the modern marshmallow candy. They would peel the root to expose the white fibrous pulp and boil it to soften. The root is naturally sweet and as its sweetness released, sugar would be added. The mallow thickened the confection. Modern commercial marshmallows no longer contain the root.

Marshmallow leaf with other leaves visible in background

Marshmallow has anti-inflammatory properties. Early Arabic doctors applied the leaves as a poultice to soothe inflammation. Mucilage acts to coat the sensitive mucosal lining of the digestive and respiratory tracts. This coating allows for healing to occur and the anti-inflammatory action soothes any irritations in the internal lining. This is why it is an excellent remedy for coughs. The root is used to promote healing for external wounds, internally to soothe the entire digestive tract.

Studies have been done which verify the anti-inflammatory benefits and other studies also indicate that it has antimicrobial properties and that it may have the positive effect of reducing blood glucose levels. Research is being done into its ability to encourage the growth of new cells. Experiential evidence indicates that it does assist in cell regeneration, which may be due to the fact that it soothes and so contributes to an environment where cells can healthily reproduce.

Marshmallow root in joins other soothing and antioxidant ingredients in our Organic Aloe & Shea Shave Cream. The cream will protect skin from the rigors of shaving, and leave your skin feeling smooth and supple.

Our Organic Aloe, Shea Butter & Jojoba Body Cream harnesses the power of the mucilage in Marshmallow root. The mucilage acts as a wash to infuse the skin with hydration. At the same time, it improves the skin's ability to retain moisture. The Aloe, Shea Butter and Jojoba bring their anti-oxidant and nutritive properties to this rich and transforming cream.

Written by Jen Bator — April 09, 2017

Myrtus Communis is anything but common

 Long associated with queens and goddesses, mention of myrtle extends back thousands of years. Historically, myrtle is considered one of the most significant plants. It plays a fundamental role in traditional medicine; in Europe and throughout the Mediterranean it is also used in cooking.

 The Myrtle tree is native to the Indian subcontinent, the Mediterranean basin, and Western Asia. A species of the tree, grows in the mountains of the Central Saharan Desert, in the mountains of Southern Algeria and Northern Chad. The plant is evergreen. The flowers are usually white and the petals form a star shape. There are multiple stamens at the center. Purple berries develop from the flowers. They are a round fruit, and are the color of blackberries. The leaves, bark, flowers and fruit are used as medicine, and as food. In some areas, essential oil is also extracted from the seeds.

Blue myrtle berries in sardinia By Japs 88

 In Hebrew, myrtle is called hadas, and is associated with righteousness. The tree was described as a good tree with a pleasant smell. Hadassah, another of Queen Esther's names, refers back to the tree. The Purim holiday commemorates her role saving the Jews from Haman's plot to annihilate them.

 Myrtle branches are incorporated into Sukkot celebrations, which usually take place in the fall. Myrtle along with three other species of sacred plants are bound together.

Myrtle tree in a garden

 The Romans valued myrtle, and associated the plant with Venus, their goddess of love and fertility, and are responsible for its spread to other regions. The Roman legions often took cultivars with them into the lands they conquered because it reminded them of Rome. It has been introduced as far north as the United Kingdom.

 In many cultures, it plays a role in wedding ceremonies - in the Ukraine brides wear a crown woven of myrtle. In England, Queen Victoria was given a bouquet containing Myrtle by her soon-to-be mother-in-law. The Myrtle from that bouquet was planted at a royal estate. That original sprig grew into a tree, and by tradition every royal wedding bouquet includes a sprig of myrtle from the tree.

 As a culinary herb the leaves are dried and used much like bay leaf. It is said to taste like allspice with a hint of menthol. The berries are dried and ground and used like juniper berries. In Sardinia and Corsica, the Mirto liqueur is made of the berries and in some cases a combination of leaves and berries.

Myrtle flower and leaves close-up

 Medicinally, Myrtle is used across Africa and Europe. The plant has a long list of benefits with applications for almost every system of the body. For many centuries the oil of the leaves has been used to lower blood sugar levels. Throughout the Mediterranean it is used to treat urinary and bladder infections, and for respiratory issues. It is used for its positive affect on the endocrine system and the release of hormones. It is particularly effective when used to regulate the thyroid gland for low thyroid. 

 Myrtle contains flavonols and one of these compounds myricetin is thought to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties. This compound is currently being studied as a treatment to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. Myrtle assists with heart health as it helps to reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. The oxidation is a contributing factor of heart disease. The essential oil is also thought to boost cognitive strength and relieve stress and nervousness.

 Myrtle is an astringent and will alleviate oily skin and reduce the size of the pores. A powerful antioxidant, it helps cells to heal and regrow. This improves the over-all health of the skin.  In many places, Myrtle has traditionally been used to heal acne and other skin disorders. 

 Made especially for sensitive skin, our Chamomile & Lupine Repartive Eye Gel Mrytle's astringent and healing properties combine with other ingredients to soothe the skin, increase circulation and reduce puffiness.

 Perfect for sensitive skin, our Mineral & Botanical Cleanser combines essential minerals with botanicals to both soothe and nourish your skin. Myrtle, along with other anti-inflammatory ingredients calms the skin.  The astringent properties of Myrtle help to balance and reduce unnecessary oil, while the antioxident properties help the skin to heal at a cellular level.

Bringing the relaxing qualities of Myrtle, our Essential Oil Blend Evening (Neroli Lemon) is perfect aromatherapy for when you need to unwind and calm from the stresses of your day.

 

Botanical illustration of Myrtle 

 

Notes -- Illustration 1: By Japs 88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https-_commons.wikimedia.org_w_index.php?curid=17898041

Illustration 2: Myrtle Communis in the garden by By Raffi Kojian - http-_Gardenology.org, CC BY-SA 3.0, https-_commons.wikimedia.org_w_index.php?curid=12734838

 

Written by Jen Bator — April 02, 2017

Achilea Millefolium - Yarrow

In Greek myth, the sea nymph Thetis, had lost several baby sons. When the seventh son was born, she was determined to protect this child. She snuck out of the home she shared with King Pelias and journeyed to the underworld to the River Styx. She  dipped her baby son Achilles into the magical waters of the  River Styx to make him immortal. She didn’t want to completely let go of him in the fast flow and held onto him just above one of his heel. He became immortal, with one vulnerable spot - his heel.

To the relief of the King, she returned home with the baby. Late that night, she crept out of bed, gathered Achilles from his cradle and placed him on the fire. King Pelias jumped out of bed and pulled Achilles from the flames. Queen Thetis, explained that the baby had been dipped in the flow of the River Styx and was impervious to the flame. The fire was to have completed the process and made him immortal. She left her husband and child and returned to the sea.

Sick with grief because his wife had abandoned him and their infant son, King Pelias journeyed with the baby to Mount Pelion. The infant  was given over to the care of the centaur Chiron. Born of the union between the Titan Cronus and the nymph Philyra, Chiron was unlike other centaurs. Centaurs - torso, arms and head of a man and body and legs of a horse - were known to be lustful, wild and uncivilized creatures. Chiron was an educator, a skilled astronomer, a healer, and an oracle.

Achilles was like a son to him and under Chiron’s tutelage, he became an accomplished warrior, skilled at music and skilled with medicinal plants. Achilles had a special affinity for Yarrow. He is reputed to have used yarrow to heal soldiers on the battlefields fighting for dominance of Troy. There is no historical evidence that links Achilles to yarrow, but for unknown reasons the association between the two took hold and is reflected in the plant’s name Achilea Millefolium.

Common yarrow under a tree

Spanning across North America, Europe and Asia, Yarrow is a native plant throughout the northern hemisphere. The plant has been used medicinally in every area where it grows. Traces of yarrow have been discovered on the teeth of a 50,000 year old Neanderthal found in what is now Spain. Scientists conjecture that, as it is bitter, the plant was eaten as medicine. It is not known exactly why our ancestor ate yarrow. In the past, bitter flavors were appreciated more than they are currently, and bitters were incorporated more regularly into the diet.

Dried yarrow stems were used to cast the I Ching and across cultures the plant has long been associated with divination. In some places, it was said that if yarrow was placed under your pillow, you would dream of your new lover. When hung on the bridal bed it was thought to ensure that love would last for seven years. From place to place, the lore is often contradictory. In many places it was thought to protect against evil spirits and to bring good luck, but in other places around the Christian west, it is associated with the devil and considered bad luck to bring into a house.

During the middle ages, it was a popular ingredient used to brew beer. The young, new leaves were eaten in salad into the 17th century.

The leaf and flower and tender parts of the young stalk are used medicinally. The leaves are easily recognized as they have a feathery appearance. The flowers can range from ivory to yellow to pink and many daisy-like, small flowers form an umbrella shape at the top of the stalk.

Close-up Yarrow leaves depicting feathery appearance.                                      Botanic drawing of Yarrow plant

The Yarrow leaf staunches the flow of blood and has been used on battlefields and to treat skin wounds in North America and in Europe for thousands of years. It is also good for wounds because it has some antimicrobial properties. The herb improves most systems of the body, in different parts of the world, it has been used to treat earaches, colds, and to increase body temperature when sickness is coming on, headaches, for women’s reproductive issues - both to quash heavy bleeding and stimulate sparse periods. It stimulates digestion, and has the dual action of toning the blood vessels at the same time as it dilates the capillaries which causes the blood to flow. One of the plant’s common names is ‘nosebleed’ and this provides an excellent example of this effect on the blood vessels. It can cause a nosebleed or stop the blood from flowing when one has a nosebleed. The leaves can be chewed to relieve the pain of a toothache.

In modern gardens and wild landscapes, it is commonly considered a weed, but as you can see, Yarrow has been effectively used as a healing herb across many applications for thousands of years.

For the skin, Yarrow as a tea will help to soothe skin irritations such as rashes or insect bites, and has been used to treat and calm eczema.

Yarrow is an astringent and can be helpful with balancing oily skin and for acne. It has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which help to heal the skin infections that contribute to acne.

Yarrow helps to calm inflamed skin. As it helps to improve circulation, it has the effect of bringing blood to all of the layers of the skin. Yarrow will improve the effectiveness of anti-oxidant encouraged toxin removal by using the flow of blood to pull out the toxins from the skin.  

The infusion of yarrow in our Aloe & Comfrey Shave Gel helps to calm the skin and prevent inflammation from developing. The styptic properties of yarrow will help to heal any nicks and cuts that might happen while shaving.

Written by Jen Bator — March 27, 2017

The Buzz about Bees

The first example of an ancient bee was found in Myanmar. The bee was trapped in amber 100 million years ago. Like wasps, these early bees ate other insects as flowers had not yet developed color and nectar.

Bees were instrumental in the development of flowers. Most plants can’t self pollinate. At first they probably relied on wind and chance for pollination. Over time, plants evolved traits - brightly colored flowers and nectar - to attract animals which would help them to reproduce. Plants and bees developed a symbiotic relationship - flowers give bees nectar and bees transport pollen from flower to flower thus ensuring the plant generates seeds and reproduces.

Bee collecting nectar from purple crocus

A honeybee colony is made up of three categories of bee. At the top of the hierarchy is the queen. A colony has only one queen and her only task is reproduction. She controls the behavior of the other bees in the hive with her pheromones. She lays up to 2,000 eggs each day and she can live for up to five years.

The worker bees are female and number about 10,000 to 50,000 in each colony. They have specialized tasks - care for the young, find new food sources, defend the hive, build the comb and provide food for the drones the queen and the grubs. They do not switch jobs, but carry out the same task throughout their lifespan.

Drones are the male bees and number about 1,000 in a colony. They don’t have a stinger, and don’t produce any food. Their only purpose is to mate with the queen and they die soon after mating. The worker bees feed them honey.

Honeybees at hive with queen at center

Scout bees look for food sources. When the scouts find a source of food, they return to the hive and teach the other bees where to find the food source. The scouts perform a ‘wiggle dance’ that transmits the directions. The other workers feel the vibrations with their antennae and taste the nectar the scouts provide so they know they’ve found the correct source. As soon as the directions are understood, the worker bees take off in search of the nectar source.

Worker bees fly over 3 miles from the hive and are able to constantly adapt to the plants and the season. They will return to an area until all of the nectar is depleted. Once back at the hive the nectar is given to another worker who holds the droplets on her tongue until the liquid evaporates and it becomes honey. She then deposits the honey into a cell for storage.

The honey comb is built for storage of honey and to hold the eggs and developing pupae. Each cell is made from a secretion of wax flakes on the underside of the abdomen. The worker then chews up the flake and mold the wax scales into place. Honey combs are only built as they are needed. Each cell of the comb is in the shape of a hexagon and is very space efficient and much stronger than a circle or an oval or square tube.

Close up of honeycomb

The size of the cell determines the gender and purpose of the hatched bee. The queen measures the cell with her front legs and decides based on the size whether or not to fertilize the egg. If the cell is to hold a worker bee or a new queen, she adds sperm to her vagina before she deposits the egg into the cell. Eggs hatch whether they are fertilized or not. The drones are unfertilized. The nurse bees feed all of the developing larvae royal jelly for the first 3 days of their development.

When a hive reaches population capacity, the queen lays an egg that is destined to become a new queen. The nurses feed the larvae that will become a queen bee royal jelly throughout her life. This rich food allows the new queen to develop ovaries. During the new queen’s development, the worker bees seek out and find an appropriate home for the new colony. Once the new queen has reached maturity, the reigning queen leaves with a third of the hive to start a new colony. This is called a swarm and usually takes place in spring.

Humans have had a relationship with bees for hundreds of thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence that bees have played a role in human culture since prehistoric times. Bee swarms, bee hives and honeycombs appear in ancient rock art across sub-Saharan Africa. At first, Humans sought out wild bee colonies, but it is likely that bees were domesticated around the same time that animals such as pigs and cows were being tamed to live alongside humans. Scientists have been testing pottery dating from 10,000 years ago for traces of beeswax. The pottery was found across southern Europe, Asia and North Africa, and the evidence points to a long history of early farming cultures using bees and harvesting both honey and beeswax.

In most places, beeswax was the only type of wax available. It has long been used to make candles, and in its natural state it is firm but pliable. It is thought that beeswax was used by ancient people to bind stone points to wood in making weapons and was likely used for repairs.

In Egypt 2000 years ago, encaustic paintings were made using beeswax. The wax was heated and mixed with pigment before being applied to prepared surface. It was then exposed to the sun which “burned in” the image.

Honey has long been used as an antiseptic and sweetener in food and to make alcohol. Sweetness was rare in the ancient world, so honey would have been highly valued. It is likely that both beeswax and honey were collected for utilitarian purposes and for use as medicine and in religious ceremonies.

 The record of when bees were first domesticated is incomplete. Domesticating bees eliminated the need to search for colonies, but the hive and the bees living in it were destroyed during collection.  In the 1800s, a man named Lorenzo Langstroth discovered that bees would keep a space free for movement within a hive. This led to the development of hives with frames that could be removed. The bees build the honeycomb inside the frame and the beekeeper can remove the frame to collect the honey without harming the bees. This development has allowed humans to more safely interact with bees and harvest their honey and wax.

 Frame with honeycomb and bees on it

Wild bee colonies have become rare due to loss of habitat, climate change and pesticides and toxins in the environment. Pesticides are affecting all bees, and Colony Collapse Disorder as it's called, is devastating wild and commercial  bee colonies throughout the United States. As up to one third of our food supply relies on bees and other pollinators the loss of bees will have drastic consequences on all life on this planet.

Beeswax acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-septic which makes it an effective treatment for skin-conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema. The anti-inflammatory properties calm and soothe the skin, and help to reduce swelling. It forms a barrier to protect the skin from pollutants, but it won't block pores. Beeswax is a humectant, which means that it attracts water to the cells which helps to keep skin hydrated. 

Our Shea & Beeswax Hand & Cuticle Therapy is a thicker, rich cream that soothes dry, cracked or itchy skin by providing moisture and protection.

For your beard and hair, try the Organic Shea & Cocoa Butter Hair & Beard Pomade or in the handy portable biodegradable tube Grooming & Styling Wax. Both tame fly-away hair while providing necessary moisture and a sheen. The Grooming & Styling Wax gives a slightly firmer hold, but doesn't leave your hair feeling stiff.

Along with a pleasant natural fragrance evocative of honey, our Beeswax Pillar Candles release negative ions which cleanse the air of pollutants, dust, mold and pollen. Beeswax candles burn clean and don't produce soot like candles made of paraffin - a distillation from petroleum.
 

 

Written by Jen Bator — March 15, 2017

Spirulina the Wonder of Blue Green Algae

Spirulina is the descendant of one of the first photosynthesizing life forms to develop on earth. The single celled blue green algae has existed for 3.5 billion years. In the beginning, it added oxygen to the atmosphere which allowed other life to develop. Today, algae is one the most plentiful life forms and it helps to regulate the earth's biosphere.

Spirulina thrives in alkaline conditions that most other organisms can't survive in. It appreciates sunshine and moderate temperatures.

It is likely that Spirulina has been harvested and eaten for thousands of years. There are records of its historical use in two distinct places - Central America and Central Africa.

Record of Spirulina being used as food dates to the 9th century ce in the great Kanem Empire of Central Africa, which included Lake Chad in the south. In parts of Africa where it is readily available, it is still part of the daily diet.

In Central America, it was called Tecuitlatl by the Aztecs and grew in many freshwater lakes, ponds and anywhere there was still, alkaline water. It's use was described by the Cortez expedition.

Lake Texcoco Basin circa 1519 By Lago_de_Texcoco-posclásico.png: YavidaxiuValley_of_Mexico_c.1519-fr.svg: historicair 13:51, 11 September 2007 (UTC)derivative work: Sémhur (talk) - Lago_de_Texcoco-posclásico.png, itself from :(fr) Niederberger Betton, Christine (1987) Paléo-paysages et archéologie pré-urbaine du Bassin de Mexico, México: Centro de estudios mexicanos y centroamericanos (CEMCA), pp. 500 ISBN: 3785726.Valley_of_Mexico_c.1519-fr.svg, itself from :(en) Coe, Michael; Snow, Dean; Benson, Elizabeth (1986) Atlas of Ancient America, New York: Facts On File, pp. 240 ISBN: 978-0816011995.(en) Townsend, Richard F. (1992) The Aztecs, London: Thames & Hudson, pp. 224 ISBN: 978-0500021132.(es) This picture incorporates information from La cuenca de México, special edition of Arqueología Mexicana, july-august 2007, Mexico.(es) This picture incorporates information from this version of the article Lago de Texcoco on the Spanish Wikipedia., FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9263087

Tecuitlatl was gathered from the water using nets and dried into cakes that were sold in markets. The Europeans compared the way it was eaten to cheese, and noted that people traveled with it and ate it daily. It was still a food source in the late 1500s, but as the ponds and  lakes were drained to build cities and towns it became rare and it's use as food declined. Lake Texcoco still has an active living Spirulina culture.

In the 1960s, it was "discovered" again by French researchers in both Mexico and Africa.  In Africa, a researcher noticed that the flamingo lived on Spirulina and krill which also consumed Spirulina algae and that the birds had a long life span. The betacarotenes in Spirulina are what make the color of flamingos vary from pink to orange to red. Flamingos feed close to shore and the bird developed a filter in it's beak to perfectly isolate the krill and Spirulina.

Flamingoes wading on lake in Kenya

The Great Rift in Africa - extending from Ethiopia in the north to Botswana in the south along the eastern side of the African continent - provides perfect conditions. Rainwater moves through the volcanic soil collecting mineral salts as it is filtered. The water gathers in ancient lake beds and adds to the mineral rich, akaline soda lake. A similar process occurs in central Africa around the Lake Chad. Lake Chad is huge, and important both historically and in the present day. It is thought to be the site of a much larger ancient sea. Spirulina grows on approximately one third of the lake's surface area and is also present in the smaller ponds and lakes near Lake Chad.

Map of Africa showing Lake Chad and Kanem Empire

Around Lake Chad, the Spirulina harvest has been passed from mother to daughter for generations. After the rainy season, the wet algae is scooped into clay pots.It is then drained through a cloth and dried or baked in the sun on ircles of sand. After 20 minutes of drying, it is cut into squares called dihé. The dihé are sold in market throughout the region and is eaten as a sauce served over millet, beans, fish or meat. Spirulina is a complete protein, the only vegetable source of vitamin B12, high in iron and rich in vitamins, carbohydrates, enzymes and essential fatty acids.

In the late 1960s, the French started harvesting Spirulina on a larger scale. In 1974 the United Nations declared Spirulina a superfood.

Spirulina is a single celled organism that is in the shape of a spiral that can be .5 millmeters in length. It is cylindrical and an open, left-handed helix.

Spiral shape of Spirulina - from Algaeindustrymagazine.com

The high nutrient profile makes Spirulina a valuable food source. It is used to nourish and bring health back to malnourished people. Most of the nutrients are readily bio-available - meaning that the body doesn't need to expend much energy to process and transform the nutrients into substances it can use - and it is easily digested.

Because of its powerful nutritive profile, it can benefit the body internally and in skincare products.

The spectrum of cartenoids work synergistically as powerful antioxidants, and scavenge for free radicals. The antioxidants neutralize the free radicals and help the body to eliminate them and also act to repair the damage done to the cells. The antioxidants in Spirulina are especially effective on the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin.

The blue pigment called phycocyanin is a protein known to inhibit the development of cancer.

Spirulina powder in small wooden scoop

Spirulina also has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. The essential fatty acids nourish the skin cells. Essential fatty acids, improve the skin's texture and help the cells retain necessary moisture and reduce inflammation.

 Bring home the benefits of Spirulina in our Bamboo & Walnut Foaming Body Polish. The antioxidants and nourishing essential fatty acids of Spirulina combine with the gentle exfoliate powdered walnut and cell regeneration encouraging essential oils.

Written by Jen Bator — March 06, 2017

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