Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spa Girl is hot on Mustard...

Everyone around me it seems is battling a cold or flu lately, including me, a nasty little bug imported from Texas.  And whenever I get a cold it generally goes straight to my chest.
I have felt so miserable I decided to try an old remedy my mom, and mostly likely her mom before her used for colds and flu, an old fashion mustard plaster.
What is the magic of mustard you ask...
The ancient Greeks believed that Mustard was the gift of the Greek god of healing, Asclepious, to mankind. The Chinese used it thousands of years ago. Mustard has been used across the globe as a spice or a medicinal plant. It has been used in war times for healing wounds, and during epidemics, for ailments such as stomach disorders, toothaches, and scorpion bites. The color of mustard can range from yellowish white to black. Mustard is loaded with nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, iron, dietary fiber, calcium, protein, and zinc.
Mustard contains chemical compounds which are effective expectorants and `warming’ agents and mustard tea is great for relieving aches and pains, fever and colds. Mustard plasters have been used to help with asthma and bronchitis.
Mustard has an interesting history dating back over 5,000 years. Mustard Seeds come from different areas of Europe and Asia; white originating in the eastern Mediterranean regions, brown from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and black from the Middle East. Used in ancient Greece for their culinary properties, the Romans inventing paste from the ground seeds and both cultures used mustard for medicinal purposes. It is one of the most popular spices traded in the world today.

Here is my moms recipe...

Mom's Mustard Plaster

8 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. soda
Water or mineral oil (I use water)

Mix together and add enough warm water or mineral oil so it's like the consistency of icing. Spread this on 1/2 of piece of cotton material then fold other half of material over mixture. Apply to chest area for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cover area with a warm cloth.  Repeat twice a day front and back for best results. Caution must be taken to not burn the skin, so check every few minutes and remove if your skin is becoming red.

Here are some other great remedies for homemade cough and cold season:

Ginger Tea
  • 1 inch or so fresh ginger root, sliced thin or grated
  • 1/2 a fresh lemon, sliced (peel & all)
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • ~2 c water
  • Very generous spoonful honey
Place water, ginger, lemon, & garlic in saucepan; bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer gently for 20 min. Strain into mugs and add lots of honey. The tea *will* get stronger if you let it sit! Most invigorating!
The garlic adds a bit of bitterness, but the honey masks that. This tea is very soothing to the throat and warms and opens the chest and nasal passages. Plus there are all those vitamins and other good things! I now make this tea at the first sign of a cold, which helps me fight it off. I find it more effective than the commercial hot lemon remedies, and of course cheaper!Contributed by Kim Goddard,
Simple Cough Syrup
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup warm water
Combine lemon juice and honey in a bowl. Slowly stir in the water. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator - take 1-2 tbsp as needed for cough.
To soothe a sore throat, add 1 tbsp of mixture to a cup of comfrey root, chamomile or rosemary tea.
 Cranberry Soup
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 cups water
  • Honey to taste
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
Heat cranberries and water together until cranberry skins open. Strain and add honey to taste. Bring mixture close to a boil, then remove from heat. In a separate bowl, mix starch with 2 tbsp cold water. Slowly add this mixture to the cranberry juice - stir vigorously.

Return mixture to heat and bring to full boil, stirring until it thickens and becomes slightly transparent. Store in refrigerator in a covered container. Serve w/ warm cream. Soothes colds, and is a good source of vitamins C and B.
Hyssop Cough Syrup
Licorice flavoured, soothes sore throats.
  • 2 tbsp dried hyssop (f tops) or 1/3 cup fresh hyssop (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tsp aniseed
In a saucepan combine honey and water. Stir until the mixture is consistency of pancake syrup. Bring slowly to a boil (over a medium heat). Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Use 1-2 tbsp water to moisten the dried hyssop. Crush the aniseed. Stir both into the honey. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool. While the mixture is still a little warm, strain into a jar. When completely cooled, screw on the lid. Should keep for 1 week.
 Glycerine Lemon Cough Syrup
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp glycerine
  • 2 tbsp honey
Heat the lemon by boiling it in water for 10 minutes. Cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Add the glycerine and honey. Take 1 tsp as needed.
Marshmallow Cough Syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice or juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tsp chopped dried marshmallow root
In a small saucepan, bring the marshmallow root and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain liquid into another saucepan (should result in about 1 cup). Over a low heat, slowly stir in the sugar until it becomes thick and granules completely dissolve. (Stir in more water if the mixture becomes too thick.) Remove from heat and stir in the orange juice. Transfer to a container and allow to cool before covering tightly.
 Wild Cherry Cough Syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (scant)
  • 1 tsp wild cherry bark
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tsp chopped dried marshmallow root
Make a decoction of the cherry bark and marshmallow root. (Boil in water for about 4 minutes. Steep the mixture with the cover on the pot for a few minutes.) Slowly stir in the sugar and cream of tartar, simmer until the mixture becomes thick and sugar granules completely dissolve. Transfer to a container and allow to cool before covering tightly.
 Lemon Cayenne Throat Soother 
Mix 1 tsp honey with 1 tsp lemon juice and dash of cayenne pepper. Take like cough syrup. This does not prevent cough, but does relieve throat pain in two ways. First, the honey and lemon coat the throat. Second, the cayenne pepper brings blood cells needed to fight off infection to the throat area.

Contributed by Beth,

More about Mustard:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spa Girl says what? Cosmeceuticals

Baby boomer's it seems are seeking an abundance of anti-aging remedies often referred to as cosmecuticals, and the marketplace is responding. In the USA alone, sales of anti-aging products were $16 BILLION last year!

The arena of skincare is one of the fastest growing industries world-wide. With more than a million skincare remedies available in spas, clinics, and drug stores, consumers and practitioners are often overwhelmed.

The term cosmeceutical was introduced by Albert Kligman in 1984 (March 17, 1916 – February 9, 2010, was a dermatologist who invented Retin-A, the popular acne medication) to refer to the marriage of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Products generally labeled as cosmeceuticals include anti-aging creams and moisturizers with biologically active ingredients that suggest they have medical benefits, however most of these claims are unsubstantiated.

Dubbed "cosmeceuticals" by the beauty industry--a deliberate word play on cosmetics and pharmaceuticals--these pricey "miracle creams" are the latest craze among youth-obsessed baby boomers looking for ways to stave off the signs of aging.

Cosmeceuticals don't require FDA approval for the claims they make so it is very important to do your research and consult your Spa specialist in order to make the best decisions about what to apply to your face.

The most important thing to keep in mind and practice are the five things your skin requires every day to stay healthy and young.  They include: antioxidants; sun protection; essential fatty acids; water; and cleansing.

Here are some great sites to check out.

The Role of Cosmeceuticals in Anti-aging Therapy
Five Things for the Skin

Canada Cosmeceuticals

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spa Girl says its Sticky & Sweet and oh so Good for You!

Dating back more than 5,000 years honey is one of the oldest medicines known to human-kind. British researchers have now proven that honey prevents infections and eliminates the need for antibiotics and it is the primary ingredient of many skin and hair care products. So whether it's at the spa or at home, from cupboard to face, let honey work its magic!

From Cleopatra’s rumoured honey and milk baths to a basic at-home remedy for a black eye, honey is as practical as it is sweet. A natural humectant—meaning, it attracts and maintains moisture—honey is widely used as a primary ingredient in a variety of skincare and hair products. Its powerful anti-oxidant properties are beneficial for soothing wounds, bruises and common skin irritations including dry skin and acne, while many advocates expect it to be the next breakthrough ingredient in commercial sunscreen products for its natural restorative properties and preliminary studies suggest that its bacteria-killing properties may prove to be a natural alternative medicine. Honey is a beneficial asset for DIY face masks or body scrubs, and its long shelf life makes it an essential household staple, but there are also plenty of pre-made products that spotlight its winning components.

Honey which has not been pasteurized or filtered is consider the best to use. Raw honey taken directly from the hive can be used not only to sweeten your tea, but to treat cuts and scrapes, alleviate asthma, calm nerves and when added to warm milk, helps you to relax and sleep better.  It is a natural source of vitamins, mineral and enzymes known for their healing powers.

Here is what one honey expert has uncovered...

The list of honey's beneficial functions is a long one. Honey increases calcium absorption; can increase hemoglobin count and treat or prevent anemia caused by nutritional factors; can help arthritic joints, when combined with apple cider vinegar; fights colds and respiratory infections of all kinds; can help to boost gastrointestinal ulcer healing; works as a natural and gentle laxative; aids constipation, allergies and obesity; provides an array of vitamins and minerals; and supplies instant energy without the insulin surge caused by white sugar. Many have found raw honey helpful for its positive effects against allergies and hay fever, and one or two teaspoons last thing at night can help with insomnia. As an antiseptic, honey is also a drawing agent for poisons from bites or stings or infected wounds, and has outperformed antibiotics in treatments for stomach ulcerations, gangrene, surgical wound infections, surgical incisions and the protection of skin grafts, corneas, blood vessels and bones during storage and shipment.

Researchers believe that the therapeutic potential of honey is grossly underutilized. With increasing interest in the use of alternative therapies and as the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria spreads, honey may finally receive its due recognition as a wound healer.  Indeed, it works: Raw honey makes a sterile, painless and effective wound dressing. Apply it directly to open cuts, abrasions and burns, and cover it with a piece of gauze. The results will occur quicker than with conventional alternatives, such as salves and creams.

Honey is also exceptionally effective for respiratory ailments. One Bulgarian study of almost 18,000 patients found that it improved chronic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, chronic and allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. It's an effective treatment for colds, flu, respiratory infections and a generally depressed immune system. Whereas sugar shuts down the immune system, a good quality honey will stimulate it into action.

Here are some more ways to utilize the healing power of honey:
BURNS - Apply freely over burns. It cools, removes pain and aids fast healing without scarring. Apart from being a salve and an antibiotic, bacteria simply cannot survive in honey.
INSOMNIA - A dessertspoon of honey in a mug of warm milk aids sleep and works wonders.
HYPERACTIVITY - Replace all use of white sugar with honey. White sugar is highly stimulating with no food qualities. Honey provides the energy without the "spike."
NASAL CONGESTION - Place a dessertspoon of honey in a basin of water and inhale fumes after covering your head with a towel over the basin. Very effective!
FATIGUE - Dissolve a dessertspoon of honey in warm water or quarter honey balance of water in a jug and keep in the fridge. Honey is primarily fructose and glucose, so it's quickly absorbed by the digestive system. Honey is a unique natural stabilizer: Ancient Greek athletes took honey for stamina before competing and as a reviver after competition.
FACIAL DEEP CLEANSER - Mix honey with an equal quantity of oatmeal, and apply as a face pack. Leave on for half an hour, then wash it off. Great as a deep cleanser for acne and other unwanted blemishes.
HAIR CONDITIONER - Mix honey with an equal quantity of olive oil, cover head with a warm tower for half an hour then shampoo off. Feeds hair and scalp. Your hair will never look or feel better!
SORE THROATS - Let a teaspoon of honey melt in the back of the mouth and trickle down the throat. Eases inflamed raw tissues.
FOR STRESS - Honey in water is a stabilizer, calming highs and raising lows. Use approximately 25 percent honey to water.
FOOD PRESERVATIVE – If you replace the sugar in cake and cookie recipes with honey, they'll stay fresher longer due to honey's natural antibacterial properties. Reduce liquids in the mixture by about one-fifth to allow for the moisture present in the in honey.
LONGEVITY - The most long-lived people in the world are all regular users of honey. An interesting fact, yet to be explained, is that beekeepers suffer less from cancer and arthritis than any other occupational group worldwide. MIGRAINE - Use a dessertspoon of honey dissolved in half a glass of warm water. Sip at the start of a migraine attack, and, if necessary, repeat after another 20 minutes.
COUGH MIXTURE – Combine 6 ounces (170 grams) liquid honey, 2 ounces (55 grams) glycerine and the juice of two lemons. Mix well. Bottle and cork firmly, and use as required.
Raw honey may become granulated, as some does after a week and another maybe only after several years. If the granulations bother you, simply place the honey into a pan of hot water (not boiling) and let it stand until becoming liquid again.

Kelly Joyce Neff has an interdisciplinary degree in Celtic Studies which includes work in cultural anthropology, history, linguistics, language, and literature. She is a traditional midwife and herbalist, a reiki master, and an active craftsperson. She lives in San Francisco.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spa Girl and the Aging Paradigm

I'm a boomer and like many from my generation I want to shift the paradigm that we must accept the declines of aging. 

Boomers are more active than past generations and we are increasing interested in age management, we just don't accept what comes with the years, we seek anti-aging remedies, we are heading to the Spa in record numbers and we are increasing focusing on healthy lifestyle habits.  It's a cultural phenomena and boomers are once again leading the way in not accepting the conventional trappings of age.

In my on-going quest for the perfect face I have discovered it is all about happy skin. The three major lifestyle factors that influence your appearance over the long term are the food you eat, the amount of exercise you get and how much stress your are exposed to.

Age related changes in the skin are the cumulative affects of innocuous habits such as how much time we spent outside, how much sleep we get, how healthy a diet we eat, and how much exercise we do.  All these factors have a major influence on the way our skin looks, and changes, beginning in your mid-thirties!

We all know that beauty is more than skin deep, and that individual splendour comes from our personal charm, self-confidence, liveliness, vivacity and charisma.  But having a great appearance, beautiful skin, sure does help! A good friend said to me recently that happiness and contentment are the best beauty remedies.

In our quest to seek anti-aging remedies there has been an explosion in the past number of years  of new skin care treatments that counteract the progression of aging, such as cosmeceuticals to reverse skin damage, topical antioxidants that address aging at the deepest layers of the skin, products and spa treatments that stimulate new collagen production and therapies that reverse sun damage.  But all these new products and treatments can also be very confusing and one has to sort out the facts from the marketing hype.

One of the best resources I have found is a book called: Secrets Of Great Skin: The Definitive Guide To Anti-aging Skin Care by David J. Goldberg and  Eva M. Herriott, Ph.D.

In this authoritative and practical book, Dr. David Goldberg, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Laser Research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, makes clear that beautiful skin is possible for all ages and skin types.

Inside this book you'll discover: * How to attack age-related changes at the deepest layers of the skin. * Strategies for dealing with stress and other factors that age the skin prematurely.
* Which foods are best for your skin.
* How to curb hormonal aging and collagen loss.
* How to evaluate a good cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.
* How advanced treatments such as microdermabrasion, laser technology, and botox can help.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dedicated to my dear friend Indigo...

For those of you who have followed my Spa Girl blog, you will recall this post...

I awoke this morning to a big silver bucket left on my doorstep full of heavenly spa goodies from a friend who shares many of my own passions—a welcome gift for my dive into the blogosphere. We are both voracious collectors of almost everything, aesthetics who love life and of course we are Spa Girls! I am always amazed, humbled and so touched with these remarkable gestures of kindness, it will surely make me smile the entire day and then some. I'm heading to the bath, bucket in hand. 

...imagination and friendship, what wonderful gifts

Indigo left that fantastic bucket of Spa goodies to celebrate my new Spa Girl blog, a gesture of philanthropy I now understand she extended to many of her friends.   She celebrated life each and every day and was truly an amazing woman, full of life, love, creativity and a sense of wonder for everyone and everything around her. I hope to live my life as she did, with passion and adventure. For one person to give so much to so many is a true testament of human kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.

My friend, and great Spa Girl supporter passed away this past week of cancer--we must FIND a CURE!

Spa Girl loves Provence

For one amazing year I studied in the south of France in the charming, historic town of Lacoste. Provence is known world-wide for its natural treasures, clear blue skies and protected valleys which are ideal for growing everything from grapes to many varieties of flowers and herbs.

Lascoste is a medieval village with cobblestone streets; the oldest building, the Maison Forte dates to the 9th century. The town overlooks the near-by village of Bonnieux and is situated between the Plateau de Vaucluse and the Luberon mountains. Perched atop of this picturesque town are the ruins of the castle of its most notorious resident, the Marquis de Sade, who in the 18th century lived in the castle overlooking the village. In the 1990s, the ruins of the castle, along with an attached quarry, were bought by fashion designer Pierre Cardin, and since 1994 musical and theatrical works have been performed there. The town is also well known for its art school.

One day while biking in the country with friends we came across fields and fields of lavender growing right up to meet the road on each side of us. Those divine aromatic stems of purple lavender gently blowing in the wind and framed against an amazing blue sky was a unforgettable site and I thought this must be heaven!

This past weekend just outside Seattle, while taking in another unforgettable site, fields and fields of glorious spring daffodils, I encountered the Washington-based company European Soaps who are the exclusive distributors of PRE de PROVENCE, a French line of soaps, bath & shower gels, oils, creams, fragrance and hair care products. Interested in Aromachology and Aromatherapy the company's products are made with quality ingredients including Shea butter.

I picked up a tube of 20% Organic Shea Butter Dry Skin Hand Cream and it is one of the best hand creams I have ever tried and will forever be in my purse! Shea butter, rich in vitamin F, comes from the Karité tree which flourishes in central Africa. One of nature’s most effective moisturizers, Shea butter, full of natural elastins is super rich, gentle, and provides deep healing and protection for the skin, hair, cuticles and lips. And just a small amount of this hand cream goes along way, melts nicely into the skin and leaves your hands feeling like velvet.

I have used Shea butter in many of my own hand-made spa products and I am delighted to find this amazing hand cream which comes in Natural, Verbena and of course Lavender.

For more information check out their website: