Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.


The Incredible (Totally Edible) Homemade Face Mask


Photo by Tabitha Alterman

Most of us are looking for ways to save money during this … what are we calling it these days … economic kerfuffle? Of course, one of the most logical places to look is at life’s nonessentials. You know, cable TV, restaurants, European vacations, and of course fancy schmancy cosmetics and beauty treatments.

In more robust times, I’ll spend $10 to $15 on a body care product that I really love. But how about this? For just a few cents, you can treat yourself to this fabulous at-home facial, and then eat the leftovers!

Ingredients and Equipment:

  • 4 grapes, cut in half
  • 1 tsp yogurt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 washcloths 

Step One:

Prepare the ingredients for your at-home facial, and place them in your staging area, probably the bathroom.

  1. Cut the grapes in half.
  2. Mix the yogurt and honey together.

Wet the washcloths, and place them on a plate in the microwave. You don’t need to warm them yet — just get them ready. (If you prefer to use the stove, just set the cloths in a steamer basket with a little bit of water underneath.)   


Photo by Tabitha Alterman

Step Two:

Cut the grapes in half and rub them all over your face (don’t forget your kisser!) in circular motions, squishing the grapes into your skin as they begin to run out of juice. And sure, go ahead and eat the skins when you’re done — why not? I’m not here to judge.

 


Photo by Tabitha Alterman

Step Three:

Pat the clumpy yogurt-honey mixture all over your face. (Hey there, you trying to save the money! Yes, you. Learn how to make yogurt at home — it’s a cinch.)


Photo by Tabitha Alterman

Step Four:

Get ready for the fun part! Warm the towels on half-power in the microwave, for about 45 seconds. (Or heat them gently in a steamer basket on the stove.) They should not be too hot to handle. Place the warm cloths over your face, and lie down to relax until the washcloths have lost all their heat. (Tip: For a more spa-like experience, first light an aromatherapy candle, dim the lights and listen to some pleasant tunes. And remind someone to wake you up in about 15 minutes!)

Step Five:

Rinse the mask off with warm water. Then take your new face out on the town, and party like it’s 1999!

Why This DIY At-Home Facial Is So Great:

  • Grapes contain fruit acids that exfoliate and smooth skin.
  • Yogurt soothes inflammation and redness, and softens dry skin.
  • Honey moisturizes skin, and attacks germs.
  • Heat opens pores, allowing the other ingredients to get to work. Plus, it’s soothing.
  • Relaxing, or giving yourself permission to enjoy a few minutes of R&R, is part of the healing process.

— Thanks to Caudalie and Time Out New York for inspiring this easy natural treatment! By the way, if your budget woes haven’t forced you to cut out beauty products yet, you might enjoy Caudalie’s line, which is free of parabens, phenoxyethanol, sodium laureth sulfate, and other things you don’t want seeping into your precious pores.

Forage for Skin and Hair Care Ingredients

Foraged Horsetail 

Foraged horsetail. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Last month, I shared my top 5 plants in my skincare garden but many of the plants I use have been foraged for around my property. I’m a big believer in eating locally grown food and that extends into the plants I use in my skin and hair care routines. The same reason I prefer to eat locally sourced honey, I believe nature provides most of what we need to our local regions.  I’ll be sharing with you what plants I forage for in my zone: 6b, and how I incorporate them into my hair and skincare routines.

Horsetail

Horsetail can be found in wet areas along creeks, streams, and rivers. I am lucky enough to have this plant growing along the side of my road for easy harvesting. Horsetail can improve circulation in the hair follicles which can promote hair growth, therefore, I like to incorporate this plant into all of my hair growth products combined with Rosemary.  After harvesting, let the reeds dry, you can dry them in a dark place hanging upside down, on a drying rack, or in a dehydrator. The reeds will then separate easily for storage. I like to infuse horsetail along with rosemary in spring water to be used as a hair growth spray. Add a bit of witch hazel into a 1oz spray bottle and use twice a day. Keep the mixture in the fridge for preservation. I also infuse in a mixture of oils to use as a hair serum/deep conditioner treatment. 

Wild Rose + Rosehips

Wild Roses Grow Along the Creek

Wild roses grow along the creek. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Wild Rosehips foraged in the Fall/Winter Months

 Wild Rosehips foraged in the Fall. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Wild rose and rosehips are much smaller than the cultivated variety but I LOVE foraging for wild roses along our creek. For me, it may be more of a mindful practice then anything else and it is one of my favorite summer activities.  The petals dry quickly and easily for storage.  I like to grind them up to be used in bath salts, infused in oils along with Chamomile in my face serum, and used in wrinkle cream.  Rosehips can be found in the fall/winter months and are best harvested after the first frost. Just be sure to leave plenty for birds and other wildlife to eat during the colder months.

Yarrow

Yarrow Found in a Field

Yarrow found in a field. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

In skincare, yarrow is wonderful with wound healing and for this reason, I incorporate it in my Herbal Soothing Salve, infusing the plant in oils along with other skin loving plants and herbs for at least 6 weeks.  I also incorporate it in my Muscle Rub as it is said to help improve circulation. It is easy to harvest and easy to dry by hanging it upside down in a dark room.

Wild Violet

Wild Violet

Wild violet. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

This flower may be small but when it’s blooming it’s easy to spot. The dark purple flowers stand out against the green grass. The flowers can come in shades of purple into white. The flowers are good for dry, chapped skin. They are cooling, soothing, and anti-inflammatory. They can be infused in witch hazel (you may even get a purple color!) to be used as a facial toner or to help relieve the itch from insect bites. You can infuse them in oils for all your skincare needs. It can be time consuming harvesting these beautiful little flowers so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the process!

Elderflower

Elderflower found in a Field

Elderflower found in a field. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Preparing Elderflower for Drying

Preparing Elderflower for drying. Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Elderflowers are the flowers that come before the Elderberries. I personally love the berries more than the flowers so I try to only harvest what I need of the flowers and leave the rest to turn into berries.  The flowers have anti-aging qualities, are said to improve skin elasticity and are firming. They are full of vitamins and improve skin complexion. I harvest just enough to last a year and use it in my wrinkle cream and body oil. 

What do you forage for in your area? Are any of these plants available to you? I’d love to know what local plants you harvest and how you use them, please share in the comment section!

Sarah Hart Morgan is a designer, photographer and author of Forrest + Thyme Apothecary: simple skin care formulas you can make uniquely your own. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where she works with foraged plants in her skincare and apothecary products, camera-less photography, using plants as a developing agent in film photography, and creating natural inks for painting. Connect with Sarah on her website, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Plant a Skin Care Garden with These Plants for Natural Recipes

Lavender in the garden 

Lavender 

Photos by author

You’ve heard of a vegetable garden, a pollinator garden, and a flower garden; but have you ever heard of a skincare garden?  I’ll be sharing with you my top 5 plants for my own skincare garden where I live which is Zone 6b. Many of these plants are readily available to most gardeners and zones and you may even have them growing in your garden now!

Lavender 

What’s not to love about lavender? It’s my go-to herb for most of the skincare products I make and highlight in my bookForrest + Thyme Apothecary: simple skincare formulas you can make uniquely your own.  The scent is light and by just inhaling its flowers is calming to the nervous system.  It helps to soothe and calm irritated, inflamed, or sunburned skin; can help clear up acne thanks to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It can aid in just about any skin issue you may have from eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, aging skin, or acne prone skin. Many believe it helps to speed up the healing of the skin, which is why I use it in my Herbal Soothing Salve. Lavender also contains antioxidants which could also help slow down the aging process by blocking free radicals from your skin, which is one of the causes of fine lines and wrinkles. I personally infuse lavender in my oils for my face serum as well as my wrinkle cream.

Chamomile 

Chamomile in the Garden

Chamomile isn’t just great for tea but great for your skin too! It is a powerhouse of an herb from being anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, hypoallergenic, as well as containing antioxidants. It helps reduce free radicals in the skin much like lavender and I love infusing Chamomile with Rose in a blend for a face serum. Not only does it work wonders on your skin but it smells fantastic too! I like to grind dried flowers and add them to my charcoal mask, infuse the flowers into oil to then be made into body oil, lip balm, wrinkle cream, face serum. You can infuse fresh petals into witch hazel for a facial toner as well. The possibilities really are endless. 

Rose + Rosehips

Roses in the Garden

If I had to guess, rose is probably the oldest ingredient in skincare. It is superb for dry and aging skin due to it’s variety of  A, C, D, and E vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But the flower and it’s seeds are also great for acne, redness, and irritation due to its astringent qualities.  Any variety of rose will work in your skincare routine. The rosehips come after the flowers have fallen off and I like to harvest my rosehips after the first frost, just be sure to allow them to fully dry before storing them. I love using rose in bath salts, in a body oil, and in my face serum along with Chamomile.

Rosemary

Fresh Cut Rosemary

Rosemary isn’t just used in baking and cooking! It can help increase circulation, is anti-inflammatory, and is used in many haircare products to promote hair growth. Due to this reason alone, I add Rosemary to all of my homemade hair care products. Infuse the herb in spring water and spray it on the roots of your hair twice a day to help regrow hair. I also infuse the rosemary in oils for a nourishing hair serum/deep conditioner, concentrating on the roots. I use it as an eyelash and brow boosting serum too (infused oils only, no essential oils so close to the eye!) 

Calendula

Calendula in the Garden

I’m probably late to the party on this one as I just discovered last year that Marigold is the same plant as Calendula. I’ve been growing this magical plant in my garden for years but mainly used as a deterrent of pests in the garden and to enjoy the sunshine color it provides among a sea of green. This past summer I studied it’s properties more and even though I’ve never used this flower in my skincare products before I’m adding it to the list now because that will all change this year!  Calendula is great for inflammation and muscle spasms so I will be adding it to my Herbal Soothing Salve as well as into my Muscle Rub.  It can also sooth skin ailments like eczema and psoriasis so it will be going into my next batch of body oil. The flower may also help fade dark spots so I’ll be adding it to my batch of face serum as well this year.

Bonus: Chili Pepper

I’m throwing the chili pepper into this list as an added bonus as it is the secret ingredient (well, it’s really not THAT secret) in my muscle rub. Infusing the dried peppers into oil along with a few other ingredients is one of the warming agents in the rub.  It penetrates deep into the muscle to help sooth after a long day working in the garden. 

Do you have any of these plants growing in your garden now? Have you ever used them in your skincare routines? Next month, I'll be sharing my Top 5 foraged plants that I use in my skincare routine just in time for this years foraging season!


Sarah Hart Morgan is a designer, photographer and author of Forrest + Thyme Apothecary: simple skin care formulas you can make uniquely your own. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where she works with foraged plants in her skincare and apothecary products, camera-less photography, using plants as a developing agent in film photography, and creating natural inks for painting. Connect with Sarah on her website, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Adaptogenic Spiced Golden Milk for Natural Sleep Support

milk
Photo by Renée Benoit

“Sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Years ago, when I was a Transcendental Meditation teacher, the movement introduced the ancient Ayurvedic way of promoting good health to its members. I particularly loved having warm oil drizzled on my forehead before or after a massage but I haven’t had that in years. There is one practice that I have kept up with. It’s a spicy sweet warm milk beverage that I drink at bedtime and it helps me sleep. Warm milk sweetened with honey (leche caliente con miel) has been touted for a long time as a way to help people sleep better. The problem for me is that milk makes me phlegm-y so I usually stay away from it. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to cow’s milk these days. There are nut “milks” and, of course, goat’s milk. I like making my beverage with soy milk the way ayurvedic practitioners make it. This recipe features nutmeg to relax you and ashwagandha to support your immune system.

This recipe makes one cup and everything is “to taste”. If you think any of the amounts might be too much for you simply put in a little to start, taste and add more until you get the flavor you like. Also, none of the ingredients are mandatory. If you can’t find ashawaganda or don’t like one of the spices go ahead and leave it out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole cow or goat’s milk or unsweetened nut milk (such as hemp, almond, or cashew) or soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ashwagandha
  • 2 pinches of ground cardamom
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A little bit of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ghee (coconut oil works well, too)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey

Directions:

Add everything except honey to a saucepan and heat it to just below a simmer over low heat. Whisk to incorporate any clumps. Add ghee or coconut oil and continue to warm until it’s melted. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and stir in the honey, off heat (cooking honey destroys its healing properties). Pour into a mug and drink warm. Sweet dreams!


Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Getting the Proportions Right for Tallow-Based Homemade Soap

Scalloped Top Homemade Soap Bars

Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

I love this time of year. The garden is reaching its summer end and you have to start getting creative on how you can use up your surplus so nothing goes to waste. A friend of my husband’s recently butchered a few head of cattle and asked if I wanted some of the beef fat for soap-making. There was no way I was going to pass up the free fat, and after two days of rendering, it was time to get to work on the soap.

My apothecary cabinet was getting pretty full and I needed to make room for new infusions, so I decided this would be a “clean out the fridge” type of soap. I had a bumper crop of tomatoes this summer, too. After canning every red tomato from my garden, I still had a ton of green tomatoes on the vines that I knew more than likely weren’t going to turn this season. I picked all that I could before the frost got hold of them, made salsa verde, and gave even more away to friends. I had made a very successful bar of soap years ago using my heirloom tomatoes and decided to try a batch using the juice of the green tomatoes as the liquid in this batch of soap.

Juicing the Tomatoes

I used green roma tomatoes for this formula but any green tomato will work. You don’t want seeds or any added tomato pulp in your soap so after blending the tomatoes in my blender with a little bit of water to get the blender going, I ran the liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds and pulp. I added this to my compost pile (the chickens loved it!) so nothing went to waste.

Cleaning Out the Apothecary

soap

Photo by Unsplash/ Aurélia Dubois

I’m not sure about you, but I have an abundance of infused oils in my apothecary cabinet this time of year. And to be honest, they were probably past their prime. The oils hadn’t gone rancid by any means, but they were at the point where they were at risk of needing to be discarded if I didn’t do something with them soon. After the growing season, I have fresh plants and herbs that will need to be infused, so it was time to get out with the old and in with the new.

A big batch of soap is just the right way to use the oils up so nothing goes to waste. In this batch I used: lavender-infused olive oil, wild rose-infused olive oil, juniper berry-infused olive oil, and red clover-infused olive oil.

The Formula

I like to work and share my formulas using percentages. It’s easier to scale the formula to fit your own mold and by converting to weight, you work in precise measurements. Be sure to run this formula through a soap calculator like this one using the size of your own mold to get the proper lye/liquid measurements. I like to use a digital kitchen scale when measuring everything.

Brown Homemade Soap Aerial Shot

Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Clean-Out-the-Apothecary Soap Proportions

Super Fat 7%

Beef tallow:  60%

Olive oil: 25%

Unrefined shea butter: 10%

Castor oil: 5%

Notes:

I like to add 1.5% beeswax of my total weight of fats and oils. This doesn’t get factored into the total weight of fats and oils; rather, I treat it as an additive, though it gets added to the fats during the melting stage.

My green tomato juice was used in place of the water, and I typically use around a 10% water discount when I soap.

I don’t use any fragrance oils in my soap as a personal preference, and I no longer use essential oils either as the scent doesn’t last and it seems like money wasted. Instead, I like to use infused oils to gain the skin-loving benefits of the plants I use.

This bar of soap ended up with a very naturally clean, pleasant scent. It is a very hard bar of soap that should have a nice lather, and was easy to cut after 24 hours. I personally like to let my soap cure for 6 weeks before use.

If you try this formula, I’d love to know what kinds of infused olive oil you used and what, if any, liquid substitutes you used. This type of soap is one of my favorites to make, similar to cooking when you just throw a little bit of this and a little of that and see what happens.

Brown Colored Soap Bar Slices

Photo by Sarah Hart Morgan

Sarah Hart Morgan is a designer, photographer and author of Forrest + Thyme Apothecary: simple skin care formulas you can make uniquely your own. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley, where she works with foraged plants in her skincare and apothecary products, camera-less photography, using plants as a developing agent in film photography, and creating natural inks for painting. Connect with Sarah on her website, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Study Says Acupuncture Provides True Pain Relief

acupunctureLooking for scientific evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain treatment? A recent study describes a long-term, well-constructed research project that bears out acupuncture's reputation for being an effective natural treatment for chronic pain, including pain related to migraines and arthritis.

Though acupuncture has been used throughout the world for thousands of years, questions about its effectiveness have sometimes limited its widespread acceptance. The people who've benefited from acupunture often swear that they've received true and long-lasting relief, but is their response merely psychological? The Acupuncture Provides True Pain Relief in Study says the effects are real and lasting.  

A new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain. 

The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. 

The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. 

“This has been a controversial subject for a long time,” said Dr. Andrew J. Vickers, attending research methodologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and the lead author of the study. “But when you try to answer the question the right way, as we did, you get very clear answers. 

“We think there’s firm evidence supporting acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain.” 

The results of the study indicate that many people undergoing acupuncture treatments experience more than the placebo effect. For those suffering from chronic pain, this might not be The Answer, but acupuncture could be helpful as part of an overall pain-treatment strategy, particularly given that it is, as the Times article states, "relatively noninvasive and relatively safe."  


K.C. Compton is senior editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and formerly was Editor in Chief of our sister publications, The Herb Companion and GRIT. A huge fan of the food chain, from molecules to meals on the table, K.C. is passionate about the idea that most of what we need to be healthy can be found in the garden.

Adaptogenic Chai Tea

 

Supporting our nervous system during times of stress and overwhelm is so important as a part of our self-care routine. The adrenal glands are a major part of your body's stress response, both to physical and emotional stressors. Because the adrenals have such an important part to play, it is crucial to give them extra support to stay healthy physically and mentally.

There are many ways to support the adrenals and the entire nervous system, including plenty of sleep, a nutrient-dense diet, outdoor exercise and a mindful stress-management practice. In addition to these lifestyle habits, giving yourself extra nourishment with herbal remedies is also a wonderful way to take care of yourself when under stress. There are a group of herbs, known as adaptogens, that help balance your body's stress response and adapt as needed to stay in balance. Adaptogens not only help to balance stress hormones, but they are also known to promote sleep, improve energy levels and even boost immune function. This herbal decoction takes some of my favorite adaptogenic herbs--ashwagandha, eleuthero, astragalus, and licorice--and combines them with warming, delicious spices found in many Indian chai tea blends, all without any caffeine. I like to keep a mixture of the herbs on hand so I can brew up a batch of chai whenever I need a little extra herbal support.

Adaptogenic Chai Tea (Caffeine-Free)

Serves: 2-3

Prep time: 15-30 minutes 

Ingredients:

  • 2-inch fresh ginger root, sliced (or 1 Tbs chopped, dried ginger)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, 2-3" long each
  • 8 star anise pods
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 2 tbsp dried ashwagandha root
  • 2 tbsp dried eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) root
  • 2 tbsp dried astragalus root--can be cut and sifted or in slices
  • 1 tbsp licorice root
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves 
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 quarts filtered water
  • To serve: Honey and heavy cream or coconut milk to taste

Directions

1. Place all herbs in a medium-sized sauce pan.

2. Add the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

3. Let the herbs simmer for 15-30 minutes to infuse as much of the herbal constituents into the tea as possible. Feel free to simmer for longer if you prefer a stronger, more flavorful tea. 

Laura Poe is a Registered Dietitian and traditional foods instructor. She homesteads in Wisconsin where she regular contributes to Edible Madison. Connect with Laura at Laura Poe, RD, for private practice appointments (distance consults available), upcoming classes, newsletter subscriptions, and more. Her nutrient-dense recipes can be found on Laura’s blog, Brine & Broth, and you can see what she has been cooking and creating on her Instagram @brineandbroth. Read all of Laura’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.







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