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


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.


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Poison Ivy: Identification, Eradication, and Treatment

Probably the most unwanted weed, poison ivy affects more than 350,000 people annually in the United States. Farmers, gardeners, and people who have even any plot of land, both rural and urban, are most likely faced with the problem of eradicating this harmful weed.

Despite its name, poison ivy is not a member of the ivy family (Hedera) but rather a member of the Anacardiaceae plant family, also known as the cashew or sumac family. Believe it or not, it’s actually a relative of cashews, pistachios, and mangoes. This glossy perennial can spread by seeds transmitted by birds, or by producing shoots from its extensive under-ground stems. Poison ivy grows on sandy, stony, or rocky shores, and sprouts in thickets, in clearings, and along the borders of woods and roadsides.

All parts of the poison ivy plant, including the roots, contain the poisonous resin urushiol. Contact with any broken part of the plant, or simply touching the plant, may cause a reaction. Pet fur can also transmit the sap, though the pets themselves are not affected. Urushiol can remain active for several years, on many surfaces and therefore is present on dry leaves and branches of the plant.

Poison ivy greatly benefits from increased carbon dioxide in the air: higher Co, levels make the plant, Digger, and more harmful.

Description and Range

Newfoundland is the only province in Canada where poison ivy is absent. Illustration by Mary Peterson

Poison ivy can be found in every province of Canada except Newfoundland. It can grow as a shrub, climbing vine, or ground cover, and the branches of older vines can even be mistaken for tree limbs. The character of growth varies according to location and type. Western poison ivy (Toxicodendron Rydbergii) usually grows as an erect shrub, while Eastern poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) grows as climbing or trailing vine. As the names suggest, "Western poison ivy" predominates in Western Canada, while "Eastern Poison ivy" predominates in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

The leaves of poison ivy grow in clusters of three, with the middle leaflet being on a much larger stalk. The leaflet edges can be smooth or toothed and can vary on the same stem or plant. They are always pointed and alternate, and when newly unfolded are reddish to bronzy green. They are deciduous, and become an orange-red to wine-red in autumn. The stems are woody, and when climbing on the trunk of a tree develop aerial rootlets.

From May to July the plant produces small erect greenish-white flowers that are followed by greyish-white berry-like fruits in clusters from August to November. The fruits last throughout the winter and are commonly consumed by birds. Many mammals, including bears, moose, foxes, deer, rabbits, squirrels, woodchucks, muskrats, woodrats, and mice, also consume the leaves, stems, and fruit.

 Identification

It's important to know how to identify poison ivy in all seasons. Illustration by Sam Feldman

Identification is very important and is here separate from the description so as to highlight the telltale signs and combinations of signs that are easy to remember and help identify the plant rather than describe it. Four characteristics are sufficient to identify poison ivy in most situations: (a) clusters of three leaflets, (b) alternate leaf arrangement, (c) lack of thorns, and (d) separate stems connected to the main vine for each group of three leaflets.

Another quite distinguished characteristic is the asymmetry of individual leaves and the varieties of smooth, toothed, and lobed leaf edges on the same branch or plant.

There are also various easy to remember mnemonic rhymes that help identify poison ivy:

Leaves of three, let it be is the best known and most useful cautionary rhyme. It applies to poison oak as well as to poison ivy. However, some other innocuous plants have similar leaves. Other rhymes include: Hairy vine, no friend of mine; Berries white, run in fright; and Berries white, danger in sight.

 Eradication

There are several ways of removing poison ivy. Illustration by Paul Anderson

There are several ways of removing poison ivy.

Carefully dig the plant out. In order for this method to be effective, the plant must be removed fully with the roots, as any piece of root or stem can produce a new plant. Make sure to wear protective clothing and cover all bare skin and face while digging and handling the plant. Because poison ivy easily spreads from plant fragments, it is best to dispose of it in a plastic bag. Caution! Do not attempt to burn the plant, as this releases urushiol into the air and can affect the lungs! The place could then be treated with herbicide. Frequent tilling of the soil can also help reduce the ability for the plant to produce new shoots.

Cover and weight. Another mechanical way of eliminating poison ivy is to cover it with some material that does not let light through and put some weight on top. This method may not always work but does not require to come in contact with the plant.

Herbicides. It is also common to use herbicides to eliminate poison ivy. Herbicides that contain triclopyr will effectively work on poison ivy. Caution! Some herbicides made to treat poison ivy may contain glyphosate. Recent studies have shown that glyphosate likely causes severe health problems! Closely following the directions on the package and spray herbicides directly on the leaves of the plant. Though grasses and conifers are tolerant of Triclopyr, be careful when applying near broadleaf plants. If the poison ivy is growing up a tree trunk, be careful not to spray the bark as this may damage the tree.

Homemade leaf spray. If you don’t want to use chemicals there is also a natural way of treating poison ivy. An easy homemade herbicide can be made by mixing three pounds of salt, a gallon of water, and a quarter-cup of dish soap. The resulting homemade herbicide should be sprayed directly on the leaves of the plant. It is best to use it on a clear day so that it could do its job before it could be washed away by rain. Frequently apply this solution until the plant is fully eliminated.

How to Prevent and Cure Poison Ivy Rashes

As everyone knows, poison ivy can cause a painful rash. Statistics indicate that 85 percent of Canada’s population has an allergic reaction to poison ivy. The remaining 15 percent may not respond to poison ivy on the first encounter. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to poison ivy appear approximately 24 to 48 hours after contact with plant. After this, lesions may appear: Inflammation, swelling, and blistering. Symptoms may be more severe in people who have had a significant allergic reaction to poison ivy in the past.

The first thing to do if you have come in contact with poison ivy is to wash your hands. Recent researches have shown that urushiol on skin could be fully eliminated if washed properly within 2 to 8 hours of exposure (the sooner the better). This is done best by applying alcohol and thoroughly washing the hands with soap and constantly rubbing with a sponge or cloth. Hot water should not be used, as it causes the pores in the skin to open up and admit the oils from the plant. Be sure to wash the elbow and between the fingers, this is the places where poison ivy rashes commonly occur. It is best to wash three times.

If the rashes have already appeared, there are several methods to cure them listed below.

There are a variety of natural ways to treat the painful poison ivy rash. Illustration by Paul Anderson

Calamine lotion: Calamine is a safe, cheap, and easy to get, over-the-counter remedy. It was approved by the FDA as effective for treating poison ivy symptoms.

Using wet compress or soaking in cool water: A safe method recommended by the FDA.

Burrows Solution: Burrows solution is an over-the-counter remedy approved by the FDA as effective for treating poison ivy symptoms.

Jewel Weed: A mash made from the thick stems of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) can effectively treat poison ivy symptoms.

Baths with: Finely ground Oatmeal or Epsom salt: Baths soaked with oatmeal or Epsom salt are an effective remedy to treat poison ivy symptoms.

Banana Peel: The “meat” on the inside of the banana peel quickly relieves itching and is a remedy for poison ivy symptoms. Though the urushiol should be first washed away with soap or alcohol in order for this method to be effective. Apply this remedy two to three times a day for a week.

Mint Flavored Toothpaste: Apply on the rash, let dry and then wash away with water. This should be done three to two times daily until the rash disappears.

Aloe Vera: Apply on the rash, let dry and then wash away with water. Repeat several times daily.

Baking Soda: Place a cotton gauze soaked in a mixture of baking soda and water on the rash and wait fifteen minutes. Clean with water. Repeat three to four times daily for a week.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Place a cotton gauze soaked in a mixture of two tablespoons vinegar to one cup water on the rash and wait fifteen minutes. Clean with water. Repeat two to three times daily for a week.

Oils: Most oils are effective in treating poison ivy rashes. They should be applied three times daily for a week.

Michael Feldmann is a farmer and writer in Oklahoma, who studies agriculture and has worked as a journalist for magazines and newspapers around the country. His writing has been published in Acres USA, Rural Heritage, Farming magazine, Farmers Weekly, Permaculture magazine, MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and as a column in Poultry World. Read all of Michael’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.

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

Milk Baths: Fit For a Queen (or King)

Milk Bath

Photo by Nicole Wilkey

Our youngest farmhand, our eight-year-old daughter, decided to be Cleopatra, Queen of Ancient Egypt, for Halloween this year. Getting her costume ready reminded me that it’s been a while since I took a milk bath. "Self care" is a popular term these days, because our society is so perpetually busy that taking something as simple as a bath feels indulgent. Isn’t that sad? Cleopatra was known for her famous milk baths, specifically donkey milk baths. While donkey milk is not a sustainable source in current times, there are other alternatives to still give you the skin loving milk bath experience you desire — no donkey kicks required.

The Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder, described the benefits of (donkey) milk for the skin: “It is generally believed that ass milk effaces wrinkles in the face, renders the skin more delicate, and it is a well-known fact, that some women are in the habit of washing their face with it seven times daily, strictly observing that number. Poppaea, the wife of the Emperor Nero, was the first to practice this; indeed, she had sitting-baths, prepared solely with ass milk, for which purpose whole troops of she- asses used to attend her on her journeys."

It is also reported Napoleon’s sister, Pauline Bonaparte, used ass milk for her skin’s health care as well.

Ok, so "ass milk" jokes aside, milk can be such a nourishing treat for your skin! There are many companies that sell dehydrated milk bath powders, or you can use fresh milk from the store or farmer. I personally prefer fresh milk as it’s much more likely to retain the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins and fatty acids than any processed powder can. Now this doesn’t mean go fill your tub full of milk and take a bath — that would be very costly and not practical. But even adding a few cups of (whole) milk to a warm bath can give you a really indulgent farm-to-bath experience.

Soaking in either a cow's milk or goat's milk bath can help exfoliate dead skin with natural lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that releases bonds of old skin cells from fresher, younger cells below, leaving skin soft and smooth. Milk baths can both hydrate and soothe your skin with the natural fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Additional ingredients, such as honey (a humectant, meaning it draws moisture to the skin), salts, flower petals, or oils can all be added to create a custom bath for just a few dollars.

I hope you try a milk bath soon, whether you have itchy irritated skin or healthy skin but would just love a bit of relaxation and a skin loving soak, milk baths are fit for a queen or king.


Nicole Wilkey transitioned from a corporate job to small-scale farmer in 2015. Since then, she has run California-based Flicker Farm to accommodate meat pigs, mini Juliana pigs and pastured poultry, and to sell goat's milk soap and lotion on Etsy. Connect with Nicole on Instagram and Facebook, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

milk-soaps.

MILK SOAPS

Soaps made with milk luxuriously lather and gently cleanse without stripping your skin of its natural oils. Expert soapmaker Anne-Marie Faiola guides you through the process of creating your own moisturizing soaps using a wide variety of milks, from cow and goat to vegan nut milks, and she shows you how to achieve decorative effects including swirls, insets, and layers.

The result? A bounty of visually stunning, fragrant, all-natural bars that you and your skin will love!

Order from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Store or by calling 800-234-3368.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Lavender Essential Oil for Body and Mind

This post is published in memory of Wendy Akin, longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor and Texas gardener, who knew the value of living as both learner and teacher.

Lavender might be the most useful of all the essential oils, and everybody should have at least a small bottle. Among the most frequent uses for lavender are: treatment for headache, calming the spirit, soothing burns, and, very important, neutralizing venom from insect bites. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be applied undiluted to the skin.

For stress. Lavender oil is lovely in the bath, whether mixed with sea salts or simply as a few drops in a warm tub bath. It’s calming, relieves stress and anxiety, and is helpful for insomnia and exhaustion.

For headaches of all kinds. Lavender can offer relief. Especially for tension headache, put just a drop on a ring finger (your weakest finger), rub against the opposing ring finger and then massage the temples in a circular manner where you feel the pulse.

For mosquito bites, bee or wasp stings and spider bites, and scorpion stings. Apply lavender oil as quickly as possible. Apply it generously! When I was bitten by a Black Widow spider, I ran for the bathroom, opened a bottle and literally doused my hand in it.  Of course, in this particular case, you would be advised to seek a physician’s help, especially if the bitten person is a child, older or has a weakened immune system.

In my case, the bite never swelled or broke open as others had. Even if you discover a bite when it begins to swell, keep applying crops of lavender in hopes that you did catch it in time.

For skin care. Lavender helps to clear up blemishes. Lavender in hand and body creams and soaps nourishes and soothes the skin. For sunburns or oven burns — any burn — lavender helps the skin to heal. It is used in burn clinics for serious burns, but that should be left to a medical professional.

Where to Find Lavender Essential Oil I buy lavender 40/42 for everyday use. My oil comes from an area south of Sault in central Provence in France, and this is dependable oil. It is a blend from multiple fields, similar to a blended wine.

Expect to pay about $40 to $45 per pound for this oil, and expect a minimum order policy from the better suppliers.

One caution when selecting any essential oil: If it sounds too good to be true, it is! You won’t want to purchase oils from multi-level marketing or “pyramid” companies.

Two vendors that I trust and that have fair prices are Rainbow Meadow, Inc., and New Direction Aromatics. Lavender and eucalyptus oils are rather common, and I’ve been satisfied with those oils from Bulk Apothecary and The Chemistry Store. You may find other essential oil vendors you like very well; there are many more today than were around 20 years ago.

Note that the more reputable vendors of essential oils do offer a Certificate of Analysis, which gives a summary of a Gas Chromatography, a test to ascertain the purity of the oil.

A Word of Caution

Do not put any essential oil in your mouth or inside your nose unless specifically advised by a knowledgeable practitioner. Most essential oils are for external use only.

References

Guitteny, M. (1996). Lavender. Societe Agar; Lawless, J. (1995). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element Books; Maria, D. (2000). Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions. Storey Publishing; Whitton, S. (1995). Essential Oils and Essences. Apple Press; Worwood, V.A. (1991). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. New World Library.

Wendy Akin was a lifelong learner and teacher, who was happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’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.

Nourish Your Winter Skin with this Winter Body Oil using a Warm Oil-Infusion Method

 

I used a funnel and coffee filter to strain my oils as I had tiny bits of plant materials in my oil.

We are in the height of woodstove season here in Virginia and my skin is feeling it! Tight, dry, and itchy at times. I have shared the Body Oil formula that is in my book before on my website, and while that formula is perfect for the warmer months, my skin has been craving a little more nourishment, so I got to work raiding my apothecary and kitchen cabinets to create a winter skin loving body oil.  

The Formula

I always suggest working in percentages, it makes it easier to convert to the actual measurements once you know how much product you are actually wanting to make. For my purposes, my jar of oil is 20oz total so all I have to do to figure out actual measurements is to take 20oz and multiply it by the % of oil used to figure out the total oz of that oil.  The base formula for this body oil is:

  • 30% Avocado Oil
  • 30% Almond Oil
  • 20% Olive Oil
  • 10% Castor Oil 
  • 10% Grapeseed Oil
  • 1% of your total weight of Vegetable Glycerine* optional 

Feel free to tweak this to your own liking using what you have readily available to you.

Infusing Herbs and Plants for Added Nourishment

I added a hodgepodge of plants and herbs to this infusion, a little bit of this and a dash of that. I allowed my intuition to guide me in the process and I advise you to do the same- it always knows best.  I included dried rose hips, chamomile, elderflowers, red clover, yarrow, tulsi, wild rose, plantain, and oatmeal. I wish you could have smelled my mortar and pestle once I was done grinding it all up because it smelled incredible! 

Normally, I like to allow the herbs to infuse in the oil for about 4 to 6 weeks; however, I was in a time crunch. I only had about 3 days worth of body oil left so I opted for a warm infusion instead. 

 

I added the herbs and oils into a large jar and with the lid off I infused the jar in a water filled crockpot on the low setting for 24 hours. It’s important to infuse without the lid on your jar as you don’t want condensation to mix with your oils because it will spoil the oil. Similarly, you can also do this in a larger dehydrator with the temperature between 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for anywhere from 1 to 24 hours.You can also skip the jar altogether and just infuse the oil directly in the crockpot.  I used a funnel and coffee filter to strain my oils as I had tiny bits of plant materials in my oil.

At this stage, you can use the oil as is or add in any of your favorite essential oil blends for an added skin-loving boost. I like a mix of lavender, patchouli, and frankincense myself so I can skip the commercial perfumes!

I’d love to know how you use this formula to create something that works for your skin. Let me know what types of plants or herbs you use in the comments below. Happy formulating!


Sarah Hart Morgan is an artist, 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.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: BPA

woman
Photo by Unsplash/Bethany Beck

Being pregnant seems to lead to a lot of restrictions, from what we put in our bodies to what we surround ourselves with. Sometimes reading the plethora of online lists of things to watch out for during pregnancy can be incredibly overwhelming. It's important that we learn to prioritize the things that are most potentially harmful for us and our babies so we don't become overly stressed. To that end, I'm writing a series of posts on what I consider the five most important chemicals to avoid during pregnancy. The first of those is bisphenol-A or BPA, an endocrine disruptor found in plastics and canned food linings. 

What is BPA?

I’ve already written fairly extensively about avoiding BPA here as well as in my guest blog on Care2, but I believe this is the No. 1 most important chemical to eliminate from your body before, during and after pregnancy. BPA (bisphenol-A) is a potent estrogen mimicker, meaning it can disrupt our bodies’ vital endocrine systems, damaging the reproductive system, causing low sperm counts, cancers and more. Our endocrine systems help control our hormones, which are crucial to the healthy development of babies. Because it's extremely ubiquitous, nearly all of us are exposed to at least some level of BPA. But research shows that even small amounts of BPA can damage fetal development. And babies are often highly exposed to this chemical after birth, because it is found in #7 plastics, which are commonly used to make bottles and sippy cups, as well as the liners of infant formula cans.

You can find numerous studies to associate BPA exposure with a variety of developmental problems. A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that early exposure to BPA created results similar to developmental exposure to mercury — adult fish that had been exposed to even tiny amounts of BPA as embryos has learning and memory problems, and experienced profound behavioral changes not only immediately after hatching, but also in adulthood. The scientist who conducted the study, Daniel Weber, said, “What was amazing is that exposure only happened at the embryonic stage, but somehow the wiring in the brain had been permanently altered by it.” 

Another recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured BPA levels in the urine of mothers at various times in their pregnancy and found that the mothers with higher BPA levels during pregnancy tended to have 3-year-old girls with more anxious and depressed behavior, as reported by Today. The article also quotes Shanna Swan, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who says the study supports a growing body of evidence that BPA can affect brain development in the womb.

How to Avoid BPA

Do not drink beverages from or store food in plastic containers, in particular #7 plastic (to be safe, I avoid all plastic food storage and beverage containers). Do not eat canned foods. Nearly all canned foods contain high levels of BPA in the lining. Choose foods stored in glass jars instead. (Eden Foods is one of the only brands that has BPA-free canned food.) After your baby is born, do not use plastic bottles or sippy cups (opt instead for glass or stainless steel like these from Klean Kanteen — even BPA-free plastic can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, research has found). And do not feed babies canned infant formula. If you are unable to breast feed, choose dry-pack formula containers instead.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: Retinol

family
Photo by Unsplash/Laercio Cavalcanti

As we pregnant women keep in mind what is entering our babies' bodies through our mouths and avoiding alcohol, processed foods, mercury in fish and food additives, we should also keep in mind what could be entering our babies' bodies through our skin. When we slather creams, lotions, moisturizers and sunscreens onto our bodies, they are absorbed into our bodies via our largest organ, where they are able to impact developing babies. In the July/August issue of Natural Home & Garden, there is a hefty, 8-page feature on healthy skin care products. Not regulated well by the federal government, laws restricting what skin-care companies can put into their products are virtually nonexistent, so it is truly up to us to become educated consumers when it comes to what we put on our bodies and to learn what chemicals to avoid during pregnancy.

This is more crucial than ever if we're pregnant, as levels of chemicals that can be somewhat hazardous to adults can wreak greater havoc on developing systems.  As doctor Debra Jaliman says on her blog on WebMD, "I can't understand why warnings for pregnant women are not on more skin care products." While I would recommend looking at the labels on your skin care products and avoiding anything potentially hazardous (using the current Natural Home & Garden article, on newsstands now, or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database as a starting point), one of the most important ingredients to avoid is retinol. A vitamin A derivative that encourages skin to regenerate, retinol is in a wide array of skin-care products, particularly those touted as "anti-aging." Because retinol encourages cell regeneration, it can encourage skin to "renew" itself, helping it appear younger. However, that new skin is more sensitive to sun damage, and can actually increase risk of sun damage and skin cancer when used in daytime products. Nonetheless, the desire to slap "anti-aging" on the packaging has led more and more skin-care products to contain retinol. Some studies have found that retinoids (the class of vitamin A derivatives retinol is part of) in high doses can be harmful to unborn children. Oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (in the acne treatment Accutane) are known to cause birth defects.

Found in foundations, lipsticks, sunscreens and cleansers, retinol in daytime products will "actually make skin age faster because it is more susceptible to the sun, no matter the amount of SPF protection promised on the foundation or sunscreen," Jaliman writes. Retinol is particularly not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, which includes ALL products, even those intended for use at night. Check your sunscreen! Many sunscreens contain retinol, which is a particularly hazardous use of the additive because exposure to the sun helps the product break down more quickly.  

If you are pregnant and you have been using skin-care products with retinol, don't panic. No studies have definitively linked topical use of retinol to birth defects or harm to unborn infants. To be on the safe side, though, avoid skin-care products with this ingredient. Retinoids can be listed as a variety of names on labels. Watch out for these: Differin (adapelene), retin-A, renova, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, tazorac and avage, tazarotene. You can read more on this subject on the BabyCenter website. 







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