Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spring Rain #Soap

     One of the many benefits of my studio is the time and space to play.  This past month I created two new soaps.  My man soap that I wrote about last week and Spring Rain.  It was inspired by a scent combination my mother-in-love had seen.  Eucalyptus combines with spearmint for a refreshingly cool scent.  The touch of spearmint conjures happy memories for those who have indulged in the olfactory test.

     If you're near Northwest, CT stop by the studio . Enjoy a cup of tea.  Watch me work.  Find your favorite soap scent and try some nourishing lotion.  Then wander the old mill the history and artists in residence are a delight.  I also give mini tours if you like.
     I am also setting up my schedule for craft and art fairs this year.  The latest schedule can be found on my "Where I Am" page.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Man Soap

     A friend of mine was using my cinnamon and sweet orange soap at home.  Her hubby saw me at a party and said that soap smells great but do you make any man soap.
           I have bay or cedarwood which are more earthy, I replied.
          No, man soap, with pumice to get the dirt out.
          I make a lemon & poppy seed soap for that, the poppy seeds stay suspended and whole during the process so the work like pumice in a way.  It's the soap I use after gardening.
          Maybe, he said but that's not man soap.
It made me think and then experiment.  And then I was worried if I called it man soap would someone be offended.  After all, women get just as dirty and soap really should be kinda gender neutral right?  So, I called Les' Man Soap after the man who inspired it.

     It is loaded with fine ground pumice and scented with sweet orange and cedarwood.  The cedarwood is earthy and the orange adds a clean citrus note.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Menopause - more herbs - more relief


 There are many herbs used to make the journey preceding menopause more comfortable.  For many there period just stops.  For others it can be a physical and emotional roller coaster. And the one thing that seems to be consistent is that it is different for everyone.  My first piece of advice would be to listen to your body, your intuition.  I was told repeatedly by my doctor that I was too young to have any symptoms.  Hormone imbalances do not ask your age.
     I needed to balance my hormones and my lifestyle.  For me I needed to cool things down - at work, in life and in body.  Changing what I could at work, eliminating things in my life that were not bringing me joy and cooling herbs helped.  I have not stepped fully through the door to menopause yet but I am enjoying the journey.
     I mentioned the herbs that I use for myself in menopause.  But, there are other herbs to help as well.  The herb that received a lot of press a few years back was Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa).  When it didn't work for everyone it lost its credibility.  )It was found in a German trial that combined with St. John's Wort that it is 78% effective in reducing hot flashes.  Herbalists use it for those with menstrual pain where estrogen levels are too low.  It is antispasmodic and it is effective in easing ovarian pain and uterine cramps, before and during menstruation.  It restores tone to the uterus and reproductive organs.  It helps bring on delayed menses by stimulating the uterus and by improving blood circulation to the pelvic area.  It may also improve bone health. Because it is a uterine stimulant do not use if pregnant.
     Wild Yam - Diocorea villosa  is a plant source for a steroid like substance, diasgenin, which was the starting point of the contraceptive pill.  There is no suggestion that the plant was used as a contraceptive in the past, although it has been traditionally been used in Central America to relieve menstrual, ovarian and labor pains due to its relaxing qualities.  It acts to regulate the progesterone to estrogen in the system.  It is used for menstrual distress, infertility, menopause, endometriosis and hot flashes.  It is an anti-inflammatory and reduces the acute inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis and eases joint stiffness.  It is used for liver health, the endocrine system and gallbladder problems.
     Motherwort - Leonurus cardiaca (lion hearted) - She stimulates the muscles of the uterus, and is especially suitable for delayed menstruation, menstrual pain and premenstrual tension especially if shock or distress is a factor.  She should not be used if menstrual bleeding is heavy.  She hastens childbirth so she is to be used only in the last few days of pregnancy.  She is used for insomnia associated with menstruation.  She may shrink fibroids but may increase menstrual flow.
     Smilax sarsaparilla - this spicy root is what gave old fashioned root beer its flavor.  It is used for the prevention of gout, arthritis, inflammation of the joints and is particularly useful for scaling skin conditions like psoriasis.  Its estrogenic action makes it beneficial in premenstrual problems, and debility and depression associated with menopause.  It should not be used if you have kidney problems or diabetes.
     I have had much success combing these four herbs along with Chasete berry (Vitex Agnes-castus).

Sunday, February 8, 2015


     Menopause the word that strikes fear in the hearts of many.  I never really understood that nor the fear of growing old.  I embrace the changes that come with time.  I am more settled into myself.  I'm definitely wiser than I was.  And wise enough to know that I really know very little.  There is always something new to learn or explore.  I finally know what I want to be when "I grow up." I want to be me!  I'm happy being beyond quirky as my hubby says.  I'm happy being a cook, a mom, a wife, a friend, creative, an herbalist, a belly dancer, a yogi, a traveler  and anything else that strikes my fancy at the moment.
    And with all that I am reaching an age that my doctor will finally agree means that the "change" is happening.  Before that I was told I was too young to have hormonal changes.  OK, so I am not present in my body and what I am experiencing.  That soapbox story is for another time.  Truth be told that since I started menstruating each month has been a new adventure.  And now that it is sometimes several months or a couple weeks in between my moon time the adventure is still new.
     I never considered my period a curse.  It was one more step in the evolution of my growing.  There were times it was messy or inconvenient, there were times I cheered that it arrived and I was not pregnant, there were times I was sad that it arrived and I was not pregnant and now I am looking at a time in the not to distant future that it will not arrive any more.
     Some women walk through the door of change with no "symptoms"  their period just doesn't come any more.  Others battle fatigue, bloat, weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, brain fog and so much more.  A good clean diet and exercise can do wonders for just about any dis -ease.  I also believe in herbs to aid in life transitions.
     I have had mild hot flashes most of my life.  So, now that I get an occasional HOT FLASH it intrigues me.  It gives me pause to reflect, research and experiment on myself.  I am my own test subject.  When I was having extremely painful ovarian cysts I refused the birth control pills the doctor suggested and added Vitex agnus-castus to my daily routine.  This made them almost completely disappear; at most I would feel a twinge.  When the hot flashes increased in intensity I realized I had reduced the vitex I had been taking.  Bringing her back into my life brought some balance and the hot flashes decreased.
     I have a few formulas I use for others depending on their symptoms.  These formulas aren't meant to cure anything.  There is nothing to cure.  Menopause is not a defect or disease.  It is a life transition.  What these formulas do is help bring things back into balance so that your transition is easier.
     Knowing that I run hot I have introduced cooling herbs into my daily diet. I love iced hibiscus tea for example.  It is deliciously fruity tasting, cooling and loaded with vitamin C.  I eat a lot more vegetables and lean protein and stay away from the breads, grains and pastas as much as possible.  I do this because I feel better when I do.  I'm listening to my body.  Your body may be different.  If you run cool you may want to introduce warming foods and spices to
your diet.  Ginger, cinnamon and root vegetables will warm you.
     My current formula for myself is Vitex agnus-castus, hawthorn and gotu kola.

Vitex Agnus-castus
Vitex Agnus- Castus - Chasteberry  balances hormones.
Hawthorn berries
Crataegus oxyacanth -  Hawthorn - is a heart tonic.  It relaxes and dilates the arteries, especially the coronary arteries.  This increases blood flow to the heart and can reduce symptoms of angina.  It will lower high blood pressure and raise low blood pressure.  It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to lower cholesterol and strengthen the cardiovascular system. By improving circulation it can aid those with cold hands and feet.   It can clear toxins from the gut and regulate metabolism. It can work on the nervous system to help calm a person who feels anxious or agitated.  Combined with lemon balm it can aid children with ADD and ADHD.  Its antioxidant properties ease inflammatory connective tissue disorders.
Gotu Kola

Centella asiatica - Gotu Kola - is a memory tonic.  I usually live in my head and can debate a topic with the best of them.  When I was suddenly stopping in mid sentence and could not finish the thought or even remember what the conversation was about I started to get a little nervous.  I made a few stress relieving life changes and started taking gotu kola.  It combines well with hawthorn berry for strengthening capillaries and veins.  By improving the integrity of the capillaries it is useful for the eyes, venous insufficiency, spider veins, varicose veins and anal fissures.  It clears toxins and inflammation and has been traditionally used for easing arthritis, gout and joint inflammation.  Gotu kola enhances concentration, improves memory and relaxes the brain when it is over stimulated.  In the ayurvedic tradition it is used to strengthen the mind, slow the aging process, support people with Alzheimer's disease and aid those who have experienced a stroke.  It can be used by those who meditate to help quiet the mind.  It calms and relaxes the central nervous system, reduces anxiety, depression and insomnia.  It is beneficial for inflammatory conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and hives.