Friday, October 10, 2014

Which Witch Hazel is Which?

Hamamelis virginiana
Witch Hazel, Hamamelidaceae, is often seen as a yellow flowering shrub or more rarely as a small standing tree. Etymologically the name is believed to stem from the Middle English word wiche and reaching further back to Old English wice, meaning "bendable or pliant". Occasionally this plant is referred to as "winter bloom" for it's odd nature of blooming throughout the fall and winter months.

Witch Hazel Distillation
Historically,  Witch Hazel was taken as a tea or in a bath.  However during the 1800's herbalist began distilling this plant thus began the path to the Witch Hazel product of today.  The clear liquid Witch Hazel with which we are most familiar, is made by distilling the bark, twigs, and leaves of the Hamamelis virginiana a species found in North America. During the distillation process anywhere from 15-30% alcohol is added to the liquid content.

Witch Hazel Leaf

The main component in Witch Hazel is  tannins. Tannins are a naturally occurring polyphenol that many plants make as a way to protect them selves from predation.  Even if we don't know what tannins are directly, most all of us have experienced them in our wine, and under ripe fruit.  It is the substance that makes the "dry and puckery" feeling in our mouths. This is called astringency.

Witch Hazel Flower
Witch Hazel "Fruit"
Witch Hazel is almost exclusively used externally.  It is considered a strong anti-oxidant and astringent.  Often used for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, treating insect bites and poison ivy rashes, as well as to reduce swelling and ease minor wounds.
Now why would it work on such an array of issues? For one, Witch Hazel works wonders on fighting bacterial attacks.  The tannins which we spoke of earlier, once applied to the skin shrink the pores basically sequestering our  internal bodies from external agents.  In all making our skin even better at doing the job of keeping the outside world out of our bodies. Another property of Witch Hazel is its proanthocyanins, catechin and flavonoids. These little beauties are what give this plant it's cell protective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.  This means if any bacteria has been trapped under the skin once the pores have been closed off, it is also the job of Witch Hazel to destroy the "invaders".
After Shave
The beauty behind this plant, continues on.  As mentioned earlier Witch Hazel shrinks pore size and thus tightens and tones the skins appearance.  It is a common ingredient in aftershaves for men. It has been found that using Witch Hazel (the less alcohol content the better for all Witch Hazels) on a cotton pad and going over the surface of the face works wonders for people with oily skin as well as for people who sweat profusely from their faces!  It has also been used by many as an acne treatment that doesn't dry out the skin.  So many benefits from a commonly known substance. As always it is important to get your products from a reputable source and be sure in reading the labels all that you are purchasing is Witch Hazel distillation and 15% or so of alcohol by volume.  

I hope you have enjoyed the read, please as always comments and questions are wanted and welcome.  Have you had a particularly great experience using Witch Hazel? We would love to know. 

Warm Regards, 
Recherch'e Organics

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crazy about Kombucha! The Beauty Behind it's External Use.

Kombucha: Fermented Tea

Many of us have become familiar with this probiotic rich drink over the last 2 decades (introduced into mainstream America in the early 1990's) but did you know that this sweet fermented tea has been around in different parts of the world for at least 2,000 years? There is record of it's uses and benefits in China (Qin Dynasty) dating back to 220 BC!  Early records indicate it's traveling to Japan and Russia early on as well and then continuing it's spread through out many cultures.

This "elixir of health" as it has been referred to world over, has a naturally effervescent (bubbly carbonation), and known for its probiotics, antioxidants, and B vitamins, and almost too many to name bacterial acids (yes this is good for you and your skin).

Kombucha Scoby
 This strange membranous thing pictured above is called a kombucha scoby.  It is a cellulose membrane that forms with all the health giving bacterias colonizing on it. This is what turns your tea from regular a sweet tea to a fermented and health giving "liquid gold".

So how can this fermented tea be of external use for our health and beauty regime?  Many people who love kombucha begin home brewing, caring for their  scoby, and making their own delicious concoctions. Sometimes by accident (or purposefully) we let a batch sit just a little too long, turning into a vinegar like drink instead.  Many people prefer the stage right before the kombucha turns to a vinegar for drinking purposes.  Here are some wonderful reasons WHY  to let a batch or two every once in a while sit a little too long...

Facial Toner:
Kombucha, just like regular vinegar, helps to balance the pH of your skin.  But unlike normal apple cider or white vinegar it also has many different acids and healthy bacteria to help fight bacterial imbalances that come with conditions such as acne.  Kombucha also gently tightens, firms, and tones the skin that it is applied to.  It has been seen to over time reduce dark spots and color imbalances fro the face and neck as well.  Application with a cotton pad followed by a cool water rinse, or kombucha added to a small amount of other facial ingredients (aloe water, hydrofoils, etc.) and spray misted on to the skin are both great ways to incorporate this into your daily (weekly) routine.

Hair Rinse: 
Another application that can be substituted for regular apple cider or white vinegar; the hair rise!
The longer you have allowed your kombucha to ferment the better.  This rinse will strip your hair of all of the build up from daily usage of hair sprays and gels, shampoos and conditioners, as well as the build up that happens from toxins in our environments.  It gently takes off residue and helps begin the repair process of damaged, dry, and over treated hair strands.  Not only does it work with each strand of hair, it gently removes the built up oils from the scalp, helps balance pH, and is great for reducing and eventually eliminating unwanted itchy scalp and dandruff.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vitamin C... Topically?!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C: a vitamin that is well known for its ability to help fight off cold and flu season, but much less known for it's ability to maintain healthy and youthful skin. Vitamin C has been used  topically for ages by women (like you and I) searching for that something to maintain our healthy and vibrant glow.  As early as the Tang Dynasty of Tibet (618-907 AD) women would crush and use Seabuck Thorn berries (a very note worthy source of vitamin C) and apply this to their skin.  It is also known that Native Americans would take wild rose petals and rose hips and use topically on their face and hands as a way to care for the skin that was so exposed to outward elements. So why would women, world over, use these fruits and plants as sources of maintaining youthful, taught, healthy and glowing skin? What is it that makes vitamin C so notable for maintenance of healthy skin cells?

As we all know, vitamin C is an important nutrient for over all health. However very little of what is ingested actually reaches our skin, and humans are one of the only mammals on earth that do not produce vitamin C on our own.  This vitamin is crucial for the synthesis of collagen, and collagen is what keeps our skin vibrant and plump with hydration, healthy and smooth looking.  Collagen production naturally begins to decrease as we age.  Along with oxidative stresses such as exposure to out door elements, sun shine, UV rays, harsh chemicals, and smoking, as we enter our early to mid 30s we begin to notice the smile lines that do not go away.  We see the little wrinkles at the edges of our eyes that become a permanent fixture to our facial features.  This is due to the slow decline of collagen production. 

How Our Skin Ages Naturally

As above pictured, over time with the reduction of collagen production and it's partner elastin (enter vitamin E) our skin looses it's ability to maintain it's structure, firmness, and tensile strength. Vitamin C applied topically is known to help with many sensitive aging "issues".  It helps with things like: improving the appearance of elemental damaged skin, supports skins structure from UV/external stressors and damage, reduces inflammation, lessens hyper pigmentation (dark spots), increases collagen production, and mitigates effects of free radicals.  Reading all of this, PLEASE remember aging is beautiful, but there are things we can do to help this process and change take hold gracefully.

 Vitamin C is unstable at best, if packaged poorly it is one of the first essentials to go, if under heat it vanishes into thin air (sort of). The most stable forms of vitamin C are: ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid, ascorbic palmitate, sodium ascorbic phosphate, retinal ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbic phosphate.  Looking at packaging (if you are buying a product that contains vitamin C for topical use) it is important that it is in opaque and or dark package/container, lest the degradation of the vitamin that your are trying to purchase.

Do you have experience with product that contains topical vitamin C? Has it been a success story in your quest for healthy and beautiful skin? We would love to hear from you!! All questions and stories are welcome.

To Your Health and Ours,

Recherch'e Organics

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Radiant Skin with...Rose Hip Seed Oil?!


Rose Hips from Wild Rose: Rosa rugosa
Fall is in the air and these vibrant beauties are out in abundance right now!  Rose hips are the little red fruits found on wild rose bushes throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, and even China. Wild rose bushes are willing to grow most places that have seasonal (autumnal) change world wide.

Possibly best known for their abundance of vitamin C (1,770-2,000 milligrams/ 100 grams vs. an orange approximately 50 milligrams of vitamin C. per 100 grams) these small fruits are packed with a plethora of antioxidants, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and minerals.

Pictured above are the small seeds found within the rose hip fruit.  It is here, in these small group of seeds,  that the precious rose hip oil is extracted from. Rose hip seed oil is the only vegetable source oil known to contain retinol (vitamin A).  This little known, yet highly revered oil also contains great amounts of essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega 6,), and linolenic acid (omega 3), a powerful antioxidant called lycopene (what makes tomatoes red) as well as beta-carotene.

Unadulterated Rose Hip Seed Oil 

So what does all of this mean for you and your skin?
The essential fatty acids (EFAs) give this oil it's moisturizing properties.  It is very beneficial for tired, dull, weather worn skin. The vitamin A helps the oil to penetrate into the skins epidermal layers,  deepening the effect of the oils moisturizing ability. Vitamin C antioxidants help with collagen production reducing the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. Over all rose hip seed oil has been noted to improve the over all tone, moisture content, appearance of dark spots and blemishes, healing damaged skin cells and helping to slough off cell's that are beyond repair.
This leaves your skin feeling fresh and new after each application.  Rose hip seed oil is very gentile in nature making it an oil that can be directly applied to most skin types.

It is important to note however that due to the delicate nature of this oil, through cold pressed extraction process, it should be kept refrigerated in order to prolong it's shelf life.

an easy application of this oil is to take a small amount of your favorite lotion, skin cream, night treatment and add a few drops of rose hip seed oil. Mix it together thoroughly and apply to skin.  This oil is considered a "dry oil" and will not leave your skin looking shiny or feeling greasy.
Using rose hip seed oil in this way allows you to keep a larger amount stored safely in the fridge while making it accessible and an easy way to add it to your daily or nightly beauty routine.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2:3 Herbs for Skin Health: Rosemary

Rosmarinus officinalis; Rosemary

  This herbacious evergreen plant hails from the Mediterranean however now can be found the globe over.  Rosemary belongs to the mint family, a family that includes other common plants such as basil, lavender, myrtle and sage.  

Rosemary in Bloom
This plant has been used for centuries for medicinal, culinary, and beauty regiem purposes. It is said that in the 13th century, Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (who had suffered from debilitating gout and rheumatism) claimed at age 72, that drinking rosemary infused water helped her regain back both her strength and beauty over the years.

Rosemarinic acid (property of rosemary) is known for it's ability to kill bacteria, fungi, and various viruses on the skins surface.  This makes it an ideal helper in wound healing, acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis.  The extract or essential oil of rosemary as well as rosemary tea, helps stimulate cell renewal, supports healthy creation of collagen, increase skin tone and fights free radicals.  Free radicals damage the support structure of skin cells, leading to wrinkles, sagging and uneven skin texture and color.

This plant is found in many skin cleansers, soaps, masks, creams and shampoos and conditioners. It is effective for many skin types but especially for oil or acne prone skin. It improves micro circulation within the dermal layers of skin.  This means that it helps  bringing in fresh oxygenated blood filled with nutrients to all the cells.

Rosemary is also great for hair care.  When used on a regular basis, it stimulates the hair follicles, making hair grow longer and stronger.  It is also said to help slow down premature hair loss and the graying of hair. It helps improve scalp conditions such as dandruff and balances your hairs secretions of sebum (oil).

 *Like most essential oils do not apply directly to the skin.  It is better to use diluted in a carrier oil or mixed into a product.

 *1 small sized cucumber (or 1/2 a med. large) peeled and either juiced or pulverized into liquid with food processor 
 *Add 15-25 drops of rosemary essential oil
 *Add 3-4 tbs of clay (any type) kaolin white, pink, french green, cambrian blue, rhasoul
 *Allow mixture to sit for 5 or so minutes while the clay absorbs some of the moisture.
      your mixture should be that of a paste
 *Apply to facial skin for 10-15 minutes and gently remove with warm water and a wash cloth. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

3:3 Herbs for Skin Health: Camomile

 Chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae family and there are many, many different species of chamomile within this family.  The two most common being German Chamomile, Marticaria recutita, and Roman Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile.  This plant has been used since ancient times for it's calming and anti-inflamatory, and anti-irritant properties. 

So why is this plant that we hear so much about in the form of calming teas, also good for our skin?
Due to Chamomile's anit-inflamatory properties it soothes skin rashes and irritated skin, including eczema, psoriasis, nettle/poison ivy rashes, burns, and sun burns.  It has also been noted that Chamomile helps speed up the healing process of minor cuts, scrapes, and wounds.

There is more to this common wonder though, it contains a compound called Alpha-bisabolol.  This natural chemical compound helps to improve the appearance of scars, stretch marks, fine lines and wrinkles, and contributes to evening out the natural tones of the skin.  There are enzymes in Alpha-bisabolol that renew cells by gently removing build up of damaged and over stretched dying cells.  This helps reduce scar tissue and further more Chamomile allows the vitamins and biomarin collagen to penetrate the skin for reproduction of new and healthy skin cell growth.   Chamomile helps to cleanse, moisturize and improves the overall metabolizm of skin cells. 

Dried Roman Chamomile
The powerhouse of antioxidants found within Chamomile help fight acne breakouts as well as reducing the potential from acne scars forming.  Also this plant fight against free radicalss that damage the skin and reduce the healthy, youthful glow that we all strive to keep.

 In addition to all of this, Chamomile also has benefits for hair.  It is highly effective in preventing and the elimination of dandruff by soothing the irritated scalp and helping maintain a healthy gleam to each individual strand of hair. 

DIY Chamomile Hair Rinse: 
1) Take 3 cups of water and set to a simmer.
2) Remove from heat and add a couple pinches of chamomile (loose flower if possible) and let steep
    until this tea is around skin temperature. 
3) Strain Chamomile from tea (or better yet have put the chamomile into a satchel and now remove 
     the satchel from the tea
3) Use as final rinse in bathing ritual. Either after shampoo and condidtioner or after a vinigar rinse. 
4) Notice the difference. It is OOHHHHHH so lovely. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1:3 Herbs for Skin Health: Calendula Officinalis

Calendula Officinalis

Parts of the Flowering Plant

This common yet lovely little flower "pot Marigold" know also as Calendula Officinalis, is native through out southwestern Asia, western Europe, and Micronesia, and the Mediterranean.  It has been cultivated world wide as an ornamental plant. Its name, Calendula, in Latin refers to "little clock" or possibly "little weather-glass". 

Calendula Officinalis
This flower has been used for skin treatments in it's native regions for centuries.  Calendula has very high amounts of flavonoids, a plant based anitoxidant that protects cells from being dammaged by free-radicals in our environment. This flower is known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, and antifungal properties.  And is very useful for treating minor wounds, chapped and chafted skin, bruises, burns, acne, and diaper rash.  

A lesser known fact of Calendula Officinalis is that it stimulates the production of collagen at the wound site.  This helps to minimize the scarring and of regular wounds as well as with stretch marks. Because of it's ability to stimulate collagen, Calendula is also able to protect the skin from premature aging and thinning.   This plant is gentile enough to treat even the sensitive skin of infants and babies making it a very versitile plant indeed.  

Calendula Oil
Calendula is found in many beauty products, bath products, creams, salves, ointments, facial systems, tinctures and teas.  The beautiful orange/yellow color of the flower seeps into the oil turning it a lovely golden color.  

Calendula Bath:
Get a large handfull of dried/fresh flower heads 
Mix with a quarter to half dollar size amount of lavender buds (optional)
Add flowers to a simmering pot of hot water and reduce heat
Allow 10 minutes to steep in water
Add 1/4 c. Sea Salt or 1/4 to 1/2 c. epsome salts
Allow time to dissolve in water
Strain out plant material 
Pour into Bath Water and Enjoy!!!!

Have you used Calendula for skin health? Do you have photos that you would like to share of Calendula Officinalis that you have grown your self? We would love to see and hear your stories.