Recently some interesting findings were released linking gingivitis to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Pretty scary, since about a third of us have gingivitis to some degree or another. The long-term effects of inflammation of the gums is also known to stress the cardiovascular system, so those are two strong reasons to take excellent care of your teeth and gums!
Gingivitis is caused by a build up of plaque. This film of bacteria feeds on sugars and other carbohydrates in the mouth. The resulting by-products, which include acids, damage the gum tissue and cause irritation and inflammation. Daily brushing and flossing are essential, of course, but sometimes just not enough to cure stubborn gum disease.
Fortunately, the ancient traditions of Ayurveda have an effective solution for oral care: Triphala mouthwash.
You’ve probably heard of Triphala as a digestive remedy, and it is that. One of the most safe and effective bowel tonics out there, Triphala promotes regular and healthy bowel movements without straining the system or causing cramping and diarrhea. Safe for children and the elderly, Triphala is so well-loved in India that a common saying is “You do not have a mother? Do not worry, as long as you have Triphala”.
But Triphala’s astringent action and anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties are good for more than the gut. This combination of three fruits (Amalaki, Bibitaki, Haritaki) is also used as an eye wash, a mouth wash, a nasal/sinus rinse, and to treat topical skin issues like acne.
Triphala powder, the most readily available form, is easily found in many health food stores. To make the mouthwash, all you need to do is boil the powder in water, cool and strain, and swish daily. You can also sprinkle the powder onto your toothbrush and gently brush your gums with it, but most practitioners recommend the mouthwash as being more effective.
Make Your Own Triphala Mouthwash
2-3 Tablespoons Triphala powder
1 quart (4 cups) water
Gargle a small amount 2-3 times per day for best effect
It’s pretty exciting news that this simple, centuries old herbal remedy may have an essential role to play in the prevention of dementia.
To your health!
The Super Nutrient You May Not Be Thinking About, But Should
Fiber. It’s one of those things you know you should be getting enough of, but it’s easy not to think about. Most of us only get 15 or so grams per day, when we should be getting around 30 grams (25g for women, 38g for men).
The many health benefits of fiber include:
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
Both soluble and insoluble occur naturally in many fresh foods, and both are important to good health. Here is a basic overview of the two types:
Soluble fiber is found in beans, peas, lentils, oats and oat bran, psyllims husks, nuts & seeds, berries, and apples. It is linked to lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains of all kinds, wheat bran, dark leafy greens, most root vegetables (with skins!), squash, and dried fruits like raisins and dates. It promotes healthy and regular bowel movements and reduces the risk of colon diseases like diverticulitis.
Foods High in Fiber
Whole grains, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables all contain fiber. There are some herbal supplements to help make sure you get your daily intake when you’re on the go.
To naturally increase your daily intake of fiber, try these tips:
Adjust your fiber intake slowly, and drink plenty of water, to give your digestive system time to adjust. Remember, the more gradually you introduce new habits and lifestyle changes, the more likely they are to stick. Be good to yourself!
Looking for recipes? Try these earlier posts!
CCF Tea, Ayurveda’s Little Secret Miracle
Okay, yes, it’s a bit strong to call tea a miracle, but this simple and tasty tea is pretty darn close!
CCF stands for Coriander, Cumin, and Fennel, three spices that are digestive superheroes. Combined, they make a daily drink that improves digestion, aids healthy elimination and detox, and supports the immune system, among other great benefits.
Let’s look at the individual herbs in this blend.
Coriander, Coriandrum sativum
The leaves of this plant, known as Cilantro, are also medicinal, traditionally used for digestion and detoxification. And they are an essential ingredient in salsa recipes!
Cumin, Cuminum cyminum
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
Making CCF Tea
To blend the tea mixture:
Combine equal parts by weight of Coriander, Cumin, and Fennel whole seeds. Store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
To brew the tea:
Best enjoyed hot! You can add a little fresh minced Ginger Root while the tea is cooking for extra digestive fire!
Drink a cup after each meal to encourage healthy digestion, prevent gas and heartburn, and to cleanse and refresh the mouth.
You may know of flaxseed as a wonderful digestive healer and gentle laxative, or maybe as a cardio-protective herb full of nourishing, anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids. This beautiful, blue-flowering herb is also the source of linen, oil for oil paints, and the seeds we enjoy for their culinary and medicinal purposes.
While I myself enjoy a cup of warm water and flax as a daily digestive/anti-inflammatory tonic, today I want to focus on flax’s superb value as a first-aid herb. Flax poultices are invaluable for topical wound care, infections, and respiratory illnesses. They are easy to make and are sure to become a staple in your herbal first-aid kit. Read more…
By Tom Wolfe, RH
I am often asked the question, “What are the best plants and botanical products for herbal skin care?” Summertime puts us out in the sun, which is a big change for the skin. In this article I will share the plants and botanical products I would choose in order to learn from listening to your body’s wisdom and listening to the plants in order to have the best knowledge of herbal skin care.
Let’s explore the three main categories of herbs and herbal products that guarantee a healthy, happy complexion all throughout the summer. These categories are Base oils and Infused oils, Essential oils, and Water Infusions.
Jojoba oil is the most similar to our own natural skin oils. It absorbs quickly and deeply for non-greasy moisturizing. While not one I usually use for extracting herbs, I do blend it into skin oils and ointments to improve absorption. It’s also a great after-bath oil, especially after a long day in the garden! You can use Jojoba oil (or other favorites such as Sweet Almond oil) as a base oil in which to blend bug-repellent essential oils, which we will discuss later in the article. Olive oil is slightly heavier and is the oil of choice for making medicinal oils. By allowing the medicines to stay on the surface of the skin slightly longer, olive oil focuses the herbs where they are most needed.
Shea butter offers UV protection and deep moisturizing. The pure unrefined Shea butters are best. This is an all-around wonder as a skin-and hair-care oil. It promotes the growth of healthy skin and hair, is healing to dry, rough, cracked skin, helps reduce scar tissue, and is deeply healing to sun-damaged skin. It can be used in its pure, raw form, or blended with other oils and essential oils to make an all-around skin oil blend.
Infused oil of St. John’s Wort offers sun protection, and can also relieve the pain of sunburn. Some texts will warn you that this oil will make your sun more sensitive to sun, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Susun Weed recommends it for sun protection and she suggests that it takes the skin a few applications to get used to it. With that in mind I would suggest your first few uses be in gentler conditions, say early morning or evening sun rather than midday. This lovely red oil is also used to ease the discomfort of sore muscles and minor bruises, say, from overly enthusiastic hiking or volleyball, a common summer complaint. I consider it a must for the herbal first aid kit.
Infused oil of Calendula is another essential part of the herbal first aid kit and an ally for summer skin care. It is very safe and soothing, and is especially helpful for dry, itchy patches, insect bites and stings, and abrasions. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it a first choice for skin irritations, wound healing, and painful acne. It is a powerful healer, and yet is so gentle it is safe for infants and pets.
2. Essential Oils
In general, all essential oils repel mosquitoes and other insects! Some oils are more repellent than others, which we will discuss. But remember that you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a base oil such as Jojoba, Sweet Almond, or shea butter; not only will this repel mosquitoes, it will nourish and protect your skin as well. One summer, I mixed all the essential oils I had into a base of Sweet Almond oil just for fun, and the result was a glowing complexion and no bugs!
Tulsi, or Holy Basil essential oil, is a general insect repellent. Mostly used against mosquitoes, it also appears helpful against fleas, gnats, and other biting flies. In India, Tulsi plants are often planted around doors and windows to prevent mosquitoes from coming inside.
Geranium and Rose Geranium oils are true favorites for the skin, used to repel mosquitoes and other biting flies. Rose geranium in particular is the best essential oil that I know of for reliably repelling deer ticks. Both of these lovely-smelling oils are also soothing and moisturizing for sun-challenged and exposed skin.
Patchouli essential oil is also extremely effective in repelling fleas and ticks, as well as other biting insects. The scent isn’t for everyone, but it can be diluted and mixed with other oils for a more general appeal.
3. Water Infusions
For minor cuts, scrapes, and itchy bug bites, Plantain, Comfrey, Calendula, Chickweed, Cleavers and dried or cooked (not fresh!) Nettles are all extremely helpful. Any of these common, easy-to-find herbs can be infused in oil and applied generously to irritated skin or brewed into a strong infusion and used as a skin wash. Regular use, particularly of Nettles and Cleavers, as a skin wash improves the overall health and vitality of the skin and can clear up blemishes, red spots, overlarge pores and often, minor patches of eczema. Chamomile, Calendula, Rosemary, and Lavender are often used along with Nettles or Cleavers for a skin tonic or steam.
So now that we’ve gotten to know some herbal Friends to help us through the summer, skin care should be a cinch! Not to mention nourishing and chemical-free. For more information on how to best utilize this knowledge for your own needs, please come and visit one of our professional or student herbalists for assistance. Every herbalist has their own favorite blend or mixture to share when it comes to skin care. Happy Summer!