The Benefits of Avocado, Part 1

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A lot can be said about avocados as a food source: they’re high in fiber and potassium, full of antioxidants, and are the key ingredients in creamy guacamole. Even if you don’t like the taste of avocado, you can still reap some of the benefits of this superfood.

In this test, I smeared a fresh avocado all over my face. I know, this has been suggested for years by fashion magazines and beauty blogs. Maybe you think it’s too messy (no one wants to look like a green alien), or maybe you think it won’t do any good for your skin – no matter what, there is some reason that you haven’t made an avocado mask.

Supplies: 1 hass avocado, organic jojoba oil.

Hypothesis: “This is going to be a miracle worker. I’m going to wonder why I never tried this before! I just hope my skin doesn’t break out.”

Process and Results: I scooped out about 1/4 of the avocado into a small bowl and mashed it. I added enough jojoba oil to cover the avocado, but not drown it (maybe a teaspoonful) and mixed. Because I mashed the avocado with my hand and a spoon, it was a little chunky. Next time I might use a blender until the mixture is more uniform. Like I said, I smeared the mixture on my face and neck. I let it sit for about a half hour. By that time the avocado was dried up and my skin felt tight. I rinsed with warm water.

The next day (I did this at night, just before bed), I noticed my pores were smaller and skin was brighter. I was very happy to see such results with only one use. Of course, after another day or two, the results had mostly disappeared.

At first I thought, “maybe the avocado isn’t doing anything. Maybe the positive results are purely from the jojoba.” I’ve used jojoba oil on my face before but never tracked the results. So for 2-3 days, I applied the jojoba oil without any avocado (I still rinsed after a while). The outcome almost shocked me, because I discovered two new blemishes! Though my skin was greatly enjoying the moisture, I didn’t have the same brightening or tightening effects I originally experienced. In conclusion, I suppose the avocado really was the active ingredient in this mask.

The Grade: B
I will continue to use both avocado and jojoba as part of my skin’s routine because I am quite satisfied when I use them concurrently. The experiment loses one letter grade because it isn’t likely for me to consistently have avocados on-hand. It is also slightly time consuming to prepare the mask.

What’s next for “The Benefits of Avocado, Part 2″? Hint: It involves hair.

 

 

Sources and photos: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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Something to do with Used Coffee Grounds

Today I made a hand scrub. Not a regular sugar scrub, but a coffee-sugar scrub. I just dumped some used coffee grounds from this morning into an empty jar, and added some brown sugar. The recipe calls for 5 parts coffee to 1 part sugar, but I think the mixture could stand to have a little extra brown sugar to make it grittier (if you use coarse-ground coffee from a French press, you may be able to use less sugar.)

The smell is not the best, so I added a few drops of peppermint essential oil. I wanted to use something with more of an earthy scent to complement the coffee smell, but the peppermint ended up being very interesting. The end result smelled like mint chocolate.

I rubbed my hands and arms with the scrub, and after a few seconds, rinsed. My skin was pretty soft and stayed that way for a few hours. Coffee has lots of antioxidants and caffeine is good on skin, increasing blood flow and firming blood vessels. The best part was that the smell does not stay on skin.

Gift Idea: Tie a tag to the jar and give away to someone with noticeably rough hands!

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Test: The No ‘Poo Method

Supposed Benefits: The No ‘Poo Method is the term for using haircare/body products that contain zero chemicals, sulfates, alcohols, colorants; you get the picture.  People say that their hair is bouncier, feels cleaner, and requires less styling. Going fully “No ‘Poo” means washing your hair with baking soda and vinegar. I went “Low-Poo” or “Sorta Poo” by using castile soap instead.

Supplies: Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Castile Soap, Coconut Oil, Essential Oils, Citrus Peels, Foam Pump Bottles, Spray bottles, or 3-oz travel bottles.

Hypothesis: “My hair will be super-shiny and even better than it is now.” (I was blessed with long, strawberry-blonde, super thick, wavy hair.)

Process and Results: You don’t have to make your own shampoo, but I did. I tried several recipes and came up with my own, too. The general rule is to water-down the Castile soap to 1 part soap to 9 parts water (if you feel you need a higher concentrate of soap, try it. I’ve tried making the shampoo much stronger, but the ratio of 1:9 was best). Recipes are designed for 3 ounce bottles.

Recipe #1: Invigorating
Fill an empty 3-oz bottle 1/10th of the way up with unscented castile soap (yes, you can eyeball it). Set aside.
Steep orange peels, 1-2 drops Sweet Orange Oil, and 1-2 drops Eucalyptus Oil in a small pot of hot water.
Strain water into the bottle with the soap to fill it up. Shake gently to mix.
You can leave in the same bottle, or dump into a recycled foam-pumper bottle or a spray bottle (a spray bottle is best, so you can distribute the shampoo evenly on hair.)

Recipe #2: Soothing
Fill bottle 1/10th with unscented castile soap.
Mix warm water (estimate how much you need to fill other 9/10ths of bottle), 1 teaspoon jojoba oil, and 2 drops rosemary essential oil.
Fill soap bottle with water/oil mixture.

Recipe #3: Stimulating
Fill 1/10th of bottle with unscented castile soap.
Make a cup of green tea (you won’t be using all of it) and steep 15-30 minutes.
Pour tea to fill bottle, and then add 2-3 drops peppermint oil. Shake gently.

You can try any essential oil you love or need. (Try a skin test before using, as some oils can be irritating). Most oils and herbs (yes, you can add herbs too!) have great advantages:
Use tea tree oil for dandruff,
Lavender oil for mood and disinfecting,
Chamomile tea and lemon for blonde highlights,
Basil and rosemary for hair growth stimulation,
Peppermint oil for the same reason,
Sage oil for deep-cleaning and conditioning.

So, I started using my home made shampoo in October of 2011. The first day, I used the Invigorating recipe. As soon as I exited the shower, I saw something amazing: Shine! While my hair was wet, I saw a noticeable shimmer, but assumed it was just the water. As my hair dried, the shine was still there! The next morning, no dandruff! Every little speck of it, gone!

Now, a word of warning. This shampoo does not feel like the shampoo you’re used to. Commercial shampoos are filled with lathering agents which make the soap foamy and easy to handle. The lather in your shampoo is not the cleaning agent, and you shouldn’t mistake bubbliness for cleanliness. The home made shampoo does not lather. That doesn’t mean you should dump it all over your head; a little bit goes a long way because the soap concentration is so much higher than in store-bought products, which are stocked with other chemicals. That’s why I’ve suggested a foamer or squirt bottle- it will help you handle the shampoo better.

This method takes a bit of getting used to. The new shampoo has to get rid of all the crap that’s been eating up your hair’s health for so long. Your commercial shampoos have been stripping your hair of its natural oils, and coating it with chemicals. You should see some results right away, like I did, and full results after a few weeks or even months. I haven’t put a sulfate in my hair for almost a year. One of the things I have noticed is that for my entire life, I have not known the true texture of my hair. My roots are bouncier, and my hair has a more vibrant color. I don’t feel an odd coating on my hair. Every day is a good hair day. I have a nice waviness that I don’t need to straighten with a flat iron. My hair is HAPPY.

I should also mention that I avoid traditional conditioners. Instead, I often use a little bit of coconut oil on the ends. Normal conditioners use dimethicone, which blocks hair and skin from absorbing moisture. Traditional haircare puts you in a revolving cycle: The shampoo damages your hair, forcing you to use conditioner to make it soft. The conditioner coats your hair in silicones, trapping the damage inside a barrier, and making hair worse over time. So your hair stays damaged, and you keep using these products to make your hair “feel” better.

In conclusion, the No ‘Poo Method:
Adds shine
Helps dryness
Allows hair to heal itself
Removes the build-up of nastiness
Breaks the cycle of damage

The Grade: A
Using home made shampoo is rewarding. People get to compliment your hair, and you get to say, “Thanks, I make my own shampoo.” People love my hair, and can’t believe I don’t use store-bought products. However, family and friends never seem to have the guts to try this lifestyle. If you hate your hair, try it! What do you have to lose?

One more word of warning: Use caution if your hair is color-treated. Some say that going No ‘Poo will strip your hair dye.

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Test: The Green Tea Bath

Supposed Benefits: The antioxidants and B-vitamins in green tea are said to soften the skin, heal wounds, and soothe the soul. Paired with candles and relaxing music, soaking in green tea should take me away to a happy place.

Supplies: 10 bags of green tea, water, tub.

Hypothesis: I believe the green tea bath will have a soothing smell, but I don’t expect to feel any physical benefits.
Process and Results: As the water ran, I dropped in 10 or 12 tea bags.

I let the tub fill up, and by that time the water was a nice brown color. The first thing I noticed was that the tea water felt much more hydrating than plain water. Some say green tea’s pH is more alkaline, while tap water is slightly acidic (if you are not aware, our bodies need to be slightly alkaline to be at its best). Maybe the pH balance of the water makes it feel better.
Contrary to my hypothesis, the bath did not have a scent.

I did not have any open wounds at the time of the bath, so I am unsure if green tea helps the healing process. The next time I have a papercut or rash, I will try applying a green tea bag to the area and see what happens.

After the soak, when I was all dry, I expected to have silky, glowing skin. That wasn’t the case. My hands and knuckles were as rough as if I’d taken a regular bath.

Another hypothesis I have is that the green tea can help reduce cellulite. Green tea contains more caffeine than soda, and almost as much as coffee. Applying caffeine to the thighs stimulates blood flow to the area. I believe that, upon soaking in green tea regularly, I will see a cellulite reduction in those problem areas.

The Grade: C+
Green tea baths are said to unfold a number of benefits for the body and mind. I certainly felt a greater relaxation than in normal bathwater, but did not experience better skin or an overall better health. I might need to take more than one green tea bath to feel any benefits. I will aim for one bath per week and I will revisit this test in the future.

 

Have you tried tea baths? How was your experience?

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Can You Cure a Toothache with Food?

Toothaches can be a dull annoyance or a terrifying pain. Most of us have gotten them, and those who haven’t are probably lying. Most people ignore them, or take an over-the-counter painkiller.

In 2011 I had an abscess, which was the negative result of a deep filling I’d received before. An abscess is an infection that reaches the root of your tooth, under the bone. The pain was unbearable; the worst I had felt in my life. I needed a root canal. I had a prescription for 800mg of Ibuprofen but it didn’t kill 100% of the pain. Before my root canal appointment, I tried everything to compensate for what the painkillers missed: gargling salt water, brushing with toothpaste repeatedly, chewing raw onions, applying Orajel, and the list goes on.

The Orajel hardly worked for my extreme pains. The Maximum Strength version has menthol in it, and the cooling sensation seemed to make me feel even more sensitive to the ache. If your teeth are normally sensitive to cold, I’d avoid topical gels with menthol. Gargling saltwater is an oldie-but-goodie; lots of people use it as their primary toothache remedy. The problem with swishing the saltwater is the taste. Having that stuff in your mouth can be gross, so we end up spitting the water out too quickly.

I sat at home for days, and could not chew. That inability to eat lead me to my magic toothache cure… Chicken Soup.

Yes, chicken soup has been used by moms for centuries. In some homes, Campbell’s is synonymous with NyQuil. Though soup is commonly given to kids for a cold, it works amazingly for a toothache. Salt is a powerful antiseptic and can kill many microbes that are damaging your teeth.

The sodium in your average chicken-noodle soup dulls the pain similarly to saltwater, but because we like soup, we keep it in our mouths longer, thus receiving all the benefits. Soup often contains onion and garlic, which are also helpful remedies (but not many people want to chew up a garlic clove.) When I had my tooth ache, I preferred soups that come with flavoring packets (Lipton’s Soup Secrets, especially) and I had relief for at least a few hours – with an abscess, a few hours can feel like eternal heaven. But now that I’m more interested in my diet and health, I’d rather make soup at home. Whatever you choose, don’t skimp on the salt.

If you are on a low-sodium diet, try chewing on onions and garlic instead. They are both very good for the teeth, though not very favorable.

Always see a dentist for severe pain, as poor oral health can lead to heart disease.

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