Sage: A Scent for the Season

Posted by Maria on November 25, 2010 under Aromatherapy, Books, Magazines, Music, Gift Ideas, Home spa, Ingredients, Photo gallery, Recipes, Skin Care, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Christmas is just a short month away and that means we’re officially in the season. As my American friends sit down with their families at their Thanksgiving tables today, I’m thinking about how much I like the taste of a little sage in my turkey stuffing. Sage makes me feel all comfy and cozy and that’s why I’ve chosen it as today’s blog topic.

Sage and cranberries on a plate.

The Latin name for sage, Salvia, comes from salvere, which means “to save or heal” and true to its name, sage has a long list of healing properties. There are lots of varieties of sages out there in the world, like purple sage and pineapple sage, and they each have their own share of medicinal, culinary, aromatic and cosmetic uses.

For home spa recipes, I recommend using either the fresh or dried culinary herb version of sage or using clary sage essential oil, depending on the type of treatment you’re making.

Sage Herb in the Home Spa

Common Sage can be mixed with other herbs like lavender, rosemary and catnip in a sleep pillow. It’s also good for hair as it adds shine to normal or damaged hair and covers gray strands. Here are some more suggestions:

  1. Blend sage in relaxing tea for sleeplessness, night sweats, nightmares, depression, nervous exhaustion, anxiety, whiter teeth, sore throats, colds-flu, detoxification, female issues, flavour.
  2. Infuse astringent and antiseptic sage into facials to clean pores, visually shrink pore size, add scent.
  3. Infuse sage into your hair rinse to treat normal, dry or damaged hair, add shine, curb dandruff, encourage hair growth, add fragrance, and cover grey.
  4. Mix dried sage in baths, sleep pillows, pot pourri, or sachets for fragrance.

Clary Sage Essential Oil in the Home Spa

Affectionately known as “clear eye,” clary sage was used in medieval times to flush out debris from eyes. It was also added to wine and beer to bump up the flavour and the fun factor. And speaking of fun, in her book Aromatherapy, author Glenda Taylor writes, “PARTY — Clary sage is supposed to make you feel irresistible. If you’re getting ready to go out, [like to a holiday party perhaps?], use a few drops in your bathwater or add it to a hair rinse.” You can also use clary sage essential oil in the following ways:

  1. Clary Sage is considered a middle note fixative in perfumery and aromatherapy. It’s nutty, smoky fragrance with sweet herbaceous undertones blends well with: basil, bergamot, cardamon, cedarwood, chamomile, coriander, cypress, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lime, mandarin, patchouli, petitgrain, rose, sandalwood, tea tree, vetiver, and ylang ylang.
  2. Add clary sage essential oil to a massage oil blend to relax, get a good night’s sleep, enhance dreams, lift depression, inspire romance, soothe muscle pain and address female issues.
  3. Use clary sage essential oil in your skincare routine if you have an oily skin type.
  4. Pour drops of clary sage essential oil into an atomizer to scent linen.
  5. Heat clary sage essential oil in a burner to brighten a room, treat coughs and aid concentration.
  6. CAUTION: Avoid during pregnancy and while drinking alcohol.

Clary Sage Massage Oil Recipe

To relax and soothe sore muscles and to get a good night’s sleep, you can use this recipe as a massage oil or as an additive to bathsalts or bathwater. Has anyone else noticed that the word “sage” is built into the word, “massage?”

  • 1 cup Jojoba Oil — is an excellent choice to use as a carrier oil because it’s closest to our skin’s natural oil and therefore our skin readily absorbs it.
  • 20 drops Clary Sage Essential Oil — is a powerful relaxant. This middle note relieves anxiety, nervous exhaustion, irritability and insomnia. It’s also used in skin care for its anti-inflammatory, soothing and astringent properties.
  • 20 drops Rosemary Essential Oil — This fresh middle note lifts depression and erases feelings of lethargy and fatigue. It eases stiff muscles in massage and is also an effective hair and scalp tonic.
  • 20 drops Lavender Essential Oil — This soporific top note is used to treat anxiety, depression and headaches. In massage, it relieves muscular aches and stiffness and is also a popular ingredient in skincare.
  • 20 drops Spearmint Essential Oil — As a top note scent, it delivers cheerfulness and optimism during periods of sluggishness and lethargy.

Method: Starting with the middle note essential oils and working toward the top notes, carefully pour drops of the clary sage essential oil into a sterilized glass bottle. Then count in 20 drops of the rosemary essential oil. Roll the bottle in your hands to blend the essential oils or use an orangewood stick to stir. Then add 20 drops of the lavender and blend the oils again. Then add 20 drops of the spearmint essential oil. Blend the aromas and smell the result. You now have an equal blend of all four essential oils. If you are satisfied, then keep the blend as is. If not, go ahead and add 5 drops at a time of any of the essential oils that you feel need more strength. Keep some coffee beans handy to clear your nasal palette. Once satisfied, add jojoba oil to the shoulder of the bottle. Make a label and let the recipe cure for 2 weeks.

Manner: Pour a tablespoon of oil onto your hands and then apply to skin using effleurage movements. Then proceed with your massage. Alternatively, pour a tablespoon of oil into your bathwater. You can also use the essential oil blend as a base for bathsalts.

Storage / Shelf Life: Mixture will mature in 4 to 8 weeks. Store out of sunlight in a cool dark place. Keep lid fastened. Will last for 3 to 12 months.

If you like this recipe, let me know. And consider making a big batch and give this massage oil as a gift for your friends. Happy Holidays!

It’s Vitamin D Day

Posted by Maria on November 18, 2010 under Fitness, Green Living, Homespunspa, Ingredients, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Nutrition, Self-Care, Sleep, Stress Management and Relaxation, Uncategorized, Wellness | 4 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

It’s a dark, gloomy and rainy November day here in Victoria and winter’s a’comin’. From now on, let’s call November 18th, “Vitamin D Day.”

Vitamin D

Vitamin D bursts on to the autumn scene.

Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight and that’s why it has been nicknamed, “the Sunshine Vitamin.” Unfortunately, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter months, you’re probably not getting the rays you need to keep your vitamin D levels high enough.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that controls the absorption of calcium which, in turn, affects bone development. It’s essential for healthy bones and teeth. Our skeleton gives our body structure and we need strong bones to get around.

Having unhappy and unhealthy bones is not fun and can lead to Osteoporosis in elderly people or Rickets in children.

Research is also showing vitamin D’s ability to fight colds and flu by boosting immunity and we all know autumn is the beginning of the flu season. Vitamin D also prevents depression and Type 1 diabetes. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and leukemia and slows the onset of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. That’s a lot of star power!

Wait, there’s more. Vitamin D plus daylight, or “Vitamin Daylight,” as I like to call it, can also help you sleep better. Getting at least 30 minutes a day of sunshine is one of the best ways to balance your circadian rhythm, re-sync your internal clock and help you sleep.

Sources of Vitamin D in Food

  • catfish
  • cod liver oil
  • herrings
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • margarine
  • tuna
  • eel (who eats eel on a regular basis?)
  • beef liver
  • cheddar cheese
  • Swiss cheese
  • eggs
  • fortified milk
  • mushrooms (only vegan source)

Supplements:  How much Vitamin D is enough?

If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from your diet or the sun, it is wise to consider taking vitamin D supplements. People at risk of being deficient in vitamin D are: vegetarians, vegans, night shift workers, those who wear high factor sunscreens, those who are homebound, and those who cover their skin from the sun as part of religious practice.

So how much vitamin D do you need on a daily basis? I wish I could answer that question with a definitive answer but my research isn’t consistent. I’ve seen recommendations from as low as 100 IU’s (International Units) a day to over 1000 IU’s a day and even as high as 2000 IU’s a day. That’s quite a spread. If anyone out there has any recommendations to share in this discussion, please post a comment.

And talk to your doctor. Many people around the world aren’t getting enough vitamin D on a regular basis. And millions of people suffer from insomnia which can be caused by all sorts of things including stress and anxiety — but lack of vitamin D can also play a roll. Just get a blood test done and you’ll know your vitamin D levels for sure and then you’ll know how many IU’s you’ll need specifically.

Vitamin D on the Web

It’s good to do your research when you’re thinking about changing something in your diet and I’ve found some information on vitamin D that might be helpful.

According to Osteoporosis Canada: “If you are under 50, do not have osteoporosis, and do not have a condition that interferes with vitamin D absorption, Osteoporosis Canada recommends daily supplements of 400 – 1000 IU daily. If you are over 50, supplements of between 800 and 2000 IU are recommended.” Also, “Canadians can safely take daily vitamin D supplements up to the tolerable upper intake level of 2000 IU; doses above that require medical supervision.”

On the other hand, Wikipedia says: “Adequate intake levels of vitamin D have been established by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies. These intake levels are based only on age (i.e., they are the same regardless of weight, gender, pregnancy, or lactation): Birth to 50 years — 200 IU; 51–70 years — 400 IU; 71+ years — 600 IU. These intake levels are based on the assumption that the vitamin is not synthesized by exposure to sunlight.”

I also took a look at my own bottle of Vitamin D (400 IU/10 mcg) from Jamieson Laboratories. They say to take 1 or 2 tablets a day which is between 400 and 800 IU’s. To me, these tablets sound like the best option because they give you a minimal base to work with and still allow you to get vitamin D from foods in your diet and get doses of sunshine on the fly without the worry about overdosing.

If you O.D. on Vitamin D

Before you go out and buy your supplements and pop them into your body, I’m just going to remind you of one more thing. There’s also a down side to vitamin D. I don’t know if you know this, but vitamin D is the most toxic vitamin which means you have to be really careful about how much you’re taking in on a daily basis.

Side effects of taking too much vitamin D include:  vomiting, headaches, diarrhea and depression.

The Homespunspa Way

This winter, I’m going to do my best to go outside at lunch time on a daily basis and take a light walk around the block. Not only will I breathe in some fresh air, I’ll get some daylight on my face. I think the exercise will brighten my mood and will chase the winter blues away. And I’ll probably sleep more soundly. Who wants to join me?

12 Not-So-Pretty Cosmetics Ingredients

Posted by Maria on November 2, 2010 under Green Living, Home spa, How to throw a home spa pajama party the Homespunspa way book, Ingredients, Newspapers and Newsworthy, Skin Care, Uncategorized | 5 Comments to Read

by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner

Shampoo bottles in the shower.Recently, the David Suzuki Foundation published a report entitled: “What you need to know about toxics in your cosmetic products” and as an esthetician who develops her own spa treatment recipes and tries to live a green lifestyle, I thought it would be a good idea to pass this information on to my readers.

In a nutshell, here is a list of the “Dirty Dozen” ingredients to look out for on the labels of your cosmetics because they could be harmful to your health and to the health of our planet Earth:

  1. BHA and BHT
  2. Coal tar dyes (p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits)
  3. DEA-related ingredients
  4. Dibutyl phthalate
  5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
  6. Paraben, methylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben
  7. Parfum
  8. PEGs (e.g., PEG -60)
  9. Petrolatum
  10. Siloxanes
  11. Sodium laureth sulfate
  12. Triclosan

These ingredients play different roles in the product formulations. Some act as preservatives while others help create the “feel” of the products. Pronouncing these chemicals is hard enough but using these ingredients repeatedly for days and weeks and months and years on end can have significant consequences to your health and to the environment.

Most of the ingredients listed are harmful to fish and other wildlife, presumably by getting into our water system after we rinse them off. Others are considered cancer causing — the big “C Word.”

Others are suspected “endocrine disruptors” which means they interfere with the jobs that natural hormones do in the body, including maintaining the normal metabolism, reproduction, development, and/or behavior of cells. Like keeping your hormone levels balanced isn’t challenging enough without any outside interference.

I also learned a little something about fragrance reviahome that I didn’t know before reading this report. Seeing “Parfum” on the label can turn out to be any number of additives. Something as seemingly innocuous as fragrance may turn out to be a big deal for some people because some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma.

And the ones that are marketed as “unscented” or “fragrance free” you ask? Well, they may in fact contain masking agents that prevent the brain from perceiving the odour — but the original fragrance is there none the less. Sneaky, I know.

To be proactive in your life about your health, I invite you to grab your bottle of shampoo or any other cosmetic that you have handy and read the label. Yes, the fine print. I think it’s worth knowing what’s inside the products that you like to use. Maybe this information will inspire you to take more care in buying your next face cleanser or tube of toothpaste or your next brand of mascara. Liking the fragrance may have helped you choose your shampoo in the past, but it’s not the whole story. I know I’ll think twice next time I go shopping.

In the meantime, try making your own home spa recipes because that way, you’ll know exactly what you’re applying to your hair and skin. And you’ll feel better about your carbon footprint at the same time. For home spa recipe ideas, order your copy of How to throw a Home Spa Pajama Party the Homespunspa way today.

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