Why Calendula Belongs in Your First Aid Kit and Your Skincare Routine

Calendula (Calendula officianalis) has long been known as one of the most healing herbs in the herbal apothecary. It has sacred status in India, is known as “Mary’s Gold” in tribute to the Virgin Mary in Catholic tradition, and was used by the ancient Romans and Greeks in many ceremonies. Calendula is often used topically for ailments and irritation of the skin and mucous membranes such as itching, contact dermatitis and heat rash. It is used to reduce swelling and inflammation, including of the mouth and throat, as well as to relieve the pain of hemorrhoids and proctitis and to heal abrasions. It has a history of being used for detoxifying the gallbladder and liver when taken internally as well as to treat fevers and prevent muscle spasms (including menstrual cramps). It has become familiar for its presence in popular homeopathic skin preparations for burns, rashes, and itching. The uses for this plant are amazingly varied.

Calendula is a type of marigold, but it is not of the same genus as the common marigold, that vibrant and ubiquitous flower of orange and yellow and red that shows its fiery colors in front yard gardens. The common garden marigold sadly does not contain the same therapeutic properties as potent calendula does… Yet even if you can’t pick up a calendula plant of your own at any home and garden center, you can grow your own calendula (C. officianalis) to use for therapeutic purposes at home!

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Ora’s Amazing Herbal’s Advanced Nightly Skin Repair Phytonutrient Face Oil Serum and Lightweight Daily Nourish Face Oil Serums are cold-infused with organic calendula because of not only the herbal wisdom of the ancients but also modern scientific research that has verified many of the herb’s benefits in the laboratory. This includes studies that have proven its potency as an antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent and a protector of genetic material, preventing skin mutations that can result in cancer. Our facial skin is the neediest skin on our body, especially as we age. It’s constantly exposed to the sun, environmental toxins and wind. Calendula applied to the skin directly is uniquely able to help soothe irritation, reduce redness, calm breakouts, moisturize, and repair sun damage.

Calendula has an important role to play in your skincare routine for preventing and reversing aging, as well as in your first aid kit for the treatment of rashes, itching, inflammation and abrasions. It can often be used as a replacement for over-the-counter hydrocortisone-based creams (but consult your healthcare professional first). Try keeping a calendula cream, lotion or healing salve in your first aid kit, especially during the summer when many people are most active and prone to irritation and injury. For maximum healing, sun damage protection and calming for your delicate facial skin, try facial serums and other skin care products that list calendula as one of the first ingredients. Let this vibrant golden flower work its soothing magic, just as it has done since ancient times.

5 Things You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Skincare Products

You have no doubt noticed an astounding array of new gluten-free offerings popping up on grocery store shelves and at restaurants as awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance have grown. But did you know that there’s another gluten-free trend that goes hand and hand with gluten-free diets? It’s important for anyone with celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, gluten-reactive eczema or gluten intolerance to keep the following things in mind:

  1. You eat more shampoo and face wash than you realize!
    These products frequently drip down your face and into your mouth along with water. Many shampoos and face washes include various wheat proteins, barley and oat extracts, and other gluten-containing ingredients.
  2. Use soap and bodywash that is clean for your insides and your outsides.
    Soap and bodywash residue remains on your hands, which you then use to eat and wipe your mouth. It is only natural that one would want to make sure these products, too, are free of any ingredients that compromise your body’s wellness.
  3. Your mom told you not to eat that delicious flavored Chapstick™, but you still do.
    Lip balms and lipsticks frequently contain gluten. As you go about your day you consume more of it than you might realize. One study that found that lipstick use was corrollated with rates of systemic lupus erythematosus found that lipstick wearers consume an average of 60 milligrams of it a day. Lip balm wearers likely consume a similar quantity. Make sure any lip product you choose is as gluten-free as your food!
  4. Gluten can cause eczema flare-ups and rashes.
    Ingestion is not the only way that gluten can irritate the body. There are some people who find that applying skin creams that are not gluten-free cause skin problems… Whether it causes you or your child’s eczema to flare up or leads to an itchy contact rash, you may find that gluten-free lotions and oils help moisturize without irritating.
  5. Gluten hides in skincare products under a lot of sneaky pseudonyms.
    Ingredients sometimes found in skincare products that should be avoided by gluten-free individuals include avena sateva (oat) extract, hordeum vulgare (barley) extract, wheat germ oil, wheat amino acids, hydrolized wheat starch, triticum aestivum, triticum carthlicum, triticum durum, and triticum vulgare. You can avoid these ingredients by purchasing your skincare products from a company that is 100% gluten-free such as Ora’s Amazing Herbals.

Breina Gidseg is a mother of five and is a nutritionist, health and wellness writer, recipe developer and cooking teacher based in New Jersey.

Oy! It’s Eczema And Allergy Season Again?

Herbal Skin Care - Ora's Amazing Herbal

A Time To Itch And Wheeze, A Time To Shmear And Breathe

In our house, the eczema comes and goes, just like the weather. Come to think of it, it comes and goes with the weather. When the flowers bloom and the temperature goes up, the sneezes and scratches are likely to follow. Here is what we do for the kids in our house that are prone to allergies, asthma, and eczema.

Try to avoid dairy and sugar. I know, it’s a bummer during ice cream season, but dairy is the #1 food sensitivity associated with both asthma and eczema. Sugar is a known irritant in addition to suppressing the immune system. The main real danger of eczema is infection, so we want to keep our immune systems strong.

Eat lots of veggies, the darker and more colorful the better. I don’t want to explain this one again any more than you want to read about it, so let’s move on, shall we?

Hydrate. Drink lots of water. Wet is the opposite of dry. In order to keep skin from getting dry it helps to keep the whole body hydrated.

Fragrance free everything. Even the green laundry detergent that we use that only has essential oils in it, can irritate our reactive ones when their systems are agitated. We switch to the unscented version for this season.

Essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants. There are a million ways to supplement these nutrients, but the most important thing we have found is that consistency is the most important. We do a yummy real foods based chewable that the kids always come asking for that is very high in vitamin C and flavonoids. We also do a lemon flavored liquid cod liver oil. With 4 kids, we simply can’t keep any of the fancy chewable fish oil pills in stock! Just keep the bottle in the fridge and act like it’s the best treat in the world. Take some with them every time too to make it look good. We do this anti-inflammatory regimen year round but I really try to be more mindful to do it daily during this time.

Nettles (Urtica dioica) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) seem to be the two most important herbs in our house for this season. I buy them in bulk and keep a pitcher of iced tea sweetened with raw honey in the fridge and bring it out at meal time. I put about 2 cups of dried nettles (don’t touch with your bare hands, it stings) and 1/4 cup licorice in a 1/2 gallon mason jar of hot water. Steep covered for a few hours then strain, add a little raw honey or maple syrup and fresh lemon and chill. If it tastes too strong for you, you can always add water. Delicious and quenching.

Shmear them down. Doing a daily or twice daily shmear of all the areas prone to dry and irritated skin, really makes a huge difference. My bigger kids have their own jar of herbal infused salve, and I just make sure to remind them to shmear. My little one still gets the mommy spa treatment. Applying an herbal salve regularly gives the herbs a chance to work their magic so waiting for kids to complain doesn’t do anyone any favors. Just like you wouldn’t brush your teeth every three days and expect a good dentist visit, you have to be diligent with the shmear. Keeping both internal and external inflammation down requires maintenance. Make sure that whatever you use is free of those toxic parabens and/or petroleum based products.

So there you have it. Nothing ground breaking here, just a couple of good reminders on how to keep touchy skin happy during the weather change. Have a happy spring!

Ora Assayag loves creating simple and pure but effective concoctions for the skin, tummy, and soul. Ora’s Amazing Herbal, natural skincare for the whole family.

– Ora Assayag, Ora’sAmazingHerbal.com

Our little one loves her Touchy Skin Salve

Our little one loves her Touchy Skin Salve

5 Ways to Cross That Road Without Chicken Skin

Herbal Skin Care - Chicken Skin - Ora's Amazing Herbal

How to deal with Keratosis Pilaris (not so affectionately referred to as “chicken skin”)

Unfortunately, I have yet to find one single thing that gets rid of chicken skin, but I have found a number of things that work well together to completely and totally get rid of it… um, mostly. But you have to do it all the time, as a maintenance thing.

1. Cod liver oil. When I take cod liver oil daily, with the essential fatty acids and the vitamin A that naturally comes with it, it reduces my dry and/or irritated skin all around, and in particular my chicken skin. The amount of vitamin A naturally occurring is safe, but if you are taking any other supplements with vitamin A in them, make sure to consult with your trusted healthcare provider. I like Carlson’s lemon flavor liquid. It’s good quality and affordable enough to give daily to the whole family. Keep it in the fridge. We take a tablespoon (more like a soup spoon fished out of the silverware drawer) every day or every other day. It helps with all sorts of stuff but we are discussing chicken skin right now…

2. Drink lots of water. Duh.

3. Don’t eat things you have sensitivity to. You know, those foods that you are kind of allergic to, but you eat them anyway just because you love them? Like cheese, melon, avocado, or maybe eggplant? It’s no big deal because you just get a little itchy for a minute, or a little bloated in the tummy, and then it goes away. It is also likely that it contributes to general inflammation in your body. Red itchy bumps on your skin, well that’s inflammation so.. I’m not telling you what to do, I’m not even telling you what I do, (as she spreads avocado on her gluten-free flatbread) but, be aware that it is likely to contribute to the bumpy skin. Often when people do elimination diets, the bumps go away. Just sayin’.

4. Anti-inflammatory stuff. There is much discussion about keratosis pilaris and how it is genetic and a nutrient deficiency (particularly vitamin A) and it is an allergy. The truth is, I think it is partly all of these things. Regardless, it is clearly an inflammatory condition. It follows that whatever anti-inflammation practices you have up your sleeve will help with your skin, and also most likely your hair, digestion, breathing, sleep, and emotions, behavior and general outlook as well. Ok, I will add this to my list of future posts.

5. Exfoliate and then shmear. When I take a shower, I wait till after I’ve dealt with my hair and all so that my skin has softened a bit. Then I scrub that chicken with a nylon brush. (OK, I can hear you peanut gallery! ) After the shower I dry off, do my powder and essential oil blend in the armpit thing, and then before my skin gets a chance to really dry out again I shmear it with my Touchy Skin salve. I do have to wait a minute for it to absorb before I get dressed, but this is the thing that really works for me. In the meantime I deal with my hair…I see another post from me in your future.

So there you have it: five ways to chase that chicken across the road.

If you want to hear more from me, check out my Facebook page here.

Mamas Touchy Tummy Ache Triumph

Ora's Amazing Herbal - baby

Warning:If you are not a parent of a young child, this post will probably be a little bit TMI. Yesterday, my little shmookey, no not my pookey, my shmookkey, had a tummy ache. hot-water-bottle-with-coverI was pretty sure it was nothing serious but I needed to offer her some comfort that would encourage it to, um, pass. First I tried to give her an herbal tincture I have for tummy discomfort. Let us say that low compliance interfered with that strategy. Then I had one of those I am a mother which means I am amazing moments. I filled a good ol hot water bottle with hot water. It’s the kind that has its own sweater so it can never get to hot on the skin, like the one on the. Then I gently rubbed some Touchy Skin Salve on her tummy in a clockwise (from my perspective) direction. It makes perfect sense because the ingredients in that salve are all anti-inflammatory and soothing. I was kicking myself for never thinking of it sooner. Just for a minute or two. Then I put the hot water bottle on her and told her I’d be back to check on her in a few minutes. When I came back she was asleep. An hour later she got up and took care of business. Triumph over the touchy tummy.  TouchySkinSalve_Both_OpenJar2

Good times!

Be Well,

Ora

(Photos: David Zimand)

I Wish I Had a Tattoo

I wish I had a tattoo. I wish I had a big crazy and magical tattoo on my face or on my entire arm or someplace completely impossible to hide.

I wish it was a tattoo that told everyone who meets me that I just may not be who they perceive me to be. I am so much more.  I donʼt have this tattoo though, and I will likely never get one, mostly because my religion discourages it, um, strongly.

I wish I had done it back when I didn’t care. Well maybe I always cared or I would have actually done it.

Anyway, I wish I had one, but I donʼt.  

I look somewhat normal. I donʼt look normal normal mainly because I donʼt know what that is or if it exists, but I do know that I look kind of regular. I donʼt have any piercings, or tattoos. I donʼt have a mohawk or blue hair. I dress somewhat subdued, maybe a little hippyish, but thatʼs about it. No one is ever surprised by me walking into the room. Itʼs a bit annoying, truth be told. Why do I have to look so blend-in-ish? I donʼt do it on purpose. I just like what is comfortable, easy to manage without major time investment and mostly simple. 

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The problem is that I feel a bit misrepresented by the way I look.  Itʼs the way I imagine it feels to grow old and wonder who that old lady is with the walker. The old grandmother that everyone thinks canʼt handle to hear about the truth in their lives. Truth be told, she has some stories for us that would blow our socks off, quite often.

What I mean is that when I talk with new people about things that I have done and experienced and of paths I have followed in life, they are often surprised. They say things to me like, “Wow, I never would have guessed.” It feels kind of invalidating. I feel like a warrior, a survivor, and adventurist and then I realize that if someone were to look at me they would see a middle aged, little Jewish home-birth crunchy mom driving carpool with her minivan.  

If they look a little closer they can see the look in my eye that shows a little bit more understanding than you would expect from someone who looks like me. They can see some surprising level of gratitude. There is more strength in my presence than one gathers along a simple and easy road. A good confessionary conversation will most likely reveal more compassion than one may expect from someone who has such a blessed and easy life as mine. It is a compassion that comes from having had the experience of being caught between a rock and a hard place and wondering to self, how the hell did I end up here like this?

So you see, I wish I had a tattoo. 

I do have a small business making herbal salves and lip balms. I didn’t design my salves for use on tattoos but I recently discovered that my salve is a fabulous after-care tattoo treatment. I have reports that treatment with my All Purpose Salve yields the “fastest healing tattoo ever!”

So upon learning this I began to make a few calls to tattoo artists and supply stores and so on. It felt strange. I felt like I was somehow reaching to another side. I wanted to break the illusion and cross over. I wanted to cross into that statement that says I am more complex and unafraid than I seem! And then I realized, I am already there. You just have to look a little closer.

Update: I now make a Tattoo Salve!

How I Learned to Understand Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)

When I was in grad school, we always knew when the med students had anatomy and physiology cadaver lab.

That day, the whole school stunk from formaldehyde. Even though there were a lot of precautions taken – since it was a school of naturopathic medicine – and there was a relatively heightened awareness of how toxins affect the body, the fumes would make their way across the campus.  

I was pregnant that year and was hyper-sensitive to smells. I would develop severe nausea and headaches, even when I was in a different wing of the building, when the cadaver lab was in use, and I had no choice but to bolt outside. It happened weekly and it was a major pain in the neck.  I missed class, had to make up work and I am sure it did not help me to get on the good side of my professor. I loved her but she worked with cadavers every day and could no longer smell the formaldehyde. She would look at me like I was from the moon. She couldn’t, of course, force a pregnant woman to just deal with the fumes in that environment, but letʼs just say she wasnʼt thrilled about my special needs. 

I have a B.S. in Biology and an M.S. in nutrition from a top school. I have had awareness of these issues for years and have focused on purity of food and environment. Having healed from severe chronic digestive and immune function illness (Crohnʼs Disease) through nutrition, herbs and holistic practices, and as a mother to four beautiful, precious, compassionate children, I am rather aware of the dangers of the toxins that we are exposed to every day. I canʼt, therefore, explain why I had no concept about how debilitating MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities, formerly known as Environmental Illness) can be.

I really didn’t understand it until a close family member became devastatingly ill with it.  It started off with a little bit of sensitivity but over the course of about a year, it became full blown due to what I now know to be known as “spreading”. When I say full blown I mean she canʼt leave her house because everything makes her feel like she is going to die. When I say everything, I mean perfume, shampoo, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning sprays, off gassing carpets, off gassing mattresses and shower curtains, vinyl windows, fluorescent lights, treated paper (i.e. magazines) just to name a few. She can not fly to visit us, she can not have repair people come into her home, she can not go anywhere lest there be air freshener in a public bathroom. Truly debilitating, isolating, and devastating.  

I look back at my temporary experience as a pregnant woman trying to avoid toxic exposures to my baby, and try to imagine it. Itʼs like that but every day and everywhere. I am aware that I can not even imagine what it is like.

Where can she go?

Where can she live?

Where can she be that she does not have to live in constant fear and anxiety of exposure?

Who can she relate to that will not look at her like she is crazy and overly neurotic and emotional like my professor did (even though she tried her best not to)?

know this is a big struggle for those living with and healing from MCS. I know there are communities building and knowledge is spreading. I am not an MCS sufferer, but I love someone who is. I want to say to you, I get it. Well, at least, I am trying to.

What is a Salve?

Pronunciation
First of all, itʼs like tomato/tomahto or potato/potahto. Some people pronounce the “L” and some donʼt. OK? Now we have that out of the way.

Definition
A salve is simply a natural healing ointment. There are all different types of salve, basically depending on what types of ingredients are in it.

Purpose
Some salves are made to 
draw out toxins. Some are made to promote healing. Some are made to prevent infection. A salve can provide moisture and protection for skin as well. Well made salves made with a well planned blend of herbs can work well for diaper rashes, as a first aid ointment, post exfoliation treatment, general body lotion, tattoo after-care, eczema treatment, cleaning out babies folds, cleaning ears, healing scars, burns, sunburns, bug bites, as a bug repellant, as a foot treatment, as a lip balm, a hair treatment, you name it. An herbal salve could be made just with an oil and a hardener, such as olive oil and beeswax, but it is more useful if it is also made with some type of medicinal ingredients. 

How to make salve
There are two methods that herbalists generally use to infuse the herbs into the oil.

They is the low heat method, over a low flame or in a slow cooker. And there is the slower, cold infusion method. The method that uses heat is great in a pinch because it is faster and you can then custom make a salve as you need it. It does have its drawbacks though. When you heat an oil, you begin to destroy it and when you heat herbs too much you destroy their phytonutrients. Also, it’s like making soup, it’s almost always better after itʼs had more time, which an oil can withstand more of when it is not being heated. For these reasons, the slow cold infusion method is preferable to use whenever possible, and it is the method we use in our salves even though it’s a pain in the neck. 

Our first consideration when choosing an herb to use in a salve is that it is safe – meaning it has a very low rate of adverse reaction and does no harm – and then, that it is effective in promoting healing.

At Oraʼs Amazing Herbal we blend the following herbs for our salves:

Calendula: Calendula salves have been used to encourage wound healing, ease bruising and also treat infections associated with wounds.

Comfrey: Comfrey is used in salves for cuts, burns, skin ulcers, varicose veins, bronchitis, and rheumatism. It is not to be overused but is a fabulous herb when used in small dosages, in a blended salve like ours for example.

St. John’s Wort: Is considered to be anti-inflammatory and antiviral and is often used in salve for burns and for nerve pain.

Burdock: Burdock root has been used throughout herbal history for treatment of eczema, psoriasis, candida, burns, and rashes. It is known by herbalists to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and regenerative.

Thyme: Thyme is known to be a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and a strong antioxidant. Is also contributes a lovely gentle aroma to the oil it is infused in.

Chickweed: It is known as an antibacterial and is known to help with detoxification of rashes and skin irritations.

Plantain: Plantain is great topically for bites, and stings as well as all kinds of skin irritations including yeast and non-yeast diaper rashes.

Licorice (Touchy Skin Salve only): Licorice root is known as an anti-inflammatory as well as antiviral. It is known by herbalists to be particularly useful in soothing eczema, herpes and chicken pox. 

 

Making the Salve
We take this blend and scoop it into glass gallon sized mason jars. We use glass to 
avoid the leaching of toxins from plastic into the oil.

We then fill the jar with grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil is our carrier oil of choice because it is highly absorbable into the skin and thus delivers the healing our herbs have to offer very nicely. It also has a neutral scent and a good shelf life compared to olive oil for example. This means we can avoid using any preservatives in our salve aside from vitamin E, which is important to us because preservatives tend to be toxic.

We keep the glass jars infusing in a cold dark environment for a minimum of 6 weeks.  We give them each a shake every so often to ensure a good infusion is happening.

Then we strain out the oil from the herbs and dump the herbs into the compost for our home garden. 

Now comes the salve making part. We gently and carefully heat the oil in a double boiler, just enough to melt the beeswax. We add beeswax, and organic extra virgin coconut oil. We then ladle the warmed oil out into a pouring vessel and once in that vessel, we add a little vitamin E, and our essential oils. Once the essential oils go in, they start to evaporate quickly so its a little tricky. You donʼt want to pour so fast that it spills and makes a big mess, cleaning salve jars is a seriously annoying task. You donʼt want to give the essential oils time to evaporate either though, so this step is a bit of an acquired skill.

The essential oils we use in our All Purpose Salve are Tea Tree – known for its antiseptic and its antifungal properties; Rosemary – known for its stimulating and natural preservative activity; and Thuja (cedar leaf) – known for its astringent, antiviral, and bug repellant properties. 

Now you have it, all our secrets. You can go make some salve of your own. Have fun.

Or, you could of course just buy ours.

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How to Clean a Big Fat Baby

I don’t mean to brag, but I have fat babies. Rolly-polly nook-and-cranny babies. I’m one of those cooky moms who breastfeed exclusively for a very long time, so I don’t know why my babies are fat. I do know it’s a blessing though because all my friends with skinny babies are always worrying and complaining that their babies are too skinny. For mothers of skinny babies check ups are traumatic, and diapers are always leaking. Grandmothers and poorly misguided pediatritians are pushing formula and early solid introduction even though the kid is just fine and everyone knows that breast is best. It’s a nightmare.

I don’t have that problem. I have the opposite problem. What could be the problem with a fat baby you say? I’ll tell you what the problem is. It’s the shmutz. Keeping a fat baby clean is like trying to keep a kitchen counter made out of macaroni clean. Cooked macaroni. How to do get the shmutz out? If you wash it every day, it’s too much wear and tear and if you don’t it gets deeply disgusting, fast. Same for a baby, if you bathe them every day, their skin gets too dry and irritated. And even if you do that, how do you get that god awful smelling neck dry and staying clean after the bath? I have tried keeping a fat neck extended enough to be aired out. It does not work and you get one pissed off kid! And that behind the ears cheese receptacle, and oh lord, the belly button. Even if you have a skinny baby, you have that to deal with.

And what soap do you use? The one with the sodium laurel sulfate, or the one with the carcinogenic refined petroleum derrivatives that you can’t pronounce? Or the “natural” one, with the “fragrance”?

Well by my fourth baby, I finally came up with a perfect strategy. Don’t wash, wipe. That’s right, just wipe it out. Make or get some salve, made with non synthetic and non irritating ingredients only, put some on your clean hands, and wipe out the shmutz. Wipe out behind the ears, under the arms and all those places. Wipe down that squishy tushy while you are at it. Put some on a q-tip and clean out the belly button. Don’t use any water, because water just feeds the festering bacteria and yeasts that are waiting to grow in that nice cozy environment. Salve is lipid (oil) based and has no water in it so it works as a moisture barrier keeping skin moist but not promoting any nasty microbial growth which can lead to stink, rashes, and infections. Then wash and dry your hands and do it one more time. Wipe down that whole baby with smooth and shmeary salve. Make it like a little baby massage time

Don’t get me wrong, when the frozen blueberries she had for breakfast come back to haunt you, it’s time for a bath. But in between those events, take a little advice. Don’t wash, wipe.