Category Archives: The Healthy Life

Apple Cashew Butter

This week our Soap Hope team was in the Dominican Republic for our annual “Impact Cycle”. This is when we take the profits of our company and invest 100% of the profits into economic empowerment programs and resources for women. This year we partnered with Esperanza International to cycle our profits and help over 150 women. You can read the full press release here.

As we were on the trip we had breakfast as a group and they had the most delicious homemade Apple Cashew Butter. I talked to the front desk that shared the recipe. This is the only butter that should go on your toast!

This recipe is so easy and simple, but it definitely needs to be shared.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2 organic apples
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  • In a food processor, process cashews for 5-10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the processor as needed.
  • Add apples and cinnamon and process for another 5 minutes or desired texture.
  • Put toast in the toaster, wait, and spread your butter!

 

 

Navigating the Natural and Organic Terrain | Do you know what you’re buying?

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed trying to figure out what is natural and organic and what is not. With so many misleading ”organic” and ”natural” claims found in thousands of beauty and household products, how’s one to navigate the terrain?

Yesterday my girlfriend Rachael and I were having coffee and she shared a story with about her most recent trip the grocery store. She said she saw a shampoo that really caught her eye. It was aesthetically appealing and its name had a variation of the word “organic” in it, with a slogan talking about how pure and simple the product is. At first, I thought to myself this might be an interesting product for Soap Hope to carry, but then she showed me a photograph she took of the back of the bottle with a long list of ingredients on the back. Rachael continued in frustration that not only might the name make you think that it must be organic, but it also has that simple slogan. In addition, the words on the back state it is a “Unique blend of Natural & Sulfate Free Surfactants for renewed softness,” one would think this is a natural product. I took her phone and started to analyze the image of the ingredients I found that it had DMDM Hydantoin – a formaldehyde releaser that we would never allow in a product – and Red 4 and Yellow #5, two artificial colors!

After reading this I quickly handed the phone back to my friend and realized that many of us are drawn to products with a quick glance, not realizing what we are putting in our bodies, on them, or in our homes. There must be an easier way to sort through the ingredients that are acceptable, and that reminded me of Soap Hope’s Good, Better, Best rating system for the products we sell on our online marketplace. With that in mind, I told Rachael I was going to make this our next blog so others could learn and ask questions, so here we are sitting with Soap Hope’s Fulfillment Manager Jeremy Porter for a quick interview.

H: Jeremy thanks for visiting with me, I’ve got some questions for you. In a market where consumers are increasingly seeking and buying ”Organic” and ”Natural” products, how does Soap Hope meet that demand?

J: Hi Heather! Regarding the demand, we’ve got our Good, Better, and Best rating standard. We inspect every single ingredient in every single product to determine if we will sell that product and what its rating will be.  We wanted to offer a sort of guide to let customers know that:

  1. We have very high standards for the products we carry.
  2. We can show them exactly how those standards work. The rating tiers are really just a way to explain the ingredients and let people know that we are paying as much attention to them as they are, or even more so. We also want to be completely transparent, so it’s a good way to put everything on the table.
  3. Anything that isn’t at least Good is something we won’t use or sell at Soap Hope’s Marketplace.

H: That’s great Jeremy! But what does that breakdown on rating look like?

J: It looks like this and can be found on our website under our ingredients philosophy, as well as indicated on every single product in our inventory. You can find the rating for all of your favorite products just by visiting our online store.

A rating of BEST is reserved for those products that meet the strictest of criteria. For a BEST rating, every ingredient must be 100% natural and 80% or more must be certified organic.

To be classified BETTER, a product must contain 100% natural ingredients, but not necessarily organic.

Products with a GOOD rating include one or more ingredients that, while considered safe to use, are not 100% natural. For example, some of our makers’ products use phthalate-free fragrance oil or may include a preservative necessary to keep liquids fresh.

H: On average, what percent are good, better, or best in your product inventory?

J: Currently the percentage breakdown of our product based on the rating system is Good: 57%; Better 24%; and Best 19%. So you can see that Best is pretty elite. There’s a secret level beyond Best called “Legendary” but even I’m not sure what that is.

H: Do any of your products have the following ingredients: Parabens, sulfates, chemical sunscreens, petrochemicals, glycols, phthalates, PEGs or PPGs, DEA/TEA, synthetic polymers, formaldehyde donors or 1, 4-Dioxanes?

J: The brand Everyone has some Bath Soaks that contain Magnesium Sulfate, which is just an Epsom Salt, and then I think a few other products that have a little Sodium Coco-Sulfate as a foaming agent, but both are safe.

H: On average, what percentage PCR (post customer recycled) is your packaging? Are they recyclable?

J: We put forth as much effort here as is practically possible. The tissue paper we use to wrap products is 100% recycled. The post office packaging is post-consumer recycled. About 90% of the cardboard that comes into our building is reused, usually to make an Ugly Box. The Ugly Box was just a perfect combination of being cost-effective and eco-conscious, and it’s one of my favorite things we do. I have this daydream about being in a sort of MacGyver situation where for whatever reason someone needs to make a cardboard box and I get to jump in. It could happen. We also made a video to show how an Ugly Box is made: https://youtu.be/24LnICCkK3A

H: Are your products tested on animals?

J: Never. NEVER. I mean, we do sell some soaps that are specifically intended for dogs, so I can’t with 100% certainty say that there have never been some trial baths, but baths aren’t tests, although dog baths can be tricky…

H: Jeremy this has been extremely helpful and honestly, I wish more companies rated their products based on quality and ingredients. How much easier it would be for the consumer! Now for a few personal questions, I mean, while I have you!

What are your favorite products and/or brands at Soap Hope that you use?

J: I really enjoy A Wild Soap Bar and Kind Soap Company. I don’t know if I’m just basic or lazy for picking brands with the word “Soap” in the name, but they’re cool products. A Wild Soap has such original ingredients and gets bonus points for being Texan. Kind Soap smells amazing, and I’m a sucker for anything Sandalwood Rose. I am also highly susceptible to a weekly Bath Bomb indulgence.

H: What about Soap Hope drives you in your work?

J: Well, there’s the base level of a paycheck and doing work well because it’s, well, work, but as far as a bigger drive it’s just nice to be with a company that tries beyond bottom lines and profit. It’s tempting to be cynical and jaded, especially in this current climate, but I do get to catch my breath and read about the women and families that have been so positively affected by the programs we support, so that’s really what takes it to that next level. I’m also excited to see how we can branch out and further embrace/earn the banner of “Empowering Women”

H: Any other personal tips for living a more natural life style?

J: Just everyday mindfulness. Stuff like that usually comes down to a personal line, moral or otherwise, and as you feel a little more stable in your convictions or pursuit of health, be it mental or physical or spiritual or whatever, you’ll find the area where you best sleep at night. For me, it’s important to decide that you’re going to pay attention, and then finding that line becomes a personal choice.

H: Do you support reforming our federal laws to protect public health from toxic ingredients?

J: I do, and I really hope that within the current realm of issues which require massive federal attention, public health and the environment can remain high.

Find out more about Soap Hope’s ingredient philosophy and our mission.

4 Ways to Destress

Tip 1: Journal

One of my favorite exercises to de-stress that I do on the regular is to write a list or journal my concerns. Worries download from my brain and on to paper in order to clear my head, which helps me gain an alternative perspective. It keeps me from ruminating on them too long. Plus, it’s fun to look back and see how those pieces led me to where I am now and how they played a necessary part in my journey. Check out these great decomposition journals!

Tip 2: Monitor your Sugar and Caffeine Intake

Put down the sugar and caffeine! Seriously. It only adds to a spike in blood sugar, inflammation in the gut and overstimulation of the adrenal glands, not to mention contributing to foggy brain, short temper, and more cravings the next day.

Tip 3: Learn to Appreciate

Another action happens just before I fall asleep. I think of 10 things from the day that made me feel grateful. They can be as simple as a butterfly that flew past when I was walking to the car, a new client conversation that inspired me, a compassionate driver that let me in when traffic was jammed, or how yummy my tea tasted that morning. It is amazing how it can lull you to sleep and help you wake up in the morning with a more positive, calm state. The trick is to only list things that happened that day. Amazingly, you start to become more present with the little pleasures in your everyday life, even if it’s a stressful life…pretty fun!

Tip 4: Acupressure Points

When all else fails, I take 1 minute for a deep breath, close my eyes, and press the tips of my index and thumb together. This is utilizing the power of acupressure points to create a wave of calm that I feel move through my body and mind. Sounds too simple but it’s effective and easy to fit in. Even if you’re in a meeting, you can press your fingertips together under the table with nobody noticing. Don’t close your eyes though…that would just be awkward!

Quinoa Summer Salad

We love salads over here at Soap Hope. If there was a Sommelier for salads our Co-Founder Craig would definitely be the “Salad Steward”, for that fact he could probably do the wine part too! In a tribute to the love we have for salads and the love we have for our Co-Founder, Craig, enjoy this healthy, easy to make summer salad!

This salad is obsessive! It is light and refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day. Hello Texas!

Quinoa Summer Salad

Yields: 6-8 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Quinoa:

  • 1 cup quinoa (your choice!)
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

For the Dress:

  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Mix:

  • 1 Avocado chopped in chunks
  • 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cups spinach whole
  • 1/2 cup chopped grapefruit

Directions:

  1. Using a strainer, rinse the quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, water, and salt to the medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Allow the quinoa to cool to room temperature.
  2. Make your dressing in a medium bowl, whisk together and set off to the side.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, avocado, pomegranate seeds, mushrooms, spinach, and grapefruit. Pour dressing over the salad and mix until well combined. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Light, delicious, and refreshing!

Not Puppy Love: Why is Formaldehyde in Shampoo

When you last went to the store, did you buy soap or shampoo? Have you recently purchased shampoo for your dog or cat? If so, did you even consider that there might be formaldehyde in shampoo, soap, and other skin care products you use every day for your pets, your baby, or yourself? This is the sad, but sometimes true reality of the products we have in our homes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Really, there’s formaldehyde in shampoo?!

By now you’ve probably seen the adorable pictures that blogger Jessica Shyba took of her son Beau napping with the family dog Theo.

Puppy and baby got us talking here at Soap Hope about what goes into products for kids and pets.

We picked up a bottle of dog shampoo at the local pet store and had a look at the ingredient list. It started off fine – water, honey extract, and chamomile extract seemed like winners to us — but why was artificial fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, and Tetrasodium EDTA in dog shampoo?

Formaldehyde is for the Dogs

DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that works by releasing formaldehyde into the product continuously over time. Formaldehyde does a great job inhibiting the growth of mold; but it’s also a known carcinogen, and most people don’t want it on their bodies or on their pets – especially when the puppy is snuggled up with the kids.

The consumer goods industry in the U.S. has a lot of leeway. If they want formaldehyde in shampoo, for example, but you don’t want to tell their customers, they can just add DMDM Hydantoin instead. The DMDM Hydantoin will slowly break down into formaldehyde in the shampoo throughout the life of the product. Problem solved!

(In the European Union, companies can’t get away with this trick: if an ingredient in their product breaks down into formaldehyde, they have to write “contains formaldehyde” on the label.)

In the Dog House

It’s not just Theo’s shampoo we think about at Soap Hope, it’s young Beau’s as well. Until 2014, Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo had Quaternium-15 in it. You guessed it – Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde in shampoo and other products they designed for babies. Years of public outcry finally caused Johnson & Johnson to reformulate their baby shampoo.

J&J Removing Formaldehyde in Shampoo
J&J removes formaldehyde-causing ingredients in their shampoo.
Image Source: NYTimes.com

Shampoo needs a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria. Big manufacturers don’t care that Quaternium-15 and DMDM Hydantoin produce formaldehyde; they care that they are very cheap and give their products a shelf life of over a year. These manufacturers know they can put pretty pictures on the products and make commercials with happy kids and pets, and that most people won’t look any further.

“No more tears!” Not quite.

Better Ways

There are better ways for manufacturers to preserve shampoo rather, than putting formaldehyde in their products. They can use a low-risk food-grade preservative like potassium sorbate, which has the same toxicity level as table salt. Even better, they can use vitamin e (tocopherol).

Some manufacturers don’t even require a preservative. For your pooch, try the totally natural Woof Wild Dog Shampoo Bar. Hand made by Maggie Hanus at A Wild Soap Bar, this shampoo bar has organic oils, aloe, oats, clay, sea salt, essential oils, yucca root and horsemint. It will leave your dog’s coat soft, shiny, and smelling great.

For moms and dads looking for a safe shampoo, we recommend any products from Acure Organics.

For baby’s bath time, try Hugo Natural’s Chamomile Vanilla Shampoo and Wash, followed by Badger’s Chamomile & Calendula Baby Oil, which contains nothing but certified organic essential oils.

What other ingredients are you worried about in your body care products? Let us know.

The Natural Way to Plan your Summer Trip | Your Must-Haves

It’s that time of year again, where the days are longer and the excitement of fun in the sun is in the air. Summer always makes me think of my childhood.

As a child, I was always in awe of lightning bugs and their green glow, trying to catch them late into the evening, long after the sun went down. Running outside to the ice cream truck, getting to pick out what I wanted, and paying for it myself like a boss from that money made from my own enterprise running a lemonade stand.

There were afternoons playing war with super soaker water guns and water balloons with friends in the sprinkler. Pool days, swimming = summer in my mind. My favorite days were lived in my swimsuit. Finally, was the long-awaited road trip,  getting in the car for that one summer family trip. I’m sure we all have our own memories. They might be similar, but either way, there is just something special about summer. Don’t you agree?

Those pool days were the best too. I remember that each time I would come in the house my mother would lather me, or rather slather me in sunblock and bug spray to ensure my safety. She told me it was my “armor” as I went on my adventures. While annoyed at the delay in my play, one can never have too much “armor” on childhood adventures.

As an adult, I still look forward to summer, but for different reasons. Lounging by the pool in the backyard is definitely one of them, drinking a nice glass of wine by the fire pit with friends and family in good conversation, and I still get goosebumps when planning that special summer trip. This summer my husband and I are going hiking in Redwood Forest National Park outside of San Francisco. I’ve already started packing and we don’t leave until the end of July! The kid in me always comes out. Too excited!

But growing up changes how you view what you slather yourself in. I remember the sunblock my mother used smelling slightly like coconut and very oily. The smell was indeed strong! Nothing natural about that smell. Now I choose the products that are right for me and my family – high-quality natural ingredients. In Soap Hope’s marketplace of over 3,000 items, you’ll never find parabens, petroleum derivative, artificial flavors, artificial colors, or anything that doesn’t meet the Good, Better, Best Standards.

As we venture into our own summer trips, travels, and adventures this year make it as natural as possible. If you’re all about making lists, then you know how magical they can be. To bring a little magic into your summer and save you time, I’ve put together a great short list of items to get you started as you shop and pack.

MY SUMMER ESSENTIALS
If you don’t pack anything else, pack these.

Sun Protection
A summer trip without sunglasses is a crying shame and so is not to slather that beautiful skin with sunscreen periodically.

First Aid supplies
Bring along bug repellent, bandages, lip balm, ointments, and hand sanitizer.

Toiletries
My don’t leave home without essential makeup, makeup bag, dry shampoo, deodorant, and a nice travel bag to put all your items in.

Food
If you want to avoid greasy, unhealthy food and save some money, pack your own snacks. I know I do! I recommend these non-messy containers to pack your fruit, pretzels, granola bars, crackers, etc. Also, be sure you have plenty of water with a beverage container.

For me, I keep packing simple, I know you’ll have items to add to your own personal checklist, but I hope this gave you a good start. Be sure whatever you put on your list its good for you, your family, and your body.

I’d love to hear from you and have you share some of your summer essentials.

Raw Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Today is National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day and I thought I would share my recipe for my favorite raw vegan banana and cinnamon ice cream. This is slightly sweet and more savory ice cream that is decadent and simple at the same time. Best served with a nice espresso in the evening or in the late afternoon as the day is winding down. The cinnamon isn’t strong and is almost like therapy with each bite and certainly less expensive. Enjoy with family and friends, because let’s be honest, that’s the best way to enjoy everything! If you love this, you’ll love my saffron ice cream recipe…

Serves: 1-4

Healthy Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic banana, chopped into chunks (be sure and place these in the freezer before you start this recipe).
  • 1 scoop Plant Protein (love Maca Powder by Gaia Herbs)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 10 to 8 drops of Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (or just sprinkle on top with each serving)
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid organic sugar

Prep and Make Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor (my ninja is my best friend) and blend until smooth or the texture you enjoy.
  2. Serve immediately (because you won’t be able to help yourself) or if you have restraint, store in the freezer for up to three weeks.

Zero Waste Tip: Don’t throw out those overly ripe bananas. Peel them, break them into chunks and freeze them for up to two months, and use in your favorite smoothie or ice cream recipe.

Enjoy this recipe and National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day!

Ten Tips for Terrific Teeth

The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, so prioritizing oral health has many downstream effects. While ancient systems like Ayurveda have acknowledged for millennia the link between oral health and overall well-being, modern science is confirming that issues in the mouth affect organs and tissues throughout the body.

Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in the oral cavity, for example, improves the function of the heart, lungs, pancreas, reproductive tissue, digestive system, and more. Even the health of the next generation is affected: findings indicate that a pregnant woman’s oral microbiome could more significantly impact the placental microbiome than the collection of microorganisms in her digestive tract or vaginal canal.

So it’s time to take a serious look at how you’re caring for your mouth. These ten tips will get you started.

Scrape your tongue

Scraping the tongue every morning upon waking confers myriad benefits. It

  • aids digestion
  • improves the sense of taste
  • stimulates the internal organs
  • helps cleanse the entire gastrointestinal tract
  • removes that unattractive white coating and other accumulations from the night
  • reduces the toxins and bacteria that contribute to bad breath
  • helps maintain healthy bacterial balance
  • encourages awareness of your current state of health as reflected in the tongue

Preferably use a stainless steel cleaner made specifically for this purpose. The back of a spoon could also work to loosen and clear accumulations, but your toothbrush will not.

Scrape the tongue from the back of the throat (just before the gag reflex) forward five to ten times, or until the tongue looks and feels clean.

Brush with natural toothpaste

After scraping your tongue, brush normally with natural toothpaste. Commercial kinds of toothpaste contain harmful ingredients, not the least of which is fluoride. Despite its prevalence, fluoride actually dissolves bones and teeth, in addition to suppressing thyroid function, creating an autoimmune response, damaging the brain and nervous system, and more.

Instead, favor brands with safe ingredients and transparent labeling, like those featured in Soap Hope’s oral care products here.

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Toothpaste is a trusted favorite, made with organic ingredients and no fluoride, no synthetic foaming agents, and no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. Cinnamon and Anise flavors are also available.

If you want to get a little more adventurous, check out A Wild Soap Bar’s Tooth Savior Natural Tooth Soap, an alternative to the traditional paste that comes in Cinnaclove and Ultamint.

Oil pull

Here’s another practice to add to your daily routine: oil pulling. It’s been gaining popularity lately, but the practice of holding and swishing oil in the mouth is quite ancient.

Like tongue scraping, oil pulling supports detoxification, improves digestive health, freshens the breath, and promotes a healthy balance of oral microbes. It also counters plaque build-up, maintains a normal oral pH, increases the circulation to oral tissue, and encourages strong teeth and gums.

Swish about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for at least ten minutes, twenty if you can, taking care not to swallow it. While sesame oil was the traditional favorite, many find coconut oil more palatable, and it has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Do this while showering or getting ready for the day so it doesn’t take up any extra time. Move the oil throughout the mouth—side to side and front to back—and pull it vigorously through the teeth with a sucking action to trap bacteria. When you’re done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water.

Whiten and brighten safely

Commercial whitening products can be even more toxic than standard kinds of toothpaste. Consider home remedies for addressing stains instead.

Activated charcoal, as a highly absorbent substance, effectively binds toxins so they can be excreted by the body. More commonly used for food poisoning, activated charcoal can have a similarly beneficial effect when you brush with it.

Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal is a safe and inexpensive way to give this a try. Open the capsule carefully, as charcoal can stain bathroom surfaces and clothes, and dump a small amount on your toothbrush. Brush as usual and then rinse thoroughly. Repeat a few days in a row and then periodically as needed. You should notice improved whitening.

Another counterintuitive way to whiten teeth is with turmeric—yes, another substance that stains! Turmeric overall is one of nature’s most potent anti-inflammatories, and it can bring some of that stellar action to the gums and mouth.

Put a small amount of powdered turmeric (available in the spice section of the grocery store) on your toothbrush, taking care again to avoid staining your sink or clothes, and brush as normal. Wait five minutes before rinsing to let the turmeric take effect. Rinse thoroughly and brush with natural toothpaste. Results are usually observed with consistency over a few days or a week. Note that your toothbrush will get yellow so you might want to keep a separate brush for this purpose.

Maintain mineral balance

Teeth require essential minerals to maintain their integrity. Most people tend to focus on calcium, but are you getting enough of the other cofactors, like magnesium, zinc, silica, and boron?

A diverse diet rich in whole foods helps here, especially traditional mineral-rich foods like bone broth, colorful plants, and nuts and seeds. Sesame seeds are an exceptional source of calcium, and pumpkin seeds abound in both magnesium and zinc.

While secondary to diet, supplements can help, like this calcium-magnesium mineral complex from Nature’s Way.

And don’t forget silica, perhaps the most overlooked mineral not only for healthy teeth but also for healthy hair, skin, nails, and connective tissue. Horsetail, also called shavegrass, may be the richest source of silica in the plant kingdom. Infuse the dried grass into a tea, or go with the capsule form, as in this product from Nature’s Way.

For additional mineral support or to shift the movement of minerals in the body, you might opt for a homeopathic formulation like Calc Phos and Calc Fluor.

Get the right vitamins

Specific vitamins are just as critical as a mineral balance to teeth and bone. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 are especially important: in an intricate process of communication, transportation, and activation, these key players affect calcium metabolism and how well the body is able to build and repair hard tissue.

Again, getting vitamins from food is ideal, especially whole foods naturally high in healthy fats, like fatty fish and fish oil, especially cod liver oil; pastured butter, high-vitamin butter oil, or ghee; coconut oil; egg yolks; poultry liver; and raw dairy (if tolerated). Traditional cultures featured these foods amply in their diets, and they lacked many of the deficiencies and diseases so common today.

Note that these nutrients are not only crucial to your health but also to the health of any future children you might have. Research is showing that poor vitamin K2 status may contribute to deviated septa and other facial abnormalities, while vitamin A, long known for its role in fetal development and eyesight, may be implicated in cleft palate when deficient.

Address infection

The aforementioned tips will go a long way in maintaining a healthy microbial balance that prevents infection. The dietary recommendations are especially important, since nutrient-poor foods like refined sugars, flours, and oils, coupled with a lack of nutrient-dense foods, predispose the mouth to disease, just as they wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

Additionally, make sure to support your body’s good bacteria with probiotic-rich foods like raw sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and beet kvass. While supplemental probiotics can help, especially in acute situations, they can’t match the species diversity acquired from a wide range of fermented foods.

If you do have an infection, then you may need more targeted therapies. Among them are the use of essential oils, of which Soap Hope carries a variety. Particularly beneficial to the teeth are clove, tea tree, and peppermint. You can apply the oil directly to the site of pain or infection, or drop the oil onto dental floss and floss as usual to reach pockets of inflammation or infection below the gum line. Another option is to add a few drops to the oil you use in oil pulling.

Work the jaw

The consistent mechanical action is part of good dental care, keeping the whole face and jaw in proper working order.

Among the best foods for this purpose is celery, which forces chewing. It also increases saliva, which serves as a personal mouthwash, and gently cleanses the surface of the teeth. Other crunchy vegetables, like carrots, have a similar action.

In general, try to eat some sort of whole, collagenous, or fibrous food at each meal. The sesame seeds you’re eating for nutrient density (see tip #5) can do double duty here; aim to chew methodically a handful every day. Regardless of the food, really involve the muscles of mastication, not just your facial muscles.

Breathe deeply

Breathing is so automatic we may rarely think about it, let alone about whether it’s optimal, but breathing and oral health are intimately related. A strong jaw and proper palate formation improve respiratory function, while a small jaw and misplaced tongue constrict the airway, causing a host of problems.

Even though the development of the oral cavity happens very early in life (making the case for adequate maternal and early childhood nutrition even stronger!), the palate is in fact malleable. Along with chewing (see tip #8), concerted effort can make a difference.

Nasal breathing is absolutely essential. The lips should be closed with the tongue pressing gently against the roof of the mouth. Mouth breathing and an inadequately positioned tongue, in contrast, starves the body of oxygen, especially during sleep. Poor sleep, in turn, prevents detoxification, repair, and restoration, leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable and your body more susceptible to inflammation, disease, and cognitive impairment. Once again, oral health is central to whole body health.

Additional breathing practices, like pranayama taught in Ayurveda and yoga, can train you to breathe more effectively and consciously. One simple technique, called ujjayi, is explained here.

Vibrate

In addition to proper breathing, vibration improves the health of bone and teeth. And it need not be complicated, though professional vibration products and therapies are becoming more common. Simple humming can do the trick: place the tongue on the roof of the mouth and hum into the upper jaw for a few minutes daily.

Humming not only activates bone and teeth but also calms the mind and nervous system, improves thyroid and immune function, stimulates the pineal and pituitary glands, and increases the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters, thereby aiding mood disorders, and much more.

Gargling, chanting, and voice exercises also open the airways and keep teeth healthy and the jaw functioning properly. Furthermore, they stimulate the vagus nerve, which helps to reintegrate that gut-brain, or mind-body, the connection often compromised in everything from digestive distress and constipation to depression, anxiety, and an overactive fight-or-flight response.

So don’t hold back on singing! Even listening to music with healing frequencies can be therapeutic.

There you have it—ten basics of oral care. And the results don’t stop at terrific teeth. As we’ve seen, when the teeth and mouth are well tended, the whole body benefits.

“C” The Benefits of Vitamin C

Pass the oranges, please! Time and time again we hear people talking about the benefits of Vitamin C. What is it? Why should I use it? And what’s so great about it? Vitamin C, which is ascorbic acid, is an essential water-soluble micronutrient that can transform one’s overall health. Water-soluble means your body doesn’t store or build it up. That’s why daily intake is vital to health. It is considered the “glue” that holds and strengthens the body.

This A-list antioxidant strengthens blood vessels and gives skin the elasticity it needs to stay strong and youthful. Just watch how a daily dose can transform your energy level, hair, nails, skin, and overall health. Best way to absorb vitamin C is through a healthy diet. Be sure you are taking in daily amounts of citrus and dark greens.

Powerful Healing Abilities

Vitamin C doesn’t have to be ingested to gain benefits from it. Your body uses vitamin C to help heal injuries to your beautiful skin. Collagen helps to close wounds and also aid in creating scar tissue to protect the wound area. From wounds to sunburn vitamin C can help to aid in recovery. If you find your skin takes a long time to heal it could be a sign of vitamin C deficiency.

It puts the “C” in Collagen Boost

Vitamin C is a powerhouse for anti-aging. Collagen is a main structural protein found in your skin and connective tissue. Actually, over 70% of all protein found in your skin is collagen.  Vitamin C is required to make hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine, which in turn makes collagen. Collagen is what keeps skin looking bright, firm and young. This also includes smoothing out wrinkles and other symptoms of aging.

Treat Discoloration 

Vitamin C helps prevent discoloration of the skin. It inhibits the production of pyrimidine dimers, basically preventing the DNA in your skin from reacting with sunlight and causing discoloration. This’ll keep your skin supple and smooth and lighten freckles as well as age spots. Finally, treating skin with vitamin C will help reduce and aid in the prevention of skin cancer.

Hero of Healthy Hair

Vitamin C should be center stage in your hair care regime. It can help revitalize and protect, just as it can with skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it can help protect you from the daily pollutants in our environment. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it reduces free radicals that try to damage your beautiful mane. Protected hair will grow out faster, thicker and stronger. And goodness knows we all like that! It also helps retain hair’s natural color and prevents premature aging.

Finally, it can fight the bacteria on the scalp that leads to dandruff and at the same provide the needed moisturize to maintain a healthy balance. Oh and did we meant that it helps to ward off grays, helping hair retain its natural color for longer as well as preventing hair loss. It helps fight adrenal gland fatigue which is one of the ways hair loss occurs.

Energy. Energy. Energy.

Vitamin C plays a main stage role in helping your body absorb iron and iron contributes to your overall wellbeing. So, it would make sense that it would give you more energy, because without iron we become weak, tired, and can develop anemia. Taking a daily dose of Vitamin C can help you feel vibrant and stay energized.

Hydrating Herbals

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely heard the common refrain. While ample fluids after birth are critical for your recovery and well-being, as well as making plenty of breast milk for the baby, there’s more to the story than keeping your water bottle full at all times.

Teas and tonics have historically featured prominently in postpartum care. Traditional healing systems like Ayurveda, in which I’m formally trained, recognize the value in herbal medicine and use much more than plain-Jane H2O for hydrating new moms. In fact, they often viewed the unadorned stuff straight from the faucet a lamentable missed opportunity. After all, with so many changes after birth, every sip and morsel can make a difference, so why not give your hydration the biggest bang for the buck?

Common spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel can be brewed into a simple digestive tea, as can ginger and fenugreek, with added support for breastfeeding. Other mineral-rich plants, like nettles, can infuse postpartum hydration, while more substantive tonics, like specially prepared kinds of milk, provide easily assimilated nutrition as well as hydration.

Before we look at each of these options, in turn, notice the emphasis on heating hydrators like herbal teas. In proper postpartum care, warmth is key! Food and drink should be served warm, with even plain water no colder than room temperature.

This is because birth disperses the newly delivered mother’s critical warmth, which must be rekindled from the inside out. Learn more.

Reaching for warm drinks serves another, less tangible purpose: ritual.

Medicinal and celebratory drinks permeate all cultures and cuisines—and not only for their powerful healing compounds. The ritual of savoring a warm drink can steady the mind and emotions far beyond the capacity of the given constituents to heal the body.

Furthermore, sharing a warm drink with a companion or community, or even in solitude if it’s a brew that’s been cherished throughout the ages, can create a sense of unity, a type of soul synergy that defies time, place, and even explanation. Postpartum hydration is indeed nourishment for body, mind, and soul!

Spiced teas

Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend when simmered together. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea especially benefits new mothers. In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, it aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.

While not classic components of CCF tea, fenugreek and ginger can be welcome additions. For new moms, fenugreek is often the go-to lactation aid, but it has other perks: in addition to supporting digestion and rejuvenation, it encourages the uterus to release remaining placental fragments. It also supports normal bile production, healthy pancreatic function, and blood sugar balance.

Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices whenever you can!

Cumin-Coriander-Fennel Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Especially for postpartum moms, the thermos method is even easier. Add the seeds and boiling water to a quart-sized thermos. Drink throughout the day, aiming for 5 to 10 minutes before breastfeeding if trying to counteract digestive discomfort in the baby. Chew some of the seeds while you drink for a little extra strength or strain them and add to a meal later.

If tea isn’t possible, you can still benefit from these healing plants. Herbal suppliers like Motherlove, a family business that makes organic products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, crafts supplements with similar ingredients. Their More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts contain both fennel and fenugreek. Motherlove also makes a plain Fenugreek extract.

Herbal infusions

Other time-honored herbal favorites for both pregnancy and postpartum include red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and oat straw, often prepared as infusions. When used regularly over time, they have myriad benefits, including

  • nourishing both mother and baby
  • strengthening bones, teeth, lungs, nerves, and the circulatory system
  • preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage
  • easing morning sickness
  • providing vital nutrients like iron and protein
  • reducing pain during labor
  • speeding birth
  • assisting milk production

Infusions are stronger than teas, extracting more vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the plant leaves. Yet they are easy to prepare: steep overnight and drink in the morning! Pick two herbs and prepare on alternating days, or combine several herbs into a large glass jar for storage and then infuse together.

Basic Herbal Infusion

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried herbs (like red raspberry leaf or nettle leaf)
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • fresh lemon wedges (optional)
  • stevia to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put a large handful of herbal matter (about ½ cup) into a quart-sized glass jar or a small handful (about ¼ cup) into a pint-sized glass jar.
  2. Fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly.
  3. Let stand for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Strain and drink, adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon or a few drops of stevia to taste, if desired. Refrigerate what you do not consume, reheating later as needed.

Again, Motherlove offers alternatives, if tea isn’t available. Check out their More Milk Two alcohol-free liquid herbal extract, which is specially formulated to include both red raspberry and nettle.

Tonics

If you tolerate dairy, consider warm milk tonics for additional nourishment and rebuilding. Make sure to choose raw (or at least low-temperature pasteurized), grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic cream-top milk whenever possible. You can also replace dairy milk with nut kinds of milk like almond, cashew, or coconut. Either way, make sure to warm it up and spice it up with tasty digestive aids like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.

Here’s one new-mom-approved recipe for a warm milk tonic. You’ll notice that I often camouflage traditional herbal medicine, like Shatavari, in my postpartum tonics. Shatavari is a classic rejuvenating herb that promotes vitality and strength, nourishing the tissues and supporting healthy lactation.

While I like the simplicity of powdered Shatavari, it can also be taken in supplement form, like the Shatavari capsules or Shatavari extract from Motherlove.

Proper hydration with heating herbal brews can ease the transition into motherhood for body, mind, and soul. But much more goes into successful breastfeeding and a peaceful postpartum experience. Learn more.

And if you’re interested in other herbal products designed especially for the delicate and sacred season of new motherhood, check out the whole line of Motherlove products. They’re 15%  off right now at Soap Hope, but only for only a limited time! Use code MLVDD.

 

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.