Tag Archives: health

The Hot Topic of Inflammation

There’s a burning topic (pun intended) of conversation these days, if you follow any health trends or new diets.

The topic is, of course, inflammation. Especially in the last few years, the symptoms and complications from inflammation have been discussed extensively, and recent medical research has brought the condition into more of a public discussion.

And the reason is pretty clear — we all experience inflammation, as it’s our body’s response to fighting off infection or disease.

It’s why your ankle might swell up when you sprain it, or when your throat feels sore and irritated when you’re sick. Inflammation is often characterized by redness, swelling, pain or discomfort, and some immobility.

Inflammation can fall into two categories – acute or chronic.

Acute inflammation might be triggered by something like a sprained ankle. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to harm or injury. Plasma and white blood cells are delivered to the damaged tissues (through your blood) to start the process of healing.

Prolonged, or chronic, inflammation “leads to a progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation.”

Chronic inflammation is typically a symptom associated with autoimmune diseases, allergies, and conditions like osteoarthritis.

“Whether acute or chronic,” explains Dr. Scott Walker, family physician, “inflammation is the body’s natural response to a problem, so it makes us aware of issues that we might not otherwise acknowledge.”

Chronic inflammation has been linked with mood disorders like depression in recent research studies.
Chronic inflammation has been linked with mood disorders like depression in recent research studies.

There are long-term side effects, however, with chronic inflammation, and recent studies have even found links between inflammation and our emotional health.

“Immune components, such as proinflammatory cytokines and brain-reactive antibodies, can induce changes in neurotransmitter and neuroendocrine function related to psychiatric disorders,” reports the study. In other words, conditions that trigger inflammation (like lupus or other auto-immune diseases) are also known to induce symptoms associated with mood disorders.

So how do we prevent inflammation?

As always, start with your diet. What we nourish ourselves with plays a key role in how our body responds to injury or infection.

“Anti-inflammatory food components, such as omega-3, protect the body against the possible damage caused by inflammation,” explains nutritionist Ximena Jimenez.

Try adding some of the following foods to your menu!

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  • Fish  — A great source of omega-3, specifically in salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Avocados — Who doesn’t love guacamole? “Avocados have great anti-inflammatory properties,” says nutritionist Laura Flores. Avocados contain antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and polyhydroxolated fatty alcohols, all of which reduce inflammation.
  • Healthy cooking oils — Olive oils contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Cruciferous veggies — Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other green, leafy vegetables get the name “cruciferous” because of the shape of their leaf patterns. They contain a pretty extensive list of nutrients and vitamins, including the compound sulferophane, which helps to block enzymes that trigger inflammation in the tissues.
  • Nuts and seeds —  Walnuts are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, as are a number of different types of seeds (like chia, pumpkin, and hemp seeds).
  • Watermelon — When it’s in season, watermelon is perfect for cooling the effects of inflammation. Watermelon contains lycopene, “a cellular inhibitor for various inflammatory processes.” The summer melon also contains choline, which has been found to keep chronic inflammation down.
  • Herbs and spices — Don’t forget to spice things up, either! Ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, cloves and nutmeg all have compounds that slow the process of inflammation — and they’ll add flavor to your next dinner recipe.

Skin Care for Inflammation

You’ll often find natural skin and beauty products with ingredients like oatmeal and honey as soothing agents for red, irritated skin.

Oatmeal, for instance, has widely been used to help ease severe skin conditions, or for those unfortunate enough to encounter poison ivy. Colloidal oatmeal is found in a number of different lotions — but you can make your own at home if you have some breakfast oats in the pantry!

Here’s a great DIY video we found:

“Its many functional properties make colloidal oatmeal a cleanser, moisturizer, buffer, as well as a soothing and protective anti-inflammatory agent,” reports a 2007 medical study.

 

What natural remedies have you employed to help with inflammation? Feel free to comment below!

 

 

5 Reasons to Start a Meditation Practice Today

We can all take some time to slow down and breathe, as we’ve suggested a few times here on the Good Life blog.

We tend to glorify the idea of staying busy and being on-the-go.

watch steering wheelResearch and science, however, are suggesting that the levels of stress and anxiety that we consider “normal” can have some pretty unwanted and sometimes dangerous long term effects.

“In primary care, stress-related illnesses are known drivers of healthcare resource utilization in the US,” states a recent study. “Healthcare expenditures attributable to stress-related disorders, such as, depression and anxiety, were over 80 billion dollars/year in 2012.”

Meditation isn’t a cure-all for our health issues, but there is growing evidence that dedicating more time to mindfulness and relaxation can make significant improvements in overall well-being.

1. Lower blood pressure

The American Heart Association recently wrote that a regular meditation practice can lead to lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Meditation provides a technique for reducing stress,” says Dr. Richard A. Stein, professor of medicine and director of the exercise and nutrition program at New York University’s Center for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

When we experience stress, adrenaline is released — it’s our body’s natural alarm system, when we’re provoked in some way. You might know this as the “fight or flight” response.

Living in this constant state of alarm, however, can have adverse effects.

“When we were cavemen, that adrenaline helped us be ready if a tiger was going to attack,” Dr. Stein said. “Today, all the tigers are in our heads.”

Making the time to meditate regularly has shown promising results for those suffering with cardiovascular issues.

In a 2012 study, “African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die compared with African-Americans who attended a health education class over more than five years.”

2. Better memory

In a recent study at University of California, Santa Barbara, participants who underwent a two-week mindfulness course showed improvement in their reading comprehension and their “working memory capacity.”

asian-863318_640“Improvements in performance following mindfulness training were mediated by reduced mind wandering among participants who were prone to distraction at pretesting,” states the study.

“Our results suggest that cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences.”

3. Functional connectivity in the brain

Establishing a meditation practice as a regular part of your routine can actually change how your brain works.

In one study, “participants with more meditation experience exhibited increased connectivity within attentional networks, as well as between attentional regions and medial frontal regions [of the brain]. These neural relationships may be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction, that are often reported with meditation practice.”

To sum up: practice makes perfect. Training your brain to focus and to avoid getting fully distracted (as one does during meditation) are both skills that can be improved on, and even used outside of a meditation practice.

4. Treatment of depression

A recent research study tested the effects that meditation has on depression, compared with the effects of medication on the condition. The study found that “mindfulness meditation may rival antidepressants in easing the symptoms of depression.”

woman-506120_640“Also relevant for physicians and patients is that there is no known major harm from meditating, and meditation doesn’t come with any known side effects,” said Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins. “One can also practice meditation along with other treatments one is already receiving.”

It’s not entirely clear how meditation helps depression, but studies have shown that a mindfulness practice like meditation reduces activity in both the amygdala (the stress center of the brain), as well as the brain’s “default mode network.”

5. Better grades, happier students (and teachers)

Students at Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco were considered “largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers.

studyIn 2007, the school implemented their “Quiet Time” program, and it’s something they’re still practicing today.

Twice a day, students settle into 10 minutes of quiet reflection. A gong sounds, and the students at Visitacion Valley sit still and try to clear their minds. (Yeah, middle school kids. Sitting still.)

Since 2007, other schools in the area have adopted Quiet Time.

“On the California Achievement Test, twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, compared with students in similar schools where the program doesn’t exist, and the gap is even bigger in math,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

And the program isn’t just helping the students. “Teachers report they’re less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.”

Getting started

Okay, so where do you start, if you’re new to meditation?

We don’t all have to be monks or live in a pastoral setting, in order to practice or benefit from meditation.

lay down“Find what works for you,” says Dr. Stein from NYU. “Maybe it’s just listening to your favorite music while you walk at a moderate pace.”

And thankfully, you don’t need anything but your brain and your breath to meditate. There are a number of mobile apps and video tutorials on meditation, so you might look around to find something that makes sense for your own meditative needs.

I’ve listed a few helpful online guides below, as well.

What other ways do you practice mindfulness? Do you have a meditation practice? Feel free to comment below!

Meditation Resources:

How to Meditate

A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us

How to Get Started with Meditation

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Need some relaxing inspiration? Here are a few of our favorite Soap Hope items!

 

IN THE NEWS: Legislation introduced to modernize food labeling

In a public release, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), with Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) announced the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015.

The Food Labeling Modernization Act approaches food labeling reform in a comprehensive manner, addressing front-of-package labeling, misleading health claims, and requiring updates to the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredient list,” states the release.

The Act will address a number of revisions to laws that “have been unchanged since the 1990s.”

cart-15507_640“By empowering consumers with accurate, truthful, and concise information, this legislation will enable them to make healthier choices, and outsmart deceptive pitches and promotions,” said Senator Blumenthal.

An overhaul of the food labeling process is an important step towards providing U.S. consumers with healthier food choices, and ultimately addressing what has been referred to as the “obesity epidemic” here in the States.

“Healthy eating is especially critical to combating the growing epidemic of childhood obesity,” states Congressman Palone, “which has nearly tripled in the past 30 years and is one of the most serious public health problems in this country.”

Here at Soap Hope, we offer products for the body and home, but understand that what we feed our bodies has a serious impact on not only our skin, but overall health. Knowing what makes up the food that we’re eating empowers us to make better decisions about what food we purchase.

“Food labels should inform — not mislead — consumers as they grocery shop,” said William Wallace, Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. “Consumers deserve labeling that is simple, straightforward, and meaningful, so they can easily compare products and make healthy choices for their families.”

You can read the entirety of the Food Labeling Modernization Act here

Self-Care: The Importance of Taking Care of Number One

(Written by guest author Sarah Galla of The Nourished Seedling.)

I was on empty – diapers, that is.

My youngest was now using the spare diaper I kept hidden in the car – the one only to be used in emergency situations. I had to drop off my oldest at school, get to the store and then get back home to a playdate with friends that were coming over within the hour.

Scrambling out the door, I took a last sip of my water. However, in my haste, it slipped from my hand, shattering all over the floor. As I jumped in surprise, my purse fell off of my shoulder, spilling all over the floor.

After frantically cleaning the glass up, then washing the floor, I stepped on a remaining shard, crying out in pain. Meanwhile, my kiddos were starting to bicker with each other, waiting by the front door, mostly out of a nervous apprehension while their mom was pretty much losing it.

It was nothing huge, but it made me pause.

These little people, whether I like it or not, are picking up on my energy, my anxiety, almost as if my racing thoughts were pouring out of my head and seeping into their little bodies.

It Made Me Pause

black-and-white-person-woman-girlAt this point, I was more upset at myself for letting the little things get the best of me than actually anything related to the mess that lay before me. I was irritable, tired, and, overall, just disappointed in myself because I felt I was failing at life.

I was supposed to do it all, be it all, have it all together. But I wasn’t, and didn’t.

Here I was, the designated grown-up, covered in water, limping with a chard of glass in my foot, contents of my purse (still) all over the floor and tears threatening to fall. Six beautiful big eyes looked back at me, shining of innocence and glaring uncertainty.

This was the moment – my opportune moment. I could continue to be angry, sad, frustrated and wallow in self-pity. Or, I could walk the walk and be the person I wanted my girls to see.

So, I sat – in the middle of the mess. They all looked at me, incredulously. I took them all in my arms and hugged them. And then, with some kid-interpretations here and there, I went on to explain about self-care, and why I was the example of how important it is to care for ourselves.

Why We Put Our Mask On First

We often give and give until we have nothing left to give. We give to our jobs, to our families, to our children, to our friends, but what about to ourselves? Not fancy clothes or expensive material items. No, I’m talking about something much harder and more precious to give – our time and attention. Without self-care, our bodies, our souls wither from the lack of nourishment.

Are we eating right, getting enough sleep, addressing our feelings of anger, sadness, and resentment? Or are we sweeping these underneath the rug, storing them away, promising ourselves we will get to them when we have time?

No one for sure knows what is going on in our heads at any given time. No one for sure knows exactly what is going on in our life at any given time.

However, there is one person that is aware, one person that can change the course or put on the brakes – and that person is us. Often we overlook the importance of how we think and feel, and just keep propelling forward, resolving that we will take time as soon as some ambiguous goal is attained.

However, there is a reason the standing rule of securing our mask before that of anyone else’s is still a standing rule. If we cannot function, how can we expect to help others function? If we start focusing on the desires of everyone and everything outside of ourselves, without regard to our own needs, we lose our bearings, our internal compass that not only guides us, but truly helps us thrive.

Checking In With Ourselves

I was so focused on trying to do all of these tasks and fulfill requests with speed, that I didn’t take the time to check in with myself. I didn’t notice I hadn’t consumed anything but coffee. I didn’t notice I had not taken at least one deep breath since I woke up.

Even more important to me, is that I didn’t notice how my frantic, yet robotic movements, profoundly impacted the feelings of serenity of myself and those around me.

Often times, it takes crippling body aches, emotional breakdowns, or even a great loss to see firsthand the importance of self-care.

However, when we take the time to assess our needs along with our realistic capabilities, and then ensuring these needs are met on a regular basis, we can head off many catastrophes and feelings of despair.

In fact, we become more accountable, more responsible, so not only can others know they can rely on us, we know that we can count on ourselves.

 


SGalla_profile2Sarah Galla, M.S., R.Y.T., is the creator, recipe developer, photographer and writer behind The Nourished Seedling. As a mother of three amazing kiddos, she is an advocate the importance of real food and mindful eating, and that no matter how hard the storm, to always look for the rainbow after the rain. Sarah is also a Soap Hope Ambassador of Hope!

Breathe Deep: How Breathing More Effectively Can Make You Happier

“Breathing easily and fully is one of the basic pleasures of being alive.” (Alexander Lowen)

Breathing is one of our most basic bodily functions, but despite the fact that we’ve been doing it for as long as we’ve been alive, it’s quite possible that we’re doing it all wrong.

THE SCIENCE

Breathing is one of the few processes that we can control both consciously and unconsciously. It’s the only process that both delivers oxygen to our body and removes carbon dioxide.

Our breath is controlled by specialized centers in the brainstem, which regulates it according to our body’s needs. If we’re sleeping, for instance, our levels of carbon dioxide are lower, which doesn’t necessitate a higher frequency of breathing.

swimmingWe can also actively and consciously control our breath, and if you’re into running or yoga or meditation, this might be something you’re well aware of, having to regulate your breath along with your activity.

HOW YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

If we’re not breathing properly, this robs our bodies of the oxygen that we need — which can lead to a number of other health problems, including higher blood pressure and weak muscles.

If you’ve ever watched an infant sleep, you’ll see their tummy rise and fall — not just their chest. We’re born knowing how to breathe correctly, but (like everything else) stress and anxiety take their toll on us, especially our breathing.

When we’re anxious, our bodies are in “fight or flight” mode, resulting in shorter breaths and overall tension.

If we’re in a constant state of stress, we’re essentially hyperventilating, and aren’t even using our lungs to their fullest extent. “This leads to a poor exchange of oxygen and CO2 in the bloodstream, depriving our bodies of both vital gases.”

BENEFITS OF BREATHING PROPERLY

Luckily, we’re able to make some small improvements that can make a big impact on our health — relieve stress, increase the delivery rate of oxygen to our body, and help our digestive and lymphatic systems.

By controlling the rhythm of our inhale and exhale, and by taking measured, relaxing breaths, we’re sending a message to the rest of our body. We’re no longer in “fight or flight” mode — we’re telling our muscles to ease up, our heart rate to become steady. All good things.

BREATHING TIPS THAT YOU CAN USE RIGHT NOW

Make a note to check in on your breathing throughout the day — set an alarm if that helps. Are you taking short breaths? Are they shallow? Are you breathing in a rhythmic, relaxed way, through your nose?

Being aware of your breath will help you assess where you might need improvement.

Find a space and time where you can focus on your breathing, and take the following steps. (Note: don’t try too hard. This isn’t about perfection.)

  1. Start by sitting up straight, or you can lie down — the goal is to leave your diaphragm room to move, since that’s the muscle that we engage when we’re inhaling and exhaling. You should be comfortable and settled in your position.
  2. Breathe through your nose. If you’re congested, try a nasal cleanse so that you can breathe more easily.
  3. Focus on your breath and its rhythm. Breathe deeply, and think about filling your lungs. If it helps, place a hand on your belly, which should move gently up and down.
  4. Extend your exhale (this one helps me the most). Your inhale should be about 3 seconds long, and your exhale should be about 4 seconds. Again, perfection here is not the point. You want to regulate your breathing, but it’s not boot camp.
  5. Take note of what’s going on in the rest of your body. You should be relaxed and comfortable, and each breath should ease you further into relaxation.
  6. Try to clear your head, just focusing on your breathe. Our thoughts might drift towards the stresses of the day — let them come and go. Go back to your breathing, focus on filling your lungs, and getting all of that lovely oxygen to your body.

Sometimes I’m just too distracted or scattered to slow down enough for breathing exercises. There are a TON of resources and videos out there that can help guide you through your breathing. I find that listening to a meditation (or even a song I really enjoy) forces me to get lost in something else other than my own anxiety.

Ultimately, the goal here is to be aware — of how tense we are, where we’re carrying our stress, and finding ways to slow all of that down and relax (even just for 5-10 minutes a day).

How often do you take time to breathe?

 

Take 5-10 minutes to breathe, and enhance your experience with a few of our aromatherapy products at Soap Hope!

 

Why your morning routine matters

Over the last few months, I’ve posted about all of the wonderful things we’re doing at Soap Hope — the ingredients we love, the organizations we work with, the team here at Soap Hope.

Fair warning — this post is going to get a little more personal!

Like everyone else, I’m starting to notice the effects of careless choices about my health. Stress hasn’t helped, either, and I’ve had to address some of these issues (insomnia, headaches, etc.) just so that I can function like less of a zombie.

I started seeing an Ayurvedic nutritionist, to discuss my overall health and the choices I’d been making, especially when it comes to eating.

I could write about twenty blogs on Ayurvedic therapy and its holistic approach to health, but today we’ll just focus on one of the aspects of the practice that has made the biggest difference for me already: a morning routine.

My Morning Routine

This last year has been kind of a whirlwind for me — without going into a ton of detail, I found that I’d been burning out. A lot.

Looking at the kind of schedule I’d been keeping, it seems SO OBVIOUS that I’d gotten beyond the point of stressed and scattered, and started to venture into some concerning levels of anxiety.

I knew I needed to work on something, and when I looked at how I was starting my day — forcing myself out of bed, skipping breakfast, rushing into the office and jumping into whatever I had going on — I realized I might start by taking back my mornings for myself.

So when I talked with the nutritionist, I was excited — she didn’t just tell me what kinds of things I needed to eat, but also brought up the importance of a morning routine.

Starting the Day Off Right

From the Ayurvedic Institute:

“A daily routine is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness. Routine helps to establish balance in one’s constitution. It also regularizes a person’s biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.”

The Institute suggests several habits to adapt when building your morning routine — everything from exercise to water consumption to self massage.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it was a struggle not to adopt ALL of the suggested activities. My therapist suggested working on just a handful of things, so that I’d make my routine something that works for me.

So every morning, I wake somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. I get up and take my dog out, and then I go for at least a mile-long walk.

IMG_6580
Me, on my morning walk.

My morning walk has proven to be such a fulfilling part of my day. I’m getting up and moving, I’m connecting with myself and clearing my brain before I jump into things. I’ve really gotten to enjoy this particular part of my routine.

When I get back home, I drink a glass of water with lemon. It’s refreshing, it’s good for my kidneys, and I like to think it helps wake up my insides.

bgr0045.t1
I use this lovely Sweet Orange massage oil from Badger Balm.

Then I shower, and afterwards, I use a body oil and take the time to give myself a massage. It stimulates my skin and muscles, and it’s another great way to practice self-care.

I go about getting ready, and make sure to sit down and eat my breakfast, instead of just picking it up at a drive-thru or skipping it altogether.

Daily Self-Care and Long-Term Benefits

Stress isn’t just an inconvenience or something that keeps us awake at night. Chronic stress can lead to a number of diseases, weakens the immune system, and can take years off of your life.

According to the APA: “Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term. In one study, researchers examined the association between “positive affect” — feelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm — and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade. They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.”

By taking the time in my morning to care for and nourish myself, I’m setting the tone for my day. that time for myself is important, and so is my own health and happiness.

Do you have a daily routine? What are some ways that you start your morning off?

4 Ideas for Self-Care That You Can Use Right Now

It’s been a long week, with errands filling up every free moment that you thought you’d had, surprise repairs needed on the car, and a toddler who seems to be sniffling an awful lot lately.

Sound familiar?

All of us get swept up in our daily tasks and minor crises — and it’s easy to fall into that mindset of constantly moving and staying “productive.”

But not catching our breath or slowing down every now and then can lead to some serious burnout. A high level of anxiety leaves our bodies more susceptible to illness and can cause long term complications like heart disease or stroke.

However, setting aside just 20-30 minutes a day for self-care can go a long way.  In fact, studies have shown that taking time to relax or meditate consistently has the potential to reverse negative effects from stress, like high blood pressure.

“We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers,” Dr. Charles L. Raison at Emory University points out. “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,”

So, set down your phone, turn off the TV, and take a little bit of time to do something that will pay off big time. The dishes in the dishwasher can wait.

Need ideas for self-care? Here are a few you can try out right now!

1. Start by breathing.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most efficient ways of slowing down your body and stilling your mind.  Even just five minutes of abdominal breathing can help — the goal being to calm the mind by increasing oxygen to the brain (which helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system).

person-802090_1280“Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”

2. Take a bath.

duck-701147_1280Fill up the tub and hop on in — research has shown that relaxing in a bath on a daily basis can be more effective at reducing anxiety than taking a prescription drug.

If you take a bath before bedtime, chances are you’ll sleep more soundly, too, as “it temporarily raises your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy. ”

Add in yummy-smelling bath salts or a bath bomb for a luxurious and therapeutic soak!

3. Sing/dance your cares away.

The benefits of listening to music are far reaching, so put together a short playlist of your favorite songs and shake what your mama gave you.

music-791631_1280“Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing,” states a recent article from Huffington Post.

“In particular, researchers have looked for applications in healthcare — for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.”

4. Have a cuppa.

living-room-690174_1280Tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world, and it’s been around forever.

Green tea is especially popular, perhaps for the positive effects that it has on cardiovascular health. A recent study found that drinking green tea “significantly lowered the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (31% lower risk in women, and 22% lower risk in men.) The risk of dying from stroke was even lower: 62% lower in women and 42% lower in men.”

Test out different varieties of tea and pour yourself a cup.

After all, you’re worth it.

 

Here are a few products from Soap Hope you might consider for your self-care routine.

The Many Health Benefits of Rosemary You Need to Know About

Rosemary’s uses date back as far as 500 BC in Greece and Rome, when it was commonly used to stimulate and strengthen memory. Throughout centuries the fragrant herb has been used in various mystical and religious applications.

While these uses are less commonly employed today, many of the historical uses of rosemary have carried into modern times.

The Many Uses of Rosemary

Promoting healthy skin and hair: Rosemary contains riboflavin (vitamin B2) which is part of what makes it a stimulant. When applied to skin and hair it aids in the regeneration of healthy cells. Using rosemary in shampoo encourages faster-growing and stronger hair. When soap or body wash made with rosemary is used skin tends to look and feel younger. Rosemary is also an astringent, which aids in maintaining the buoyancy of skin.

Inciting memory and increasing mental activity: Certain research indicates that rosemary helps to prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain. In a study conducted by Dr. Mark Moss of the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, results showed that workers in rosemary-infused cubicles exhibited better long-term memory and reported feeling more alert than those in untreated cubicles. For this property, Rosemary has been nicknamed the “herb of remembrance.”

Detoxifying: Rosemary’s antiseptic properties help remove toxins from your skin and hair.

Healing: Rosemary also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help heal skin conditions such as acne, eczema and dermatitis. It is also known to ease puffiness or swelling.

The Importance of Antioxidants

Rosemary is perhaps best known for its preservative qualities as an antioxidant.

The plant and its essential oils have been used as natural “preservatives” for centuries, most commonly for meat and other food products. Today it is also widely used as a protecting element in all-natural body care products.

For the same reasons antioxidants are useful as preserving elements in all-natural products, they are also useful for keeping your body healthy. When applied topically, rosemary’s antioxidizing abilities can keep your skin, hair and body looking and feeling young.

Antioxidants are known to “preserve” youth and although the aging process is inevitable, there are ways in which antioxidants maintain health and protect your body from harmful external elements:

  • Stimulate cell growth: Help hair grow faster and stronger and are even known to slow premature graying
  • Protects skin: Shield skin from UV rays to prevent skin damage, keeping skin looking young for longer
  • Stimulate circulation: Aid in lowering blood pressure
    Incite memory and slows memory loss: The alerting scent of rosemary can promote mental stimulation
  • Slow onset of Alzheimer’s: Research conducted by Dr. James Duke, former researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicates that the dozen antioxidants in rosemary can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Detoxifies: Many clinical studies have demonstrated strong links between chemical carcinogens and cancer. Research conducted by Dr. Keith Singletary at the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition indicates that the antioxidants in rosemary have significant impact on the removal of chemical carcinogens.

To help you remember all of these great benefits, we came up with this handy infographic to share with your friends!

Rosemary Health Benefits (1)

 

 

Want more rosemary in your skin care routine? Check out these great products from Soap Hope that include all of the benefits we’ve talked about!

Please note that another version of this post was published previously on our website. 

What the heck is a microbiome?

At the end of last year, Fortune Magazine predicted that 2015 would be the Year of the Microbiome,  because of advances in medical technology and the progress around discovering what’s behind some of our trickiest medical issues.

But just WHAT IS a microbiome?

Maybe you remember biology class, and studying microbes — they’re basically any organism too small to be seen with the naked eye.

The microbiome is the collection of all of these tiny living things that live on and in our body. And what scientists are discovering is that the little guys play a HUGE role in our overall health and how diseases might impact us.

Our microbiomes are also constantly evolving, making it increasingly tricky to figure out just what a “normal” microbiome might look like. What we’re discovering is that “it is reasonable to characterize the microbiome as a newly recognized organ, with a great range of metabolic activities.

Why does the microbiome matter?

Well, those little creatures that live on your skin are noted as being not only the most diverse, but also some of the most important defensive players when it comes to our health.

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“New evidence suggests that commensal skin bacteria both directly protect humans from pathogenic invaders and help the immune system maintain that delicate balance between effective protection and damaging inflammation.”

So, yeah, taking care of the ecosystem that lives on our body is really important!

Show your microbiome some love

But here’s what we’re also learning — besides the fact that it’s always evolving, my microbiome is probably different than your microbiome. There are, of course, some similarities, but the differences mean that there isn’t just ONE way of caring for one’s microbiome.

Stay away from antimicrobial products

A few ways that we can take care of the communities of microbes living on our skin involve protecting that balance that they’re creating. That means eliminating antimicrobial products that kill off the bacteria that are actually good for us.

One of the biggest offenders is triclosan, which has  been found to be “no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands.” Not only that, triclosan (found in a wide range of antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps) has been found in water supplies and sewage treatment plants, and has been linked to altering hormone regulation functions in wildlife. 

Go for oils over moisturizers — that means no parabens!  Antimicrobial preservatives like parabens consist of wax and water that might make your skin feel hydrated but result in irritations.

Oils, on the other hand, are able to penetrate and clear out pores, dissolving other oils and other gunk. We’re a huge fan of castile soaps and products containing other awesome oils (argan, coconut, olive, etc.).

And of course, eating nutrient-dense, whole foods can ensure that you’re healthy from the inside out. It’s all about that balance!

Want products that are good for your microbiome, and leave you feeling fresh? Here are a few we’d recommend!

Migraine – and Side Effects – Be Gone!

(Viewing this in e-mail? See the original blog at http://wp.me/pv0Gr-ag.  Blog Image: fresh ginger – courtesy of Sanjay Ach, via Wikimedia Commons, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Are you shocked, as we are, at the side effects of some of the medications sold by pharmaceutical companies? For instance, Sumatriptan – a drug used to treat migraines – has side effects like heart attack, chest pain, vertigo, stroke, blood changing from red to black, spams of the arteries, and a long list of other scary things.

Sumatriptan also costs on average $17 per dose.

Or, you could try … ginger. Yes, plain old ginger. In a recent scientific study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657930), migraine sufferers were given either Sumatriptan or ginger. Both groups had similar results. 70% of people taking Sumatriptan and 64% of ginger users had almost complete relief within two hours.

How much ginger can you get for $17? Given in the amount in the study, you can get eight hundred doses.

So if you or a loved on is suffering from migraine, you might consider ginger. You can grate it, drink it in tea, or take powdered ginger capsules.

It might even be a good excuse for eating some ginger cookies and candied ginger too.