Category Archives: The Healthy Life

Benefits of Turmeric for Body and Brain

Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant. Curcumin in turmeric is what gives the powerful benefits. Most of the time it is not that high in concentration unless you are using an extract. Turmeric is considered one of the most effective nutritional supplements in existence and we are just learning from many high-quality studies the major benefits for our body and brain. We’ve pulled the top research-based health benefits of turmeric.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound

Inflammation has been linked to how the body ages and how our body repairs itself. Inflammation is very important to human health and it helps the body fight, foreign invaders. Without inflammation, bacteria can easily take over your body and kill you. For inflammation to be beneficial it should be short-term. If inflammation exists longer than necessary it becomes a major issue where your body inappropriately attacks its own tissues. Researchers and Scientists believe that chronic, low-level inflammation plays a major role in almost every chronic disease. This includes heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of degenerative conditions (1, 2, 3).

Anything that can help fight chronic inflammation is of potential importance in preventing and even treating these diseases. Curcumin, as we mentioned, is a strong anti-inflammatory, so powerful in fact that it matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects (4, 5, 6). What we learned is that inflammation is extremely complicated, and the key takeaway is that curcumin is a bioactive substance that fights inflammation at the molecular level.

Increases Antioxidant Capacity in the Body

Antioxidants are important because they protect our body from free radicals. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is a very potent antioxidant. The properties of curcumin have been considered to be associated with its antioxidant properties. Curcumin is thought to play a vital role against pathological conditions. It basically interrupts the process of inflammation in the body. It also boosts the activity of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Not only is it an antioxidant on its own, but it also enhances the effectiveness of the body’s own antioxidants. There are many studies and medical professionals who support the claim of turmeric increasing antioxidant capacity in the body (7, 8).

Boosts Brain Function and Lower Risk of Brain Diseases

Love your body and your brain. As we age, our ability to recall information slows. We become slower especially when multitasking. It has recently been discovered that curcumin enhances your brain function, reducing the chances of cognitive decline.

Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

The antioxidants in turmeric prevent damage to cholesterol, thereby helping to protect against atherosclerosis. Curcumin lowers both cholesterol and triglycerides, another fat that circulates in the bloodstream and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (9).

Benefits Against Fighting Depression

Curcumin may be a great natural alternative to drugs to fight depression. People who suffer from depression often try numerous medications, in search of one that is effective without horrible side effects. Curcumin helps with depression by increasing the two critical neurotransmitters associated with depression, serotonin, and dopamine (10).

We recommend the herbal liquid form of turmeric to get the best benefits, but there are also capsules and of course adding the spice to your food is always delicious and beneficial.

We Ban Nanoparticles From Our Shelves

Every heard of it?

Nanoparticles are in personal care products. Most nanoparticles serve as delivery agents that help other ingredients penetrate into the skin and homogenize the distribution of colored pigments in cosmetics, making the delivery of sunscreen and other treatments less greasy. They also create a silky texture found in creams and powders. Nanoparticles are smaller than a human cell, so tiny that they are invisible to the human eye.

Why it’s not welcome

This is a new ingredient technology and there are a lot of unknowns in terms of nanomaterials and their effect on human health and our planet. What we do know is that when inhaled, nanoparticles can become embedded into your lungs. Another potential issue is that they are so small they could potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream. We just don’t have enough information on this, and the little we do have suggests that it is not good. So until we know more, that’s not a health risk we are willing to take, especially when it comes to our customer’s health (1). Plus the chemicals these nanoparticles are delivering are typical of a toxic composition.

Although there is little definitive evidence, the health effects of nanoparticles are likely to depend also on their shape. A significant example is nanotubes, which may be only of a few nanometres in diameter but a potential length of several micrometres. A recent study showed a high toxicity of carbon nanotubes which seemed to produce harmful effects by an entirely new mechanism, different from the normal model of toxic dust (2).

Before you panic

The research is contentious and not yet conclusive. But we know that there are safer alternatives, so why risk it? At Soap Hope, we think it’s far more important to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to ingredient safety, so when in doubt we ban it for the safety of our customers, their families, and their homes.

We’re in good company

Every Maker (the brands we carry on our shelves) has either never used Nanoparticles or eliminated it from their formulas in favor of safer alternatives that are allowed at Soap Hope. The ingredients in each and every product at Soap Hope are vetted for safety before we decide to carry them. We care as much as you do about what we put in and on our bodies. Learn more about our ingredient philosophy, the ingredients we ban, and our product rating system of Good, Better, Best.

Homeopathy: How It Works

Homeopathy means “the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease.” So in other words, it’s an alternative medicine practice that uses the smallest possible amount of an active ingredient in order to help treat or cure an illness, even if the same ingredient caused or contributed to an illness in the first place. The concept is called “like cures like.”

Homeopathy dates back to the late 1700s, and today the World Health Organization recognizes it as the “second largest therapeutic system in the world.”

Homeopathic medicine comes from a range of natural, pure substances, which can be in the form of a plant, mineral, or animal-based ingredient. Examples of this may be: fresh or dried herbs, activated charcoal, vinegar, garlic, caffeine, poison ivy, stinging nettle plants, and the list goes on and on. These substances are extracted and processed to create tablets, ointments, gels, drops, and creams.

Some known remedies that you might recognize: St. John’s Wort, chamomile, calcium carbonate, and potassium.

Homeopathic medicine is considered a safe practice and remedies have been regulated by the FDA since the 1980s.

The great thing about homeopathic treatments is they are tailored to each person’s specific symptoms, body, and needs. This is an individualized process. Homeopathy most often is used to treat the following health problems: depression, allergies, asthma, migraines, tension headaches, digestive problems like IBS, anxiety disorders, dermatitis, skin disorders, arthritis, fatigue, thyroid or autoimmune disorders, and more.

The 5 major benefits from homeopathy are:

  1. All aspects of an individual are considered when finding the right treatment.
  2. Low does of natural products are used.
  3. Helps to treat allergies and asthma.
  4. Can help reduce depression or anxiety.
  5. Helps control pain.

What’s missing from your natural medicine routine? We recommend Hyland’s Homeopathic if you are interested in checking out a brand.

Note: Many homeopathic substances are capable of causing toxicity, poisoning or negative reactions if taken in high enough doses. Therefore, very low doses are usually administered — even doses so low that the substance itself if practically unidentifiable due to be being heavily diluted. Always follow instructions when taking medicine or homeopathic substances. 

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!