Tag Archives: Herbal

I’m trying to go poo-less

I did something rad this morning – I washed my hair without shampoo.  That’s right, I was ‘poo-less’.  I read that a solution of bicarbonate of soda (1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water) would work well and be kinder to the hair and even though it sounds dodgy, I reasoned that we do know that sodium bicarbonate has a reputation for dissolving grease and grime and neutralising odours.  So, purely in the interests of science, I gave it a go. 

I wet my hair then gently rubbed the solution into my scalp (because that’s the bit that gets the most dirty – well, obviously)!  There is, of course no lather so I was a bit skeptical.  (Here’s an interesting, but relevant aside: Did you know that manufacturers actually put a bubble-making agent into washing-up liquid?  It’s pretty much unnecessary but market research has shown that we consumers didn’t trust the liquid to work without those bubbles.  Humans …such simple creatures). 

Anyhoo, I left the bicarb solution in my hair for a few minutes whilst I got on with washing my bod and then I rinsed my hair.  I was genuinely surprised at how much styling gunk came out – impressive.  I finished by conditioning the ends with a solution of 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to 1 cup of water.  Leave for a minute, then rinse. 

All very New Age.  All very Hippy Dippy Mother Earth and importantly, good for the body and good for the environment.  No sodium lauryl sulphate [SLS] – which makes those highly desired bubbles.   (Whether or not you believe the links between SLS and cancer, this substance does seem to commonly cause scalp irritation so may actually be causing or contributing to your dandruff, if you have it).

So what’s the verdict on today’s experiment?

Surprisingly, my hair doesn’t look half bad.  It appears pretty clean and is less fly-away than usual.  I’m not converted yet however because the poo gives a nice smell and there is, of course, no perfume in this simple bicarb mix.  BUT, maybe I can remedy that with a herbal rinse – rosemary water is good for red/brunette hair.

As my hair is less fly-away, this suggests that some oil still remains.  In all fairness that makes for a healthier scalp, but will it mean that my hair needs washing more often than the every 2-3 days it gets now?  If that’s the case, I’d be using the curling tongs more often – bad news for luscious locks and more time-consuming in the styling department. (Make no mistake, styling my hair is a given if I want to avoid looking like I’ve just been connected up to the electrical supply).

So there we are – an interesting experiment.  We’ll see how it pans out over the next few days.

Anyone had any experience with this poo-less life?  How did you get on?

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This article also appears at my other WordPress site.

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Natural deterrent to aphids

FeverfewBattling with aphids (greenfly) in the garden?  Commercially available insecticides often contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is derived from nature.  Rather than buying bottles of commercially prepared and potentially hazardous chemicals, you can harness the power of nature in deterring greenfly just by some clever planting. 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a pretty daisy-like plant that contains pyrethrins – very similar to the chemicals in commercial sprays.  Plant Feverfew amongst your flowers and it’s presence will deter the little insect marauders. DaisyGolden feverfew is a pretty plant in its own right – as the name suggests its foliage is a yellow/golden colour – and all plants will readily self-seed all over the garden if you allow them to.  (This plant is also used as a traditional herbal remedy for migraine).

BeeWhilst it is possible to make your own insecticidal spray or powder from these plants I wouldn’t advise it as it is toxic to bees. In its plant form it seems to work well enough for me and does no harm to bees.  Some sources claim that it will deter bees from the garden, although I have never found this to be the case and have often seen bees visiting the feverfew flowers.  

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The Summer garden: colour and scent

PelargoniumWhen I moved to my current home I inherited a garden permanently planted with perennial plants that just grow and grow and need little care except for an occasional gentle pruning session. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t allow me to ring the changes now and again through the use of Summer bedding plants.  These plants are mostly regarded and treated as annuals, intended really to last just one season (although some can and do last longer – some of them self-seeding all over your garden if you allow them to).  What I love about these Summer plants is that they quickly allow me to be creative with colour in the garden, giving it a different look and feel in much the same way as changing a few accessories in a room will give a fresh new look to a space. 

Just recently we created some new borders along the edges of our terrace and now that May has come around I’m really back in my element, practising my exterior design skills, picking colour combinations of bedding plants and planting them out in the borders.  This year I’ve gone for a combination of pink and white, with an occasional accent of very, very pale lemon yellow.  My reason for picking this pale colour palette was very specific.  Our terrace was Gardening toolsnewly created this Spring and I’m anticipating many evenings spent outside, either lingering over dinner or sitting and enjoying the evening over a glass of wine.  The colour white, or anything near white will reflect back what little light is still available so that the pale flowers outside will act as tiny beacons at dusk.  If you want to be a purist and just work with white alone this can look absolutely stunning, especially when combined with silvery leaved plants against a backdrop of deep greens.    If, on the other hand, you’re looking to create the warm atmosphere of a Mediterranean garden then choose flowering plants that fall in the red / pink/ orange range. 

Another aspect of the garden worth considering is scent.  Most Summer bedding plants don’t carry significant scent Alyssumbut there are some little superstars that I think are well worth including.  Top of the list for me would be the humble alyssum.  Its tiny flowers produce the most heavenly honey-sweet scent so it’s no surprise that I’ve included many of them in my Summer planting scheme.  

The choice of Summer bedding plants is vast and the fun is in working out your own colour combinations and planting scheme.  Go to your local plant nursery, see what is available and take advice from the staff there, always bearing in mind the ultimate height and spread of your chosen plants. 

Just for quick reference, here are a few of my favourite Summer bedding plants:

Geraniums, redPelargonium / Geranium – essentially one and the same plant but they do look distinctly different.    Pelargoniums, which are susceptible to frost, have beautiful frilly flowers and unusual ‘crinkle-cut’ leaves.  Geraniums are sold as both Summer bedding plants and border perennials (plants that flower and/or grow year after year).  Some varietes have pretty, variegated (multi-coloured) leaves.  Flower colours: white, pink, red and red/orange.   Scent: The flowers have no scent but the plant itself has a distinctive and pleasant smell that always reminds me of Summer. 

I like these plants because they tend to be very forgiving and don’t mind the heat.  You won’t find them wilting at the end of a long hot day and if you forget to water them one day they won’t sulk and wither.

MarigoldMarigold:  Once so common in our gardens but I read recently that they have so declined in popularity that some varietes may disappear entirely.  Maybe it’s the colour range that puts people off because they are typically coloured bright orange.  In fact other varieties are also available from red/orange in colour through to yellow and even white.  (The very pale lemon yellow highlights in my planting scheme this year are from marigolds).  Again, they’re fairly robust little plants and have the added advantage that a few flower petals can be used to brighten up Summer salads.  I have also read that their presence in the flower border may help to deter certain garden pests.  This may be something to do with the distinctive smell of the foliage, which is in some ways is similar to the geranium.  Either way, this is also a smell that I associate with long hot Summers.

Alyssum: Only growing to about 4 inches in height, they are best placed at the front of the border.  What they lack in height they more than make up for in scent.  ‘Alyssum’ in Greek means ‘against madness’ and though I can’t vouch for that (!) what I can tell you is that the scent of these tiny flowers always, always makes me feel happy.  I have traditional white alyssum in my plant border and in pots dotted all over the garden but you may find other varieties available in pale pink, through to biscuit coloured and lemon.  This as far as I’m concerned is a ‘must have’ in the garden.

Lobelia:  Another plant for the edges of flower borders, this is also very often used in hanging baskets where it forms a cascade of small blue or white flowers.  Very pretty – and better still, it attracts butterflies to the garden.

Begonia: There are many varieties of this lovely plant growing to all different sizes.  In tropical or sub tropical climates they will go on growing.  Here in the UK they are treated as Summer bedding plants and the type I’m specifically referring to here are the miniature variety and often used as useful space fillers in Summer borders and pots.  Coming in a variety of flower and leaf colours they grow to no more than about 8 inches in height, have an abundance of flowers with deep yellow centres and healthy, fleshy leaves that make them appear particularly lush.

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National addiction

FrustrationI think I may be actually addicted to tea.  How do I know this?  Every time I go on holiday outside the UK I get ratty and distracted by the damned awful versions of my national drink that are marketed and sold as ‘tea’.  In France, which as one of our closest neighbours tends to be a regular haunt of mine… oh have mercy….in France they are more used to delicate ’tisanes’ – herbal teas that are merely politely introduced to very hot water for a nano-second and the anaemic result is what you are supposed to drink, and presumably enjoy.  France, and I can say this as basically a half-French woman, is a lost cause.  In the world of general cuisine I will concede that they are amongst the front runners.  For making a good cuppa?  Forget it.  Order tea at your peril.  What you will get will be gnats’ pee.

I’ve singled out France but really the story will be the same for most of Europe.  There is one exception – Ireland.  You want tea? You’ll get a proper brew, one that you could stand your spoon in.  I once stayed in a hotel in central London and was served what I can only describe as dishwater, cheekily passing itself off as tea.  As I’d noticed a good southern Irish lilt in my waitresses’ voice, I asked if it was possible to have a stronger pot of tea, to which she replied ‘yes, of course, we only give out this rubbish because the tourists like it’.  Do they?  Do they really?  Nations who are coffee addicts make properly brewed versions of the stuff for visitors because that’s what they themselves drink.  They wouldn’t dream of handing out the weaker instant coffee version because they assume that ‘the tourists like it’.

Freshly plucked tea leavesI have to say that one of my biggest frustrations is when I travel to the U.S. because this nation understands their own addiction to the coffee bean only too well.  In fact, Americans are so rabid about their own national drink that it features in popular culture, it is the birthplace of the ubiquitous Starbucks, Americans are seen everywhere clutching ‘half-gallon’ canisters like bottles of formula, and coffee percolators (not instant coffee sachets) are available in fairly mundande hotel rooms to allow for that early morning fix.  The national addiction to coffee is so recognised, and so ingrained, that if you visit any restaurant or diner before lunch time the waitress will come to the table already armed with a steaming hot pot of the drink and be pouring it out before you have even glanced at the menu – before you have had time to say whether you even want it.  And herein lies my frustration.  The Americans fully understand this addiction to the bean.  They know that consumers get ratty without their caffeine fix and so they anticipate and pre-empt any troubles by offering it up before any conversation takes place.  However, woe betide you if you don’t drink the stuff, if in fact your morning fix is from the rather more gentle, but still caffeine laden tea leaf. 

In even expensive hotels I have been advised to use the coffee pot/percolator to heat water for my morning cuppa.  cuppaHave you any idea how much coffee taints the flavour of the water in those coffee makers?  No?  Well try to imagine if I told you to make your morning coffee in the pot normally reserved for onion soup.  Yes.  It’s about as pleasant as that.  Even after flushing it through several times with plain water, you can still taste the coffee so that what you are left with is weird ‘co~tea’ in the a.m. and, trust me, it’s naaasty.  When I’ve asked for boiling water to make my tea it comes in a coffee pot which, in case you hadn’t twigged yet STILL TASTES OF COFFEE!

When I’ve ordered tea in a restaurant, I have to wait for tea-like paraphernalia to appear, as though I wish to perform my own version of the Japanese tea ceremony.  Do I want lemon?  Do I want silk tea bags?  Do I want to rifle through and pick from this entire 50-strong tray of tea bags, including mint, chamomile, lemon verbena….?    No, fer cryin’ out loud!  I want tea!  The brown stuff that comes out of generic bags from makers like Typhoo, Tetley and PG Tips!  I don’t want silk, I don’t want herbs, I don’t want lemon and trays and pots and pans and, by the way, I don’t even want ferkin’  Twinings which, in case you didn’t know, is barely drunk in Britain because it’s strictly for Wishy Washy Wimps!  I want TEA!!!  The caramel golden nectar which keeps the fabled British Army marching ever onwards!  That glorious brew that stains your teeth brown, you can stand your spoon up in it and it makes you feel like you’ve had a great big enveloping hug from your ever-loving Mummy who adores you like no other.   T. E. A.  I want tea.  Please.

You can read a few interesting facts about my favourite drink over at my other site here.

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There are plenty of fine teas out there but what I’m referring to above is the bog standard ‘cuppa’ as consumed by millions of Brits every day.  Snobs will tell you that these blends are the ‘sweepings off the floor’ but that’s them just trying to prove that they’re a cut above the rest of us and, frankly, they’re talking rubbish.  Millions of us can’t be wrong and, in fact, I read recently that the Chinese are now starting to import English bog standard blends, of the type mentioned below, because they too have realised what a little gem we have.

Therefore…To make a delicious, bog standard cuppa, as drunk by all good Brits:

Look in the ‘English’ section of your supermarket if there is one.   (I know, for instance, that such things exist in Florida).  The tea brands to look for are Tetley, PG Tips, Yorkshire Blend and, our favourite, Typhoo.

Put one tea bag in a [preferably] china cup or mug.  It is true that tea tastes better in china rather than plain pottery because china holds the water at a better temperature … and by the way, there’s no need to be snobby with this tea, serving it in mimsy little cups, unless you want to impress your guests.  I’m a ‘mug’ person myself.  

Pour on a little cold milk (about a tablespoon, no more).  Boil a kettle and pour freshly boiled water over the milk and tea bag.  Colour will immediately start to flood out.  Use a teaspoon to ‘mash’ the bag until you have the desired colour.  ‘Serious’ tea drinkers will want their tea a golden caramel colour.

Beginners might want to add sugar, although ‘serious students’ (myself included) know that totally swamps the flavour of the tea.

Sit down and enjoy. 

Good in the afternoon with plain biscuits dunked in it (another joyous English custom designed to pile on the pounds because once you develop the technique of a perfectly dunked biscuit, you cannot stop). 

By the way, there’s a quirky little site about tea, biscuits and our national drink called a Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down that you might like to visit.

0135, Daily Dose

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Sleep, Rest and Recoup

tired

Tips for a restful night’s sleep

If you’re reading this, logic tells me that you are concerned about lack of sleep.  First of all, it’s important to say that  while 8 hours is the accepted norm for a good night’s sleep, you needn’t necessarily feel bad because you routinely sleep for less than this.  Some people actually only need 4 hours (Margaret Thatcher being a famous example), while others are out for the count for a full 12 (just about every teenager on the planet).  

However, sleep deprivation, when your body is telling you that you need more rest (!),  can be both debilitating and depressing and no one really wants to resort to potentially addictive chemicals to solve the problem. There are so many possible causes, cures and herbal remedies that I thought it might be helpful to put together a whole list of them.  I hope you’ll find something here to help. 

Herbal Help

Lavender has been known for centuries to induce relaxation and can be used in a number of ways: a couple of drops of essential oil sprinkled on the corner of your pillow will help, as will  lavender oil in a cold diffuser placed in the lavender-1bedroom.

A warm bath, at the optimum time of two hours before bed, helps to regulate body temperature to an ideal level and is particularly helpful when combined with lavender products like bubble bath and body lotion.

Herbal teas can also prove useful – chamomile and valerian (which is often combined with hops) are both well-known for aiding relaxation and sleep.  While both will help with insomnia, I’ve read recently that valerian, especially when combined with ‘chaste tree’ may help with sleep maintenance. 

Extra help and accepted wisdom

Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise during the day can help to stop stress hormones from interfering with sleep.

Try to avoid heavy meals just before bed – a minimum two hour gap between meal and bed is a good idea.

art-deco-girl-11Avoid caffeine drinks like regular tea, coffee and cola in the evening.

Is your actual bed ‘up to muster’?  The lifespan of a bed depends largely upon quality but as a rule of thumb, if your bed is ten to twelve years old you should probably replace it.  (Here’s a tip: If you suffer from backache, it may just be your bed)!

Equally, do you need new pillows?  There are a huge variety of pillows out there – foam, feather, down – and it may just be that a change of pillow would help you get a restful night’s sleep.

Try to avoid sheets with a high synthetic content.  Sheets with a high cotton content allow your skin to breathe, which in turn makes the bed feel more comfortable.  (I tend to buy sheets with a maximum cotton / minimum polyester content, simply because I’ve found some pure cotton sheets can be an absolute swine to launder).

Environment

Try to ensure that your bedroom is furnished fairly simply and is clutter free.  Psychologically, a clutter free bedroom makes for a calmer and more relaxing atmosphere.

Look at using colours for walls, carpets and soft furnishings that you personally find relaxing.  Traditionally shades of blue and green evoke feelings of calm and relaxation in many people but you may have something else in mind.  (For example, I always seem to opt for gentle creams). 

Try not to watch TV or work in bed.  Your bedroom should become associated in your mind with your own haven of peace and utter relaxation.

off-to-bed1The best temperature for a relaxed sleep is surprisingly cool, i.e. 68 degrees.  Fit individual thermostats to radiators if you can so that you can keep your bedroom at this temperature (and save money)!

It goes without saying that minimising noise and light will also help – it’s strange but true that even though you are asleep you will become aware of increasing light levels in a room where the curtains / blinds allow the morning light to percolate through.

If you live in a quiet area and it is safe to do so, leaving a ‘top light’ /small window slightly ajar to let in some fresh air is a good idea.  Good sleep doesn’t happen easily in a stuffy, ‘sealed’ room with stale air.

Less obvious but worth mentioning anyway:

Airing the room each day, allowing a fresh supply of oxygen to flow through your room will keep it smelling sweet and welcoming.

Toss back the covers each morning to allow cool air to permeate the bed covers.  Even half an hour of this while you shower will keep the bed smelling fresh (not to mention keeping any mites at bay)!

Make the bed each day – an un-made bed doesn’t exactly call you to its gentle embrace, now does it?

Change the bed sheets each week (hopefully you knew that one already)!

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I really, really hope something here will be of help.  Let me know how you get on and…

Remember if this is an on-going problem and you feel at all concerned you should still talk to your doctor.

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Light hair rinse

Veronica LakeLight brown and blonde hair responds well to a rinse made from chamomile flowers, giving natural highlights and leaving the hair silky soft.

Chamomile tea is now readily available in grocery stores and a strong infusion made in a jug will work well. 

For purists, the old fashioned recipe for chamomile rinse is as follows:

Take 2 – 4 tablespoons of chamomile flowers and add to a pint of boiling water.  Allow to steep for 20 minutes to 3 hours.  When cool, strain and use as a final rinse on clean hair. 

In either case, if you can place a bowl under your hair to catch the excess you can rinse again and again, intensifying the results.

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Dark hair rinse

Lillie LangtryRosemary makes an excellent rinse solution for dark hair – reviving, adding lustre and helping to highlight natural tones.  It is also boosts circulation and as such helps to maintain a healthy head of hair.  

Add 2 tablespoons of rosemary leaves to a pint of boiling water. Steep for 20 minutes and then strain through muslin / cheesecloth into a glass container.  Use as a final rinse after shampooing.

As with all such rinses, if you arrange to have a bowl under your hair to catch the excess, you can rinse a few times in order to intensify the effect.

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