Friday, March 27, 2009

Herbal Treatments For Toenail Fungus, Part !

Ugly, unsightly, and embarrassing - that's how best to describe the condition of toenails infected with fungus. People with toenail fungus often avoid social situations that call for baring their feet, such as summer pool parties, strolling on the beach, or an evening out in your best dress and high-heeled sandals.

Onychomycosis is caused by microorganisms called dermatophytes, which are similar to those that cause athlete's foot. These organisms are ever- present on your clothes and in your shoes, the gym, and even your organically fortified garden soil. They're practically unavoidable.

Symptoms: One or more of your toenails will begin to look a bit abnormal. Color changes can appear, such as long, yellowish streaks or white patches that can be scraped off. The nail can lift and begin to separate from the nail bed, thicken, and become brittle and flaky. It can also become distorted in shape and begin to twist. This fungus can be transmitted easily to your fingernails, or to other members of your family for that matter, if you constantly pick at your toes without washing your hands afterward. It sounds disgusting, but lots of people do it unintentionally.

Treatment: In order to treat toenail fungus, you have to get underneath the nail, which can be difficult. The fungus lives on the soft skin of the nail bed. The herbs and oils in the recipes that I will give to you in the next 2 blogs have traditionally been used by herbalists with much success if applied at least once a day. Twice is best, though.

Prevention: Since toenail fungus is infectious, take the same precautions as you would with athlete's foot and wear the appropriate footwear when in public bathing places. Observe proper daily foot hygiene; keep feet fresh and dry with powder and clean changes of socks/hosiery; wear good-fitting, breathable shoes; and never trim toenails too close to the skin or cut the skin.

See A Physician If: Toenail fungus is difficult to treat and eradicate. It can be a persistent, nasty bugger - so to speak. If the above measures fail and you've tried the herbal recipes that I'll list in the next two blogs, visit your foot specialist / podiatrist. He or she may want to prescribe a topical or oral medication to combat the fungus or perhaps remove the diseased nail, depending on the severity of the infection. Medications are not without side effects, and do not always work, either.

Whichever treatment you choose - herbal or conventional medicine - remember that toenail fungus treatment takes time and consistency of treatment. Do not skip meds or herbal applications.

NOTE: Portions of this article were adapated from the book, "Natural Foot Care", by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 1998. All recommendations are made without guarantee on my part and I disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. This article is for educational purposes only and I recommend that the readers use their common sense with all herbal knowledge.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How Dry I Am: What To Look For In A Natural Moisturizer

It's that bewitching time of year for your poor skin . . . the end of winter and the start of spring. The time of year when the humidity is still relatively low, the house is still being heated with forced hot air or a wood/coal stove, and your skin, fingernails, and feet are yearning for warmth and moisture. Basically, most of you are feeling parched and itchy - all over. What to do?

Firstly, you need to exfoliate your body at least once per week so that you remove the outer layer of dead skin cells - in order for your moisturizer to best penetrate and be absorbed. This exfoliation can be done using a gentle body scrub, a body brush, or a loofah sponge. For facial exfoliation, a very gentle facial scrub made with jojoba wax beads, ground oatmeal or almond meal or sunflower seed meal can be used or you can apply a homemade papaya pulp or yogurt mask. A good quality wash cloth will suffice - especially if you have sensitive skin - if you wish to keep it simple. Recipes for exfoliants are given in my book, Organic Body Care Recipes.

I'm going to share with you a list of key ingredients to look for when purchasing a natural, chemical-free (if possible) moisturizer for either face, body, or feet.

Emollients and Occlusives - These ingredients are used to soften, coat, and smooth the stratum corneum (outer layer of skin) and hold water / moisture inside the skin: beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, organic almond oil, evening primrose oil, squalane, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, sunflower seed oil, lanolin, olive oil, wheat germ oil, vitamin E, linoleic acid, kukui nut oil, jojoba oil, non-petroleum jelly, organic soybean oil. You may find products containing mineral oil, dimethicone (silicone), and petrolatum, but those are best avoided as they are not compatible with human skin.

Humectants - These are ingredients that have high water absorption capabilities (attracting water from the atmosphere to your skin) and are water soluble. They will not clog your pores: vegetable glycerin, hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, amino acids, lactic acid, honey, urea, sorbitol, algae or seaweed extract, marshmallow root extract, comfrey root extract, polysaccharides (sugars), peptides or proteins, panthenol, NAPCA (sodium PCA). There are others such as propylene glycol and butylene glycol that are synthetic chemicals and irritants - best avoided.

Here's to soft, radiant, beautiful, moist skin. Happy Spring!

(NOTE: All recommendations are made without guaranteee on the part of the author, Stephanie Tourles - lic. holistic esthetician, aromatherapist, and herbalist. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information and recommends that the reader use their common sense. This information is for educational purposes only.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Maximize Your Nutrition: Part IV

Essential Fatty Acids: Raw Sunflower & Pumpkin Seeds

I realize that at the beginning of the "Maximize Your Nutrition" segment . . . I told you there would be three parts to the discussion . . . but I just had to add a "Part IV" regarding the importance of essential fatty acids to skin care.

There is a simple snack mix you can make that will boost the vitality of your skin and health. Mix equal parts of raw, hulled sunflower seeds and raw pumpkin seeds (sometimes called pepitas) in a plastic container or bag and carry this tasty, crunchy treat with you as a healthy fast-food snack or toss it in your daily salad in lieu of white-bread croutons. For a zestier taste, sprinkle a bit of your favorite salt-free seasoning on the mix.

These seeds have essential fats and substantial amounts of iron and zinc. Raw, unprocessed, unheated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may be two of the most powerful tools in your anti-wrinkle arsenal. Fat preserves your skin's suppleness and youthful dewiness. Raw fats also have potent anti-inflammatory properties, promoting heart health, relief of pain, and reduction of roseacea in the skin.

Other sources of essential fatty acids include daily consumption of a tablespoon or two of fresh flaxseed, extra-virgin olive, fish, or unrefined coconut oil. Try to mix them up and have a different one every day or so. A quarter-cup of raw walnuts is also a good, crunchy vegetarian source of omega- (or take a few capsules if you can't stand the fishy taste).

(NOTE: Portions of this article were adapted from the book, "Organic Body Care Recipes", by Stephanie Tourles, Storey Publishing, 2007. The information in this article is true and complete to the best of my knowledge. The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information and recommends that the reader use his/her common sense. This information is for educational purposes only.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Maximize Your Nutrition - Part III

"Whole Food Supplements - OPCs (Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins)

OPCs are another of my daily natural supplements that I swear by! My health and clarity of my skin wouldn't be what they are without this tasty, reddish-purple supplement. Yes, the long scientific name for OPCs is indeed a tongue-twister, but here's a short explanation: OPCs are becoming recognized as one of the most potent categories of anti-oxidants (which act as anti-aging or youthifying agents). They fight the free radicals that cause oxidation, the process responsible for the rusting of metal, the browning of a cut apple, or the appearance of brown age spots on your body. OPCs are present only in plants and have blue-green, yellow, red, and purple pigments.

An OPC supplement is available in liquid, capsule, or powdered form at any good health food store and often includes: red wine, purple and red grapes, prunes, raisins, blueberies, blackberries, red bilberries, lingonberries, raspberries, spinach, kale, currants, rose hips, turmeric, ginger, pine bark, grape seeds, green tea, gingko leaf, hawthorn leaf, and oregano. It's recommended that you include many of these foods in your daily diet. An added bonus: Liquid OPC formulations are usually quite delicious, tasting like fruit juice.

NOTE: Portions of this article were adapted from the book, "Organic Body Care Recipes" by Stephanie Tourles, 2007, Storey Publishing. The information in this article is true to the best of my knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author. She recommends that readers use their common sense. This information is for educational purposes only.