Natural Product Reviews
Natural product reviews are a great way to find out the truth about the products you buy. Are the products you buy really completely natural or do they simply contain some natural ingredients? A good example is Palmolive. They have a range of soaps they call “Naturals”. But flip that bar over and check out the ingredients on the back. And what do you find? That there are a raft of hidden nasties that are anything but natural.
8 Great Ways to Use Castile Soap –
and make space in your cupboards at the same time!
Castile soap is one of my greatest discoveries. It’s biodegradable, and contains pure, completely natural ingredients. With no hidden nasties, this liquid soap can be safely used by the whole family.
Before I found out about castile, I used a range of different products for my hair, hands, face, body, dishes, and household cleaners. Nowadays, I have far fewer bottles clogging up my cupboards and far more pennies in my pocket. That’s because castile soap is my one-stop-shop.
I use this formulation as a shampoo, hand soap, body wash, and dish-washing liquid. It’s a staple ingredient in my household cleaning products too. Castile soap is magic when it comes to streak-free windows and doing the laundry. Watch this space for my favourite cleaning and toiletries recipes, using castile soap as a key ingredient.
Used neat on stains, this wonder soap equals – if not surpasses – commercial stain removers – and costs a fraction of the price to your pocket – and to the environment. I also use it for rinsing my fruit and veggies, as it is very effective when it comes to removing pesticides, waxes and other residues I don’t want my family consuming.
One of the best-known brands of the liquid castile formulation is Dr Bronner’s. However, I much prefer Dr Woods’ version because it is much richer and you get far more bang for your buck. This really is a case where it does what it says on the label:
What’s more, because it’s 100% natural, this soap is completely safe for use by the entire family. Plant-based, castile soap is extremely popular among vegetarians and vegans too.
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7 Reasons Why You Should Drink Kombucha Every Day
“So what is Kombucha exactly?”
Kombucha is a delicious living health drink. I’m often asked what it tastes like. The best I can come up with, is a combination between sparkling apple cider and champagne. So, why wouldn’t you want to drink Kombucha every day?!
Until relatively recently, Kombucha was a secret well-kept by the Chinese. Its health benefits have been enjoyed in the Far East for over 2,000 years. Indeed, the Chinese refer to the drink as the “Immortal Health Elixir”.
This health tea belongs to the group of foods known as fermented – or cultured – foods, and its health benefits are wide-ranging and remarkable.
“What health benefits can I enjoy if I drink kombucha?”
The health benefits associated with drinking kombucha can be summarised under seven main headings, namely:
- Immune health.
- Joint Care & Anti-ageing.
- Cancer prevention.
- Weight loss.
Kombucha is a great detoxifier. Its ability to counteract liver cell toxicity is remarkable. In one study, liver cells were exposed to a toxin that should have resulted in liver damage or death. Kombucha was also added to the mix, and the liver cells survived unharmed! The researchers concluded that this was:
“probably due to its antioxidant activity and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.”
When you drink Kombucha, it improves digestion in a number of ways:
- Counteracts free radicals
The ancient tea counteracts free radicals that would otherwise wreak havoc in the digestive system. Secondly, the elixir contains high levels of beneficial acids (acetic, lactic and gluconic), probiotics, and enzymes. These play a significant role in supporting digestion.
2. Heals and Seals the Gut
Kombucha has also been found to prevent and heal leaky gut syndrome and stomach ulcers. Indeed, in one study, Kombucha has also been found to be as effective as Omeprazole (Losec) in treating heartburn, gastro-oesophageal reflux (GERD) and ulcers.
3. Treatment of Candida Yeast
If you drink Kombucha, you can also help treat an overgrowth of Candida yeast within the gut. This is because the tea contains live probiotic cultures. It’s these cultures that help the gut to repopulate with good bacteria while crowding out the Candida yeast.
Health Benefit #2: Powerful Digestive Aid
As well as probiotics, Kombucha contains beneficial bacteria, (“apathogens”). These apathogens counteract the “bad” pathogens in the gut and digestive tract.
According to a study published in the Food Microbiology journal, the health tea contains no less than four different strains of probiotic:
- Gluconacetobacter (>85 percent in most samples)
- Acetobacter (<2 percent)
- Lactobacillus (up to 30 percent in some samples)
- Zygosaccharomyces (>95 percent).
Health Benefit #3: Boosts Energy
There are a number of reasons why kombucha is an energising beverage. During the fermentation process, iron is released from the black tea. This iron helps boost blood haemoglobin. As a result, there is an improved supply of oxygen to the tissues. The knock-on-effect, is a greater stimulation of the energy-producing process (ATP) at the cellular level. Kombucha also contains a small amount of caffeine, together with b-vitamins, which can energise the body.
Health Benefit #4: Immune Health
If you drink Kombucha, you benefit from the powerful antioxidant known as D-saccharic acid-1, 4-lactone (DSL). Scientists suspect that DSL and the vitamin C that is also present, are responsible for the tea’s ability to protect against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, tumours, and to boost the immune system.
Kombucha contains glucosamines, which are used to prevent and treat joint pain and arthritis. This is because glucosamines increase the production of synovial hyaluronic acid. And it is hyaluronic acid which preserves the structure, lubrication and flexibility of the cartilage in the joints.
Hyaluronic acid lessens free radical damage. Indeed, it is an essential component of collagen production. And it’s that wonderful substance – collagen – that reduces wrinkles and slows down the skin ageing process. But don’t take my word for it – you can read at least two studies confirming these findings here and here.
Health Benefit #6: Cancer Prevention
Kombucha is also a powerful force when it comes to cancer prevention and recovery. The reason for this, is the fact that the tea contains glucaric acid. A study published in Cancer Letters found that if you drink kombucha, then the glucaric acid it contains, reduced the risk of cancer in humans.
This health tea is high in acetic acid and polyphenols. So if you drink Kombucha, it will help improve metabolism and limit fat accumulation.
Personally, I find that it’s also a great appetite suppressant.
Health Benefit #7: Weight Loss
“But I read somewhere that there are risks associated with drinking Kombucha?”
Since the Western World discovered kombucha, it has continued to gain in popularity. It has attracted some bad press, too. But then, what natural product hasn’t? If a substance is naturally occurring, then pharmaceutical companies can’t patent it. It follows, that there’s little financial incentive to conduct extensive clinical trials into its efficacy. If that doesn’t provide you with enough comfort, then perhaps this will. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Kappa Laboratories, Miami, Florida, U.S.A. (1995), have carried out microbiological and biochemical tests and reported that kombucha tea is safe for human consumption.
Yes, if you try to ferment kombucha in less than sanitary conditions, using unclean utensils and containers then, chances are, you’re going to encourage undesirable bacteria and other contaminants to flourish. But, unlike some contaminated meats, fish and other food products, you won’t be able to overlook a bad batch of kombucha. For a start, it will stink to high heaven! Secondly, it will look mouldy.
In order to make kombucha, you need a scoby disc. I have a dear friend who insists on calling it a Scooby, which never ceases to make me giggle. Anyway, I digress. So, Scoby is an acronym for a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. A bit of a mouthful, hence most people tend to stick with scoby, or kombucha culture.
The other vital ingredients for making the tea, are kombucha brew, green or black tea, and sugar. As soon as you mention sugar, this can send some people into a bit of a tail spin. After all, sugar is the root of all evil right? Well, not where scobys are concerned.
That’s because these lovely little creatures like to “eat” the sugar. Or, in more technical terms, the sugar initiates the fermentation process. Think of it like adding sugar to yeast when making bread. Like yeast, the scoby carbonates the kombucha, giving it its characteristic tingle on the tongue.
The fermentation process also produces vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, lactic and gluconic.) These goodies were discussed in the health benefits section above.
Things to Note
1. Potential Side-Effects
The majority of people who drink kombucha, enjoy many health benefits and experience no side-effects. However, those with compromised immune systems, or digestive problems, should be aware of the possibility of interactions and side effects. As with all food preparation, side effects are also more of a risk when proper hygiene practices are not followed.
2. Sensitivity to sugar, caffeine or alcohol.
Kombucha is brewed using green or black tea, and sugar. When fermented, small amounts of alcohol are produced (about 1 percent). Because plain kombucha is very low in sugar (about 2 grams per 8 ounce), it’s unlikely to cause problems for people with diabetes. Nevertheless, proceed with caution and monitor blood sugar levels and associated symptoms if you have this condition.
The low levels of caffeine can aggravate anxiety disorders and digestive problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Also, because kombucha contains high levels of acidity, it’s possible that this can cause problems for people with digestive problems, such as leaky gut syndrome. It’s therefore advisable to start by consuming a small amount of kombucha at a time and listen to what your body is telling you.
As with most health supplements and medications, pregnant and lactating women are advised to consult with a medical practitioner before consuming the tea.
Kombucha boasts many health benefits, and is perfectly safe to drink for most people provided that appropriate food hygiene practices are employed.
You can easily make this tasty brew at home for a very low cost. You can find a recipe for plain and flavoured kombucha here.
And, if you would like your very own scoby, or a complete starter kit, we have those too! Check us out at The Kombucha Shop.
- Abshenas, J., Derakhshanfar, A., Ferdosi, M.H. et al. Protective effect of kombucha tea against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice: a biochemical and histopathological study. Comp Clin Pathol (2012) 21: 1243. doi:10.1007/s00580-011-1273-9.
- American Cancer Society. Kombucha Tea. Available at: http://www.cancer.org.
- Banerjee D, et al. Comparative healing property of kombucha tea and black tea against indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration in mice: possible mechanism of action. Food Funct. 2010 Dec;1(3):284-93. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00025f. PMID: 21776478.
- Bhattacharya S, et al. Protective effect of kombucha tea against tertiary butyl hydroperoxide induced cytotoxicity and cell death in murine hepatocytes. Indian J. Exp Biol 2011; 49: 511–524.
- Bhattacharya S, et al. Hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea against TBHP-induced oxidative stress via suppression of mitochondria dependent apoptosis. Pathophysiology 2011; 18:221–234.
- Banerjee D, et al. Comparative healing property of kombucha tea and black tea against indomethacin-induced gastric ulceration in mice: possible mechanism of action. Food Funct 2010; 1: 284–293.
- Chen WY, Abatangelo G (1999). “Functions of hyaluronan in wound repair”. Wound Repair Regen. 7 (2): 79–89. doi:10.1046/j.1524-475x.1999.00079.x. PMID 10231509.
- Danielian LT. Kombucha and Its Biological Features. Meditsina, Moscow, 2005.
- Dufresne C, et al. Tea, kombucha and health: a review. Food Res Int 2000; 33: 409–421.
- Fu NF, et al. Clearance of free silica in rat lungs by spraying with chinese herbal kombucha. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013; 2013:790792.
- Jayabalan, R., Malbaša, R. V., Lončar, E. S., Vitas, J. S. and Sathishkumar, M. (2014), A Review on Kombucha Tea—Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 13: 538–550. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12073.
- Marsh AJ, et al. Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples. Food Microbiol 2014; 38:171-8.
- Rashid K, et al. An update on oxidative stress-mediated organ pathophysiology. Food Chem Toxicol 2013; 62:584-600.
- Sai Ram M, et al. Effect of kombucha tea on chromate(VI)-induced oxidative stress in albino rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2010; 71: 235– 240.
- Sato T, Sacramento O, Danka W, Yoshida K, and Urishibata, O: Clinical Effects of dietary hyaluronic acid on dry, rough skin. J. Aesthetic Dermatology Vol. 12 109-120, 2002.
- Vīna I, et al. Current Evidence on Physiological Activity of Kombucha Fermented Beverage and Expected Health Effects. J Med Food 2013; [Epub ahead of print].
- Walaszek, Z: Potential use of d-glucaric acid derivatives in cancer prevention. Cancer Letters Vol 54, Issues 1–2, 1-8, 8 October 1990.
- Wang, K et al. Determination of d-saccharic acid-1,4-lactone from brewed kombucha broth by high-performance capillary electrophoresis. Journal of Chromatography B Volume 878, Issues 3–4, 2010, Pages 371–374.
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How to get rid of Fruit Flies the Natural Way
Fruit Flies – Pesky Little Critters
While we need fruit flies to decompose our organic waste, when they set up home in our house, they can be a real nuisance. Have you ever tried eating dark chocolate with a house full of fruit flies? Well, I can tell you, it’s not pleasant, having them buzzing around your head, trying desperately to get in your mouth every time you want to pop another piece of chocolate in! And drinking wine is almost impossible. Leave your glass unattended for any time at all, and you’ll end up with a cake-hole full of the little blighters the next sip you take.
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies – Step 1
So, here’s what you need to do to get rid of these irksome little pests. First, identify the source of the problem. For me, it’s always the bench top compost bin. In the height of Summer, no matter how well I clean it out after emptying, I just don’t seem to be able to prevent the swarm of fruit flies forming as soon as we put more fruit scraps inside. So when it’s hot, I have to put my bin outside the front door. Which, I might add, is really inconvenient. I have just purchased a new compost bin, together with certified compostable liners in the hope that I can keep the bin inside without a swarm of fruit fly invaders accompanying it. If my plan works, I’ll post a link to the product I’ve bought.
Step 2 – The Cool Part
You will need:
- A container
- Food wrap
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Dishwashing liquid
Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting food scraps. And in this regard, apple cider vinegar is the nectar of the Gods. So pop some in a container, about an inch deep. Add a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid. Rather than taking their fill and flying off again, this ingredient causes the poor little critters to sink straight to the bottom. And to be absolutely sure these pesky little pests don’t manage to escape, cover the container in food wrap. Add some thumb-sized holes for entry into your fruit fly trap, and sit back and watch the magic happen.
In my infinite wisdom, I forgot to empty our compost bin before we went on holiday for three weeks. So, you can well imagine the mayhem that awaited us on our return. I put the bin outside, and set up a fruit fly trap that evening. By the following day, the only fruit flies you could see, were the ones whose final resting place was at the bottom of my trap. Problem solved, leaving us free to drink our wine, and eat our dark chocolate in peace.
Henna for Hair – the healthy hair-colouring solution
What is Henna for hair?
Pure henna is a green powder that originates from the leaves of the henna plant. The active ingredient responsible for the characteristic red-orange colour, is Lawsone. If you want to dye your hair a different colour, you must mix henna with other ingredients.
A Word of Warning
If you see products marketed as henna, which dye your hair colours other than red-orange, then they contain additional ingredients to achieve the desired result. Many of these additives are nasty chemicals that are far from good for your hair. Or, more importantly, for you. Metal salts, such as lead, silver, and iron are but a few of the additives found in impure henna. They react with the ammonia in chemical hair dyes, and damage chemically treated hair. In some cases, the combination can actually turn your hair green!
PPD (para-phenylenediamine) is often added to create a darker colour, and may be described (erroneously) as “black henna”. Regular exposure to PPD can result in chemical sensitivity, dermatitis, or far worse.[1. United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Health and Environmental Effects Profile for Phenylenediamines – http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/phenylen.html.]
- Henna is great for your hair.
- You can use it as often as you wish.
- Much cheaper than going to a salon.
- Creates natural highlights.
- No nasty chemicals.
- It’s safe to use on chemically treated hair.
- Can be mixed with other herbs to produce different colours.
- Produces a vibrant colour that doesn’t fade.
- It’s messy.
- Time consuming.
- If it’s not pure henna, it could fry chemically-dyed hair – or turn it green!
- Henna won’t lighten hair.
- Over time, henna can straighten wavy or curly hair.
- Henna has a distinctive smell.
When I started using henna, I had very little grey hair, and was able to get great results with the stuff sold in the bulk bins at my local Indian grocery store. I loved my deep red curly locks. Over time, however, I began to notice that an unattractive orange colour was appearing at my roots at the front of my hair. I made the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water, and turned to boxed henna instead. This gave me much better, uniform coverage, and I had a choice of colours – great, right? Wrong! I was unwittingly drenching my hair in nasty chemicals, which had the opposite effect to the pure stuff I had been using. My locks became dry and dull. What’s more, I was becoming frustrated with tearing open numerous sachets to make up the amount of dye required to colour almost waist-length hair.
That’s when I turned to Kali Mehendi – which I thought was fabulous. One little sachet, mixed with a little water, created a convenient shampoo that did a great job in as little as ten minutes. Unfortunately, this brand only came in black – but what the heck – it was so convenient, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. For starters, the tingling I was experiencing on my scalp, was due to the high concentrations of PPD the Kali Mehendi contained. Moreover, it was destroying my hair. My curly tresses were becoming so damaged, that my trademark curls were straightening out and becoming limp and lifeless. What I also didn’t realise at the time, was that once you go black, there really is no way back. Chemical dyes are out, because the metallic salts added to the compound henna react with the ammonia, and fry your hair. Henna can’t lighten dark hair, and there’s no darker than black, so you’re basically stuck with it. The only option is to grow it out, or opt for a major hair cut.
Below are some of the boxed brands that I have used (and will not be using again):
In an attempt to get around the problem, I carried out a great deal of research. That’s when I came across Surya Henna Cream which, it claimed was:
“Guaranteed to Cover Gray and White Hair on the First Application”
“formulated with a botanical complex of 15 herbs and fruits from India and Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.”
I liked the fact that it came as a pre-mixed cream. The bottle was equipped with a convenient applicator nozzle, and it took only thirty minutes for the colour to develop. Unfortunately, the reality was that it didn’t cover the grey – despite claiming to do so. Worse, it contained a number of far from natural, nourishing ingredients, including:
dipropylene glycol methyl ether, cetearyl alcohol, cetrimonium chloride, benzyl alcohol (and)dehydroacetic acid, aminomethyl propanol, sodium citrate, HC blue 2, HC yellow 4, disperse black 9, disperse violet 1.
It was then that I discovered the truth about henna – namely that pure henna comes in only one form – a green powder that dyes hair an orange-red colour. There is no such thing as “black” or “brown” henna – or any other colour for that matter. The only natural way to achieve these shades, is by the addition of other herbs. Adding indigo creates a darker result. A little indigo creates a gorgeous deep red colour, as in the photo below. A lot, turns your hair raven black – and there are many shades in between (more on this in my next article).
Another revelation, was the fact that there is an enormous variation in the purity of “pure” henna. In all likelihood, the bulk bin stuff I was using contained impurities, and was stale. Hence the traffic-cone orange effect on my grey. Only pure, fresh henna gives that beautiful deep red hue – especially on grey roots. Had I known this at the time, I would have switched to a brand that guaranteed purity and freshness. My hair would still be in great condition and I wouldn’t be stuck growing out dry, damaged, black hair. I’m now applying pure henna mixed with indigo (in equal measures) to my roots. The result? A silver lining in the form of the gradual transformation from dull black, to glossy red-brown lustrous locks.
What’s your story?
If you have used henna, and have an experience to share, I’d love to hear from you.
Where to from here?
In my next article, I’ll be looking at the techniques you can use to get the most out of your henna.