Thursday, September 12, 2013

Make Your Own Toothpaste (and Why You Should)

I have been buying fluoride-free toothpaste for years, since I learned that it was affecting my thyroid.  But when I started coming across people making their own toothpaste I was excited to try it.  Here I will outline some of the dangers of conventional toothpaste and include two recipes for making your own.  It's remarkably easy and I love the end product.  I'm hooked!

The ingredients in most toothpastes are toxic.  Ever wonder why there are warnings all over your kids toothpaste tube not to take internally?  Half a tube of typical fluoridated toothpaste can kill a child.  And anything that goes in your mouth, even if it isn't swallowed, is absorbed even more quickly than things you apply to your skin.  I'm not trying to be alarmist.  Just stating facts.

The perils of fluoride are real, though dentists still push the party line handed to us back in the 1950s.  If you were like me, you grew up with fluoride rinses, gel treatments, and Crest toothpaste all full of fluoride to make our teeth stronger.  The thing is, much like pharmaceutical drugs like Boniva, it makes the tooth appear stronger on bone scans, but internally it becomes more porous and delicate.  Fluoride is a highly toxic chemical that causes multiple health problems.  Primarily:
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Thyroid Dysfunction/ Endocrine Disruption
  • Arthritis
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Kidney Problems
  • Male Fertility Issues
  • Skeletal Fluorosis
  • Acute Toxicitcy
Fluoride is common in rat poison and the Nazis used to put it in the prisoners' water - because it's known to placate people and make them easier to control.  Learn more: For more information on the risks and dangers of fluoride, how cities around the country and countries around the world are fighting to get fluoride out of our drinking water, check out:

So here are two toothpaste recipes that are fast, inexpensive, and effective.  I made them with my eight-year-old daughter and we had lots of fun trying different recipes and flavors including peppermint, lavender, lemon, and cinnamon.  These are the two that we agreed we liked the best.  She liked lemon flavored with glycerine and more stevia and I preferred the cinnamon with coconut oil and less, so I will call these kid and adult recipes respectively.  I really enjoy this toothpaste more than any I've ever bought.  My teeth and mouth always feel great after I use it and a nice side benefit is that my lips are moisturized by the coconut oil!  Even my little girl loves using it. 

I prescribe this supplement to patients with bone density issues. It's also a nice supplement as it combines the important minerals for bone health with several Chinese herbs for the same purpose.  So for tooth re-mineralization, this is a great formula.  It comes in capsules which I emptied into the working mix. 

Kids Lemon Glycerine Toothpaste

6 teaspoon baking soda
1 capsule Bone Density Enhancer with minerals
1/4 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide
1 tablespoon glycerine
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil (more on oil pulling and why coconut oil is so great for your teeth in the next post.)
4 drops lemon essential oil
12 drops concentrated liquid stevia

Put baking soda and calcium and herb powder in a bowl and stir.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until you achieve desired texture. Add a small amount of baking soda if it’s runny; add more coconut oil if it’s too dry. Taste, and add more essential oil if you want a more flavorful paste. We found the Gootube at a local store so we can squeeze it out as needed. 

Grown Up Coconut Oil Cinnamon Toothpaste

6 tsp baking soda
4 capsules calcium and herb powder
1 drop Concentrace minerals
2 tbsp coconut oil
5 drops cinnamon essential oil
8 drops stevia

Friday, August 23, 2013

Delicious Late Summer Sandwich

I admit I love an easy dinner meal that doesn't heat up the house in the summer.  I also love to use the delicious produce I find in my CSA box a different way most every time.  Keeps things interesting.  So check out this yumminess: 

From bottom to top:
bread of choice
homemade organic mayo
homemade organic pesto
organic tomatoes a plenty
organic raw cheese
Starting with the bottom layer, I chose GLUTEN FREE BREAD:  Sandwiches are my comfort food when I fall off the Paleo wagon and wheat gluten is not my friend.  Lucky for those millions of us who can't tolerate it, there are some fairly good gf breads out there.  Next up,

MAYO: (oh how I love homemade mayo.  I really, really love it.) Olive oil, egg yolk, minced garlic, and lemon juice, salt and pepper in the food processor.  I must insert here that most commercial mayonnaise is made with soybean oil which, unless labeled certified organic, is genetically modified and especially when hydrogenated causes a number of health problems such as high cholesterol, reproductive issues and many more.  You'll also find high fructose corn syrup in many mayonnaise brands, phosphoric acid, "natural flavors," the malodextrin, etc. etc. Nightmare in a jar.

PESTO:  Blend fresh CSA basil (about a cup of leaves), CSA garlic (3 cloves),  cashew nuts, salt, and olive oil drizzled into the food processor to desired consistency.

TOMATOES: CSA fresh maters-- I like to pile them on.

RAW MILK CHEDDAR:  Lots of people have sensitivity to dairy, including my little one.  Raw milk cheese, however, doesn't seem to pose as much of a problem for most people with milder sensitivities.  And I'm not referring to organic milk, though that is definitely preferable to the GM milk with rGBH, but it is still pasturized and usually homogenized which causes our bodies to process it differently.  Raw cheese, because of the cheese making process, is safe to eat. I will add too that dairy is vilified in Chinese Medicine as a phlegm-producing substance and that cows milk is only suitable for baby cows.  True and true to an extent.  So choose wisely when you consume dairy.  I just really love cheese.  Don't you?

Toaster oven toast it.  Hence not heating up the kitchen, and Voila! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Healthy Fasting part 3

Late spring, early summer are ideal times for cleansing fasts. (In other words, now, assuming you are in my hemisphere).  Timing is important in Chinese Medicine in many aspects.  Each hour during the day corresponds to a different organ system, as does each season and element.  Think interconnected web.  In the spring, the world is green with new growth and upward-moving energy.  The leafy greens and sprouts that are naturally cleansing to our digestion are all around us.  And as we make the transition to summer, the season guided by the element fire, the heat both externally and internally stoke the digestive fire.  This is a time when your body, when in balance (even somewhat) with nature is reinforced with the strength to adopt a cleanse or complete fast. 
If this is your first fast I recommend that you not attempt during a regular work week, but a day when you can rest, relax and go inward.  As mentioned in part I, fasting has long been a spiritual tool for most every group of people in history.  Fasting brings your attention to the present moment.  The discomfort, the hunger pangs (for some), the change from your regular routine are satisfying to the spirit when mindfulness can be practiced. 
If you are trying to decide which fast is best for you, take these points into consideration:

1.  For first time fasting choose a fruit and vegetable fast for one to three days to begin.  In the spring and summer if digestion is not compromised by illness, raw fruits and vegetables are best.  Water and herb teas taken to thirst.  Nothing colder than room temperature should be consumed.

2.  For those with excess symptoms such as red face, rashes, constipation, excess heat, sweating easily, juice fasting with beet, cucumber, and celery can be very helpful. 

3.  For those with deficiency signs:  coldness, listlessness, loose stool, depression, dull aches in the joints a monofast would be a better choice.  Choose one or two foods to eat only each day, fully cooked.  Rice and a vegetable can be helpful.  White rice is more helpful to the spleen, buckwheat, mung bean, kidney bean, and adzuki bean can also be tonifying.  Remember to choose only two per fast and stick to those and make sure they are always fully cooked.  Again, no cold beverages.

4.  If a spiritual fast is more your focus, or there is a serious health crisis you are working to resolve, a water-only fast can be transformative.  In the past I fasted on luke-warm water only, but have found that mixing in chlorella, blue green algae, or spirulina not only kept the hunger and detox symptoms to a bare minimum, but also kept up my strength and focus for meditation and qi gong.

Remember to use common sense while cleansing and fasting.  Hydrate when necessary and take plenty of rest.  I like to repeat a phrase while fasting when I start to feel like I want to give up and go get a snack.  "I have the rest of my life to eat.  Today I am gifting my body and spirit a respite."  This always redirects my energy and builds resolve.   Discipline is just remembering what you want.

Again, children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should not fast. Nor should insulin-dependant diabetics or those with dramatically high blood pressure.
Happy fasting and please post questions or comments below or email me directly

Monday, May 6, 2013

First Blossom Farm and the Joy of Community Supported Agriculture

In grocery stores these days it's tough to always know  1. where your food was grown,
2.  who picked it,
3.  what pesticides and herbicides may have been involved,
4.  whether or not it was genetically modified, and
5.  how long it has been in a truck driving to you. 
All these problems are solved by joining a CSA, or community supported agriculture farm.  The brilliance of a CSA is that you subscribe to "your" farm.  You meet your farmer/s and pay them ahead of time to work their magic throughout the growing season.

 My new CSA this year is First Blossom Farm in Leicester, a few miles west of my house, and here is my farmer, Veronica Sotolongo.  She grows a huge variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs and raises chickens to boot, so for an extra share price, I will get eggs each week too!  She brings them to a farmers market close to me every week May-November.  Another bonus is that my weekly bushel of produce from Veronica promises to save quite a bit off the grocery store price and puts superior-quality produce in my hands that hasn't travelled thousands of miles. 

Veronica prides herself on her low impact approach which means doing most everything by hand and using as few fossil fuels as possible.  Wherever you are there are CSAs in business now.  In the Asheville area alone there are over 50 with farmers markets every day throughout the growing season.  Don't miss out.  Help small farmers keep us healthy!  Support your local small farmer today and reap the rewards.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Art and Health by Court McCracken, Guest Blogger

My name is Court McCracken and I am an artist, writer and teacher. I write about creativity as a part of a balanced, rich and full life on my blog Art Nurture (


I have always known that my art was more than just my major or my profession, but also my passion and part of what made me feel fully alive.


For many years I have struggled with some chromic pain. I tried many supposedly “conventional” methods of handling that pain, all of which led to other complications and issues and none of which actually helped heal the cause of the pain. The pain was so bad at times I was forced to step away from my studio or cancel a class.


Being the type of person that I am, I was unwilling to accept that this was something I had to live with; I believed there was something that could help me. 


For me, engaging in my art and my creativity is a part of my balanced and healthy lifestyle and I guide others on how to do this in their own lives. For some, this method of engaging with life in this way could seem alternative, though to me it seems very natural.


A friend of mine recommended that I try acupuncture for my pain management and healing. I am embarrassed to say that it was sort of my “last resort” as I had tried so many other things only to be let down.  I found Lara and scheduled an initial consultation regarding my pain and she believed she would most certainly be able to work with me. I have to say that I had no idea what to expect when I headed to my first appointment, but Lara’s gentle and caring manner put me at ease.


I felt like I was actually being listened to when I talked about my pain and the related struggles. I felt that Lara was paying attention to the many parts of the whole that is “me”.


I am now happy to say, that I am going into my sixth month of monthly acupuncture visits and daily herbal regimen and it is the only thing that has ever helped me manage my pain and heal my condition. The results for me have been phenomenal and I am grateful to be seeking more balance and health in this area of my life so that I can continue my work of helping others achieve health and balance when it comes to their unique art and creativity. What was once my last resort has become my most effective modality of healing in this area of my life. I wholeheartedly recommend Lutea to anyone who asks me how I am doing with my pain these days.


If you would like to hear more about my work with helping others connect with their creativity, please check out my website at


Warmest Regards,

Court McCracken

Monday, April 22, 2013

Healthy Fasting Part 2

Now that you know the benefits of fasting, time to choose how you'll do it.  Yes, there are options!  The type of fast you choose should depent upon your current health needs.  The time of year also matters a great deal.  Right now, spring here in southeastern US, when the weather is consistently warm, is a great time to start a short fast, and work your way up periodically to longer fasts if you desire.   Again, children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should not fast. Nor should insulin-dependant diabetics or those with dramatically high blood pressure.

Five Primary Types of Fasts:

1. Raw Fruit and Vegetable Fast:
 Consuming only raw fruits and raw vegetables during the length of the fast.  Most fruits and vegetables don't combine well, so choose fruits at one meal, vegetables at the next.  This fast can also include vegetable juices, water, and unsweetened herbal teas according to thirst. 
**This type of fast is for a robust person, one who is not often cold or has weakness in any of the organ systems. This is a helpful fast for one who has been indulging in processed food and or excess meat. Also helpful for those with constipation, redness of the face and or eyes and heat signs. 

2.  Steamed-Vegetable Fast:
Consuming only steamed vegetables, preferrably 1-2 at a time, 3 at the most.  Drinking only water or unsweetened herbal teas according to thirst. 
**This is a great fast for those who tend to overeat, especially sweets which throws off the balance of good bacteria in the gut.  In these cases, cutting out all suger, even fruit sugar is important during the fast.  Also good for those who tend to be cool or deficient in an organ system.

3.  Juice Fast: 
 Vegetable OR fruit juice only made from fresh organic produce and drunk immediately. A high-powered juicer is necessary for this fast. Bottled juices are not appropriate for fasting due to the qualityfor a variety of r It's best to choose one or two vegetables or fruits to focus on for the duration.  Water and unsweetened herbal teas can also be taken.
**This is a helpful fast for those struggling with chronic illness.  In a follow-up post I will outline which fruits and vegetables, according to Chinese Medicine theory treat which imbalances.  Daikon radish, for instance is great for clearing phlegm from the head and lungs.  Celery is excellent for draining edema, etc.

4.  Absolute Fast
The absolute fast consists of no food or drink taken for 36 hours.  Begin at 7 pm the first evening and end early the second morning.  This type of fasting should be prepared for by beginning with one of the above fasts for a day or so, especially if you are new to fasting.  This type of fast can accomplish more in 36 hours than the others can over a week or so.  The Native Americans would typically fast on air for four days, sometimes up to 40. 
This type of fast is quite helpful for those who suffer water retention, excess body weight, candida overgrowth, or sluggishness.  This type of fast is not advised for the thin or overheated person. 

Happy Fasting!  Stay tuned for part 3 of  Healthy Fasting for details about when, how, and tips on what to do when it's really tough and ideas for breaking the fast.  Please post questions or comments below.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Healthy Fasting Part 1

Fasting has been a means of spiritual, mental and physical purification in most every religious tradition as far back as we can trace including Christianity, Judaism, Muslim, Native American religions and many others.

Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic health traditions have embraced fasting for centuries as a means of cleansing the body-mind-spirit.  Ours is a culture of excess with little experience of deprivation.  Fasting for one who has not had the experience can be healing and liberating in many ways.  My personal experiences with 7-10 day fasts have proven to be quite valuable, regulating and health-restoring.

Fasting has many health benefits:

1.  It gives the digestive system a much-needed break.  Especially when there is gastric irritation including Crohns disease, colitis, leaky-gut or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 

2.  Digestion demands a great deal of energy.  Fasting frees that energy, known as Gu Qi in Chinese Medicine for healing of all organ systems and bodily processes including eliminating phlegm and acid.

3.  Fasting provides clarity of mind and a sense of lightness and improves mood.

4.  Fasting is remarkably helpful at aiding detoxification of the body.

5.  Fasting increases energy and often resolves fatigue.

6.  Fasting for at least 48 hours resets all body processes including hunger, peristalsis, blood sugar and metabolism. Fat is lost, yes, but more importantly it helps the body reach homeostasis for the long term.

*Special note:  Children, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should not fast.  Nor should insulin-dependant diabetics or those with dramatically high blood pressure fast.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Healthy Fasting where I will discuss the different types of fasts and best times to fast as well as which is best for each of us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Healthy Digestion without Drugs: 10 Tips

I know by now that ailments show up in my clinic in groups, and these last couple of weeks have been all about indigestion and acid reflux. So let's tackle this question.  In Chinese Medicine there are several patterns responsible for acid relfux and indigestion.  So it's best to isolate the pattern and get to the root of the problem instead of taking a catch-all over the counter, or prescription medication.  In my clinic I diagnose the pattern and use acupuncture and herbs to treat the condition and I'm usually able to help my patients wean off their medication, much to their relief.  Here I'd like to outline a few ways to maintain a healthy digestive tract naturally in your everyday life.

Lots of people take antacids.  And yes, it's possible to take Tums or Pepcid or even a proton pump inhibitor everyday for the rest of your life and survive.  But at what cost?  There is even a common misconception that it is a good idea to take Tums daily for calcium!  Let me tell you why this is really not a good idea. 

Antacids neutralize stomach acid.  When the hydrochloric acid in our stomach loses it's potency our bodies are no longer able to fully digest our dinner, and partially-digested food causes systemic problems. Also, changing the pH of the gut causes an imbalance of friendly flora putting you at risk for infection by the unfriendly types. Some believe that antacids even help set the stage for infection with Helicobacter pylori the bacterium that causes ulcers. In fact, sometimes antacids will cause your stomach to produce more acid, a condition called acid rebound, which makes heartburn worse. 
Here's the really interesting bit:  "Once you let partially digested foods leave your stomach, your body treats this partially digested food as foreign. The resulting immune response can result in food sensitivities and fatigue. You begin missing out on some of the nutrients and fats that your body needs. In addition, partially-digested foods often ferments in the intestines causing more gas. Added to this is the upset of the balance of friendly bacteria needed for a healthy immune system and antacids can contribute to colon problems."
{"Digestion Problems," Women's Health Letter, Nan Fuchs, PhD, Feb. 2002}

In short, the best thing you can do for your digestion is to stop taking antacids.

So What To DO?  Try these 10 Tips.

1.  In Chinese Medicine the adage is "Drink your food and chew your drink." This means chew your food so well that it is liquid before swallowing.  And sip your water, taking your time, instead of gulping.  Interestingly, chewing each bite of food 50 times helps digestion dramatically, brings conciousness to eating, and slows down your eating which can also help in dropping excess body fat.

2. Take raw, unfiltered, organic  apple cider vinegar--2 tablespoons up to three times per day in warm water.  While it is acidic going down, it becomes alkalyzing in your system.  It is also thought to help when antacids have been used to excess, as it is balancing.   If the taste is too strong, add a teaspoon of honey to help it go down.

3. Avoid your triggers!  They are different for everyone.  The usual suspects are coffee, alcohol, (especially red wine), spicy foods, tomatoes, carbonated drinks, and chocolate.  One of the biggest culprits and something most every human should avoid: deep fried food.  Even something as healthy as ginger root which is often touted for its stomach soothing properties can aggravate acid reflux, as can peppermint oil.

4. Food sensitivities can often cause digestive upset.  Gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar can all be triggers.  I recommend cutting them all out for a week and then adding them back in one at a time to see if any cause disruption to your digestion.  Or ask your doctor for a blood test for food allergies.

5.  As we age, our body produces fewer digestive enzymes and less stomach acid.  Taking a digestive enzyme supplement daily can be very effective at normalizing digestion.  There are lots of good ones out there.  I like All-Zyme Double Strength (a plant source supplement) by Rainbow Light, but the important thing is to find a food based supplement with a combination of amylase, protease, lipase, and cellulase.

6.  About half the population over 60 has insufficient stomach acid.  This condition, called hypochlorhydria, can present with indigestion, brittle nails and hair, rosacea, asthma, food allergies, bacterial and yeast overgrowth.  Hypochlorhydria can also be caused by H2 blockers, antacids like Tums, and proton pump inhibitors.  This can usually be quickly helped with supplemention of Betaine HCl 500-1000 mg per day with meals.

7.  Pure 100% Aloe Vera juice is very helpful for settling the stomach after eating, and also a great way to regulate bowels.  It is cooling, alkalyzing, and soothing to mucosal tissue.

8.  Exercise regularly and your digestion will follow suit. 
9.  Dao yin, a special form of Qi Gong, designed to be done lying down, incorporates a belly-massage technique that is wonderful for digestion.  It works well.  With firm pressure, rub one or both hands in a circular motion over the abdomen, encircling the navel in a clockwise direction.  It is recommended to be done 81 times while lying down at night.

10.  Eat and drink everything at room temperature or warmer.  In Chinese medicine we say that the stomach is constantly trying to reach 100 degree soup.  In fact, soup is one of the best, most easiliy digestible things to eat.  The spleen and stomach become stressed by too many raw foods, according to CM theory.  Steaming, roasting or baking are your best bets. You will be surprised how much this one habit helps indigestion better than anything else.  So no ice cream, no cold drinks from the fridge, no cold salads. 

Questions?  Comments?  Post below, and please share.

Call to make an appointment 828-582-5403.  Lara Ferguson Diaz, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M. (NCCAOM)  is an acupuncturist in private practice partnering with Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville.




Monday, February 25, 2013

6 Simple Shortcuts to Slow Food

We all know basically
what we should eat.  Real food, slow food, local, unprocessed fare.  When I talk to my patients about diet, they always say they know they shouldn't eat fast food, no soft drinks, or candy bars. But the amount of readily available, cheap industrial food and the shortage of time for most people muddles mealtime.  In general, I think a big struggle for many people is the basics.  Our body intuitively knows what makes us feel good or not.  But when the bag of chips beckons, how hard it can be to turn a deaf ear.

But there really CAN BE short cuts to slow food!  Here are 6 little ideas to help eat healthy, whole foods meals in a streamlined way.

1.  Belong to a CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture). That means you pay up front and local, usually organic produce is delivered to your neighborhood weekly. This puts fruits, vegetables, and sometimes healthy meats and eggs in your hands that you might not otherwise buy and puts you in a position to be creative with food.  It was through my CSA share that I came to terms with turnips and beets.  And now I can't do without them!  Check out:

2.  Use that crock pot.  I'm a fix it and forget it queen.  Think chili, vegetable stew, ratatoullie, lentil stew, or chicken soup, even hot cereals can be prepared the night before so you can wake up to breakfast already made.  And a crock pot full of  goodness can usually mean at least two meals for the family.

3.  Baked vegetables are fast food.  You can do this in a heartbeat with sweet potatoes, squashes, carrots, beets, the list is endless.
A.  Stab it with a fork
B.  Slap it in a baking dish,
C.  Toss it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour.  Spend that hour doing whatever you want, but come back to some fragrant deliciousness at the end.  Don't forget the real butter, or olive oil, or balasamic vinegar.

4.  Embrace the smoothie.  Got a blender?  Have some extra leafy greens that you don't want to mess with steaming,  some berries?  Avocadoes, bananas, cucumbers, pears, whatever you love, toss it all together with some juice or almond milk or hemp milk and drink to your health!  I like adding a little unsweetened cocoa powder, or vitamin C powder, or chlorella to breakfast smoothies. 

5.   Cook ahead. If your weeks get like mine, make dishes you love ahead of time, freeze in portions, and take for lunch or pull out for a quick dinner when you're under the gun.

6.  Just ONCE, each week, just one meal, make a big plate of steamed greens for dinner.  Just kale, or kale with swiss chard, or whatever greens your CSA delivers, make that your meal. Try it and tell me how good you feel.  (I love steamed greens tossed with lots of fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Or with tahini dressing.  Creativity wins this one.)

Anyone else have any ideas?  Please share!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Make Your Own Face Cream

I gave up store bought skin creams years ago when my sensitive skin seemed to react to everything, and I realized during a certain physiology lecture that everything I was putting on my skin was quickly absorbed into my bloodstream.  My rule of thumb has become, "If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin."  And if you've scrutinized the ingredient list of most moisturizers, you know that they are often industrial ingredients and petrochemicals which at best (ultimately) dry out our skin and at worst cause disease.  Check out this link to find out what chemicals in your skin care routine can cause cancer:

That said, if you don't buy it you must make it.  What ensued was a long process of trial and error.  What I realized with my delicate and acne-prone, yet still dry and occasionally crinkly skin was that I needed to be careful.  Most of the natural skin care cream recipes I came across requred beeswax, which clogs pores, and some variety of oils including castor oil which can cause breakouts for me.  So here is what I discovered:  there are many different oils available and are all very different.  What I found to be the best, hands down, for a variety of conditions, is moisturizing, nurturing, and yet not pore-clogging is coconut oil.  This amazing substance, solid at room temperature is wonderful and incredibly healthy oil with which to cook, nourish the hair,  help clear wrinkles, eczema, and psoriasis.  It helps speed wound healing, and even seems to even out the texture and tone of skin. 

For most skin, here is a customizable recipe for an easy-to-make, delightful face cream that I love and use daily. 

Find a few small 2-6 oz jars you can have ready to house your mixture.

In a double boiler combine

  • 2 cups of virgin, organic coconut oil.  This may be softened in a pan of hot water first.
  • 1/2 cup liquid oil of your choice.  (jojoba if you break out easily, olive oil for mature skin less likely to break out, almond oil for very dry skin.)
  • 10 drops of Neem oil (excellent for dry skin, any skin inflammation and restoring skins natural elasticity.  It has a strong smell, so essential oils are necessary to add with this ingredient.)
  • 25 drops essential oil.  Combine two or three as you like:  lavender essential oil for calming the skin, especially sun-damanged skin.  Rosemary, sandalwood, carrot seed, or jasmine essential oils for mature, dry, wrinkle-prone skin.  Patchouli for scar tissue.  Roman chamomile for cooling inflammation, redness, especially with eczema or psoriasis.  (avoid clove, cinnamon, and cypress ess.oils which can burn or are photosensitive.)
  • In a cheesecloth (optional) you can simmer any of the above whole herb for 15 minutes, squeeze out in the final product.
Except for the essential oils, stir these ingredients together in the double boiler until liquid and fully mixed.  If you want to simmer whole herbs, allow to simmer longer.  Pour out into containers and let sit to cool uncovered for 15 minutes.  Now add the 25 drops of essential oil split evenly between jars and stir thoroughly. (Note: some essential oils are stronger than others.  Use your descretion in amount per container.)   Cover immediately and let sit overnight to harden fully.  Keep any oils that you don't use or give away in the fridge until you are ready to use.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Perils of Perfection

It has become a staple of our lexicon:  "Pefect!  See you then."  Or "That dress looks PERFECT on you."  Harmless enough.  We say it all the time.  Yet words are powerful and we are reinforcing the myth of perfection.  Ours is a culture of superlatives.  Just ok is not ok anymore.  I noticed last night my grocery store added a freezer section entitled "Super Premium Gourmet Ice Cream." We need at least three emphatic adjectives in any situation to get our point across.  Why?  Yes, part of this is marketing.  An irritating symptom of free enterprise.  But what we create is an extention of ourselves.  In our lives, we are being pushed to be ever faster, bigger, better, stronger, super-duper, more.  What is this doing to us?

I know I'm not alone in the great effort to attempt to stop attempting to be perfect.  Since I'm not even in the same ballpark as perfect, why do I beat my head against the wall, working to get there?  Who today doesn't agonize over things they have little control over?  Or lie in bed at night worrying that things are not the way they "should" be.  Or that in any one of a million ways they are falling short of the mark in some way.  Our world is getting meaner, more disconnected, and more results-oriented than ever before.  And more impediments to our "success" arise everyday. 

In Chinese Medicine, the goal is equanimity--always to keep the body in balance with itself and in balance with nature.  Balancing yin, the cool, calm, internal feminine principle with yang, the fast, hot, external masculine is a challenge in a culture that is so skewed in favor of yang.  Our living in a very yang society shows up in our bodies.  I notice very little striving for perfect health.  Our health often takes a backseat to how much can be achieved, how much money can be earned and how much time can be 'saved.' 

I consider this to be a health crisis. I frequently see patients who are manifesting the stress of perfection-driven overwork and long hours into "idiopathic" pain, injury, disease, and mental emotional disorders. Stress, according to both Western and Chinese medicine, contributes significantly to most every disease process.  Unfortunate for those of us who live in stress-land, USA.  It often feels like the modern world will not accept anything less than perfection.

For women it's even tougher. Women also feel the insane pressure of needing to look perfect. If you've ever picked up a copy of any fashion magazine, or watched five seconds of TV, or any movie ever, you can't but know exactly what I mean. I know a woman who is seriously concerned about the shape of her bellybutton since she gave birth. She looks fantastic. But the bellybutton just isn't sleek anymore. It's slightly hooded.  For real?? What a waste of energy. The words anorexia, bulimia, and self-mutilation come to mind.  And I know that as a culture we can do better.  When did looking seventeen forever seem like a good idea?  A good friend told me of a sign she saw recently that moved her.  It read, "Start a Revolution.  Stop Hating Your Body."  I worry for my 7-year-old daughter who is already showing signs of body image discontent.  My work is cut out for me to help her learn to love herself, her body, and be ok with how she shows up.

For our individual and collective health, I would like to declare a moratorium on perfection.  It's killing us. I'm not saying don't do the very best you can in every moment. That is something worth striving for.  But let's celebrate our differences.  Let's embrace what makes us unique, not how well we fit in that cookie cutter or that box.  I am convinced on many levels, that complete self-acceptance and self-love is the most important ingredient to mental health.  It is also the pressure release valve for stress, which may, in large part, be an answer to all our health challenges.

We are human.  We all trip, stumble, and fall flat on our faces.  Every single one of us.  With a fair amount of frequency.  We are also capable of amazing feats of super premium daring, beautiful super sonic acts of kindness, and gourmet expressions of insane, ginormous beauty.  But let's be ok with them not being perfect.  I guess I'll have to be ok with this article not being perfect.  And I'm going to post it anyway.

My health advice today?  Chill.

Do you have any thoughts on perfection?  How to just be ok?  Post in comments.  I want to hear how you do it!