Posts Tagged ‘Nature’

May Chemical Elimination: Pest/Weed Control and Natural Bug Repellent Recipe

(Yes, I am aware that I am actually finally posting this in June…things have been very busy lately! Hopefully I will actually get June’s done before the month is out!)

Ever since I began the journey into healthier, more natural living, I have been concerned about the chemicals we so readily turn to to kill unwanted pests in an around our homes.  It disturbs me that we will spray toxic chemicals in our homes, on our floors where our babies crawl, and not give a second thought to the possible danger we may be causing.  But we also do not want bugs, spiders, ants, and mice invading our homes! So what is the answer?

Conveniently, this month’s Chemical Elimination coincides with this month’s and last month’s Toxic Talk Tuesday!  For detailed information on each individual topic, check out those posts or MomsAWARE.  I will compile all of the most helpful tips here!

Most pests and irritating rodents do not like the smell of peppermint, so either plant some or sprinkle some peppermint leaves in or around areas where you are having issues with mice, etc. Plant marigolds in your garden to keep rabbits away and chives to keep the deer at bay.  (The marigolds also took care of the beetles eating my green beans!).  Diluted Neem oil is also effective against a whole host of garden pests.  Use garlic/onion/cayenne or all three in a spray on pests inside and out.

Cedar is also another major critter deterant.  Use cedar mulch, or spray diluted cedar essential oil in problem areas (use instead of moth balls!).

Other essential oils that are useful against pests include peppermint, lavender, lemongrass, basil, and clove.

To kill of the weeds, try this recipe for simple, frugal, safe weed killer:

Homemade Natural Weed Killer 

  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. liquid soap
  • 2 tbsp. salt

Combine and shake. Place in spray bottle and spray leaves and stems of weeds only. Avoid surrounding plants.  This really works! And I loved spraying the weeds with my two-year old tagging along behind me today, knowing he wouldn’t be harmed by smelling or touching the spray!

Instead of going to the store and buying pricey, toxic bug spray, try this recipe: (Do not be intimidated by the essential oils–check out the link below for suggestions on all sorts of essential oils that can work just as well!)

Personal Bug Repellent

1/2 teaspoon citronella essential oil
1/2 teaspoon eucalyptus essential oil
1/2 teaspoon lavender essential oil
4 ounces distilled witch hazel

Mix ingredients in a 4-ounce spray bottle. Shake well. Spray onto exposed skin, avoiding eyes and mucous membranes. Reapply every 2 hours, or as needed.

Recipe courtesy of Laurel Vukovic.
August 2004
Herbs for Health

I love this website for a list of which essential oils repel which insects and all the possible carrier oils, as well as ratios to mix up whichever bug spray will suit your needs best!

I am excited to try these recipes using coconut oil and essential oils!

Check out the Bug Busting Bonanza for more helpful hints! Happy natural pest-ridding!


Toxic Talk Tuesday – Natural Pest Control

I am excited to announce yet another edition of the Fabry’s Toxic Talk Tuesday, and this time, it is  topic I am over-the-top excited about–natural pest control!!

Ever since I began the journey into healthier, more natural living, I have been concerned about the chemicals we so readily turn to to kill unwanted pests in an around our homes.  It disturbs me that we will spray toxic chemicals in our homes, on our floors where our babies crawl, and not give a second thought to the possible danger we may be causing.  But we also do not want bugs, spiders, ants, and mice invading our homes! So what is the answer?

Thank you Chris and Andrea Fabry for once again enlightening us (as always, in a broadcast so humorous I was laughing aloud) to natural forms of pest control.  After all, pests have been around for as long as people, and people have never been too keen on them living in their home.  So what have people done throughout the centuries to keep pests from invading?

You can go ahead and listen to the whole broadcast, but Andrea’s website had far more easily accessible information.  I have reproduced it here.  Following are the four R’s of natural pest control: Remedies, Recipes, References, and Resources from Andrea’s website, MomsAWARE:

Remedies

  1. Garlic and/or onion and/or cayenne. Liquid sprays can be made with any or all of these to help deter/kill pests inside and outside.
  2. Cedar is often used as a moth repellent, but is also effective against other pests.
  3. Diatomaceous earth (DE) consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. DE is effective against insects with an exoskeleton. Be sure to choose food grade.
  4. Pyrethrum. Pyrethrum powder comes from ground chrysanthemum flowers and contains pyrethrin, a natural pesticide. This is not the same as pyrethroid, which is a synthetic pesticide. (Cats are sensitive to low doses and some may be allergic to pyrethrum.)
  5. Borax and all derivatives. Borax is a natural compound with powerful dehydrating affects and a wide range of applications as a pesticide. Borax is a toxin and must be used cautiously when children and pets are nearby.
  6. Neem oil. The key insecticidal ingredient found in the neem tree is azadirachtin, a naturally occurring substance that disturbs or inhibits the development of insect eggs, larvae, or pupae. Diluted neem oil sprayed on plants can control aphids, moth larvae, spider mites, whiteflies, and Japanese beetles. It will not harm insects that do not chew the leaves, like butterflies, ladybugs, and bees.
  7. Essential oils. Peppermint, lavender, lemongrass, basil, and clove are just a few of the effective oils.

Recipes

Downloadable Pest Punching Printout from MomsAWARE

    1. All-Purpose Pesticide Powder
      • 1/2 c. bay leaves
      • 1/2 c. peppermint leaves
      • 1 1/2 tsp. each citrus peel, garlic powder, diatomaceous earth, cayenne pepper, pyrethrum, salt

      Grind the ingredients into a powder using a blender or mortar and pestle. Dust along affected areas.

    2. Homemade Ant Trap
      • 1 tbsp. hot water
      • 1 tbsp. honey or sugar
      • 1/2 tsp. borax

      Place the ingredients in a small glass jar and shake to mix. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture, slightly squeeze out the excess liquid, and put the cotton ball on a small lid. Place the ant trap where you see the most ants. After the ants have disappeared, discard the cotton ball and keep the lid for reuse.

    3. Neem Oil Insectide
      • 1 qt. warm water
      • 2 tsp. dishwashing liquid
      • 5 tsp. neem oil

      Mix water and dishwashing liquid. Slowly add the neem oil while stirring the mixture vigorously. Don’t prepare more of the neem oil insecticide than you’ll need, as it will lose its potency if stored. (1 oz. neem oil mixed with 10 oz. coconut oil makes an excellent mosquito repellent!)

    4. All-Purpose Onion/Garlic/Cayenne Spray
      • 1 garlic bulb, chopped or ground
      • 1 small onion, chopped or ground
      • 1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
      • 1 qt. boiling water
      • 1 tbsp. liquid castile soap

      Mix garlic, onion, cayenne pepper and water; add liquid soap. Shake and pour into spray bottle. Freeze for long-term storage.

    5. Apple Cider Vinegar JarPour an inch or so of apple cider vinegar into the bottom of a wide-mouth jar. Make a funnel with a sheet of white paper with a 3/4-inch hole on the bottom. The bottom should not touch the vinegar. Place the funnel into the jar and tape edges to secure the funnel to the jar. Effective against fruit flies and gnats.

References

Here are a few natural solutions recommended for specific pests.

  • Ants: Peppermint, soapy water, cucumber peels, mint tea bags, dry mint leaves, cayenne pepper, borax and sugar (see ant trap recipe above), diatomaceous earth (DE).
  • Aphids: Spray streams of water onto plants to dislodge heavy concentrations of aphids. Use a mixture of castile soap and water to spray on smaller concentrations; the soap will dry out their exoskeleton and dehydrate them. Add peppermint essential oil for added potency. Garlic spray can also be effective.
  • Beetles: Pyrethrin, neem oil, peppermint, thyme.
  • Fleas: Borax, DE, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint , citrus peel extract. See the Resources section below for a natural flea-control company.
  • Flies: Basil, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint.
  • Four-legged garden pests: For squirrels, chipmunks, deer, etc., onion/garlic/cayenne spray can be an effective deterrent (see recipe #4 above).
  • Gnats/Fruit Flies: Apple cider vinegar jar (see recipe #5 above).
  • Mice: Mice tend to avoid mint. Place fresh mint boughs where mice are present, or spray diluted mint oil. For bait, crush a vitamin D pill and blend with cheese.
  • Spiders: Spiders help keep the pest population at bay, but too many spiders can be unnerving—to say nothing of the poisonous ones. Diatomaceous earth is effective because as spiders walk across it, the razor-sharp microscopic fossils penetrate the exoskeleton, causing the spider to dehydrate and die. Suggested spider repellents include essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, citronella, and peppermint.
  • Termites: Cedar oil, nematodes.
  • Ticks: Cedar oil, DE, rose geranium oil, lavender, lemongrass, citronella.

Resources

Beyond Pesticides

Natural Pest Control: State-by-State Guide

Further Resources:

MomsAWARE

Toxic Talk Tuesday: Pests Broadcast

Toxic Talk Tuesday: Lawn Care

It’s that time again! Chris and Andrea Fabry delighted us with yet another broadcast of Toxic Talk Tuesday, and this time, the topic was lawn care–just in time for summer!

Definition of the Day

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for:

  • preventing,
  • destroying,
  • repelling, or
  • mitigating any pest.

First, let’s start off with the quiz of the day.  To take the quiz yourself, click here.  I have listed the questions, answers, and more information to help set the stage for understanding pesticides.

1. Which of the following is NOT classified as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? Pledge Furtniture Spray

While Pledge contains hazardous chemicals, it does not fall into the pesticide category. Products containing chlorine bleach, triclosan (hand sanitizers), and mold/mildew remover are all classified as pesticides. According to the EPA:

Many household products are pesticides. All of these common products are considered pesticides:

• Cockroach sprays and baits.
• Insect repellents for personal use.
• Rat and other rodent poisons.
• Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.
• Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
• Products that kill mold and mildew.
• Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers.
• Some swimming pool chemicals.

More information here and here.

2. Which herbicide product is represented a label containing 2,4-D, a chemical used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam era, which according to the EPA is “reported to result in blood, liver, and kidney toxicity”?  Ortho Weed B Gone

Roundup, Touchdown, and Kleeraway are all trade names for the chemical glyphosate, which is also hazardous.

According to the organization Beyond Pesticides, 2,4-D has been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and much more. Because it is widely available, the health effects “are of particular concern.”

More information here and here.

3. According to the EPA, children are exposed to the chemical 2,4-D through lawn care products. If a child is exposed to 2,4-D indoors, the exposure most likely comes through: Dust on shoes of person applying the product.

According to the EPA’s TEACH Chemical Summary on 2,4-D:

Children are most likely to be exposed following application of 2,4-D as a residential lawn care product. Exposure is most likely to occur via inhalation of indoor air and house dust generally subsequent to lawn care application of 2,4-D, or via contact with 2,4-D-treated grass or turf. Hand-to-mouth activity can also contribute to exposure from 2,4-D-contaminated house dust in younger children. The dust on shoes of the person applying the 2,4-D to lawns may be the greatest contributor to indoor 2,4-D contamination. Exposure of children may also occur from diet, drinking water, and swimming in lakes treated with 2,4-D (with highest concentrations of 2,4-D occurring within 24 hours of lake treatment).

More information here.

4. This pesticide category accounts for 70% of all agricultural pest-control products used in the United States: Weed Killers

According to the EPA:

A pesticide is a chemical used to prevent, destroy, or repel pests. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, or microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

The USDA article linked below traces the history of pesticide use in this country, stating:

During the 1960s, agricultural pesticide use was dominated by insecticides, accounting for about half of all pesticides used. The quantity of insecticides applied fell as the organochlorines (DDT, aldrin, and toxaphene) were replaced by pyrethroids and other chemicals that required lower application rates. Today, 70 percent of the quantity of pesticides used in agriculture are herbicides.

More information here.

5. An organic household pesticide may contain harmful ingredients if its material safety data sheet contains what? Propietary blend of emulsifiers and solvents to 100%

The use of essential oils in pest control is positive. When coupled with toxic chemicals contained in the “inert” ingredients, however, a product’s safety may be compromised. This product may or may not be just as hazardous as a product with no essential oils.

According to the EPA:

Inert ingredients are “other” ingredients that do not control the pest, but serve other purposes such as dissolving the active ingredients or affecting how the product works.

Up to 3,000 chemicals may be classified as inert and are not subject to regulation due to business confidentiality.

More information here and here.

6. The EPA says this plant oil is effective for repelling mites, fleas, and mosquitoes: Euclyptus

Recommended for use on cats, dogs, humans and their clothing, and in homes.

For a list of other natural repellents, see the EPA’s Plant Oils Fact Sheet.

7. The first Roundup Ready crop (able to resist applications of the weed killer Roundup) was first marketed in 1996. This biotech soybean was genetically pieced together using this vegetable/flower combination: Cauliflower / Petunia

From the Organic Consumers Association website:

A gene from a cauliflower virus acted as a master control switch. It activated the bacterial enzyme that was able to fend off Roundup while still producing adequate growth proteins. A snippet of petunia DNA made sure those proteins were ferried to the proper location within the soy plant. Another strand of DNA from a different type of bacterium served as a molecular stop sign, preventing overproduction of the proteins.

A good word picture on genetic modification: Suppose you have a preschooler and you get home a letter saying, “We would like to conduct an experiment on your daughter. We would like to feed your daughter 1/4 tsp. of pesticide to your daughter every day until she is 18.  We have no reason to believe this will be harmful.” Would you be willing to allow your child to do that?  We do not have 100 years of study to see what these things are doing to us.  What we do know, is that some of these chemicals have been used to kill humans in the right doses, so is it not logical to ask the question–is this good for us?

More information here.

8. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), originally designed to provide better pest control, are produced by inserting the DNA of one species into the DNA of an unrelated plant or animal. Because living organisms have natural barriers, the DNA must be forced in some way. 

Marker-assisted selection (MAS) is a non-invasive, natural approach to plant breeding.

According to the Institute for Responsible Technology website:

Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers have to find ways to force the DNA from one organism into another. These methods include:

• Using viruses or bacteria to “infect” animal or plant cells with the new DNA.
• Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets, and firing it with a special gun into the cells.
• Injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle.
• Using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm, and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.

More information here and here.

9. “Biosolids” is the term given to fertilizer derived from which of the following? Sewage sludge

Biosolids is a term used to refer to treated human waste. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a study of biosolids found 25 active chemicals in each biosolid sample tested. The study raises questions about the “transport, fate, and potential ecological effects of these contaminants once biosolids are applied to agricultural fields, garden plots, and landscaped plants and shrubs.”

More information here and here.

There are a couple more questions on the quiz, but I only included these eight.

Know that there are more chemicals than just what it says on the label.  Why? Any label has not only active ingredients, but it also has inert ingredients.  Up to 3000 chemicals are classified as inert ingredients and can make up over 90% of a product.  They are not required to list these because of trade secrets. If you have concerns about what chemicals may make up inert ingredients, go ahead and call the company and ask. Be proactive!

For any weed or plant you do not want try this recipe to get rid of it:

Homemade Natural Weed Killer 

  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. liquid soap
  • 2 tbsp. salt

Combine and shake. Place in spray bottle and spray leaves and stems of weeds only. Avoid surrounding plants.  This really works!

For your garden, plant chives to keep the deer away and marigolds to deter the rabbits.  Here is a great website on various companion plants to keep away pests and pesky animals.

The EPA offers these tips for safe lawn care:

  1. Keep grass at a height of 3 inches.
  2. Make sure mowing blades are sharp.
  3. Water 1 inch per week on average.
  4. Allow your lawn to go dormant in July/August.
  5. Consider non-chemical pest/weed control methods.

Consider grasscycling–leaving the grass clippings. It is very nourishing.

Dandilions are very nutritious! Studies are being done on a possible health benefit for cancer!

I can hardly wait for the next Toxic Talk, airing in June.  Their topic will be safely ridding our home of pests! You can be sure I will be posting the summary of that as soon as it airs!

For more recipes, check out this blog.

Check out Andrea’s blog, MomsAWARE!

Andrea also has a detailed blog post about Natural Lawn Care.

Check out the original broadcast!

Read other Toxic Talk posts!

 

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

ImageI am excited to host my first official giveaway on this blog!

I recently had the pleasure of sampling Tropical Traditions amazing virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil is a nutritional powerhouse and can offer a wide range of benefits, including maintaining cholesterol levels, increasing immunity, and aiding in weight loss.  Coconut oil also contains antioxidants, and natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.  Unlike many oils used for cooking, it is safe when heated at high temperatures, thus making it ideal for frying.  Coconut oil is extremely beneficial, not only nutritionally, but for a number of other purposes, including skin and hair care.

Tropical Traditions virgin coconut oil is different than other oils on the market.  They are the premier supplier of virgin coconut oil in the nation and are highly praised for their amazingly superior oil.  Their oil is still made by hand using small scale producers and family farms, contains twice the antioxidants as any brand on the market, and is USDA certified organic.

Although it is pricey, Tropical Traditions is constantly offering sales and special deals that make it easier on the pocketbook.

For more information about the health benefits of coconut oil, check out this post by Passionate Homemaking.  There are also a wide variety of ways you can use this oil in your household. Its versatility is one of my favorite things about coconut oil–I literally use it for dozens of purposes, including moisturizing (all of us, especially the kids!), eating, frying, multiple personal care uses, and so many more!

Check out Tropical Traditions selection of coconut oil here.

To browse their website, including a huge selection of other quality, organic products, click here!

Tropical Traditions is offering one quart of their Gold Label Virgin Oil free to one winner!

TO ENTER:

1. Sign up for the Tropical Traditions Sales Newsletter (sign up through the link on their homepage), and come back and let us know in a comment below. Stay informed on future sales and specials!

2. For a second optional entry, “like” Tropical Traditions on Facebook. Come back and let us know in a second comment.

Giveaway closed.

Congratulations to our winner, Autumn Stan!!

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

March Chemical Elimination: Deodorant

In an effort to progressively rid our home of harmful toxins and chemicals, March’s goal is to replace one of our personal care products, deodorant, with a natural, safe alternative.

Most of us wouldn’t think of the personal care products we use on a regular basis as harmful, let alone toxic.  But the sad truth is, these products do not undergo the same testing as food and medicine do, and do not have the same requirements of safety since they make no health claims. Deodorants, like most personal care products on the market, contain a handful of harmful ingredients. Most deodorants on the market contain aluminum, a toxic metal which can be absorbed through the skin and has been linked with mental illness such as Ahlziemer’s Disease and autism.  Many deodorants contain parabens, a toxic petroleum derivative.  For more reading on harmful chemicals to avoid when shopping for deodorant, click here.

Although it can be discouraging and overwhelming to learn of the presence of so many harmful ingredients in the products we use and love every day, the purpose of this post is to encourage you with finding other, safer options.

Because each of us has different body chemistry, personal care products vary in their effectiveness.  That es why one deodorant may not work for you, but it may work for your spouse.  It is also why it usually takes some trial and error to find what works for you.

Following are a wide range of options to replace toxic forms of deodorant with natural, safe alternatives.  I have included both products available in the store and homemaking options.  If I have tried any of the options, I will include a personal review in italics.  But again, keep in mind that each person is different, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.  Be inspired by how many different options you have, and don’t give up!

Safe Alternatives to Anti-Perspirant:

Meleleuca offers safe, aluminum free options.  This option did not work for me. I have friends who love it, though!

Tom’s of Maine has safe, though pricey, alternatives.  Look carefully at ingredients, though, as some contain aluminum.  They can be found in most stores.  This option did not keep me odor-free, either!

Homemade Deodorant Recipes

We use this recipe from PassionateHomemaking.com with some variations. I am eager for my husband to try it after his current bar runs out. We are going to try this method of putting it in his old stick.

Mix in a small bowl:

6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil, partially melted
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred)

Directions:

  1. Combine equal portions of baking soda & arrowroot powder.
  2. Slowly add coconut oil and stir it with a spoon.  Allow coconut oil to set up, stirring occasionally to ensure equal distribution.
  3. You can either scoop this recipe into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid and apply with fingers with each use. Makes about 1 cup. This recipe lasts about 3 months for two people with regular daily use.

-Zinc oxide is a natural anti-perspirant.  Including it in your homemade deodorant will most likely help relieve any odor.  For a simple recipe as well as a plethora of variations, For a simple recipe to make your own, click here. I am excited to try this one, too.

Homemade Deodorant Spray

(From MomsAWARE.org)

Make a baking soda spray by blending 3 tsp. baking soda with 1 c. water in a spray bottle. Add 3-5 drops tea tree oil for added protection.

This is what I used and worked fine until after the birth of my daughter.  My hormones must have changed, because suddenly, for the first time in my life…I am very sweaty! This no longer cuts it for me.  But if it works for you, simply spray some on your hands, rub it under arms, and allow it to dry. I added the tea tree oil.

Queen of Hungary Water

(This can also be used as a toner and as hair care!)

Originally used in Europe as a perfume, Queen of Hungary Water is revered for its many healing properties and is widely known as a cure-all.  It can be used as a toner, astringent, a deodorant, a hair rinse, and can even be ingested to help soothe a sour stomach, among other things.  Here is my recipe, but you can really use whatever herbs you have on hand:

Combine in a large Mason jar:

3 TB. Peppermint leaves

2 TB Comfrey leaves

2 Tbs chamomile

4 TB Rose leaves

2 Tbs Lavender leaves

2 Tbs Nettles

3 TB Calendula/Marigold

1 TB Lemon zest

1 TB dried rosemary

1 TB dried sage

Cover with organic, raw apple cider vinegar and leave in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 weeks, strain out the herbs and place in fresh, clean bottle.

To each cup of herbal vinegar, add 1c. total extra liquid (I used witch hazel extract).  Add several drops of essential oil, if using. Stores indefinitely.

That list of herbs may look intimidating, but most of them can be found at your local health food store, or you can place an order at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Or you can ask me for a sample size, and I can mail you one for a small price.

I hope one of these options works for you and your family! I, for one, am glad I have found something that works and saves us from chemical exposure while also saving us money!

Developing a Taste for What is Good

I have a major sweet tooth.

Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times.  And they are usually food related.

I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt.  I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night.  When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.

Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.

I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.”  I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.”  I have always just assumed this came naturally for them.  And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.

And then it occurred to me.

That point will never come.

Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel.  No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet.  But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many.  I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.

It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives.  We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally.  If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.

In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.

I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent.  The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved.  What an awful thought!  And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable!  But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved.  And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.

That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it.  At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.

But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism.  We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice.  So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.

James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.

But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food.  I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food.  In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.

But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

 

February Chemical Elimination: Skin Care

For February’s Chemical Elimination, we are replacing toxic skin care with natural alternatives.  This is probably my absolute favorite replacement!

You don’t have to use half a dozen commercial products on your face and body to achieve clear, smooth skin.  You don’t even have to spend a fortune on quality, natural skin care products.  With only three simple, naturally occurring elements, you can cleanse, hydrate, and tone your skin without the risk of harmful toxins present in most commercial products.  And these things can double as your hair care and far beyond!

Here are the naturally occurring elements I use in my skin care:

Cleanse

Rhassoul Clay

Rhassoul clay is a mineral mined in Morocco that has been used for over a thousand years for hair and skin care.  It is lauded for its detoxification properties, as well as its ability to bind with oil and dirt and wash them away.  It leaves the skin and hair remarkably soft.   When mixed with water, it forms a paste that can be applied to skin and hair. It can be used simply as a face wash, or it can be applied in a thicker paste and used as a mask. It can be purchased by the pound at Mountain Rose Herbs for $9/lb plus shipping.  Read more about the benefits of rhassoul clay here. Read more about using it as a personal care product here.

Toner


Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar has been used for hundreds of years, largely for its medicinal purposes, but also for toning, smoothing and hydrating the skin and hair.  It is important for it to be organic and raw, as this means it has not been pasteurized and has left the healthful nutrients and enzymes intact. It is especially helpful in restoring the pH balance of your skin after washing with a mineral like rhassoul clay.  You can purchase this at your local health food store. The smell bothers some people, so you can also use

OR

Queen of Hungary Water

Originally used in Europe as a perfume, Queen of Hungary Water is revered for its many healing properties and is widely known as a cure-all.  It can be used as a toner, astringent, a deodorant, a hair rinse, and can even be ingested to help soothe a sour stomach, among other things.  Here is my recipe, but you can really use whatever herbs you have on hand:

Combine in a large Mason jar:

3 TB. Peppermint leaves

2 TB Comfrey leaves

2 Tbs chamomile

4 TB Rose leaves

2 Tbs Lavender leaves

2 Tbs Nettles

3 TB Calendula/Marigold

1 TB Lemon zest

1 TB dried rosemary

1 TB dried sage

Cover with organic, raw apple cider vinegar and leave in a sunny spot for 2-3 weeks. After 2-3 weeks, strain out the herbs and place in fresh, clean bottle.

To each cup of herbal vinegar, add 1c. total extra liquid (I used witch hazel extract).  Add several drops of essential oil, if using. Stores indefinitely.

That list of herbs may look intimidating, but most of them can be found at your local health food store, or you can place an order at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Or you can ask me for a sample size, and I can mail you one for a small price.

OR

Witch Hazel Extract

For a simpler toning option, you could make (or buy) some witch hazel extract. Used by Native Americans for its medicinal purposes, witch hazel has a nearly endless list of benefits, including soothing sore muscles, swelling, and insect bites.  It is also effective in treating acne due to its anti-oxident and astringent properties.  Witch Hazel leaves can be purchased at Mountain Rose Herbs or your local health food store.

To make Witch Hazel Extract:

Place a handful of witch hazel leaves in a mason jar. Cover with 2-4 cups boiling water. Cover and let steep for a minimum of 4 hours. Strain.

Add 3-6 drops grapefruit seed extract to preserve for several weeks, or store in refrigerator.

I also have samples of witch hazel extract if you would like to try it without the fuss!

(Tip: This will also be used in our deodorant and shampoo!)

Moisturize

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been called the “healthiest dietary oil on earth.”  When ingested, it has dozens of healing properties, but it  also has a plethora of uses in personal care!  It can be used as a deodorant, lotion, aftershave, toothpaste, just to name a few. To read more about its amazing health benefits, click here.

OR

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is extremely hydrating  and repairing to the skin and hair.  It is also helpful for treating acne.  Jojoba oil can also be found at Mountain Rose Herbsor your local health food store. I purchased my  2 oz. ounce bottle for $9. Since it is used extremely sparingly, it lasts for a very long time. To read more about its benefits, click here.

It is helpful to begin experimenting with natural alternatives when you begin to get low on the products you already commonly use. That way you have a fall-back for if things aren’t working well, or if it takes a couple of days to get into the swing of using the new options. It can be easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated and need to go back to what we are used to for a bit while we get the hang of the new options!

Sample Skin Care Regimen:

1.  To wash your face, mix about 1/8 tsp clay with 1/8 tsp water in your hand. With one finger, swirl mixture around to absorb the water into the clay. Apply to face and rinse off.  To use as a mask, mix about 1/2 tsp clay to 1/2 tsp water (or whatever consistency you like!) and apply to face. Allow to dry for ten minutes, then rinse.  My face has never felt softer!!

2. Pour some of your toner of choice onto a cotton ball and apply to face.

3. Apply a small amount of coconut or jojoba oil to face to moisturize.

If you don’t have the softest skin in your life, I will be surprised! And to simplify things, these lovely products can double as your hair care!  To learn how to use these products for your hair, read more here.