When I see neroli oil (Citrus aurantium) listed as an essential oil ingredient in any product or mixture, I immediately think of bright flowers and exotic, sweet, calming fragrances. Doubly alluring as the oil itself is the unique way neroli oil is produced: acquired from bitter orange tree blossoms through water distillation. Pale yellow in color and similar in scent to bergamot and lime, neroli essential oil is used in facial toners for its antibacterial and emollient properties. Toners and facial products with neroli oil have also been used to fade acne scars, cleanse skin and improve skintone. Neroli oil’s distinct aroma and therapeutic effects have also been used as an anti-depressant and aromatherapy tool to calm anxiety.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a love for mushrooms. While many people can’t stand the thought of eating mushrooms–my boyfriend blames the texture, a few of my friends can’t wrap their heads around eating “fungi”, I can’t get enough of these forest fixtures. Their varying textures, shape, smells, and even the way they grow in nature has fascinated me. My tongue begins to water when I think of the delicious traditional Chinese soups featuring savory mushroom bits that my mother and grandmother always made for me.
And what about a mushroom’s health benefits? Oh boy, don’t get me started! Ganederma lucidum, the Reishi mushroom (in Japanese) or “ling zhi” in Chinese, is the specific, iconic “red” mushroom most commonly used and commercially cultivated in East Asia and North America. Reishi mushroom is the most respected medicinal mushroom in Asia.
“Reishi mushroom is a fungus that some people describe as “tough” and “woody” with a bitter taste. The fruiting body (above-ground part) and mycelium (filaments connecting a group of mushrooms) are used as medicine.” (5)
In Ancient China, the reishi mushroom was revered by royalty as it was thought to be the “mushroom of immortality” and also used to help promote tranquility, thoughtfulness, and to improve memory. This type of mushrooms were also considered special for their unique and beautiful appearance; “Deep reddish brown and saucer-shaped, often emerging from a branch-like stem, its smooth upper surface looks lacquered when wet.” (2)
Often grown on old or dead tree trunks, reishi mushrooms were also traditionally ingested to prevent fatigue, asthma, insomnia, and cough. Disregarding its supposed mystical quality, the health-promoting effects of the reishi mushroom still plays an central role in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. These health benefits have made using reishi mushroom popular within many Western medical and health communities.
“The active constituents are thought to include both beta-glucan polysaccharides and triterpenes.” (4)
“Reishi mushroom contains chemicals that seem to have a variety of potentially beneficial effects, including activity against tumors (cancer) and beneficial effects on the immune system.” (5)
Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reishi mushrooms help boost the immune system and is commonly used for reducing stress and preventing fatigue. It is often used to treat viral infections like the flu and lung diseases like bronchitis and asthma. There are also many claims that reishi mushrooms can prevent and aid in the abatement of many serious diseases. Many believe that reishi mushrooms can abate the effects of kidney disease, heart disease (including high blood pressure and high cholesterol), liver disease, and cancer. It has also been used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, altitude sickness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), insomnia, stomach ulcers, poisoning, and herpes pain.
These health benefits also contribute to positive aspects when used in skincare products. The ganodermic acid and ling zhi-8 protein within Reishi mushrooms are said to contribute in aiding and maintaining the skin’s health, vitality, and youthful appearance. Reishi mushroom in skincare products is also beneficial in reducing inflammation, prevent skin damage from free radicals, and promote skin cell regeneration.
Today, reishi mushroom can be most commonly found as an extract, supplement or as an added ingredient. It was traditionally ingested in teas or infusions but can now be found added in everything from chocolate bars, candy, energy drinks, or skincare products.
“Some experts believe that Ganoderma lucidum promotes longevity and maintains vitality of the human body. Reishi’s major benefit appears to be its immunomodulating action, improvement of liver function, and improvement and restoration of the normal functions of the respiratory system. Antioxidant effects, which contribute to the overall well-being of patients, have been proposed.” (1)
If this specific fungi can improve one’s health in so many ways, perhaps the ancient Chinese were onto something with their claims that this fungi provides the key to immortality.
Have you ever tried any products containing reishi mushroom in them? What are your thoughts on this ingredient?
Some natural and organic beauty products containing reishi mushroom that have caught my eye:*100% Pure- Purist, Mushroom & Peptides Firming + Antiwrinkle Eye Cream, $55*Antipodes- Immortal SPF 15 Face & Body Moisturizer, $48.80*CV skinlabs- Body Repair Lotion, $36*Foraged Fields- Face Cream, $15*ForestFloor- Reishi Mushroom Wound Repair, $12*LuLu & Max- Face Lift Cream, $28*ReturnToTheRoots- Organic Reishi Mushroom Forest Lip Balm Salve, $4*Tela Beauty Organics- Balance Shampoo, $36
If you’re like me, an average 20-something-consumer trying to be healthy in the midst of false advertising, empty product promises and sneaky trade secrets, you didn’t question any personal care products on the local drugstore shelves nor truly thought about the ingredients because after all, if they can be sold to the public then they’re safe, right?
So very wrong, but my old mindset and educating myself on this topic truly showed me how social awareness is at a shocking low when it comes to knowing more about harmful ingredients in personal care products and why our government and brands we trust have ignored the facts and not taken sufficient action. Just accepting what is placed on shelves is not enough. Reading great books like No More Dirty Looks, listening to health experts and researching ingredients is an eye-opener.
I suggest everyone do their own research and self-education because it is not enough to just expect our lawmakers and billions of profit-seeking companies to control our consumerism. YOU can make your own decisions, so make some healthier ones.
Which brings me to this Friday’s Au Natural Factual: Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) & Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES).
Did you know that your scalp is the most absorbent part of your body? All of those hair products that you use to tame and clean your mane seep right into your scalp, into your bloodstream and most of those chemicals (though a percentage will be excreted) stay in your body for good.
Two harmful ingredients in many personal care products are Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and Sodium lauryl ether sufalte (SLES) and because they are so commonly used are often referred to as sulfates. These 2 sulfates are classified as surfactants or detergents (compounds which lower the surface tension between liquids or between liquids and solids) and are the 2 most commonly found sulfates in personal care products like shampoo and conditioner for their cleansing and emulsifying properties and because they are relatively inexpensive to use. SLS and SLES can be found in many other products that foam and cleanse such as, toothpaste, body wash, soap and exfoliators.
Due to their harsh penetration properties, SLS and SLES can strip hair and skin of moisture and are common eye, skin and scalp irritants and can also result in acne, rashes and canker sores. Sulfates are also endocrine irritants and can be a possible carcinogen after repeated and prolonged exposure. The biggest concern with SLS and SLES is that when blended with other chemicals (included in your personal care products), they can produce hazardous by-products. Two contaminants that can blend with sulfates and are of the most concern are 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. 1,4 dioxane is a known carcinogen with research citing it is also toxic to the respiratory system and an irritant to skin, eyes and/or lungs. Ethylene oxide has also been classified as a carcinogen and more specifically, a developmental and nervous system toxin.
Like every chemical and the possible risks, we should try to avoid products with potentially harmful chemicals like SLS and SLES.
There are many good organic and natural hair products in specific, that do not include SLS and SLES in their formulation.
The more we use products with these chemicals, the more we are stripping and corroding our hair and skin of its moisture and natural state.
Avoiding sulfates can reduce your reliance on harmful aftereffects and will result in healthier, vibrant hair and skin.
I love the products the ladies of No More Dirty Looks list for hair that are sulfate-free and are good for your hair! Check out some of their ideas here
By now we’ve all heard about argan oil one way or another as it’s having quite a moment in the natural and mainstream beauty communities.
Known for its many nutritive, cosmetic and medicinal properties, argan oil is derived from the kernels of the argan tree, which is endemic to Morocco. This is why the oil is now also widely known as Moroccan oil. For centuries, the people of southwestern Morocco specifically, the Berber tribe, have traditionally used argan oil as a staple food ingredient and for medicinal purposes.
Besides being adaptable to the harsh environmental conditions of Morocco and the Sahara desert, the argan tree is also listed an endangered plant species and is under the protection of UNESCO (Unite Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). As it is derived from an endangered plant and only grows in such a small, specific location, argan oil itself is considered one of the world’s rarest natural oils.
With its growing appeal and many nourishing benefits for skin, hair and body, argan oil is currently in high demand from companies all over the world. Claims in using argan oil are that it strengthens hair, revitalizes and moisturizes skin and is a delicious addition when cooking food. The main ingredient in argan oil is Vitamin-E, a great natural resource for healthy skin, and also comprised of 80% fatty acids.
As with all natural oils, there are also many products on the market claiming to be “Pure Argan Oil” but also include a mixture of chemicals. Be aware of false claims and research products carefully. Check out this list of what to look for in recognizing impure argan oil here.
Traditionally, the Berbers collected undigested argan pits from the waste of goats that climbed argan trees and ate the fruit. Mainly a job for women, the pits were ground and pressed to make the oil used for cooking and in cosmetics. Today, the argan oil you will find in most cosmetic and personal care products are from harvested nuts straight from the tree. (No need to worry about the goats!)
The sustainable sourcing of argan oil and the Fairtrade connection that has been created with the local Berber women adds a positive light to the idea of using argan oil and its environmental impact.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the social and economic benefits from the argan oil industry in Mororco could also be life changing for many locals. “It’s hoped that poor rural women in particular would benefit from expansion of the argan oil industry in an arid region with few industries and employment prospects.”
With this newfound hope for the argan oil industry, Bloomberg Businessweek states an increase in exports and eventual sales in Morocco: “Morocco’s exports of argan oil have more than doubled in the past five years, to more than 700 tons”. However, due to the endangered status and slow-growing nature of the argan tree, scientists are challenged with the future of argan oil’s overexposure and rising demand.
Have you tried any products containing argan oil? I’m looking forward to purchasing some pure argan oil for my hair!
Sources: The Christian Science Monitor
Happy Friday! I’m going to be starting a series every Friday (or every other Friday, depending on my schedule) called, Au Natural Factual Fridays.
I’m excited to delve into this topic where I’ll highlight ingredients, additives, and chemicals prevalent in our food and personal care products (and ones that may be highly talked about) and why you should be familiar with them. I’ll give you basic facts and share tips. Let’s see how this goes!
Remember: everything we put in and on our bodies have potential risk for harm but it’s up to you to become educated and make your own choices when it comes to personal care and dietary habits. I’m just here to share information with you.
This Friday’s we’re talking about: Omega-3.
Omega-3 (or Omega-3 fatty acids) are a group of fatty acids that are usually discussed in terms of supplemental health.
Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t produced within the body so we obtain these nutrients through food and supplemental products as they have been proven to be essential to body development, basic bodily functions and overall good health.
Omega-3s are classified into 3 different types according to the sources they are derived from. They are: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). ALA Omega-3s are often found in plant oils while EPA and DHA Omega-3s are both commonly found in marine oils. Examples of ALA Omega-3s you may be familiar with are: flaxseed oil, canola, soybean, and Echium oil. While EPA and DHA Omega-3s are found in fatty fish.
There are many health benefits that researchers have found regarding the intake of Omega-3s ranging from the reduction of heart disease, stroke, Cancer prevention and decreased risk of degenerative diseases. See this detailed list of tests performed by the Mayo Clinic showing proven and unproven benefits: http://tinylink.net/93574
Recently however, Omega-3s have made headlines as the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shared a study which found an increased risk of prostate cancer in men with high blood levels of omega-3s either through regular intake of fish oil supplements or eating cold water fish (eg. Alaskan salmon, mackeral, or sardine).
While the risks and benefits of Omega-3s are still being further researched and understood, it has been concluded that adding more Omega-3s (at your own risk) in our everyday consumption generally benefits your health.
With data showing low levels of Omega-3s among must individuals, specifically low among the average American, and because these are fatty acids our bodies cannot create, eating a source of Omega-3s is important but reliant on your actions. Try to add at least one source of omega-3 fatty acids in your everyday diet by consuming foods with Omega-3 rich ingredients such as walnuts, canola oil, soybean and more regular (but controlled) amounts of fish.
My new favorite breakfast cereal from Nature’s Path is a great source of ALA Omega-3s!
Do you eat foods with Omega-3s on a regular basis? Do you plan to include them in your diet and how? Any suggestions? Let me know!