Superfood of the week: Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera, aka. Aloe Barbadensis, has throughout history been used for a variety of purposes. From cooling tonics, to counteracting poison and even expelling worms, the aloe plant is truly nature’s superfood.

Nutritional Rundown: There is a long list of benefit’s that make Aloe Vera the superfood it is. Aloe Vera is high in the organic compound known as Anthraquinone. Anthraquinone helps treat chronic constipation. Furthermore, it is very good for those suffering from Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.

Additionally, the Aloe Vera plant contains phytochemicals,hence the various healing, soothing and moisturizing benefits attributed to the plant.

How to use Aloe Vera:  Aloe Vera may be applied topically to ease sunburn, moisturize dry skin and heal wounds. This can be done in the form of creams or my favorite way, by using the plant itself. Simply cut a stem in half and apply. Or why not try this de-pigmentation remedy on affected areas:

  • 50 grams aloe vera gel
  • 50 ml raspberry leaf tea
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind powder
  • 5 drops parsley essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon essential oil

Combine the Aloe Vera gel and tamarind powder. Add the raspberry tea leaf with a whisk. Add the essential oils and mix well. Apply daily to affected areas.

Aloe Vera can also be ingested. I regularly drink Aloe Vera juice as it contains most vitamins, minerals and amino acids. these work together to help build and maintain a healthy body. It really has little taste therefore I like to mix it with my morning Cranberry juice. It’s pure goodness from the inside 🙂

Beginning the ‘art of meditation’

Lately, I have been wanting to begin the practice of meditation, but thought to myself – I know nothing about it! So, I picked up a fantastic book called ‘The art of meditation’ by Matthieu Richard. If you have not read this book yet I strongly suggest you do! It’s a basic overview of meditation – what it is, why do it and how to do it. Perfect for beginners.

Matthieu Richard is a Buddhist monk who left a career in cellular genetics to study Buddhism in the Himalayas. ‘The art of meditation’ teaches that although mediation is a life long process, we have the ability to “change our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.” The book talks us through “the theory, spirituality and practical aspects of mediation.”

So just what is meditation? Meditation is based on selfless love and compassion. In ‘The art of meditation’, Richard explains meditation as “the inner transformation through training the mind”,  a practice that makes it possible to “cultivate and develop certain basic positive human qualities”. The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. The practice of meditation emerges as a factor essential for leading a balanced – holistic – life!

According to Richard, research has shown that meditation, when practiced over a long-term basis, has the ability to develop greater qualities such as “attention, emotional balance, altruism and inner peace.” Furthermore, the benefits of meditation also include decreased “anxiety, in vulnerability to pain and … depression and anger, strengthening attention, the immune system and increase in general well being.”

By doing mediation, Richard suggests we will begin to change our mindset and, rather than focusing on the negatives in our lives, with inner peace, more positive thoughts and experiences will emerge. We will let go of our self-centered approach and learn to “cultivate altruistic love and inner calm.” Furthermore, he suggests that our emotions and moods are temporary and circumstantial of our nature. This becomes ‘clear’ to us when in a state of consciousness, described in Buddhism as ‘luminous’. Our consciousness, therefore, is neutral to events that take place. Therefore, the theory is accessing a state of consciousness allows us a space to observe mental events, “rather than being at their mercy, and create conditions necessary to transform them.”

So, how to meditate? The book covers this question too. To begin with, we need to be motivated to change our thoughts. Buddhism teaches to abandon the causes of suffering, as suffering = mental confusion, and dims clarity and judgement. To remedy this we must develop an accurate view of reality. The ultimate goal is to “acquire the ability to liberate all beings from suffering”.

There are many ways to meditate and I will go deeper into exploring these. Furthermore, there are many forms and purposes in meditation. But some of the key features include:

  • Finding a peaceful, quiet place to meditate. Quiet space allows for the mind to develop clarity.
  • Forming an appropriate physical posture. Posture affects the mental state
  • Having enthusiasm to persevere in meditation. It is essential to maintain the continuity of meditation in order to gain substance and stability. Do so in short periods of time regularly.

With all this in mind, I pledge to devote at least 20 minutes a day – for me in the morning as soon as I wake up – to meditation. Richard says that shorter sessions have a better chance of being high in quality than occasional long ones. I guess only time will tell what changes I begin to see take place in my life, I will keep you posted!

How about you? Do you mediate? If not, know someone who does? Thinking of beginning meditation yourself?

The Basics Of Skincare – Part 2

So in my last post on skincare, I talked about the three basic steps everyone should be doing daily to begin the process of achieving healthy, glowing skin. By now you should be in the habit of cleansing, toning and moisturizing – day and night, and selected products based on your skin type, budget and personal circumstances.

If so, it’s now time to move on to the next step and tailor a skincare plan based on your specific needs. My last post was for those of you who wanted good skin. This post, however, is for those of you who want great skin. And I’m pretty sure everyone out there falls into this category!

Personally, I suggest you splurge on the next few steps, as your can buy cheap cleanser’s and toner’s as they are only on your face for about a minute.

The next few steps to add to your daily regime are as follows:

1. Exfoliate

Invest in a good exfoliating scrub for the face. I recommend you exfoliate every second day as exfoliating the skin scrubs away the dead skin on the outer layer of skin.You don’t want to scrub too vigorously, as this will irritate the skin or even leave scars. Always exfoliate in light, circular motions for about a minute, the rinse of with lukewarm water and pat dry.

I always exfoliate in the morning after cleansing, then follow with an eye cream and serum.

2. Add an Eye Cream

One of my absolute pet peeves is when people use their ordinary, daily moisturize around the delicate eye area. Ladies – and gents – this is soooo wrong! You need to use an eye cream as the ingredients used are specifically targeted to that area and are far more concentrated than the ingredients used in your moisturizer. I know they’re pricy but they are certainly worth the price if you choose right. That includes people in their late teens and early 20’s. It’s never too early to use an eye cream.
The obvious choice is to go for a cream that fight’s wrinkles. But make sure you don’t confuse wrinkles with sagging, tired eyes, because there are creams targeting that specific issue as well. For people who have young, supple skin, the aim is to maintain it’s health and appearance, therefore choose a cream that is high in antioxidants.

3. And a Serum…

Serum’s are liquid formulations, rather than moisturisers of lotions, and are similar to gel. They are that are specifically targeted to aid specific skin issues. Serum’s are used as a layering formula and are the most potent of products. There are serums to address almost every skincare concern, enabling you he flexibility to integrate targeted treatments into your existing beauty routine.

Serums should be used right after cleansing, added closest to the skin for the best results.

4. Finally, use a Mask

Mask’s come in a variety of different forms, from peel off to cream masks. Again, you should select a mask that works in accordance to your everyday skin needs, as they provide the nourishment your skin needs from the outside and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals – depending on the type of mask you choose.

Remember to keep things simple. Some days your skin just needs to rest and breathe, so adding more products on top of products will counteract all the hard work you are putting in.

But skincare doesn’t stop at the neck. The rest of the skin on your body needs care as well. That shall be in my next post:-)

More on Superfoods… Antioxidants and Phytochemicals

For those of you who don’t know what a Superfood is, I explained it’s definition in this earlier post on the benefits of Chia Seeds.

Superfoods not only naturally contain a greater cross-section of nutrient essentials than other foods, but they also contain non-essential nutrients known as Antioxidants and Phytochemicals. I know, big fancy words, but stay with me, they are highly beneficial properties everyone should seek to include in their diets.

Let’s start with Antioxidants. Another ‘buzz’ word in the food and beauty industries, antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their electrons, thus ending the chain reaction. Antioxidants are basically molecules. Some of these antioxidants, or molecules, are essential nutrients, such as Vitamin C and E. Essential nutrients are required in the body for normal functioning and cannot be synthesized, or produced, by the body. Other antioxidants are non-essential, such as flavonoids. Antioxidants occur naturally in the body to combat the damage done through the process of oxidation, which occurs when free radicals build up in the body and cause damage. Free radicals occur from cigarette smoke, processed foods and even the harsh sun rays. The body alone cannot combat such damage, therefore the consumption of antioxidant rich foods is the best way to prevent and restore the depletion of the body’s natural sources as our bodies requires a complex balance of antioxidants to function healthily. In saying that, there is such a thing as too much antioxidants. Therefore, my belief in balance wins out here again. Too few antioxidants = our body undergoes oxidation stress. Too many = body will struggle to fight bacteria, have decreased cell communication and age faster. This is simply because we need oxidization in our systems as well. Again, balance comes into play …

An overdose of Antioxidants is possible as in recent years synthetic supplements have been created to compensate for the lack of vitamins found in much of today’s genetically modified food. But more of that another time, back to to topic at hand…

Phytochemicals can be classed under the non-essential plant nutrients. they are neither vitamins nor minerals, but other compounds used by plants to protect themselves against harmful environmental occurrences. In humans, phytochemicals have protective and disease preventative qualities. There are thousands of phytochemicals including flavonoids, coumarins, chlorophyll and carotenoids, to name a few. Like vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals have different properties. For example, some imitate human hormonal actions and can reduce the symptoms of menopause, while others have antioxidant properties, and so on…

Superfood’s conatin many of these Antioxidant and Phytochemical properties, which is part of what sets them apart from other, less nutrient dense foods.

Tea Time

One of my favourite ways to relax and unwind is to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of Tea. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my coffee, but if I had to choose one over the other, Tea would win every time.

And I’m not alone. Known as nature’s ‘wonder drug’, many people are rediscovering Tea and the long list of health benefits surrounding it’s consumption. The buzz around Tea has been rapidly growing.

The consumption of Tea in many countries is often an cultural experience and ability of Tea to promote good health is a belief in many countries, especially Japan, China, India, and even England. For many, Tea consumption is an elevated experience. For example, in China, Tea ceremonies are conducted which employs traditional techniques and ritualized protocol of brewing and serving tea for enjoyment in a refined setting. On the contrary, in the United Kingdom, Tea is perceived as one of Britain’s cultural beverages and it is customary good manners for a host to offer tea to guests soon after their arrival. No matter what the occasion, statistics show that after water, Tea is the second most consumed beverage around the world.

The exact origins of Tea is difficult to determine, but the first recorded drinking of Tea was in the 10th century BC, in China. This is no surprise as the Tea plants are native to East and South Asia. It then spread through trade between China and the West, and after the expansion of the Portuguese Empire.

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Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, of which the linder leaves, leaf buds and tender stalks of the plant are used. It is then prepared by pouring boiled water over the cured leaves of the plant. There are so many different types of Tea, but they can generally be divided into categories based on how they are processed. There are at least six different types of tea: Black (called red tea in China), White, Yellow, Green, Oolong (Red) and Post-fermented Tea. There is also Herbal Tea, formerly Tisanes or Infusions, which refer to infusions of fruit or herbs made without the Tea plant. Tisanes are made from placing herbs in hot, near-boiling, or even boiling water, and then steeping them for a short period of time. There are thousands of herbs that can be made into Tisanes.

I will go into each of these categories in future posts, but as a general rule, the degree of processing the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis determines whether a tea will be green, black or red (oolong).

  • Green Tea = least processed. The leaves of the Camellia Sinensis are simply steamed quickly before packaging.
  • Black and Red Tea =  partially dried, crushed and fermented. The length of fermentation, which causes the leaves to blacken, determines whether the tea will be red or black.

There are many thousands of different blends of Tea, but no matter which brew you choose, the benefits are widespread and endless.  High in antioxidants, Tea is has a proven anti-inflammatory effect. The catechins found in tea may suppress pain and nausea, and provide calming effects. Furthermore, Tea contains L-theanine, an essential amino-acid, which is associated with a calm but alert mental state, which is common in meditation.

The protective and revitalizing benefits of this ancient drink are truly something to be enjoyed on a daily basis. So, whenever you have the time, put the kettle on and snuggle up to a nice, warm cup of comforting Tea…

Glorious Green Juice

Remember how I promised you my recipe for Green juice? If not, here’s a refresher in the Innovative ways to use lemons.

Well – here it is! I usually make this juice on Sundays and Wednesdays as it gives me about three servings. I understand that many of you will not have that much time on your hands, but the reason I juice so regularly is because a.) I’m addicted to my brand new juicer 🙂 and b.) It enables me to get an adequate intake of FRESH ingredients every day.

I always, always use ingredients that are organic and fresh. I buy fresh fruits and vegetables at least 3 times a week, and plan ahead and make a list of fruits and vegetables for juicing, and another list for vegetables I will use in my cooking. My diet consists of about 65-70% of fruits and vegetables, and it would be impossible to maintain this if I did not juice at least half of my fruit and vegetables.

My absolute favorite, go-to juice is my ultimate ‘glorious’ green juice. I always have it in my fridge and drink it nearly everyday. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, and is a great alkalizer. It replenishes the body from the inside out and is great for a sluggish digestive system. It is a perfect addition to any detox, diet or general everyday meal or snack.

On a side note before you commence making this juice, note that I don’t really use precise measurements or quantities. This is because I am so used to making the juice that I generally just throw things in and go by the look and taste of the juice. I think that you should be able to adjust just about any recipe to your liking, so go ahead and do the same 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo of green Granny Smith Apples, cut into rough chunks
  • half a bunch of Kale
  • 5 Celery sticks
  • half a kilo of baby Spinach leaves or other salad leaves
  • a couple of sprigs of fresh Mint
  • a couple of sprigs of fresh Parsley
  • half a Lemon, peeled, rind discarded

Method

  1. Prepare all vegetables by washing and discarding any damaged leaves. Drain. Cut up the Granny Smith’s and peel the lemon of it’s rind.
  2. Juice all the ingredients with a top quality juicer.
  3. Pour in a glass and enjoy!

Innovative ways to use lemons

I absolutely adore lemon trees. It is a dream of mine to have a garden full of fruit trees and vegetable patches. It’s the desire within me to continue family traditions, which often means no modern-day short-cuts. But that’s okay too, as past generations generally lived simpler, happy and healthier lives. Certainly, the diets consisted mainly of whole foods, rather than highly processed, ‘fast’ foods. The quality of food was of a higher standard and was generally organically grown, which in turn meant it was locally produced and sourced.There are multiple health benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables, from physical to mental. Even the mere act of sowing seeds and watching the fruits of your labor grow has feel good benefits.

So on the weekend I decided to prune my Baba’s (grandmother’s) lemon tree. And, um, I think I went overboard. The result was that I ended up with a whole basket full of big, glorious lemons. Just LOOK at them!

Like I said, there is nothing better than reaching up to pick a ripe, juicy lemon off the tree. The smell and taste are incredible and the joy you get from the memories made planting it’s seedling, pruning, watering, picking… is priceless.

As the days passed we realised we had too many lemons. We had already given away so many, used the juice of a few in our tea or in cooking, and we still couldn’t get rid of them all. So I went on the hunt for ideas on how to use them up.

Firstly, lemons are acidic and when applied topically, have a whitening effect. They are great for whitening nails, brightening the skin and adding highlights to achieve a sun-kissed look to the hair.

Lemon Nail Bath

To whiten yellowing nails, simply squeeze an entire lemon into a bowl of warm water and add your favorite essential oil. Submerge your nails into the mixture for 10 minutes. To see the best results, treat yourself to a nail bath three to four times a week and you should see a gradual change in the colour of your nails.

Secondly, lemon is a great source of vitamin C, a necessary component for keeping the skin healthy. Vitamin C is especially good for treating acne.

Lemon Rosewater Mask

Use this mask regularly to treat acne. But as a warning, do not go out in the sun and expose the skin while wearing the mask or for a few hours after washing it off, as your skin will burn.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 4-5 drops of rosewater

Method:

Spread the lemon juice and rosewater on the face. keep it on for 10 minutes and rinse with lukewarm water.

As I said, there are thousands of ways you can use lemon, these are just a few examples. Generally, I tend to use lemon most in my cooking, especially my green juices – so stay tuned for that recipe