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Natural Skin Care Newsletter: May Issue
Welcome to the May 2009 Issue of the Natural Skin Care Newsletter. As usual we have included several articles, news and information on natural skincare and alternative health. Kitty makes her usual contribution.
We have also included an article by Greg Revell, the director of sustainable agriculture with GM-free advocacy group GeneEthics, on genetically modified foods and how these may be creating an increase in allergies - very interesting stuff...
We hope you'll enjoy this issue of our newsletter.
Moisturisers - What do they actually do and how do they work?
(by Danny & Susan Siegenthaler)
Dry Skin: A reoccurring problem during Winter months.
(by Susan & Danny Siegenthaler)
About An Essential Oil of Interest: Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)
(by Danny & Susan Siegenthaler)
Kitty's Corner - To keep pets, go native
(by Kitty the Cat)
Newsletter - May 2009
No matter where you look there are skin care products on offer that will make you supposedly 10 years younger in a millisecond. Yeah, right... Most of these products tend to be some type of moisturizing crème and they promise that regular use will make your skin look younger.
But sales pitch aside, what is it about moisturising crèmes that affects your skin? How do they actually work? Are all the moisturising crèmes the same?
Let’s take a basic look at the anatomy of a moisturizer.
The first thing to consider is the base that gives the moisturizing crème its over-all functionality. There are basically two types of moisturizing bases: Oil in Water and Water in Oil preparations. - Isn’t that the same thing, I hear you ask. No. They have quite different effects on the skin. Why? Because when the product is an emulsion of water in oil, the oil is more dominant and therefore it’s most effective for dry skin.
When the product is based on oil in water, however, products are less moisturizing and are formulated for slightly oily skin.
At this point however, it is also important to note that depending on the inclusion of other ingredients such as essential oils and herbal extracts, the overall effect of the base-cream can be modified.
The additional ingredients are chosen based on their therapeutic actions, as well as their vitamin, antioxidant, essential fatty acid, and fragrant content that ads to the functionality of the moisturizer. In other words, the formula of the moisturizer is targeted at a specific skin type or skin problem. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A good quality moisturizing crème has two basic functions. Firstly, it prevents/reduces the loss of moisture from the skin; and secondly it acts to protect, nourish and hydrate the skin. How?
Okay, here we need to take a very quick, simplified look at how the skin works.
The skin is a living, breathing organ, that has a multitude of functions including protecting the inside of the body from our external environment. The skin is almost totally waterproof and it has a protective layer called the acid mantel, which prevents microbes from getting into our skin and cause problems. Because of its inherent structure, only very, very small molecules can freely pass through the skin to the inside of the body.
Other, larger molecules don’t get a free passage. They either remain on the surface of the skin or they get ‘carried’ across the skin-barrier. For example, some essential oils, certain drugs, etc., have molecules that are too big to pass through the skin, which means they need to be carried across the skin-barrier, by a ‘carrier agent’.
In a moisturizing cream this may be achieved by including a carrier oil such as Jojoba in the formula. Once carried across the skin-barrier, the essential oils or herbal extracts can then ‘do their job’ which may be to reduce inflammation or promote blood circulation, or what ever.
So, on the one hand a well formulated moisturizer has ingredients that stay on the skin’s surface and take on the functions of protection and moisture loss prevention, while on the other hand, it contains ingredients that do enter through the skin-barrier to act on the underlying skin layers.
Both these functions/actions of a moisturising crème are very important and the ingredients play a vital role in the effectiveness of a quality moisturising crème. This brings me back to the therapeutic actions, vitamins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, etc., that ad to the functionality and effectiveness of the moisturizer.
As you are probably aware, there are two types of moisturizers – 100% natural ones and of course the non-natural ones. The difference is the type of ingredients that are used to make up the product and its functionality.
I don’t think I need to go into why we should only consider using 100% natural skin care products, as I have covered this topic in considerable depth through many other articles, but it is important to reiterate, that many of the commercially available skin care products found in supermarkets and department stores do contain potentially harmful chemicals and for this reason alone we’d do well to stay away from them.
However, moisturizers that use exclusively natural ingredients such as herbal extracts, essential oils, natural carrier oils and shea nut butter and others, do help to prevent loss of moisture from the skin, benefit the underlying skin layers and can have significant therapeutic effects on the over-all health, look and feel of the skin.
It is for these reasons that a daily skin care regime should always include the use of a natural moisturizing crème.
Do we really need to use a moisturiser?
Now some people would argue that we do not need to use any moisturizers at all, as our skin is perfectly capable of moisturizing itself. After all, our skin contains literally millions of sebaceous glands that excrete sebum (the body’s natural moisturizer) onto the skin’s surface, which is sufficient to keep the acid mantel (protective layer) in tact.
Well, for some people, mind you very few of them, that may be right and indeed they may not need to use a moisturiser, especially if their skin is slightly on the oily side of normal and they are living in a moderate climate. But most of us know that if we do not use a moisturiser, our skin will have a tendency to become dry, rough and at times itchy and flaky.
The problem with today’s modern lifestyle is that we expose ourselves to heating and/or air-conditioning, are surrounded by polluted air, engage in regular physical exercise which makes us sticky and sweaty, and we are basically covered from neck to toe in clothing all day.
Obviously that requires a certain level of personal hygiene and most of us have a shower and use soap to wash our bodies – not the face maybe, but the rest of the body. As a result, this removes the natural oil that the body secretes thereby removing the moisturizing function of the skin.
Now for some people, the removal of the ‘acid mantel’ stimulates, or rather over-stimulates, sebum secretion and they end up with excessively oily skin... not exactly the aim of the exercise, is it. Others end up with dry skin because the body’s sebum production is not sufficient to rebuild the moisture/oil layer on the skin’s surface. In extreme cases this can lead to eczema and/or dermatitis, and who wants that...
So what becomes important now is the type of cleansing agent that is used - but that’s for another article. Suffice it to say that using most of the commercially available soaps is not a great idea, but rather we should use a mild, natural cleansing agent that is close to the skin’s natural pH (approx. 5.5-7.0) and use a good quality, natural, skin-type specific moisturiser to replenish the skin’s moisture and help it to rebuild the protective acid mantel.I hope you’ve gained some insight into how moisturizing creams work and why they play an important role in the maintenance and health of our skin.
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Saturday morning at the supermarket and a road train of shopping trolleys snakes its way up and down the fluorescent-lit aisles. Like fruit pickers of a bygone era, shoppers select the choicest fare from the array of items on offer. The clash of trolleys is drowned out only by the cacophony of bleeping checkout machines as the harvest is passed across their electronic eyes.
In aisle three, Janine appears almost motionless, unaware of the chaos surrounding her. Holding a jar of ‘Baby’s First’ pureed chicken, she gently rocks the jar from left to right as her eves scan over the impossibly small text. Little-Miss-14-months burbles away gleefully in the infant seat of the shopping trolley as she intently watches her mother’s every move. ‘You’re obviously intent on finding something; I enquire. Startled out of her concentration, Janine raises her head and gently smiles. ‘It’s for her’ she says, motioning her eyes towards her daughter Emily. Janine leans her shoulder towards me with the jar’s label facing us. ‘I have to scrutinise the label on everything she eats; she tells me. Janine lifts her eyes from the label to me. ‘She’s allergic to soy. It’s in everything!’
Little Emily’s plight is not unique. It’s estimated that one in 20 children suffer from food allergies and intolerances, especially during infancy or early childhood. Increasingly, soy is one of the major allergens. With allergies on the rise, mothers are reading labels more than ever.
So why are we seeing a dramatic increase in allergies? Some health experts believe that it could be due, in part, to the recent introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods. If evidence from around the world is anything to go by, there may be a case to answer.
In 1999, the York Laboratory in the U.K. tested 4,500 people for allergy reactions and sensitivities. In previous years soy had affected 10% of consumers. In 1999, that figure skyrocketed to 50% after GM soy from the U.S. started to arrive in the U.K., provoking public angst over GM foods. When massive protests followed, supermarkets started removing GM foods from sale and the rapid increase of anaphylaxis in children aged 0-14 stabilised.
But why should GM foods be implicated in the rise in allergies? GM critics believe that the inherent cross-species nature of biotechnology may be responsible. GM foods are created by splicing genes from the DNA of one organism into the DNA of another possibly unrelated organism. Strawberries have been spliced with fish genes, rice and tobacco with human genes and even lettuce with rat genes. Since genes are the instruction codes for proteins, and proteins are implicated in allergic reactions, GM foods may be introducing allergenic proteins into our food that have never before been part of the human food supply.
The litany of allergenic reactions to GM foods grows daily. A gene from a Brazil nut was inserted into soybeans with tests verifying that people allergic to Brazil nuts were allergic to the GM soybean. A GM corn, considered allergenic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was approved as animal feed, yet it contaminated the human food supply and thousands reported health effects, some life-threatening. A GM pea produced by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO) induced an allergic-type inflammatory response in mice, yet the same protein when produced naturally in beans, had no effect.
Alarmed by the growing evidence of health issues associated with GM food, consumer advocacy group Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE) wanted to investigate further to see how our food regulator, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), assessed the safety of GM foods. Their findings raised grave concerns.
When MADGE undertook a study of the assessment process, they were alarmed to note first of all that it was only an assessment. FSANZ does not do any actual testing of GM foods. There are no scientists and labs, merely a government department of bureaucrats performing a paper-based assessment. That in itself is a major process flaw used to determine the safety or otherwise of a novel food technology that has been described as the most profound change to our food since the dawn of agriculture over 10,000 years ago.
What was even more disturbing for MADGE was the realisation that FSANZ accepts safety test data from the very biotechnology companies seeking GM product approval. MADGE founding member Fran Murrell asks, ‘Would we be happy to accept the say so of tobacco companies on the safety of cigarettes? Clearly there is a profound conflict of interest here where FSANZ is placing corporate ahead of public health.
With the allergenic potential of GM foods a high concern, MADGE researchers collected data on trends of hospital admissions for anaphylactic shock in Australia from 1993 to 2005 and compared it to data relating to the approval of GM crops in Australia from the same period. When the two sets of data were superimposed on each other, MADGE was surprised to find an almost like-for-like pattern, the rise in anaphylactic shock admissions being mirrored almost exactly by the rate of approval of GM crops. In support of the GM link, MADGE’s Madeleine Love cites one study in the Australian Medical Journal, which said there was little evidence to support an alternative cause for the sudden increase in allergies. As a result, MADGE is demanding that possible GM links be urgently investigated. To date, under the weight of influence by the biotechnology industry, FSANZ has ignored such calls.
MADGE is not alone in their demands for stricter regulation GM foods in Australia. Dr. Judy Carman of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) in Adelaide, has been researching GM organisms and their health effects for years. With degrees in organic chemistry, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry and a Masters of Public Health, Dr. Carman is a rare academic voice willing to speak out about her deep concerns about GM foods.
She too is critical of FSANZ’s approach to GM food approval and sees the weak regulatory regime as fundamentally flawed. ‘FSANZ does not require any long-term animal feeding studies as part of the approval process, let alone human clinical trials: ‘In contrast’, she notes, ‘a pharmaceutical drug would require full animal testing followed by the four phases of a clinical trial on people before it could be deemed as safe, even though it would be ingested by far fewer people than a GM crop’.
With a growing body of evidence, where does this leave parents concerned about the effects of GM foods not only on themselves, but on their children?
Unlike most food technologies including artificial flavours, colours and preservatives, GM foods are largely exempt from labelling. In fact, 48 of the 50 or so approved GM crops in Australia are exempt from any form of labelling, including the entire harvest from this year’s maiden GM canola crop.
This year’s GM canola will end up in margarines, baby foods, biscuits, vegetable oils, pastries and hundreds more everyday grocery items totally unlabelled. FSANZ argues that labelling is unnecessary because GM canola oil is refined so much that there is no genetically modified DNA or protein present after processing. But critics counter that that in itself is an assumption without any basis in fact and point out that people who are allergic to peanuts are also allergic to peanut oil, a highly refined product.
Consumers around the world are coming to the realisation that GM foods present the consumer with no benefits. On the contrary, they could cause dangerous allergic reactions, especially in the young and the elderly. With a risk-benefit profile like that, most consumers are not prepared to gamble with their health nor the health of their families. But with Australia’s weak labelling laws, they may never know. Fran Murrell from MADGE implores us to consider this: ‘With most GM foods exempt from labelling, arguably our most fundamental right - the right to know what is in our food - is being denied.’
Watching Janine pass through the checkout aisle, I realised that Emily was likely to remain the bubbly and healthy baby that she now is, thanks to her mother’s vigilance. However, with the introduction of unlabelled GM foods I wondered how many thousands of other Janine’s and Emily’s there were, unaware that the source of their allergies could be behind the very labels they’d come to rely on.
Greg is the director of sustainable agriculture with GM-free advocacy group GeneEthics and has been researching, writing and speaking about genetically modified foods for over 10 years. For further information about the Madge allergy report referenced in this article, please visit www.madge.org.au. Greg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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With Winter well on its way and temperatures falling dramatically in some areas in Australia, the skin is undergoing its usual seasonal changes also. Winter is a time when the skin tends to become dry, flaky and at times very itchy.
Heating, longer hot showers, increased use of warm clothing all can contribute to drying out of the skin. During the winter months we also tend to drink less water and as a result tend to dehydrate somewhat.
In winter, the air is generally cooler - in some parts of the world it is freezing and thus our skin reacts to the change in climate.
Unlike summer, during winter we tend to ad heat to our physical environment and like air conditioning, heating too dries the air reducing its moisture content. It is a principle of physics that if you are in a dry environment, your body will loose moisture to the dry environment. Hydration is therefore very important and necessary to stop your skin from becoming dry.
Dry and cracked lips are classic symptoms of dehydration that often appear during late Autumn and Winter. But the drying of the skin goes beyond the lips. Just like in Summer, your skin needs the right skin care regime to keep it moist and hydrated.
Caring for dry skin requires the use of a correct skin care regime and the application of natural skin care products to counteract the drying of your skin. By following the suggestions below, you will reduce the dryness of your skin and promote a healthy vibrant complexion, all over:
Step 1: As explained above, do not wash using soap, it dries out your skin! – Instead, use an exfoliant, such as the ‘Skin Renewal Gel’ from Wildcrafted Herbal Products, followed by Wildcrafted’s Hydrating Cleanser to keep your skin from drying out unnecessarily and remove the layers of dead skin cells.
Step 2: Apply a toner to prevent loss of moisture from your skin – Many people often neglect this step, yet it is a very important, especially if you have dry skin. Toning lotions, such as Wildcrafted’s ‘Milk of Roses Toner’ provides essential oils and herbal extract that help to close the opened pores and prevents loss of moisture.
Step 3: Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise. – This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Moisturising will not only nourish your skin, but it will help to reduce loss of moisture even further, thus preventing dry skin, as well as repair damaged skin.
Dry skin can also be itchy and become very sensitive, often resulting in eczema and dermatitis. This is definitely to be avoided. The prevention of excessive loss of moisture to prevent dry skin is imperative to prevent further complication of dry skin.
Symptoms such as itching, flaking of the skin, cracking and scaly skin all point to you having very dry skin and this requires attention. You will seriously need to look at the amount of water you are not drinking, as this is beyond just using a good skin care regime, although it does help.
Water needs to be consumed at 2-3 litres per day, no less, because that is what the body uses to maintain proper metabolism. So whether you are physically active or not, you will need to provide the body with at least 8-10 glasses of water every day to just to maintain the status quo and prevent your skin from drying out.
Of course if you are physically active, you will need to considerably increase this amount to replace the water loss through sweating. Making sure you have sufficient mineral salts in your diet can also help to prevent dry skin. I am not referring to Table Salt, but the salts present in celery and other vegetables.
As you probably know, sweat is slightly salty and these are the salts you need to replace. Celery is a vegetable high in mineral salts and should be included in your salads and sandwiches.
In conclusion, combining a high quality natural skin care regime with an adequate water intake and a diet high in vegetables, which contain mineral salts and trace elements will help you to combat dry skin.
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Constituents (depending on plant part used):
Uses in Natural Skin Care Products:
Therapeutic Indications (Western Herbal Medicine):
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Susan and I hope you've enjoyed the articles and information provided in our Newsletter and look forward to any comments and feedback you may have. We'd also like to encourage all of you to suggest topics you would like to see us cover.
In good health
Danny & Susan Siegenthaler
© Copyright: Wildcrafted Herbal Products, 2009
Hello to you all, and a hearty Miau.
I hope you found last month's article interesting and helpful.
This month we'll look at something a little different.
This is from a report in the Sydney Morning Herald and it raises some interesting, although debatable, ideas...
To keep pets, go native
SMH - August 7, 2007
A snake in the living room? If nothing else, it would be a great conversation starter, says an expert on the care of Australian animals. Nick Galvin writes.
Instead of the usual cats, dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits, Chris Cheng would love to see more youngsters making pets of rhinoceros beetles, green tree frogs, hopping mice and even wallabies.
"I believe there is nothing better to look after than our own animals," he says. "Cats and dogs are fine as pets but I think it would be just as nice to keep possums."
Now Cheng, a former educator at Taronga Zoo, has written a book to encourage children to consider Australian fauna as potential pets.
Locally Wild: Keeping Native Animals as Pets explains the practicalities of looking after a range of animals from sugar gliders to native cockroaches. "Most Australians know a lot about cats and dogs," Cheng writes. "Wouldn't it be fantastic if we knew just as much about hopping mice, giant burrowing cockroaches, snake-necked turtles or about a sminthopsis, antechinus or planigale? If more people kept native animals as pets the more they would come to know about the animals and the more they would respect them."
Cheng is aware his ideas are controversial in some quarters and is at pains to stress the legal requirements of native pet ownership and the responsibilities that come with looking after, say, a native bird. Matching the animal to the child's level of interest is also important. "If a child loves native animals but doesn't want to spend every day with them then maybe some turtles would be appropriate," Cheng says. "Or what about a snake? Having an enclosure in the lounge room provides a fascinating talking point."
For details of the legalities of keeping native animals as pets check with the relevant department in your State or Territory (Australian).
You can purchase his book at this website:
For now, Miau from me, until next month.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (2007)
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Cleansing, toning and moisturising the skin is part of any good skin care regime.
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