Sunday, May 31, 2015

Homemade Hair Care Products

I've blogged previously about natural hair care, and wanted to share the latest updates to the hair products I make and use. My array of homemade hair products includes shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, styling paste, and dry shampoo. These products work well, they are inexpensive, and they are much healthier than conventional hair care products.  

Baking Soda Shampoo

I've been washing my hair with baking soda for nearly 4 years now.  This super simple shampoo works effectively to cleanse my hair, and it is easy to tailor to the dryness level of my hair, which varies somewhat throughout the year.

How to make Baking Soda Shampoo:
  • Thoroughly clean out an old shampoo bottle (or use one like this).
  • For each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add 1/2 Tb baking soda (for normal or dry hair) OR 1 Tb baking soda (for oily hair). A funnel is very handy for preventing a mess if your bottle has a small opening.  
  • Add water and fill to the top the bottle. Put the lid on and shake well.  
How to use Baking Soda Shampoo:
  1. Give the shampoo bottle a quick shake before each use.
  2. Wet your hair.  Apply the Baking Soda Shampoo to your scalp, roots, and hair (only as far down as hair may be oily).  This shampoo is very watery, so I find it works best to just run the shampoo bottle all along the roots on the top and back of my head, which lets a trickle of the solution out.  
  3. Use your fingertips to scrub your scalp.
  4. OPTIONAL: Allow the shampoo to stay on your hair for a few minutes for extra cleansing action.
  5. Thoroughly rinse your hair.
If you want more information about how to use Baking Soda Shampoo, including what to expect during the transition period and more tips on how to tailor the shampoo for different hair types, I've blogged about that here.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner

For the first few years I was using homemade shampoo and conditioner, I used an apple cider vinegar-based conditioner. However, when we moved to our new house last year, I found that the water supply at our new house made my hair more dry.  So now I have modified the recipe to include a small amount of raw honey, which makes this conditioner more moisturizing for my hair.

 How to make Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner:
  • Thoroughly clean out an old conditioner bottle (or use one like this).
  • Using a funnel, for each 8 ounces (one cup) of water, add:
  • Add WARM water and fill to the top of the bottle. Using warm water allows the honey to dissolve more quickly into the mixture. Put the lid on and shake well.  If your raw honey was especially thick/crystallized, you may need to let this mixture sit for a little while, shaking periodically, until the honey is fully dissolved. 
How to use Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner:
  1. Give the conditioner bottle a quick shake before each use.
  2. After washing your hair with Baking Soda Shampoo, apply the Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey Conditioner to the scalp, roots, and hair.  
  3. Massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Let the conditioner stay on for a few minutes. 
  4. Thoroughly rinse your hair.  Then rinse it some more. Sometimes, the vinegar solution will grow some tiny SCOBY strands (these are like what is used to make kombucha), so you need to rinse your hair very well to make sure no little bits get left behind. 

Aloe and Sugar Hairspray

I've tried several different homemade hairspray recipes, and this one is my favorite. The recipe includes sugar, aloe, essential oils, and a small amount of alcohol (which helps the hairspray dry much quicker).  Rather than using aloe juice called for in the recipe, I use the natural aloe vera gel which we already keep in our home for treating itchy bug bites and sunburns.

I typically use this Aloe and Sugar Hairspray by spraying a small amount onto my hands and then scrunching it into my hair.  This hairspray works well for me, although if I apply too much it can give my hair a bit of that crunchy feel (just as most hairsprays can). I admit, though, that on days when I want to look especially polished, I still apply a last spray with Loreal Elnett Hairspray.  I have yet to find a good replacement for that type of finishing spray, which holds every hair very well since it is an aerosol and comes out in a very fine mist. That particular hairspray leaves my hair feeling soft and flexible while still holding well. But for everyday use, I stick with the Aloe and Sugar Hairspray. 

You can see the recipe and instructions for making Aloe and Sugar Hairspray here.

Hair Styling Paste

I discovered years ago that a small amount of my homemade hard lotion works fantastically as a hair
styling paste for short hair. When I have short hair, this Hair Styling Paste gives my hair a bit more texture and definition, without being sticky or stiff.

How to Make Hair Styling Paste:
[NOTE: This recipe is the same as my hard lotion recipe. This is such a versatile product!]

  • One part unrefined coconut oil
  • One part shea butter (I buy this in bulk at my natural foods co-op)
  • One part beeswax (if you have any local honey producers, you can probably get the best price by buying this directly from the beekeepers)
  • Optional: small amount of essential oil such as lavender or jasmine 
  • NOTE: you can make the end product harder by adding more beeswax or softer by adding more coconut oil. 
  1. Using small warmer crock pot or double boiler over low heat, melt the beeswax
  2. Add the shea butter and allow to melt. 
  3. Add the coconut oil and allow to melt.  
  4. Stir well to combine. If desired, add essential oils and stir a bit more.
  5. Pour the melted ingredients into plastic containers or mini-muffin tins. (This same recipe can be used for lip balm, so you could also pour it directly into lip-balm tubes.) 
  6. Work quickly to clean up the pot and spoons while they are still warm.  I find the best plan is to wipe them with a clean cloth or paper towel immediately.  If you leave them to cool, the beeswax will be very hard to clean off!
  7. Allow the Hair Styling Paste to harden in the fridge, and then remove from the containers.  I like to make enough to last for many months, so I just store the extra in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. 
How to Use Hair Styling Paste:
  1. To apply the Hair Styling Paste, rub a little onto your fingertips. Only a very small amount is needed for hairstyling.
  2. Apply the paste by "piecing out" clumps of hair or scrunching it into the ends of the hair.  Do NOT apply this paste at the roots of the hair, as that can lead to a greasy look. 
  3. I find this paste to be most useful for styling short hair. 

Dry Shampoo

I typically wash my hair once every two days, and my hair does not look oily on the second day. Sometimes, though, I don't have time to wash my hair on the 3rd day, and to combat oil on those days I use dry shampoo made from of cocoa powder and arrowroot (the link recommends using cornstarch, but I use arrowroot in mine). I use an old makeup brush to apply this dry shampoo and it works amazingly well.



Do you make any homemade hair products? Which are your favorites?

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Daughter's Orthodontics - One Year Update

Last year I wrote a series of posts about my daughter's orthodontics and why we are not using conventional braces for her teethIt has now been one year since she started using her orthodontic appliance, so I wanted to share our results thus far. My daughter Alina is currently 8 years old and is in the age of "mixed dentition," meaning she has some adult teeth as well as some baby teeth.


How Does the Appliance Work?

Alina is using a one-piece plastic myofunctional appliance made by Ortho-Tain. This appliance is
encouraging Alina's palate and jaw to grow so that there will be plenty of space for her adult teeth.

Alina wears her Ortho-Tain orthodontic appliance every night while she sleeps. Because we started early, she does not need to wear the appliance during the daytime at all (whereas if we had waited a few more years before starting, she would have needed to wear it at night as well as for a few hours in the daytime).

Alina has been very cooperative with this whole process and has done a fantastic job of wearing her appliance.  Her (wonderful) orthodontist is very pleased with her progress and gives her all the credit for being the one to do the work of wearing the appliance and following his instructions.

Our Results From One Year of Treatment

Over the last year, Alina has progressed through two sizes of orthodontic appliance. This means that her palate and jaw have grown enough to need to increase the size of her appliance!

By the time she had been using her appliance for six months, her minor cross-bite was corrected so that her top and bottom teeth now line up correctly. 

And now for the pictures!

Pre-treatment (April 2014) - Alina's baby teeth have no space between them (minus the one spot where she is missing a tooth)

After one year of treatment (May 2015) - Alina has currently lost 8 baby teeth. She has plenty of space for her new top adult teeth.

(May 2015) Alina's teeth no longer have a cross-bite.

(May 2015) There is still some minor crowding with her bottom teeth, but considering that there are 4 adult teeth where there were previously smaller baby teeth with no space whatsoever, you can tell that her bottom jaw has also expanded.  


Have you tried any alternatives to conventional orthodontics? What were your results?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Although her tolerance for grains is increasing over time, I still like to make grain-free baked goods for my daughter that she can enjoy with impunity.  Last weekend I developed a new muffin recipe that she loves: Lemon Blueberry Muffins. 

Rich in healthy protein and fat, these muffins are moist and delicious. I like to make these muffins using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener; the lighter taste of sugar allows the bright flavor of lemon to really "pop" in this recipe. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to use only unrefined sweeteners.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp celtic sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • zest from 1 lemon, which makes about 1 tsp of packed zest
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) grassfed butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of sucanat 
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of sucanat and raw sugar for a lighter flavor)
  • 5 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
  • 1 Tb organic vanilla extract (or use homemade vanilla)
  • 3/4 tsp organic almond extract 
  • 3 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb organic sour cream, preferably from pastured cows
  • 1 heaping cup organic frozen blueberries*
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. Then use a lemon reamer to juice the lemon. If your lemon has a very thick rind, you may need to juice more than one lemon to get 3 Tb of fresh lemon juice.
  3. Combine the coconut flour, salt, baking soda, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. Combine the butter, sucanat and sugar in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  6. In the meantime, combine the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  7. Once the butter and sucanat/sugar have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  8. Add the sour cream and lemon juice to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  9. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  10. Stir or mix in the blueberries.
  11. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  12. Bake the muffins at 325 degrees F for 33-37 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry. (The baking time will be less if fresh berries are used instead of frozen berries.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen berries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Importance of High-Vitamin Butter Alongside Cod Liver Oil

Nutrients in Butter and Cod Liver Oil Work Synergistically

Photo from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

In Weston Price's research into Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he found that the diets of traditional people contained much higher nutrient-content than modern diets.  For instance, traditional diets contained ten times the amounts of Vitamin A and D present in modern diets.  The higher nutrient-content led to people with robust health and virtually no cavities, heart disease, or cancer. One easy way to boost the amount of nutrients in our diets is through the use of superfoods such as extra-virgin cod liver oil, which is a nutritional powerhouse providing Vitamins A and D, plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA.

Weston Price found that cod liver oil worked synergistically with high-vitamin butter. Price wrote of controlling and preventing cavities through the following:
"The program that I have found most efficient has been one which includes the use of small quantities of very high vitamin butter mixed in equal parts with a very high vitamin cod liver oil... When this butter oil is mixed in equal parts with a very high-vitamin cod liver oil, it produces a product that is more efficient than either alone...The quantity of the mixture of butter oil and cod liver oil required is quite small, half a teaspoonful three times a day with meals is sufficient to control wide-spread tooth decay when used with a diet that is low in sugar and starches and high in foods providing the minerals, particularly phosphorus. A teaspoonful a day divided between two or three meals is usually adequate to prevent dental caries and maintain a high immunity; it will also maintain freedom from colds and a high level of health in general. This reinforcement of the fat-soluble vitamins to a menu that is low in starches and sugars, together with the use of bread and cereal grains freshly ground to retain the full content of the embryo or germ, and with milk for growing children and for many adults, and the liberal use of sea foods and organs of animals, produced the result described."
It is clear that, to get the most benefit from taking cod liver oil, the nutrients in high-vitamin butter should be consumed alongside cod liver oil.

My Family's Experience with Butter Oil

My family stopped taking fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) years ago because of digestive and flavor issues. Back when we were still using FCLO, my family tried taking high-vitamin butter oil along with our cod liver oil, but we had a hard time with the flavor.  The butter oil had a very strong smell and flavor that I found to be unpleasant; my toddler daughter did like the butter oil, but my husband and I could never get ourselves to take it with any regularity.  At that time, I gave up on the idea of having butter oil, and just focused on liberally using high-vitamin butter (usually on toast or waffle) whenever we took our dose of cod liver oil.

For nearly a year now, we have been using extra-virgin cod liver oil (EVCLO), which we aim to take a couple times a week. EVCLO has such a light, pleasant taste that it is no chore to take it regularly. Thus far, I have been continuing to rely on high-vitamin butter to enhance the benefits of the cod liver oil.  However, recently Corganics sent me a complimentary bottle of their extra-virgin butter oil to try.

I opened the extra-virgin butter oil with the expectation that it would have the same strong and somewhat offensive smell and taste as the butter oil I tried years ago, but I was in for a surprise. Extra-virgin butter oil has a pleasant smell that reminds me of the smell of homemade popcorn, and it tastes like unsalted butter.  I like to add a tiny pinch of salt or dab of raw honey to the butter oil and that makes the taste truly fantastic. Both of my children enjoy the flavor of extra-virgin butter oil and like taking it along with their EVCLO.

We will still be using high-vitamin butter liberally, but especially for those times of year when the butter from the store is on the pale side, it will be a pleasure to supplement with extra-virgin butter oil to make sure we are getting the most benefit from our extra virgin cod liver oil.


What are your experiences with butter oil? Do you take cod liver oil and butter oil together?

Affiliate Disclosure - Links to Amazon and Corganic are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip (probiotic : nutrient-dense)

Ranch dressing is a staple item in our household. We use it as a salad dressing, as a dip for veggie sticks and homemade pizza, and as a sandwich condiment. I previously blogged my original ranch dressing recipe 4 years ago; this new recipe is another version of ranch dressing that we have been enjoying for about a year now.  The milk kefir adds wonderful flavor and a good dose of healthy probiotics to this ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing and Dip
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl or 2-cup measuring cup. (Putting all of the ingredients into a 2-cup measuring cup saves on having to dirty many different measuring cups.) Whisk or stir well to combine. 
  2. If possible, make this dressing at least an hour before it will be consumed, so the flavors have a chance to meld.
  3. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.  This ranch dressing will keep for at least a week. If separation occurs, just give it a quick stir before using it. 

Links to Amazon and Corganic are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!