Friday, 6 November 2009

Give the Gift of Relaxation this Christmas

Know someone who works or lives in Bristol? Are you looking for an original and thoughtful gift for someone special this Christmas?

Balance Holistics gift vouchers are the perfect gift!

Why not treat someone to a Balance Holistic treatment in Bristol this Christmas – such as a relaxing Aromatherapy Massage, a luxurious Holistic Facial, some Reflexology, or an Indian Head Massage?

Gift Vouchers can be purchased for a complete treatment or in £5 increments. Gift vouchers come with a blank gift card and envelope so that you can write your own message inside.

All holistic therapy gift vouchers can be used at The Healing Rooms in Bristol or in the comfort of your own home in Bristol or the surrounding areas.

Buy your Christmas massage gift voucher online today.

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Questions & Answers: Essential Oils for Menopause

“What essential oils are good for the menopause?”

Clary sage, rose, sage (Spanish), and fennel are all very good essential oils for menopausal symptoms. Roman chamomile, lemongrass, peppermint, cypress, lemon and vetiver are excellent for hot flushes.

Making a spritz spray with a few of these oils can be very effective at helping hot flushes.

To make a instant relief cooling spray, mix 100ml of distilled water (or spring water) with 20ml of vodka or witch hazel and add your chosen essential oils. I would suggest adding 8-10 drops of essential oils in total. I would be inclined to use peppermint, roman chamomile, and cypress.

Pour in to a spray bottle, place the lid on, and shake well. Always shake well before use. This can be stored in the fridge to increase the cooling affect. When using sprays on the face, avoid contact with the eyes.

View the video below for an alternative recipe for a cooling spray. It uses lavender and peppermint essential oils along with rose water.

As always, make sure you perform a patch test before using the product on a larger area of skin.

For more information on how to use the essential oils listed above for menopausal symptoms, check out 15 ways to use Essential Oils – you could add the oils to your bath, an oil burner, or a cream.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Question & Answer: Preparation for Birth Wounds

I am expecting my first child in a couple weeks and would like to make a preparation to use on any birth wounds that I might get. Could you recommend anything?”

I would recommend mixing some aloe vera gel with lavender and tea tree essential oils which can be used on birth wounds of any kind including caesarean scars and stitches. Keep the gel in the fridge and apply 3/4 times a day. It will help speed up healing, reduce pain and inflammation, and help prevent infection. According to the Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier, extensive research has been carried out since the 1930s showing
“that the clear gel has a dramatic ability to heal wounds, ulcers and burns, putting a protective coat on the affected area and speeding up the rate of healing. This action is in part due to the presence of aloectin B, which stimulates the immune system.”
A spray can also be made using the essential oils mentioned above along with witch hazel.
“Witch hazel contains large quantities of tannins. These have a drying, astringent effect, causing the tightening up of proteins in the skin and across the surface of abrasions. This creates a protective covering that increases resistance to inflammation and promotes healing of broken skin.”
You could also place a small amount of either of these blends on a sanitary pad to wear if you would prefer that to applying them direct.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Spa Review: Center Parcs, Longleat Forest

Steam Rooms and Saunas in a Spa
Photo by hendry.
At the weekend I visited the Aqua Sana spa at Longleat Forest Center Parcs. It was my first trip to a spa so I was very excited. I’ve used steam rooms and saunas before at swimming pools and gyms but never in a spa.

On arrival, I was given a warm white robe to change in to and a towel to take round with me. The spa was very peaceful and everyone who was using it was very respectful of each other keeping talking to a minimum so that we could all benefit from the relaxation experience.

Soft relaxation music was played in to the steam and meditation rooms and the surrounding relaxation areas. There were about 15 different rooms to use including steam rooms, meditation rooms, saunas, relaxation area, experience showers, ice fountain, and a small outdoor heated pool.

I spent 3 hours in the spa and spent most of the time in the steam rooms and saunas. If I had had more time, I may have also made use of the relaxation areas as they were amazing. There was a zen garden, water beds, giant beanbags, and loungers that all looked very comfortable and inviting.

My favourite steam room was the Indian Blossom steam room which was the hottest and most humid of all the steam rooms and the steam was infused with eucalyptus and menthol which did wonders for my sinus congestion. My second favourite was the Japanese salt steam room which had heated seats and the steam was infused with mineral salts and mint.

My favourite sauna was the Tyrolean Sauna which was a traditional wooden lined sauna with the aromas of pine and mountain herbs and was very hot indeed. After some time in the sauna, I rubbed a handful of flaky ice from the ice fountain all over my body which felt really refreshing.

I felt amazing afterwards and my skill felt so soft – I don’t recall it ever being that soft before! In the evening I did have a bit of a detox/healing response but it didn’t last long.

I loved my first spa experience very much. I can’t decide whether I like steam rooms or saunas more. Planning my next trip to a spa as I write…

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Friday, 11 September 2009

Balance Holistics Now on Twitter!

Over the months I have heard various people talking about Twitter but never really new what it was or how to use it until now. I have just joined Twitter to update people on things relating to Balance Holistics and this blog and anything else I think is interesting. My Twitter profile can be viewed and followed at https://twitter.com/balanceholistic. My last five updates can also be viewed in the right sidebar under ‘Balance Holistics on Twitter.’ I hope you enjoy my tweets!

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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Question Time: Essential Oils for Scarring

I regularly get asked questions by existing clients and people via email regarding wellbeing, complementary therapies, and various ailments. So I decided to include some of these questions and my answers here on my blog. For the first Question Time post, the question is:

“Are there any oils that I can use to help speed up the healing of wounds and help reduce scarring?”

Arnica is good for helping reduce any bruising that may be surrounding the wound, it is an anti-inflammatory, and helps scar healing and reduction. Helicrysium is an excellent anti-inflammatory and helps with tissue regeneration. Rosehip Seed oil and Hazelnut oil are also good choices for the carrier oil.

As for the essential oils, I would definitely use lavender. When wounds start healing, the area can often itch so I would recommend perhaps including German chamomile to help counteract this. Mandarin and sage are also good for scars as is carrot seed, frankincense, patchouli, and vetiver.

For a 30ml blend, I would recommend mixing 15ml Rosehip seed with 15ml of either Hazulnet or Arnica then add 20 drops of Helicyrsium (1ml) and 20 drops of lavender. Then 15-20 drops split between the other essential oils that you decide to use – perhaps 10 drops frankincense, 5 drops mandarin, 3 drops German chamomile, and 2 drops sage. It is quite a strong blend so it shouldn't be used all over the body - just on the affected areas 2-3 times a day. It will help speed up the healing process, reduce any redness and inflammation, and hopefully reduce the scarring.

Always perform a patch test first.

If you would like your question to feature in a future Question Time post, please post your question as a comment or email me.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Herbal Medicine Chest

I already have several herbal remedies, essential oils and homeopathic remedies in my medicine chest which I find invaluable. While reading a book from the library titled Home Hints and Tips: The New Guide to Natural, Safe and Healthy Living by Rosamond Richardson, I found a section on the herbal medicine chest. It suggested the following remedies to keep in your cupboard:

Aloe Vera – the gel can be used for minor burns and scalds, sunburn, stretch marks, warts, wounds and grazes, eczema and dermatitis, and dehydrated skin.

Arnica – the cream can be used on bruises, sprains and strains, and stiff and aching muscles while the arnica homeopathic pillules can be taken when you have sustained an injury, are in pain, or have experienced shock or trauma.

Calendula – the cream can be used on acne, boils, athlete’s foot, bites and stings, nappy rash, bruises, minor wounds, and swellings.

Chamomile – the chamomile essential oil can be blended with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil and used for a wide variety of skin conditions including nappy rash, eczema and dermatitis, sore and itching skin, bites and stings, sore nipples and muscles spasms. A cream is also available which can be used for the same conditions. German Chamomile is the best variation of chamomile for skin conditions. Chamomile tea is excellent for insomnia, indigestion, morning sickness, and relaxation.

Clove – a couple drops of the essential oil can be used to help toothache – place 2-3 drops on some cotton wool and dab on to the surrounding area.

Comfrey – a cream or ointment can be used for bruises, acne, boils, fractures and wounds, fungal skin infections, psoriasis, and stiff and aching joints.

Echinecea – both tablets and tincture are available and can be used to help stimulate the immune system when under attack for example during a cold / flu. It can also help coughs, fevers, mild asthma and cold sores.

Garlic – capsules can be taken to increase your resistance to infections and can be used for colds and flu, coughs and bronchitis. It also helps to lower blood pressure and can be used for cold sores and digestive infections.

Hypercium – the cream is very effective for cramps, neuralgia, cold sores, back pain, and stiff and aching joints and muscles. The oil can be used on minor wounds and burns.

Lavender – the lavender essential oil can be used for headaches, back pain, asthma, irritability, insomnia, relaxation and much more. It can be used neat on insect stings and bites, spots, and cold sores. Add it to a carrier oil to massage stiff and aching muscles and joints.

Meadowsweet – the tablets can be used for rheumatic aches while a tea made from meadowsweet can help with stomach acidity, heartburn, and diarrhoea.

Neem – the oil can be used to treat head lice, skin rashes, ringworm, and it is also a powerful insect repellent. The cream can be used for eczema, proriasis, acne and many other skin conditions.

Slippery Elm – the capsules are good for coughs and bronchitis. The powder is good for acidity and indigestion while the tablets are good for diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, and haemorrhoids.

Tea Tree – the tea tree essential oil is good for stings, bites, wounds, skin infection, ringworm, athlete’s foot, minor burns, warts and corns, and much more. It can also be used undiluted on the skin but if it is to be used on a large area of skin it is best to dilute it in a carrier oil first. It can be used to treat thrush by mixing 2-3 drops with 1 tsp of olive oil and place on a tampon to insert. Leave it in for 2-3 hours, remove, and repeat if required.

Thyme – the essential oil is good for bites, stings, scabies, sciatica, ringworm, rheumatic pain, athlete’s foot, and thrush. This essential oil must be diluted before use.

Valerian & Hops – tablets are available to help insomnia, relieve stress, tension and anxiety. Valerian is also available as an essential oil which can be placed on a tissue on your pillow at night.

White Willow – tablets can help arthritis, rheumatic pain, back pain, stiff and aching joints, and fever. It also reduces night sweats and hot flushes in menopause.

Witch Hazel – this can be used on insect bites and stings, sore skin, rashes, broken and varicose veins, bruises, and eczema.

Out of these 18 herbal medicine chest essentials I have 10 which is pretty good going but I will make a trip to the nearest health food store to stock up on the others – you never know when they might come in handy. I would also add a pot of tiger balm to this list for muscle aches and pains as well as eucalyptus essential oil for steam inhalations.

I found this list quite interesting and I will be looking in to some of the individual items in more detail in future posts. Some of them have already been discussed in more detail such as the arnica homeopathic pillules, tea tree, lavender, and chamomile essential oils.

Ensure that you follow the directions carefully on any products you purchase and take note of any cautions.

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Sunday, 30 August 2009

Carrier Oils for Your Dosha

I was recently flicking through the little book Ayurveda (Secrets of...) by Gopi Warrier, Dr. Harish Verma, & Karen Sullivan. I came across a section which talked about massage – both dry and oil massage and how they should be used. It also talked about the various carrier oils which are used in Ayurvedic massage.

Three popular oils which are used in ayurvedic massage are olive, sesame and sunflower oil as these are all very nutritious oils and help aid the detoxification process when used on the skin in massage. The book goes on to say:
“Different oils are recommended for the different dosha types. For example, the best oil to use for vata type is good quality, cold-pressed sesame oil, which strengthens the skin and protects it from fungal infections and the harmful effects of the sun. If you find that this irritates your skin, use olive oil or sweet almond oil instead. Clarified butter (ghee) can also be used. Always heat the oil to body temperature before using it. Many more oils can be used, but the recommendations below are a good selection for your daily massage.
Vata types – Choose calming oils, including sesame, olive, almond, wheatgerm, and castor oil.
Pitta types – Choose cooling oils, such as coconut, sandalwood, pumpkin seed, almond, and sunflower seed.
Kapha types – Choose burning oils. These include mustard, corn, and safflower.”
From my understanding of Ayurveda, the belief is that we are comprised of three vital energies which are called doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone consists of all three doshas but to varying degrees and tend to have maybe one or two dominant doshas.
“Our dosha determines our constitution, preferences, personality traits, sleeping patterns, and even the foods we should eat.”
When our doshas become unbalanced as we go through life due to stress, environment, diet etc we become ill.

You can find out what dosha you are and more about them by taking a quiz. My dosha turned out to be vata.

So by using the right carrier oil to suit your dosha can help to keep you in balance according to Ayurvedic philosophy.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hand Reflexology for Skin Conditions

Hand Reflexology for Skin Conditions
Original photo by wimayr.
"Our appearance reflects our inner health," says Ann Louise Gittleman, author of The Living Beauty Detox Program."Very often, what we first see with skin, hair and nails is simply a reflection of inner imbalances."

Reflexology can help to correct imbalances within the body and can be very beneficial for people who suffer with various skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, dermatitis, and rosacea to name a few.

“Problems such as chronic acne, pimples or dryness often point to nutrient deficiencies.” says Ann Gittleman. The skin is the biggest organ of the body and requires a large amount of nutrients to keep it healthy and looking good.

Our supply of vitamins and minerals depends not only on our diet, but on how well our body is able to digest the food and drink we consume. Working on the digestive and elimination reflexes, such as the gall bladder, stomach, liver, spleen, intestines, kidneys, and oesphagus, can help to revitalize a sluggish digestive system, increase the circulation to the organs, help the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and help eliminate toxins and waste products from the body.

Bringing the digestive system back in to balance not only improves its function, but also improves the health and function of the rest of the bodily systems including the skin. This in turn can help eliminate the skin conditions mentioned above.

Some skin conditions can also be linked to stress and hormones so I would also suggest working on the adrenal and pituitary gland reflexes. It might also be worth working the reflexes where the skin condition is located, for instance, if you have psoriasis on your elbow, then work the elbow reflex.

Most people associate reflexology with the feet but it can also be performed on the hands. I often advise my clients to work on specific reflex points on the hands in between their appointments with me. The picture above illustrates the reflexes on the hands which should be worked to help improve the absorption of nutrients and aid detoxification and improve the condition of the skin. Move your thumb in a caterpillar like motion over the reflexes in the direction of the arrows. On the circular points, press your thumb into the point, thumb bent and rotate in a clockwise direction.

Apparently, the skin is the last organ of the body to receive nutrients from the food, drink and nutritional supplements consumed, so it is also advisable to apply a cream or oil which contains the anti-oxidant vitamins (vitamins A, C and E) to help improve the health of your skin.

Performing this simple hand reflexology routine daily, in conjunction with a balanced healthy diet rich in the anti-oxidant vitamins, and plenty of water, will help improve the overall condition of your skin.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Reiki and Wine

Reiki and Wine
Photo by EmZed.
During my Reiki training, I was taught various symbols to use during healing, meditations, and space clearing. A few more unusual uses for the symbols were suggested to me too during my training.

One of these suggestions was to use the symbol for earth ki known as Cho Ku Rei to help improve the taste of wine. I was told to draw the symbol on a piece of paper and place under a bottle or glass of wine for at least 10 minutes.

An article in The Japan Times talks about the spiritual side of winemaking and reports that Maria Pilar Palomar of Bodegas Palomar Sanchez winery in Spain, uses Reiki in the wine making process. The journalist asked Maria about her use of Reiki in winemaking to which she replied:

"Reiki is a universal energy, and treatment with reiki may be directed to people, animals, plants, things or situations. Reiki is the channeling of ki (energy) through a series of techniques using the hands, and that is what we do in the wine cellar. We produce a grape and a wine of high quality and do not use reiki to improve the organic properties of the wine: its aroma, color and flavors. We believe, instead, that reiki harmonizes the wine with the energy of the universe, and when people drink our wine it balances body and mind. We believe that reiki energy flows in nature, and we want our wine to be one of the channels through which people can receive this energy."
Now I haven’t personally used Reiki on wine yet but I know several Reiki masters who swear by it so I think I might have to give it a go especially after reading about the winemakers using Reiki. I suppose I could pour two glasses of wine and place one glass on the reiki symbol and the other just on the table, leave for 10 minutes and then compare the two to see whether it actually makes a difference or not. It would be great if it stops you getting a hangover afterwards too!

Read the full article - The spiritual side of making wine.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Sleep Paralysis

In the August edition of The Psychologist, the official monthly publication of The British Psychological Society, there is an article written by Julia Santomauro and Christopher C. French, two researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, examining the phenomenon of sleep paralysis.

“Sleep paralysis is a period of transient, consciously experienced paralysis either when going to sleep or waking up. During an episode the individual is fully conscious, able to open their eyes but aware that it is not possible to move limbs, head or trunk. There may be also be the perception of respiratory difficulties and, understandably, acute anxiety (Dahlitz & Parkes, 1993).”

“In addition, the individual might experience hallucinations. In a sample of 254 college students who had experienced sleep paralysis at least once (Cheyne et al., 1999), 75 per cent had concurrently experienced body paralysis and hallucinations.”

“Sleep paralysis usually occurs when the individual is lying on a bed – it is unlikely to occur if in an uncomfortable sleeping position such as sitting upright (Hishikawa, 1976). It is more likely to occur when the individual is lying supine facing upwards than in any other sleeping position (Cheyne, 2002). An episode can last between a few seconds and 10 minutes and can end either spontaneously or because of an intense effort to break the paralysis by the person experiencing it, or by the touch or voice of another person (Goode, 1962).”
I have had an interest in sleep paralysis for many years now and like to keep up to date with research in this area. I first experienced sleep paralysis when I was working as an auxiliary nurse about 6 years ago. I did a lot of shift work including some night shifts. According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, shift work, jetlag, irregular sleep habits, overtiredness and sleep deprivation are all considered to be predisposing factors to sleep paralysis. It was so scary being conscious but not being able to move and my dream still carrying on around me. I couldn’t even speak to cry out for help – it’s the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. I had no idea what it was and at the time had never heard of sleep paralysis. It’s actually more common than you think and since experiencing it and learning about it more I’ve met many people who have also experienced it at some point or another in their life.

“Although estimates vary, it appears that up to 50 per cent of the population will experience sleep paralysis in one form or another at least once in their lifetime, and some people experience it far more often than that.”

Read the full article on sleep paralysis - Terror in the night

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Friday, 14 August 2009

Skin Toner – Do You Really Need One?

While reading 21st Century Beauty Bible by Sarah Stacey & Josephine Fairley, I came across a page titled “To Tone or Not To Tone?”. It starts:
“Fact: you probably don’t need a toner. Skincare companies invariably insist that cleanse/tone/moisturise should be the basic, three-step skincare regime, but we disagree. (And so do the world’s leading facialist ‘gurus’…)”.
It goes on to say that:
"This is especially the case if you’ve got oily, greasy or problem skin."
Many toners over-strip the skin of its natural moisturising oils which can leave it feeling dry and dehydrated. For those with oily skin this upsets the skins natural balance causing more sebum to be produced to compensate for the over-stripping.

If you do want to use a toner, it is advisable to go for one which doesn’t have alcohol in as this is very drying to the skin. The best alternative to fancy toners, would be aromatherapy hydrolats such as rose water or orange blossom water. These are gentle and refreshing for the skin and won’t leave your skin vulnerable after use. Witch hazel is another good alternative especially if you have oily skin.

An excellent toner for acne is 10ml of tea tree essential oil mixed with 45ml each of distilled witch hazel and rose water.

Skincare companies and beauticians tell us that we should use toner to close the pores but this doesn’t seem to be the case either. The pores don’t open or close! This is an old wives tale. The size of the pores in your skin is determined when you are born and there is very little you can do to help close them but steps can be taken to help minimise them making their appearance less obvious. The best way to minimise open pores is to wash your face regularly but not with harsh soaps which can upset the acid balance of the skin. Eve Lom, who is regarded as the queen of cleansing, advises people with large pores to “stop using moisturiser on that area and pores will start to appear less obvious. They’ll never disappear completely, but they do get better with patience and care.”

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Nasal Irrigation for Allergies and Congestion

Nasal irrigation with Netipot for Allergies and Congestion
Photo by kurt yoder.
I recently stumbled across a little device known as a neti pot while I was searching for steam inhalators on the internet. I’d not seen or heard of one of these before and it intrigued me.

It is used for nasal irrigation.I found the following information about the history of nasal irrigation on wendys menopause support blog:

The history of this process dates back several millennia. It was used in the yoga practices in old Indian traditions. At the time, it was better known as jala neti, which is just another term for nasal sinus irrigation. Also at the time, the procedure was performed with the small pot which is widely known as the neti pot. It looks something like a gravy boat, something like the lamps seen in Aladdin and Arabian nights.

Nasal irrigation helps remove blockages and congestion such as those experienced during a cold or flu and hayfever. It can also help eliminate sinus congestion. By removing the congestion, it helps to relieve breathing difficulties. Nasal irrigation helps to cleanse the mucous membrane of dust and other allergens, such as pollen making it an effective treatment for those suffering with hayfever, asthma, dust allergy, and other allergies.

A saline solution made with tepid water is added to the neti pot. It is best to perform the nasal irrigation over a sink. Place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril, bend your head forward and tilt your head to one-side (away from the neti pot). Keep your mouth open and continue to breathe normally throughout. Tilt to neti pot up gently until the water starts to flow out of the opposite nostril to the one it is in. Use half of the solution in each nostril. After each nostril, remove the neti pot and forcibly exhale through both nostrils (not too hard though) to get rid of any left over solution. It is a very strange sensation but it is not unpleasant.

The You tube video below shows how to use the neti pot.

According to the leaflet that came with my netipot, nasal irrigation has proved helpful with the following medical conditions: frequent colds and flu; blocked or running noses; inflammation of the sinuses leading to painful pressure headaches; inflammation of the upper respiratory system(sore throat, bronchitis, anginas); hayfever, frequent sneezing and allergic reactions of the upper respiratory system; dry mucous membranes and impaired breathing; post-nasal drip; ear blockages and infections; and impaired sense of taste and smell.

I purchased my neti pot from netipot.co.uk . The neti pot came with a user guide instruction leaflet, and 50g of salt and was very reasonably priced.

Related articles:
Sinus Congestion and Epsom Salts
Steam Inhalation for Hayfever

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Monday, 10 August 2009

Cramp Bark for Cramps

In Healing with Herbs: Simple Remedies for 100 Common Ailments, Penelope Ody suggests making a massage oil to rub on muscles that are cramping. She suggests mixing 40 drops each of lavender and chamomile essential oils to 25ml of cramp bark tincture and 20ml of sweet almond oil. Ensure that the oil is mixed thoroughly before massaging a little into the affected areas. Re-apply as required.

Lavender and chamomile essential oils are anti-spasmodic making them an excellent choice for cramps.

I knew very little about cramp bark as it is not something I have come across in aromatherapy before so I decided to do a bit of research on it. As the name suggests, cramp bark is good for cramp – but not just muscle cramps. It is excellent for uterine cramps, breathing difficulties in asthma, intestinal cramps, muscle spasms, stiffness and tension, general aches and pains, night cramps, and can even help lower blood pressure by relaxing the walls of the blood vessels.

Cramp bark is an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, emmenagogic, anti-spasmodic, nervine, hypotensive, astringent, and sedative.

Cramp bark can be taken internally in water (follow the instructions on the bottle), added to water (25ml to 500ml water) and used in a compress on the affected area, or added to a massage oil and rubbed in to the area as mentioned above.

You could add 5ml hypercium (St John’s Wort) oil to the blend above and reduce the sweet almond oil to 15ml as it is also well known for helping with cramps, neuralgia, stiff and aching joints, and tired and aching muscles.

Always perform a patch test before applying a blend to a large area of skin.

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Friday, 7 August 2009

Stretch Marks

Unfortunately, stretch marks are more common in women. They occur during puberty, in pregnancy, and when a person grows or gains weight quickly. The areas most commonly affected are the abdomen, buttocks, thighs and breasts.

The skin is made up of three layers – the epidermis (outer layer), dermis, and subcutaneous. Stretch marks occur in the dermis of the skin. The skin is generally quite elastic in nature but when it is overstretched, the dermis stretches and breaks up in places allowing the deeper layers of the skin and blood vessels to show through causing stretch marks.

The cause of stretch marks in pregnancy is not only due to the rapid growth of the baby but it is also hormonal. During pregnancy, hormones are secreted to help soften the pelvis ready for labour but this also weakens the collagen in the skin allowing stretch marks to form more easily. Collagen can be weaker in some women than others which will also contribute to more stretch marks.

Recent research has shown that there may be a possible link between the strength of collagen and the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, so if you notice that you are getting a lot of stretch marks during your pregnancy I would recommend doing regular pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen the muscles.

Once stretch marks occur, the skin is permanently damaged so they will never totally go away but their appearance is reduced significantly with time making them less noticeable. Stretch marks are often red or purple when they first appear which gradually fade to a silvery-white colour.

Ensuring that your body and skin is well hydrated and healthy will make your skin more elastic reducing the risk of stretch marks forming. Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet to keep the body in shape and use nourishing creams or oils on the skin to help keep it supple. Oils and creams can also be applied to stretch marks to help soften their appearance.

Oils which are good for stretch marks include vitamin E, rosehip seed, calendula, hypercium, olive, and wheatgerm. Essential oils which are good for stretch marks include neroli, black pepper, geranium, patchouli, sandalwood, lemon, orange, lavender, frankincense, and mandarin. Also, cocoa butter might be worth giving a try as it is said to soften the appearance of scars.

When using creams and oils, it is best to apply them once or twice a day for it to be most effective.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Tennis Balls for Trigger Points

Tennis Balls for Trigger Point Massage
Photo by biscione.
A friend of mine came to visit at the weekend who has been suffering with pain in the piriformis muscle and referral pain down the sciatic nerve in the leg. She asked me if I could give her any suggestions to help relieve the pain. As well as Epsom Salts baths, and several different stretches, I suggested she use a tennis ball to help relieve any trigger points in the muscle.

I found a great article about tennis ball massage for myofascial pain syndrome a little while ago. The author of the this article, Paul Ingraham, a registered Therapist in Vancouver, Canada says the aim of the tennis ball massage is
"to achieve a “release” by applying just the right amount of pressure: enough to do some good, but not enough to irritate the knot. The sensation should be clear and strong and satisfying, what we call “good pain.” If you are wincing or gritting your teeth, you need to be more gentle. You need to be able to relax."
To release any trigger points in the piriformis muscle, sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you bent at the knees, place your hands on the floor either side of you to support your body. Place your left foot on the knee of your right leg. If you are not very flexible, just lay down flat on the floor with your legs outstretched.

Place the tennis ball underneath the left buttock in approximately the right place.
"You do not have to be precise. “Explore” by moving slowly and gently, until you’ve got just the right spot."

"Once you have adjusted yourself to achieve the right pressure, relax as much as possible and wait for the sensation to fade to about eighty percent of the original intensity. This is the “release” — a change in the physiological state of the tissues, or a “melting” of the knot. This can take anywhere from ten seconds to several minutes."
Do this a couple of times before repeating on the other side or another trigger point if required.

It is a good idea to stretch out the muscle after doing the trigger point work with the tennis ball, so perhaps try out the exercises mentioned in the the Piriformis Syndrome post afterwards.

The tennis ball massage is most effective on triggers points of the upper and lower back but it can be used on any part of the body. It is excellent for myofascial pain syndrome, piriformis syndrome, sciatica, and fibromyalgia as well as general muscle tension and spasms.

Read the full article on Tennis ball massage for myofascial pain syndrome.

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Arnica Homeopathic Remedy for Bruises and Sprains

Arnica Homeopathic Remedy
Photo by xandert.
I have recently been reading a variety of books on medicinal herbs and herbal preparations and several of them have mentioned the Arnica 6x homeopathic remedy. Now I am not very familiar with homeopathy at all but thought it was interesting that these books recommended a homeopathic remedy over any herbs (which the books were about) for this particular circumstance.

Arnica 6x was recommended for use when there is pain caused by accidental injury such as after a fall, knock, or scrape, on sport injuries and muscular aches and pains after exercise, sprains and strains, and even after surgery or dental work.

Now I know that arnica gel or cream is good for bruises, sprains, and strains when it is rubbed in to the area so I suppose it makes sense that taking an arnica remedy internally will also help assist in the repair and healing of bruised and sprained tissues and muscles.

I have also read that it can be used before physical exercise or other event which may cause bruising (e.g. surgery or going to the dentist) to help limit any damage. It can also be used in the recovery after a heart attack or stroke and can help with shock after an accident or emotional trauma.

It offers natural pain relief without any side effects like conventional pain killers. It is also an anti-inflammatory.

A few days after reading about this remedy, I was at a friends house recalling how I had hit my elbow on a piece of wood while making a wardrobe earlier that day and how it was painful and effecting me massaging and she produced this small pot of Arnica 6x homeopathic pillules and told me to take one. So I took one, forgot all about it, my elbow healed quickly, and I was back massaging in no time.

It’s funny how things like this happen – one day I’ve no knowledge about this remedy and the next I find it in several books and a friend recommends it too! I think I’m going to add this remedy to my first aid box along with the lavender and tea tree essential oils and aloe vera gel. It will come in handy for me as I’m always getting bruises and scrapes on the arms and legs from karate training.

The arnica 6x tablet should be taken immediately after an accident/upset/injury and repeat at hourly intervals for up to 12 hours to ease shock and trauma. Check the instructions on the bottle before use though to ensure you take the correct dose as it seems to vary depending on the product you buy. If you are pregnant, you should consult your GP or a qualified homeopath before using this remedy.

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Friday, 31 July 2009

Post Break

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted anything on here. I have been really busy this week researching, designing, and making a range of natural aromatherapy products. I've been wanting to make my own products for ages now but have never been able to find any base products that suited my needs until now.

In the next month, I will start selling a range of aromatherapy products that are paraben free, sodium lauryl sulphate free, not tested on animals, and vegan. Products include shampoo and conditioner, face cream, face scrub, face oil, lavender gel, body moisturiser, bubble bath, and massage oils - all of which will be available for different skin types.

There will also be a small range of pregnancy products including stretch mark oil, perineum preparation oil, massage oils for labour, and birth wound heal and repair gel.

At a later date, I will extend the range further to include creams for specific skin conditions, hands cream, foot gels, and the like.

I am really excited to have finally found quality base ingredients to make my products with.

I have also been redesigning my website to include product pages and a place to sell these products from. Once it goes live, I will post here so that you can all check it out and see what's on offer.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Finding a Counselling

Over an average year, around one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem - whether it is due to work-related stress, a family crisis, or something more serious like abuse. Depression is the most common mental illness, affecting one in five people.

Sometimes just taking some time out to look after yourself, de-stress and relax is enough to help with your state of mind, but in some cases people need a little bit more. Counselling can help to address issues which may be contributing to stress, anxiety and depression. Counselling and complementary therapies work quite nicely together because whilst counselling is dealing with the underlying issues, the massage or other complementary therapy is helping to reaffirm a calmer state of mind. As a complementary therapist, I studied some basic counselling skills as part of my training and I like to think that I am a good listener but I am not a counsellor – far from it! If I feel that a client of mine would benefit from counselling in addition to their treatment with me, then I would suggest it to them and/or refer them on to a counsellor.

Of course, the decision to undertake counselling is not one that anyone takes lightly. Many consider the idea for months or even years before deciding to take the plunge. The main hurdle anyone must overcome before opening themselves up to counselling is accepting they have a problem that needs to be dealt with. Often friends and family will try to encourage the person to accept they need help, but the decision must ultimately come from the person themselves.

Finding the right counsellor is essential. Counsellors often specialise in certain areas, so it’s important the individual finds one that addresses their specific needs, with an approach they are comfortable with. It can be quite a daunting task finding a counsellor nowadays what with their being so many different approaches. I personally think it has become overly complicated for people to decide on whom to go see - person centred, gestalt, transactional analysis, core process, psychotherapy, integrative, humanistic, cognitive – the list goes on. You almost need to be an expert in counselling yourself to know which one to go for! My advice would be to do some research – check out what the different approaches are and whether you think they will help you – give a few counsellors a call to discuss what they offer. Some counsellors give a free first meeting to discuss their techniques which might be worth giving a go before committing to seeing them regularly.

When choosing a counsellor, it is important to ensure that they are fully qualified to practise. Being accredited by a professional body, such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), means that the counsellor will have met several criteria including completing a certain number of hours in training and practising under supervision.

To find a local therapist, I would recommend checking out the BACP website or the Counselling Directory. Both sites have a ‘Find a Therapist’ search facility. On the Counselling Directory, each counsellor listed has their own profile page with information about themselves, their approaches, what areas they deal with, and all their training, qualification, experience and fees. It also has lots of informative articles written by counsellors, as well as comprehensive information on all kinds of distress to help people identify their problems and become informed, not scared. There’s also a blog that reports the latest health news and developments.

At The Healing Rooms in Bristol, where I practice complementary therapies, there are a number of counsellors and psychotherapists, several of which are BACP accredited and listed with the Counselling Directory. Here are their details if you would like to get in touch with them:

Mo Cahill - 0117 973 6503 or 07922 254 618
Natalie Brooks - 07973 267232
Helen Gunson - 0117 951 7878

Other related external links:
Counselling Society

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Monday, 20 July 2009

Massage Increases Life Expectancy

While browsing the internet I came across a press release from Medical Massage Care reporting that Therapeutic Massage has been proven to increase life expectancy.
“An actuarial analysis performed by Medical Massage Care indicates that therapeutic massage tends to increase life expectancy. There is a positive correlation between the number of massage therapists per 1,000 residents of a state and the life expectancy for that state.”
This study was carried out in the United States and shows that as the number of massage therapists per resident increases, the life expectancy tends to increase too. Hawaii came out on top! It would be interesting to see what the statistics are like for the United Kingdom and the regions within it.

It mentions that
“massage increases life expectancy as a result of the positive physiological effects of soft tissue manipulation.”
This soft tissue manipulation increases the circulation of blood and lymph around the body helping to rid the body of waste products and delivers much needed oxygen and nutrients to every living cell. This helps the body speed up healing and tissue repair enabling our body to recover from injury and illness quicker; regulates blood pressure; and most importantly reduces stress, tension, and anxiety. It is well known that people suffering with long-term stress are at a higher risk of having a heart attack so taking steps to lower stress levels, such as having regular massage, is very advantageous and can help lower this risk.

Check out the full press release - Therapeutic Massage Proven to Increase Life Expectancy, Based on Actuarial Study by Medical Massage Care

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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Meridian Massage

Meridian Massage
Photo by thunderchild5.
Meridian Massage, or Meridian Tracing as it is also known, is said to help balance the body’s systems and strengthens the flow of energy around the body.

According to Dr John Thie, author of Touch for Health,
“The flow of energy through a meridian may be stimulated by using the hands to trace the meridian line in the proper direction on the surface of the body…Using the flat of the hand…, it is only necessary to come within 2 inches of the meridian, either off to the side or even above the skin and over clothing, for it to be effective.”
With this technique, each meridian is traced in its normal flow direction from its start point to its end point. As quoted above, you do not have to actually touch the body for this technique to be effective but you can make contact with your body if you wish to do so.

Before starting to trace the meridians, first energise your hands. If you are used to working with energy this can be done by visualisation but if you are not, rub your hands together briskly until you can feel a warm, tingling feeling in the hands and fingers.

The meridians are worked in the following order: central, governing, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium (circulation), triple burner, gall bladder, liver, lung, and large intestine, finishing off with repeating the spleen, central, and governing. This meridian tracing routine is demonstrated by Donna Eden in the YouTube video below. Donna Eden is a well respected healer and author of many books on energy medicine.

If you are good at visualisation, you can perform this technique by moving your awareness along each meridian with your minds eye instead of physically doing so with your hands. The intention alone is enough to help balance and strengthen the flow of energy around the meridian system.

Once you have got used to where the meridians start and end and the order in which the meridians are traced, this technique can be done quite quickly taking about a minute and is a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Natural Fresh Fruit Face Masks

There are so many natural fruits and vegetables which are good for the condition of the skin. The fruit and vegetables listed below can all be used in a face mask to help improve the appearance of your skin whether you have oily skin or dry skin. I found this comprehensive list in a book called Bodycraft: Health & Beauty the Natural Wayby Nerys Purchon.

Apple pulp: slightly acidic; good for delicate skin
Apricots, mashed: moisturising, soothing, cleansing
Asparagus: stimulating; dries up spots
Avocado: deeply penetrating and full of vitamins
Banana, mashed: nourishing
Carrot pulp: antiseptic; heals spots and sores
Celery juice: acts as a toner for tired or aging skin
Cucumber: cooling, soothing, bleaching, healing
Fig pulp: emollient and cleansing
Lemon juice: diluted for oily skin and freckles
Lettuce juice: soothes sore, rough skin; helps to clear spots
Orange juice: hydrating for older skin
Pear pulp: soothing and cooling on sunburnt skin
Pineapple pulp: an astringent was for oily skin
Potato, raw: helps clear blemishes and eczema
Strawberries, mashed: slightly acidic, cleansing and luxurious
Tomatoes, mashed: good for oily skin
Turnip, mashed: deep cleansing
Watermelon juice: good for rough skin and deep cleansing

If you fancy it, you can even combine several of the fruits and vegetables listed above and you can even add some finely ground rolled oats.

Spread the mask over your face and neck avoiding the eye area. Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes. I’d advise you lay down while the mask is on to enhance the relaxation experience but also to ensure the mask doesn’t run down your face. You can add some agar agar (vegetable gelatine) to thicken the mask up to stop this from happening. Wash the mask off in lukewarm water and then splash your face with cool water to close the pores.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Stress Relief Bath Blend

To help you relax and unwind after a hard day at work, try this soothing aromatherapy bath time blend.

Mix half a cup of full fat milk, 1 tbsp of runny honey, 2 drops lavender, 2 drops sweet marjoram, and 2 drops geranium together in a bowl ensuring that it is mixed well and the essential oils have dispersed. Add the blend to the bath just as you get in. relax in the bath for at least 20 minutes

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Friday, 10 July 2009

A Year on!

Balance Holistics Blog Birthday
Photo by blueblitz.
It has been a whole year now since launching this blog and I have enjoyed every minute I have spent working on it – from designing its layout, researching information to help me write articles, writing the articles, editing and proofreading them, and uploading them. I’ve even enjoyed searching for relevant photos to accompany the articles which on occasion did take quite a while to find the one I liked.

Like most blogs, at first I didn’t get many visitors to it, but now I have a lot more people reading my articles with many subscribers and a couple other blogs use my site feed which is great.

Since starting the blog in July 2008, I have written and published 82 posts on topics ranging from Abdominal Massage for Menstrual Cramps, to The Importance of a Consultation, to how to Take Control of Stress During the Credit Crunch. At first, I thought I wouldn’t know what to write about and that I’d struggle to post regularly but I have a two page list stored on my computer of things I want to write about and that will feature on the blog in the months to come and I post to the blog every other day – sometimes everyday. I am very pleased with the way the blog has turned out and I’m very pleased that so many people find it a useful resource.

Back in April I wrote a post on the top 5 most read posts on this blog. Since then I have written many new posts, some of which have been very popular. The new Balance Holistics’ top five most read posts are:
1. Sinus Problems and Epsom Salts
2. Bunions from a Reflexology Point of View
3. Natural Remedies for Bunions
4. What is a Healing Crisis?
5. The Wonder of Tiger Balm

The Bunion articles seem to be very popular so there must be a lot of people out their suffering with them. I’m not surprised the sinus problems post is popular as it’s that time of year when people are suffering with hayfever and other allergies which affect the sinuses. It is good to see that the posts on the healing crisis and tiger balm are still in the top five although they have dropped by one place.

Perhaps you would like to know which essential oils are good for insomnia, or what cracked heels mean from a reflexology point of view, or perhaps you want to know more about a specific ailment. Let me know what you would like to see more of on this blog in the coming year– either email me or leave a comment for this post.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Abdominal Breathing for Health and Stress Relief

“When the breath is irregular, the mind is also unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind.” Hathayogapradipika (14th century)
Many thousands of years ago, yogis like Hathayogapradipika mentioned above, established that there is a close link between our state of mind and the way we breathe.

The majority of people only use a third of their maximum lung capacity when they breathe in. This can be due to habit, respiratory problems, and as a result of stress and anxiety.

Every living cell in the body needs oxygen. We obtain the oxygen we require when we breathe in. If we are not using our lungs to their full potential, we are not getting the oxygen our body requires which can have a big affect on our health. Most pathogens such as bacteria and viruses thrive in a low oxygen environment causing us to become fatigued and unwell. A lack of oxygen in the body can also slow down our bodies healing abilities.

When we are in a state of relaxation, for instance when we are meditating or having a massage, our breathing becomes slower, deeper and more regular. Deep breathing (abdominal breathing not chest breathing) fully expands and contracts the lungs causing a huge increase in the amount of oxygen which is absorbed into the blood.

Abdominal breathing takes a little getting used to but really does help induce a state of relaxation and helps reduce stress. To see that you are breathing correctly (from the abdomen and not the chest), place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. When you breathe in, the hand which is on your abdomen should rise higher than that of the one on your chest. Once you’ve got use to the technique, you don’t need to place your hands on your abdomen and chest. Inhale through the nose, hold for a count of seven, and then exhale through the mouth. Inhalation should be twice as long as exhalation.

Try this breathing technique once or twice a day, or perhaps when you are feeling particularly stressed, anxious, or in pain. The more this technique is practised, the more natural it will become.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Hot Oil for Dry and Damaged Hair

Mix some olive, coconut and castor oil together and heat until it is lukewarm. Massage the blend into the hair. Soak a small towel in very hot water, wring out the excess water, and cover your head with it. Place a shower cap or plastic bag over the towel then wrap with a hot towel to secure in place. Change the outer towel when it cools. Leave the oil on for at least an hour and then wash your hair as normal.

You can also add a few drops of essential oils to the above blend. For dry hair try geranium, lavender, or rosemary. For damaged hair try chamomile, clary sage, or sandalwood. For dandruff try patchouli, rosemary, or tea tree.

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Saturday, 4 July 2009

Indian Head Massage, Essential Oils and Hair Loss

indian head massage, essential oils and hair loss
Hair loss is perfectly natural. Apparently, we shed as many as 100 hairs every day. Hairs grow in a repeated cycle which consists of three stages – a growth phase (Anagen), a transitional phase (Catagen), and a resting phase (Telogen). Each hair goes through these three phases but not necessarily at the same time as its neighbouring hairs. Approximately 85% of all our hair is in the growth phase at any one time. We lose hair as each one comes to the end of its natural life - between two and seven years (at the end of the growth phase). It then enters the transitional phase where the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6 of its normal length – this phase lasts a couple weeks and then enters the resting phase which lasts for about 6 weeks in which the hair detaches from the follicle. After this final phase, the hair cycle starts again with a new hair growing. If the old hair hasn’t already shed, the new hair pushes the old one out.

From the mid–twenties onwards, the hair and scalp receives fewer nutrients from the blood, making the hair become weaker, thinner, and more prone to damage. Excessive hair loss can often indicate a problem and should be checked out with your GP. Hormonal changes, especially after the menopause and pregnancy, vitamin deficiency, stress, and illness, can contribute to hair loss as can many other genetic and environmental factors.

Indian Head Massage boosts the flow of blood through the cells in the scalp and head helping to improve hair condition making it stronger, healthier and shinier. It also improves the skin condition on the scalp. A more efficient flow of blood in this area brings more oxygen and other nutrients to the cells and expels any toxins which have built up in them such as carbon dioxide and other waste, helping the cells to function properly and stimulating their growth and renewal. The sebaceous glands are stimulated by the massage helping to normalise their function making the skin and hair soft and supple.

Essential oils can be very beneficial for hair loss as they also have an effect on the sebaceous glands and can be easily incorporated in to an Indian Head Massage. The oils penetrate deeply into the hair shaft and follicle and helps encourage new hair growth. You can mix the essential oils with a carrier oil such as mustard or sesame oil. Massage the oil in to the scalp in a circular motion – do not use too much force if your hair is thinning. Leave the oil on over night if possible and wash hair after as normal. The oil is best applied when warm. Essential oils which are beneficial for hair loss include basil, clary sage, cypress, palmarosa, rosemary, geranium, lavender, Roman chamomile, thyme and cedarwood.

Arnica cream can also be rubbed into areas of thinning hair but should not be used if the skin is broken.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Foot Bath for Headaches

The following foot bath is excellent at relieving headaches and migraines.

You will need a bowl large enough to place both of your feet in, water, 1 drop each of peppermint, lavender, and marjoram essential oils, and 1 drop of linden blossom absolute. The linden blossom absolute is quite expensive but is excellent at relieving headaches and migraines. I have read that it is best to use cold water as apparently when you soak your feet in cold water it draws heat away from your head bringing you relief from your headache.

Fill the bowl half way with cold water. Combine the essential oils with a teaspoon of milk or a tablespoon of Epsom salts or sea salt to disperse the oil before adding it to the foot bath. Place your feet in the foot bath, sit comfortably, close your eyes, deeply breathe in the essential oil aromas, and relax for about 10-15 minutes.

It is advisable to consult your GP prior to performing this foot bath if you suffer with diabetes, neuropathy in the foot, and Raynaud’s disease.

Related posts:
Tension Headaches
Using Hot and Cold Compresses to Relieve Pain

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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Facial Steaming

In previous posts, I have talked about steam inhalations to help relieve congestion and respiratory problems but you can also use steaming to help improve the condition of the skin on your face. Steaming causes the skin to perspire helping to cleanse the pores. It also loosens any dead skin cells and dirt on the surface of the skin. The heat from the steam increases the blood flow to the face bringing oxygen and nutrients to the area improving the condition and tone of the skin, leaving it looking and feeling softer and suppler. The steam also helps rehydrate the skin.

If you have sensitive or dry skin, I would recommend not steaming more than once a fortnight. However, if you have normal, oily or combination skin you can use facial steaming once or twice a week.

You will need a bowl, hot water, and a towel. Place the boiling water in the bowl. Create a “tent” with the towel so that it covers your head and the bowl. Keep your face about 20 cm away from the steam (40cm if you have dry or sensitive skin). Steam your face for approximately 5-10 minutes. After steaming, splash your face with some cool water to close the pores and apply some toner with a cotton wool pad. You can then use your normal moisturiser to finish.

If you are using essential oils in the facial steam, add 4 drops of your chosen essential oils to 1 litre of boiling water. More information on which essential oils to use for which skin type can be found in the Aromatherapy Bath Salts post.

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