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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