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Lemon Balm, Balm mint, Blue balm, Garden balm, Honey plant, Sweet balm – these are all common names for Melissa officinalis, an aromatic plant in the mint (Lamiaceae) family having a long history as a delightful garden plant and medicinal aromatic herb.  As far back as the Middle Ages, Lemon Balm was recognized as a calming herb that would reduce stress and anxiety.  It was used to ease the discomfort of indigestion (including gas and bloating as well as colic).  Even before the Middle Ages, it is reported in ancient herbals to lift spirits, help heal wounds and treat insect bites and stings.  Native to Europe, Lemon Balm grows all over the world . . . in gardens to attract bees, in commercial crops for medicine and cosmetics, and even furniture polish.  The plant will mound into 3+ foot clumps; it is one of the easiest plants to grow and if left unattended will become invasive.  Leaves are deeply wrinkled, ranging in color from dark green to yellowish green.  Rubbing the leaves between your fingers releases the aromatic essential oil which smells tart and sweetly of lemons.  If left unpruned the plant will flower; clusters of light yellow flowers grow where the leaves meet the stem.  The plant will self seed and propagate profusely from the roots. 

Here at Samara Botane, starting with one organic plant, we now have about 18-20 large shrubs.  Leaves will be harvested by shearing with scissors throughout the summer, approximately every 4-6 weeks.  We will then distill leaves for hydrosol; macerate in organic coconut and olive oil for balms and salves; tincture in organic alcohol and vinegar for a variety of topical applications and household products, and we will dry leaves for teas andlemon-balm-1 525x394 bath herbs.  Fresh leaves will also find their way into culinary applications in syrups and jellies, and even as a flavoring for homemade ice cream.  I’ve been sharing a number of Lemon Balm recipes on our facebook page which you can find by following this link where we will be sharing Lemon Balm recipes throughout the rest of summer. 

Modern research has determined that Lemon Balm’s mild sedative (anxiolytic) effects are attributed to its ability to inhibit GABA transaminase due to its rosmarinic acid content. [1]   Lemon Balm has been shown to improve mood and mental performance, involving muscarinic and nicotinic acetycholine receptors [2] and positive results have been achieved in a small clinical trial involving Alzheimer patients with mild to moderate symptoms [3] due to the high acetylcholinesterase and butyrycholinesterase co-inhibitory activities, as well as its rosmarinic acid content. [4]  Melissa officinalis exhibits antithyrotropic activity, inhibiting TSH from attaching to TSH receptors, hence making it of possible use in the treatment of Graves’ disease or hyperthroidism, according to a mention in the scientific journal Endocrinology. [5] 

Lemon Balm leaves contain plant chemicals called terpenes, which play at least some role in the herb’s relaxing and antiviral effects, as well as tannins, which may be responsible for many of the herb’s antiviral effects. Lemon Balm also contains eugenol, which calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills certain bacteria.

In another double blind, placebo controlled study, 18 healthy volunteers received 2 separate single doses of a standardized lemon balm extract (300 mg and 600 mg) or placebo for 7 days. The 600 mg dose of lemon balm increased mood and significantly increased calmness and alertness.  Caution:  Using Lemon Balm as a sedative may interact with prescribed sedative medications (CNS depressants), causing extreme drowsiness or sleepiness. If you are taking thyroid regulating medication, ask your healthcare provider before using it extensively.  It is not clear whether Lemon Balm may interact with antiretroviral agents, but it is best to avoid Lemon Balm if you are taking medication for HIV. 

Unfortunately, Melissa essential oil enjoys the reputation of being probably one of t11069_melissa_250he most frequently adulterated essential oils.  A pure, undiluted or unadulterated Melissa officinalis essential oil is difficult to source.  There is very little essential oil in the plant and it takes a large quantity of plant material to produce a small amount of the essential oil.  For this reason, what we will find in the broader marketplace is usually inferior quality essential oil that has been co-distilled or recombined with Lemon oil, Citronella, Lemongrass and other ‘lemon’ smelling essential oils.  At Samara Botane, we have a limited quantity of high quality essential oil from England available for sale, but you will see by the price that is is rare and precious and quite costly.  We also have limited quantities of CO2 and absolute. 

For a tea, steep 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of the chopped dried herb (use more if fresh) in 1 cup hot (just under boiling) water.  Drink up to 4 times a day.  A stronger tea can be added to a warm/hot bath for a delightfully relaxing and rejuvenating home spa experience.  Lemon Balm hydrosol can also be added to a regenerating bath or spritzed on skin after a shower.

In Europe, the local name for Lemon Balm is “heart’s delight” and some of you may remember a French perfume of the late 1030’s named Coeur-Joie, which translates from the French to ‘heart’s delight’.  Coeur-Joie had a fresh Melissa topnote with faint floral undertones.  A traditional floral water using Lemon Balm as its basis, said to have been invented in 1611 by Carmelite monks was used as a perfume and toilet water, and was also taken internally as a cordial.  Many versions of Eau de Melisse des Carmes have developed over the years.  You will find one version, including several variations, on the Samara Botane facebook page later this week.  Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter.  We will be featuring a very good discount on all Lemon Balm products during the month of July and the coupon code will be in the ads in the newsletter.

There are many aspects to cover about Lemon Balm, I’ll revisit Lemon Balm again in the future. 

 

[1] Kennedy, D. O.; Little, W; Scholey, AB (2004). "Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)". Psychosomatic Medicine 66 (4): 607–13.doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000132877.72833.71.PMID 15272110.
Awad, Rosalie; Muhammad, Asim; Durst, Tony; Trudeau, Vance L.; Arnason, John T. (2009). "Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalisL.) using anin vitromeasure of GABA transaminase activity". Phytotherapy Research 23 (8): 1075–81.doi:10.1002/ptr.2712. PMID 19165747.
[2] Kennedy, D O; Wake, G; Savelev, S; Tildesley, N T J; Perry, E K; Wesnes, K A; Scholey, A B (2003). "Modulation of Mood and Cognitive Performance Following Acute Administration of Single Doses of Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm) with Human CNS Nicotinic and Muscarinic Receptor-Binding Properties".Neuropsychopharmacology 28 (10): 1871–81. doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1300230. PMID 12888775.
[3]Akhondzadeh, S (2003). "Melissa officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled trial". Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 74: 863–6.doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.7.863. PMC 1738567.PMID 12810768.
[4]Chaiyana W., Okonogi S."Inhibition of cholinesterase by essential oil from food plant". Phytomedicine. 19 (8-9) (pp 836-839), 2012.
[5]Auf’mkolk, M.; Ingbar, J. C.; Kubota, K.; Amir, S. M.; Ingbar, S. H. (1985). "Extracts and Auto-Oxidized Constituents of Certain Plants Inhibit the Receptor-Binding and the Biological Activity of Graves’ Immunoglobulins". Endocrinology 116 (5): 1687–93.doi:10.1210/endo-116-5-1687. PMID 2985357.

 Posted by at 7:40 pm
Feb 042011
 

imageI mainly talk about aromatherapy, but thought I’d talk about food for a change.  I am keen on natural skincare, and tout its benefits. I also believe in feeding your skin from the inside out.  You might be surprised how beneficial certain foods can be to maintain  healthy organs and tissue, and in turn help provide necessary nutrition for supple,  vibrant skin.

The Ayurvedic diet as followed in India utilizes many spices and foods that offer myriad health benefits, like lowering cholesterol, increasing blood circulation and limiting accumulation of body fat.  Here are some of those spices and some of their benefits, along with healthy foods that aren’t always the first choice here in America. 

TURMERIC is one of Nature’s most powerful healers.  The active component, Curcumin, contained in turmeric, is now of great interest in medical research owing to properties that suggest they may help to turn off certain genes that cause scarring and enlargement of the heart. Long known for its anti-inflammatory properties, recent research shows Tumeric to be show promise for a wide range of health conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.  Regular intake may help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, increase blood circulation and prevent blood clotting, helping to prevent heart attack.  Tumeric is a natural liver detoxifier and when combined with cauliflower has shown to help prevent prostate cancer and reverse the growth of melanoma cells.  It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.  It has also been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating depression.  Did you know that Turmeric is regarded as a “skin food” in the Indian culture?  Tumeric is known to speed wound healing and assists in regeneration of damaged skin. It has shown to be beneficial for psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.

imageCARDAMOM is the queen of spices who sits next to the King, black pepper. It is one of the earliest spices known, mentioned by Theophrastus in the fourth century BC and five centuries later by Dioscoredes.  It is a thermogenic spice like chillies that increases metabolism and helps burn body fat. Cardamom is considered one of the best digestive aids and is believed to soothe the digestive system and help the body process other foods more efficiently. An analysis of the cardamom seed shows it to consist of carbohydrates, moisture, protein, ether extract, volatile oil, crude fibre, calcium, phosphorus and iron.  The aroma and therapeutic properties of cardamom are due to its volatile oil, which contain the chemicals cineol, terpineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene, and terpineol in the form of formic and acetic acids. Cardamom is another spice used to treat depression.  It also is useful as an ingredient for gargling for sore throats. Combined with peppermint leaves, a few ground seeds can be boiled in water and drunk to relieve hiccups.  A cardamom seed with a small piece of candied ginger is an excellent aperitif to aid digestion.  

CHILLIES Foods containing chillies are said to be as foods that burn fat. Chillies contain capsaicin that helps in increasing the metabolism. Capsaicin is a thermogenic food, so it causes the body to begin burn calories for 20 minutes after you eat them.  Chillies also have antioxidants that will reduce cholesterol, possibly preventing diseases such as atherosclerosis and other heart disease.  They are known to give relief from nasal congestion and they help to dilate airways, reducing asthma and wheezing.  Chillies stimulate the release of endorphins that are natural pain killers and is helpful to address pain connected to shingles, bursitis, diabetic neuropathy and muscle spasm.  Chillies are also detoxifying, helping to remove waste materials along with increasing the intake of nutrients.  It is especially helpful as a gastric detoxifier that helps in food digestion.  Chillies contain vitamin B6 and folic acid. Vitamin B reduces high homocysteine levels, shown to cause damage to blood vessels and are associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Chili converts homocysteine into other molecules which is beneficial to lower cholesterol level.

CORIANDER seed and Cilantro leaves from the same plant have health bimagebenefits, while also being a good source for dietary fiber, iron and magnesium.  These food additives are rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids.  Coriander is anti-inflammatory and therefore helpful in easing the symptoms of arthritis.  It can help lower blood sugar, prevent urinary tract infections and lower blood pressure.  Coriander contains an antibacterial compound that may prove to be a safe, natural means of fighting Salmonella, a frequent and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness, suggests a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. U.S. and Mexican researchers isolated the compound – dodecenal, which laboratory tests showed is twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin at killing Salmonella.

GARLIC is a natural antibiotic  An effective fat-burning food, garlic contains the sulphur compound allicin which has anti-bacterial effects and helps reduce cholesterol and unhealthy fats. In general, a stronger tasting clove of garlic has more sulphur content and hence more medicinal value. I much prefer using fresh garlic and I keep a refrigerated jar of chopped garlic ready for cooking at all times.  Research has determined that there are greater health benefits from cooked garlic, and most of the better garlic supplements are made from aged and dried garlic.  Although rare, eating too much raw garlic can cause irritation or damage to the digestive tract.  Some people are known to be allergic to garlic; symptoms include skin rash, increase in temperature and headaches. It also could potentially disrupt anti-coagulants, so garlic supplements are best avoided before surgery. 

MUSTARD OIL: This has low saturated fat compared to other cooking oils. It has fatty acid, oleic acid, erucic acid and linoleic acid. It contains antioxidants, essential vitamins and reduces cholesterol, which is good for the heart.  Cardiology research now shows that mustard oil is healthier than olive oil because it has no trans-fats, low saturated fats, high mono-unsaturated fats, high polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3, and stability at high temperatures making it an excellent cooking oil.  The mustard seeds themselves can be used in a number of culinary dishes.  very good source of selenium, a nutrient which has been shown to help reduce the severity of asthma, decrease some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and help prevent cancer. They also qualify as a good source of magnesium. Like selenium, magnesium has been shown to help reduce the severity of asthma, to lower high blood pressure, to restore normal sleep patterns in women having difficulty with the symptoms of menopause, to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, and to prevent heart attack in patients suffering from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease.

CABBAGE, unfortunately, is often overlooked and misunderstood.  While cabbage is a delicious and healthful staple in other countries, it is almost foreign to Americans, with the exception of good old fashioned cole slaw.  It is a low-cost, excellent vegetable with a wide variety of uses in stew, soup, hearty ratatouille, salads and other dishes.  Raw or cooked cabbage inhibits the conversion of sugar and other carbohydrates into fat. Hence, it is of great value in weight reduction.  Delicious new variations of cole slaw made with oil and vinegar are quickly replacing the caloric-ridden version made with high-calorie mayonnaise.  Rich in nutrition and fiber, cabbage is an absolutely phenomenal source of Vitamin C. Even more impressive is that cabbage is famous for a specialized, naturally occurring, nitrogenous compound known as indoles. Current research indicates that indoles can lower the risk of various forms of cancer. Modern science has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the health benefits and therapeutic value of cabbage, which also plays a role in the inhibition of infections and ulcers. Cabbage extracts have been proven to kill certain viruses and bacteria in the laboratory setting. Cabbage boosts the immune system’s ability to produce more antibodies. Cabbage provides high levels of iron and sulphur, minerals that work in part as cleansing agents for the digestive system.  Cabbage contains, in addition to high levels of vitamin C, Vitamin E (good for skin integrity) and vitamin B. The varieties of cabbage are many; there is Red, Savoy, Napa . . . and don’t forget Bok Choy with its light, celery type flavor. 

imageHONEY, although unlikely,  is an amazing home remedy for obesity. It mobilizes the extra fat deposit in the body allowing it to be utilized as energy for normal functions. Honey contains complex sugars and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.  Antioxidants slow down aging by reducing free radicals.  A recent study at the U. of California concluded that honey contains as many oxidants as spinach, apples, oranges and strawberries.  It is true that honey is calorie-rich and contains simple sugars, and more calories than table sugar.  However, according to the USDA Agriculture Research Service, our body tolerates honey better compared table sugar. Eating honey is better for people with diabetic conditions as it is less likely to cause blood sugar spike. Another 2004 study conducted by the University of California found that eating 4 to 10 tablespoons of buckwheat honey per day for one month did not cause weight gain.  A simple teaspoon of honey can soothe sore throats in children, although it is not recommended for children under 2 years of age. A study at Penn State concluded that honey did a better job reducing the severity, frequency and bothersome nature of nighttime cough from upper respiratory infection than dextromethorphan or no treatment. A tablespoon of honey with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, taken with hot water early in the morning is a tried and true folk remedy tonic for good health.  And, another study at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society determined that a tablespoon or two of honey at bedtime can greatly reduce insomnia. Most of us are well aware of the use of honey in skincare products such as masks and baths
 
BUTTERMILK AND YOGURT: Buttermilk is the somewhat sour, residual fluid that is left after butter is churned. This probiotic food contains just 2.2 grams of fat and about 99 calories, as compared to whole milk that contains 8.9 grams fat and 157 calories. Regular intake provides the body with all essential nutrients and does not add fats and calories to the body. It is thus helpful in weight loss.  Buttermilk is more digestible than milk and contains vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin and phosphorous. Along with yogurt, it is easily substituted for sour cream in myriad dishes, on baked potatoes or substituted in baking, i.e., pancakes. Yogurt (now seeming to take over the dairy aisle of the grocery store) provides good bacteria, often called probiotics which refers to the living organisms that result in health benefit when eaten in adequate amounts.  Yogurt is best fresh and plain (without added fruits and sweeteners, which you can add yourself for desserts .)   
 
imageWHOLE GRAINS are fiber-rich foods and good sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, as well as important nutrients such as selenium, potassium and magnesium..  Low in fats, most of them absorb cholesterol and help increase the secretion of the bile that emulsifies fats.  Whole-grain versions of rice, bread, cereal, flour and pasta can be found at any grocery store. Many whole-grain foods come ready to eat. These include a variety of breads, pastas and ready-to-eat cereals.  We all know about brown rice, but here are a few of my other favorites:  Barley:  Roman gladiators ate barley for great strength and stamina.  It’s rich, nut-like flavor is the cornerstone of the recipe below.  Kasha: This grain is roasted whole-grain buckwheat oats and very common to staple dishes in Eastern Europe throughout the Slavic countries.  it is gluten-free, yet very high in protein, B vitamins, phosphorous, potassium, iron and calcium.  Millet: Yes, the very bird seed you see in mixes for small songbirds.  Very high in protein – 1/2 cup cooked millet provides 4.2 grams of protein, also gluten free and full of niacin, B6, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.  Quinoa: Pronounced keen-wa, quinoa isn’t actually a grain, it’s more closely related to leafy greens like spinach and chard.  Full of nutritional value including all the essential amino acids and more protein than any of the grains. 

New Aromatherapy Kit and Educational Book

imageJust in time for Valentine’s Day!  Introductory price $95.

The Home Aromatherapy Starter kit includes generous 15 ml bottles of: Lavender, Tea Tree, Geranium, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Cedarwood, Mandarin, Peppermint, Marjoram, Lemongrass and Oregano and comes festively packaged in a recycled corrugated trunk with a festive white organza ribbon.

Accompanying this kit is our Aromatherapy Beginners Guide to Safe and Simple Use of Essentials Oils for Health and Beauty for the Whole Family. This comprehensive 24-page booklet, fresh off the press, covers information about aromatic plants, extraction methods, how to determine quality essential oils, advice for care of essential oils to maintain freshness and integrity, information on how essential oils interact with the human body and mind and how to use them safely and methods of effective application. Filled with color pictures, the information covers each essential oil specifically, including botanical and historical information and the most recently researched safe aromatherapy use.

There is a recipe section, covering children and elderly considerations, respiratory, mood & psyche, immunity and infections, effective skin care, muscular aches and pains, household cleaning and environmental aromatics, travel and much more. The recipes are specific to the essential oils in the kit. Researched and written by Marcia, our resident aromatherapist with over 20 years formal education and experience using essential oils. This is an excellent gift for the family or individual, sure to serve for many months or up to a year before having to replenish any of the essential oils. All of the essential oils in the kit are available individually and are chosen for both effectiveness and low cost.

 Posted by at 4:46 pm
Mar 042010
 

skin_micro_180 In Leonardo’s time, scientists of his caliber rarely considered the skin to be anything more than a decorative covering, necessitating removal to study the more fascinating parts underneath.  Today, most of us know that our skin is our largest organ and serves as armor to protect all those precious inner parts.  To the naked eye, the skin doesn’t appear to be complex or interesting, and before the invention of the microscope in the 17th century we really didn’t understand how it works.

Now, we can see how intricate the skin actually is, along with the vital role it plays.  The epidermis (outer layer of skin) continually produces new cells to renew itself, while shedding outer cells as they die off and shed.  You might not know that much of the dust in a room is actually tiny fragments of human skin.  As much as thirty to forty thousand skin cells fall unseen from your body every minute. continually replaced by vibrant new cells rising to the surface. We might call this renewal system your “skinecosystem”.  Hah. Say that 10 times real fast.

The skin is also the body’s heaviest organ, weighing from 9 to 15 pounds in a healthy adult, usually around one-twelfth of your total body weight.  It’s primary function is to protect all those well-functioning inner parts from damage or harm.  Looking more closely through our microscope, you will see a subcutaneous fat layer just under the outer skin (dermis) that works like padding in a quilt to keep your body warm and absorb knocks and bumps.  The skin is so tough because skin cells contain the protein keratin, more prevalent in fingernails and toenails and less prevalent in softer skin such as that under arms.  Microscopically, you can also see those dead, flattened cells that interlock and overlap tightly packing together, making skin an excellent germ barrier. Your skin produces natural oils and waxes from the tiny sebaceous glands that keep the skin flexible and supple.  These waxes also contain the body’s own germ-killing chemicals, acting as disinfectants against harmful microscopic organisms.  Another important function of the skin is the production of Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine, a very important nutrient for a healthy immune system. It is also your body’s radiator, producing perspiration over the skin surface when necessary to cool you when your body overheats.  Overall, the skin is a pretty important organ and well worth taking care of.

Skin Permeability:

The epidermis’ outermost layer is called the stratum corneum, and is important for allergy and sensitivity.  The SC is comprised of a network of cells on the surface that provides immediate protection from the outside world and helps restrict loss of water.  This outermost layer requires lipids (fats) to form a healthy cutaneous barrier.  Combined with the dying cells that compact and form a sort of “cement”, healthy skin does a good job of providing a sturdy barrier.  However, when there is disruption in the number and compactness of the intercellular lipids, the skin barrier can become more permeable. This disruption can explain how some toxins might seep through SC cells, enter the tiny blood vessels in the dermis and subcutaneous fatty tissue and possibly spark an antibody-mediated reaction.  This explains why some people do not suffer with allergic contact dermatitis when exposed to poisonous plants. Their skin barrier is intact and able to effectively protect the body from the toxin.  Atopic dermatitis can also be sparked by numerous allergens, inhaled, ingested and contacted substances.  Some foods (especially eggs) or inhalants (dust mites and cat dander) have been established as being the most common allergens.

Causes of Skin Barrier Damage:

Essential fatty Acid Deficiency:

Usually most Americans have adequate supplies of cholesterol or ceramides for the skin, both from dietary sources and internal metabolism, but they may not get enough polyunsaturated fatty acids (essential fatty acids, EFAs) that are only available through diet. The skin barrier requires an abundance of omega-6 essential fatty acids.

There are two primary types of omega-6 EFAs, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid, both of which are only found in foods. Linoleic acid is found in the oils of safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, and sesame. An enzyme is responsible for converting linoleic acid into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that is needed to complete the skin surface lipid structure. GLA is found naturally in evening primrose oil, black currant oil, and borage oil.

Changes in Humidity:

rain_200 Exposure to humidity changes seems to cause an increase turnover rate of skin cells, which exhausts the oils in the skin barrier and exacerbates inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Dehydration:

Many of us know that we need to drink lots of water.  You may not know, however, how important it is for healthy skin. The surface skin is thicker than the interior tissues of the body. Circulation comes to the base of the skin, and the water has to seep upwards through all the strata of the skin to reach the outer layer. The exposed surface of the skin is also constantly losing water due to environmental factors such as sun, wind, and chemicals, to name a few. When the body itself is dehydrated, circulation to the base of the outer skin may be shut down as an emergency measure so that water is not lost through evaporation from the skin’s surface. Chronic dehydration shows in the face with wrinkles, lines and furrows. It’s best to drink filtered water. There are many quality filtration systems on the market.

Ultraviolet Radiation:

sunshine_220 We know that both types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, can lead to skin cancer and eye problems if left unprotected from the harsh radiation. What most people don’t realize is that UV radiation also increases skin permeability and can be a significant factor in sensitization. Studies have shown that skin lipid synthesis significantly declines 72 hours after UVB exposure but recovered after 96 hours, suggesting that UVB-induced barrier damage may not be permanent.  Wait a minute, you may say, you just told me that the skin needed sunshine to produce vitamin D, important for the immune system.  How many of you have a tendency to overdo when you do get out in the sun?  This is where the most damage occurs.  It is a fact that rates of skin cancer are typically higher in areas of the body that are generally kept covered and only exposed during sun bathing.  Regular, consistent, small amounts of exposure to the sun (without burning) has a protective effect on the skin, increases vitamin D, can improve mood, help with depression and myriad other benefits.  Rule of thumb is that a very fair-skinned person with northern heritage should only get 10-15 minutes of sun exposure over the majority of the body during peak hours.  Someone with darker skin and a heritage that originated closer to the equator should be able to get longer exposure without doing more harm than good.  So, moderate sun exposure can actually help reduce the potential for cancer risk.  It is difficult to get all the necessary vitamin D from dietary sources. So make sure you get moderate sun and avoid over-exposure, especially during peak sunshine hours.

We’ll cover more about  skin and its care in future blogs.

IN THE SAMARA SPA

You’ll find about forty-five natural Samara Botane formulated skincare products, including our Healthy Skin Hydrosol, Facial Massage Oil, several Herbal Steams, unscented and wonderfully scented lotions in single notes and blends, our fabulous Rosewater Crème and Rose Luxurious Lip Balm (made with real rose otto and absolute).  Just click here.  Superior cleansing with our carefully crafted handmade soaps (bars and liquid) can be found here.

 Posted by at 7:45 pm
Nov 062009
 

According to Goethe, the most evolved plants go through a transformation from the primitive germ to the exuberance of the flower in a natural movement toward spirituality where the flower, in its impermanence and openness, represents an instant of rapture and jubilation. No other floral fragrance compares to that of the precious rose, often inspiration for poetry, prose and tales of love and sorrow. The natural fragrance extracted from the rose has become the cornerstone for many signature perfumes since time began.

‘Rosa’ comes from the Greek ‘roden’, meaning ‘red’, as the ancient rose was thought to be crimson. Avicenna, the 10th century physician and chemist used the rose as his first distillation. Perhaps the first rose distillery existed in 1612 in Shiraz, Persia. Roses have a long history of use in celebrations. Rose petals have been scattered at weddings to insure a happy marriage. Also traditionally used in meditation and formal inaugurations.

It takes about 60,000 roses (approximately 180 lb.) to make one ounce of rose otto, and similar quantities are required for other extraction methods. If you consider that it takes about a dozen and a half roses to produce 1 drop of essential oil, you will have a greater appreciation of the preciousness.

Samara Botane has carried many different extractions of rose over the years.  Here are a few to choose from along with a few tidbits of information about each.

image Rugosa Rose, Ramanas Rose or Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) Native to Japan, China and Korea, the petals are used to flavor Chinese tea. The plant bears slightly purplish-pink flowers and is often cultivated for its enormous rose hips, which contain a high quantity of vitamin C. This rose is said to be "richly fragrant", having "one of the most delicious fragrances to be found among roses, and very strong".  Michael Shoup recommends, "plant it where you have access to its delicious fragrance or you will end up with a well worn path leading to it." We have two rugosa bushes on the property, one now towering at about 9 ft.  The other was planted later and is a little slow poke, only about 4 ft. in height and diameter. The essential oil of the flowers in our collection is obtained by hydro distillation. Using capillary GC-FID and GC-MS; 35 major constituents are identified, and include over 100 components including citronellal, geraniol, nerol, citronellyl acetate making up over 76% of the total. In Chinese medicine, both petals and roots are used. The fragrance of Rugosa Rose is more honeyed than Bulgarian otto with a peppery or spicy note in dry-down.

May Rose Absolute, Rose de Mai, Cabbage Rose or Provence Rose (Rosa centifolia var. Nabonnand or image Rosa centifolia L. var. Lunier) Macoboy writes, "the artists do not exaggerate its beauty, but they could hardly convey the wonderful sweetness of its perfume. Indeed it has for over a century been grown in the south of France to supply the perfume industry there with attar of roses," This rich Old Rose fragrance is extracted early in the Springtime, hence the name “May” Rose. Highly sought after in perfumery, it is rare to obtain outside that industry. Considered a superior odor amongst roses, concrete production now is less than ¾ ton, representing a 22% yield from the flower. This fragrance is a full rose with cinnamon-spicy undertone, with a fresh, herbaceous sweet-honeyed note. Most rose absolute is produced in Morocco in the valleys between the High Atlas and Jbel Sarhro mountains east of Marrakech. Rose absolute is a refined, liquid extraction of fragrant compounds from the fresh blossom. Although absolutes contain essential oil compounds they differ from distilled essential oils. An absolute is a refinement of a concrete, which is a thick, fragrant material extracted from the plant using a hydrocarbon solvent. The concrete contains essential oils, fatty acids and waxes. Absolutes are extracted from concretes with pure alcohol. The alcohol dissolves and absorbs the fragrant material from the concrete. Waxes, fats and other non-aromatic contents precipitate out and are removed by filtering. The alcohol is removed through evaporation. What’s left behind is the pure, fragrant absolute – a concentration of aromatic compounds including essential oil constituents.

imageBulgarian Rose Otto (Rosa damascena) Known as the finest rose essence or ‘otto’ in the world, Bulgarian damask rose oil has been distilled for over 300 years. The exact origins cannot be traced, however, there are fossil records that show roses have existed for millions of years. It is the oldest cultivated European plant in the United States, and has been called the Queen of Flowers all over the world. The uses of rose oil date back to the ancient civilizations of Persia, Asia, Greece, Rome and Egypt. It has been and still is a symbol of love and beauty. Rose otto is steam distilled and has a pale yellow color. Most rose otto is produced in southern Bulgaria from roses grown in the valleys of the Stryama and Tundzha rivers near Plovdiv. The best oil is distilled from newly opened flowers, picked in the cool morning hours before the sun has warmed away the aroma. In order to extract every trace of the precious oil, the distillation is done in two phases. An initial distillation yields a small quantity of concentrated green essential oil and a large amount of rose flower water. The flower water is then redistilled to produce an additional amount of pale yellow colored oil that is combined with the green oil from the first distillation. The primary base notes are deep, sweet and floral with spicy middle notes. It combines well with most other essential oils for perfumery or medicinal use. Its primary constituents are citronellol, gerianol and nerol. Although most Rose Otto is used in perfumery, the therapeutic uses include: Analgesic (pain reliever), Antibacterial, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, aphrodisiac, cosmetic, deodorant, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue (tones female reproductive organs and menstruation), Germicidal, hepatic sedative tonic, vulnerary (heals fresh cuts or wounds). Internal applications in the medical field include asthma, high blood pressure, bronchitis, poor circulation, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), cough, fever, fluid retention, Indigestion, insomnia, palpitation, stress, urinary tract infections. For topical applications, Rose otto is specific for abrasions, boils, burns, fragile capillaries, postnatal depression, dermatitis, eczema headache, insomnia, poor memory, rashes, sores, oral thrush and tinea.

image Rose Ruh Gulab (Rosa damascena ) Another precious oil from the flower of love & passion. This extremely rare and sacred rose oil is carefully hydro distilled to produce the finest Ruh Gulab for use in love, celebration or relationship spiritual work, meditative, healing & calming rituals, sacred products, or anointing. Ruh Gulab is the most expensive attar, priced higher than gold in weight. Rose essence or Gulab Ruh, is used in flavoring Gulab Jamun (a Bengali sweet) and rose sherbet. A mild, delicate fragrance of desi (Indian) roses can be sprinkled on guests from silver rose-water sprayers’ at weddings. In the traditional process various flowers, roots, herbs, spices, etc are hydro distilled in copper vessels into a receiving vessel, using an ancient process. This means that a certain proportion of flowers or other aromatic plants is put into a copper vessel containing water, sealed and the aromatic vapors produced from a wood or cow dung fire, rises through bamboo pipes and passes into another copper vessel, sitting below the larger distilling one. There the vapors condense and after the day’s distillation the water and oil separate. This process is similar to that of producing traditional attars with the exception that no sandalwood is added.

image Rose Gallica (Rosa gallica) is commonly called Gallic Rose, French Rose, Rose of Provins and Apothecary’s Rose.  In the 19th century it was the most important species of rose to be cultivated and most modern European rose cultivars have at least a small contribution from R. gallica in their ancestry. Botanical classifiers say that R. damascenas are created from a hybridization of R. gallica and R. phoenicia occurring in Asia Minor then distributing throughout Syria and the Near and Middle East. R. gallica is a deciduous shrub much like R. rugosa with pinnate leaves and flowers clustered up to four together.   When assessing the quality of the otto produced in central and southern Europe, it is sometimes described as a crude distillation, with a few twigs and leaves included in the process. This somewhat brash, sultry cousin to the more refined damascenes from Bulgaria or Turkey should not be overlooked as a respectable perfume ingredient and it has all of the same chemical constituents as R. damascena which makes it an economical choice for aromatherapy and massage.  One might accuse the snooty finishing school damascenes of dismissing their colorful cousin from SE Europe as irrelevant, however, upon closer examination she has an exciting, street savvy personality and sings her bawdy song quite sexily with her raspy voice, especially when combined with other florals to sweeten along with perhaps some citrus and wood bottom notes.  The affordable cost of Gallic Rose also makes it a beneficial addition to creams, lotions, toners, facial masques and a wide range of skincare and bath applications.

In addition to the aromatic delights one revels in when using any of the various ottos and absolutes made from rose petals, it is a joy to grow roses in the garden for bouquets, dried petals, potpourri and other crafts.  In the kitchen, rose petals can be added to a robust black tea for flavor or made into rose petal jam.  I suspect that if women were polled across the world to name their favorite flower, it would undoubtedly be the rose.  What are some of your favorite stories about the magnificent rose?  Please share them with us.

 Posted by at 1:14 pm
Jun 262008
 

Many of us are reeling when we envision the negative impact the FDA Globalization Act of 2008 could have on small beauty businesses, and the resultant curtailing of consumer choices when it comes to handmade natural products.   The restrictive annual and product registration fees that could be charged under this act could become so burdensome that many of these small businesses would have to close their doors.  Some of our small business customers could be facing a $12,000 product registration fee for each formula for a bar of  soap.

Donna Maria Coles Johnson, CEO of the Indie Business Network has worked diligently to support and provide a wide umbrella of education and services to support independent beauty products manufacturers, most of whom began in their own kitchens.  Many of these companies, after years of diligence and hard work have now emerged as successful, thriving alternatives to mass produced big box cosmetic products. Donna Maria is a big reason for this success.  She now has rallied her legal skills and the energies of the IBN membership to stop this potentially stifling legislation.

Watch the video, then go to her blog  and sign on as a signatory to the petition.  

Indie_Business_Blog 

Then, contact your own representatives in Congress to voice your objection to this pending legislation.  Your choices will be dependent upon the ultimate status of this bill.

 Posted by at 4:09 pm
May 022008
 

We have sourced an exciting new cosmetic ingredient with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effects.  This innovation is showing promise for topical dermatitis and psoriasis, and is useful in a range of aromatherapy applications.

Amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) is one of the world’s oldest useful plants and eaten as a grain or cereal since biblical times.  Revered as a holy plant by the Aztecs,  it has long been a staple food crop in South America.  The name originates from the Greek, meaning "immortal" or "unfading".

Its newly discovered use for skin care comes from unsaturated fatty acids and a unique high content of squalene, tocopherols and tocotrienols.   Perhaps the single plant showing a high concentration of squalene, a triterpene, up to 6-12%, as compared to olive oil with perhaps under 1% and similar to the SSL (skin surface lipids) of human skin.  This is what supports the skin and its varied functions, as well as keeping it elastic and healthy.  Antioxidative properties create a network of effective scavengers to protect against damaging environmental influences.   The addition of linoleic acid as well as high amounts of  tocopherols and tocotrienols give the Amaranth Seed CO2 an outstanding place in the natural cosmetic tool box.   The lipid fraction of amaranth seeds consists primarily of triglycerides, and linoleic acid, oleic acid and palmitic acid represent the main components in the fatty acid spectrum.

This cosmetic additive is excellent for the treatment of chronic skin dryness, damaged or unhealthy skin.  In a randomized double-blind study of 30 people between the ages of 23 and 73, including 19 psoriasis dermatitis patients and 11 atopica dermatitis patients resulted in positive results for those with psoriasis and dramatic results for the patients with atopica dermatitis.

We should have our first shipment by May 20.  Contact me at samara@wingedseed.com or by phone at 800.782.4532 to receive details about the introductory pricing along with formulation ideas for aromatherapy products.

 Posted by at 3:50 pm