Head Start

Get ahead of the rest using natural products. Lisa Burn investigates.

Hair and skin

It’s known as your crowning glory, so keep it that way with lots of love and attention.
A healthy diet will be reflected in the condition of your hair – if it’s brittle and snaps easily it could mean you’re lacking in zinc, if it’s dry then you may not be eating enough foods supplying essential fatty acids. Eat oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon three times a week, eat more nuts and seeds, consider a fish oil or linseed oil supplement. Pamper your hair from the outside by massaging jojoba or olive oil into the scalp and wrapping in cling film or a towel for an hour before washing. A couple of drops of lavender or tea tree oil added to shampoo can help combat dandruff.
If you’re prone to spot breakouts or acne, again see if you can improve your diet. Drink more water – around two litres a day – and see if cutting down on milk, cheese and butter improves your skin as acne or eczema could indicate a sensitivity to dairy products. A good multivitamin and mineral will supply the nutrients needed – including vitamins A, C, E, B vitamins, betacarotene and zinc – for glowing skin, or consider one of the special formulations available.

Eyes down

Too many late nights can take their toll on your peepers, leaving dark circles and bags that look more like suitcases. Refresh them with witch hazel in a compress or a couple of slices of cold cucumber (one on each eye). Chamomile tea also helps – drink the tea first then pop the cooled tea bags over your closed eyes for a couple of minutes. Dark circles can also indicate food intolerance so a visit to a nutritionist can help determine if diet is at the root of your problem. Vitamins A, C and E as well as beta-carotene and zinc make for healthy retinas as well as helping combat damage from pollution and smoke, so a multi vitamin and mineral supplement is a good idea. Or, try one of the specially designed supplements geared to optical health. These contain carotenoids, herbs such as rutin and eyebright, bilberry extract and lutein.

If you suffer from hay fever then the homeopathic remedies nux vomica and allium cepa can help soothe watery eyes.

Pucker up

Do you dazzle with your smile or avoid showing your teeth at any cost? Teeth don’t always get the kind of pampering other parts of the body get – a quick brush twice a day is as far as it goes for many people. It shows in the statistics: according to the British Dental Health Foundation 19 out of 20 people suffer gum disease at some point in their lives.

Daily brushing and flossing is the minimum requirement for healthy teeth and gums, preferably brushing after each meal. Gum disease is a big problem and flossing can help remove the plaque that forms on the edges of the gums. If your teeth feel loose try aloe vera juice to help tighten them; if your gums bleed it could be you’re lacking in vitamin C. Vitamin D and calcium are crucial for healthy, strong teeth while munching on raw vegetables such as carrots improves blood flow to the gums.

Many toothpastes claim to improve the whiteness of teeth as well as freshening breath. Check out those containing natural ingredients – essential oils such as myrrh and tea tree to fight infection, fennel and peppermint for fresh breath, cloves to strengthen the gums, Echinacea for immune support and neem to help fight plaque.

Don’t forget your lips when you’re caring for your mouth. Indulge them with gorgeous balms that not only keep lips moisturised but also look and smell delicious. Many use beeswax or jojoba oil as a base with other ingredients including plant extracts and vitamin E to combat dryness, as well as offering brilliant colour coverage.

Ear ear

Blocked Eustachian tubes, which run from the back of the throat to the middle ear, are one cause of earache, another is an infection caused for example, by a cold or blocked sinuses. Pain can be worse at night because you’re lying flat, so try sitting up for a couple of minutes and swallowing or prop your head up while you sleep to enable the tubes to drain. Echinacea should help clear any infection by stimulating the immune system to fight it off, also, garlic oil applied topically reduces inflammation. Loss of hearing could be caused by ear wax – but don’t stick anything in your ear to remove the wax. Instead, soften it by using olive oil then rinsing with tepid water using a rubber bulb syringe. (Do not put drops or liquid in your ears if you suspect your eardrum may be perforated but seek medical help). Hopi ear candles help regulate pressure inside the ears.

Smell wonderful

Closely linked to your ears and throat, nose blockages can be caused by colds and flu as well as hay fever and allergies. Echinacea and pycogenol from pine bark strengthen the immune system while extra vitamin C or elderberry extract will help fight off snuffles and sniffles. To relieve itching and a runny nose caused by hayfever try a nasal spray containing aloe vera or try the homeopathic remedy euphrasia; for a burning nose try allium cepa. If you’re suffering from a cold, relieve nasal congestion with steam inhalations using essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree or lavender several times a day. Just add around four drops of your chosen oil to a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel and breathe in the vapours.

If you suffer from nosebleeds try drinking nettle tea to strengthen blood vessels, also bioflavonoid supplements could help in the same way.

Headaches

Rub a couple of drops of lavender essential oil into your temples to relieve pain, or try a blend with peppermint oil in a cold compress. For migraine, try feverfew tincture or one of the solid stick products containing essential oils and rub over your forehead and neck. Common migraine triggers are cheese, chocolate and caffeine so if you think food lies at the bottom or your migraine problem try excluding triggers from your diet. The homeopathic remedies Iris, Bryonia and Nux Vomica can all bring relief.

Healthy mind

Cut stress with relaxation exercises such as yoga or t’ai chi. Drop your daily dose of coffee or tea in favour of herbal teas with calming effects, such as chamomile or vervain. Healthy eating, including nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables, keeps levels of serotonin and tryptophan on an even keel and these will keep you feeling calm. Consider a supplement of B vitamins. For mild to moderate depression St John’s Wort has proven beneficial but consult your GP before taking it if you are also taking prescribed medication because of possible interaction. Regular exercise – such as running, dancing, swimming, cycling or even brisk walking:

– is a great way of making yourself feel good, banishing feelings of low self-esteem and getting you fitter into the bargain. Watching what you eat can also relieve depression and improve memory

– increase essential fatty acids in your diet from oily fish or fish oil or linseed oil supplements. Research into ginkgo biloba has shown it to be effective for memory loss, while in aromatherapy, rosemary is good for mental clarity and is used as a memory improver. ®

Lisa Burn © Natural Lifestyle April 2005 in connection with Natural Health Week

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