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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Making your own Home-made Kajal/ Kan Mai / Kan Kappu

Here's a step by step guide about how to make your own detox kajal at home.

Castor Oil, Cotton
A clay pot or plate, a clay lamp
Bringaraj Leaves OR Crepe Jasmine Flower
Optional:  Almonds (or oil) and Beeswax

Method of Preparation:
1. Extract the juice of the leaves/Flowers and soak the cotton in it. Let dry in shade andmake wicks.
2. Prepare the lamp with the castor oil. Create a stand set up with tumblers/cups of an appropriate height such that the clay pot/plate placed on them will slightly touch the wick when lit up.
3. Optionally, smear the bottom of plate/pot as well with the leaf/flower juice. Light the lamp. Let the tip of flame touch the bottom of the plate/pot. Let the flame burn for a few hours.  Soot will collect.
4. Remove the plate/pot and scrape the soot carefully into a plate/cup. Powder it well with a spoon.  Proceed to make the Kaajal as per recipe shared.  Store the Kaajal in a metal container and use every day for cooling your body, detoxing, and improving your eyesight.

The video version:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Taking care of your pearly whites all naturally!

One of the most important personal hygiene practice is taking care of our oral health every day. Whether it is just brushing your teeth, flossing, gargling or oil pulling, all of us dedicate at least 5 - 10 minutes of our time every day for this activity. Now, considering how important oral health is, why would you intentionally jeopardize it? Did you know that the tooth paste that most of us resort to by default is full of harmful, toxic chemicals that can get directly absorbed into our body through sub-lingual absorption and lead to a toxic build up over time? Not to mention, the amount of sugar in these pastes that slowly but subtly changes our taste preferences over time.

There is no dearth of research when it comes to identifying the toxic ingredients in your toothpaste - take a look at this, this, and this. For additional measure, check this one too to know about what FDA has banned after so long (Triclosan!) but still in most of our toothpastes!! Seriously, even if you dont do anything for yourself that would be considered 100% natural, do this one thing - throw out your tooth paste right away and switch to a tooth powder or an all natural oral care regimen. You will be doing yourself a huge favor as well as contributing positively to the water bodies.

And if you are a parent, please make all attempts to ensure you NEVER introduce tooth paste to your child and if you have already done it, then make sure to help them switch to tooth powder asap. Do look out for my post for tips on how I did it with my own children later next week.

Now, let's look at some natural options for tooth care and how you can adopt a DIY approach to it. Of course, in India, fortunately, we have wonderful options to buy tooth powders that we can trust and rely on from retail product shelves. Some brands that I have used in past and trust include KP Namboodri Dantdhavana Chooranam, Dabur/Divya Dant Manjan, and Greenhands Siddha Tooth Powder.

The first thing we do before we undertake any DIY is to of course look at our traditional practices - what did our grandmas, great grandmas, and great great grandmas do? Well, simply follow that. They used neem sticks (or other regionally grown trees' barks) salt, charcoal or some even used plain red soil/clay. Now, if you want anything fancier than these or find these not so convenient, then we can look at two main medicine systems in India to get a clue - Ayurveda and Siddha.

So, in accordance with these two systems of medicines, here are two great Tooth Powder recipes you can make and try on your own.

Option 1 (Ayurveda):

The most easiest option is to use Triphala as a tooth powder. Just buy a trusted Triphala powder/chooranam from a nearby Ayurveda store. Mix it with Sea Salt/Himalayan Pink Salt and Crushed Clove Powder. As easy as that.

Triphala - 50%
Pink salt - 45%
Clove Powder - 5%

Make a trial/small quantity at first and then make a quantity that will last you 1 - 2 months. It is always a good idea to make and store for upto three months but not more than it. Also, ensure when you take it out in the morning/night, not to get it wet.

Option 2 (Siddha): 
Traditional Siddha Tooth Powder

Siddha medicine goes back thousands of year and originated from Siddhars and Saints (mostly from South India) who practiced advanced spiritual and yogic practices. Siddhars have written many texts on natural body care including oral hygiene and have prescribed many methods to maintain good oral health using 108 main herbs. Here is one option/version of the Siddhar tooth powder - there maybe many more out there.

Ingredients (dried and powdered):
Mint leaves – 5 gms
Tulsi leaves – 15 gms
Lemon peels – 5 gms
Haritaki (without seeds) – up to 8-10 gms
Cloves –dried and powdered –7 gms
Pink Salt/ Sendha Namak/Rock Salt – 5 gms
Kandankathiri / Yellow Fruit Night-Shade (looks like tiny Brinjals) – 2-3 gms

Alum Stone/ Fitkari – 10 gms
Natural Camphor – 2 pinches

Method of preparation:
Mix all the powders
Sift once to get a fine powder
Shift to an airtight container. Can be stored for up to 6 months to 1 year.

Now, before we close, how do you use these tooth powders?

Just follow these simple instructions:

1. First wet your mouth thoroughly and perhaps gargle with plain water once or twice. If you have a habit of drinking water before brushing when you wake up, go ahead and do that.

2. Then, after wiping your hands dry, take a pinch or two of the tooth powder on your left plan. Using your right middle finger (do not use Index finger, there is a spiritual reason for this, trust me), take the tooth powder and nicely coat your entire gums and teeth areas in your mouth. Take your time and spend at least 3 minutes on this activity.

3. During this time, you can also massage your gums gently and practice some energy healing techniques for sensitive teeth to heal them. Or you can simply mentally chant some positive affirmations for good health.

4. Post this, if you are keen on using a toothbrush, then take a Bamboo toothbrush, and brush your teeth as you do regularly with paste. By now, the tooth powder would have become almost paste-like in your mouth sans the foams. Do this for a minute or so perhaps.

5. Wash off your mouth thoroughly 4-5 times with plain water and ensure all tooth powder is out. If you feel there is some minuscule particles left, don't worry. Just follow up with a glass of drinking water and drink it in! It won't harm you as the powder is 100% natural!

6. If you have a habit of tongue cleaning, you may do that now. Else, pack up your tooth powder and brush and ensure there is no wetness left behind on them.

So, that's that - all natural oral care hygiene at its best! You can of course simply use a neem stick though you need to spend at least 5 - 10 minutes on it to be effective. Don't forget to follow other oral care practices through the day after your morning/night regimen - including gargling post meals, avoiding sticky candy (not chocolate, they are fine!), etc, etc.

Finally, if you are like me and love reading research reports, take some time to review this medical research on Oral care in Ayurveda and Oral care in Siddha.

Do share if you know other natural recipes for tooth care. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Natural Cold Rub

Nature has so much to offer and yet we humans seem to have stopped believing in natural remedies. Instead, we get swayed by the fancy packaging, fleeting fragrances, and the attractive product colors that bombard our senses in this consumer era. If only we take a moment to go through the ingredients in the products that we buy, surely, any sane person would balk before applying it on his/her own body? Starting from petrochemicals, synthetic parfums, artificial colors, preservatives, emulsifiers and what not - so many chemicals are concocted into the fancy products that have now become a household must-have!

Of the many such products, cold rub is one essential where almost every house buys and stocks a well-known vapour rub in the hopes that it will help them fight the cold, cough and infections usually associated with the cold weather. Whether or not those products work is irrelevant - just take a look at what goes into making them before you continue to buy/use it. When there is a wonderful, far more effective home remedy straight from nature's basket, why would you even want to spend the money to buy the chemical-laden rubs from the market? Not to mention the contribution to the plastic waste that you will inevitably end up generating!

Let's look at how you can easily make a simple but highly effective cold rub - with just 2 - 3 ingredients with a few other variations with additional/different ingredients.

All Natural Cold Rub

Ingredients required:
Cold pressed/Organic Coconut oil - 100 ml
Beeswax pieces/scrap - 10 - 15 grams
Edible Camphor (Beemsen Karpoor/Pacha Karpooram) - 5-10 grams, powdered

Method of preparation:1. Powder the Edible Camphor well with a rolling pin/mortar and pestle.
2. Mix it well into the Coconut oil, cover and keep aside in a container for a day.
3. The next day, set up a double boiler heating system - i.e. take a smaller container in which you plan to mix up the ingredients and immerse it in a bigger container filled quarter way with water. Make sure the water level is well below the halfway mark of the smaller container so that any water that boils/jumps off doesn't fall into the bigger container.
4. First, mildly heat up the coconut oil-edible camphor mix on the double boiler until any remaining camphor melts into the Coconut oil completely. Do not overheat or heat for more than 3-5 minutes as camphor will evaporate on heating. Heat it just enough.
5. Then, gather the beeswax pieces into the empty container (the smaller container in the double boiler system) in which you intend to make the Cold rub, and heat it up until the beeswax melts completely. Lower the flame.
6. Add the mildly heated Coconut oil-Edible camphor mix to the Beeswax and stir it in well. Make sure all camphor has dissolved well into the mixture.
7. Take off flame and transfer to capped bottle/container you intend to store it in. Make sure it's not plastic if possible.
8. Wait for it to solidify to a creamy texture. Your cold rub is ready! Try it out :) You can store and use it for upto six months.

From experience, I can tell you that it works very well in mobilizing all the phlegm and relieving blocked noses. But if you ask me, is it a wonder drug that will cure a cold overnight, well, you got to be kidding me :) Any cold needs to run its natural course of 2 - 3 days for your body to cope and naturally fight with its immunity. Let that happen while you use the cold rub to give you relief to breathe easily and get rid of the mucus as much as possible helping your body in the process.

Though this recipe is completely safe for babies and children as well, for very young ones, I would suggest you reduce the edible camphor to just 5% so that their sensitive skin does not burn. Also, you can test it by first applying only on their soles (and covering with socks) and see if it helps them before using on their chest/back. Do not however put it on their nose/under the nose.

Of course, this is a very old and traditional home remedy - we are only giving it a modern twist by using Beeswax so that it's not all oily spoiling our clothes. If you don't have Beeswax or ccan'tbother to buy it, you can always use just the Coconut oil-Edible Camphor mix alone and use it just as you would the rub. While Beeswax has its own healing properties, here we are mainly using it to give a nice, familiar texture of a vapor rub which we have got used to in recent years.

Now, there are of course other variations you can do to this recipe - to make it more effective (perhaps, if this one doesn't seem to work for you), or make it smell better/different, etc. Let's look at a few of them below quickly:

Variation 1: Use Menthol, Thymol, and Eucalyptus Oil along with Edible Camphor. Menthol and Thymol are plant-derived extracts from peppermint/other mint and thyme plants though there are also synthetically produced variants of Thymol and Menthol. If making this variation, ensure not to cross 5% of the quantity of Coconut oil. i.e. don't use more than 5 (or max 8-10) grams of all Menthol, Thymol + Camphor combined. You can use up to 10 drops of Eucalyptus oil. Thymol is called oma uppu and Menthol is called Pudina uppu (in Tamil) and you can get it in herbal medicine/pooja stores.

Variation 2:  You can also make a cold rub using only essential oils (EO) and skipping the Edible Camphor. Follow the same recipe and add the following essential oils once the Coconut oil and Beeswax are melted and well combined and taken off heat (but before you transfer to storage container). Add 20 drops of Eucalyptus EO, 15-20 drops of Peppermint EO, and 15-20 drops of Lavender EO. Optionally 10-15 drops of Lemon EO as well. Combine well into the Oil-Beeswax mix before transferring to the storage container.

If you are using Essential Oils, its always better to use lesser quantity to be on the safe side as they are really concentrated and can do more harm than good if used in excess. So, please exercise caution and always do a patch test before using full-fledged. Also, pls buy from a reliable brand. Moksha Lifestyle and Falcon Essential Oils are two brands I trust and source from.

Most importantly, DO NOT use the ordinary camphor - these days, the ordinary camphor that we use in religious practices is highly contaminated and some even say its made of plastic and not natural at all. So, please avoid that at all cost. Use only edible camphor from a reliable source.

If you have a better recipe or an effective time tested remedy for dealing with cold and cough, please do share for the benefit of all.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Seed balls - Throw them or Grow them!

I guess I heard about the term 'Seed balls' about four to five years back although the concept itself is an ancient one and have been around for much longer. Widely attributed to Masanobu Fukuoka, the man behind The One-Straw Revolution, Seed balls are a way to plant seeds without disturbing the soil layer by digging or plowing. The other reason for putting the seeds into the 'Seed ball' is to protect it from insects and birds until it can sprout and grow into a young plant.

In the last few decades, Seed balls are more prominently being used for reforestation efforts and in last few years, they have caught the fancy of urban folks as well who want to do their bit for the environment.

By concept, the Seed ball can be used to hold any kind of seeds - grains, millets, vegetables, trees....although for forestation, native tree seeds are preferred and used. In urban setups, the idea of making Seed balls of Vegetables, Flowers and other garden plants is quickly becoming a trend and even becoming an option for Green gifting. Very soon, there might come a day when people give Seed ball boxes instead of Sweet boxes to their near and dear ones during Diwali :) One can wish ;)

Alright - so, now onto how to make the Seed ball. The internet is filled with so many different ways and methods to do Seed balls - from how to make it, how to throw it, and how to store it! Here's a video of the man himself showing how to make Seed balls -

Here's a very simple method I follow:

  • Take equal parts Red Soil (i.e. regular planting soil available near you), Clay (if in powder or dry form, it's better) and Cow Dung/Compost. If using Cow dung, again if it is semi-dry its good and hopefully a desi cow dung if available. But it doesn't matter - the reason for adding Cow dung/compost is just to give nutrition to the young plant when it first sprouts as we won't know its environmental condition where we throw it. 
  • Get together the red soil, clay and cow dung together into a smooth mix without any lumps. Use water to get a holding consistency (almost like a chapathi but a bit more drier if you will) - but dont use too much water as it will take a long time to dry.
  • Now, you can either mix up all your seeds into the above mix evenly OR opt to put in select number of seeds into the ball once you make them. If you are putting the seeds directly into the mix before making the Seed ball, just ensure you use enough/sufficient quantity of seeds such that each Seed ball may hold atleast a few. Usually, if we use this method, we use dry clay and at least 20 - 40% of seeds (to the overall soil quantity) and mix them up before adding water. 
  • Once your mix is ready and of right holding consistency (test it by trying to make a ball), mould/shape them into small ladoo shaped balls. You can even use fancy baking moulds to get different shapes if you desire/gift to children. It's important that your Seed ball is not too big (unless you are using BIG seeds like Mango). The Seed ball (especially if you are going to place the seeds inside after shaping to balls) size should be relative to the size of the seeds.
  • Now, in each of the shaped ball, gently insert the seeds you have selected and push them inside such that it is completely covered by the mix. Roll it between your hands to ensure there are no cracks and surface is even.
  • Spread them on the ground/cloth and let it dry under gently sun or shade for next few days. Once completely dry, they are ready to be used!

Gift them, throw them or simply Grow them in your gardens!

You can even make Seed balls from old waste papers and newspapers. Simply replace the red soil and clay with mashed, wet paper, add equal parts compost and voila, your paper seed ball is ready. They can even be made into lovely shapes using moulds.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Taking care of your shining glory!

Contrary to what you might think, not all packaged hair oils are without chemicals. In fact, some of the most well-known brands of Coconut oil are either adultered by spurious agents in between or manufactured itself with mineral oil additives for various reasons. Just as you would hesitate to apply petroleum-based products on your head, so you should think twice before you use any commercially packaged product. As they say, the best way to assure yourself of quality ingredients and synthetic or toxic chemical-free components is to make the product yourself.

In the case of hair oil especially, we have a rich repository of traditional recipes that have been tried and tested for decades by our grandmas and moms. So, why not turn to it and make the oil yourself instead of relying on another person?

Here's a list of ingredients you can use in any combination you desire to make your own hair oil to control hair fall, increase hair growth, and generally promote good hair health.

Base oils:
1. Pure, cold pressed Coconut Oil (about 50-60%)
2. Pure, cold pressed Sesame Oil (about 20-30%)
3. Pure, cold pressed Castor oil (about 20-30%)

Always make sure the oils you use are edible, cold pressed and freshly prepared.

Additional oils (about 10-15%):
1. Bringaraj oil (only if you can totally trust the source; else skip the oil and use the fresh/dried herb)
2. Amla oil (same as above)
3. Neem oil (same as above)

Other ingredients (as per availability, use upto 100-200 gms each for 1-2 litres total oil composition): 
1. Dried/fresh Curry leaves
2. Dried/fresh Bringaraj leaves (if not using the oil)
3. Dried/fresh broken Amla pieces (if not using the oil)
4. Dried/fresh Hibiscus leaves and flowers (try to use only the native red variety and not the hybrids)
5. Dried/fresh Brahmi leaves
6. Dried/fresh Tulsi leaves
7. Sprouted/soaked methi seeds
8. Kalonji seeds
9. Licorice (powder or roots)
10. Alkanet (powder or roots)
11. Jatamansi (powder or roots)
12.Small, sambar onions
13. Garlic
14. Coffee beans

How to prepare the oil:

1. First, combine all the dry ingredients and grind into a paste with minimal water
2. Mix the oils and add the above paste as an infusion
3. Either, leave under the sun for a week during summer in a transparent container (preferably glass) OR heat up the mixture over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes. Switch off and let soak overnight.
4. Next day, strain and filter in a muslin cloth and separate out the oil. Warm it up a bit to ensure no moisture is retained.  Keep under the sun if possible for a few days.
5. You can use the leftover herb paste as hair pack if you can tolerate the smell and dry, falling particles. If you do use as a hair pack, ensure to wrap your hair with a towel and soak not more than 1 - 2 hours.

Know any other ingredients that are good to be combined into the above recipe? Happy to hear from you in the comments.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Shine your Copper and Brass naturally! (A tip a day for Chemical-free homes)

With all the sudden interest in Copper Water Bottles and Tumblers, your cleaning schedule sure would have increased! Want a way to clean Copper without too much elbow grease? Just make a paste of Citrus Bio Enzyme (or fresh Lemon Juice) and Salt (equal quantities), apply all over the Copper or Brass surface (use a Tamarind piece to apply if you can). Let stay for a minute or more, scrub lightly and wash well with clear water. Wonder at the shine! Do ensure the insides are cleaned well off the citrus remains  – don’t want accidental copper poisoning now, do we?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Brighten your Whites (A tip a day for Chemical-free homes)

Who doesn’t love bright white clothes/uniforms? But don’t know any way to “whiten them” without chemical bleach? Well, there is hope! Just add two spoons of Lemon Juice (or Citrus Bio Enzyme) along with your laundry and wash them as usual. If you have a hot water option, use that. Watch your whites get transformed chemical-free! And if you have been using Soapnuts to wash and have a weird feeling they are ‘discoloring’ your clothes, be sure to try this out and let me know the results J But do this after the wash for the rinse cycle. 

Coaching on Sustainable Living

Hello there! If you would like to join my coaching sessions on Bio Enzyme, Natural Cleaners, DIY Chemical free living, Plant Care, etc do head over to my course list here and sign up. Alternatively, you can email me on adropofwisdom at gmail along with the course you are interested in.

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A wannabe minimalist trying to make it all natural! Let's see how it works.

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