Growing and Using Luffa Sponges

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I just got home from Asheville, NC and the Mother Earth News Fair where I gave a talk on “How to grow and use Luffa Sponges”  Here is some of the information I presented. Many people are surprised and delighted to learn that a luffa is not a sea sponge but a plant in the cucumber family that can easily be grown in your own home garden.

They are super easy to grow and just need sunshine, water and a place to climb — In about 90 days you will have a full grown gourd that when soaked in water and peeled becomes the bath sponge or household scrubber we have all come to know and love.

There is an excellent article in the March/ April issue of Mother Earth Living Magazine written by Hannah Kincaid, Editor-in-chief.

Luffa seeds can be ordered online and found at most garden shops near the gourds.  I recently discovered The Luffa Ranch in Murphy, NC and they too are a source of seeds and all things Luffa.

Start your seeds indoors and plant outside when there is no chance of frost for most locations this is around Mother’s Day in May.

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Soaking and clipping your seeds also helps them germinate and sprout sooner.  I would recommend doing this.

Give your luffas plenty of sunshine and water and a place to climb and in the Fall you should have sponges ready for harvest.  They should turn brown and you can hear the seeds rattle around inside.

Soak your luffas and peel off their outer skin inside you will have the fibrous skeleton that is used to cleanse your skin.  Make sure you keep your luffa super clean and dry between uses.  you can clean your luffa in a pot of boiling water, in the dishwasher or in the washing machine when you wash your towels.

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Here is a simple luffa cleanser you can make with the green outer peels of the young plants.

Green Luffa Skin Cleanser

1 cup green luffa peels

1 tablespoon aloe vera gel

1 teaspoon raw honey

1-2 tablespoons water

  • Blend together. To use: Massage into damp skin.

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You can also make a simple sugar scrub using grated luffa — simply grate dried luffa with a kitchen cheese grater.  Here is the recipe:

Soothing Luffa Sugar Scrub

1 cup raw sugar

1 /4 cup almond oil

1 /2 teaspoon vitamin E oil

2 Tablespoons grated, dried luffa

  • Stir together. To use: Massage into damp skin

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I hope you try growing luffa this year and if you do — send me photos of your garden and how you are enjoying your plants!  I will check back in the fall when I harvest mine this is what they look like right now

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Happy Growing!

xoxo Janice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Beauty with Corn

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I know all you modern farm girls  love corn – it is one of the most versatile of the natural grains and can be used from head to toe to keep your skin clean, soft and comfortable.

Corn often gets a bad rap because so many food products are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.  But there are other corn base ingredients that are naturally good for your skin and hair.  Ground Corn Meal is an amazing skin scrubber.  Cornstarch is a soothing natural powder and also used to make gel lotions and corn oil is a soothing and moisturizing oil that works wonders on dry skin.  Here are a few of my favorite recipes using this farm favorite.  Enjoy!

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Corn Flour or Cornstarch – Easily found in your kitchen cupboard or at the grocery store

Corn Flour Lotion

Corn Flour or Cornstarch makes a light, non greasy lotion that is perfect for soothing dry, chapped hands.  This is an old fashioned recipe that some of you may remember your grandmothers using.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable glycerine

2 tablespoons corn flour (cornstarch)

/2 cup distilled water

2 tablespoons rose water

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients in an ovenproof glass container.  Heat until just boiling and thick  a few minutes in the microwave or on the stove top.  The lotions will be clear and jelly like: stir thoroughly and let cool completely.  To use: Massage into your skin.

Yield: 6 ounces

Note: If your lotion is too thick you may thin it with more water or rose water.

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Fresh ground yellow corn meal — For fun try blue or white cornmeal in recipes

Corn Meal Dry Shampoo

Using a dry shampoo can be an effective way to remove grease and dirt from your hair without getting it wet.  It can be a bit messy so make sure you stand on a towel or lean over a sink while “shampooing.”

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon cornmeal

Directions:

Massage the cornmeal into your scalp and let sit for a few minutes.  Leaning over a sink or tub gently brush your hair with a natural bristle brush to remove the cornmeal.

Yield: .5 ounces (one shampoo)

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Pure Natural Corn Oil perfect for soothing dry skin

Corn oil and sugar body scrub

Pure corn oil makes a nice all over natural body oil it also can be used as the base for a moisturizing and cleansing body scrub.  This is the perfect treatment to even out a fading tan and get your skin super clean.

Ingredients:

1 /4 cup corn oil

1 Tablespoon corn meal

1 /4 cup raw sugar

2-3 drops essential oil of sweet orange

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients and spoon into a clean container with a  tight fitting lid.  To use:  In the bath or shower massage sugar scrub into damp skin then rinse well.  You may follow up with more natural corn oil to lock in moisture.

Yield: 3 ounces

 

Happy Fall !! You are beautiful

xoxo Janice

 

 

 

 

Hops for Health

This is the year to celebrate all things Hops, as it was chosen as the 2018 International Herb of the year.  Hops may best be known for giving your favorite IPA a bitter taste, they are also a valuable health and beauty ingredients.

I will be teaching a workshop in February at Mother Earth News Fair in Belton, TX.  I hope if you are in the area you will sign up and join me in making dream pillows and hop infused bath bombs.   Here is the workshop sign up link: Hops for Health Workshop.

The following is one of my favorite recipes  for a a rich body butter to try at home this winter.  Hoppy New Year!!

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Calming Hops Body Butter

This is a rich skin soothing body butter.  It can be used to soothe classic dry skin spots such as elbows, knees, feet and hands.  Coconut oil is easily absorbed into your skin.  Both Calendula and Hops help reduce inflammation.

Ingredients: 

1 tablespoon dried hops flowers

1 Tablespoon dried calendula petals

1 /2 cup coconut oil

1 Tablespoon cocoa butter

Directions: 

Mix together all ingredients and gently heat until the coconut oil and cocoa butter is melted.  Let the mixture cool completely and sit for a few days for the oil to become infused with the herbs.  Gently reheat the mixture and strain out all solids and pour into a clean container.  To use:  Massage a small amount of the oil into your skin.

Yield: 4 ounces

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“Don’t worry be Hoppy — You are beautiful!”

xoxo Janice

 

 

 

 

Beauty from the Hive

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I am getting ready today for Oregon Honey Festival this weekend in Ashland, Oregon and just finished making some Lip Balms and thought I would share the recipe.  I am a fairly new beekeeper but I do love my bees and what they have done for my garden.  They are also some of the best “natural cosmetologist.”  Their raw honey and beeswax is amazing and I love using it in my DIY beauty recipes.

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“Honey You’re the Balm” 

This is a simple to make lip balm that is perfect for keeping your lips soft, smooth and protected.  Feel free to experiment with the basic recipe using your own favorite oils.  If you don’t have access to beeswax you can easily purchase some at your local natural food store or from beekeepers.

Ingredients: 

1 tsp. beeswax

1 tsp. coconut oil

1 tsp. Cocoa Butter

1/8 tsp. raw honey

Directions:

Gently melt all ingredients and stir well.  Pour into clean lip balm containers or small jars.  Let cool completely until solid.  To use:  Spread onto your lips.

Note:  This balm can also be used on other parts of your body where you need a bit of extra conditioning such as elbows, knees or heels.

Yield: .5 ounces

Have a sweet day and remember to “Just BEE You”  that is the best beauty tip!

xoxo Janice

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Spring Time Beauty

Happy Spring — I have sunshine here today and warmer temps so it is finally starting to feel like spring around here after a long very wet winter.  I have moss growing places I never thought it would grow haha — I am also learning about hops this year and speaking at the International Herb Conference in Michigan this fall.  So more on that later in other posts.  For now I am planning my skin care garden and using my spring veggies and flowers.  Here are a few of my favorite “Spring” recipes.

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Lettuce Cleansing Lotion 

Lettuce from the garden or farmer’s market makes a wonderful facial lotion that suits sensitive skin types.  This simple solution will also relieve sunburned or irritated skin.

Ingredients: 

1 /2 head fresh lettuce

4 cups water

Place the lettuce in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.  Strain off all solids and pour into a clean container.  To use: Massage a small amount of cleanser onto your face and neck.  Rinse well with warm water.  Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 16 ounces

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Fresh Carrot Mask 

This is an ideal facial mask for normal to oily skin.  Carrot juice is rich in Vitamin A, often referred to as the “beauty vitamin” because of it’s benefits to our skin and hair. You can make your own fresh juice or purchase carrot juice at the market or natural food store.

Ingredients: 

2 Tablespoons fresh carrot juice

2 Tablespoons powdered buttermilk

Mix together the juice and buttermilk until you have a smooth creamy mixture.  To use:  Spread on clean sin and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.  Rinse well with warm water followed by a cool water rinse.

Yield: 1 ounce

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Lilac Bath Oil 

The name lilac is a Persian word for “flower”, and it was in that country where that the plant was first discovered.  Lilacs are one of my favorite spring flowers and I have several bushes growing in my yard.  I love the beautiful flowers and their delicate scent.  The fresh flowers make s lovely bath oil.

Ingredients: 

2 cups fresh lilac flowers, removed from the stem

1 cup castor oil

Gently crush the delicate flower buds and place them in a clean jar.  Warm the castor oil in the microwave but do not boil just warm to the touch.  Pour the oil over the flower buds in the jar.  Let the jar sit for 2 weeks.  After the mixture has sat and you are happy with the scent.  Strain the oil into a clean container and discard the flower buds.  To use:  Pour a tablespoon or two into your bath as you fill your tub.

Yield: 8 ounces

 

Happy Spring — For more recipes and ideas check out my book “Natural Beauty at Home” 

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Janice 

 

Aloe Vera Beauty

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Aloe vera is a popular succulent plant that has been used in herbal medicine since ancient times to treat and soothe the skin.  It is often marketed as having rejuvenating and healing properties.  It is a popular addition to skin and hair care products because it is a lightweight, and non greasy.  It can also be used by all skin types without an allergic reaction and is even gluten-free.

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You can purchase small plants at most garden and home improvement centers and they make very nice indoor plants.  I bought one this summer at my local home depot and it grew super fast!  The simplest way to use aloe vera gel is straight from the plant.  Simply cut open a thick leaf and squeeze out some of the thick clear jelly onto your skin.  These plants grow from the inside out so pick the outer leaves closest to the soil.  It is especially soothing for small cuts, scratches and insect bites.

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The use of aloe vera gel as a skin beautifier can be traced back to ancient times.  According to numerous ancient writings, Cleopatra herself attributed her clear complexion to the use of aloe mixed together with a bit of olive oil.

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Simple Aloe Cleanser

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons aloe vera gel

1/4 cup light olive oil

2 Tablespoons rosewater (you can also use distilled water)

Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean container.  To use: massage into your face and neck and rinse well with warm water.

Yield: 4 ounces

Aloe vera gel is soothing to your skin because of it’s high water content.  It also helps protect and soothe dry lips.

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Aloe vera Lip Gloss

Ingredients: 

1 teaspoon fresh aloe vera gel

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

1/8 teaspoon vitamin E oil

mix together the aloe gel and oils, and stir well.  Pour into a clean container or small jar.  To use: Apply a small amount to your lips using a clean fingertip.

Yield: .5 ounce

Aloe vera gel is especially soothing to troubled or sunburned skin.  This is a soothing lotion you can easily make at home that also contains chamomile tea which is also soothing and has anti-inflammatory properties.

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Soothing Aloe Lotion 

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup aloe vera gel

1 Tablespoon chamomile tea leaves

1 Tablespoon vitamin E oil

2- 3 drops essential oil of peppermint (optional)

Mix together the aloe vera gel and the chamomile tea.  Heat gently, but do not boil for one minute in the microwave or on the stove top.  Let the mixture cool and strain off any solids.  Add the vitamin E oil and peppermint oil to the mixture and stir well.  Pour into a clean container.  To use: Massage into clean skin.

Yield: 4 ounces

Enjoy your day and if you don’t already have an aloe plant in your home or yard.   Now you can see what it is often called “The desert wonder”

xoxo Janice