Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dry skin brushing, for your health!

 Rather than view dry skin brushing as a fad-like quick fix, it should be seen a habitual practice as fundamental as bathing or brushing your teeth.

Potential benefits of skin brushing are best divided into two categories: vanity benefits and health benefits.

Vanity benefits:

  • Removes dead skin
  • creates smoother skin and gives a healthy glow
  • Improves skin's elasticity
  • could reduce cellulite
  • improves muscle tone
  • prevents premature ageing 
  • can change/purify eye color

Health benefits:

  • Stimulates the lymphatic system
  • clears toxins from the lymph system
  • strengthens immune system
  • helps with digestion
  • stimulates circulation
  • improves cell renewal
  • stimulates and balances hormones

Why dry skin brushing has so many benefits. 

Most people have heard that the skin is the largest organ we have. The skin removes around a pound of waste every day. The make-up of sweat mimics urine so many consider the skin sort of like a third kidney! So keep those pores clean and open! 

A major factor in the skins ability to properly rid toxins is the lymphatic system, which includes the liver. 70% of the lymphatic system lies underneath the skin in the interstitial space. The lymph system does not have any sort of pump or mechanism to keep it clear and moving, so it requires stimulation to help the flow of toxins. 

A healthy flowing Lymphatic system helps other body systems function better as well. 

How to skin brush

First, you will need to buy a dry skin brush with natural bristles. Any supermarket, drugstore, or health food store should carry them for around $10. Always use it while completely dry and wash it around every week depending on use. 

Quick tips:

Should take 5-15 minutes. I think it could combine well with a meditation routine. 
Skin and brush must be completely dry
Do in the morning or before bed- though, it can be energizing!
Good to do prior to showering since body is prepared for cleansing
Sauna is great to use after brushing
Alternate hot and cold in sauna/shower for extra circulation boost. 
No lotions for a few hours prior to use
Should not cause too much agitation. Slightly pink skin is OK. 
Avoid broken skin or damaged areas
Wash brush once per week 

Many experts have developed their own methods to follow for skin brushing. I have tried 3 which I have enjoyed and have combined them in different ways. The key is to find strokes that work for you.

Check out the water shed approach which can be found in a youtube video by greensmoothiegirl titled "The correct way to skin brush.

Check out Dr. Bruce Berkowsky's method which can be found in another youtube video by greensmoothiegirl titled how to dry skin brush.

Happy brushing! 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Bee Pollen: A Whole Food Supplement

So last week I put down artificial supplements... so I thought I better be more positive this week! I recently bought some local bee pollen from the nearby health food store. This is why:

**First of all, I want to mention that all of the information summarized below is from peer reviewed published articles. I found the articles on Science Direct or PubMed, which both search for academic papers from many different journals. However, some inferences are mine (marked as *), based on University of Alberta nutrition & science courses.**

Bee pollen has:
  • antimicrobial activity
  • antimutagenicity properties
  • antioxidant activity
  • carotenoids (up to 243ug/g of dry bee pollen)
  • protein (~20%)
  • B vitamins, including vitamin thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and vitamin B6
However, due to different flowers, soil types, weather and handling methods, there is high variability between different bee pollen samples.

So, what is bee pollen good for then?
  • Killing (or stopping the growth of) bugs, especially Gram-positive bacteria
  • Possibly prevent DNA mutations or unwanted changes 
    • may help prevent cancer*
  • May help prevent chronic diseases related to oxidative stress (resulting from too little antioxidants) such as:
    • cancer
    • autoimmune disorders
    • cataracts
    • rheumatoid arthritis
    • cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases
  • Antioxidants found in bee pollen can also help slow down the aging process
  • Carotenoids reduce risk of diseases, especially certain cancers and eye diseases
  • Protein is a required "macronutrient" for energy, strong hair, supple skin, muscle building, and a strong immune system (among many other functions).*
  • B vitamins are highly involved in body metabolism, and should be consumed on a daily basis for good health*
(* = personal inferences based on knowledge from science and nutrition university courses.)

You can probably find bee pollen in your local health food store. However, if you are having trouble finding it, keep in mind that raw honey also contains the pollen! 

Important note: Keep in mind that bee pollen comes from flowers! If you have any allergy to pollen or other environmental allergens, please do not eat this product... Search up nutritional yeast instead for a whole food supplement. :)

Almeida-Muradian, L., Pamplona, L., Coimbra, S., & Barth, O. (n.d.). Chemical composition and botanical evaluation of dried bee pollen pellets. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 105-111.

Arruda, V., Pereira, A., Estevinho, L., & Almeida-Muradian, L. (n.d.). Presence and stability of B complex vitamins in bee pollen using different storage conditions.Food and Chemical Toxicology, 143-148.

Arruda, V., Pereira, A., Freitas, A., Barth, O., & Almeida-Muradian, L. (n.d.). Dried bee pollen: B complex vitamins, physicochemical and botanical composition.Journal of Food Composition and Analysis,100-105.

Johnson, E. (2002). The Role of Carotenoids in Human Health. Nutrition in Clinical Care, 56-65.

Pascoal, A., Rodrigues, S., Teixeira, A., Fe├ís, X., & Estevinho, L. (n.d.). Biological activities of commercial bee pollens: Antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 233-239.

Pham-Huy, L., He, H., & Pham-Huy, C. (2008). Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Disease and Health. Int J Biomed Sci.,4(2), 89-96. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from

<3 Jessica

Monday, 12 January 2015

New & enlightened way to cook veggies!

I've been wanting to try out roasted vegetables for quite a while... I can't believe I waited this long!

The. Best. Veggies. Ever.

In fact - so good that I had to share it immediately. 

I strongly encourage you to use any vegetable scraps you have left in the fridge for this delicious side. Simply toss in olive oil with salt & pepper (and basil or other spices if you wish) and roast at 375F in the oven for 25-35 minutes!

I used: onion, sliced potatoes, chopped carrots, orange and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes cut in half.

<3 Jessica

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Thoughts on Vitamin Supplements

I used to take various vitamin supplements every day - at times up to 20 or so pills! All in the name of health. However, when you look past all of the health claims based on questionable studies, and take into account that most pills don't contain what they advertise... you're left questioning whether taking vitamin supplements is even good for you.

My current conclusion:
Due to over-used soils, genetic modification, long produce transportation times and the drive of companies for quantity over quality many of us are vitamin deficient. However, instead of turning to vitamin supplements to maintain health, we should instead consume more super-foods & whole foods.

Foods like:
  • Cod liver oils for healthy fatty acids and Vitamin A and D
  • High quality butter from pasture fed cows for healthy fats and fat-soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Wheat germ oil for Vitamin E (sunflower seeds are a great source of Vitamin E too)
  • Nutritional yeast or bee pollen for many B Vitamins
  • Liver, for Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, etc.
  • Powdered rose hips, acerola berries, or amalaki for Vitamin C

Why whole foods over vitamin supplements?

In short: Because synthetic vitamins can be harmful to your health.

Long Answer: Synthetic vitamin supplements are simplified and highly concentrated, which the body is unable to digest and use as well as naturally occurring vitamins in complex compounds. For this reason, high doses of synthetic vitamins are often required, which may lead to biochemical imbalances and side-effects.

In addition, some Vitamin supplements only provide a single part of the (partly unknown) complex that makes up the Vitamin. This is the case for Vitamin C, in which the supplemental form only provides ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is actually a complex of nutrients including bioflavonoids, rutin, tyrosine, copper etc... The ascorbic acid functions as the preservative for this complex Vitamin. Taking only the ascorbic acid depletes the other compounds of Vitamin C... the exact opposite effect I'm sure you were hoping for.

Unexpected effects are also true for some other Vitamins:
Vitamin A is associated with reduced cancer risk, but supplementation of beta-carotene (a precursor) may increase risk of lung cancer.
Synthetic Vitamin D3 seems to have the opposite effect as naturally occurring Vitamin D2: D3 seems to soften bones and harden arteries.

So in general this just emphasizes the fact that you cannot compensate an unhealthy diet with Vitamin supplements. Focus on whole (unprocessed) foods, stock up on super-foods, and save the chocolate for an occasional treat.

Info from "The Fourfold Path to Healing" by Thomas S. Cowan, MD

<3 Jessica

Monday, 5 January 2015

DIY Refreshing Face Spray

First of all, Happy New Year! I was away in Germany over Christmas break visiting family. Only complaint I have is that it was over much too fast! Nonetheless, I did take the time between finals and in Germany as a blogging break - I will be posting once a week now again :)

Today I'd love to share my recipe for face spray. It's gentle and refreshing for my acne-prone skin and I'd assume, based on the simple ingredients, that it would be good for any other skin type as well. I use this spray daily & it was very refreshing during travel.

I fill a small mist bottle (from the Dollar Store) with alcohol-free witch hazel, and add 2-5 drops of Melaleuca oil (aka tea tree oil). Spray on your face after cleansing (as a toner) or whenever you need a little pick-me-up!

Make sure you find alcohol-free witch hazel, because alcohol will dry out your skin (or boil down your own from herbs). And a note about the tea tree oil: generally a good quality oil will come in a dark bottle.

Benefits of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana):
  • Botanical anti-inflammatory
  • Skin-soothing properties
  • Common astringent in people with oily skin due to its high tannin content
  • To preserve the beneficial tannins, it's best to boil down your own extract with 5-10g of the herb in 1 cup water (6)
  • Helps reduce swelling, repair broken skin, and fight bacteria (7)

Benefits of Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca):
  • Antibacterial (broad-spectrum) and anti-inflammatory activity (5)
  • Clinical studies have shown tea tree oil to be just as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide (2) and 2% erythromycin in those with mild to moderate acne (1).
  • Shown to be better than baseline or placebo at reducing the count of inflammatory lesions (acne) (3).

Summary of some clinical studies evaluating tea tree oil for acne treatment
Treatment Groups
Mean reduction in lesion count
Frequency of Adverse Events
Overall Outcomes
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Benzoyl peroxide (5%)
1) 29% after 8 weeks
2) 46%
1) 44%
2) 79%
Benzoyl peroxide was better than tea tree oil, but had more side-effects. (2)
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Erythromycin gel (2%)
1) 55% after 6 weeks
2) 40%
not stated
Tea tree oil was significantly better (1)
1) Tea tree oil gel (5%)
2) Placebo gel
1) 44% after 6 weeks
2) 12%
1) 10%
2) 7%
Tea tree oil was significantly better than placebo at decreasing lesion count. (3)
1) Tea tree oil (3%) and lavender oil (2%)
2) Baseline
1) 10% after 4 weeks
2) 5%
1) 4%
2) 0%
Inflammatory lesion count significantly decreased with tea tree oil (4)
Adapted from K.A. Hammer, (5).


[1] Darabi R, Hafezi MA, Akbarloo N. A comparative, investigator-blind study of topical tea tree oil versus erythromycin gel in the treatment of acne. In:15th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 2005 [abstract no. 1133 249].

[2] Bassett IB, Pannowitz DL, Barnetson RS. A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoylperoxide in the treatment of acne. Med J Aust 1990;153:455–8.

[3] Enshaieh S, Jooya A, Siadat AH, Iraji F. The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2007;73:22–5.

[4] B. Kim, S. Shin. Antimicrobial and improvement effects of tea tree and lavender oils on acne lesions. J Convergence Inf Technol, 8 (2013), pp. 339–345

[5] K.A. Hammer. Treatment of acne with tea tree oil (melaleuca) products: A review of efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 13 November 2014. 

[6] Vincent Morelli, Erick Calmet, Varalakshmi Jhingade. Alternative Therapies for Common Dermatologic Disorders, Part 2. Review Article. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, Volume 37, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 285-296