Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Calibacitas: Blog Party

My friend Rebekah Bailey had a great idea to do a blog party on zucchini recipes. Most people have more zucchini than they know what to do with but I never tend to tire of it. I like to blacken them in a pan and add to just about anything ; especially as a pizza topping or in burritos.

One of my favorite recipes for zucchini though is Calabacitas, a Southwestern dish. I make them like this:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 cups chopped zucchini squash
2 cups chopped yellow squash
1 ear of corn, already cooked w corn scraped off(leftover from last night)
1 Anaheim chili or 1 small can of green chilis chopped.
splash of milk
1 cup grated colby/jack cheese

Heat olive oil in a skillet and onion. Stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash. If you have fresh chili pepper such as Anaheim, chop that too and add it. Cook for about 5 minutes until just getting soft. Add can of chopped green chili at this point if you did not add fresh chili earlier. Add corn and a splash of milk and continue cooking a few minutes. Add cheese, salt and pepper to taste, stir and enjoy.

Here is Rebekahs zucchini blog party post on Birdworms & Buttermilk.

Here are links to the other zucchini recipe blogs:
Becky - Zucchini Fritters

Tina - Zucchini Bread Recipes

Maryanne – Zucchini and Orzo Salad with Basil

Patricia – Stuffed Zucchini

Karen – Zucchini Pizza

Beth – Zucchini Brownies

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How the Safe Cosmetics Bill will Affect Natural Cosmetics

Vitamin K

Caffeic Acid

As you may have heard, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has recently introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, HR 5786. I’m sure you want safe cosmetics as everyone does so this bill probably sounds good. However, it has nothing to do with safe cosmetics and you can read this bill here .

I wanted to address what this bill would mean for the many small scale cosmetics companies like myself that already make safe, non-toxic and natural cosmetics; many of whom initially signed and now regret signing the Safe Cosmetics Pledge.

Plants such as herbs are tiny chemical factories making hundreds or thousands of biochemicals; many of which are beneficial to us, many others that have little or no effect on us, and a few that are toxic to us. Plants however have the tendency to balance these characteristics of toxic and non-toxic and tend not to be so black and white about it as we are.

Take for instance caffeic acid. This molecule is made in most plants including herbs such as rosemary, sage, and parsley. Caffeic acid and caffeic acid phenethyl ester are part of the shikimic acid pathway of plants that forms flavonoids, tannins, and lignin (wood). Caffeic acid is considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Cancer Research appearing on its list 2B of “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. This is because of a few small studies showing that ingestion of high amounts of caffeic acid caused stomach and kidney papillomas (pre-cancer) in rodents. There is no data available regarding cancer in humans. You can read the summary from IARC here.

With just this information you may say, "of course, I do not want this chemical in my skin care products or in my food as I'd rather be safe". However, further investigation shows that caffeic acid is also considered an anti-carcinogen, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory. As an anticancer agent it modulates many aspects of carcinogenesis including stimulating phase II enzymes to detoxify carcinogens entering the body and it stimulates cancer cell death, Topically, it can protect cells from damage caused by UV radiation (such as skin cancer). Many research labs are now studying its effectiveness as an anticancer agent.

Also found on the IARC list 1A of ‘known human carcinogens’ are things like jet fuel, gasoline, radioactivity and aflatoxins; things that would never go into cosmetics in the first place and are already prohibited as being toxic substances. However, there are other chemicals commonly found in natural cosmetics that are on various IARC lists of carcinogens. Here are some, followed by which list they are on:

coffee (2B), alcohol (1), eugenol a constituent of many essential oils (3), mate (Peruvian tea), kojic acid (3), d-limonene (3), microcystin (2B), microcystis extracts (3), progestins (and estrogens) (2B), quercetin (3), tannic acid and tannins (3), tea (3), theobromine (3), theophylline (3), vitamin K (3), stress and titanium dioxide (2B). Estrogen such as in birth control pills is ranked on the 1A list of ‘known human carcinogens”. Keep in mind that use of birth control pills is the number one contributor to the build up of estrogens in the waterways.

A few of these chemicals that I am personally quite fond of in my products include tea, tannic acid, theobromine, theophylline, vitamin K and eugenol. Tea such as green tea is rich in tannic acid, quercetin, theobromine and theophylline. Studies have found that the flavonoids in green tea can prevent signs of aging, inhibit formation of skin cancer and block damaging effects of UV light.

Vitamin K (phylloquinone) is of course an essential chemical necessary for human life and is necessary for blood clotting. Because one study showed that when injected into the peritoneal cavity it caused cancer it is on the list of 'carcinogens'. Vitamin K is found in many herbs and oils including parsley, basil and sea buckthorn oil.

Quercitin, a flavonoid found in many herbs, has been found to be anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It is found in a wide variety of plants including tea, red wine, berries and herbs.

Microcystis is a blue green algae that produces microcystin. Although it is indeed toxic, it also contaminates some blue green algae extracts making it necessary to test these ingredients.

Kojic acid is derived from a mushroom and used in many products as a natural way to lighten age spots. Eugenol is found in many essential oils including clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. These oils are commonly used in natural perfumery. Many herbs and vegetable oils are rich in phytoestrogens and progestins that are good for moisturizing the skin, providing antioxidants and giving skin that youthful look. Oftentimes these phytoestrogens are referred to as ‘nonsaponifiables’. Oils rich in phytoestrogens include olive oil, rice bran oil, soy oil, wheat germ oil, pumpkin oil, pomegranate oil, sea buckthorn oil, raspberry seed oil and the list goes on and on. If you use vegetable oils in your skin care products, regardless of whether or not they are organic, they may be prohibited by this bill because they contain phytoestrogens.

Because ingredients of vegetable origin are more complex than synthetic ingredients all of their components could not possibly be tested for safety leaving the only ingredients allowable in cosmetics to be highly processed and purified synthetic chemicals unfortunately.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do You Put Chemicals on Your Face? I Hope So.

Recent stories have circulated the web about the average woman using more than 515 chemicals on her face daily implying that this was quite dangerous. This number sounded quite low to me so I thought I'd count what I use.

First thing in the morning I take a shower and wash my face with soap and water. Water is dihydrogen monoxide, the first chemical. My handcrafted vegetable oil soap will include the following oils that have been reacted with lye:
Palm oil
coconut oil
shea butter
olive oil
rice bran oil
These oils are made up of many triglycerides and their fatty acids. Fatty acids in palm oil include laurate, myristate, palmitatte, stearate, oleate, linoleate and linolinate. Coconut oil contains similar ones plus caprylic, capric, caproic and arachidic. Olive oil contains similar fatty acids plus many non fatty acid chemicals including squalene, a variety of sterols, esters of tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, vitamin E (tocopherols), carotenoids and oleuropein. Besides the similar fatty acids listed above, shea butter also contains quite a few non fatty acid components collectively called unsaponifiables. According to wikipedia shea butter contains at least 10 phenolics including catechins. It also includes vitamins A and E. Rice bran oil again contains many phytoestrogens such as the gamma oryzanols. It also contains a unique fatty acid; behenic.

Typically I use lavender soap which contains lavender buds and lavender essential oil. According to Dr. Duke's Phytochemical database, 76 different chemicals have been identified in lavender including nerol, linalol and limonene.

Adding all those up, I've applied over 107 chemicals to my face before even getting out of the shower.

What I put on my face after that can vary. But lets say I then use my parsley eye serum. The ingredient list is: organic macadamia nut oil, olive oil, meadowfoam oil, parsley extract, seabuckthorn oil and rosemary extract.

According to Dr. Dukes Phytochemical database, 204 chemicals have been identified in parsley including petroselinic acid and a mucilage (which identifies a class of chemicals rather than a specific chemical). Macadamia nut oil has many similar fatty acids as were already counted above but also contains palmitoleic acid as well as unique phenolics. Seabuckthorn oil has a wealth of chemicals including a variety of carotenoids. Some sites boast that sea buckthorn has over 30 different carotenoid types. Sea buckthorn also has vitamin K and a variety of phytosterols including beta sitosterol.

Dr. Duke's database again helped me with rosemary showing that there are 240 identified chemicals in rosemary including cineole, betulin and carbone. Meadowfoam oil has a few fatty acids not found in the previous oils including brassic, erucic and gadoleic acids.

So this simple face treatments includes a conservative count of 581 to make a total of 688 chemicals just in the first 30 minutes of waking. I must so above average! Am I worried about applying these chemicals to my face? No. Some use the word 'chemical' to scare people implying that chemicals are bad. I however, know better. Yes, there are some chemicals that are toxic and should not be used.

You might notice that all of the ingredients I have put on my face are considered all natural by most people. All natural products contain more chemicals than any other products because they are so complex. If fact, the numbers stated above are much lower than they are in reality because all the chemicals found in plants have not been completely identified. Its not bad to use chemicals on your face although it may be bad to use toxic chemicals on your face.

Can you imagine using the precautionary principle and testing all the 240 chemicals found in rosemary? It could not be done. But I will not allow alarmist groups to scare me from using my skin care products and I have suffered no ill effects from this.
I'll continue to take my chances and continue to use these safe and beneficial chemicals on my face. What about you??

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Taking Time: Hollyhock Dolls

This time of year can go by pretty quick so be sure to take some time out for silliness. We made these hollyhock dolls this morning just for fun and here they are all together playing. All you do is attach the full bloomed flower to a flower bud with a toothpick. Using them in this way also helps keep them from spreading so much as hollyhocks like to do. I'm thinking of tying them together somehow to make a mobile to hang at the farmer market.
Another fun garden craft to is making lavender wands. I'm not going to tell you how to make those because my friend Tina Sams already has the best description here. I hope next summer to have enough lavender to have a wand making workshop here.
As a kid one activity I always enjoyed in the yard is just tying clover flower stems together to make necklaces and crowns. If you still have roses budding you can also thread them together for a necklace.
We have branches that fall out of our willow trees with every wind. These are flexible enough to be woven together to make small decorative fences (although I do have to save some for extracts for my skin care products). There are probably other trees or shrubs that are also flexible enough to weave. Iris leaves can be woven to make place mats to use for a possible tea party with the fairies.
What are some of your garden craft pass times?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Regional Fauna (Ohio and Colorado)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
When traveling I can't help but notice the different plants from one place to another. My first experience in this was moving from Ohio to Northern Arizona for college (yes, ages ago). What a difference it was for me moving from lush, almost jungle like growth to the sparsity of plants growing from rocky soil. It took awhile to appreciate the beauty of those tiny mustards growing out of rock.

After spending this week in Ohio it again makes me realize how different Ohio plants are from those of my new Colorado home. Native plants of Ohio include far more trees than Colorado (much of which is considered grassland) such as maples, birch, buckeyes and oaks. Herbacous plants include meadow rue, rose mallow, black eyed Susans, and milkweed. One of my favorites is wild ginger.

Native Colorado plants I am used to include blue columbine, geranium, blue flax, yarrow, penstemon and grape holly. I'll be sure to plant some of these in my new flower bed next year.

Many of the plants we consider wild however are not natives but plants that have become acclimatized and in some cases are considered noxious because they drive out the native plants changing the ecology of the environment. For instance, burdock grows rampant in the fields in Ohio, but it is not native. It was transplanted from Europe centuries ago. Plantain and red clover, both growing in Ohio and Colorado again were brought over by European settlers probably for their medicinal qualities. Its good to know about native plants in your area so you can help preserve them by doing plantings that include them. Do you try to plant natives in your landscape?


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