Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Herbal New Years Wish

I will give you this New Years Wish with the language a herbs.

Sage for the wisdom acquired this year that will guide you next year.
Angelica to inspire you.
Lavender for devotion.
Fennel to enter the new year with strength
Thyme for courage to face what the new year brings.
Lemon balm for success.
Coriander for health.
Basil for wealth.
Dill for luck and money in 2012.
Yucca for the opportunities the new year brings.
Hyacinth for happiness, love and protection.
and of course the mighty rose to help you find love and beauty.

Wishing you the best for 2012.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lavender Coffee

I'm always game to try an interesting herb recipe, especially when it involves lavender. I've
heard talk recently of lavender coffee and even heard there's a coffee shop nearby that makes a lavender mocha, although I've not been there yet. So I wanted to give lavender coffee a try. Since I always have milk in my coffee I went about making my lavender coffee by first infusing milk. I put about a cup of milk in a pan with about a teaspoon of lavender buds and heated that briefly while I made a cup of coffee. For the coffee I used an espresso roast which is my favorite; I made this one extra strong to allow for a good amount of milk. When the coffee was finished I strained the lavender buds from the milk and whisked it a little to froth. I poured the milk into the coffee and added a small amount of cinnamon to the top. Because lavender has a very astringent taste I am always careful not to use too much in a recipe. This came out quite delicious though without the astringency common to lavender. I could easily have used more but it was good with this amount.
Later I will infuse lavender in milk to make some hot chocolate. I know that will be good!

If you are interested in using lavender in drinks here are some other ideas you may have heard of:
Lavender Lemonade
Lavender Earl Grey Tea
Lavender Martini (don't infuse this too long as it will get bitter)
Lavender also goes well with many fruit drinks including peach and raspberry. 
I've never had a lavender pale ale  but I think the flavor of lavender would add a nice floral touch to some good hops. I'd love to try on.

Do you have a favorite lavender drink?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Anti-Inflammatory Herbs


Our skin experiences damage both from within and from environmental factors which lead to inflammation. the pathways involved in this inflammation may be involved in promoting the signs of aging in skin. Antiaging formulas for the skin should therefor contain ingredients that act as anti-inflammatory agents. Following are some herbs that have anti-inflammatory activities that can be used in skin care products.

Antiinflammatory Herbs Used in Skin Care

Aloe vera (Aloe Barbadensis)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Chamaelelum nobile)
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Feverfew  (Chrysanthemum parthenium)
Frankincense (Boswellin)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)
Mint (Mentha spp.)
Pansy (Viola tricolor)
Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
White Willow (Salix alba)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Balsamic Vinaegrette Salad Dressing

Balsamic Vinaigrette (salad dressing)

½ - ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
3 T Dijon Mustard
2-3 T honey
2-3 cloves, garlic, minced
1 T chives, minced
2-3 teaspoons chopped herbs of choice (thyme, basil, tarragon, etc)
1 cup olive oil

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Old Man's Beard

Would you liken to an algae and a fungus? Yes, nerd jokes never grow old. But a lichen is a symbiosis between a fungus and an algae. Lichen grow under conditions where neither the algae or the fungus alone could grow, but together they rely on each other and grow fine. In Colorado we find lichens growing on rocks and rarely find these web-like structures growing in trees. However, in Oregon (where I happen to be at the moment celebrating Thanksgiving) there are many of these hanging clusters on branches which are called Old Man's Beard or more properly 'Usnea'.

Usnea is best known as an immune tonic and anti microbial which is particularly good for lung diseases. It is best used as an alcohol extract or tincture. Many of these properties are due to the content of usnic acid found in this symbiotic organism. Although usnea has been shown to increase bleeding times it can still be used as a wound dressing in an emergency. Its web-like structure makes it useful to help hold a wound together in an emergency and prevent infection.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Garden Prep

Lavender under snow
Winter and accompanying snow came very quickly here with little time to prepare. I was able to pull out most of the tomato plants from the garden and dispose of them. I tend to leave a lot of other plants though as a place for (hopefully) beneficial insects to winter over. However, if you have any plants that look diseased now is the time to get them out of the garden and in the trash. Cutting back overgrown perennials is also a good idea. Here are some things you might want to do before winter gets too far under way.

1.    Plant bulbs. When its fresh in your mind now plant spring bulbs in places that need more color. You can do this up until the time the ground freezes, typically December.

2.    Rake Leaves. Leaves on the ground can cause a lawn to die or become diseased. These leaves make a great addition to the compost pile.

3.    Weed. Its never too late to weed. Getting at these perennial weeds now can stop them from getting  a head start in the spring.

4.    Protect your roses. Once the ground freezes lay some branches around the roses to decrease the freezing and thawing that occurs. I like to cut up branches from the Christmas tree for this purpose.

5.    Water! This is one of the hardest things to remember in the winter. If the ground is frozen you don’t need to water, or if it snows you don’t need to water. But if temperatures are above freezing and there is no precipitation for 2 weeks it’s a good idea to haul out the hoses and water perennials and trees.

6.    Sit in a warm house and look at gardening books to get ideas for what to do differently in spring. Do this while things are still familiar and you can evaluate what works and what didn’t work. One thing we are planning on doing is getting a sprinkler system installed to make the job of watering easier.

7. Cover bare garden areas with compost. Since we have several types of animals here (horses, goats, chickens) I am covering my  garden areas with manure so that it can compost there in place during the winter.

8. Drink lots of herb teas while looking out the windows this winter.

I'm sure I am forgetting something. What have I forgot?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese with Herbs

Besides being everyone's favorite dish, macaroni and cheese is a great dish to liven up with herbs. Some of my favorite herbs to add to mac & cheese are chives, parsley and nettles. Yes, nettles are a great herb to eat alone as a steamed vegetable and contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals. Try crushing a teaspoon of dried nettle into your mac & cheese for the added nutrients. Other herbs to try in your mac & cheese are basil, oregano or thyme.

Here's how I make quick Macaroni and Cheese.

Cook 1 pound of your favorite macaroni noodles or pasta according to instructions, drain.
To the pot add about a cup of mixed grated cheese of your choice; cheddar, jack, swiss, fontina are all good choices. Add about 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of mustard and stir. You may need to add a few tablespoons of milk to get a good consistency. Add herbs and eat immediately. Enjoy. Do you have a way to liven up your mac & cheese?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Pictures

Summer has been extended this year, its October 19, and we have had only a few very mild frosts, not enough to kill off much. I even have lavender still blooming. Here are some pics around the farm this week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Take a Break

I live in the most beautiful, scenic state in the nation with the best weather but even that is not enough to get me to take a break. Other small business owners know how hard it can be to get away from the business no matter  how important we know it is. However, the great fall weather and golden aspens called me to the mountains. We drove on Peak to Peak highway near Ward CO to the Brainard Lake area and found a trail to Isabelle Lake and Glacier. It was a relatively easy trail (even for me) and only 2 miles up with 400 ft elevation gain. Once we got to the lake we found the near part was dried up so we walked through the lake and sound some nice sandy beach to enjoy our lunch and sun and relax awhile before the walk back and the scenic drive back. What do you think of the view? I'll probably take another day off next year since this one was so nice! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brewers Herbs

Beer is an ancient drink (and food) that I happen to be quite fond of. I especially like beer with lots of floral hops. Hops were not always used in beer though, and may not have been used until the 9th century. Before that, a mixture of herbs referred to as gruit was used to flavor beer. Although I don't brew beer, I do grow hops and other herbs so am interested in what herbs are used in beer. I recently read "The Homebrewer's Garden" by Joe and Dennis Fisher to learn more about herbs in brewing, a very interesting book by the way.

Here are some of the herbs from this book that grow in my gardens.

Anise Hyssop - provides a licorice flavor to beer.
Basil - adds a slightly bitter, spicy flavor.
Bee Balm - often used as a tea, bee  balm provides a bitter, minty flavor.
Borage - gives a spicy, cucumber like flavor to beer. This herb can also be steeped in wine.
Chamomile (Roman) - is said to be one of the 'secret' herbs in Celis White beer. It gives an apple-like flavoring.
Clary Sage - provides a balsamlike aroma to beer.
Coriander - this is a flavoring in one of my favorite beers; Belgian Whites.
Dandelion - yet another use for this common weed. Use the tender spring leaves in your salad and the larger leaves later in the season to bitter your beer.
Elder - the berries are best know for making wine, but they can also be used to flavor beer. The flowers can be used for 'dry hopping' as well.
Oregano - adds a distinctive flavor to beer.

Horehound - this herb can add a warm, menthol flavor. I wonder if horehound beer can be used to control coughs?
Hyssop officinalis - this herb is used in Benedictine and Chartreuse. Using it in beer provides a minty, medicinal scent.
Juniper - commonly used in gin, juniper can contribute this taste to beer as well.
Lavender - oh, the many uses of sweet lavender. I would love to try a pale ale flavored with lavender. Let me know if you know of one.
Lemon Balm - this is used in many liquours and can add a lemon scent/flavor to beer.
Mint - there are many types of  mint, and although I love a mint tea, I don't know how this would be in beer.
Rhubarb - great in a fruit crisp, this is one fruit that would be interesting in beer.
Rose hips - apparently rose hips are used in some beers from Poland and impart a citrus flavor and red color to beer.
Rosemary - before the use of hops in beer, rosemary was quite popular.
Sage - was used in fifteenth century English beer recipes and adds bitterness and camphorlike scent.
Savory, Summer - provide a peppery, oregano-like flavor and aroma.
Spruce - was popular during the American Revolution spruce adds distinct, woods taste that is popular in winter beers.
Sweet Woodruff - this herb is what makes May wine what it is but can also be used to add a mild, sweet aroma to beer.
Thyme - used to give beer a spicy aroma.
Valerian root - is commonly used as a sedative so what better place to use it than beer?
Yarrow - both the leaves and flowers can be used to bitter beer.

I'd love to see more 'herbal' beers so I hope that if you are a brewer this gives you some ideas - and don't hesitate to share with me! I'd love to write reviews!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cornbread & Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

When the weather starts to chill as it has been the past few days, cornbread and black bean chili becomes my favorite meal. Here's my recipes.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
2 - 3 eggs

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until everything is moist. Pour/spread into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 400 F for 30 minutes or until done. Best when eaten hot from the oven, but great the next day warmed with maple syrup on top. Sometimes I'll add pecans or raspberries to this recipe too.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

1/2 large onion chopped
1-2 garlic cloves chopped
1 dried guajillo chili whole
1 cup vegetarian broth
2 cans black beans
1 large can chopped tomatoes
oil for frying

Put a small amount of oil in a soup pot and cook onion, garlic and chili until onion is transparent; 5-10 minutes. Add black beans, broth and tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes or more until flavors meld. Add salt, pepper and hot pepper if needed.
Options: If available I will often add 1/2 cup of chopped winter squash or green pepper as well.

Enjoy and keep warm.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cosmetic Terms


In my 10 years or so of working in cosmetic science I’ve learned a great deal. Having a foundation in biochemistry has been helpful since much of cosmetic science has to do with protein and lipids as well as biochemistry of skin. For those who are new, let me share a few definitions to help you get started.

Moisturizer - A substance or product that adds or restores moisture to the skin. Keep in mind that moisture refers to water so oils alone do not moisturize.

Humectant - A substance that binds to water to help retain moisture. This is important for the product itself to keep from drying out, but also to help keep the skin moistened. The best example is glycerin but humectants also include propylene glycol and sorbitol.

Emollient - A substance that softens and sooths the skin making it more supple. Typically this is an oil. It is thought to fill the crevices between the cells in the stratum corneum or outer layer of the skin to improve appearance.

Lubricant - A substance that reduces friction and often forms a film on the skin. This is important for feel when applying a product to the skin.

Barrier - Something that bars passage. Healthy skin is a barrier in that it bars passage of substances into and out of the body protecting it from the outer environment and holding moisture in. Lotions and creams help support this barrier function of the skin. Damaged skin is less of a barrier making it more prone to infection.

Occlusive - Impenetrable; a film spread on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Petroleum oil is one of the best occlusive agents but vegetable oils also work.

Emulsifier - Binds together substances that could otherwise not be mixed such as oil and water. Emulsifiers are used in any cream or lotion to help hold the oil and water phases together.

Surfactant - Reduces the surface tension of a liquid such as water. I first learned this word referring to a phospholipid that occurs in the lungs. Its function there is to reduce surface tension and help keep the lungs open for air to be there. In cosmetics it means the same thing but examples include detergents, foaming agents, emulsifiers and dispersants.

Antioxidant - A chemical that inhibits oxidation reactions or free radical damage to other molecules. Common antioxidants are vitamin A, C, and E and polyphenols. Antioxidants in skin care products are important both to protect the product itself as well as  to diminish the signs of aging.

Preservative - A compount that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus or kills bacteria and fungus. Preservatives are important to protect the product itself as well as to protect the consumer from getting an infection that could be serious. It is absolutely necessary to to make sure products containing water or water based ingredients are properly preserved.

Exfoliant - Something that removes the outer, dead layer of skin cells, the stratum corneum. This can be done physically with an abrasive substance such as salt or ground seeds or chemically such as salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid.

Fixed Oils - Non volatile oils which are lipids or fats. They are sometimes used as a carrier for essential oils. These include olive oil, almond oil, etc.

Stratum Corneum - The outermost layer of the epidermis of the skin. It provides the skin with its barrier function.

Cosmeceutical - A combination of the words Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical. It refers to a cosmetic ingredient that has a pharmacetical action on the skin. The term is not recognized by the FDA and a cosmetic that makes a pharmaceutical claim is no longer considered a cosmetic but rather an over the counter drug.

To read more about Sagescript Institute ( you can see this article in the Examiner or this article in the Examiner.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Herb Hut

As things grew tighter in my workspace I knew I needed another place to dry all the herbs I grow and to keep them out of my manufacturing area. So early this spring I bought a 'canopy', the kind intended for storing vehicles and tools etc. This works for a number of reasons including that our zoning only allows for 'temporary structures' on our property as additional buildings. I always like the idea of having a building not permanent anyway since I can change my mind sometimes.

The structure was easy to put up, we did it in a few hours on a Sunday. I moved in a table and a rack that we had that is great for drying herbs. I can set baskets on either surface for drying as well as hang bundles from the rack. There are a few wire supports running from one side to the other where I can also hang bundles. Over the summer the herb hut has proved to be quite useful and a great place to dry the herbs because of the heat that builds up. I need to
set more time aside for getting the herbs destemmed and into their jars and bags and put away. Over the winter the herb hut will probably be storage for some of our garden tools.
Where do you dry herbs?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Registration Requirements of the Safe Cosmetics Act

Registration Requirements of the Safe cosmetics Act
Section 612

Registration of cosmetics manufacturers seems reasonable, and I think that anyone who makes cosmetics should be registered with the FDA. By doing so it allows open communication between FDA and cosmetics manufacturers so that information about ingredient toxicity can be openly shared. Its interesting though that this bill exempts small businesses, those that sell less than $2M annually, from registering with the FDA. I am confused about the reason for this. Without registering there is no open communication and no means for small businesses to get up to date information from the FDA. It also brings up the suspicion by consumers and other regulatory organizations that small businesses do not necessarily make safe cosmetics since they are not in contact with FDA. This is anything but leveling the playing field. As a small (micro) business I do not want to feel second rate and am proud to be voluntarily registered with the FDA already.

Cosmetic companies would be required to file a report of all cosmetics they produce and the functions of such cosmetics. The FDA already defines cosmetics as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance" so its unclear if they are wanting more information on the function of the cosmetic or not. Reporting gross sales from cosmetics is required; forcing small privately owned businesses to reveal personal financial information. Yes, I do feel like this violates my rights. Sole proprietorship's and LLCs should not be required to make public their personal finances. I’m curious how FDA will even be able to keep track of this, especially when small businesses are not even required to register. I fear a lot of companies will be trying to ‘fly under the wire’ or go ‘underground’ so to speak, not have the knowledge they need and make unsafe cosmetics because of that.

The part I mainly object to is that companies must supply the name and address of any company that supplies ingredients. This is especially difficult for a small company as suppliers can change frequently. This prevents any last minute changes in formulas. If I happen to run out of olive oil from my supplier I have listed, I cannot go to the grocery store to buy emergency olive oil as I have been known to do. Any errors or inaccuracies in information submitted can lead to cancellation of registration or even

What's an alternative? I think cosmetics companies should all register with the FDA. This allows a path of communication between the FDA and manufacturers that is important. Not only to receive up to date information from the FDA but also for the FDA to receive information from manufacturers and consumers on adverse reactions. Fees can and should be waived for small companies. Suppliers should not have to be reported to the FDA. If olive oil is safe why does the FDA care who I buy it from? As long as safe ingredients are used it doesn't seem like a good use of FDA time to have to keep track of where I buy them from.

But what's worse is that now legislation is being introduced in a number of states to regulate cosmetics at that level as well. This means there is a good chance that you will have to deal with this type of registration in each and every state as well as at the national level.

If you are a small business how do you feel about this part of the bill?

Boulder County Fair

We had a great time at the Boulder County Fair this year and entered out herbs again. We came home with quite a few ribbons with our chocolate mint again doing quite well. This is the same chocolate mint we distill to make our aromatic waters that make a great refreshing face mist. Other herbs we entered include lavender, chives, oregano, parsley, tarragon, thyme, sage, echinacea, peppermint, and lemon balm. It seems county fairs are decreasing in size every year. I love to see the animals, quilts, jams, etc. Fairs are a wonderful way for people to gather and celebrate agriculture and the rural lifestyle. I love participating in them and supporting them how I can. Do you participate in your county fair?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Denver County Fair

These are some of the soap entries.

Stephanie and her co-judge working on jams/jellies.

The Denver county Fair was held this weekend at the National Western complex. This was surprisingly the first county fair in Denver. It wasn't run by the county as other fairs are but was put on by a for profit organization. This, plus being held in a very urban county makes it unique. I was at the fair on official business being a judge for herbs, veggies, soaps and lotions which was quite an interesting experience. There were quite a few entries in all divisions which made judging difficult.

Soap judging was hard; every soap entered was fantastic. I worked with Amy Kulinchuk of Soap Crone. I have to say we were quite clean after testing all the soaps. Lotions there were fewer of so it went faster. I examined the herbs with fellow herbalist Peggy Vonburg who writes a wonderful blog called Woman With Wings. Garlic was indeed the hardest category to choose a winner from as they were all great. The Bouncy Room!
Beer Judging; I'll like to get in on that next year! Coloradan love their microbrew!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chickens & HR 2359; neither is related to Safe Cosmetics

I have found recently that some companies and organizations are coming out saying the support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 but yet still find many faults in the bill. They are apparently assuming that these faults will somehow be ‘worked out’ before or if it passes. My opinion continues to be that this bill is completely unacceptable and unworkable, so I wanted to go through each section of the bill to point out these flaws.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, part of the Environmental Working Group, a non-governmental organization and lobbying group has been working for several years to pass a bill putting huge restrictions on cosmetics. Two years ago they introduced a bill in Colorado which I had the pleasure of testifying against. The sponsor of the Colorado bill, Rep. Diane Primavera decided that is was her personal care products that caused her breast cancer. Despite the fact that there is no medical evidence linking personal care products to breast cancer (or any cancer) she sponsored a bill to regulate these products because in her mind they cause breast cancer. I remind you of this just so you understand (or don’t) the thinking of the people behind these bills.

So lets look at the first section of the Safe cosmetics Act (HR2359), 611, about Definitions.

Anyone who determines the final formulation of a cosmetic is considered a manufacturer, fair enough. The tricky part comes with the definition of ingredient. This includes not just the ingredients you use to make the cosmetic itself (which is how ingredient is defined now) but those that are there because they are incorporated into the cosmetic as an ingredient of another cosmetic ingredient. By this I am assuming they mean solvents that some active ingredients come in. For instance, if you have an extract that is in glycerin or propylene glycol then the name of that solvent must also be listed. No problem with me here.

Processing aids are also ingredients, even if they do not appear in the final product. I’m not sure what they are getting at here but I wish they would clarify this part. One situation that comes to mind is in making soap. Soapmaking involves a chemical reaction between fats and lye (sodium hydroxide) so even though no sodium hydroxide is found in the finished soap it would still have to be on the label. This would indeed frighten many consumers.

Additional situations would be anything used in the actual synthesis of an ingredient. Pulling from my biochemistry background I know that proteins are hydrolyzed using strong acids such as Hydrochloric acid and then neutralized with Sodium Hydroxide. Alternatively pancreatic protease might be used. Amino acids such as glutamate are released during this process. So instead of ‘Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein’ on a label it might read, “wheat protein, pancreatic protease, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, peptides, alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cystein, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, valine”. The last 20 being the amino acids that might be released as the protein is hydrolyzed. Does that labeling make your cosmetics safer?

Substances that are present by reason of having been added to a cosmetic during processing for their technical or functional effect are ingredients. Again, I wish they would clarify.

The components of a fragrance, flavor or preservative must be listed as ingredients. This may sound ok, but there are many proprietary secrets in fragrance that should be fair to remain proprietary. To list known allergens is one thing, but to list all the components of a fragrance is not helpful.

Any individual component of a petroleum-derived, animal-derived, or other ingredient that the Secretary deems an ingredient for purposes of this chapter must also be listed as ingredients. Again, this is like the previous bill where each component of an oil would need to be listed making ingredient lists unreadable. I don’t use animal oils in my products but I do use beeswax which according to Wikipedia is: palmitate, palmitoleate, hydroxypalmitate, oleate esters of long chain aliphatic alcohols, triacontanyl palmitate, cerotic acid and more. And of course this does not include any contaminants that might be in the beeswax. Keep in mind that you will need to test your beeswax for any contaminants that might be there because the next section deals with contaminants.

The term ‘ingredient’ also includes contaminants that are present above technically feasible detection levels which means 1 part per billion (or one microgram per liter)! And not only contaminants that might be in your ingredients such as lead, microbes, arsenic, and a variety of contaminants from soil and water, but also contaminants from a container that may appear over the shelf life of the product! So do we also have to do testing a year after manufacturing?

The bill defines a microbusiness as one that sells less than 2 million dollars per year. This includes most people I know but there are issues with this later.

The definition of Reasonable Certainty of No Harm – means that no harm will be caused to anyone! It includes not only the general population but vulnerable populations, low dose exposure, additive effects over time and cumulative exposure from all sources – including environmental! Now we certainly all formulate so that the general population will not be harmed but we cannot guarantee no harm to any vulnerable population. There are people with immune deficiencies, allergies, sensitivities etc.

The language here is just too broad. What does the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Really want?? I know that they have been concerned about lead in lipstick and the dangers associated with 1, 4, dioxane as a byproduct of ethoxylation. Since lead is a naturally occurring contaminant of red pigments used in lipstick how about requiring lead testing of mined red pigments? And then letting EPA determine an allowable safe level for lead. If the amount of lead tested for is higher than that, I don’t want it listed on the label, I want it not used! Just ban lead at a given level in red pigments don’t make everybody pay the testing prices for ingredients that are not likely to contain lead! Lets have manufacturers of ethoxylated (peggylated) ingredients test for 1, 4, dioxane. I believe these manufacturing procedures are such that there is little to no contamination now, but it might be a good thing to be sure of. Let the EPA determine a safe level and if manufacturers find a level higher than that in these ingredients, forget about putting it on the label, get rid of it! I don’t want it. But everybody should not have to test for 1, 4, dioxane when that contaminant is not going to be there. Every grower of herbs should not have to test their herb extracts for whatever list of contaminants the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (or I mean the ‘Secretary’) deems important.

I also wonder if the supporters of this bill such as Badger Balm think that by backing the bill they become exempt from listing ingredients in this way or testing for parts per billion of contaminants in their products. How much would this cost and how much would it increase the price of a tube of lip balm. I’m sure Badger Balm sells more lip balms than I do, so while my lip balm price might have to increase by $200 a tube, there’s may only have to increase by $50 a tube. But still, are Badger Balm customers willing to pay that price to insure that their lip balm does not contain 1 ppb of lead or arsenic even though there is more than that in the food they eat?

Here are other blogs that address these issues:

Here is where you can sign a petition against SCA

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lavender Festival

Sage Creations Farm

Devils Kitchen, National Monument

I had a great weekend at the Lavender Association of Western Colorado's first annual Lavender Festival in Palisade Colorado, about a 4.5 hour drive for us over the mountains of Colorado. Speakers at this conference included Sarah Bader, a well known lavender grower at Stonegate Farm in Oregon; Barbara Lucks, an aromatherapist; Dr. Curtis Swift, from CSU Extension Service and myself, talking on Herbal Extracts and Distillates. All the talks were well attended and all were enthusiastic about lavender; and I for one learned alot! Katherine Kimbrough, president of the LAWC along with Dr. Swift have gone a long way in promoting lavender as a crop in Western Colorado and many growers have gravitated to it. Lavender loves the hot, dry conditions and even the high elevation of Colorado. On Sunday we visited some farms and saw some of the research going on such as looking at growing lavender under partial shade between rows of grapes or fruit trees; two other big crops in Western Colorado.

There were many vendors at the festival selling lots of lavender but also skin care, stone bird baths and more. We were selling our Colorado Aromatics brand of skin care too which did quite well. I came away with a few things including a lavender festival T-shirt, poster and lavender cookbook.

It was fun being in Western Colorado again; we lived there in 1997-98 and tried unsuccessfully to grow lavender. We enjoyed one of our favorites hikes in the National Monument to Devil's Kitchen over the weekend as well. I'm looking forward to next years Festival but also have thoughts of starting a Front Range Lavender Association since there are also many growers on my side of the mountain!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011

After spending a good several hours reading the new Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 I see that the changes in this bill compared to 2010 are minimal. Here is my initial take on the bill which may or may not change depending on if some points get clarified or others appear as I reread it.

Again this bill includes in the definition of an ingredient any contaminants that are present at levels above technically feasible detection limits. As we all know, detection limits now are quite minute so any type of contaminant would be included here. This includes contaminants from the container as well. But what contaminants are they referring to here and why don’t they specify?

Ingredient safety can fall under just two categories: ‘Safe Without Limits’ and ‘Prohibited and Restricted’ This is misleading to both the consumer and the manufacturer since there is no such thing as a substance that is safe without limits. Even water can be lethal under certain conditions. It mentions ‘considerations’ in determining toxicity such as “is found to be present in the body through biomonitoring”. Does this mean that something is toxic if found in the body? I’m not sure I understand this. Many things are found in the body through biomonitoring including water. A second consideration is an ingredient that is suspected immunological toxicant. Is this another way of saying “allergen”? If so, does this mean that a substance that causes allergies will be prohibited? Anything can be an allergen and some common allergens are shea butter, almond butter, soy oil, milk, etc. Many herbs are also allergens. All in all, the bill has very poor definitions of toxicity and leaves most of it up to the FDA to determine in one year’s time! Wow, where is the FDA going to find those resources?

Labels must list ingredients in decreasing order of concentration. This is already required by the FDA so is redundant here. Contaminants however must also be listed. Knowing that water alone can contain any number of contaminants this immediately causes problems. Is testing of all our ingredients for contamination required?? Besides water, vegetable oils will contain contaminants, herbs grown in the backyard could contain contaminants. However, it does allow the FDA to determine such possible contaminants within one year’s time as well as determine requirements for testing and detection limits. If it is determined that cosmetic manufacturers are required to test for various contaminants this would add considerably to the cost of cosmetics. I am glad to see that ingredient lists are required on websites that sell cosmetics.

Some of the most dangerous contaminants of cosmetics are fungus and bacteria that can grow on nutrients in the product. Unfortunately, no specific mention of this is made. This is one area where consumers have suffered because of improperly made and improperly preserved products – in fact, this is the only area of documented harm to consumers from cosmetics.

Again, toxic is defined as a 1 in a million risk for adverse health effects. Toxic effects include allergic reactions and I challenge anyone to find any ingredient natural or synthetic that does not cause an allergic reaction in one in a million people.

Many things are not clear for instance “the safety standard results in exposure to the amount or concentration of an ingredient or cosmetic that is shown to produce no adverse health effects, incorporating a margin of safety of at least 1,000 and considering the impact of cumulative exposure from all sources (including environmental sources).” Does anyone know what this means and if so can you tell me? Does it mean 1000th of the determined toxic dose? If so, who determines this dose?

The bill goes on to require that the FDA issue guidance prescribing Good Manufacturing Practices. This is something that again, the FDA already has issued and so is redundant.

The bill requires manufacturers of cosmetics and ingredients to submit information including toxicological properties of each such ingredient or cosmetic. I’m not sure if this means the manufacturer who is buying ingredients is required to submit data to the FDA on those ingredients or not. Since the source of this data would probably be from the ingredient manufacturer this seems redundant. When this ingredient is purchased at the grocery store such as some small manufacturers do with vegetable oils, where is the toxicological data and contaminant data and how is this reported as an ingredient source? When the ingredient is an herb from the small manufacturer’s back yard where will this toxicological information come from or will this no longer be possible? I am still very concerned about the future of using natural ingredients in cosmetics with this bill. There are many herbs, oils, and natural extracts that have quite a data gap in toxicological studies.

I find it interesting that the ‘authoritative source’ of toxicology information includes the (A) Environmental Protection Agency,

(B) the International Agency for Research on Cancer,

(C) the National Toxicology Program,

(D) the California Environmental Protection Agency and

(E) any other authoritative international, Federal, and State Entity, as determined by the Secretary.

I’m not sure what E means but I know there are pseudo science activists groups who may pose as an authority so that they can determine law. I would rather be sure toxicity was determined by peer reviewed scientific literature.

Some of the considerations in the bill for toxicity are also quite vague, for instance; if it is found in the body through biomonitoring. Does this imply that if something is found in the body it is toxic? I use water in my cosmetic formulas and I know it is found in the body. Another consideration is known or suspected immunological toxicant. Is an immunological toxicant the same thing as an allergen? Anyone can be allergic to anything but some of the more common allergens are shea butter, almond oil, soy oil, wheat and herbs. Will these ingredients be prohibited?

There is no definition of an ingredient manufacture. Many small companies use ingredients from their backyard; herbs and other botanicals. Are these companies required to have these ingredients tested to find what contaminants might be present and in what levels?

The thing that concerns me the most here though is that microbusinesses (those with sales less than $2 million) are not required to register with the FDA. Although I am glad to see that the bill waives a costly registration fee for these small companies (of which I am one) I don’t understand the lack of even registering with the FDA. Registration allows a link with the FDA so that companies can get timely information regarding ingredients and toxicity but just as important is that it allows consumers a way to report adverse effects that may occur due to cosmetic usage. By not registering, these microbusinesses are out of the communications link with the FDA. FDA will have no knowledge of the microbusiness’s existence, their activities, the products they manufacture or the functions and toxicities of those cosmetics. In the initial bill of 2010 small businesses rallied hard to be exempt from paying high registration and testing fees. However, we did not rally against registration.

If small companies are exempt from registering and having communication with the FDA are they exempt from submitting information on toxicological properties of ingredients and cosmetic product; exempt from “cease distribution” orders due to misbranding; exempt from use that causes serious adverse health effects; exempt from using contaminants and testing for these contaminants, exempt from good manufacturing practices issued by the FDA, etc? Having that link to the FDA could be valuable for a small business to learn the laws and requirements necessary especially when it comes to testing. This concerns me because many small cosmetics business owners just starting out do not have the knowledge base to draw from to know how to make safe cosmetics and have the potential to put something out there that is less than safe. And consumers should have a way to report possible adverse effects. It was the costs involved in the first version of this bill that had small business owners concerned, not having to register and be held accountable for their actions.

Should small businesses be just as responsible for their actions? Registration is important to keep open communication with the FDA.

Overall it is still a case of an activist group who knows nothing about the cosmetics business trying to make laws about things they do not understand. The bottom line still is that this bill will not make cosmetics safer.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis)

Solanine: a toxic saponin found in the nightshade family

Saponins are plant chemicals are used for their detergent-like or cleaning properties. Some of the better known are Saponaria officinalis from Europe and Quillaja saponaria from South America. Saponin molecules have two parts; a sapogenin attached to a carbohydrate molecule. These two part types of molecules are collectively called glycosides. The sapogenin portion alone, without the carbohydrate or sugar is an aglycone rather than a glycoside. Sapogenins are generally of two types; a steroid like form and a triterpenoid form.

Besides being able to produce a froth in water, saponins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The sapogenin is hydrophobic (water hating) and the glycoside or carbohydrate is hydrophilic (water loving). This makes saponins in general a natural surfactant as well as a mild emulsifier.

Other plants that produce saponins include yucca, soapwort (Saponaria), licorice, ginseng, yarrow, viola, and soap nuts. Some saponins are also phytoestrogens and react with the estrogen receptor to provide skin benefits.

While I’ve never actually been able to work up a froth from agitating licorice, yarrow or viola, I do think they make nice additions to a mix of bath herbs for their cleansing properties.

Do you ever use saponin containing herbs

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Violet Ice

I love when violets and violas start to bloom. Some think of them as weeds, but I love the way they look. In some areas the purple violets grow in the grass, but here in Colorado they don't grow that well because of the arid climate.

There are many flowers in the violet family including pansies, but I especially like Viola tricolor, also known as violas, Johnny Jump ups and heartsease. Violets are edible and can be used in salads. They are also used in skin care and contain soothing mucilage, flavonoids, salicylic acid and saponins used for cleansing. Historically it has been used to treat wounds, itching, rashes and eczema. Some people use it in their skin care products. I use it in my foot soak because of its ability to cease an itch and for its saponins. Saponins are glycosides from plants that have the ability to foam so are often used for cleansing.

My favorite thing to do with violas do is to make ice cubes! To do this, first put a layer of water into the ice cube tray (about ¼ full) and then place the violas on the water surface face down and submerge as much as possible. Put into the freezer until well frozen. Now remove the trays and fill the rest of the way with water and put in the freezer again. This will allow the flower to be completely encased in ice instead of it floating to the top.

Enjoy your violet ice cubes in a glass of sparking soda.

Here are two blog posts friends have written on violets that I've enjoyed:

Do you have a favorite thing to do with violets?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Herbal Spunk Shampoo

Our customers said they wanted an all natural shampoo with gentle surfactants and now we've got one. As always, we started with beneficial herbs. We choose southernwood, sage, horsetail, green tea and catnip to improve hair growth, strength and shine. Peppermint and rosemary help improve blood circulation to the scalp which also contributes to healthier hair follicles and better hair growth. Panthenol, a B vitamin, binds to the hair shaft to seal it and improve shine. Along with glycerin and aloe, panthenol moisturizes the hair and scalp.

This shampoo also contains very good conditioners including a guar gum derivative to leave hair soft, shiny, easy to comb and will protect color treated hair. You won't need to use a separate conditioner afterward.

The gentle surfactants in this shampoo will not strip the hair or dry the scalp.

We think you will love this shampoo. Try it and tell us what you think.

water, decyl glucoside, sodium lauroyl lactylate, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, glycerin, panthenol, camellia sinensis (green tea) extract, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, artemisia abrotanum (Southernwood), extract, salvia officinalis (sage) extract, mentha piperita (peppermint) extract, Nepeta cataria (catnip) extract, rosmarinis officinalis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Farmers Market Neighbors

We're having a great time getting to know people at the Boulder Farmers Market now in its second week. One of our neighbors is 'Street Fare' a group from the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. They make these delightful mini cupcakes that sell for $1.50 to raise money for the shelter. The main Baker is Sarah and she comes up with a great variety of both savory and sweet muffins. We have fun trying to help come up with ideas during slow periods at the market.

The lavender berry combination in the picture were my suggestion and they came out delicious! Lavender is a great culinary herb when used in moderation and can be added to alot of common recipes to add pizzazz. Next time you make icing, try adding a small spoon of lavender to it, or perhaps a white cake mix or sugar cookie recipe. In the meantime, stop by Street Fare if you are at the Boulder Farmers Market for some mini muffins. If you do, pick up a bottle of lotion from Colorado Aromatics as well! Got any ideas for mini muffin flavors?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Boulder Market Interview

The Boulder Market started this past Saturday and we were there. This summer we will be doing both the Boulder and the Longmont branches of the Boulder County Markets. We of course will have to do a magic trick to be both places. This week I was happy to be featured in the weekly newsletter that the market sends out. I thought I would post that interview here as well.

What kinds of things does Sagescript make?

We make natural, botanical skin care and personal care products under the label Colorado Aromatics. These are all made on our farm in Longmont. We also do formulation consulting and customizing of products. Although we sell the typical herbal balms and salves we also have sophisticated, higher end, spa quality products.

Where do you get your herbs and flowers for your botanicals?

Most of the herbs and flowers we use are grown on our Longmont farm. We grow a variety of herbs that are useful for skin care including lemon balm, comfrey, calendula, roses, parsley, fennel, mint, yarrow, raspberry (for the leaf but we eat the fruit too!), and lavender. We extract these herbs in a variety of ways; oil extracts, alcohol extracts, watery extracts and we even distill some of these herbs to produce an aromatic water called a hydrosol. Customers are starting to learn how beneficial these herbal distillates are for the skin and face.

Sometimes customers don't realize that we are growers, but all of our products do contain herbs that we grow.

Where's your farm and what do you grow? Can people come visit?

We are just north of Longmont; a wonderful place because we are out in the country but so close to the benefits of town. I hope this summer to have special days for guests to visit; maybe once a month, but especially when the lavender is in bloom.

We notice you have a Phd! You're also an educator and writer on herbal medicine.

Yes, I have my Ph.D. in biochemistry and did cancer research for several years. I've now turned this knowledge to understanding herb chemistry and cosmetic chemistry and helping others understand these topics too. Until just recently I have been teaching anatomy and physiology for Colorado Community Colleges.

What do you think the most important thing for people to know about herbalism and skin care, or about herbalism and wellness more generally speaking?

There is a tendency now to avoid chemicals which is impossible since everything is chemical and plants are chemical factories in a sense. Natural products can be toxic just as synthetics so everything needs to be evaluated individually.
But there is also a tendency for people to pay more attention to how they treat their skin, just like they have been paying more attention in past years to what they eat. Herbs are very rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that are beneficial for skin, so they really do add benefit to a skin care product. Some herbs have specialized functions such as skin tightening and rejuvenation. Using herbs in skin care and for medicine is a life choice that I believe can help people live healthier and more sustainable lives on the planet.

What will you have at Saturday's market, and where can people find you? What kinds of questions should they ask?

We will be on the north side on Canyon Street. We are also members of the Longmont market so you will find us there to starting in May. Customers are able to try any of our products as we always bring testers. Feel free to ask me about any of the herbs we use in our products.

Also ask about preserving products. I have had some customers tell me they won’t use natural skin care anymore because products mold. As a microbiologist I understand the importance of using preservatives to keep my customers safe. We use the safest and most effective preservatives for your safety and do microbiology testing on our products too. After all, you don’t want to rub bacteria on your skin no matter how natural it is!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pictures Around This Week

Pictures in the Greenhouse and elsewhere:

Rose Geranium


Lentil Soup


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Herbal DeStress

Stress can save your life! Stress gives you more energy, increases your heart rate, and increases blood flow to the muscles. It can get you out of an emergency situation as fast as possible - such as out of the path of an oncoming car. However, low levels of stress that lasts for long periods of time can harm the body. This type of prolonged stress can be related to a number of diseases including heart disease, cancer, slowed wound healing, decreased memory & cognition, osteoporosis, decreased immunity (increased infections), depression, anxiety, even eczema.

Here are some ways to cope with stress:

Breathing: Focus on taking deep, slow breaths, expand your abdomen with each inhalation. Deep breathing provides more oxygen to your body (and can also clear your thoughts).

Exercise: Moderate exercise can decrease stress and improve the immune system. Exercise can stimulate the release of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones. A half hour walk daily can help tremendously with stress.

Diet/nutrients: Eat a good, well balanced diet. Increase consumption of tryptophan by eating cheese, eggs, meat, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Tryptophan is used to make the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin. Increase consumption of tyrosine by eating whole grains, seafood, meat, peanut butter and legumes (kidney beans). Tyrosine is used to make epinephrine, a neurotransmitter which is used up during stress. B and C vitamins are also important in coping with stress.

Herbs: Use herbs in teas, in the bath, as a foot bath, in tinctures, a dream pillow or as aromatherapy. In fact using herbal and aromatics in bath and body products can go a long way in relieving stress.

Here are some great herbs to try.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) – mild sedative, calms the nerves, promotes sleep, improves mood.
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – sedative and anti-anxiety, reduces muscle spasms.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – calming, relieves headaches, promotes sleep, good in the bath for sore muscles.
Hops (Humulus lupulus) – mild sedative, calms the nerves, promotes sleep.
Kava (Piper methysticum) – sedative, antidepressant, muscle relaxer (do not take with alcohol or antidepressants).
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) – sedative, relaxant.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – sedative, relieves headache and tension, improves memory.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) – sedative, promotes sleep
Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifloria) – sedative, for nervous tension (do not use during pregnancy)
Wild Oat (Avena sativa) – mild sedative, promotes sleep and relieves stress too.

Whatever you do find a way that is simple and works for you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Fairy Garden

I get anxious for spring this time of year so I made a visit to my local garden center. After seeing some of the adorable fairy gardens on display I decided making my own would be a great way to get through the rest of winter. I knew my fairy garden needed to be made from herbs alone. I choose Roman Chamomile, Gota kola, Thyme, Rose Geranium, and Rosemary, all have great aromas and textures. Some of these plants were pretty dense so I split them as I transplanted them into the wide clay pot I purchased. I'll save the part I split off to put in the garden in spring. As the herbs grow I will trim them so they will get denser. The rosemary and thyme will eventually hang over the side of the clay pot I hope. The rose geranium I trimmed quite a bit around the bottom so that it would look more like a tree and provide a shady place for the fairies to sit. The garden center had quite a few ceramic fairies and other 'paraphernalia' to choose from so if you decide to design a fairy garden be sure to get a pot big enough to fit all the fun options you'll want. But just looking at the miniature garden items; shovels, wheelbarrows, fences, chairs etc. was alot of fun in itself.

After filling the pot with soil I put a path down the middle made from crushed oyster shell. This was something we already had on hand for our chickens but you can find several bags of crushed stones at the garden center too. The fairies then went in right under the rose geranium tree where they seem to be comfortable. I found a frog outside that had broken off a globe in the garden and he wanted to be part of the garden too and talk with the fairies so he went in too; even though his size seems to be a bit out of proportion!
What do you do to help get through the last part of winter?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What are Wrinkles

Changes in the texture of the skin that appear as lines, creases or folds are called wrinkles. They are normal changes in the skin that occurs with aging. Medically, wrinkles are known as rhytides.

The two layers of skin include the outer epidermis which lies on top of the second layer called the dermis. With time there is a decrease of large structural molecules including collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans in the dermis. This leads to decreases in elasticity, firmness and structure of the skin resulting in wrinkles.
The cells of the outer layer or epidermis slow their rate of cellular reproduction causing the epidermis to become thinner with age.

With time the epidermis and dermis tend to separate some. This separation leads to decreased blood supply and nutrients to the cells of the epidermis.

Wrinkles begin as fine lines and deepen with time. They occur mostly on the face, neck, backs of the hands and the forearms. They are not physically harmful, but can of course influence a person’s self-perception, and lead to a lack of confidence.

Expression lines that occur on the forehead, eyes and the corners of the mouth from talking, laughing and frowning can begin as early as in a one’s twenties. These lines eventually deepen into wrinkles and folds that affect deeper layers of the skin. Wrinkling of the skin caused by sun exposure can show up in the thirties. In the forties as dry skin becomes a problem, lines begin to deepen and progress through the fifties and sixties.

This process of aging skin is accelerated by exposure to excess sunlight, environmental pollutants and cigarette smoke. Internal factors associated with aging skin include decreases in estrogen levels that occur with menopause and decreased in metabolic activity of the skin cells. Fair skinned people are also more prone to wrinkles. There is no real evidence that stress promotes wrinkle formation, but many of us feel we have ‘earned’ our wrinkles through life’s challenges.

Protecting the barrier function of the skin is an important way to decrease the formation of wrinkles. Use of a good moisturizer to help maintain water in the skin and prevent water loss can delay and diminish lines. Look for a moisturizer that contains water and high quality oils to help prevent loss of moisture from the skin. Humectants such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed proteins, even hydrolyzed oat products can help.

There is of course extensive research done each year to investigate possible ingredients for skin creams that can help in the treatment and prevention of wrinkles. Although many ingredients end up being marketing hype, there are a few ingredients that have potential to help decrease the appearance of wrinkles. The trouble is that some of the anti-aging creams are able to garner large price tags and it has
to be questioned whether it is worth the price without solid data to back up the claims.

Nutrients such as antioxidants help combat environmental damage and are important in diminishing wrinkles as well. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha lipoic acid, carotenoids and green tea. Most importantly using these nutrients topically can only go so far, what we eat is also very important so remember to eat fruits and vegetables that are high in these nutrients.


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