Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shea Butter: A Soothing Wonder

Happy Wednesday! I've had a very busy week this week working hard on getting products in stores and, I'm developing some new goodies that will be in my shop soon. I am so excited to share them with you!

This week I'd like to talk with you about one of the main ingredients in many of my products, shea butter. I love shea butter! It has this wonderful silky texture, and soaks right into my skin.  It gives my products a moisturizing and soothing feel, two very important properties of a dry skin lotion. I use this butter because it is a reasonably priced oil that can be sustainably harvested. Shea butter melts around body temperature allowing for easy transfer of lotion to the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.

100% Natural African Shea Butter by David Fulmer via flickr License
Shea butter comes from the nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) in Africa. The trees play crucial roles to the culture and economy of Africa. The butter ranges in color from a pale yellow to a bright almost sun colored yellow. They have been used as food and medicine by the native peoples for centuries. It is good at absorbing into the skin quickly, while preventing water from leaving the skin, keeping it hydrated. Today, shea butter can be found in assortment of products, including cosmetics, soaps, and chocolates.

There have been many studies done on the potential benefits and applications of shea butter. Shea butter is made up of a mixture of solid and liquid fats and non-fatty material. The mixture of solid and liquid fats gives the butter its silky smooth feeling. The non-fatty material consists of compounds that are responsible for its medicinal properties.

A small study showed that daily application of a 5% shea butter cream kept the skin feeling moisturized all day. A separate study examined the ability of shea butter to prevent water loss through the skin. After applying alcohol to the arms of test participants, shea butter was able to bring the skin back to normal condition after 4 hours. Another small study found shea butter was helpful in decreasing the severity of eczema in the study participants.

Several studies have been completed on the anti-aging properties of shea butter. It has been found to contribute to cell regeneration and tissue softening and prevent aging from exposure to the sun. A study on rats showed that shea butter could increase collagen production in the animal. Collagen is a structural protein, which is the main component of the connective tissues such as skin, bone, muscle, and tendon. Collagen keeps skin springy and young looking.

Components of shea butter were found to have anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting various inflammatory processes in the skin. It has also been found to reduce the reaction of the skin to external irritants. This particular study introduced a toxin produced by bacteria to initiate an inflammatory response. When the test samples were exposed to the shea butter components, the inflammatory response was greatly decreased.  

Another study isolated compounds from shea butter and tested them to determine their anti-inflammatory action in mice. The compounds were compared with a prescription anti-inflammatory drug. It was found that the shea butter performed better in regards to reduction of inflammation than the drug did.

Shea Nut Extraction by Erik (HASH) Hersman via flickr License
This is just a small summary of the many studies that have been completed on shea butter and the chemical compounds that make it so wonderful for the skin. There have also been many studies analyzing the impact the shea butter trade has had both ecologically and socially for the people where this tree has become a source of income.  

Have you ever used shea butter? What did you think of it?

💗 Courtney

Akihisa, Toshihiro et al. "Anti-Inflammatory And Chemopreventive Effects Of Triterpene Cinnamates And Acetates From Shea Fat". Journal of Oleo Science 59.6 (2010): 273-280. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Israel, Malachi Oluwaseyi. "Effects Of Topical And Dietary Use Of Shea Butter On Animals". American Journal of Life Sciences 2.5 (2014): 303. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Verma, Nandini et al. "Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Shea Butter Through Inhibition Of Inos, Cox-2, And Cytokines Via The Nf-Kb Pathway In Lps-Activated J774 Macrophage Cells". Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine 9.1 (2012): 1-11. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

A-C Andersson and J Alander, Shea butter extract for bioactive skin care, Cosm & Toil 130(6) 18-25 (Jul/Aug 2015) - See more at:

Blog advisement and editing from adreamingone

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Happy Spring: New Season and New Books

We've made it to spring!!! That was a tough winter. Certainly not as bad as it could have been, but those seventy degree days right before the huge snow storm were a tease! Hopefully there will be no more snow, but an April snow isn't completely unheard of in upstate New York.

Image from Brad Benjamin, taken on Feb. 22, 2017
The days are getting longer and it will soon be warm. All the snow will melt and the world will come back to life again. I love spring, with all the rain and mud, because the trees turn green, the flowers come back, and it lends to some new herbal education in the form of walks through the woods. If we had room for a garden we would be planning which plants would go where.

To go along with the changing seasons I ordered a few herbal books off of Amazon last week and I'd like to share them with you. I haven't been able to dig into them yet, but I can wait to see what I will learn.

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech looks to be an interesting addition to some books already on my shelf. There's a lot of great information on the specifics of creating plant medicine, much more specific than a lot of other sources I have seen. There is also a section in the back discussing specific herbs, their usage, and dosages in many possible forms.

The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner is summarized as "a pharmaceutical silent spring" and talks about the effect moving away from plants and into pharmaceuticals has on our bodies and the environment. There is a chapter titled "Plants Are All Chemists," so that will surely be interesting.

The last book is called Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel. This is a guide for field identification of plants in North America. I've been wanting to explore wildcrafting herbs for a while, and this book is sure to help with that. The pictures are gorgeous and remind me of my days in biology class when we learned plant anatomy. I always took special care creating and coloring those diagrams.  

Trillium in Shindagin Hollow State Forest, taken May 2016
The image above is from May of last year. The white trillium flowers covered the hillside. It was beautiful. I hope we can get out there to see it again.

What are your favorite springtime activities?

Happy spring!!

💗 Courtney

Blog advisement from adreamingone

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Calendula: A Multi-Faceted Herb

Wow, this one was difficult. I started out researching calendula like I would have for a paper in college. I searched for sources, checked references, searched for more sources. I found myself procrastinating by doing other productive activities INSTEAD of writing. At the rate I was going, I would have posted a 10 page research summary on the pharmacology of calendula including chemical structures, explanations of chemical constituents in the plant, summaries of clinical trials, and analysis on the research so far available. 

My husband had to remind me I was writing as a blog post, not an academic paper on calendula. That doesn't sound like a great blog post to me. It would have been way too long, had information in it that wouldn't have mattered to a majority of the readers, and it would have been downright dull. I had to decide what was important for me to include in the posts about specific herbs. In these posts I will include relevant information as the herb is understood in the herbal community and summarize important research about the herb, either supporting or disproving traditional herbal uses.

Calendula Officinalis via Pixabay
Calendula Officinalis is a member of the Asteraceae family and is also known as Marigold, or pot marigold. This is not to be confused with the marigolds found in greenhouses or planted in flower gardens (Calendula Tagetes). The parts of the plant that are most often used medicinally are the petals and flower heads.

Calendula Tagetes, marigolds often found in flower supply stores via Pixabay

Herbal Actions

This is a list of all the things herbal medicine has claimed calendula can do. I'd like to explore them all, but I will specifically focus on its vulnerary properties.
Vulnerary - Promote wound healing
Anti-inflammatory - Reduce inflammation
Antispasmodic - Relieve and prevent muscle spasms
Lymphatic - Aid the flow of lymph through the lymphatic system
Astringent - Contract body tissues to protect skin
Emmenagogue - Stimulate menstrual flow
Cholagogue - Stimulate the production of bile
Anti-fungal - Aid the body in resisting or destroying fungus
Anti-microbial - Aid the body in resisting or destroying microbes

Calendula is often used in salves and creams to promote the healing of minor cuts, abrasions, and burns due to it's vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and anti-microbial actions. It has traditionally been used in teas and tinctures (alcohol extractions) for inflammation and ulcers in the digestive system.

Vulnerary Effects of Calendula Officinalis

Calendula and it's medicinal properties have been studied extensively. It has the potential to be a cheaper more effective healing alternative to external wounds, burns, and abrasions. Unfortunately some of these studies were not very thorough in their reporting of their conditions of treatment and controls. Calendula contains many chemical constituents that contribute to its vulnerary and anti-inflammatory properties, including triterpenes, saponins, flavonoids, volatile oils, and polysaccharides. 

One particularly interesting trial studied the effect of calendula extracts on the prevention of dermatitis on patients receiving radiation treatment after surgery for breast cancer. They studied 254 patients, 126 patients received calendula and 128 received trolamine (Aspercreme). Patients applied their cream on the irradiated skin twice a day or more until the completion of the therapy. In this study it was found that the occurrence of dermatitis in patients using calendula was 22% lower than those using trolamine. 43% of patients using the calendula preparation experienced the formation of dermatitis compared to 63% of patients using trolamine.

Another study looked at the effects of calendula on a scratch assay. This assay measures the expansion of a cell population on a surface. The cells were grown in a dish and a small wound was made in the culture. The effects of calendula on cell proliferation were compared to a control, a positive control, German Chamomile, and St. John's Wart oil. After a 12 hour incubation, it was found that a hexane extract of calendula was the most effective in cell proliferation and increasing the population of fibroblasts at the wound site. Fibroblasts are essential to wound healing because they synthesize the extracellular matrix and collagen. These molecules provide structure and support to our cells. Further study of isolated triterpenes determined that triterpenes present in calendula play an important role in the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts, but there are likely other compounds present in calendula that contribute to this cellular activity. These triterpene compounds are also considered anti-inflammatory and this combined effect is essential for wound healing.

There are so many interesting studies out there about calendula and it's potential uses. These are two that I found to be particularly useful in my own life. What do you think about calendula? Are there any studies or uses you would be interested in hearing more about?

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any disease. This article is meant to be for educational use only. 


Fronza, M. et al. "Determination Of The Wound Healing Effect Of Calendula Extracts Using The Scratch Assay With 3T3 Fibroblasts". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 126.3 (2009): 463-467. Web.

Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism. 1st ed. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Print.

Leach, Matthew. "Calendula Officinalis And Wound Healing: A Systematic Review | WOUNDS". N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Muley, BP, SS Khadabadi, and NB Banarase. "Phytochemical Constituents And Pharmacological Activities Of Calendula Officinalis Linn (Asteraceae): A Review". Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 8.5 (2009): n. pag. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Pommier, P. et al. "Phase III Randomized Trial Of Calendula Officinalis Compared With Trolamine For The Prevention Of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation For Breast Cancer". ASCO Journals. N.p., 2017. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Story: From Chemist to Herbalist

"Necessity is the mother of invention" - English Proverb

This quote is the perfect way to describe how all of this started.  I was looking for ways to decrease the pain I had been living with for over half of my life. Starting at a young age I experienced back and joint pain. After years of dealing with these issues and a diagnosis of Crohn's Disease at the age of 15, the problems were attributed to extra-intestinal manifestations of the disease. At the age of 22 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (a chronic pain syndrome) as well. 

Living life in constant pain made even the simplest things impossible. It was difficult to go to class or study because I could not adequately concentrate on the subject at hand. I tried all kinds of things to find relief. Limited diets, no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, no inflammatory foods, vegetarian, and raw vegan were attempts I made at fixing myself. I did yoga, I took epsom salt baths, I stretched. I went to acupuncturists, natropathic doctors, chiropractors, and energy medicine practitioners. I tried heating pads, Bengay, Icy Hot, those Thermacare heat wraps, some blue goo that was called emu oil. Some of these things helped, but often not enough. I needed something that allowed me to live my life.

Throughout this time I was going to college and studying chemistry. I loved spending time in the lab creating new compounds and observing chemical reactions. I was all set to move on to graduate school and earn my PhD. Unfortunately, my health had not improved but only worsened and I decided not to move across the country; away from family and friends. This was a devastating decision to me, it meant I was not pursuing my dream. It's funny how things happen though.

I made a whole rainbow of glowing materials by the end of my thesis. They were
to be used in new, more efficient lighting. I had fun finding new colors to make.

Instead, I got a job as a lab technician. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity for me to rest, heal, and experiment. I continued doing yoga, and going to acupuncture, but I needed something that would help when I couldn't do yoga or make it to an appointment. I searched Google for a DIY pain relief recipe and I found an herbal pain relief bar. I gathered the ingredients, melted them all together, and tried the bar out. To my surprise the bar actually worked! It made it easier to move through my day and get things accomplished.

Since that time, I've attended herb classes in my town and enrolled in an online herbalism program. I've learned so much about herbs and how they can benefit my body. I used the knowledge I gained to tweak the recipe and make it my own. I gave the bar out to family and friends. People raved about it. They finally had something to help with that 10 year old knee pain, or decrease the intensity of their crippling back pain. I moved on to making herb infused lotion bars and lip balms for dry winter skin. I was having so much fun experimenting and playing with herbs and skincare and I decided to start this company.

via Pixabay
I would like to say, there are times when drugs, synthetic chemicals, and modern medical interventions are essential to help a patient who is ill. I highly encourage people to seek help from medical professionals if they need it. I still use modern medicine to manage my Crohn's, but I don't rely on that. I eat healthy food, use my bars, and supplement with herbs because I am healthier when I do. It is much easier to prevent poor health than fix it years down the road, trust me, I've had some experience.

💗 Courtney

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