These days, more than ever, we place great emphasis on the word “natural”. I think that is because we all suspect that chemical compounds while amazing don’t belong in our food chain, on our skin or even in our home environments.
I believe we need to THINK about what we consume, why we consume it and take determined steps to live more in tune with nature and what is natural. Personally, I feel that if we really want to achieve a natural lifestyle and optimum health and well-being, we need to take a more holistic approach to life – eating local and organic foods but also cooking from scratch, and using natural and organic products throughout our entire home, from the kitchen to the bathroom, and from the make-up bag to the medicine cabinet.
In the not so distant past (think back to the 70’s or if you really want to go frugal think the 50’s) when there was no money and to waste was considered “sinful” (OK - I’m not going to go there now!). People ate local and seasonal food as they had few other options and wasted nothing (Think tripe, drisheen, crubeens). This was not because it was a trendy way of living it was just because local and seasonal foods were cheaper, available, and if you didn’t have Supermarkets and TV ads then food was just food, there were no brands to spend money on. Waste was just stupid and, unlike today, nobody did it, it just made no sense. Everyone had to cook from scratch which really makes you focus on using everything. No one would have dreamed of roasting a chicken without making a soup or a stock, for example. Unfortunately, with the advent of round the clock shopping, cheap fast food and the faster pace of life, this approach to life is becoming less common, and I feel we have lost something important in that process.
Luckily in West Cork we have a lot of different ways of supporting a natural healthy lifestyle. We have wonderful markets which are overflowing with well-grown local produce, for those of us without our own veggie garden! We have lots of information available to us to help us to chose the best options and, of course, we have some excellent independent shops where we can source the healthiest options. This month I have made some notes of a few ways we can all reduce the use of chemicals in our homes and I’ve reproduced a recipe for a lovely home air freshener made entirely from edible ingredients!
Learn how to ferment - it means less waste and better health
We have an amazing book for sale in Organico at the moment - I talked about it a few months ago, it’s called The Cultured Kitchen by Dearbhla Reynolds. Since Dearbhla visited Organico I have been inspired to try and bring fermentation more into my life. If you’re someone who struggles with a glut of veggies this book is a really worthwhile investment. For example, Dearbhla’s Salsa was a revelation, so tasty and so easy, and an incredible way of using up ripe tomatoes, and gives you a belly full of probiotics into the bargain!
Natural treatment for Healdlice
Unfortunately, many of us take vitamin C when we have a cold but when the dreaded note comes home from school...we panic and rush for strong chemicals. In fact you have lots of options, some of which work just as well and have much more natural ingredients! In Organico (and all good health food shops) there are a few different natural options, but the ones I can stand over are called Delacet and Licener. Delacet is a herbal solution made from a tincture of Larkspur, it’s completely non-toxic, and though it smells a bit suspicious to a 5 year old, it’s mainly the vinegar smell which really isn’t as bad as the chemical alternatives. And it seems to be 100% effective, even against recurring bouts of headlice. That is based on years of asking people to come back in if it didn’t work - and so far so good. Licener is another option, an anti-lice shampoo made from Neem, which smothers the lice and the eggs in 20 minutes. It smells absolutely fine. Again, I haven’t had any negative feedback, it just seems to work, which brings huge relief to many parents!
Don’t automatically reach for painkillers
It’s very easy to reach for a bottle of pills when you get a headache but there is increasing concern that Paracetamol can cause internal bleeding and kidney and liver damage (see “Does Paracetamol do you more harm than good?’ in The Guardian, May 2015) it is important to know what options are out there. First and foremost what is your body trying to tell you? Are you dehydrated? Do you simply need to consume more water (or less alcohol!) There are some interesting remedies available for headaches - White willow bark is one such option, available in capsules from Veridian and traditionally used to help manage pain. You can also try Meadowsweet Tea (Aspirin was first synthesised from Meadowsweet). You can also use essential oils for headaches, such as lavender, peppermint or my own favourites, PoHo Oil from A.Vogel which is available in all good healthfood shops. Po Ho oil is a fantastic oil to use for steam inhalations also. Other options to consider are having a nap or treating yourself to a head massage!
Cleaning Products and Air fresheners
I think we are all becoming aware of the chemicals in home cleaning products, but we still want our houses clean, so what to do? Personally I only use natural and organic cleaning products. There is a good quality Irish brand called Lilly’s Eco Clean, which offers alternatives to washing up liquid, clothes wash, floor soap, and household cleaning sprays. I also find the microfibrE-Cloths very good for cleaning in the kitchen - they are made of a special material which lifts the dirt without needing surfactants. They go in the washing machine and last for ages - well worth the investment. You can use them for cleaning windows, the sinks, the dashboard in the car - pretty much everywhere except inside the toilet.
For cleaning floors and showers Dr Bronner’s Liquid Soap works wonders. It’s a castile soap and has very simple ingredients. I don’t find it good for my hair but some people do; for me it’s too drying. I love it for cleaning the bath though!
When I asked the members of our Organico Healthy Living Group for their top tips on natural ways to clean the house, the most mentioned product was vinegar. People are using it for everything from windows to showers to floors. Some people add essential oils to make the house smell less like a chip shop!
For other ideas, Rebecca O’Sullivan has written a book on making your own chemical free cleaning products, called The Art of a Natural Home, the Room by Room Guide. It’s a beautiful book, full of useful tips and ideas. I have ordered some copies for Organico if you want to have a flick through. I have reproduced one of Rebecca’s recipes below which is very simple and leaves your home smelling absolutely lovely! Some ingredients you might have in your garden, others you will find in your local wholefood shop...
Rosemary, sage and lavender air freshener
This is an invigorating and floral air freshener – not sickly or fake smelling, more like your nana’s garden in spring. Rosemary and lavender go together perfectly.
2 sprigs rosemary
Sprig of sage
½ teaspoon lavender flowers
1 lemon, sliced
A 500ml spray bottle
Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, cover, and let it simmer for a further five minutes. Let it cool, then strain the liquid and pour it into a spray bottle. You can add a fresh sprig of rosemary to infuse in the bottle, if you wish. If the sprig is too tall for the bottle, just break it in half. This will store for up to a year and you can use it as often as needed.