aromatherapy, beauty, health

Change: what you need to know about your skincare

The first of The Health & Happiness Collective has written on our topic, ‘Change’.

Ananda, a brilliant naturopath and fellow lecturer at Endeavour College of Natural Health, has written about her passion for natural skin care. Why is natural skin care better? And why should you change your skin care?

Ananda sums this up beautifully. Which is ideal when we are talking skin care and aesthetics. But don’t forget that your skin reflects your health and what you place on your skin can affect your health.

And I have to agree completely with Ananda, changing my skincare (and makeup) over to natural products has not only been beneficial to my skin but is also far more luxurious given the delightfully aromatic natural extracts and essential oils they contain.

Check out her must-read blog with five reasons to change your skincare here.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

aromatherapy, beauty, herbal medicine, nature, Uncategorized

Five natural beauty products I cannot live without

Patients often ask me for advice on natural cosmetics and skincare products.   The kind of products I choose personally must be naturally fragranced, free from as many artificial chemical nasties as is possible and actually work.  When you tick these boxes, these products are also an absolute delight to use and way  more luxurious than their big brand name, highly artificial cousins.  Cleopatra herself, may have been tempted by these natural and luxurious essentials.

So, here are my top five natural beauty products:

Jane Iredale Mineral Makeup

This is the most lovely makeup I have ever used.  In fact, I’m surprised how often people comment on my skin when I’m wearing it, the minerals give you a healthy glow.  And they won’t block your pores but they will give you sun protection.  The makeup is actually good for promoting healthy skin.   That’s a far cry from traditional foundations which contribute to blocked  pores and breakouts!  Some of their products contain essential oils and their lip and eye colours are very pretty too.  Jane Iredale is on the more expensive side but a little goes a long way and it is well worth the price.

Alchemy Shampoo and Conditioner

Alchemy is a great range off Australian made and owned hair care products.   They don’t use parabens or sulphate in their products.  What is great about their shampoo and conditioners is that they contain herbal extracts and essential oils so that not only does your hair smell amazing, but it will look and feel great too!

Uspa Skincare

This line of skincare is perhaps the best I have ever used.  Uspa products are made in Australia from organic plant-based ingredients where possible.  The difference between Uspa and other natural cosmetic brands is that Uspa is mainly used and sold by beauty therapists, not health food stores and pharmacies.  The level of quality and the results they deliver for your skin are beautifully noticeable.  I’m a devotee of their Awaken Foam Cleanser, Bamboo Polish and Moisture Control Lotion with Vitamin C.  Did I mention that these products also smell amazing?

MiEssence Aluminium-free Deodorant

Now, I’ve tried a lot of aluminium-free deodorants and I can say that many of them, with the best intentions and theory behind them, just don’t work.  But this one does!  It’s the only one that I have found that really does work.  It comes in fragrance-free, ancient spice (for the boys) and tahitian breeze (a delightful natural floral fragrance).  The company behind this product source organic ingredients and are another Australian natural cosmetics success story.  You can usually find this one at your local health food store.

Sunspirit Essential Oils

This range of 100% pure essential oils has long been my favourite and most trusted aromatherapy brand.  I love using these essential oils in salt scrubs, face masks, body oils, bath blends and in spritzers.  Sunspirit is another Australian brand who have been committed to sourcing and supplying high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils for over 35 years.  I was lucky enough to tour the laboratory facility that undertakes the testing of their essential oils last week.  The state of the art facility has a high commitment to quality control.  What that means is the herbs are tested for chemical markers to ensure they are the correct plant, that the quality of the herb is good enough to have a therapeutic effect (desired markers in the plant’s chemical profile are present and in the right amounts) and the essential oil will be stable and therapeutic for the whole of its life up to its expiry date.   Sunspirit essential oils are mid-priced which makes them exceptional value given their gold standard commitment to quality.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

beauty, Diet, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Nourish your dry winter skin

As I have been treating my patients this winter, I have noticed many of them have had very dry, often flakey, skin – some even to the point of having significant scratches from the itchiness that can accompany dryness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dryness is usually attached to the season autumn, however in Brisbane this year, we are experiencing the dryness right now.

According to TCM five element theory, dryness is characteristic of the metal element and is also matched up with the lungs and skin.  Our lungs are responsible for creating a mist of the (good, pure) fluids in our body and spreading them to our skin and mucous membranes, to keep them well-nourished.  When this function goes wrong, we might experience situations where we accumulate too much fluid in places that we don’t need it (such as a phlegmy cough and runny nose) and not enough moisture where we do need it, leading to dry, itchy skin.

So, how can we bring the moisture of our skin back into balance?

  • Inside out:
    • Choose foods to be used in nourishing meals that will moisten dryness such as soy-based foods, apples, pears, most nuts and seeds, avocados, olive oil and honey.  Add a few pungent foods to these meals (such as onions and garlic) to aid in the dispersing of the fluids).
    • Make sure you are also consuming enough water – are you drinking two litres?
  • Outside in:
    DIY salt scrub
    • Choose a good natural moisturiser to apply to your body after showering. (Long hot showers in winter, whilst being lovely, tend to dry out your skin).  You may need to upgrade your facial moisturiser during the dry months (and even use a night cream or facial oil) – again look for a good one free of synthetic chemicals.
    • Use my favourite DIY salt scrub recipe when you have dry skin (it’s very versatile being great for sticky, congested skin in summer and dry, itchy skin in winter).  You may need to do this 2-3 times per week until your skin is soft and silky again.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, exercise, herbal medicine, massage

The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge (or other 100km hike)

On the weekend, I knocked over The Kokoda Challenge (known as one of Australia’s most gruelling endurance events – 96km of big hills on the Gold Coast Hinterland, that must be completed within 39 hours), for the second time.  Crazy? Yes, definitely.

Was it easier the second time?  Yes and no.

Yes, you know most of the track and what to expect, your training regime should be sorted out, you should know your body well (and its weaknesses) and hopefully you’ve maintained some fitness from last time.

And no, they change the track each year and add some new surprises (which are worse if you knew the easy bits they took out and replaced), conditions change – 50% of the track was coated with either slippery or sticky mud this year – much harder on the legs and lastly, maybe you lose a little bit of drive after completing it successfully before (a voice says, “you’ve done this before, there’s no need to get to the end, you have nothing to prove”).

None-the-less, The Commandettes, crossed the finish line 3 hours ahead of last year’s time.

Here’s my tips, as an acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist for getting your body across the line without relying on pharmaceutical pain killers and anti-inflammatories unless you really need them. (And for the record, I didn’t take a single pharmaceutical drug this year due to sticking to this plan).

Please make sure that if you use the ideas listed below that you speak to a qualified acupuncturist or herbalist regarding the specific herbs and supplements and their dosages – everyone is different and herbal medicine is just that – a medicine – so treat the herbs with the same care you would with any other medicine.

  1. Pre-event training
    • Start training well in advance of the event.  Build up the pace and distance gradually.  If you can’t train on the actual track, mimic the conditions as best you can.  Besides building you up for the event, this gives you plenty of time to recognise weaknesses and prevent future injuries.
    • Any niggle, should be assessed by a health professional (eg. physiotherapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist) as early as possible so you can work on fixing it.  It’s common to need specific exercises for the core abdominal muscles and gluteals – great for knee and hip injury prevention.
    • Swelling, pain, inflammation and muscle tension need to be treated as they occur too – see below.
  2. 4 weeks prior to the event
    • Get yourself onto a personalised herbal formula to prepare you to perform at your best.  The particular herbs chosen for your formula will depend on how you have been pulling up on from your training and your overall constitution.  Herbs such as Siberian ginseng and panax ginseng are excellent for endurance, stamina and energy, and even have high quality scientific studies demonstrating their effectiveness for athletic performance.  Herbs such as gotu kola and ginkgo biloba may improve any blood circulation related problems (eg. golfer’s vasculitis, otherwise known as ‘Disney rash’) and may also be useful in healing connective tissue.
    • If you aren’t already, now is the time for some weekly massages and/or acupuncture sessions to iron out any niggles from training – you want your body to be in tip-top shape for the event and not carrying around any left-over tightness which may predispose you to injury.  Acupuncture may also be able to assist with your stamina and treat any injuries you have already sustained.
    • The day before the event – see your acupuncturist again.  They will be able to locate some points on your ears that correspond to different parts of your body.  You will be able to press these points if your injuries begin to play up.  I have seen many cases of excellent results with this technique.
    • Ask your practitioner for dietary, nutritional and herbal tips for the event.
  3. On the day
    • Rehydration formula – take it regularly. What you sweat out will not be replaced by water alone.
    • Magnesium is essential!  A dose may be required at each major check point to prevent cramping, spasms and muscle tightness.
    • Herbal anti-inflammatories – A dose at every major checkpoint and as needed.  There are a lot out there including boswellia, turmeric, chamomile, horsechestnut, ginger and celery seed.  Don’t forget your omega 3’s too – from flaxseeds or fish.  If swelling is a particular problem, there are herbs specific to this.
    • Stimulants.  As needed.  I can not speak more highly of Flordis Ginsana – a highly researched ginseng capsule.  Nothing picks up my energy and my mood, more than the ginsana.  It’s great for getting through the night. Otherwise, the caffeine and carbohydrate sports gels, if you can manage the revolting texture, work quite well too.
    • Protein.  Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating a lot during exercise.  Protein powders are excellent at these times.  I like the pea-based protein powders – they have just as much protein as the whey ones, but are great for those who want a vegetable based protein source or wish to avoid dairy products.
    • Topical herbal anti-inflammatory and pain relieving cream or liniment.  Have it on hand to rub into sore knees, aching hips and other injuries as needed.  Why not sweet talk your support crew into giving you a shoulder rub with it at the check points?
  4. After the event
    • Simple carbohydrates are good (sugar… perhaps even a glass of alcohol to celebrate?)
    • Keep up your protein intake
    • The best part:  Soak in an epsom salts bath.  Relief.  Bliss.

There are many different ways to complete a 100km endurance event.  I have seen this combination work well for many people undertaking athletic activities.  If you are undertaking such an event – good luck!

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, nature

Is camping the new miracle health cure?

Well, I’m not one for miracle health cures but I do strongly believe that camping is one way to revitalise the body and soul.  And it’s certainly not a new way to do so either. Although recently, this relatively cheap way to take a short break from the stresses of modern life has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

So, given that the peak camping time, the Easter holidays, is approaching, what do so many people have to gain from packing up their car and heading out to sleep under the stars for a few nights?

  1. Fresh air
    • Getting out-of-town and into nature, whether that’s in the bush or by the beach allows you to breathe fresh air.  It’s something that you don’t realise you have missed until you get out of the city.  There’s also something very peaceful about being surrounded by nature – whether that’s big trees, mountains or the ocean.  And then there’s the refreshing sounds of bird calls, creeks bubbling or waves crashing.
  2. Exercise
    • There’s no doubt that going camping means back to basics and that means leaving the modern conveniences at home.  Fetching water for the washing up, then doing the washing up by hand, pitching a tent and taking a walk to use the facilities, all get your body up and moving more than you would at home and that’s a good thing.  And that’s just the incidental exercise.  Add to this the great activities being in nature gives us access to – hiking, climbing, swimming, canoeing and even playing bocce.
  3. Sleep
    • Without lighting from electricity, our body clock very quickly matches up with that of the sun.  I’m sure every camper can relate to the feeling of sleepiness  as they stare up to a clear, starry sky at 7.30pm, when they swear it must be 10.30pm.  On the flip side, with that early night under your belt, an early morning start seems so much easier.  It is a fabulous way to start the day with a view of the sunrise while enjoying a cup of freshly brewed soy chai.  I usually always sleep very well when I’m camping but that does depend on a few things – make sure your bedding is warm and comfortable.  Bring ear plugs if you are a light sleeper.  And set your campsite up securely to protect you from rain and wind (flapping tarps and water in your tent won’t help your sleep at all).  Hello peaceful sleep.
  4. Slow down
    • If the active part (hiking, swimming, exploring etc) of your camping day is in the morning, then the afternoon can be for relaxing.  And it’s so easy to do when you are in a peaceful environment away from the chores of home.  All you need is a camping chair, a camp fire, fine company and a good book.  Add to this the escape from mobile phone reception,  TV and many other electrical devices and life really does slow down.  If you’re really feeling indulgent you can even pop off for an afternoon nap. Ahhhhhhhhh.
  5. Happiness
    • The phrase ‘happy campers’ was coined with good reason.  Research has shown that time in green spaces is good for our mental health.  Spending time with good friends gives us a sense of connection which contributes to our happiness.  Physical exercise, which is unavoidable while camping, also has a positive association with the mood.

So, when’s your next camping trip?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

aromatherapy, beauty, health

Summer skin treat – the DIY salt scrub

I am going to share with you my favourite skin treat – the do-it-yourself salt scrub.

This easy and cheap to make (unlike it’s shop bought cousins) salt scrub will leave your skin smooth, soft and glowing. And if you like, you can take your salt scrub experience up a few notches to ‘day spa’ level by adding a few drops of essential oils for their luxurious fragrances and skin enhancing qualities.

Sarah’s Salt Scrub Recipe

Ingredients
2 tablespoons (approx.) table salt
1 tablespoon (approx.) carrier oil (natural and unfragranced eg. sweet almond oil or olive oil)
5 drops of essential oil of choice (see below for suggestions – you can mix a few together to make up your 5 drops.)

Method

1. Pour the table salt into a small bowl (like the Chinese dipping sauce ones).
2. Mix in the carrier oil gradually until the salt is sticky but not runny.
3. Add essential oil and mix well.
4. Jump in the shower (so you don’t make a mess) and apply small amounts of the salt mixture to your body (chest, back, arms, legs, feet, hands and only very gently on the face) in small circular motions. Avoid any delicate or broken skin.
5. Wash off the salt mixture under the shower.
6. To remove any greasy residue, immediately wash with a natural cleanser or vegetable oil based soap.
7. Jump out of the shower with your new radiant skin.

Depending on your skin type you might like to do this treatment once or twice per week. During hot, humid weather you can increase this to every second day or as required.

A quick note on essential oils
I love essential oils. They are extracted from flowers, leaves, fruits and other parts of plants. The essential oils carry the therapeutic properties of the plant from which they were sourced. Essential oils are different to ‘fragrant oils’ which are synthetic chemical fragrances lacking in therapeutic value. When purchasing your essential oils be sure the bottle reads “100% pure essential oil”. Most essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin and are best diluted in a carrier oil.

Essential oil suggestions to enhance your salt scrub:

  • Tea tree oil – if you skin is prone to acne or fungal infections
  • Lemon myrtle oil – similar to tea tree but I think it smells nicer
  • Lavender – calming, relaxing, antiseptic
  • Geranium – balancing for oily skins
  • Lime – refreshing
  • Grapefruit – has a detoxifying effect, great for use over cellulite

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

exercise, health, herbal medicine, mental health, motivational, nature, Uncategorized

A new year – a new Kokoda Challenge

On the eve of registering a team for this year’s Kokoda Challenge, I take a look back at last year’s achievement…

At 3.45am on Saturday 17th July my alarm beeped, forcing me to get up and face The Kokoda Challenge, an event we had been training hard for since February.

The Kokoda Challenge is Australia’s toughest endurance event.  It involves walking (or running for those who are that way inclined) 96 km through some of the steepest sections of the Gold Coast Hinterland within 39 hours without sleep (that’s more than double a marathon, non-stop and over hills).

My team, known as the M&M’s (for Michelle, Melissa, Sue and Sarah), wondered as we headed towards the starting line just before 7am with our little ninja M&M mascots hanging from our packs: “Had we done enough hill, night and distance training?”  “Would our niggling injuries behave themselves?” and “Would we make it to the finish line as a full team as is the spirit of the event?”

Armed with a supply of energy tonics, anti-inflammatory herbs and some nutritional supplements that I had put together from my natural medicine clinic plus some acupressure knowledge for nausea, anxiety, pain and fatigue, the M&M’s (a determined bunch of ladies) survived the high and lows of the track.  The steep up-hills, the steep down-hills, the creek crossings in the dark, the times when your body struggled, the times when your mind struggled – these were all balanced out by some very memorable moments.  Looking behind you in the dark to see headlamps twinkling in the distance like little fairies, or seeing the gold coast lights shining from a peak we had just climbed, and even the many hours we passed through the night thinking of and singing any song with the word ‘night’ in it.

Yes, our feet hurt more than we could imagine.  Yes, injuries were aggravated – but luckily no new ones were sustained.  And yes, there were many quiet, contemplative moments overnight where we all were thinking “I could be fast asleep in a warm bed right now”.  But these thoughts were all overshadowed when at 32 hours and 8 minutes the M&M’s crossed the finish line – there were tears, there were smiles, there were hugs and there were yawns.  And despite taking a fair amount longer than we had planned on, we were in the 50% of teams who made it across the line as a whole team within the time limit of 39 hours.  Not only that, we also adopted two honorary M&M’s who had lost half of their team to injury and needed another team to walk with.  The more the merrier I say!  And not bad for a first effort, either.

If you have an opportunity to be a part of this event in the future – do it!  The event (and training leading up to it) is hard, yet incredibly rewarding.  You will employ each of the Kokoda Challenge’s values just to make it to the finish (even if you don’t think you will beforehand): endurance, courage, sacrifice and mateship.  The event supports young Australians (The Kokoda Kids) to develop these qualities through physical endeavours and charity work in Papua New Guinea.  The Kokoda Kids that I met on the track were a credit to the organisers – I’m proud to have been involved and support this event.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.