Defeating Pain

One Person's Battle Against Chronic Pain


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Best Shampoo Ever!

Recently I started making my own shampoos and I fell in love with this recipe. It worked great, don’t get me wrong, and it might work for you. But it didn’t for some people, and I didn’t care for it being runny. So I decided to make a hopefully more “universal,” easy to make, and gel-like DIY shampoo. Plus if you throw in some essential oils you can have a multi-function shampoo! I love multi-tasking things!

This recipe also has a longer shelf life than the original recipe I used, because its got citric acid (which if you like the first recipe, add some and it helps to extend the life there too). You could just use lemon juice, but its easier to control the pH variations since the powder is more consistent than lemons fresh squeezed. To find citric acid, locate your local grocery store’s canning supplies there is usually some there. Lemon is good for the hair and it lightens it, so you can add lemon juice or oils to this if you can’t find citric acid, if you want increased lemon smell, or if you are a blonde to brighten your hair or just help bring out highlights if you aren’t. Lemon oils will not preserve as well, so use in combination with lemon juice or citric acid if you go that route.

With this recipe it is super customize-able for your hair type, and you can make your own blend of smells, so do what you like  and feels good for your hair. I like lavender since its a great stress reliever, and lavender is also great for your hair, skin, migraines, and muscle spasms. It soothes irritation, so if you have a dry or itchy scalp this is also a great oil to use or add in a blend. That is 6 things in a one step shampoo! Bam! How you like that efficiency!?

Also, I find that a hot shower at the first twinges of a headache with this definitely helps hold things off a little longer. Not to mention when I use this version, I have less tangles throughout the day, and it definitely uplifts the mood in general.

So on to what you need? Not too much, this is a super easy recipe and all you need is the following:

  • Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap – you can buy it pre-scented, any style will work. I usually just grab the small bottle since one will do you for a couple months worth of shampoo.
  •  1/4 c Coconut oil – solid, not the kind that is liquid at room temp
  • 1 large Aloe leaf – or about 1 1/2-2 cups aloe gel
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 tablespoon “nourishing oil” – vitamin E oil, or any other oil like jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, olive oil, or whatever. You can change it up as you get to know what works best in your hair.
  • Food processor, or blender
  • empty bottles for shampoo
  • 5-10 drops of essential oils – again I use lavender, you can add up to 15 of any blend of oils you like more tends to be smell overkill.

For the aloe, if you are lucky enough to have a large aloe plant use a large leaf, one at least 1.5 to 2 ft long. If you aren’t growing them sometimes you can buy a leaf individually at some Latin American markets, or you can buy just the gel in the health food section, that is not the kind you use for sunburns, the sort you can eat.

You want all of its gooey goo!

Gut the aloe, this is messy, so just realize you’re going to work with a slippery thing that’s hard to cut, and use good knife safety. Gloves are a good idea if you have them, but I’m a rebel without a cause, and go bare handed. I find you can sort of shave the top part of the leaf off, with a sharp knife, and scoop/scrape the gooey innards with a spoon into a bowl. Again, be careful of the aloe spines when doing this.

Toss the aloe gel in the food processor or blender, add in the coconut oil. I would start with 1/4 c since a little goes a long way with this, but you can add more if you have dry hair or find it isn’t moisturizing enough. Don’t add more than 1/2 a cup though as I find it gets way too oily. You want to blend this until you have a pretty even emulsion, it will turn sort of milky white, and then you add in the castile soap, citric acid, essential oils and your tablespoon of nourishing oil.

Give it another quick whiz, and bottle. I just reuse old shampoo bottles or even the Dr Bronner’s bottles make great shampoo bottles, and fill using a funnel. You should have a thick gel in the end that should be easy to apply, and provide a rich creamy lather. When you rinse your hair you will notice it feels different than other shampoos or conditioners, it will have a slight oily feel but once dry it shouldn’t be oily. Remember to shake before each use!

This makes for me, and I have long but extremely fine hair, at least 2 months worth of shampoo sometimes more. You don’t have to use a conditioner or anything after unless you want to, it is pretty much wash ‘n go. You can also use this as a great body wash!

ProTip 1: If your hair is lank, clumpy, and oily, you have probably got too much coconut oil in it. So of you add too much coconut oil, you can counter this with additional castile soap. Add it bit by bit until you find that it rinses clean, with no heavy oil residue.

ProTip 2: Citric acid helps to balance the pH of the shampoo, if you notice your hair is too dry you may need to adjust the amount of citric acid. It adds shine but can strip moisture from naturally dry hair, you can counter this with a teaspoon of your nourishing oil or even coconut oil, and adding more if needed based on your results. I wouldn’t recommend more than a tablespoon of citric acid in a batch for oily hair, and a teaspoon at most for dry. Again it is a preservative and will help prolong the shelf life of the shampoo, so even if your hair is dry go ahead and add some.

Dr Bronner’s pre-scented soap guide (minus lavender) – you can use these soaps and matching essential oils for specific uses:

  • Peppermint – for headaches, helps with itchy scalp or irritated scalp, or any bacterial infections. Also good for an “invigorating” shower that reduces stress, but helps you feel more awake due to increased circulation. Peppermint oil tends to wash cleaner for a less oily feel.
  • Eucalyptus – good for anti-fungal, and it helps to stimulate circulation. It is good for muscle pains and dandruff, and is supposed to stimulate hair growth.
  • Almond – Almond and Sweet Almond oil are great for hair and it has a lot of vitamins in it that are good for your hair and skin. It helps reduce frizz and increase shine if you have curly or frizzy hair. It is also a good hair strengthener to help hair grow longer and thicker. I find if I add this instead of other oils I have less static in my hair as well.
  • Citrus – We already discussed lemon earlier, orange and lemon oils are good for hair and help it to be shiny and lighter.
  • Rose – Pretty much like lavender, it is good for stress relief, and has some anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It is also very good for soothing an itchy scalp. Rose oil is rather expensive and I would use this shampoo as a base and possibly add lavender or other oils that complement rose.
  • Tea Tree – best known remedy for dandruff, this is a good oil for treating that. It can be strong and irritate further if you use too much so use the base soap first and add drops of additional tea tree oil to ensure you don’t add too much.

I have been told this shampoo makes my hair nicer than ever by a few people so hope you get some good results too 🙂 Happy showers!

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Lavender, not just for Grandma’s closet.

Lavender, if you are like most people, it’s one of those scents that you don’t think of as medicinal or really think much of. It is in perfume’s, room sprays, soaps and lotions. You see it in those sachet’s in your Grandma’s closet or in some Herbs de Provence. It is the ubiquitous “spa” lotion, massage oil, eye pillow flower, but do you ever really stop to think how kick-ass this small purple flower is?

So much bad assery, packed into something so small.

While there are many types of lavender the type we are concerned about is Lavandula angustifolia. This is the one used in most herbal preparations. A brief history about the famous purple plant, it has been used by humanity for over 2,500 years, and is well documented in use in Egypt, Phoenicians, in the Hebrew Bible, and New Testaments. The present name most likely comes from Rome, and the Roman use of lavender in bathing preparations. The Latin root for the name is either lavare– to wash, or livendula– livid or bluish. It was used by Judith in the Bible to seduce Holofermes, and by Cleopatra to seduce Julius Caesar. There is even a song referencing it, I am sure you know the “Lavender Blue, dilly dilly” song. It always seemed vaguely naughty to me, boy was I right. Lavender’s seductive qualities was not lost in 17th century England. According to the Traditional Ballad Index (oh internets, you never fail to amaze me) the song is about:

“”Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly…” Singer tells his lady that she must love him because he loves her. He tells of a vale where young man and maid have lain together, and suggests that they might do the same, and that she might love him (and also his dog)”

History having more sexy time than Showtime, since always. “Come on baby, let’s lavender diddle diddle!”

It should be your most loved and used too. Lavender is something I try to keep on me all the time. It is great for:

  • Skin preparations for daily use
  • Skin preparations for acne
  • For daily hair use – shampoo, etc.
  • Can encourage hair regrowth especially in people with alopecia areata
  • Treating bug bites – best thing ever for itchy fire ant, flea and mosquito bites, but useful for all bites
  • Keeping bugs out – a good insect repellent, or for daily use (does increase sun sensitivity make sure to add sun-blocking agents) and can be used on bed linens for bed bugs, fleas, or other uses where bug spray is needed
  • Burns! Yes, never get nasty scars from burns, and you will love it on a sunburn. Soothing!
  • Well known as a sleeping aid
  • A mild muscle relaxer, that may also help reduce pain in general
  • In massage can reduce anxiety and increase relaxation
  • Delicious baked goods, and savory dishes, really it can go in anything
  • Teas, or even infused water/spa waters

I could go on and on about its uses! As you can see it, like peppermint, is just more than useful to have around.

Personally I use lavender to help soothe muscle pain, relax, and as a sleep aid. I do use it in cooking a lot, and when I make my own shampoo (which if you haven’t you should, I use this recipe) but mostly the before mentioned uses.

Baths & Bath Salts

I love a hot bath, and with my muscle spasms it helps a lot of things to release and with lavender you can really help those muscle spasms relax further. Sometimes I find that just taking a hot bath with lavender can reduce a lot of aches and pains. If you don’t have the time to make your own, buy some good quality ones. There are lots of brands out there, I prefer Dr. Teal’s Lavender, it is on the more expensive side and there are cheaper or more expensive versions out there. Just make sure you review the ingredients.

If you would like to make your own, it is super easy to do and doesn’t take long.

Lavender Epsom Salt Recipe

  • 5 cups (40 oz) of Epsom Salts
  • 5-10 drops Lavender essential oil
  • A few teaspoons of dried lavender flowers (I just add them until I like the amount, based on previous baths, but I would say a teaspoon a cup ratio to start)

That’s it! You want to make sure you mix it well, breaking up any lumps, and store it in a dry spot in a sealed container. You could add different oils for different effects. You have the option of reducing the Epsom salts to 4 cups and adding:

  • 1 cup Baking Soda OR 1 cup Powdered Milk
  • 1 cup Sea Salt
  • Soap colorants/dyes, don’t use food coloring as it could stain your tub

If you use powdered milk you need to make sure you rinse your tub well. You could even make cheap Christmas or Birthday gifts with this too, great for large group gifts and people will think you spent a ton of time on it!

Sleep Aids

Where to start with these? There are just SO many things you can do with Lavender to help you sleep. So to keep it simple, I am only going over my favorites that happen to be so because they are the easiest.

  • Lavender Essential oil (therapeutic grade as always) – couple deployment methods here, my preferred is to take a drop and rub some on your temples and smooth the rest over your pillow. You can also put a drop in 6-8 oz. of warm milk (or milk substitute) or water.
  • Dried or fresh Lavender tea – you can get food grade lavender lots of places, or grow your own. I would start by mixing this into a chamomile tea at first since lavender can be bitter, and a little goes a long way. Start with a 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up. You can do just pure lavender if you are brave enough. (Also works the same in infused waters, just use cold water and let sit for a few hours in the fridge.)
  • Lavender (or lavender and hops) pillows – I will go into more detail about the hops version in later posts, but just a small sachet of dried lavender placed in your pillow while you sleep will greatly improve quantity and quality of sleep.

As always test things out on yourself, it is always trial and error finding out what works best for you. Make sure to check reactions on WebMD. Always educate yourself before taking anything and when in doubt, consult a professional!