Health and Beauty

Lemon: Your detox friend…and a lemon mask recipe

Continuing with the good start of 2013, here are a few detox tips using lemon. During the dark winter months when the evenings are long, the only thing we want is to cuddle up in bed with a warm hot chocolate and comforting food. To restore your energy levels and freshen up before the spring, I recommend a very simple recipe: hot water with fresh lemon, first thing in the morning.  Lemon, from the citrus family (Utruj in Arabic) has a long list of health benefits : it is high in vitamin C which strengthens the immune system (which is why it is recommended for colds) and is an antioxidant. However, whereas orange juice is acidic, lemon juice is actually helps digestion one of the most alkaline fruits and helps to balance the body’s pH. It supports digestion by kickstarting the production of bile, thus why it is good to drink it before having breakfast.

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The great thing with hot lemon water is that it helps me to reduce my coffee intake, and it is a diuretic, so it helps the body to get rid of toxins. Lemons are mentioned several times in Islamic traditions: in one hadith, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “The citrus fruit is like a true believer, with a sweet taste and a pleasant scent” (Sahih Bukhari). In Suyuti’s medicine book, lemon is described as such: “The sour citrus is cold and dry. From it is made lemon juice, which is good for hot stomachs. It also strengthens and gladdens the heart, stimulates the appetite, quenches the thirst, satisfies hunger, cures diarrhoea and palpitations.”

There are hundreds of different recipes for the skin and the hair using lemon juice, zest or peel, mixed with honey, egg, avocado… Lemon is especially good for oily skins and acne, as it is purifying and antiseptic. As I tend to have a more sensitive skin, I chose a more gentle facial mask recipe to share with  you. It only requires oats and a lemon.

Lemon and Oat face mask

Cook 1/4 of of oat (I simply used organic porridge oats!), and once it has cooled down, add the juice and zest of half a lemon. You can add an egg yolk as it is also good for reducing oils in oily skin. Mix together until you get a smooth paste.

Apply on clean skin and leave until dry. Remove with warm water. Job Done!

Health and Beauty

The benefits of Black Soap (Savon Noir)

I talk about the wonders of oil, in particular olive oil, in a previous post, in particular about their health and beauty benefits. Well Black Soap, produced in North Africa, is like a condensed version: it is made out of oil, often using the famous Moroccan Argan oil, and macerated olives, and it is thus packed with therapeutic qualities. Black soap is particularly rich in vitamin E and is known for deeply purificating the skin, as well as preparing the skin for exfoliation. In Morocco, women often use it in the hammam (public baths) before peeling their skin with a loofah. It should be applied on wet skin and left a couple of minutes to rehydrate and purify the body, before being rinsed off.

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Black Soap or Savon noir from Morocco

Don’t be fooled by its aspect: its texture is more like butter than regular soap, but it is all natural, works with all types of skin and has a light scent. The damage of chemical perfumes added to soaps, shower gels and shampoos on the skin and hair is well documented:  Black soap is a great, 100% natural and organic alternative, usually made the old fashioned way by small producers. If you want to try making your own black soap, try my basic black soap recipe.

Black soap can also be diluted with water and used as a cleaner and detergent. It has tons off properties: it can be used to clean floors and tiles, windows and leather furniture, it removes grease from ovens, baking trays or plates, and it is also used as a stain remover.

Furthermore, it can also be used in the garden to help get rid of parasite. Just spray diluted black soap on affected plants and leaves. It is a great product before it acts as a natural repellent without destroying the environment as would do traditional pesticides. In fact, black soap has so many different uses that I can’t list them all! Stay blessed!

Health and Beauty

Washing your hair, the Moroccan way!!

I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty regime of North African women: the ritual of the hammam, the application of henna of the hair and the skin, the attention given to the skin and hair to make them strong and healthy…and of course the majority of the products they traditionally use are entirely natural and locally sourced! There are real lessons to be learnt here.

Moroccan Ghassoul.

Ghassoul is a type of clay typically used to cleanse the hair, although it can also be used as mask on the face and body. It is produced exclusively in the Atlas mountains in Morocco, and it is rich in minerals. It helps remove grease by absorbing sebum without drying the hair out, and makes it shiny and soft. It is usually sold either as a power, or as dry flakes. To use it, mix it with warm water until it becomes a paste a apply on wet hair. Leave for a few minutes and rinse abundantly. You can also add a few drops of argan oil for dry hair, or use essential oils as scent.

Henna powder

‘Neutral’ henna, which doesn’t dye the hair, is also often use for hair treatment  or as a conditionner. It comes as a green powder, made into a paste by adding water. Some turn it into a regenerating mask by mixing it with yoghurt, oil or honey. It is recommended to use it once a month to give moisturize the hair and make it shiny. Leave it until it dries, then rinse and wash your hair. Ghassoul and henna are two natural, chemical free products, cheaper than manufactured shampoos and hair conditionners, and they are produced by local communities. What’s more to ask?