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      A simplified Hemorrhoidal ointment comparison

      A simplified Hemorrhoidal ointment comparison

      At a recent trade show, I was asked a few times the same question.
      “Because your product is natural or plant-based how do I know if it works”?
      (In reference to our best seller HmR Natural Bio-Active Hemorrhoidal Ointment)

      I love questions about our products and was very grateful that someone took the time to stop by and ask. I first explained that HmR has a Natural Health Product Number (NPN) to which Health Canada requires us to prove safety and efficacy before a license can be issued.

      As I begin to explain the benefits of HmR Hemorrhoidal Ointment over the conventional brands I would then notice that their eyes begin to become glassy and they start looking for an escape from my passionate oration.  I know the topic is not the most fascinating for someone who just wants relief from an uncomfortable situation however I like to think that it would more informative than watching mindless TV ads that tell you nothing about how their product works? Maybe some expensive TV ads provide some level of assurance that the product works however I decided that when I had a few free minutes I would try to explain this in an easier to understand method. Here goes…

      Conventional hemorrhoidal brands consist of two main types of ingredients which are petroleum jelly/ mineral oil and a decongestant (also called a vasoconstrictor).
      • Petroleum jelly and mineral oil make up 86% of the total formulation! These ingredients are used as the base of the ointment and act as a lubricant to make bowel movements less uncomfortable. My thoughts on mineral oil here.
      • Phenylephrine, a decongestant with in my opinion some shaky research on its efficacy and safety (recommend to research this on your own if interested).

      In addition, this 50-year-old formula also gives you non-medicinal ingredients such as benzoic acid, BHA, corn oil, glycerin, lanolin, methylparaben, mineral oil, paraffin, propylparaben, thyme oil, vitamin E and lastly a pet peeve ingredient shark liver oil (from endangered deepwater marine sharks).

      Anyone who follows this blog or the Environmental Defense or EWG’s Skin Deep Database might have concerns about efficacy or safety at this point.

      So how does HmR Hemorrhoidal Ointment work, why is it a better, healthier choice?

      HmR Hemorrhoidal provides the following properties all in one 28g tube;
      (1)  Anti-inflammatory – to reduce swelling and pain
      (2)  Veno-tonic – to promote vein blood circulation and strengthen the vein cell wall
      (3)  Anti-itch – the olive wax base and natural emollients like argan oil, aloe, and seabuckthorn provide healing and protective properties for delicate and compromise skin tissue

      What kind of ingredient extracts do all of this?
      The well-established phytotherapy research on Witch Hazel, Butchers Broom, Organic Chamomile Flower Oil, Aloe Vera, Olive Wax, Argan Oil, Grapeseed Extract, Beta-Glucan (from Oats). 

      From this, you can understand why our product costs more especially as petroleum and its derivatives are so cheap to manufacture. I say who wouldn’t spend a few extra dollars to buy a more efficacious healthier product.

      Concerns about conventional Baby Oil

      Concerns about conventional Baby Oil

      In our opinion, traditional baby oil is one of the most ill-conceived personal products ever produced.

      Baby oil is simply mineral oil or liquid petroleum derived from black crude oil with an added synthetic fragrance. It is a by-product of petroleum in the process to make gasoline.

      Proponents of mineral oil or baby oil will tell you that it helps to prevent moisture loss by providing an occlusive barrier to the skin. There is no doubt it provides an occlusive barrier to the extent of completely blocking pores. As science tells us the main functions of the skin is respiration and elimination (toxins). The skin needs to breathe to heal, actually, our skin needs to breathe for us to survive. Mineral oil does not moisturize as many would believe, in fact despite the initial silky feeling on the skin, it will strip away the hydro-lipid layer of this skin requiring the use of more product due to continued dryness.

      A baby’s skin is very porous because it has not developed to the same extent the hard outer keratinized thorny layer of the skin called the epidermis (this accounts for that amazing soft skin that babies have). The epidermis is the part of the skin that helps prevent materials from entering through to the dermis (deep layer of the skin) and into the bloodstream. Babies actually have the same number of pores as adults, just condensed to a much smaller surface area.

      I would recommend if possible not using any product on a newborn, at least for the first couple of months. When dealing with diaper rash or other types of rash, first try a spot test of a plant-based butter or oil. We would suggest olive oil, rosehip seed oil or argan oil and let the area air dry. Plant-based ingredients will soak into the skin, moisturize and allow the skin to breathe and heal. Plant-based moisturizers have a bio-affinity with human skin and act in a way that our cells respond to.

      We know that mineral oil/baby oil is not a healthy choice for the human body or the environment (unsustainable and not biodegradable) so why is it still being sold, and why do companies insist on using it? The answer is cheap-cheap-cheap. Yes… it is almost the cheapest raw material in personal care.

      Is Beeswax a Healthy Choice in Personal Care?

      Is Beeswax a Healthy Choice in Personal Care?

      While ago, I was sent this column http://ecosalon.com/behind-the-label-burts-bees/ by an agent provocateur (for good), eco-branding genius and all around one of the coolest people I know, Lisa Borden.

      Lisa gamingly asked for my opinion on the content, I was critical of this article suggesting it was myopic and missing the most important point that few seem to touch on. I thought I would share my concerns especially as I see now this article was actually meant to promote Burt’s Bees and Clorox under the guise of balanced reporting.

      First of all commercial beekeeping is neither natural nor healthy, and if you care about critter welfare or even give it a thought, you will be sad to learn that these gentle and amazing creatures are quite possibly treated worse than factory farmed cattle (if that is even possible). A fundamental flaw in the conventional beekeeping practice is that the very sustenance (honey) that is required to keep bees healthy is entirely ripped out of their ecosystem and replaced with GMO corn syrup or white (sometime GMO) sugar-water. You may have heard about the antibacterial properties in honey, this store is what the bees need to eat during the long winter months to protect them from the disease. Honey also contains micro-nutrients and important enzymes that allow bees to flourish naturally.

      The next big issue is the management of apiary disease, again in my opinion what takes place is another agri-biz solution to another man-made problem. Bees have become increasingly weakened and endangered due to pesticide residues with special mentions to Monsanto and Bayer CropScience (1) with other speculated contributing factors such as pollution, EMF’s and poor commercial hive management. Sulfa compounds and antibiotics are the most notable unnecessary drugs used on the bees namely Sulfathiazole, streptomycin, dihydrostreptomycin, terramycin, fumagillin.

      Another commonly encouraged commercial beekeeping practice was (and still is to a lesser extent) to let the hive die i.e fumigate with calcium cyanide every winter as it was more profitable to take their honey ($300-$400) and buy a new artificially reared hive in the spring ($100-$200). This is the general mindset of industrialized farming. Get as much out of whatever they are farming for the highest profit regardless of the human and environmental health costs.

      Lastly, bees are moved around 100’s of KM bi-weekly depending on the flowering crop.

      Add up all these factors and scientists and beekeepers wonder why their immune systems are weak and they are stress and malnourished.

      Honeybees are considered an indicator species and they are certainly right now reflecting human health and the health of our planet. Skip the urge to buy Burts Bees, if you really like the feel of beeswax on your skin and go to the local farmers market and buy organically and ethically harvested beeswax. You will certainly notice the difference.

      If you are like me and are fond of bees in your backyard, plant a few of these and you will be sure to make new furry friends this Spring – fennel, calendula, lemon balm, echinacea, dandelion, sunflower, borage, and lavender.

      Gratitude

      Gratitude

      As a mindfulness practice each day, I like to stop and think about things that I am grateful for. I would sincerely recommend this as a great way to cultivate a positive state of mind or as I hear the term used “abundance thinking”.
      The quote from my fav guru says it all,

      “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
      – Lao Tzu

      I often feel grateful for the work that I do, to make healthy, effective environmentally responsible products that really help people is what I have always wanted to do with my life, really I could think of nothing better.  All sounds peachy right? So here is the truth… there are often parts of running a business that isn’t so much fun like paying bills/accounting and the myriad of forms/documents and decisions that need attention.

      One rainy Spring afternoon I found myself particularly consumed with a larger than usual amount of these tasks, looking for a diversion I went to get the mail. Lo and behold we received a handwritten letter from someone that had used our SHO Natural Bio-Active Skin Healing Ointment. It completely made my day, so much so I wrote a letter back with the free sample of the SHO Skin Healing Ointment.

      We often receive emails from customers with praise for our products for which we are extremely appreciative, this one I received back in May I wanted to share.

      “Dear Sir/Madam

      From an article in the Toronto Star, I obtained SHO Skin Healing               Ointment - Thera Wise.
      I have never found as good a cream in 90+ years or trying.
      This was a gift and I would appreciate knowing where I can purchase
      more in Markham Ontario.

      Congrats and Thanks.

      Truly,” 

      Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Safe Sun Exposure

      Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Safe Sun Exposure

      We would like to discuss a bit about the safety of “Zinc Oxide” and “Titanium Dioxide” in sunscreen.

      Tips for sun safety – to wear light clothing, hats, make or use of shade and to plan your day around the sun.”

      We feel it is really important to mention the importance of increasing vitamin D levels through safe (gradual) sun expose. Sunshine is good for you!  More and more research is being presented on the benefits of vitamin D and in fact, it is estimated that you can prevent as many as 16 types of cancers by having sufficient vitamin D in your body (i.e. pancreatic, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers). Interesting to note that receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in almost every cell in the body.

      I am concerned when I see mothers apply sunscreen/sunblock if they see that their child is going to be out in the sun for any length of time, I truly believe this practice is doing much more harm than good. At the beginning of the season limit sun exposure to 5-10minutes a day and gradually increase the time so that in a few weeks an individual can experience normal sun exposure without concern of burning or doing damage to the skin.

      If you have to use a sunscreen, “non-nano” or “non-micronized” zinc oxide seems to be the next best option available although not without some risk.

      Most of the zinc oxide in sunscreens have been micronized or developed into nanoparticles with a width of 7-15 nano which poses a serious problem to your health and the environment.  At this size especially the zinc oxide can cross to the blood-brain barrier leaving plaques in the brain/body that will never metabolize. Even worse are the zinc oxide nanoparticles can enter any part of the body, including the lungs and nervous system, which can cause not only irritation and rashes but worse consequences such as DNA damage to the cells.

      My other concerns with zinc oxide is that does not allow the skin to breathe (blocks pores) or eliminate toxins etc (especially non-nano/micronized).  It is sticky and cakes on like a geisha’s makeup albeit protecting you from the sun but is ultimately unhealthy to have this substance on your skin all the time, all day.

      Even though it is wise to avoid the chemical sunscreens (methoxycinnamate, padimate o, oxybenzone, avobenzone, etc.), mineral physical sunscreens have been found to generate free radicals when exposed to sunlight, which then can attack the nuclei of your skin cells and cause mutations (skin cancer) just like the chemical sunscreens.

      There is a book available called “Sunscreen Photobiology: Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Aspects” which describes;

      “Illumination of titanium dioxide suspensions with sunlight can degrade organic materials and purify drinking water, while illumination with short wave UV kills human cells. This work shows that the distinction between ‘chemical’ sunscreens and ‘physical’ sunscreens, attractive though it may be to those who market them, is not based on any significant difference. Both varieties have the potential to produce reactive species that can attack biological materials (human skin cells) when they are exposed to normal sunlight… What is established is that particles of titanium dioxide as large as 220 nm can enter human cells in culture, and so it seems entirely plausible that if titanium dioxide does pass through the skin it could enter cells under the skin (carrying with it the absorbed UVA and UVB radiation and hydroxyl radicals).”

      Another source from “Cosmetics Trade Journal” states,

      “Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are commonly used in drug and cosmetic products. Contrary to belief, Sayre and co-workers (Cosmetics & Toiletries Oct. 2000, 75) have shown that these physical sunscreens are not photochemically inactive. Although adequate coating can reduce the risk, an increase in the destruction of photolabile skin lipids is not desirable. The photo-peroxidation of unsaturated skin lipids may result in perturbation of the lipid environment of viable cell layers and degrade skin surface lipids. “

      Zinc Oxide is also widely used in mineral makeup and baby diaper creams, really everyone needs to investigate this further.

      What makes this even more concerning is that there is no law requiring companies to disclose the use of nanoparticles in personal care making it use at your own risk proposition.  Canada is still looking to catch up on the technology while the EU has already implemented strict rules for its use in personal care (coming 2013) – As usual, the US FDA is the wild West of regulatory safely catering to corporate requests. In the US Nanoparticles are prohibited in Soil Association certified products, but are yet to be prohibited by the USDA National Organic Program.

      Currently, non-nano/micronized zinc oxide with the plant-based base formulation is the safest option in sunscreens. However, I would strongly recommend using only a moderate amount if really needed especially considering some of the risk factors.

      Another interesting option is the oral supplement astaxanthin which is a potent antioxidant that when taken can allow you to stay in the sun longer without burning.