Wednesday, April 25, 2012

miracle in a jar

And no, it's not a $200 jar of designer skin cream. Read on...

I feel very fortunate that I don't have a lot of health issues. Sometimes however, I forget that I am vulnerable to certain things.

Like spring allergens, for one. As you can probably tell already, I absolutely LOVE spring. But one thing I don't particularly enjoy about it is the allergens.

A. and I took our evening walk tonight, after dinner... and within 15 minutes, my skin was itching and burning up like crazy. So we power-walked back home. True enough, my skin was red and hot to the touch.

And then it hit me: high winds = high pollen. We've had crazy blustery winds the past couple of days.

I remember getting this uncontrollable, almost unbearable itchy sensation around this time of year. Not so much during early spring, but more like mid-April to May, and sometimes through the summer as well.

I took a long, warm shower with my Dr. Bronner's soap (unscented, instead of my usual lavender, just to be sure) to wash off whatever was on my skin. Then, while my skin was still damp, I put this all over my skin:

image via The Kitchn

It was the only thing that gave me relief. And relief came within about 10 minutes.

Before you think I'm crazy, believe me when I say this stuff WORKS. Last fall, my parents came to visit and my dad experienced a similar skin allergy to some unknown allergen. Virgin coconut oil was the only thing that worked as well. And no worries - it doesn't give you an overpowering coconut smell like the fake coconut scent in suntan lotions. It actually absorbs very quickly into the skin as well, much like extra virgin olive oil (which I also use on my skin). Coconut oil is also anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-fungal.

Oh, and I am happy to note that Trader Joe's organic virgin coconut oil is sourced from the Philippines - YEAH! Before TJ's started carrying this in their stores, I used to get the Nutiva brand (from Amazon) - which I was loyal to for YEARS because it was also sourced from the Philippines. It comes packaged in a glass jar, instead of plastic. And, TJ's coconut oil is also hexane-free.

This is probably the most versatile ingredient I have in my pantry, for both food and non-food uses:

  • Virgin coconut oil can be used for sauteeing and high-heat cooking, because it is stable at high temperatures (unlike most other vegetable oils like canola). Coconut oil used to get a bad reputation for being a "saturated fat", but more recent research found that the saturated fat in coconut oil is different. Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that are broken down by the body into energy, rather than stored as fat. I use coconut oil for Asian recipes as well as for basic frying, like for fried eggs. It does not have a strong aftertaste in food cooked with it, but I do choose what to cook with it - I don't use it for everything. (I still use olive oil for Italian cooking, ghee for Indian cooking) 
  • I also use virgin coconut oil for some desserts like homemade fudge - it's great for the recipe because it's solid at room temperature, but it adds a great texture to the fudge. Although I do love a good butter pound cake and butter shortbread, coconut oil is great in other baked goods as well (such as muffins).

  • I use this coconut oil once a week as a deep conditioning treatment for my hair. It's such a relief especially during the long, dry winters here in Cleveland - though I do use it throuhgout the year. I massage my scalp with it, put my hair up in a bun and then let it sit for half an hour or longer. Then I wash it off in the shower. I have fond memories of sitting in our garden with my mom in the hot tropical sun, with fresh coconut oil on our hair (from our own coconut trees!). I don't like to do self-promotion here, but I do get compliments from stylists when I go for my haircut - they always comment on how healthy my hair is!
  • Relief for itchy skin! As I'm typing this, I have no itchy sensation whatsoever - compared to the almost unbearable, prickly itch I had an hour ago. 
  • Low-dose sunscreen with natural antioxidants
Read more about the health benefits of virgin (meaning not bleached, refined, deodorized) coconut oil here.

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