What You
Need To Know

With so many health-oriented products on the market, choosing the best ones can be confusing. Here's a quick brush-up that you may find helpful even if you regularly buy natural products.

Ayurveda Oils

What is Ayurveda?

The oldest documented body of holistic medical knowledge, Ayurveda is a system of plant oils and herbs originating in India more than 6,000 years ago. Ayurvedic treatments are meant to satisfy every aspect of a person's well-being -- physical, mental and spiritual. Today, in the search for more complete healing and harmonious well-being, the holistic wisdom of Ayurveda is gaining international popularity as an alternative and a complement to modern medicine.

Recommended: Kama Ayurveda

Kama Ayurveda is an organic Ayurvedic product line that uses 100 percent natural ingredients prepared from organically grown plants and herbs collected by India's tribal communities from natural habitats. This means no artificial colors, artificial fragrances, animal ingredients, petrochemicals, parabens, urea, propylene glycol or sulphates.

Kama's partner is an original Ayurvedic institution, the respected Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (AVP), which has Ayurvedic hospitals and clinics all over India. AVP laboratories ensure strict quality control while following and expanding ancient Ayurvedic texts.

I'm partial to their wonderful soaps, especially the Kama Nirmal Retexturizing Soap, which contains a combination of herbal oils and extracts recommended in Ayurveda to improve skin tone and texture, and to soothe skin irritation. Cardamom, the main herbal ingredient, is known as an effective skin conditioner. A set of 3 Kama soaps comes beautifully packaged and is a perfect holiday or hostess gift. Available at www.Alcanz.com.

What does naturopathic mean?

Naturopathic practice places an emphasis on holistic approaches and includes a broad array of different modalities including hydrotherapy, herbalism, acupuncture, aromatherapy, whole foods and so on. Sebastian Kneipp, a Bavarian priest, was one of the founders of the naturopathic medicine movement. He dedicated his life to harnessing the healing power of water by using specific plants and herbs to achieve optimum health, both physically and mentally back in 1891.

Recommended: Kneipp

Kneipp offers its 100 percent natural, color- and preservative-free, dermatology- tested Evening Primrose Collection to calm dry and irritated skin with evening primrose. The oils prevent dehydration and leave the skin feeling comfortable and supple. The Evening Primrose Collection includes Moisture Bath, Body Oil, Body Lotion and Body Wash and is available at www.kneippus.com and Nordstrom department stores.

What is neem? And why should you care?

The neem tree is referenced in ancient Hindu writing as Sarva Roga Nivarini, "the curer of all ailments." Literally every part of the tree has a use.

Recommended: TheraNeem

Autumn Blum, a cosmetic chemist who fell in love with the properties of the neem tree, formulated a line of products made with certified organic neem leaf and certified organic neem oil. Instead of using brokers, she buys all neem raw materials directly from the farm suppliers in India and Mexico.

Autumn's TheraNeem Soaps contain a minimum of 90 percent organic oils and are the purest and most concentrated neem soaps available. These organic soaps are made with only organic neem oil, as well as organic olive, coconut, palm and jojoba oils and wild African shea butter. To maintain organic integrity, water is not included in the organic percentages.

TheraNeem Oatmeal, Lavender & Neem Oil Soap is one of my all-time favorite soaps! To find the nearest store or an online retailer of TheraNeem products, go to www.organixsouth.com.

Recommended: Auromere's Tulsi-Neem

For a rich and creamy soap experience, try Auromere's handmade Tulsi-Neem soap, which combines 18 ancient Ayurvedic herbal extracts and oils. Neem, a natural emollient and antiseptic, soothes the skin, while tulsi, known as the holy basil of India, purifies and protects the skin from environmental damage. One of the first importers of Ayurvedic products from India to the United States, Auromere products are available at fine health food stores, spas, pharmacies and at www.auromere.com. For more information, call 800-735-4691.

Recommended: TheraNeem Pet Shampoo

When the New York Post scooped the big news in pet wellness about the miracle animal relief and recovery stories associated with TheraNeem Pet Shampoo, it was already centuries old. Turns out neem oil is an effective modern cure for itchy pets.

This pet shampoo is a safe and natural solution for irritated skin without the side effects of many prescription pet shampoos. It's safe for all animals, including puppies and kittens. To find the nearest store or an online retailer of TheraNeem Pet Shampoo, go to www.organixsouth.com.

the natural outlook on cleaning

Once you begin to be conscious about the chemicals you're ingesting through your skin and washing down the drain when you shower, then you'll inevitably consider how you you clean your house. After all, the same skin that you baby in the bathroom touches the glassware, counters and furniture.

Recommended: Method

Being a clean freak and nuts about design, I flipped when I found Method, a natural home cleaning line that gets things super clean.

Method's formulas contain only biodegradable ingredients derived from natural materials such as soy, coconut and palm oils. They use clean scents including cucumber, lavender, grapefruit, green tea and magnolia. Method's packaging is made from recyclable materials, and none of their products or raw material suppliers use animal testing.

For me, the best part is Method's high-design packaging by Karim Rashid. More than 70 of Karim's objects are in the permanent collections of museums around the world. If you'd like to add one of his objects to your permanent collection, I recommend the dish soap. Or maybe the hand soap. The lotion is also nice. I'm also a big fan of their vanilla + apple soy wax candle. Smells heavenly! To order or see more products, go to www.methodhome.com.

Buyer beware

Keep in mind, under current law, manufacturers don't have to back up their claims -- often rendering terms such as organic, natural and hypoallergenic meaningless. This is why I'm such a proponent of manufacturers who make the effort to source the highest quality raw goods and disclose all of their contents. Always read the fine print and check the ingredients. If you're unsure, go to www.ewg.org to find out the safety ratings for your favorite products. You may be surprised.

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