What does your tongue say about your health? Prepare to be seriously surprised

Recently, my mother has been going to a Chinese acupuncturist and the first thing he does is make her stick out her tongue. Even though the problem is a slipped disc in her back, the treatment always begins with a visual examination of the tongue.

And that’s a trend I am increasingly seeing with most doctors, whether traditional or given to more modern medicinal practises. The reason? Your tongue gives out more clues about your health than one might ever imagine.

For example, a white coating on the tongue could tell the doctor to address your digestion, while one with a purple tinge could point towards circulation problems. Reading the tongue has always been a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, much like face mapping, and it’s now getting a standing ovation by modern science as well.

What’s the perfect tongue, then? One that’s uniformly pink, moist, plump and has a very thin white coating. It shouldn’t quiver when you stick it out and there should be no cracks, grooves or indentations.

Is that you? Congratulations, you seem in good health.

If not, stick out your tongue, look in the mirror and learn to read what your body is trying to tell you**.

Super smooth tongue

If you think having a smooth, moist tongue puts you in the clear, think again. According to Chinese medicine, an overtly smooth tongue could signify water retention, mucus buildup or reduced immunity.

Thick white coating on the tongue

According to Traditional Chinese medicine, a thick white coating indicates ‘stagnation’ or a ‘cold’ zheng. This leads to sluggish digestion, mucus buildup, candida, tendency towards back problems, lack of beneficial bacteria or excess fat in your diet.

Pale tongue

This could indicate poor circulation, mucus and fat accumulation or anaemia. You may feel low on energy and exhausted.

Red bumps on the tongue

Expect digestion problems, insomnia and symptoms of a stressful lifestyle.

Shades of red and yellow on the tongue

According to traditional Chinese medical practitioners, these are signs of a “hot” zheng, which may be manifested as an infection or inflammation in the body, especially the liver, gall bladder or intestines. It may also indicate high blood pressure, anaemia or another blood problem, and may be a sign that you need to cut down on excessive dairy products, eggs, meat, sugar, alcohol and spices.

Purple tongue

If your tongue is tinged purple, check for sluggish blood flow, high cholesterol and other circulation problems. It may also be a warning to cut down on sugar, alcohol and an intolerance to certain medications.

Green tongue

This may be the sign of a progressive infection in the body.

White or red spot on the tip of the tongue

While a white bump on the tip of your tongue may point to kidney problems, a red one could be the sign of emotional stress or allergies.

Cracked tongue

A cracked tongue could be a sign of dehydration or nutritional deficiencies (particularly vitamin B and C). A crack that runs down the centre of the tongue may speak of a bad stomach or indigestion.

Tooth indentations on the tongue

If your teeth leave indentations on the tongue, it could be because of low immunity, exhaustion, fluid retention, nutritional deficiency, digestive problems or the spleen.

Sore tongue

Check your nutritional levels as this may indicate a deficiency, particularly B6, B12 and iron. If you are getting a burning sensation on your tongue, it may be because of an upset stomach.

Wobbly tongue

A tongue that doesn’t stay still could be a sign of chronic exhaustion.

** Do remember that, as with all medical issues, you should see your doctor for a proper prognosis. This is just a general guide to head you off in the right investigative direction – just because you have a white bump on your tongue doesn’t always mean you have a bad liver!

Pssst… your scalp needs exfoliation as well!

We scrub our bodies smooth with sugar and salt, take rotating brushes to our faces and buff our feet to silky softness… but what about the skin on top of our head? Yes, the scalp is skin. And while you give it a seeing-to every time you shampoo, it needs a little extra love.

scalp-exfoliation1Why you need to exfoliate your scalp

Like all other skin on our body, the scalp also needs to breathe. It needs oxygen, moisture and nutrients. And since our hair is rooted in the scalp, it is kind of important!

Exfoliating provides all the same benefits for your hair and scalp as it does for your face: it helps remove product build up from hair spray, gels and pomades that can clog hair follicles and weigh down the strands. It also removes dead cells and treats scalp acne (gross but it exists!). Plus, the extra stimulation helps boost circulation, which increases hair growth.

And if you have dandruff, a scalp scrub can help eliminate flakes. Neglecting your scalp, on the other hand, can result in hair damage and premature hair loss.

How to exfoliate your scalp

You can try at-home scalp exfoliants, such as Kiehl’s Deep Micro-Exfoliating Scalp Treatment and L’oreal Serie Expert Soft Peel Lipidine Cleansing Exfoliating Scalp Treatment.

Or mix up your own: blend 3 tablespoons of sugar with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and few drops of an essential oil like tea tree, jasmine or lavender. Wet your scalp and then massage it in gentle, circular movements with this mixture for a couple of minutes. Shampoo and condition your hair normally.

If you don’t shampoo frequently, use a lot of hair styling products or have oily hair, exfoliate every other week. Otherwise, you just need to do it once a month to maintain a healthy scalp and glossy strands.

Have you ever tried a scalp exfoliation? Would you prefer an off-the-shelf treatment or a make-your-own brew?

The (many) beauty benefits of lavender: Ultra-easy DIY recipes included!

To me, nothing says summer more than lavender. Just its fragrance is enough to evoke the memories of balmy countryside days, soft purple bushes shimmering against a blue sky, emerald green grass glowing with refreshing dew drops, rolling fields stretching towards the mountains… all of childhood rolled into one pretty package.

But lavender is much more than just a pretty flower. It is also one of the most powerful remedies in the plant world, offering relief for problems as varied as sunburns, acne and dandruff, because of which the ancient Egyptians and Romans treasured the oil extracted from its leaves and flowers.

This amazing spectrum of healing powers is due to lavender’s complex chemical makeup, which is chockfull of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness. Even a mere whiff of its fragrance has potent aromatherapy benefits. And this is no subtle, old lady fragrance – it’s a heady scent that rivals bottled perfume.

Through various trips to Grasse and Kashmir, I have reaped the recipes of some gorgeous face masks, scrubs and body butters that help you harness all the beauty and wellness of lavender in its purest form.

Rejuvenating lavender toner

How to: Take a handful of fresh lavender and 100 ml water. Boil the water and then pour in the lavender buds, making sure they are completely submerged. Cover the bowl and leave the brew to steep for a few hours. Then drain the mixture, pour the water into a clean glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. After washing your face in the morning, spray a little bit of the lavender water on a cotton pad and gently wipe your face to instantly refresh the skin.

The science: Lavender boosts circulation, thereby increasing blood flow and ensuring that the skin cells receive adequate nutrition and oxygen. This keeps the cells healthy and boosts their turnover.

Anti-acne lavender remedy

How to: Dab lavender oil onto acne blemishes or skin infections with a cotton swab.

The science: Essential lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. These properties allow it to both attack the bacteria causing acne infections and reduce the swelling and redness.

Lavender sunburn soother

How to: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a bowl of cool water. Make a compress and apply it to the sunburn.

The science: Lavender oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling and redness.

Lavender burn cure

How to: Pour a few drops of lavender oil onto cotton and apply to burns for healing sans scars.

The science: Lavender oil’s burn-healing superpowers are responsible for the birth of modern aromatherapy. In 1928 a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand. He accidentally applied lavender oil to it and noticed the burn healed much faster than expected. David then discovered that lavender stimulates new skin cell formation. This reduces scarring and helps burns heal quicker. It also works as a pain reliever, while the antiseptic action helps reduce infection.

Lavender detox sugar scrub

How to: Whisk together ¼ cup each of white and brown sugar, then stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender, gently crushing the buds between your fingers. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil and then add 1 tablespoon honey, mixing until everything is evenly combined and you have a thick paste. Transfer the scrub to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.

The science: Lavender contains powerful antioxidants, which counter the effects of environmental pollution on the skin. Plus, it also helps dispel stress and nerves, both of which make skin appear coarse and lifeless.

Purifying lavender face mask

How to: Add 3-5 drops of pure lavender oil to 1 tablespoon of organic yogurt and apply to your face (avoiding eye area) for 10-15 minutes; rinse with warm water.

The science: Lavender keeps acne-causing bacteria in check, while increasing cellular rejuvenation. This means you will have fewer acne breakouts and infections if you follow this recipe once a week.

Lavender wrinkle buster

How to: Beat an egg white and add 3 drops of lavender oil. Apply to your face for 20 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

The science: Lavender eases tension, stress and inflammation – all of which are the major contributors to skin aging. Plus, it boosts the circulatory system, thereby increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. In fact, one study found that women who have undergone Botox injections recover better after applications with diluted lavender oil.

Lavender mineral bath salts

How to: Mix 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup Epsom salts, 1⁄2 cup baking soda, 1⁄4 cup dried lavender flowers and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; stir well. Spoon into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Add 1 cup to your bath as you fill the tub; soak for 15-20 minutes.

The science: Mineral baths and bath salts are perfect for relaxing sore muscles and rejuvenating the body. Lavender, in the meantime, is astringent and cleanses the skin.

Lavender body scrub

How to: Place 1 cup dried lavender flowers, 2 cups whole oatmeal and ½ cup baking soda in a food processor or blender. Grind until you have a smooth, fine powder with the consistency of whole grain flour. Store in a dry, clean container. To use, pour 1/2 cup in your bath as you fill the tub.

The science: Lavender is a relaxant, while oatmeal and baking soda are soothing to dry, sensitive skin.

Lavender body butter

How to: Combine 1⁄4 cup cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon flax seed oil, 2 tablespoons grated beeswax and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil; gently heat until melted (in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat). Stir well and add the lavender essential oil, pour into a clean container and allow to cool completely. To use, massage into your skin, especially rough spots such as elbows, heels and knees.

The science: This rich body butter works as a potent salve to heal dry areas, soothe the skin and make it glow-y.

Lavender hair mask

How to: Crush ½ cup lavender florets; add ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir well. Then stir in 1 cup applesauce and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Apply a thick layer of this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo. Wrap your head with plastic film and cover with a towel. Relax for 8-10 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo as usual.

The science: Lavender has a gentle clarifying action on the scalp, while also helping to normalize sebum (oil) production and restoring a healthy bounce to hair.

Lavender dandruff destroyer

How to: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out.

The science: Lavender oil rejuvenates the follicles, thereby encouraging hair growth. It also kills lice and dandruff; regular use can improve your hair texture.

Lavender relaxing remedy

How to: Put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand – or use a diffuser with lavender oil.

The science: Breathing in the smell of lavender lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.

Lavender sleep spray

How to: Combine ½ cup distilled water, 1 teaspoon witch hazel and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; pour into a clean spray bottle. Spritz onto clean skin or fresh linens before going to sleep. Lavender tea can also be helpful.

The science: The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation. Besides this, it also shortens the length of time taken to fall asleep and helps ease you into deep, REM sleep faster.

Lavender bloat buster

How to: Sprinkle dried culinary-grade lavender on Greek yogurt.

The science: Bloating and poor digestion are usually the consequence of “bad” bacteria. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in lavender help reduce these bad bacteria, while increasing digestive capability and allowing food to pass through easily.

Ever used lavender in a beauty remedy? What’s YOUR secret lavender recipe?

Why sex is good for your skin. And hair. AND it’s all backed by science!

Last week, when I was ranting to my dermatologist about a sudden outcrop of acne and dull-as-dishwater complexion, she said all I needed was more sex. Um? Uh? What? Because… WHAT?

Strangely enough, it seems she isn’t the only skin expert who believes that more sex might be the answer to everything from acne to wrinkles. The more I research this subject, the more fascinating it gets… and there is loads of science to prove the connection as well. Dr. Yvonne Fulbright, author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Love Making, recounts a study where 3,500 men and women were put on one side of a two-way mirror and participants on the other side had to guess their age. The group with an active sex life had their age underestimated by an average of 10 years, while consensus was that the group with infrequent sex actually looked older!

So, forget those expensive moisturisers and serums: maybe a tumble in the sheets is all that your skin needs. And if you need any more convincing, we’ve asked a few experts to explain exactly how having more sex is good for our skin.

sex-is-good-for-skinIt makes you glow

Beauty companies have long been trying to bottle the ridiculously glow-y aftereffects of sex (NARS Orgasm, anyone?) so it stands to reason that skin experts should follow suit. The contributing cause, they have figured, is that a roll in the sheets improves blood circulation, which helps pump oxygen to your skin and make it brighter. As a friend summarised: “It’s happy skin!”

It releases anti-inflammatory molecules

You know all about internal inflammation, right? The kind that gives you acne, wrinkles and a host of other skin and health related problems? Having sex literally bathes your bloodstream in anti-inflammatory molecules such as oxytocin and beta endorphins. Plus, it releases a key hormone called DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) that can boost the immune system, give you healthier skin and even decrease depression.

It prevents dry skin

Having regular sex increases estrogen levels and also improves blood circulation. Both these give our body the moisture it needs to stay healthy, while simultaneously improving skin elasticity. Translation: no more dry skin.

It clears acne breakouts

Yes, a good and vigorous session in bed (or on the kitchen platform, for that matter) doesn’t just help you build up a sweat, it also balances your hormone levels. Result: clearer skin. Goodbye, miracle creams and acne meds!

It prevents wrinkles as well!

Sex does 3 things that prevent premature ageing. First, it boosts natural collagen production, which staves off age spots and sagging. Secondly, it releases the human growth hormone, which helps keep the skin elastic. Thirdly, it increases the levels of DHEA (we spoke about this just a minute back), which gives skin a more youthful appearance. Logical deduction? More wrinkles in bed equals fewer wrinkles on the face.

sex-beauty-benefitsIt cleanses your pores

A sexy, sweaty session is something like a deep cleansing facial. The sweat de-grimes your pores of accumulated dirt, pollutants and makeup residue. Yes, you can get the same effect on a treadmill but that’s not half as fun, is it?

It makes you thinner

It’s cold and dreary outside, so you’d rather snuggle down under your cozy quilt and not trudge to the gym? Don’t forget that sex counts as exercise too! Sex burns 200-300 calories in an hour, says my personal trainer.

Yoga will torch approximately 230 calories in that time, dancing will do 260 and walking 310. Do the maths.

And it’s not just the cardio quotient: Nookie releases testosterone, which goes a long way in building and maintaining bone and lean muscle tissue. Thin and toned? Bring it on!

It makes your nails stronger

The same glow-y hormones that are released post-lovemaking also keep your nails strong. Double bonus, at least where I am concerned!

It gives you great hair

Hormones not only control our libido but also the condition of our hair. Research shows that regular sex leads to healthy, luscious hair due to the body’s increased ability to metabolize nutrients efficiently.

Will you ditch your anti-aging creams and serums for more sex?

Photos: Rush and Mad Men