Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Strengthening Teeth and Hair And A Story of A Place Called Vanamoolika

Remember I was complaining how my hair was falling like crazy some months ago?

My hair salon lady told me it could be the rice intake.

So I started eating more rice and also ate a host of other stuff (black sesame and white sesame seeds) and realized that my hair issue did improve.

Organic Herbal Shampoo Powder from Vanamoolika India

The back shows you the ingredients used in this powder shampoo. 

I also observed that my hair fall increased when the weather was hot and my scalp was sweaty and itchy. I usually wash my hair every two days but sometimes when my scalp became too itchy, I had to wash my hair daily. I realized it also helped prevent hair loss.

I deduced that when my scalp is itchy, the hair follicles may be "open" and this made my hair drop. While I feared daily hair washing could increase the number of hair dropping, the reverse was true.

When I washed my hair daily and my scalp was cool, hair fall became less and less. I was so relieved! You know that feeling....after a shower and shampoo, I'd look at the drain cover and see if there's a bunch of hair over it.

When there wasn't, I was super relieved!

Side Story...My Fascination With Soaps 

Whenever I go for a meal at Ananda Bhawans, I made sure I popped by the Indian sundry shop right across. I usually go to stock up on my soap and toothpaste supply. We've been using this brand called Dabur Herbal Toothpaste (they have variations in clove and neem) for a few years now and prefer this over Colgate.

I think we started using the Dabur clove toothpaste when Nic started to complain about his gums aching a few years back. I started researching and found that neem or clove toothpaste was good for teeth and gums.

That was how we started and till now, I find that it is still one of the best toothpaste around and much better than Colgate.

As for soaps, Nic and I have now gone back to using soaps. I've never been much of a body shampoo fan because I actually like the feel of soaping myself and the actual clean feeling after soaping and showering. I dislike that body shampoo feel - you know, as if you have a layer of something despite showering it all off!

We've been trying a few made in India soaps as well as made in Thailand soaps. But that's another post for another day. Possibly a soap review!

While cleaning out my junk today, I found some Ayurvedic hair products I bought some 6 years ago. I debated whether I should throw them out or not. I disliked wasting stuff so I thought heck, I'd keep them and use them.

Visiting Kerala's Organic Herb Farms 

In 2010, I went off to Pulpally, a town in Kerala, India with a client (now ex-client). He wanted to check out the organic farming of herbs and do some form of joint venturing with the local contact.

From the moment we touched down at the Mumbai airport to the time we left via the Chennai airport, I knew the local contact was an absolute con man.

All of us on the trip comprising us (as in Nic and me), his Malaysian employees and his European friends - all of us knew in the pit of our stomachs that the local contact was a fat-faced liar.

The local contact was promising the sky and the earth and everything else in between.

Eventually, the deal didn't close. But all of us were treated to a week of travelling in Kerala (God's own country, or so says the Kerala State slogan - Kerala is by the way a Communist region), eating vegetarian food, getting oil massages and visiting organic farmers.

It was in a place called Vanamoolika that we started our exploration. This place functioned like a cooperative for Indian farmers. The interesting thing was, the farmers or growers of the herbs and plants were mostly women.

They had a small building that was a factory churning out products made using Ayurvedic recipes and locally grown Indian herbs. Besides herbs for making Ayurvedic medicinal products, they also grew pepper, vanilla and cloves. And they sold them at Vanamoolika.

India is a good place to visit because it's affordable (OK, it's so inexpensive that it's quite laughable).

Organic herbal Kesa Kala Hair Oil from Vanamoolika

See? It says only 140 rupees! 

The hair oil product I bought wasn't expensive at all. At 140 rupees, it was about RM8. I even managed to buy a packet of vanilla pods for RM21. I should've bought more but hindsight is always 20-20. (Now you can see that Vanamoolika has raised its prices for its products. Maybe inflation? Or export pricing is always higher?)

So I found my hair oil product and the herbal powder shampoo today while decluttering. And I decided that I would keep and use them, instead of throwing them away. I doubt herbal hair products have expiry dates.

Herbs In The Ayurvedic Shampoo

The organic herbal shampoo powder lists its ingredients as:

Hibiscus rosasinesis - which is Hibiscus flower (our national flower, by the way). My best friend's mother-in-law uses crushed hibiscus flowers to wash her hair. I know for a fact that her mother-in-law has really dark and thick hair even though she is in her 60s.

Alpinia galanga - which is greater galangal. Galangal is a root that's often used in Southeast Asian cooking. Mixed with a base-oil, it is employed as an anti-arthritic and anti-rheumatic ointment, or otherwise as a topical hair and scalp oil said to promote hair growth by increasing blood flow towards the scalp (says this website).

Cardiospermum halicacabum - which is Balloon Vine. This is a plant with a heart-shape on its seed! It is reputed to be prevent hair from graying, is a hair growth enhancer and prevents dandruff. In Mexico, it's called Cat's Testicles. This plant is also used for regulating menstrual disorders.

Indigofera tinctoria - which is Black Henna or True Indigo which is also a plant. The leaves of the Indigo plant are used to make hair dye and medicated hair oil. Powdered or ground leaves is made into black hair dye. It makes hair more manageable and shiny.

Sida retusa - which is Wireweed...and yes, it's actually a weed! I couldn't find any info on why this weed is useful for the hair but it does cure headaches. Maybe it cools the head!

Cyclea Peltata - which is Raja Patha, another herb.

Saturday DIY Hair Spa

I also tried them on my hair today, just to give myself some pampering. I massaged the hair oil into m hair and scalp and left it on for a good 15 minutes. Next, I poured out the herbal powder shampoo and mixed it into a paste with some water. I slathered this onto my oiled hair and scalp. Left this on my head for a good 10 minutes before washing my hair.

(If you know me, I am always using some Indian hair oil or something. I love how Indians have shiny, thick hair and I believe their hair oils and hair treatments have something to do with it.)

Apparently I shouldn't use any shampoo after this treatment but I felt my hair was still a little oily so I used a little shampoo to cleanse my scalp.

Accordingly, the hair oil and herbal powder shampoo contains herbs that cool the scalp. When the scalp is cool, fewer hair issues happen. I also think if the head is hot, there's just too much "prana" and my remedy is to wash my hair or in extreme cases, have a hair cut!

I learnt about prana during my years doing yoga and I believe that too much heat in the head also causes hair loss. I always think of the brain as a hard disk - it spins all the time (or fires neurons or synapses or what have you - I am so not a brain scientist) and this creates heat. The heat has to go off somewhere but doing hair treatments like these perhaps helps remove and reduce the heat!

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