Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Truth About Sunscreen

     Summer is time for fun in the sun! Being a native Floridian, this means beaches, surfing, snorkeling, springs, kayaking, and more. Also, being a naturally pale girl who likes to live on the spooky side of fashion, I tend to burn in less than 10 minutes of direct sunlight. Eek! In the past, I have been known to wear copious amounts of SPF 50+. However, in recent years, I've tried to dial back my dependence on chemicals based products. Making my own skin care products, shampoos, household cleaners, etc. This has translated to my SPF usage as well. And bonus! It's better for our environment. 

     So I started to watch my personal chemical consumption before I ever read a thing about the impact of SPF chemicals on coral and other, fragile, ecosystems. But the more I read, the more resolved I am to stick to all natural methods. Not only are there quite a few common chemicals found in sunscreen that are easily absorbed into the human body, that can potentially cause problems. But there are also a number of these chemicals that cause some serious damage to coral, fish, and other marine life. Quite often, they are the same chemicals. A number of these harmful chemicals have had minimal testing done because the FDA grandfathered them in without testing in the 1970's, because they had already been in use. Of these, Oxybenzone is one of the most concerning as it has been shown to cause problems in the endocrine system,not only in humans, but also in coral, sea urchins, fish, and several marine mammals.

     So how do you know if a sunscreen is safe? Even mineral sunscreens can contain harmful substances, and the term “reef friendly” is not regulated, so the best thing to do is to read the label. Avoid products that include the following ingredients:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Avobenzone
  • octisalate
  • homosalate
  • ethylhexyl salicylate
  • Octinoxate
  • Octocrylene
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor
  • PABA
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • Any nanoparticles or “nano-sized” zinc or titanium (if the label doesn't say “micro-sized” or “non-nano” and it can rub in, it’s probably nano-sized)
  • Any form of microplastic, such as “exfoliating beads”

     It's also a good idea to stick to lotions, especially avoid sprays as some of the natural ingredients can still be harmful if inhaled. Of course, one of the better options is to make your own sunscreen so you know exactly what goes in it. Wellness Mama has a great recipe here, check it out!

     There are other measures you can take to help keep your skin from getting burnt. Wearing protective clothing and hats can do a world of good for helping to keep you safe from the harsh sun. Stay in the shade during the brightest/hottest part of the day, or avoiding being outside at that time is another strategy. But my favorite strategy is to optimize your diet. Avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as processed vegetable oils, processed grains, and excessive amounts of sugar. Focus on consuming foods that support healthy skin, such as:

  • Foods High in Vitamin D3 (mushrooms, fish, egg yolks)
  • Foods High in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, chili peppers)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Omega-3's (healthy seeds and nuts, brussels sprouts, fish)

     I hope I have raised your awareness about sunscreen, and given you a few strategies to help you during this summer. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. If you have anything you'd like to see me write about, please let me know! Also, find my YouTube channel and check out my videos. And Become a Patron!


Reef Safe Sunscreen, Our Guide to Ocean-Friendly Sun Protection: Oceanic Society: https://www.oceanicsociety.org/blog/2140/reef-safe-sunscreen-our-guide-to-ocean-friendly-sun-protection?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYBCAAEgLKnPD_BwE

Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs: National Ocean Service: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/sunscreen-corals.html

Sunscreen Safety: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/55366/sunscreen-is-harmful/

Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreen & Safer Alternatives: Made Safe: https://www.madesafe.org/toxic-chemicals-in-sunscreen-safer-alternatives/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAiAAEgJ6h_D_BwE

Why Mineral Sunscreen is Safer for Us and the Planet: Wellnessmama: https://wellnessmama.com/402998/mineral-sunscreen/

Your Guide to Reef Friendly Sunscreen: Surfrider Foundation: https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/your-guide-to-reef-friendly-sunscreens?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI2IqgnoHJ4wIVC9bACh2jqwRYEAAYAyAAEgKF9PD_BwE 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Summertime Marinated Salads

     Summertime is here, there is no denying that! With record-breaking temperatures, it's become a struggle to stay cool. So I figured I'd share a few of my favorite summertime lunch/snack ideas with you. Marinated salads! They're delicious, easy, and served cold to help you keep cool.

Calling All Cukes! 

This marinated salad has been a favorite of mine for my whole life. Mom would always keep some in the fridge as I was growing up. And as an adult I can't help but love it still. There are a number of variations you can make on this, try adding some bell peppers, cauliflower, or radishes. If you don't want to make your own dressing, try using your favorite store bought Italian or Vinaigrette. Or try switching up the herbs in the home made dressing, instead of parsley and basil try dill. Have fun!

Marinated Cucumber Salad

2 medium Cucumbers, sliced
1 pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, halved
1 Avocado, chopped
½ medium Red Onion, diced or sliced

For the Dressing:
¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 tbsp Lemon Juice (about 1 lemon)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh Basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Add in remaining ingredients and toss. Store in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more for best results. (I usually do this in a mason jar that I keep in the refrigerator)

Fava Forever!

     I love fava beans. They're just wonderful, even if they are a pain to process when they're fresh. For that reason, this recipe calls for canned fava beans. But it works just as well with Chickpeas or Kidney beans if you prefer them.

Marinated Fava Bean Salad

1 15-oz can Fava Beans, drained and rinsed
½ Green Bell Pepper, diced
½ Red Bell Pepper, diced
½ medium sized Cucumber, diced
¼ medium sized Red Onion, diced
2 Green onions, diced
½ tbsp Capers
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
5-6 Mint Leaves, chopped
5-6 Basil Leaves, chopped

For the Dressing:
1 clove Garlic, minced
¼ tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
½ tbsp Sugar
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in other ingredients and toss. Allow to chill for at least 1 hour for best results.

Just Beet It

     Beets are an under-appreciated vegetable. They're also more than just red. My favorite beets are the golden beets. Largely because they don't bleed all over everything and stain my hands, but also because they have such a mildly sweet taste. Try this recipe with any kind of beet you want. Chiogga beets make for a great visual presentation. Classic red beets are great for a classic beet salad. You can even use a combination of beets to make things a little extra special! This salad is also great with a little Feta, Goat Cheese, or Bleu Cheese on top!

Marinated Beet Salad

5 medium Beets, trimmed and halved (save the greens for another dish!)
2 small Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
½ a medium Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ cup roasted Walnuts
2 tsp fresh Dill, chopped
1 tsp fresh Parsley, chopped

For the Dressing:
The juice of 2 Oranges
1 ½ tsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 ½ tsp Olive Oil, or Walnut Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Steam the beets for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Grab them with a paper towel and peel off the skins while they are still warm (or wait until they cool and use a peeler). Thinly slice them. While they are steaming, combine the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Allow to chill for 1 hour or more for best results.

It's Greek To Me

Greek salads are a staple in most American restaurants today. But my favorite version of this salad leaves out the lettuce and brings on the marinade!

Marinated Greek Salad

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 medium Cucumbers, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 small Red Onion, diced
½ cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and halved
2 Pepperoncini Peppers, sliced into rings

Marinated Feta or Tofu:
5-6 oz Feta or Tofu, cubed
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
½ cup Olive Oil
1 sprig each of fresh Rosemary, Thyme, and Oregano
1 clove Garlic, smashed
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Dressing:
¼ cup Olive Oil (drained from the Marinated Feta/Tofu)
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Marinate the Feta/Tofu 24 hours or more (up to 14 days) in advance. Combine all the ingredients in a sealed container and hold in the refrigerator until ready to use. In a mixing bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk well. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl, including the marinated Feta/Tofu. Toss well to combine and chill for 1 hour or more before serving.

Expect the Unexpected

     You can truly use any vegetable in a marinated salad. This next recipe proves it! Who would ever think that asparagus would make for such a good salad ingredient? This salad is also super awesome when you add fresh mozzarella cheese to it. Almost like an asparagus twist on a traditional Caprese salad.

Marinated Asparagus and Tomato Salad

2 lbs Asparagus Spears, tough ends trimmed off then chopped into 2 inch segments
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
5-7 fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
*optional 8-16 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese

For the Dressing:
6 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Honey
1 clove Garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus until tender, then rinse off under cold water to cool. In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill for 1 hour or more before serving.

Something Sweet

     You don't have to stick to cold vegetables in the summer, fruit works well too! If you want to get wild and crazy, you can add in some mint or basil leaves. Or for those adult BBQs, instead of the Orange Blossom Water, try using white rum or vodka!

Marinated Fruit Salad

2 cups Watermelon, cubed
2 cups Cantaloupe, cubed
2 cups Strawberries, halved
1 cup Grapes, halved
1 cup Blueberries

For the Dressing:
½ cup Honey
¼ cup Lemon Juice
¼ cup Pineapple Juice
1/8 tsp Salt

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine. Add in remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

     In any of these recipes, feel free to change the ingredients around.  Play with different fruit, veggies, and herbs.  Switch up the vinegars and oils. Throw in some of those wild edibles you've been dying to try. Maybe even toss in some chicken or shrimp! Have fun, play around, and let me know what you think below!

Friday, July 5, 2019


     There are a handful of plants that I grew up eating or using medicinally. Often these plants are plants I would not use for other purposes. So I'm always pleasantly surprised when I come across information on how to do so.

     Peppergrass, Lipidium virginicum, is one plant that I used to nibble on when I was playing in my yard as a child. It had a peppery flavor that I loved (though for some reason I hated black pepper and chili peppers) and it grew like crazy where I lived. So imagine my surprise when I, as an adult, am taking a class and the teacher mentions that it can be used medicinally. I had to find out more! So I decided to pass it on to all of you!

     There are many Lipidiums found all over the world. However, the species that's native to North America, and the one that I'm most familiar with, is the Lipidium virginicum. Most introduced species that you hear about tend to have traveled over with the settlers into America at some point. However, Lipidium virginicum did just the opposite. It's now found throughout Europe all thanks to the early traders tracking the seeds onto their boats from America. This particular Peppergrass has a history of use that goes all the way back to the ancient Inca and Maya tribes. Where it was widely used to reduce rheumatic pain, expel intestinal worms, and treat upper respiratory conditions. Today it's still used for some of these problems, but it's also used for a few more. However, I still like it as a trail side snack myself.

     Here in Central Florida, Peppergrass can be found all year. But in other climates it's mainly found in the winter. It can be tricky to identify here because of it's growing pattern. It looks like a completely different plant depending on the stage of growth it's in. It starts off as a basal rosette, and eventually grows tall and develops a racme full of little flowers and tiny seed pods. In Florida, these stages can occur in the same month and can often be found side by side. Luckily, however, there are no dangerous look a likes here, at least that I am aware of.

Medicinal Uses:

Scientific Name- Lipidium spp. Some of the more common species include L. apetalum, L. armoracia, L. campestre, L. iberis, L. ruderale, L. sativum, and L. virginicum.

Common Names- Peppergrass, Pepperwort, Peppercress, Canary Grass, Poor Man's Pepper, Garder Cress, Virginia Pepperweed, Pepperweed, Wild Pepper Grass, Menzies' Pepperweed, and Hairy Pepperweed.

Edible Parts- The entire plant is edible and medicinal. The root can be ground and used as a wasabi or horseradish substitute. The leaves are commonly eaten raw or cooked as a potherb. The seeds have a peppery taste that makes for a great spice. You can even put the whole plant into a food processor and make a great, peppery, sauce with it.

Summary of actions- Anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, antiasthmatic, antiscorbutic, antitussive, cardiotonic, detoxifying, and diuretic

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)- Peppergrass seeds are acrid, bitter, and extremely cold. It most strongly effects the meridians of lung and bladder. Peppergrass is often used to purge the lung’s pathogenic fire to relieve asthma and induce diuresis to alleviate edema. Symptoms that may indicate a positive reaction to the use of Peppergrass include retention of phlegm-dampness in the lungs, a feeling of fullness and discomfort in chest, inability to lay flat, difficult urination, and heart disease associated with pulmonary edema. 

Ayurveda- Peppergrass is heavy and sticky, pungent and bitter, and has a hot potency. It increases Pitta while balancing Vata and Kapha. Peppergrass is commonly used to improve lactation, as an aphrodesiac, a diuretic, and to rejuvenate. It also induces mobility in the digestive tract, making it useful to relieve constipation. It's primarily indicated for use in urinary tract disorders, diabetes, asthma, cough, colds, acute bronchitis, chronic respiratory conditions, and to fight off fatigue and/or weakness. It does increase Pitta dosha, so people with a Pitta body type should use caution.

High Amounts of Vitamin C- Peppergrass is a traditional treatment for scurvy and other conditions that result from low amounts of Vitamin C.

Asthma and Upper Respiratory Conditions- One of the main problems that people with upper respiratory conditions tend to have in common is an excess of mucus. Peppergrass helps to clear up and expel mucus.

Improves Immunity- We are all aware that Vitamin C can help improve immunity. Peppergrass is known for it's high amounts of Vitamin C. But it also has a moving effect on the body. Helping to energize the immune system and move your white blood cells to where they are needed most.

Urinary Tract Issues- Peppergrass is a great diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess water. It's also great at detoxifying. This makes it a wonderful herb to call on in cases of urinary tract infections (UTI).

Circulatory System- Peppergrass' diuretic effects can help reduce blood pressure as well. Helping to flush out excessive water and toxins from the body. It's also a great anti-inflammatory herb, helping to reduce the buildup of inflammation that can cause circulatory issues down the road. It's also a cardio tonic, tonifying the heart and entire circulatory system.

Contraindications, Cautions, and Warnings- There have been some allergies observed. Symptoms of these allergies range from general itchiness to anaphylactic shock. If you have any reaction, go to the hospital ASAP! Peppergrass is also a hyperaccumulator of minerals. If the soil is contaminated with toxic metals, Peppergrass will suck them up.

     I only included a basic introduction to Peppergrass. I hope you have learned a new appreciation for such a common weed.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


Common Peppergrass: Illinois Wildflowers: http://illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_peppergrass.htm

Lepidium Virginicum: Plants for a Future: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lepidium+virginicum

Lepidium Virginicum Uses: Herbpathy: https://herbpathy.com/Uses-and-Benefits-of-Lepidium-Virginicum-Cid3781

Medicinal Abilities of Peppergrass: Health Digezt: https://www.healthdigezt.com/medicinal-abilities-peppergrass/

Peppergrass: Edible Wild Food: http://www.ediblewildfood.com/peppergrass.aspx

Peppergrass: Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/plant/peppergrass

Peppergrass: Foraging Texas: https://www.foragingtexas.com/2012/01/peppergrass.html

Peppergrass: Medicinal Plants of India: http://www.medicinalplantsindia.com/peppergrass.html

Peppergrass - Potent Pipsqueak: Eat The Weeds: http://www.eattheweeds.com/peppergrass-potent-pipsqueak/

Peppergrass Seeds (Ting Li Zi): Chinese Herbs Healing: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/peppergrass-seeds/

Peppergrass - Todari Uses, Dose, Side Effects, Research: Easy Ayurveda: https://easyayurveda.com/2015/03/28/peppergrass-todari-uses-dose-side-effects-research/

Pepperweed: My Mystic Mama: http://www.mymysticmama.com/pepperweed/

Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal Use of Lepidium sativum in Airways Disorders: Hindawi: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/596524/

Wild Peppergrass: Natural Medicinal Herbs: http://naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lepidium-virginicum=wild-pepper-grass.php


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...