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Once again I find myself struggling with sleep at the moment, and once again I've been trying to find something - anything - that will help.
Not having an Avon rep, I've not really followed what products Avon have offered over the last few years, but on checking out a catalogue round a friends I spotted this and asked her if she'd order me a bottle. I think it cost me about £5ish, but I'll be honest I can't remember 100%.
To be fair this I did buy this a couple of months ago during my last sleep deprived state, and I sort of put it away when it arrived as I was already sleeping ok again by that point. With my recent attack of sleeplessness, however, I raided the cupboard and decided to give it a go.
What do I get?
The bottle is fairly small, and is clear with a pump action top and a plastic click on lid. The liquid inside is a sort of pale lilac colour and contains a variety of ingredients that are supposed to help you sleep when you smell them. When you spray this you don't seem to use much at a time, so I think despite this being quite small, it will probably last for a fairly long time, especially as for me, I don't tend to need it ALL the time - I'll probably use it for a week or two while I'm not sleeping well, then I'll be ok for a few weeks and then it'll come out again for another use.
How do I use it?
To use it, you just spray a couple of spritz's onto your pillow before you settle down to sleep, and then the smell is supposed to help you relax and sleep better. The smell is a sort of fresh quite pleasant smell, a bit floral and not too heady or anything. I actually did find it fairly relaxing - more so than perhaps I thought I would.
Does it work?
It's hard to quantify how well or not something like this works I think, I've used this for a few nights now, and although I still find myself lying awake a fair bit, and I do wake a fair few times during the night. I don't seem to toss and turn as much while I was asleep however, and I haven't tangled myself in knots in the duvet which often happens when I'm very restless.
I have to admit that after a couple of nights of trying this alone, I have resorted to using this AND using quiet life at the same time, but I don't think it'll be a problem as the two things work in different ways and so will hopefully compliment each other. I have to say that in combination they do seem to be helping more than just one or the other does alone.
Is it worth the money?
Hard to say - yes I think so, it certainly seems to be more relaxing than some of the things I've tried over the years. I wouldn't say it's a cure for not sleeping or anything, more of an aid to better sleep really I guess. But it's not all that expensive and like I've said I think it'll last quite a while for me. To be honest though, anything that even aids my sleep slightly is worth it for me, as the less well I sleep, the more other conditions I have flare up such as my fibromyalgia.
Overall, I'd give it maybe a 7 out of 10... its fairly cheap and long lasting, it doesn't work brilliantly, but it's not doing me any harm and seems to help a little.
Burts Bees Hand Salve
I like Burts bees products because of their natural nature. They do quite a wide range of beauty products including body lotions, lip balms and hand creams. This particular hand salve is one I decided to try recently as I happened to spot it when buying something else, and it sounded nice.
Burts Bees is a brand selling beauty products that are as natural as possible without compromising the product. This means that a good 50% plus of their products are 100% natural while the rest are maybe 99% natural. Now to my mind this is a great compromise as it means they're saying look, we know this works waaay better if we include this, and it's not natural, but there we go. On the other hand, this one works fine without anything extra added so we haven't added anything extra that's not natural
They also support the bees! Now how can a company which actively goes out of its way to support the bees be bad I ask you!
This hand salve comes in a small tin and is quite pricy at £10 for 85g. Having said that, it's not like a hand cream where you use a lot, so a tiny amount does go a long way and it does last quite well. Let me tell you a bit more...
Burts Bees Hand Salve is made from a variety of botanical herbs and oils, along with beeswax, and it's designed to moisturise dry rough hands. It's gentle enough that you can use it as much as you want, but is well designed so that I've personally found that you don't need to. Its base is made from a mix of sweet almond oil, olive oil, and beeswax, and then it has a great mixture of things like rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender, and sunflower seed oils in it so that it not only smells great, but is really good for your hands too.
When you open the little round tin, you've got a hard wax balm inside which you need to scrape a little of out with your finger - personally I do this with the back of my fingernail as it's quite a firm consistency. Pop it onto the palm of your hand and then start to rub your hands together. As you rub your hands together, the balm melts and begins to be absorbed into the skin.
Using this is a bit more like rubbing in a massage oil into your hands than rubbing in a lotion. It takes time to use. This isn't a quick fix between jobs sort of hand cream, it's one where you want to sit down and use it while you're watching your favourite soap on TV or something so you have the time to really rub it in well and give it a chance to get to work.
The smell that you get from this as you work it into your skin (I find it brilliant around my nails particularly by the way), is quite a herby one. This makes it very much more unisex than most hand lotions and creams are I think, and my husband is always happy to use a little of this after he's scrubbed his hands after doing a DIY job for example.
A Couple More Thoughts
I would say you can think of this more like a once or twice a week treatment for your hands the same way you might use a hot oil on your hair occasionally rather than every time you wash your hair for example. It's an intense treatment rather than the quick fix of your every day hand cream.
This isn't one of Burts Bees best products, but I think it's one I may well buy again. It's lovely and natural, leaves my hands feeling really soft and well cared for, and is a great way of giving yourself a bit of pampering at home.
Savlon Antiseptic Cream
I don't have a huge first aid box, but I do have a large medicine cabinet - this is mostly to accommodate all the pills that my husband and I both have to take for our various health conditions (I have fibromyalgia, and he's bipolar). I suppose partly because we have no option for these tablets, we do tend to avoid having a lot of other stuff in the house, but we do have a small first aid box - the usual bits and bobs, bandages, plasters, antiseptic liquid and antiseptic cream form the basis of it.
Savlon is a well known brand, and to be honest it is one of just a few I trust. I normally have Dettol or TCP liquid in the cupboard, but for cream, it tends to be either Savlon or Germolene. I'll be honest, I prefer Germolene to Savlon as a general rule - but for no reason other than it's what we always had in the cupboard as kids and I like the smell lol. Savlon however is what we have at the moment, and what I used the other day when I decided to slice my thumb instead of a mushroom.
I tend to buy this in a small 30g tube, but you can get various sizes, from a tiny 15g one up to the largest I know of which is about 100g. It's available pretty much everywhere - chemists, supermarkets etc. and everyone's heard of the brand as it's very well known.
The tube contains the cream which is very thick, white and smells of antiseptic. It's quite greasy when you feel it, but rubs in ok if you need to do so over a grazed area for example. With my thumb however as I'd sliced it, I found that the best way was to place a little onto the non sticky part of the plaster, and then secure that over the wound. It did take me two goes however as the first plaster I used had lost all it's sticky it had sat in my cupboard for so long. I have to own up that although I check opened things like antiseptic cream to make sure they're still in date and suitable for use, I'd never really thought about sealed things such as plasters failing to be useful, but if you're like me and don't use your first aid items much then it's actually worth checking them to make sure you have some that will stick when you need them to!
Antiseptic creams can sting a little on application, but that's sort of the nature of the beast really I think. Overall, they do a very good job of protecting a wound and helping it to heal quickly and without becoming infected etc. Yes, they're full of chemicals, but there are some occasions where avoiding chemicals is a good thing, and others where lets face it, they are damned useful and can help protect us from nasty things like infections.
Like any antiseptic cream you should avoid getting Savlon near your eyes, and you mustn't eat it - therefore keep it away from the kids in case! It should be applied to a cleaned wound with clean hands, and rubbed in gently.
As I've mentioned recently in reviews about lavender and peppermint, I'm quite a fan of essential oils and I keep a fair few in my home for use in various ways. Another that I have is Ylang Ylang.
What is it?
Ylang Ylang oil is made from the flowers of the Ylang ylang vine which can be found high up in the canopy in the tropics of Madagascar. If you've never smelt it, it's quite a sweet fragrance - quite flowery and musky but still quite a soft scent if you get my drift.
Although this is quite a nice essential oil to use and is good for many things, there are a number of people who find the smell a little too sweet and that it gives them a bit of a headache.
It's Historical/World Uses
Back in the Victorian ear, Ylang ylang oil was used in macassar oil which was used on hair to give it a really good shiny look and is why we have 'anti-macassars' which were covers for the chairs to stop you getting macassar oil all over them.
In Indonesia one historical use for the flower itself is to spread it on the bed of a newly wed couple before the consummate the marriage. Over in the Philippines however, the flowers are strung to make a necklace that's worn by the women and also made to adorn religious statues and icons.
In terms of its uses, this is a great essential oil for helping with tension, nerves, depression and high blood pressure and for helping you to rebalance your body. It mixes well with other scents that have a bit of a tang to them such as lemongrass, bergamot or orange, although it also goes very well with sandalwood and cedar wood too.
One of my favourite mixes that is lovely is a de-stressing bath. 4 drops of bergamot and 2 of ylang ylang in a warm but not hot bath and then relaxing in there for half an hour is great. (Forget getting clean in this bath - have a shower first to do that if you want - this one is for laying in reading or just enjoying the peace and taking in the smells and its wonderful!). Actually it's best if you can mix these oils first with a carrier oil that's designed to disperse in water, but failing that, if you pop them into a little full fat milk (just a couple of table spoons full), it will help disperse the oil through the water better.
Actually even though macassar oil doesn't sound very appealing, I have heard of people putting a drop or two of this onto their hairbrush to help condition and add a healthy shine to their hair.
Another modern use for ylang ylang is in massage oils because it's said to have aphrodisiac properties, and also in many perfumes too - possibly for the same reason. It's one of the base scents in Chanel No 5 for example.
A couple of other thoughts
Ylang ylang isn't as easy to know what you're doing with as perhaps lavender or peppermint which are two excellent basic essential oils I'd advise you start your collection with. However, it's a lovely scent and mixes well with so many other essential oils that it's well worth having in your kit.
Now I've never really had a problem myself with communication or expressing my feelings, but I read recently that ylang ylang is very useful for helping people with this aspect of life, so if you're going to sit down and have a heart to heart with your partner, it might be worth popping a couple of drops of this on an oil burner in the room before hand (assuming you both like the smell of course!).
Peppermint is used in so many edible things from toothpaste to sweets that I reckon most of us think of it just as a foody item. In fact peppermint has masses of other uses too.
What is Peppermint?
You might think it's just a plant that you grow in the garden, but actually it's a hybrid plant - and originally was a cross between watermint and spearmint. It's now pretty much widespread across the whole world but the first written description of it in England is in 1753 by Carolus Linnaeus who thought it was a species in its own right and didn't realise it was in fact a hybrid.
The plant peppermint is a perennial and grows to between 30 and 90cm on average with largish leaves that are when bruised let off the wonderful peppermint scent that we recognise so well. It can grow anywhere pretty much, but naturally tends towards moist habitats that are a little shaded. In gardens it's common to grow it in containers to stop it from spreading too much as it does spread very easily.
Peppermint has been used throughout history for its medicinal purposes and when it was first used is actually unknown. What we do know is that it's been being used by humans for at least 10 thousand years.
Peppermint has been grown commercially in the UK since around 1750 and has many medicinal uses. Oil of peppermint contains menthol which is both antiseptic and anesthetic and so leaves have been chewed to help relieve toothache while teas have been drunk to relieve indigestion and help with lessening the symptoms of colds.
Today we may not chew the leaves to help with toothache, but you'll find peppermint in most toothpastes, and we can still find peppermint tea on the shelves although it tends to be suggested more as an aid to digestion and heartburn than for colds these days. Icecream, chewing gum, sweets, all are places you'll find peppermint flavour appearing.
In My Home
I like to keep peppermint oil in my essential oil kit. It's one of the simplest and most widely acceptable smells for many people, and can add a nice invigorating tone to anything it's mixed into.
When I want my husband to wake up after lunch when he's getting a little sleepy for example, a few drops of peppermint oil around the room and he's less likely to curl up and sleep for the afternoon.
Peppermint also has a naturally high concentration of pesticides contained in its oil making it great for helping to reduce the creepy crawlies around the garden veg, and I personally find that eating peppermint oil capsules or even just chewing the odd peppermint leaf helps me with my IBS although don't go eating just any old peppermint sweet as many contain sorbitol which certainly will NOT help with IBS issues!
I would recommend this oil for anyone who wants to begin their own essential oil box. It's one of the best basic oils around second only perhaps to lavender and can be used in lots of ways.
As someone who has odd allergies (cut grass, nutmeg, dust, the odd flower etc.) I always always always keep an antihistamine in the house, and for me Piriton is the brand that I know best and one of those 'go to' brands for me because I know I can trust them to do the job well.
Availability & Cost
Piriton are available in most chemists and many supermarkets around the country as well as being available online in a variety of places. They are an over the counter antihistamine and therefore you can buy them without the need for a prescription.
Pack sizes that I know of are 30's and 60's for tablets and then they also do a syrup, but not buying this myself I don't really know sizes or prices for it. Normally I buy these in a pack of 30 at a time through the winter months and then in the spring and summer I tend to buy the larger 60 packs because it's at this time of year I tend to suffer more.
The price tends to be around £2 for 30 and £4 for 60 although special offers and price drops do help sometimes with this.
How it works
Piriton contains the active ingredient Chlorphenamine maleate which is a sedating antihistamine.
Now, histamine is a substance that the body produces as a sort of defence mechanism and when the body reacts to an allergen such as pollen or dust etc. then it stimulates the cells where this histamine is stored so they release more of it than is needed. The result is generally unpleasant as the histamine causes a chain reaction of allergy symptoms from inflammation and itching to watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing etc.
The active ingredient Chlorphenamine in Piriton works by blocking the histamine receptors. This means that although the histamine is still released, it doesn't bind to the H1 receptors and therefore doesn't cause all these nasty symptoms. The reason it's known as a sedating antihistamine is that as well as doing this, it also enters the brain and causes drowsiness too.
My use of Piriton
As I mentioned I have a variety of weird and interesting allergies and although mostly I just ignore minor problems from them, when they cut the grass locally, or if I pass a field full of certain flowers (rape is one of these), I do tend to react a little more thoroughly and this is when Piriton comes in exceedingly handy.
These tablets can be taken every 4-6 hours, and the adult (and kids over 12) dose is 1 tablet every 4 to 6 hours with no more than 6 tablets in any 24 hour period. For kids between 6 and 12 the dose is halved and they should take only half a tablet at a time and no more than 6 half tablets in any 24 hours. They're not recommended for those below the age of six.
I personally tend to find that I don't need these so much at night, so 1-3 tablets per day normally does me depending on what has set the allergy off of course and how extreme it is. The tablets are small, round and very easy to swallow with a bit of water, and if I'm pushed I've found I can take them just by swallowing them with my own saliva (like in the car travelling when I don't have juice on me and we come across fields and fields of rape growing).
There are a variety of reasons why you shouldn't take these - if you're on drugs for insomnia or sleep issues, for example, or if you're on some anti anxiety drugs. Glaucoma sufferers, those with an over active thyroid and a few more. In other words - talk to your GP or chemist before you use these and make sure you're safe to do so!
I do find these work very well, and the effect is quite long lasting for me which is great. There are other brands which work too, but as I said early on, these have long been one of my 'go to' brands for easing the symptoms of allergy for me and they're what I would tend to recommend to others if asked.
I've been a fan of the use of essential oils for a long time, and Lavender has to be said to be one of the staple contents of my oils box. Partly this is because it's so safe to use, but also because it has so many excellent properties and is such a useful oil to include in mixes.
Most people are aware that lavender is relaxing - and many people find it helps them to sleep too. Having said this, for some people lavender doesn't make them sleepy at all and they'll find that although they feel relaxed by it, it can leave them feeling more energised than sleepy. Despite this, you'll find it in many natural sleep aid products.
Actually lavender can be found in a very wide variety of things from candles to bath products, body lotions to headache relief products and more. I think that as long as you enjoy the smell these are worthwhile buying, but it's also important to note if the product is chemical based with added lavender, or if they're using the lavender as one of the key ingredients in something much more natural.
An example of a very good ready made remedy that uses lavender is the migrastick - it's a blend of lavender, peppermint and isopropyl myristate and so it's the lavender and peppermint that are the 'active' ingredients in this. Alternatively a regular bubble bath might be full of chemicals, but just use the lavender as a scent to make it smell nice.
My favourite uses
I find lavender to be a very calming essential oil, and I also find it excellent for helping to relax muscles, so one of the main uses I have for lavender is as a muscle rub or massage oil mixed with a simple carrier oil of sweet almond oil (my normal preferred carrier oil). 10ml of sweet almond oil with 10 drops of lavender in it is about right for me personally I find. Because I have fibromyalgia, my muscles have a tendency to knot up and go into spasm very easily and as lavender has antispasmodic properties too I find this a great rub for tired aching muscles. I also use this when I'm getting tummy cramps from my period too, just rubbing it over my belly area often helps to ease these nicely, although an alternative for this is to pop the lavender in the bath.
My second favourite use for lavender has to be as a method of keeping the insects away in the summer time. It can be used alone for this, or mixed with a number of other oils - personally I prefer to mix it with rosemary and either add it to purified water (just 5 drops of each to 500ml of water) and then spray it round the room, or burn it in an oil burner for a more intense smell and purpose. It works quite well to keep the mosquitoes and other bugs at bay on a summer evening when the backdoor is open.
My third method is to use actual lavender flower heads in with wheat or rice in a heat bag. I do tend to add the essential oil to the rice as well to infuse the smell better, but then when I make the bags, I add actual lavender too. They're sooo easy to make and make lovely gifts for people. Simply take some regular long grain rice, and add some lavender essential oil to it in a glass jar - leave this for a few days turning it daily and then add some more drops and do the same again. After a few weeks the rice is then ready for use. Make up your heat bag as a long sausage like affair around 12cm by 36cm and fill it about 2/3rds full of the infused rice. Add a small handful of dried lavender and then stitch the end up. To heat, microwave in bursts of 30seconds at a time till it's hot enough and then use it for neck, shoulders, feet etc.
Cost & Availability
Lavender oil is available in all sorts of places these days, but you do have to watch what you are buying. As with most oils there is a difference between essential oil and oil designed just for use in an oil burner. Where essential oil can be burned, burner oil cannot be used on the skin! Most essential oils you get you're likely to only want small containers of, but lavender I find is one I use so much that I actually buy mine in 50ml or 100ml bottles instead of the usual 10ml containers. It's also cheaper this way as a 10ml bottle will generally cost around £2-4 depending on where you get it and if it's organic or not, whereas the larger bottles work out much more cost effective. The last 100ml bottle I bought cost me about £18 - it wasn't organic however and that tends to be about twice the cost.
Dried lavender is a little harder to get hold of, but can be bought off the internet fairly easily. I think the last lot I got came from ebay, and cost me about £10 for 500g and that goes quite a long way too.
If you have never indulged in trying out essential oils and all their uses, then I would recommend lavender as a very good starting place. It's one of the safest oils you can buy and can even be used direct onto the skin although this isn't recommended it will not at least cause you any damage the way it would if you did it with many other oils. It's got plenty of uses, and you can get lots of books from bookshops or the library which give you a great starting point for learning how to use it most effectively.
Bodyshop Vitamin E Eye Cream
I don't buy many beauty products these days, but of the few I do buy, most of them are made as much from natural ingredients as I can find and afford. This one by the Body Shop was given to me as part of a gift set and I think the gift giver thought that it was all natural as they know my propensity for choosing things that don't contain parabens and perfumes etc.
Anyhow, on getting this, I sort of assumed it was ok, until I looked at the ingredients recently and realised all the nasties it actually contains and now I'm sort of put off it, and my feelings are rather mixed as it does in fact contain quite a lot of nasty things such as parabens.
The thing is, I have to say though that as an eye cream it does work rather well. I'm only 39, so don't really have any lines around my eyes, just the odd sleep one in the morning lol. When I do apply this however it seems to increase the plumpness in that area and just generally makes the skin there look fresher and smoother.
Vitamin E itself is very good for skin, and is a natural ingredient that works as an antioxidant and helps to protect your skin against all the various things that can damage it from car pollution and cigarette smoke to over exposure to the sun and chemicals.
The tube that this comes in is quite small, and has a small screw top lid, but the hole in the top under it isn't anything like this size it's much smaller which means you only get a very small amount coming out at a time which is great as you don't want much at all for just around the eye area.
The cream itself is very light in texture and faintly pink in colour. It reminds me a little of baby lotion in its consistency actually - or perhaps a tad thicker, but not much. It's very easy to apply anyway and doesn't leave the skin feeling greasy or coated in any way which initially surprised me as I was expecting it somehow to be a little thicker and take longer to sink into the skin.
In terms of the good things in this, well water, glycerine and rosehip oil, shea butter, seaweed extract. In terms of bad things well there's lots of parabens - methylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben. Actually, looking at this, I can't actually see Vitamin E detailed anywhere - here's the full list of ingredients as given on the Bodyshop website - perhaps I'm missing something and someone else can spot the Vitamin E in there?!
Aqua (Water) (Solvent/Diluent), Glycerin (Humectant), Cyclomethicone (Emollient), Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate (Emollient/Skin Conditioner), Rosa canina (Rose Hips Oil) (Emollient), Methyl Gluceth-20 (Viscosity Modifier), Mica (Opacifier), Panthenol (Skin/Hair Conditioning Agent), Tocopheryl Acetate (Antioxidant), Saccharide Isomerate (Humectant), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative), Barium Sulfate (Opacifier), Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter) (Emollient), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (Stabiliser/Viscosity Modifier), Algae (Seaweed Extract) (Natural Additive), Sodium Hyaluronate (Humectant), Methylparaben (Preservative), Sodium Hydroxide (pH Adjuster), Dimethicone (Skin Conditioning Agent), Butylparaben (Preservative), Ethylparaben (Preservative), Disodium EDTA (Chelating Agent), Isobutylparaben (Preservative), Propylparaben (Preservative), Chlorphenesin (Cosmetic Biocide), Sodium Dehydroacetate (Preservative), CI 77891 (Colour).
Am I impressed with this? - Well I did quite like it, but no, not now I know all the unnatural ingredients that this contains.
Will I be buying it myself? - Again, no. I'll be looking for recommendations for a much more natural eye cream I think.
Would I recommend it to others? - I'm afraid this is another no. I couldn't in conscience recommend something to other people that I wouldn't use on my own skin, and I can't see how something that contains so many chemicals can be good for putting on the delicate skin around my eyes.
Nytol is made by GlaxoSmithKline and is a brand of sleeping tablet. Its active ingredient is Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride which is an antihistamine with sedative properties.
It is available over the counter in the UK although in many countries it is not available this way, and is designed to be used as a short term sleeping aid and is often used by people suffering from jet lag to help them get back into a better pattern of sleep faster.
Importantly it should not be confused with Nytol Herbal which is made by the same company but which is a herbal product containing things such as hops and passion flower extract. - And it's easy to make the mistake when you're tired and not thinking straight so do be careful when you buy this.
The Active Ingredient
Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride as I say is more commonly known as an antihistamine. However it also acts as a sedative and in this tablet its purpose is to aid sleep. It enters the brain and causes the taker to become drowsy decreasing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and aiding the depth and quality of sleep. It is suitable only as a short term aid.
This shouldn't be taken when you've drunk alcohol, nor should it be used by pregnant women, and if you're taking any other medication you should seek medical advice before using this. As with any sleeping pill you should avoid driving or using machinery when under its influence.
Taking more than the recommended dose can be dangerous, and there was actually a death back in 2006 where this drug was deemed to be a contributing factor - the man took four times the recommended dose, and although his direct cause of death was asphyxiation from vomit in the airways, this drug is believed to have contributed to that occurring.
My use of this product
Sleep issues are something that many people who suffer with fibromyalgia will understand well. For me, sometimes sleep comes all too easily and I find myself sleeping 10-12 hours a day/night and still feeling tired, while other times I struggle to drift off at all or end up waking in the early hours and laying there wide awake staring at the ceiling silently screaming noooooooo because I'm so bloody tired.
Now here is where I made a big mistake! I thought I'd picked up a box of the Nytol HERBAL tablets, but in fact I'd picked up a box of these and I didn't realise my mistake until after I'd taken them. As soon as the mistake had been realised I got on the phone to NHS direct to find out if I was safe or if I needed to go to the hospital. My reason for this is because I take a variety of other medications and I didn't know if any of them might react with this.
As it turned out, I was lucky and there were no problems with me taking these alongside the tablets I use, however I did feel very cross that at the chemist they hadn't even asked me if I'd used them before or asked if I was on any other medications when I bought these. I feel this was a bad oversight on their part and one that could have resulted in me having to take a trip to hospital.
I can't honestly say if these work well or not as this is the only time I used them as I was put off by my mistake. My main reason for sharing my tale is because it IS so easy to make such a mistake and I'd hate anyone else to go through the worry etc. that I did.
On the night I took them I was certainly very dopey from them & I also felt somewhat dizzy too which worried me, however, as I had to sit up and wait for NHS Direct to call back (took them about 45 mins), and was very worried about the score, I certainly can't say that I did sleep that well with them. In fact I'd say that although after being told I was ok, I did go to bed to sleep, it was a fairly disturbed sleep and one that didn't leave me feeling refreshed the next day.
In future, I will be MUCH more careful about what I am buying in the shops, and will check and double check before I swallow the things too. I hope this serves as a 'be careful' tale for others too. 
I've used many products in the past containing Aloe vera, and I've taken Aloe Vera liquid although I do not do so any more, but it is only over the last year or two that I've been using Aloe in another one of its purest forms - the gel.
My husband calls Aloe Gel 'wonder gel' because of its many different uses, and will often say 'stick some wonder gel on it' if there's a sore place or an itch or something else that he doesn't know a cure/remedy for - and I have to say it certainly does have a lot of different things it can be useful for.
What is Aloe Vera Gel?
This is a gel made from the insides of the leaves of the Aloe Vera Plant which is a short stemmed succulent plant growing around 24-40inches high. The leaves on this are very thick and fleshy and are a sort of grey green colour. In its original traditional form, a leaf was picked, cut in half and the open inside of the leaf was used to wipe onto the skin to relieve whatever the problem was.
Aloe Vera's Past
Earliest records of its use are from the mid first century, and it is known to have been widely used within traditional medicine across the world including China, Japan, Russia, South Africa, The United States of America, Latin America, Jamaica and India.
Today Aloe Vera can be found in many products from moisturiser to soaps, sunscreens and shampoos. It's used in food products as a gelling agent, and added to tissue to give it a lovely soft feel on the skin. It is even thought that in the future biofuel may be obtained from its seeds.
Uses In My home
I first bought Aloe Vera Gel after reading on the internet about its healing properties and how it could be used to help heal soreness around the bottom area. I know many of you will think this is too much information but anyone who suffers with IBS or other bowel issues may well be glad of the knowledge so I'm sharing it here. I can report now that it definitely does work well - in fact much better than anything I've been prescribed or bought in the past from the chemist for this purpose - and of course, it's all natural too.
Since then, I've gone on to use Aloe Vera Gel for many other things - from helping with eczema and dry skin patches to bug bits, unknown itchy spots and rashes, and more and when applied to these things it helps alleviate the itching very fast indeed.
It's great for dealing with sunburn and helps cool the area instantly, and works very well to help you stop the skin from peeling which is something that happens to me if I even look at the sun generally (I'm a pale and pasty thing who wears long sleeves and a sun hat factor 50 cream and still burns!)
Actually Aloe Vera can also be used on other sorts of burns too, and I found it very useful a few weeks back when I caught the inside of my wrist against a hot casserole dish. When using it this way however, one should still place the burned area in cold water or run it under a cold tap for about 20 minutes first but after that, an application or three of Aloe Vera Gel is very soothing and helps to prevent blistering and ease the pain and heat from the burn.
Although my everyday moisturiser that I use contains Aloe Vera, I sometimes use this pure gel on my skin around my nose and forehead before bed when my skin is particularly flaky as it really helps soothe and lessen the flakiness and I do also sometimes use it on my cheeks to reduce redness as well. It has quite a nice softening effect on the skin as well as helping to reduce the redness.
Cost & Procurement
This can be bought in many stores around the country and online, but mine came from Holland & Barrett and cost just under £5 for 200ml. Although this sounds like quite an expense for a small amount, it actually goes quite a long way as I've found that you rarely need much at a time, and so it lasts a good while in our house.
Why I like this so much
Because this is 99.9% pure aloe vera it is very natural. It contains no parabens, no sodium lauryl slulfate and no other nasties that worry me to put on my skin.
Although it feels a little sticky when you're first rubbing it into an area, it leaves no nasty residue and it doesn't smell nasty either - in fact I don't think it smells much at all. It's also clear so there's no worry of it staining clothing either.
Overall, although I wouldn't call it a wonder gel, I am pretty enamoured of this clever natural gel and do like to keep it in my home for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to lessen their use of chemicals as a staple item for their cupboard as it does serve many purposes.
I may stick to as many natural products as I can around my house and for personal use, but I'm not daft, and I do use chemicals or prescribed medicines etc. when necessary. I do think that keeping a bottle of disinfectant in the house is important, and in fact I generally have two on hand - one in the bathroom cabinet and one down in my medicine cabinet in the kitchen.
At the moment the one in the bathroom is TCP and the one in the kitchen is Dettol.
Packaging & Price
Dettol comes in a clear plastic bottle with a screw top lid that's bloody hard to get off because it's one of those child safe lids! It's me safe too which frustrates the hell out of me. I know that kids need to be kept out of these things, but I do wish they'd realise that sometimes adults need to get in too and offer an alternative non-kiddy-proof lid.
There are two sizes available that I've seen - a larger 500ml bottle and a half size 250ml one. Because this is something which keeps for a long time, I am cheapskate and buy the larger bottle as it's better value. The last bottle I bought cost me about £2.80.
Dettol is a liquid disinfectant that is a kind of browny yellow colour and is designed to kill bacteria and germs. It has a good strong antiseptic smell, and can be used neat or diluted depending on what you want to do with it.
There are two main uses in this house for disinfectant - the first is to deal with cut or graze or other skin issue, and the other is to disinfect something around the house after an accident has occurred. A good example of both uses was earlier in the year when I fell down the stairs. I scraped all up the side of one leg and arm, bashed my foot (ankle and toes) on stuff piled at the bottom, and also bled onto the carpet rather nicely. The dettol was used to clean up both me and my spilt blood to make all safe and disinfected again.
Obviously these aren't the only uses the stuff is pretty good for cleaning piercings too, and also for cleaning out containers that need a bit of a disinfect too. I even know someone who swears that popping a capful in the bath once a week helps her keep spots and things at bay though I don't know I'd want to go around smelling of dettol all the time personally but there we are.
I have to say that I do prefer to buy a branded disinfectant. I know it might sound snobby, but I just trust some brands more than others when it comes to things such as hygiene and dettol is one of those brands. It's not the only brand I go for, but it's certainly up there in my go to category, and I'd recommend it to others who want to know that they're using a product that's going to do the job well too.
I'm quite a fan of using natural products for things where I can, and so things like Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint and other oils feature in this household quite a lot along with Aloe Vera and many other things. Tea tree may not be the nicest smelling of them all, but it's certainly one of the most useful.
Tea tree oil or Meleleuca oil is the oil extracted from the ever green tree Meleleuca Alternifolia. The leaves of this tree have natural antiseptic, antibacterial and antiviral properties and it has been used for many hundreds of years because of this. The tree is indigenous to Australia, and the Bundjalung people in eastern Australia are one of the first peoples known to use it medicinally. They soak the leaves to make an infusion which is then used to treat many ailments from skin conditions to sore throats and wounds.
Extracting the oil from the leaves rather than just using the leaves themselves wasn't common practice till a researcher called Arthur Penfold published writings on the antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil rating it as 11 times more active than phenol (also called carbolic acid or phenic acid) in the 1920's. After this, it began to be used widely in a commercial way until after the second world when the increase in decent antibiotics dulled the demand for it.
Recently, with many people trying to turn back to using more and more natural products, tea tree oil has become much more popular again, and is now used in a wide variety of products from shampoo to skincare, and can be bought in its oil form for mixing with other things, or in lotion and cream form for direct topical use.
Use At Home
I have a variety of products that I use which contain tea tree - one of my favourite shampoo's contains tea tree which is great if you get an itchy scalp or suffer from dandruff. I also have a face cream which I use when I have to take certain medication that seems to make me more prone to spots, as tea tree is great for helping ease spots and acne. I recently recommended my friend's daughter get some as she's just hit puberty and is suffering badly from the dreaded teenage spots. Using a tea tree wash has helped her enormously with this which is great.
I have a 'recipe' book which I began some years ago, that contains herbal/essential oil recipes in it that I've found beneficial over the years. One of them is for headlice and amongst other things, it contains - you've guessed it - tea tree oil. It's one of the best natural solutions for dealing with these problem creepy crawlies I've come across though it is a bit tricky to make up and use, and in fact I've noticed recently that more and more shops seem to be promoting shampoos and lice treatments as containing tea tree which is great as being natural you're not worrying about what you're putting on your kids heads (or your own if you're unlucky enough to pick them up - the lice not the kids I mean).
One thing I will say about tea tree oil is that although it's quite pale in colour, it can stain when you use it, so be careful when you're mixing oils like this and wear something old.
As this is quite a strong oil, it does need to be diluted before using it generally as you don't want to damage your skin. If you're wanting to apply the oil to your skin on spots or fungal infections for example then you'd need to mix it with a carrier oil or buy a pre-mixed solution. If you were using it for lice or dandruff treatment you'd again mix it with a base shampoo product first.
It can also be harmful if swallowed, so some care should be taken with this oil and it shouldn't be left lying around where children can reach it.
Personally I quite like the smell of tea tree - I think it smells very fresh and clean smelling and more herby than anything else, my mum however isn't a fan and thinks it smells anticeptic and clinical. To be honest, I think even if I disliked the smell, I'd probably put up with it because of how useful this essential oil is, but luckily as I say I actually quite like it although I do prefer it mixed with other things as on its own the smell is a bit strong.
I'd say if you're looking for an essential oil to experiment with, then you need to be a little careful with this, so it's best to have a good read up on how to use it first. However, it does make a great addition to any essential oil kit, and has lots of uses.
If you prefer the idea of someone else doing the mixing for you, then have a look in health stores and chemists and online as you can find quite a lot of products that are purpose made now but which do utilize the properties of the humble tea tree.
I'm quite lucky that I no longer get bad bouts of indigestion and heartburn, but I used to suffer from this very badly and do still occasionally get a badish burst that makes me want something to make it go away 'now'.
Over the years I tried a number of different treatments but none were as good as Gaviscon and this is why I like to keep some in the house.
This is a liquid and comes in a brown bottle of varying sizes - I tend to buy the small bottle these days, but if you use the stuff a lot, then the big bottle saves you quite a bit of money which is always helpful to know. To be fair, even a little bottle of this is quite expensive, and 150ml costs around £4ish with a little variation depending on where you get it obviously. The thing is, though you can get brands that are a fair bit cheaper, I've never found them to work as well, so this one is worth the money in my opinion.
The liquid itself is fairly thick and gloopy, and it does settle out some if you leave it sat for a few days, so before you use it, it's important to give the bottle a nice vigorous shake. There are two flavours this peppermint one, and an aniseed one - be careful if like me you don't like aniseed as the two bottles look VERY similar and I've made the mistake of buying the aniseed flavour before and not realised until I've opened the bottle to take some and then it's a case of put up or shut up really! The peppermint one is quite strong tasting, but slightly thick and a tiny bit gritty though nothing like as bad as some similar products. It's sort of like a medicine version of a minty thick milkshake lol. It's not a particularly pleasant texture - maybe that milkshake idea was a tad misleading there hmm... but its thickness does serve a purpose and when heartburn hits you do really just want it gone and virtually as soon as you take this it does help start to ease it.
The way this works is that it contains a variety of ingredients that are designed to help neutralise the extra acid that is giving you the discomfort. Firstly there's sodium bicarbonate (yes that's regular bicarb of soda like you put in some biscuits), then there's also sodium alginate too. The sodium alginate works slightly differently and helps to create this sort of barrier over the stomach contents so that no more acid can bubble up into your oesophagus and give you that nasty burning sensation.
An adult dose is 10-20mls and I know you should measure this, but when you wake in the middle of the night with a burning fire in your chest I hate to say it but it's just as easy to take a swig straight from the bottle and I'm afraid this is what often happens with me. As I'm the only one using the stuff, I'm not passing my germs to anyone else, so although it's not terribly sensible I can't see me doing anything different in future (turning a light on, finding a spoon and attempting not to drip it everywhere at 4am is not gonna happen lol - I'd make one heck of a mess!).
The very best thing about this stuff is the speed it works at. From the moment you swallow it starts to cool down that nasty bitter burning taste/sensation, and within maybe 5-10 minutes I'm normally able to lay back down and sleep again without any problem. For me, that's worth a LOT as sleep is a big issue sometimes as I have Fibromyalgia. One thing you do need to be aware of however, are that if you take betablockers or some other medications you should either avoid this completely, or in the case of some slow release capsules/tablets you have to make sure you don't use this within x amount of time of taking them. - In other words, if you're on any other meds TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR FIRST! It's also important to check with a doctor if you're pregnant or on a low sodium diet too because of the ingredients in this.
I personally find this stuff marvellous for relieving my acid issues and would certainly recommend this for others to use if you have bad heartburn/acid indigestion, however, as it does stop some medicines being released properly that warning about talking to your doctor first is a pretty important one.
Vocalzone tablets aren't like your run of the mill throat sweets like lockets or something. Originally designed by Dr David Lloyd a chemist for the Italian tenor singer Enrico Caruso, these are incredibly strong and work very well if your voice is poor and you need to be able to use it. They are recommended for the relief of irritation due to excessive speaking, singing or smoking and aid dry irritated throats.
We were first recommended these by a vocalist friend of ours when my husband (also a singer & bass player and DJ/Karaoke) had a bad cold and was struggling with his voice. We were both surprised at just how well they worked, and he (and I secretly) have sort of sworn by them ever since.
They're actually made from a mix of natural ingredients which really makes me happy as I know when I use them I'm not putting lots of chemicals in my system. They're gluten free and suitable for vegetarians but, if you have an intolerance to carbohydrates you should not use them!
These come in a bright red box - which is actually very useful because as you'll know if you know many musicians they're forever putting things in gig bags and losing them - these being a nice bright colour are really easy to spot when you want them.
The cost around £3ish for a pack of 24 which seems quite a lot, but as you will find if you suck one you do not need to use them too often.
The pastille itself is a dark almost black colour and is about the same size and density as the old fruit gums you used to get if anyone remembers those. They are VERY strong in taste, and it's hard to describe the flavour but it's like a mix of liquorice, menthol and peppermint with a whole heap of other strong tasting things thrown in for good measure. I actually find it very hard to use a whole pastille in one go, and often have to suck half a one instead. They do open up your airways and relieve your throat incredibly quickly though, and the feeling lasts quite well too. As I'm not a singer, I don't use them very often, but my husband finds them a godsend if he's been having a busy week or two with gigs and needs to give his vocal chords and throat a helping and soothing hand.
These aren't suitable for under 12's (tbh I doubt you'd find a kid willing to keep sucking one anyway!), but if you're over 12 and need some help with lost voice and cough and sore throat then these babies will get you singing again in no time.
I have a huge problem with headaches. I actually take propranalol daily because of them and this stops them for the most part, however, I still get some what they call 'breakthrough' headaches. Although I have always got plenty of ibuprofen and paracetamol in the house for when I need them, I do like to try and avoid taking more tablets than I need and so I also keep things around such as this migrastick.
What is Migrastick?
A small rollerball glass container that looks a bit like a very small pocket perfume stick. It contains a combination of natural ingredients that when rubbed onto certain pulse points help to ease headaches.
How do you use Migrastick?
basically it's dead simple. Remove the lid, place the rollerball against your temples, centre of your forehead and back of the neck and in each location roll it round three times to release a small amount of the contents onto your skin. Sit back, relax and take in the lovely relaxing smell of this.
Where do I get it?
Boots, Holland & Barratt and a few other places sell this. I've even seen it in the larger supermarkets that have their own in store chemists. It generally costs around £5-7 and that does seem quite a lot for such a small container, but the thing lasts for AGES so it's not really that much in the long run.
Does it work?
Well sometimes is the simple answer - for me anyway. It's certainly not an unpleasant thing to use and feels nice and cooling on the skin and leaves you smelling lots of really nice smells of peppermint and lavender and things. Meanwhile the essential oils are getting into the skin and doing their thing - don't ask me how, I don't get it, I just know they do - and helping relieve the tension and pain. I guess being a chronic headache sufferer it's never going to work entirely all the time - painkillers don't work all the time either for me - but it definitely helps and I find it a worthwhile thing to try.
Why do I like this?
Well it's natural! It's a mixture of mint oil and lavender with a little isopropyl myristate as a carrier. It smells lovely and it does help relieve tension - in fact even if I don't have a headache, I sometimes use this when I'm feeling very tense as I find it helps to relax me so that I am less likely to get a headache. If it does work it stops me having to put too many pills in my system, and if it doesn't work entirely well its still relaxing and that helps when you have a headache.
Do I recommend this?
Yes - as long as you aren't allergic to any of the three ingredients, are an adult, not epileptic, or pregnant then, I'd recommend giving this a go. After all, it doesn't cost THAT much - less than a fancy coffee and cake - and it lasts ages and is quite small enough to stick in your handbag, pocket or drawer and have there 'in case'.