Seven Ways To Use Sesame Oil for Health and Wellbeing

by Julie Gibbons on March 3, 2011

If I was inspired towards calling any single kitchen cupboard ingredient magic, it would most definitely be sesame oil. Why? Because there’s just so many uses for it to benefit your health and wellbeing, with it’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Here are just seven ways we use sesame oil here at Organikal Towers – make sure you’re using cold pressed, unfiltered and not the toasted variety;

  1. Athletes Foot : Rub on some sesame oil for instant relief from itching and a quick clear up of flaky skin.
  2. Cold symptoms or blocked sinus : Relieve your symptoms with a sesame oil nasal rub.
  3. Gum disease : Use a sesame oil mouthwash each morning and regularly massage your gums with the elixir and you’ll start to see some improvements pretty quickly. Alternatively, you can a water flosser. Visit this great website to find the best water flosser and compare watpiks.
  4. Psoriasis or Eczema : An auto immune response, these type of skin conditions can be unsightly as well as uncomfortable. If your symptoms are mild and you wish to avoid applying steroids, then rub sesame oil on regularly and you’ll see the a drastic reduction in the number and severity of flaky patches.
  5. Sleeping trouble : Give yourself a luxurious foot massage with sesame oil before bed. Make sure your hands are warm and pop on a clean pair of organic cotton socks afterwards. You’ll sleep much better and your feet will be silky smooth in the morning :)
  6. Skin conditioner : Especially great in winter-time, dry brush your body then massage all over with warm sesame oil before jumping in your shower. You won’t need to moisturise afterwards!
  7. Scalp massage : An especially lovely gift to offer your significant other, a sesame oil scalp massage will make you both feel pretty special. It will be a bit whiffy, but if they leave the oil in overnight (be sure to protect pillows with a towel) then wash it out during their morning shower, they’ll also have beautifully conditioned hair.


What do The Goodies & Fairtrade Fortnight have in common?

by Julie Gibbons on February 28, 2011

Fairtrade Fortnight Banana Smile Fairtrade Fortnight 28th Feb – 13th March

I married into the name, so didn’t have to live with the eternal childhood embarrassment inspired by The Goodies’ surprise hit The Funky Gibbon. Yet here I am comfortably embracing the tune on a picnic in the Scottish sunshine today as we tuck into some ultimate portable food.

The humble banana, it sits alongside coffee as one of the world’s most recognisable fairtrade foods.

Do you look for the Fairtrade label when you buy bananas, coffee or cotton?

Here at Organikal Towers we try to make informed choices. Ethical consumption is pretty deeply entrenched in our manifesto. We’re also very aware that a label doesn’t always carry the full picture. However, if there’s a choice of buying a Fairtrade labelled product we will – but it isn’t the only question we ask.

And if you’re wondering about the shame of the Funky Gibbon tune, here’s a special treat:

More news about Fairtrade Fortnight, competitions and such can be found over at Show Off Your Label on Facebook.


I’ve been busy creating a new website which I’m excited to share with you here. I hope you like it! It’s called Veg Box Menu : the culinary misdaventures of a cook, a vegetarian, a teenager and the weekly veg box:

vegboxmenu website

What is it?

Well, it is loosely a diary of the meals we eat at Organikal Towers. What happens after the organic veg box is delivered each week.


I wanted to stop the blank moments that happen when I need to go make dinner at 6pm and a ready formed meal doesn’t just leap out of the fridge! I can type in the ingredients I have and find some meals that I know we like to eat. Quick food. Easy process.

It’s just starting out, so there’s not many meals in there, yet. Hopefully over time – and seasons – this will build up into a nice repertoire of inspiration. I’ll be adding in some sponsored recipes from trusted suppliers, too – thankfully, as I’m not much of a recipe creator, rather a competent assembler of components.

Click here to visit VegBoxMenu


Organic Nourishment for Your Skin

by Julie Gibbons on February 4, 2011

I admit this organic face mask doesn’t look pretty … but it did taste fine ;)

organic face mask - rose syrup

My skin has been feeling a little neglected this last month and so I decided to treat myself to a home made edible face mask.

After ten minutes steaming my face with hot water with a splash of lemon juice, I prepared this home treatment from a popular Ayurvedic blend of only four edible ingredients;

1 tablespoon organic lemon juice
1 teaspoon rose water
1/2 teaspoon organic honey
2 tablespoon organic oatmeal

These ingredients are used for their healing and anti bacterial properties – especially good if your skin is feeling oily, and/or you have a breakout. I had both!

There is more than enough in this mix to cover your face and decolletage, but don’t make any more unless you’re preparing it for more than one person, because it should be used fresh.

It’s quite runny, so make sure you apply it somewhere than can be easily cleaned if spilled – I had lumps of lemony porridge stuck on my mirror afterwards…

Apply, then lie back and relax for ten to fifteen minutes before washing gently off (the porridge will have hardened into a soft crust) with room temperature water, before patting gently dry then adding your moisturiser of choice.

Afterwards my skin felt super-clean,  enlivened, refreshed and grateful for some beautiful healthy organic nourishment.


How Green is Your Supermarket?

by Julie Gibbons on January 25, 2011

supermarket shelves

Setting aside the argument of whether a supermarket really can be considered green, Ethical Consumer‘s latest Ethiscore report on Supermarkets makes for interesting reading.

I know that many Organikal readers just don’t find it convenient to shop any any other way, and there’s no doubt that the growth of supermarket continues;

At the beginning of the 1990s, the UK’s then ‘big four’ took just under half of the British shopper’s spending on food. Today, Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons control around three quarters of our grocery market. (extract from Ethiscore Report)

So which supermarket do you shop in? Will these Ethiscore results change your mind?

47% The Cooperative
36% Marks & Spencers
26% Waitrose
23% Sainsburys
11% Tesco

The rating has been devised by Ethical Consumer:  you can find out more about the methodology and read the rest of the scores in the detailed report  at Ethical Consumer’s website . The full report is available to subscribers, or you can download the Buyers Guide for only £3. Nineteen shops are included overall, including Morrisons and Asda, Iceland and Lidl.

I’m really pleased to see The Co-op score so highly as this is our local supermarket. I’ve always thought M&S could take more of a stance – perhaps aiming to go all out organic, for instance. Their customers are generally not as price sensitive as those that frequent my local Co-op, for instance, so if there was a difference in price initially, it wouldn’t cause as much outrage! And of course, by doing so, they would help to bring the cost down.

It’s a shame, though not surprising, to see Tesco so far down the table particularly given their continued growth in market share (and profits).

By changing our shopping habits, we can really make a difference to the environment, to our own health and wellbeing – and to our purses. There’s no doubt that supermarkets offer us convenience. They’ve become so ubiquitous, it’s hard to imagine life without them. I wonder if you can guess where ASDA sits in this league table?

photo credit: kayboydell


Confessions of an Organikal

by Julie Gibbons on January 21, 2011

cadbury roses tinSee that picture there? That’s a wee bit of a confession, that is. Actually, it’s a rather big confession… Sometimes here at Organikal Towers, things aren’t always as organic, natural or healthy as they would appear.

Guilty holiday secret

During the month of December and for some of January, our family (there’s only three of us, mind) consumed five whole tins of Cadbury Roses chocolates.

That’s right – not one, but five! I’m probably accountable for fifty percent of that consumption alone.

Of course, I’m not proud of this revelation. I can’t quite believe it’s true! What I am, is aware that we don’t always make Organikal choices, even with the best will in the world.

Sometimes we fall off the track. But we manage to (in my case, anyway) haul ourselves back on. So here’s to a mindful year ahead without any jewel like chocolates pleading “eat me”, “eat me”!

Green & Black’s : a deal turned sour

Talking of Cadbury’s, I was heartened to read the news this week that the founder of Green & Black’s, who sold their organic chocolate brand to Cadbury, who later sold to American giant Kraft Foods is keen to buy back the company. Here’s hoping Kraft decide to allow a sale soon.

Quick Quiz

To finish up for the weekend, how many of these retro Cadbury’s brands do you remember?


Review : Ecover Personal Care

by Julie Gibbons on January 18, 2011

Ecover Hand Soap & Shower Gel

Back in November we were asked if we would test out some new products from Ecover and write a review*. You may be more familiar with the Ecover brand as a laundry or dishwashing detergent – I certainly was. However, the washing will have to wait as the products we were testing were Shower Gel and Hand Soap in a new fragrance – citrus & orange blossom.

First up, let me say that yes, I know these guys aren’t organic, but Ecover have been a leading eco brand for many years. I can’t remember laundry before them ! It’s also a brand that’s easily available – from health food shop, supermarkets & veg box suppliers, so is probably more accessible to a wider range of folks than, say soap nuts and other less commercial products.

Ecological Shower Gel

The blurb on the bottle:

gently cleans your skin, fresh plant based fragrance, for a silky soft result, based on plant and mineral ingredients, fast and complete biodegradability, minimum impact on aquatic life

The Organikal boys mostly used this gel and judged it to be “fair to middling”. We all had a laugh when the teenager revealed he’d been dismantling the whole bottle in order to release the gel, not realising that it was hanging upside down, ready to be squeezed out as per requirements.

To be honest, I found it a little soapy for my taste. For many months I’ve been using only unfragranced, pure organic castille soap and this gel made me feel a little itchy and a wee bit on the overly scented side. I suspect my tolerance for any added ingredients and fragrances is very, very low. (I’ve done a quick analysis on the ingredients, which you can view at the bottom of this post.) In terms of how I felt after use, my skin was certainly soft, with no dryness.

Definitely in its favour, the empty gel bottle was easily recycled being made from Type 2 plastic. The Ecover website lists this product’s environmental benefits as such:

optimum level of biodegradability (OECD-test 301F, full product)
minimum impact on aquatic life (OECD-test 201 & 202, full product)
against animal testing, suitable for septic tanks

To round up, then, in terms of its eco credentials and toxicity potential, this Ecover product ranks favourably especially when compared to most other commercially available products. If your family has made the decision to go greener this year, then it would certainly be worth thinking about a switch to this gel. If you’re a fully committed natural ingredients, organic convert already, then I suspect you’d be a little disappointed.

organikal rating 2 out of 5 Organikal Family Rating:  2/5

Ecological Hand Soap

Hand soap is much more functional than shower gel, is it not? There are certainly fewer eco and organic choices available in the high street and supermarket. This new Ecover version is still in use, since its installment in November, so we’re certainly getting a lot of use from it.

In the kitchen, this soap has quite a tough job – coping with buttery, chocolatey and doughy hands. It performs its duties well and my hands aren’t noticeably dry, which can often happen when you cook a lot.

With a few less ingredients than the shower gel, the blurb on this bottle reads

gently cleans your hands, fresh plant based fragrance, for silky soft skin, based on plant and mineral ingredients, fast and complete biodegradability, minimum impact on aquatic life

The bottle and cap are easy to recycle (I’m unsure if that includes the complete pump mechanism) and the environmental benefits claimed by the manufacturer are the same as those for the shower gel.

I’d be happy to substitute my usual organic brands if they were unavailable with this soap.

organikal rating 4/5Organikal Family Rating: 4/5

Ecological Shower Gel Ingredients:

sodium lauryl sulfate : EWG lisiting Moderate hazard
coco-glucoside : EWG Listing Low hazard – 100% data gap
sodium cocoamphoacetate : EWG Listing Low hazard - 99% data gap
laurly glucoside : EWG Listing Low hazard - 100% data gap
stearyl citrate : EWG Listing Low hazard - 100% data gap
glyceryl oleate : EWG Listing Low hazard - 90% data gap
sodium benzoate : EWG Listing Low hazard - 69% data gap
citric acid : EWG Listing low – to moderate usage - 72% data gap
parfum : Ecover state on their website that they only use plant-based fragrances, free from artificial petrochemicals .
hydrolyzed wheat protein : EWG Listing Low hazard - 95% data gap
hydrooxypropyl : no listing
guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride : EWG Listing Low hazard - 87% data gap
citrus aurantium amara flower extract : EWG Listing Low hazard - 100% data gap
citral : EWG Listing Moderate hazard - 57% data gap
limonene : EWG Listing Moderate hazard - 56% data gap
linalool : EWG Listing Moderate hazard - 65% data gap

From this quick analysis, I’m not too worried about Ecover’s choice of ingredients. The last three listed (and therefore the smallest percentage) are the only ones to reach a moderate hazard warning, and are related to the citrus based fragrance. This does enhance my preference for unscented products.

*we received one bottle each of the shower gel and the hand soap free of charge for the purposes of writing the review.


Organic Weekend Reading

by Julie Gibbons on January 14, 2011

Happy Friday!

We’ve put together a couple of  links you might have missed this week on the internet : a little something to keep you company if you’re counting the hours until home time :)

1. The Useful Link : Organic Wine Find App

Wine lover? Find out where your nearest supplier of organic wine is – and which type of wine they stock using this new app. It’s a webpage, really – but it’s designed to work on iPhones and the like. I’ve tested it on my browser and on the iPhone and it works fine. Trouble is, will you remember it when you’re out and about if the app isn’t showing on your display and you have to visit your browser?

2. The Thoughtful Link : When Eating Organic Was Totally Uncool

An engaging story by Pha Lo about growing up in a community where to live organically was the natural thing to do – and how as a kid, “navigating deeper into the treacherous social maze of an American high school” she loated it and found it shameful. And now, all these years late, how proud she is of her heritage.

3. The Big Up Link : The Results of Our Zero Waste Year

My green living heroes, The Green Family reveal the results of their zero waste campaign for 2010. With just one wheelie bin of landfill waste for 2009, how did they fare last year?

Have a great weekend everyone, do! Until next week …


Why I Love Organic

by Julie Gibbons on January 11, 2011

The $2.8million campaign has begun to promote organic food in the UK. You’ll already be aware of my reservations about this campaign, but I want to state here that I fully endorse the sentiments behind it.

Organic UK in Europe

It’s heart warming to see some positive coverage about organics and there’s certainly a need to increase awareness. This research shows UK organic consumption to be well behind our Euro counterparts:

Development of organic consumption (€/head) in leading European Markets (2006 to 2008)


Denmark (€139)
Switzerland (€132)
Austria (€104)
Germany (€71)
France (€47)
UK (€34)

Source Eurostat

Reasons to love organic?

reasons to love organic

I’d have gone with a Lollipop Test advert born out of the fabulous post by fellow organikaler mook (but I’m not really their audience).

If you’re at all unsure of the reason why you love organic, go here for a 5 question test to help you discover it. Apparently I’m a Nature Lover - that’ll be me, the eco-warrior in disguise.

Share and win

Figured out your answer? Share it on the site and you could win an organic hamper. I entered, yes I did:

whyiloveorganicI should have completed the test before I gave them my answer ;)

For the sake of providing some real inspiration, here are some more good reasons to GO Organic!

In case you’re wondering, here are some of the reasons given for not buying organic food.


julie in snow pic

Adjusting to the season

Thrust into an icy winter earlier than we have been used to, we are reminded of why the yuletide season’s celebrations have become so important, especially to those of us in northern climes.

Long, dark nights ahead with no hint of respite for many months to come, it’s important to recognise nature’s signals and one of the best ways we can do this is to incorporate her inspiration into our celebratory rituals. For the midwinter is the time when the sun is ‘reborn’ and that alone is cause for much joy.

Turning your holiday preparations into a creative exercise, using natural materials and avoiding the excesses of ‘should’ and ‘ought’ and ‘need’ when selecting gifts to offer friends and loved ones is one big step you can take towards making this season as joyful as it can be.

Your actions will not only help make you, your friends and family happier – you will be making your own contribution to preserving this beautiful planet, its local businesses and some of the true spirit behind your special winter celebrations, whichever version you choose. And do remember, not everyone’s festival is the same as yours, even when it’s not so obvious…

The fir tree

A most potent symbol of the season, it is sometimes said that Christmas trees were first brought into the home to provide shelter for fairies, to keep them warm for the winter. Whether this is true or not, the fir tree has long symbolised immortality and continuity and evergreens have been used to decorate our homes for centuries.

It is also now accepted wisdom that buying a real Christmas tree from a local grower is much more environmentally sound than sourcing a fake tree – even when the tree you’re buying is cut down for the purpose;

  • Sourcing your tree from an approved BCTGA (British Christmas Tree Growers Association) or NCTA (National Christmas Tree Association) grower is environmentally sound – no long haul transportation & a code of conduct are adhered to.
  • Tree farms provide valuable habitat for several species of wildlife, whilst growing trees recycle carbon dioxide.
  • Fake Christmas trees usually include harmful plastics & metals and are shipped from the Far East. They are non-biodegradeable, and transporting them generates unnecessary carbon emissions.
  • Real trees can be recycled in many different ways. Your supplier may even arrange to collect it – taking it through the complete lifecycle. Otherwise contact your council or Lets Recycle.

Visiting your local tree farm is something you can do with friends and family, turning the whole process from choosing your specimen, getting it home (you will usually be offered transportation for a small fee) and decorating it, into a much loved ritual for many years to come.

And there just isn’t anything to beat that smell, is there?

We’ve been unable to go and choose our tree this year what with the chaotic and dangerous road conditions :( but we’re looking forward to its delivery in the next week or so. Never too early, please…

robin decoration

The decorations

I remember the days when our family home was festooned with plastic ornaments, glitter, tinsel, balloons and more – from top to toe and that’s all we knew about Christmas decorations.

Thankfully, it’s practically fashionable now to choose hand-crafted, locally sourced and nature inspired decorations – although not always easy. I visited our local florist last year to try and source materials for decorations only to be met with the most hideous of fake plastic creations, when what I’d had in mind involved actual plant life!

Mistletoe has been used for centuries to decorate our homes – with many magical and sacred qualities associated with it. Not least the notion of it as a potent fertility symbol – but did you know it’s only supposed to retain its magic if it hasn’t touched the floor?

Holly and ivy signify the power of life renewed – and are a much accepted part of this festival. A few sprigs here or there – on a table or fireplace decoration will help you embrace the time honoured celebration of the passing of the shortest day.

Handcrafted banners, whether knitted, made from recycled paper, chillies or otherwise can bring you together with your family to produce something beautiful and meaningful at a time otherwise dominated by those hideously glaring shops and blaring Christmas muzac.

And you know what? You don’t actually have to make them yourself if you’ve no inclination, time or artistic ability. there’s plenty of brilliant crafters out there willing to do the work for you. Just look at Etsy and Folksy for instance … and Wiggly Wigglers has mistletoe, hopbines and other natural decorations available for mail order.

The gift wrap

I used to love wrapping presents up so much that my friends would give me theirs to wrap for them! It’s something that means just as much to me as the gift inside. I’ve come to realise it doesn’t mean just as much to most folk!

What I do detest is the millions of rolls of festive wrapping paper bought at this time of year. All those trees. All those chemical dyes. All that waste!

This year you don’t have to participate. You really don’t! Get creative and think of reusing any newspapers or magazines you have lying around. Last year I wrapped most of my gifts in the packing material included in some of my mail order deliveries, saving it up all year just for that purpose. It needed a little de-crinkling but with a few personal embellishments (I painted some dodgy gingerbread cookies with metallic paint to use as gift tags) it looked great. Admittedly, I also used some florists cellophane over the top as a finishing touch, but one roll of this lasts for longer than a lifetime, and we saved it all for re-use once the packages were opened – no tape was used in the whole process!

There’s lots of instructional video out there about paper alternatives. There’s a Japanese art called Furoshiki, for instance:

And if you are given ready made, shop bought gift bags this year – do keep them and return the gift in them next year. You know you want to :)

The cards

Oh, this has already caused controversy in our family! What to do? Buy charity cards, make a donation to charity and buy e-cards? Hand craft my own design as in years gone by? Or not bother?

My mum (I love you mum) thought I’d be ruining everyone’s Christmas if I didn’t send any cards this year. Really? I’m definitely sure that I wouldn’t ruin it. Not for everyone, at least ;)

I like to send cards to people when they’re not expecting to hear from me. It’s always nice to receive a hand-written card by mail in this electronic age, is it not? But the ritual of  Christmas card writing just seems so wasteful to me nowadays and I know I’m not the only one.

Look, whatever you choose to do will be the right decision for you. You can buy cards that are made from an alternative material, so they’re tree free.  You can buy cards just for those folk you don’t see very often and know they would miss hearing from you this festival. Or you can send out a special wish on the stars to everyone that means something to you and hope that they will hear a whisper of it on the wind.

Moondragon Cards have a great selection of tree-free and Yule celebration cards which are particularly beautiful.

I’ll be making my mum a special card – it obviously means a lot. As for everyone else – I think I’m going to opt for the unexpected. If I do send any e-cards, these cheeky cards from Then There Were None would be the ones I’d go for.

gingerbread cookies

The gift of food

How much money are you prepared to spend to celebrate this festival? My guess is if you’re reading this you probably don’t go in for all the mad consumerism.

However, this is traditionally the time of abundance – so how to reconcile the two? You can offer an edible gift, of course you can…

It’s an especially easy choice even if you are otherwise challenged in the ways of the kitchen. A gingerbread cookie, a box of fudge (or if you’re scottish – a round of tablet). You name it, they’ll love it – and they’re so easy to make. Don’t know how? Then spend some time looking up recipes on the webs. That’s all I do…

Last year we made chutney and spiced salt and cranberry ketchup. We even made spiced Vodka! All the recipes were in the Nigella Christmas Book. All it really involved was some time spent in the kitchen stirring things and decanting into pretty containers. But it was so way more fun that spending town in the shopping centre.

Round up

Whatever you’re celebrating, however you do it, make sure you give a thought to how you want to do it. Decide on a policy for what feels comfortable for you. It might not be easy to share it with those around you – but if it’s important to you, you’ll figure it out.

Even if it’s too late this year, then find some time to reflect on how you want it to be next time around. I know there’s some changes I still need to make to make it my perfect Organikal yuletide. Meantime, I’m going easy on myself and doing what I can to ensure my festival is as beautiful as I want it to be.