Monday, January 20, 2014

cold stuff

Picture sourced from

Hi everyone! How have you been? I've had my hands full with the kids and custom orders and... certain... artistic... things.. that I might write about at another time. Today I just wanted to quickly post this while Jakey's having his nap!

I'd written this ages ago actually -- in November last year I think -- but had thought twice about publishing it at the last minute. At the time, I'd come across some comments in a forum questioning the efficacy of what I'm writing about, and it made me feel doubtful about the usefulness of sharing it. However, since it has continued proving useful for me, I've decided to share it now for what it's worth:

I think most of us have our magic potions for coughs and colds when we first start feeling that scratchy soreness in the throat, or launch into those unmistakably irrepressible wet sneezes. What are some of your desperate, hopeful fixes? For me, there's prayer first of course, but what about echinacea, vitamin C, and zinc? I read an article in Prevention magazine on this; they listed some of the common ones, dividing them into those that really do help, and those that are just hype.

The verdict on echinacea, for instance, was that it was just hype -- the herb might shorten the duration and severity of symptoms, but it seems many brands don't contain the amount listed, and some formulas have none at all. Megadosing on vitamin C was found to be hype as well -- a 2007 review of 30 studies found no evidence that vitamin C supplementation prevents colds in the normal population, and megadoses can cause kidney stones, upset stomach, and even internal bleeding in children.

Among the supplements that were found to be of value though, were vitamin D, omega-3s and zinc. Which leads me to what I wanted to share from my own personal experience. See those barky things up there? That's astragalus propinquus, one of the main herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. At the drugstore, it's just called astragalus, or astragalus root. The Prevention article categorised the herb as the real deal, stating that it was shown to stimulate the white blood cells that fight infection. Studies had found that astragalus appears to boost immunity in mice and may have similar effects in people (from Prevention, Dec 2011).

In its write-up on the herb, the University of Maryland Medical Center states that the herb is "an adaptogen, meaning it helps protect the body against various stresses, including physical, mental, or emotional stress. Astragalus may help protect the body from diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It contains antioxidants, which protect cells against damage. Astragalus is used to protect and support the immune system, preventing colds and upper respiratory infections, lowering blood pressure, treating diabetes, and protecting the liver.

"Astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. People sometimes use it on the skin for wound care. In addition, studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent colds. In the United States, researchers have looked at astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been weakened by chemotherapy or radiation. In these studies, astragalus supplements seem to help people recover faster and live longer...

"Recent research in China suggests that, because astragalus is an antioxidant, it may help people with severe forms of heart disease, relieving symptoms, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving heart function. At low-to-moderate doses, astragalus has few side effects. However, it does interact with a number of other herbs and prescription medications. Astragalus may also be a mild diuretic, meaning it helps rid the body of excess fluid" (read in its entirety here).

Well, I'd been taking astragalus for some time already, but at a low dose, as -- in my mind -- a vague sort of booster for my regular multivitamin. During pregnancy and in the early postpartum period, the immune system is suppressed, which would account for the colds and other infections pregnant women and new moms commonly complain of. I wasn't sick once the entire time I was pregnant with Jacob, praise the Lord, but I did catch the kids' colds almost right after I delivered.

So I started taking the astragalus. I'd often seen the roots in the Chinese medicine stores, where they're sold to people who don't mind drinking the stuff. I do mind, so I get mine nicely encased in easy-to-swallow gelcaps.

Well, over the past couple of weeks, both the girls have been having the flu, passing it back and forth to each other -- considering our daily close proximity, I held out pretty well till a few days ago, when I felt the first irritated inkling of a sore throat while I was reading in bed.

I decided to go get a mug of the old standby -- honey and ACV -- and then, on a whim, the astragalus. As I'd mentioned, I'd been on a low half-dose all the while, so I just took another half-dose (which would essentially make it the recommended daily full dose).

The next morning, the sore throat was there in its full glory, as well as the beginnings of some nose-runniness. Well, I popped another dose of the astragalus, and guess what -- by the late afternoon, the sore throat had eased off. I carried on with the full strength dosage for another day and the cold never manifested, thank you Lord! And so, I felt I really had to share this with all of you.

After what I'd read in the Prevention article, I hadn't even really bothered with the vitamin C megadosing thing; I mean, I think it's handy if you routinely miss out on your regular intake of fruit and veggies, but I think vitamin C works together with other nutrients to boost your immune system rather than being a powerhouse entirely on its own.

Anyway, shortly after writing this, we'd gone to Beijing -- the kids caught colds, and looking after them in that small hotel room, I'd soon felt that familiar sniffliness coming on. Well, I full-dosed on the astragalus, and cleared it off overnight -- I was perfectly fine the rest of the trip, praise the Lord.

And so, having turned to astragalus a couple more times in recent weeks, I just thought I would share this with you after all, especially since some of you are dealing with the worst winter ever. Of course though, this is my own personal view -- I am by no means a professional -- do be sure to do your own research before trying any health supplements, and be aware of possible health and drug interactions. Have a super blessed new week everyone -- catch up again real soon!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

ain't nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl

Tanyusha and Isadora discuss whose turn it is to go shopping.

Do you know Blythe? Well, I thought I did, having a few of them in the house among our other dollies, but only recently did I discover what a following she has around the world, and what a treasure she is for serious collectors. A beautiful Blythe really is a work of art -- a OOAK piece equal to any sought after painting or haute couture outfit. Collectible Blythes can easily cost into the thousands, and dressing and photographing Blythes has in itself become an art form.

Ro et al.

Personally, I've always found Blythe plain adorable; while she can have any number of personas -- cute, geeky, sultry, sad -- my Blythes have always been chosen for their endearing sweetness, their lovable expressions of innocence, wonder and affection (yes, even Rebecca's vampire Blythe, Persephone).

When the kids were younger, they did find Blythe a little unnerving, mainly because of their discomfitingly large, staring eyes. But now that they're older, they're appreciating the artistry of the dolls as much as dressing them up and taking photographs of them (Becky has in fact been doing this with Isadora -- see here).

Isadora and Orso share their thoughts on safety and sizing.

Anyway, since Isadora and company were starting to go out more, it was only a matter of time before I had to come up with something for travelling with Blythe. It simply isn't practical, or even cool, to go around clutching a doll in your hand, even if it is Blythe, and even if you are five.

A lady who saw Becky's post on Isadora's Beijing trip emailed me about the messenger-style bag we'd used to carry Isadora around -- a week later, I'd sent her two of the satchels and have now decided to include them in the shop.

As any Blythe owner knows, carrying Blythe out is a tricky venture -- you can't just zip her up in your handbag or knapsack (especially if she cost you a mint!), and if you try sticking her in a tote, her big head makes her lean forward dangerously and look like she's hanging herself.

Happily strapped in. Most Blythe dolls also have a pet they'd want to have along.

Having discussed these concerns with the mini Blythe moms at home, I realised that I had to think up a satchel that had the ease and convenience of an open tote, but also some safety feature that prevented Blythe from leaning over and falling out. Well, this satchel is designed for carrying Blythe upright, and for showing her off -- she can see the world and the world can see her. What stops her from leaning down and out? A strap inside the satchel that holds her in place. You just tuck her in and belt her up, and off the two of you go on your adventures -- hands free!

Orso demonstrates that the satchel isn't just for Blythe. 

The satchel features a protective sueded interior and on the outside is a carefully hand-painted Tabby Cat pocket. This particular satchel is available here and ready to ship -- custom satchels are available through the shop or via email.

Have a lovely rest of the week everyone!


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