Last week someone asked me this question. I had a scientific/biology-based answer for her right away. It was such a good question though, and it seems like I've been thinking of a new reason every day since then.
First reason: It's harder to heal when you're dealing with pollution.
Our skin is our largest organ. It is semi-impermeable, but it's not impenetrable. This means it can keep out most big things, like microbes. But small things, like molecules, pass through the pores or between skin cells and get inside our bodies.
Did you know that at the outside of our skin (from the outside edge to .25-.4 mm deep), nearly all our cells are supplied with oxygen via diffusion through the skin?
Different molecules can pass through our skin at different rates, depending on many different factors.
And so a lot of the stuff you put on the outside of your skin, winds up inside your body to a certain extent.
Lotions, creams, cosmetics, even nail polish gets inside us to varying degrees when we use them. A lot of conventional cosmetics and salves contain carrier oils that are derived from petroleum products such as mineral oil, petrolatum, or paraffin wax. These ingredients make products smooth and help them spread evenly across your skin, they are also by-products of the gas industry. It's debatable how good they are for your body. This much, however, is true: your body has no use for petroleum molecules and once they are absorbed inside the body, the body needs to use energy to get them out.
Our body, [Thanks, Liver!] finds ways to deal with these petroleum-based ingredients, distribute them, and eliminate them if possible. But just like with any other kind of pollution, disposing of wastes requires work and energy; energy that could be best spent solving your original problem.
I can understand not being too choosy about the ingredients when you're looking for a great foundation, or some awesome Halloween makeup. But if you're using something everyday, or you're using it to heal an injury, I think it's best to use all natural ingredients.
According to Natural Healing, when the body is having a problem, the best thing to do is to give the body cells what they need to solve the problem. The herbs that I infuse my olive oil with contain nutrients cells need to facilitate the body's healing processes. The oils and waxes I use (olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax) are all natural. Humans have used these ingredients for millennia because our bodies are able to assimilate them easily. Our cells can use them for food and spare parts to repair cell structures.
When deciding if something is natural enough to go into one of my salves, I ask myself a serious question, “Would I eat it?”
I'm not talking large quantities here, it's just, if I wouldn't feel comfortable putting something in my mouth, I wouldn't feel comfortable encouraging someone else to use it on their body. (see my earlier blog post regarding herbal snuff).
I truly believe in the healing power of plants and I make remedies to solve problems, not to create a chronic need. I try to create a remedies to solve problems using herbs. Whether these problems are skin deep (Tear Repair) or deeper (WOD Balm Muscle), I want all the ingredients I use to feed skin and body cells so they can solve the problem.
And at the same time as I'm trying to heal something, I don't want to force my body to figure out how it's also going to assimilate a thin coating of motor oil, you know?
Suffice it to say, none of my salves taste very good, but all of them are 100% edible.