A better , natural floor cleaner: a Krya launch update

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The term “natural floor cleaner” is a popular search on the Krya website. There used to be a time when households used plain water to mop the floor after thoroughly sweeping the floor. Sometimes if the season was particularly muddy, or if this was pre festive season, a canny housewife would sprinkle cow dung / dried cow dung cakes plus a handful of turmeric powder into this water, and use this solution to mop the floor. Cow dung was considered a sacred dravya, infusing pranic energy into the home and also an effective insect repellent and anti bacterial agent.

Cow dung was used in ancient India to cleanse homes and floors and infuse positive energy within the home

Slowly, to increase their share of business anti bacterial liquids began to advertise, extending their use to cleaning the floor. Evocative images of babies eating off the floors, pets sleeping on the floor would be used to illustrate that our floors (the horror!) were JUST not good enough to eat off .

Just when households started getting reluctantly used to the smell of a strong anti bacterial liquid on the floor, convincing their families that the hospital like odour was for their own good, someone finally launched a specialised floor cleaner. In several toxic fragrance options.

Concerns with synthetic floor cleaners:

At Krya, we have several concerns over the rampant use of synthetic floor and toilet cleaners. We have listed these below:

99% germ removal or 100% growth of Super bugs?

Urban Indians today already suffer from “too clean” homes which are almost sterile. Children rarely play outdoors and schools and homes are sterile, air conditioned environments already.

Urban children live in too-clean, sterile environments

In this scenario, using a strong floor cleaner encourages the growth of antibiotic and triclosan resistant “super bacteria”. This is already an issue in India. Using such strong cleaners in Urban homes is an overkill – and promotes the growth of resistant bacteria And does not stimulate our immune response enough

No transparency in declaring contents

Household cleaners constitute what is called “Household hazardous waste”. This means that they cannot be disposed WITHOUT risk to human , animal or plant life. An example is this: is you are trying to get rid of your old synthetic toilet cleaner, there is no safe way to dispose it. You cannot pour out the liquid, put it into a water body or pour it onto the ground either. All of these will pose a risk for any form of life that may accidentally ingest the product.

 

Given that almost all synthetic household cleansers are hazardous waste, it is surprising that there is no declaration of their ingredients or any attempt to educate customers on their proper disposal. This is worrying in a country like India where literacy levels are low and waste is picked and sorted down the line by possibly illiterate sanitary workers, rag pickers and children.

Economically backward children, rag pickers are at risk when we dispose toxic household cleaners

Highly toxic and unstable formulae

All floor , surface and toilet cleaners come with severe warnings to be kept out of reach of children, pets, etc. Accidental ingestion can seriously harm or even kill children and pets. Skin contact is also supposed to be avoided. Eye contact can make you blind potentially. Also the contents cannot be mixed with other common cleaners like acid, phenyl etc and can lead to volcanic reactions.

household cleaners are toxic to use & dispose

Given these issues, we would be tempted to question why we are using actual poisons to clean our floors. We may also be right in asking how using a toxic cleaner to clean the floor somehow makes it safe for babies and pets crawling / licking these floors? The answer is that it is of course not safe – we get away with the use of these cleaners because we use them in small concentrations. But they obviously pose many risks.

A better alternative: natural floor cleaner research by Krya

We have been researching, piloting, experimenting and tweaking with a Krya answer to a safe, natural floor cleaner for sometime now. This product has been LONG in the making.  While researching the formulation, we turned to the Ayurvedic Samhitas for ideas on the use of herbs and how they should be combined for best use.

Ayurvedic approach: cleansing both etheric and physical spaces in the home

Studying Ayurvedic pediatric care texts (Bala chikitsa) is very useful in understanding the role of herbs and how they can cleanse both the physical and spiritual energy in a home.

This is of very great importance in Ayurveda to maintain a spiritually charged, positive and prana forward energy in the home for a small baby / child.

 

Ayurveda believes that infants and young children are very easily influenced by negative energy. Hence we are advised to use spiritually charged, Prana positive herbs to keep up the positive energy of the home and counteract these negative forces.

Ayurveda recommends charging the home with positive pranic energy

Techniques like “Dhumapana” (herbal smoke on the baby and mother’s person),  “Rakshoghna Praksalana” (washing of baby’s linen with natural, herb infused detergent), burning of “Dhoopa “(herb infused incense), and “Rakshoghna Bhumi Swacchakara” (cleaning of floors with Prana positive herbs) are all used for this.

The use of herbal smoke cleanses Vayu (air) and Akash (space) within the home.

Dhoopa is an ayurvedic cleansing technique that uses herbal smoke to cleanse vayu and akash within the home

In addition, the home is further charged with bunches of herbs, placed in the direction of the wind, so herbal fragrance wafts through the home uplifting the senses and increasing the positive vibration within the home.

Working on improving the etheric energy within the home by using prana positive , aura altering herbs is an important role of a Bhumi Swacchakara (Floor cleaner).

The Krya natural floor cleaner: in 2 variants

The Krya floor cleaner comes in 2 variants.

The Krya Scented Floor Cleaner  is made using 20 powerful ayurvedic herbs, resins and essential oils including Citriodora Oil, Pine Oil & Tamanu Oil. The formulation is very effective at repelling crawling insects like cockroaches, ants , etc. It is a good , safe, broad spectrum anti bacterial and anti fungal formulation which is adaptogenic.

krya natural floor cleaners use powerful rakshoghna & kirmighna herbs

As we use pure plants and plant essential oils, there is no question of microorganisms learning from and developing resistance to the product as plants vary across seasons and weather conditions and are far more adaptogenic compared to bacteria and fungi.

The Unscented Krya floor cleaner is made from  24 Ayurvedic Rakshoghna (anti bacterial) and Krimighna (insect repelling) herbs and plant resins like Vacha, Shirisha, Khadira, etc. This formulation is suggested for homes with very small children , premature infants, patients,  sensitive geriatrics and those with respiratory allergies / issue s(asthma, wheezing, hayfever, etc).

 

Both Krya floor cleaners contain prana positive, spiritually uplifing herbs and dravyas as suggested in the Ayurevdic Samhitas to cleanse the spiritual and etheric energy of the home.

The all natural floor cleaner by Krya

Pet safety:

Pets are extremely sensitive to odours in fine concentrations. Tea tree oil for example is a powerful and very effective anti bacterial E.O. However it is poisonous to cats and dogs at high doses. This is why I am perplexed to see so many brands putting up tea tree oil scented pet grooming powders – this is NOT safe!

There are Ayurvedic Samhitas that focus on veterinary science, but only large animals (horses, elephants) are covered, not small household animals like dogs and cats. Because of this, and because we do not have any experience with living with 4 legged friends, we have stayed away from making Krya products for household animals – although we have many many pending requests.

But, for homes with 4 legged friends, it is imperative to have a safe floor cleansing solution. This solution has to be safe for pets themselves and also handle any organisms that could be transmitted by the pets indoors. This needs much more R&D from our end. However, we promise to work on this. Please give us time – we will come back with a separate option that has been tested to be effective and is also safe for 4 legged friends.

Until then, if you have pets, please do not use either Krya floor cleaner – as an alternative, you can mop the floor with Krya detergent / Krya floor cleaner (unscented) alone.

Using the Krya natural floor cleaner:

The Krya natural floor cleaner is an ayurvedic choorna (powder format). We provide a cloth pouch along with every pack of this product. The choorna can be used either in the pouch or directly in your mop bucket.

 

Add the suggested quantity of the product to the pouch / directly into the bucket and add water as required. Allow a few minutes for the product to percolate into the water well or manually squeeze the pouch or disperse the product into the water. Use this charged water to mop the floor.

Available from:

Both Krya floor cleaner variants will be available on Viajaydasami Day (October 19th 2018) on the Krya website.

 

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What are the ingredients in a baby soap: Krya Baby 101 series

ingredients in a baby soap: avoid all soaps
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Reading Time: 13 minutes

“What are the ingredients in a baby soap and why do you recommend we use a baby ubtan instead?”

This is a common question we receive at Krya. My curiosity about this question prompted me to do a search. Google tells me that common searches made around baby soaps include: “best soap for newborn skin”, “newborn baby soap”, and “natural soap”, and “homemade soap for baby”. Interestingly, all these come under the larger umbrella of parents seeking information on exactly what goes into a baby soap.

Sadly, if you type the search term “ingredients in a baby soap”, all you get are product advertisements for baby soaps. Nowhere do you get any information on what goes into a baby soap and whether these ingredients are safe. So as a part of the Krya Baby Skin 101 series, we decided to do a post on this subject. Once you have found out the ingredients in a baby soap, would you even consider using one on your baby? We hope not and hope this post will explain why. Read on.

ingredients in a baby soap: truly horrifying to contemplate

What are the ingredients of a soap?

Historically, soaps were used only to clean laundry and fabric. Their discovery was accidental. Atleast 5000 years ago, it was discovered that when rain water mixed with wood ash, a highly alkaline, caustic substance called Lye was made. When Lye was poured on dirty fabric, it bleached and removed stains on fabric.

ingredients in a baby soap : soap is a historical invention used only to clean fabric

However, Lye was extremely caustic and corrosive. It could make you blind and burn your skin off. So, the ancients learn to bring down the caustic properties of Lye, by making a salt. When Lye and vegetable oil were mixed together, soap was made, which is chemically a salt.

This new salt, contained the same alkaline properties of Lye, but it was slightly milder compared to using plain Lye. However, even this milder soap was still quite corrosive. Therefore, it was used to wash the dirtiest fabric and linen to remove pre-historic dirt and stains.

So historically, the ingredients in a soap were just 2: Natural Lye and Natural vegetable oil. These 2 ingredients were combined and made into a soft paste initially and used to wash fabric.

How did soap make the transition from laundry to skin?

Soap started being used to clean skin in medieval Europe. This was a regressive move, when you consider how evolved skin care had gotten in ancient India, Greece and even Medieval Islamic countries. With the spread of Ayurveda and herbal knowledge from India, the utilization of herbs, oils, clays and special herbal mixtures had become very advanced in all these regions. Floral extracts and essential oil production techniques had also filtered from India to regions like Damascus, and Syria and these techniques and skin care methods were adopted.

Meanwhile in the rest of Medieval Europe, because of the colder conditions and medical techniques practiced, there was a fear around the use of water. From the 10th century to well beyond the Elizabethan Era, there was a rising fear around water and frequent baths.

This was compounded by cold conditions and very low temperature of water and lack of indoor plumbing or heated water systems. The result: baths were taken very infrequently. The nobility bathed once a month or less. Poorer people bathed once a year, and this year was a designated holiday.

ingredients in a baby soap: In medieval europe , bathing was rare due to lack of indoor plumbing, easy access to hot water and fear around bathing

As people were bathing very rarely, a very strong, harsh and alkaline soap become popular to remove accumulated dirt and dead cells. The easy availability of tallow due to animal husbandry practices, meant that soap could be easily made at farmsteads and manor homes. The poor people made do with a simple lye-tallow soap. Richer people and gentry were able to add perfumed oils into the mix and also after bath to give bathing a better experience.

Soap in modern India – killing traditional practices

The practice of bathing with soap is a post-Independence phenomenon in India. Until the 1950s, village industries flourished and the joint family set up ensured traditional practices were followed. Soaps and shampoos were not available. Once multinational companies began making their appearance in India, they started promoting “modern” soaps and shampoos to Indians, deriding our traditional practices.

Heavy advertising, the use of celebrities to promote the practices, the rise of beauty pageants with multinational sponsorship and heavy use of cheap, industrial fragrances, all helped cement soaps firmly in India’s mind.

An example of racist MNC soap advertising - Soap advt in 1890ingredients in a baby soap : Soap was thrust down upon Indians by MNCs using heavy advertising, celebrities and deriding our traditional practices

Traditional bathing utilized seasonal herbs, grains and clays. Recipes could be tailormade by season and availability of fresh herbs. Recipes were also tailormade for different groups of people. Baby ubtans were lovingly made by the women in the family using the best available ingredients. Ubtans for post-partum women included warming, vata reducing, mood uplifting herbs. Men who went out frequently and subjected to high sun exposure were given cooling herbs and rich clays to bathe in. The traditional bathing practice had something for everyone. Skin health, dosha balance and mood upliftment were all neatly taken care of.

ingredients in a baby soap : Tradiioally India relied on Ayurvedic wisdom to create well researched, holistic skin and hair care products

As soaps became more and more popular, the whole ecosystem behind traditional bathing practices began to collapse one by one. First with the loss in joint family set up, we lost family knowledge about herbs. With lack of interest in these products, there was no economic opportunity for the collectors of herbs. As herb processors found their machines rusting due to lack of use, the small village industries which locally processed these products went out of business.

As MNCs began aggressively spending behind retail space and advertising, retail stores stopped promoting these traditional products. When people started moving to nuclear and urban set-ups, the only place they could remember these practices became the kirana and retail stores. With no retail store promoting traditional skin and hair care products, the urban consumer fully became ensnared with chemical soaps and shampoos.

Thus a 5000+ year old wonderful, eco-friendly, healthy tradition of complete skin and hair care was lost to us. So today, we have to write blog posts at Krya explaining how a soap is dangerous for you and an ubtan is better!

What are the ingredients in a baby soap?

Let us analyze the most popular brand of synthetic baby soap. The ingredients listed on the pack are as follows:

  1. Sodium Palm Kernelate
  2. Sodium Palmate
  3. Water
  4. Mineral Oil
  5. Sodium Chloride
  6. Fragrance
  7. Glycerin
  8. Titanium dioxide
  9. Dimethicone
  10. C12-C15 Alkyl Benzoate
  11. Disodium EDTA
  12. Stearoxytrimethylysilane
  13. Stearyl Alcohol
  14. Disodium Etidronate
  15. Tocopherol Acetate
  16. Hydrolysed Milk Protein

As per Drug & Cosmetic guidelines, the ingredients should be listed from largest to smallest. The 15th ingredient is a synthetic compound which resembles the chemical structure of Vitamin E. The 16th ingredient is a synthetic extract of Casein. Casein is commonly found in Milk. These 2 ingredients are what the company heavily advertises as going into its soap.

This misleads parents into believing that this synthetic baby soap is full of Milk. Milk was also traditionally used in baby ubtans to make a paste. Parents conclude that this chemical soap is similar to a traditional baby ubtan with milk for their baby. The could not be more wrong.

As per Drugs & Cosmetics guidelines, Tocopherol and Casein form the smallest part of this chemical baby soap. How small? We can only make a guess as percentages are not listed on the pack. But as per our experience, these 2 ingredients can be as small as under 0.25% in the final product. Therefore, this is DEFINITELY not the same as a traditional baby ubtan mixed in milk.

All soaps need to be made with some form of oil / fat. Historically beef tallow was in use. We can also make soaps using edible vegetable oils like coconut oil, sesame oil, etc. if we wish. BUT, a mass-produced soap which costs around Rs.10 in the smallest size cannot afford to use edible vegetable oils.

So chemical soaps are made into a slurry, which is cement-like using synthetic cleansing agents, water, salt, fragrance and synthetics which give a soft feel on skin. This whole mass is churned into a slurry and then poured into moulds to set quickly. The presence of binding agents like Sodium Chloride help “set” the soap and form a hard mass.

The 1st two ingredients in the listing are Sodium Palm Kernelate & Sodium Palmate.  Sodium Palm Kernelate is a detergent surfactant. It is chemically a salt of Palm oil – so it is a synthetic version of a soap. However, it is much harsher on skin, as it is chemically very close to a detergent. It strips natural oils quickly and aggressively from skin.

Apart from being an aggressive surfactant, Sodium Palm Kernelate is also an emulsifying agent. So, in the presence of water it forms a thick, soft dispersion which feels moisturizing on skin. However, this only “feels” moisturizing, as in reality it is a simple detergent.

Disodium EDTA & Disodium Etidronate are both preservatives. This is essential as water is the 3rd largest ingredient by volume in this product. Disodium EDTA can worsen sensitive skin conditions – so if your baby has dermatitis or eczema, using this soap will worsen it.

Titanium dioxide (ingredient no 8 in the list) is used to bleach and whiten the final soap. It is a mineral used in Nano particle size which can clog baby’s delicate skin.

Stearoxytrimethylysilane is another chemical salt. It has a coating effect on skin, so skin temporarily feels smooth. This is only temporary and not real, but this chemical blocks the Srotas in skin from doing their job.

Stearyl alcohol is similar in its effects as Stearoxytrimethylysilane. It is a common coating agent which is added to moisturizing lotions, hair conditioners and synthetic soap to mimic the effect of a moisturizer on skin. Just like Stearoxytrimethylysilane, Stearyl alcohol coats and blocks skin. It is a commonly used evaporation suppressing monolayer which is used in some applications to prevent water from evaporating. Imagine the effect this evaporation suppressing monolayer can have on tender, unformed, highly vulnerable baby skin!

We have analyzed the ingredients in a commonly used, very famous brand of baby soap. It is a toxic overload of skin blocking, unnecessary, highly synthetic, lab made ingredients. The combined action of these ingredients is harmful for vulnerable skin. This product can do NO GOOD for skin.

We can safely assume that NO parent reading and understanding this, would ever consider applying this toxic product or any similar product on their child’s skin. So, what is the alternative?

ingredients in a baby soap: would you now, knowingly use a baby soap on your baby?

Herbal Baby ubtans: a safe, natural, non-toxic alternative to toxic baby soaps

We started this post with a lament on the dying traditional bathing practices in India. It was our sense of loss around these, and our growing alarm on the increasingly toxic personal care products now available that led us to start Krya.

The best and safest way to bathe a newborn, a baby with sensitive skin, for that matter, any baby, is with a good ayurvedic, herbal ubtan.

HOWEVER: all baby ubtans are not necessarily good for your baby. In our work, we have seen the following issues with the few other brands that offer baby ubtans:

  • High use of drying astringent herbs like Turmeric – While turmeric is an excellent herb, it cannot be used in high proportion in baby ubtans as it is very drying on skin

ingredients in a baby soap : Too much turmeric can be counter-productive in a baby ubtan

  • High use of potentially allergy inducing lentils: Many people are now developing allergies to commonly used lentils like Besan and Channa Dal. We estimate atleast 5% of the population could be allergic to these lentils. These lentils are also quite drying on skin. So, it is wise to completely avoid it in a baby ubtan – BUT many companies persistently use these lentils without doing proper research on their effects on skin
  • Formulation which is not properly balanced between “Ushna” and “Sheetya” ingredients: Ayurveda teaches us that every herb has a “Veerya” – which is a heating or cooling effect. It is important to reach the right balance for babies as they are very vulnerable to drops in their core temperature. Many baby ubtans we have seen are much more cooling than they should be – this is not good overall for the baby.

ingredients in a baby soap : important to make teh right balance of hot and cool ingredients in a baby ubtan

  • No Seasonal variation practiced in formulation: Ayurveda teaches us that herbs should be used seasonally. We cannot use highly cooling herbs in Winter and vice versa. However, many brands of baby ubtan do not vary their formulation properly by season. This can also affect baby adversely.
  • No use of organically grown lentils and grains: The dependence on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides are abnormally high in conventional farming. So, grains sourced from such chemical farming are NOT IDEAL for Baby. We are yet to come across any company which uses organically grown grains and lentils in their formulations.

ingredients in a baby soap : Lentils & grains sourced through chemicalfarming are used in many baby ubtan products. This can increase toxic overload in baby's skin

Krya Baby Ubtans & Body wash powders: Ideal, traditional product for Baby’s skin

Obviously when we search for “ingredients in a baby soap” online, we expect two things. First we expect an answer on just what are these mysterious ingredients in a baby soap. Second, if we do not want to use these toxic, chemical laden products, we need an alternative.

We saw both what goes into a regular baby soap and some problems we have seen in baby ubtans. So here is why we feel Krya baby ubtans and baby bodywash powders are ideal products for your baby’s skin.

Krya offers 3 baby skin cleansing traditional powders: Krya baby girl ubtan, Krya baby boy ubtan and Krya gentle baby bodywash powder (a unisex product).

ingredients in a baby soap : Krya baby products are teh ideal partner for your baby's skin

If you are looking for a special product by gender, we recommend using the Krya baby boy / girl ubtans. If you have twins, or would like a unisex product, you can choose the Krya Gentle baby bodywash powder. All 3 products can be used from one week of the baby’s birth.

Traditionally, a newborn baby is massaged with a traditional ayurvedic oil from the first day of birth. For one week, we use only herbal water to wash the baby. From one week onwards, we may use any of the Krya baby ubtans / bodywash products.

All Krya baby ubtans / body washes MUST be used along with one of Krya’s baby oils. This is the recommended ayurvedic practice. Oiling before bath helps nourish baby’s skin, tone and support healthy muscle growth and relieves fatigue.

ingredients in a baby soap: a pre-bath oil massage is a must before baby's bath to nourish skin and support healthy muscle growth

We looked at some of the drawbacks of other baby ubtans in the market. Here are the plus points behind all of Krya’s baby ubtans and bodywash powders.

Why Krya’s baby ubtans are a better choice for your baby

Balanced, well researched, authentic, proprietary formula:

The Krya baby ubtans follow a traditional, well researched formula. We take care to ensure the formula judiciously uses drying herbs like turmeric (it is present in the correct quantity). We also ensure the correct balance of Ushna and Sheetya Veerya herbs to make sure baby remains warm and does not carry a chill.

We specially use excellent divya oushadi herbs which are warming like Ram Tulasi, Krishna Tulasi, Siva Tulsi and Indian borage (Karpooravalli) in our formulations. Some of these herbs are not very widely available commercially – we take care to source these herbs to ensure our formulation is good for babies.

ingredients in a baby soap : Krya's baby ubtans and bodywashes contain many rare medicinal herbs

No allergy / rash inducing lentils and grains:

Although Besan and Channa dal are relatively cheaper and help cleanse skin, we do not use these lentils in Krya’s formulations to ensure that there are no allergic reactions on babies. Similarly, common allergens like peanuts and associated products are not used at Krya. However, despite all these precautions, it is always wise to do a patch test on baby’s skin before starting to use any product. This is a practice we recommend at Krya as well.

ingredients in a baby soap: Krya's baby products contain no allergy inducing lentils.

Krya’s baby ubtans have seasonal formulation variations:

All Krya’s formulations undergo seasonal variations. This ensures that baby does not develop any chills or colds from using a product that contains cooling ingredients in cold season. In Winter, our formulation is usually slightly more “warming” to account for seasonal changes.

Krya ‘s baby ubtans use organically grown lentils, grains and herbs:

All of Krya’s grains and lentils are organically grown. We source our grains from known, trusted, authentic farmers, and farming co-operatives. Many of our herbs are forest collected, which ensure that pesticide run off and contamination is minimal. The oils we use in our Baby oils are organic AND Cold pressed – ensuring very high nutrition. All fresh herbs, leaves and fruits going into our oils are ONLY ORGANICALLY grown.

This makes our supply chain process complex and demanding. Our average costs are also atleast two or three times higher because of our insistence on high quality organic produce. But, this means that your baby gets only the best and safest products on his / her skin, which makes the effort worth it.

To sum up:

We started this post with an innocent question: what are the ingredients in a baby soap. The exploration to this answer took us through the murky world of personal care, explored our traditional bathing practices. We also looked at the history behind the invention of soaps, and how they have taken over our minds today.

Our post ended with an analysis of Baby ubtans and what makes Krya’s baby ubtans and bodywash products so unique and good for baby.

We hope this post inspired you to replace your current baby soap with the Krya baby ubtan. We also hope this post sparked off a desire to know more about what goes into products you use on yourself and in your home.

Our collective choices are very very expensive today. We are flooding our planet and our bodies with unnecessary, toxic and hazardous ingredients. We do not yet know the long-term consequence of any of these ingredients on our collective health.

We hope our post gave you a thought starter on these lines. If you have any question on our baby products, please call us or write to us.

Krya Products Recommended for Baby:

  • Krya baby ubtans & bodywashes – made from organic or forest collected herbs, grains and lentils . Cleans thoroughly yet is extremely soothing and gentle on baby’s skin. Can be used everyday from the 1st day of baby’s birth.
  • Krya baby massage oils – made using authentic ayurvedic herbs, and organic cold pressed vegetable oils processed through a rigorous ayurvedic manufacturing process. Can be used from the time a baby is 1 week old
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Don’t kill the Dead Sea : on biological conservation & harvesting resources responsibly

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

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A crucial but unspoken part about running a Botanical company is displaying an appreciation for and sensitivity towards conservation. India contains literally thousands of medicinal herbs which are great for skin and hair. However, a few of these herbs are much more famous among consumers and therefore make a product easier to market or sell.

 

It will come as no surprise that the more famous a herb gets, the more vulnerable the plant becomes to over exploitation or stripping.

 

A case in point is Sandal and Red Sanders. Both these trees are very vulnerable to smuggling and over exploitation. Over exploitation means that there is simply too much careless logging happening of the trees without enough time and space being given to conserve the existing population. And when we continue to demand these trees, we permit unlicensed cutting, rampant smuggling and fuel a parallel economy where human rights are strongly affected.

 

This is why at Krya, despite easy availability of unlicensed Red Sandal, we refuse to use it in our products. We do not want our money and your money to support illegal trade and smuggling of this vulnerable plant.

 

We do use small amounts of Sandal in our products. This is purchased from a government authorised license holder who is permitted to log restricted amounts of Sandal. This means that we get Sandal only in small quantities and the costs that we get it at are extremely high. This also means that we get the genuine Sandal. Which has been logged responsibly under checks and balances. And given the Sandal is a rare and expensive herb, we learn as a company to use it judiciously, only in the appropriate formulations where Sandal is strongly required – therefore the system keeps everyone in check.

 

We have strongly resisted using imported materials in Krya, despite their obvious value for skin and hair. There was a time when Dead Sea minerals were a huge “in” resource to be used in skin and hair care formulations. It stands to reason that the Dead Sea is a finite resource. If every single person in the world wanted to treat their hair and skin with the minerals from there, we would not have a Dead Sea left.

 

Similar is the case with soil based products. Green French clay and Moroccan Rhassoul clay are both extremely nutrient rich soils that are beneficial for skin and hair and can be used for different complaints. However, this is soil that is endemic to a particular region and has been created by a unique set of factors that is specific to that region. For example, French green clay was first identified in rock quarries in southern France. Their unique green colour comes from iron oxides that occur naturally and decomposed kelp seaweed and algal plant matter giving the clay its natural tint. The process of forming this clay is extremely old – and the clay samples we get today could be tens of thousands of years old. IF we simply take this clay away, from across the world, we are depleting the local environment of this natural soil WITHOUT doing anything to add it back to the soil.

 

The same maxim holds for Moroccan Rhassoul clay too.

 

There are 4 principles that should be held onto when using natural resources:

 

  1. They should be harvested carefully with a view of ensuring that the plant / animal / mineral being harvested is not stripped and decimated from its natural surroundings. The harvesting technique should ensure rotation so that we give enough time for this resource to re-generate so we are not depleting it by our actions.
  2. They should be used carefully and not frivolously. Every ingredient must be used in the right quantity, not wasted and should go towards treating the ailment the ingredient helps cure.
  3. We should use easily renewable plat resources first – this list includes fruits and flowers which are meant for harvesting. This list also includes plants that are easy to cultivate, have a short life cycle and do not depend upon very strong environmental forces to form (erg: volcanic soil, dead sea minerals, Shilajit, etc)
  4. The use of ingredients must be LOCAL and SEASONAL. This is a maxim given in all the Ayurvedic texts which state that herbs which are LOCAL to you tend to work best for you. So even if “French green clay” or “Moroccan Argan oil” sounds great, what will probably work best for us in India are Coconut or Sesame Oil and any one of our medicinal herbs.

 

If we harvest and use herbs and resources as per the above 4 principles, we will not over exploit or drain our resources in one area.

 

The next time you shop for a skin / hair care product and it is advertised as containing imported ingredients like Dead Sea Minerals, Moroccans Argan Oil or rare Amazonian herbs, do consider buying something local instead. And when you are buying something local, and it advertised as containing extremely rare and expensive and hard to procure ingredients like Red Sandal, Shilajit or Saffron, check for its authenticity and legality as well.

 

Remember, we don’t just buy. We vote and send out a statement about the ethical, business and moral practices we would like to see around us. .

 

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The Toxin-free, great-for-skin alternative to a synthetic moisturiser : Krya shares why you should ditch your day cream and choose Ayurveda instead

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

We received an interesting query on the Krya page today and it set me thinking that this is something I should be talking about in the Krya blog.  “Do you have a day cream”, asked a customer, and this is one among many such queries for people asking us for safe moisturizing products.

 

What goes into a synthetic moisturiser?

A synthetic moisturiser is made up of emollients, emulsifiers, sometimes humectants, preservatives, fragrances, colours and sometimes granular particles like micro beads.

Emollient: An emollient is the “moisturising” part of the moisturiser. However, while a natural emollient like a cold pressed vegetable oil is actually good for your skin, petroleum based synthetic emollients clog skin and canwill increase the chances of acne and other infections.

1.chemicals

Emulsifiers: Emulsifiers are further chemicals added to synthetic moisturisers. These chemicals are added to make the cream / lotion stable and ensure they do not separate. Synthetic emulsifiers are typically made from petroleum and hydrocarbon derivatives and are notorious in triggering allergic reactions on skin. Again these are better used on your car then your skin.

Humectants: Humectants are substances designed to draw moisture to the surface of the skin. There are many natural substances that perform this role like honey and glycerine. However, when synthetic humectants like PEG (Polyethylene Glycol) and PG (Propylene Glycol) are used in products, they add to the occlusive barrier formed by petroleum. This makes the skin “un breathable” disturbing its functionality, and triggering acne, bacterial attacks and allergic reactions.

Preservatives: we have chronicled the issues with Parabens that are commonly used as preservatives before. The very least toxic effect of a paraben is skin irritation. Many of them have been linked very strongly to hormone disruption, developmental toxicity and breast cancer.

 

The need for safety in today’s moisturizing products – a few case studies

We at Krya are increasingly alarmed at the cavalier way in which human safety is sidelined while formulating personal care products. Countries are slow to understand the effects of synthetics when used in products, and the collective effect of using a large cocktail of synthetics is little understood until it is often too late.

For example, with the growing hue and cry over Parabens, we now have many leading personal care companies proudly declaring that they now use Phenoxyethanol as a “safer preservative”. Phenoxyethanol is allowed to be present at a concentration of 1% in skin care products. However, it comes with several warnings by the U.S FDA. For example, any accidental ingestion of Phenoxyethanol even at these low concentrations can be toxic and dangerous to infants.

2.phenoxyethanol

 

If Phenoxyethanol and Chlorphenesin(another so-called safe preservative) are present together in a product, it could lead to depressed breathing in infants and in those already in poor health. For this reason, breastfeeding mothers are not supposed to use any personal care products containing Phenoxyethanol to avoid any risk of transmission to the child.

Now here is another piece of information: Chlorphenesin is a powerful synthetic used to counter muscle spasms in full strength. It is used in small doses as a preservative along with Phenoxyethanol. This is the combination that the FDA has warned against: the toxic combination of the Central nervous system depressing Phenoxyethanol and the muscle action suppressing Chlorphenesin which when used together slows down breathing in infants and geriatrics. And this after applying a seemingly harmless looking skin cream!

Methylisothiazolinone or MI is another among the thousands of suspect ingredients in skin and hair care products. In the UK, doctors first raised the alert against this preservative in 2013, when they said that 1 in 10 eczema sufferers were allergic to this ingredient which triggered rashes and extreme skin swelling. This year, scientific advisers to the EU have called for a ban on using MI in leave on products and a dramatic reduction in the allowed MI percentage in rinse off products.

3. MI

 

However it Methylisothiazolinone is still not outlawed and is being used across the world in products formulated for both adults and children across hair and skin.

 

How were moisturizing products formulated in the ancient world?

After reading the above horror stories, any reader would no doubt ask us the logical question: how did we formulate moisturising products earlier? Was there ever a need for any of these additional horror ingredients?

In the western world, the first reference to cream comes from the 2nd century Greek physician Galen. Galen formulated a simple cold cream which was made from only 3 ingredients: beeswax, olive oil, and rose water. Galen made a simple oil in water emulsion using beeswax as a natural emulsifier, similar to how we would make mayonnaise or salad dressings.

4. galens cream

 

Obviously the shelf life of this formulation could not have been very long – depending on the climate this cream may have lasted between 1 – 3 months. Being a simple olive oil based emulsion, this cream would have been used in cold weather for spot application and to protect the skin from rough cold winter wind.

 

How were moisturising products formulated in India?

Ayurveda and Siddha both document the use of a rich variety of fats of both animal and plant origin to make moisturizing products, pomades and oils. Depending upon the fat used, you could get a product of oil like consistency or a thick paste like consistency which is similar to that of a cream.

For example: Natural Beeswax (from the hive of a real bee and not synthetically derived) is documented for its skin and wound healing properties in both Ayurveda and Siddha. Natural Beeswax is often used in Ayurvedic products meant for scar healing, in fire accidents and in very putrid, oozing wounds where there is a need to isolate the healing body from the external environment. In these cases, pure honey is also added along with the beeswax to seal off the wound, provide moisture for the broken skin layer and allow healing to take place.

5.beeswax

 

The use of certain kinds of plant butters is also recorded in Ayurveda among specific communities and regions. For example, kokum butter, which is used by Krya in the Krya extra conditioning hair oil ad the Krya Moisture plus skin oil, is extremely well documented for its hydrating properties. Kokum butter is quickly absorbed into skin and scalp and is intensely hydrating, making it very suitable for dry and frizzy hair and very dry skin. At room temperature, kokum butter becomes solid, so this product is often used for making cream / paste like skin and hair care products in Ayurveda.

6. kokum butter

 

Ghee is also another ingredient liberally used in Ayurveda for formulations meant for pitta skin or hair conditions. Again like kokum butter, Ghee is solid at room temperature, so the addition of a good quantity of ghee makes a formulation thick, unctuous and cream like.

 

Thickening without parabens and PEG – traditional skin and hair care in Ayurveda

At Krya, by the use of Ayurvedic herbs, formulations and processing techniques, we are able to deliver excellent skin and hair care oils which have varying textures.

For example, the Krya Moisture plus Skin Oil has been designed for the use of extremely dry or aging skin. We recommend use of this oil as a night, leave on application and also as a pre-bath oil. In the night application, the oil is used in very small quantity (3 – 4 drops) and applied on cleansed skin and left on the entire night.

Our users report that with regular use of this oil, the skin develops an excellent lustre, evenness of complexion and filling in of small lines.

7. moisture plus

 

While the Krya Moisture Plus skin oil has been made using base oils like Sesame and Coconut Oil, the final texture of the oil is moderately thick , does not run quickly over skin and leaves the skin feeling well moisturised without any oiliness.

The secret to this texture change is the Ayurvedic processing technique we follow called the sneha Kalpana process. Ayurveda recommends the Sneha Kalpana process to “prepare” an herb infused oil for skin or hair application by the use of fresh juices of herbs (Swarasa), decoctions of dried herb tubers, roots, stems and bark, herb pastes and cold pressed vegetable base oil.

The Sneha Kalpana process uses “Agni” or fire to boil all these different ingredients so that the properties of the herbs are transferred to the oils. In this process, the particle size and texture of the oil is completely transformed.

8. sneha kalpana process

 

Many of us might have applied raw coconut oil on our skin. We often find that it is runny and feels extremely oil and is sometimes not very well absorbed especially if we have severely dry skin.

However, the same coconut oil, when processed in the sneha Kalpana method, alters in texture as it absorbs the herb Swarasa, kwatha and kalpa to become thick, much more moisturising, less runny and more effective.

When we finish the Sneha Kalpana process, we get a dense, moisturizing, dosha balancing and stable oil.

 

Moderate Shelf Life without Phenoxyethanol – the Ayurvedic way

We spoke earlier about the dangers of several new fangled preservatives like Phenoxyethanol. A true Ayurvedic product does not use any preservatives because the Ayurvedic manufacturing process itself ensures a moderate shelf life, and there right texture for the application.

So you might notice that the maximum shelf life we give to our products is 12 months. Our skin and hair oils have a shelf life between 9 – 12 months. We achieve this without adding either natural preservatives like essential oils which may be unsuitable for certain people or synthetic preservatives like parabens, Phenoxyethanol, etc.

By boiling our oils for upto 10 hours until all the water from the herb juices evaporate, we have removed any medium that can be suitable for fungal and bacterial growth. We follow several precautions to check for complete water evaporation as outlined in the texts and also used specially designed traditional oil boiling vessels made of metals like brass that retain heat much longer, allowing for complete water evaporation.

9.sneha kalpana - no preservatives

By following this authentic Ayurvedic process, we not only ensure that our oil is rich in botanical nutrients. We also ensure that the product is stable and can work well for you for a moderate amount of time.

 

The rich use of botanical herbs – to give you nutrient dense products that really work

Classical Ayurvedic formulations and proprietary Ayurvedic formulations like Krya’s are rich in the use of powerful botanical herbs.

For example: We use Winter cherry (Ashwagandha) and Moringa leaf in the Krya Classic Skin Oil, along with the Swarasa of Daucus carota (carrot) and Ananas comosus (Pineapple) . These herbs are extremely useful in even-ing out acne based scars and blemishes, in correcting the oil balance of oil prone skin and offering moisturisation without creating a medium for bacterial attack or acne.

10.classic skin oil

 

The herbs we have outlined form just a small proportion of the many herbs used. Like all Ayurvedic formulations, the Krya skin and hair oils use large quantities of between 10 – 16 different herbs carefully chosen for a particular skin or hair condition.

This makes an Ayurvedic moisturising product rich, complex, holistic and real food for your skin. It does not use simplistic and poor synthetics like petroleum or hydrocarbons which work against the skin and interfere with its natural functioning.

 

Leave on vs. wash off: the Ayurvedic view point on moisturisation

Here is the difference between Ayurvedic skin care and synthetic skin care: the skin is never supposed to be left feeling dry or in need of a moisturiser during any part of the skin cleaning and care routine. So if your cleansing routine is leaving your skin in need of a moisturiser, you should actually be switching cleansing products and not looking for a better moisturiser.

The Ayurvedic skin care routine we prescribe at Krya is minimal, sensible, simple and extremely effective:

  1. Cleanse your skin only with our lentil, grain and herb based cleansers (we have options separately for the face and the body and for different skin needs)
    1. This cleansing deep cleanses skin and activates and unclogs all the minor srotas – so your skin breathes better, eliminates better and regenerates better
    2. This cleansing cleanses WITHOUT stripping your skin’s acid mantle or sebum barrier – this means your skin feels plum, moisturised and nourished after your bath without adding a moisturising product
    3. Cleansing to restore the right balance of synergistic microflora – this means that your body odour reduces, and you remain sweet smelling without resorting to a synthetic deo

11. herb cleansers

  1. Spot application of our skin oils – prebath. For special areas that get dry because of constant exposure to the elements or as a normal part of aging (face, elbows, legs, knees, sometimes arms), we recommend application of one of our Skin Oils. We have different kinds of skin oils for different skin needs. All our oils can be applied on your face and your body.
    1. Night application of our skin oils for the face – if you are looking for a safe night cream replacement and are above 30, the Krya skin oils are a synthetic free, wonderful replacement to toxic night creams. The oils support the natural functioning of your skin; gently penetrate the skin and supply the nutrition required based on your needs. The oil is to be applied in miniscule quantities (2 – 3 drops) on cleansed skin, 30 minutes before sleeping.
  2. The occasional use of our grain and herb based specialised face masks
    1. If you have special skin conditions like acne, or are looking to supplement your skin care routine, we advise using one of our face masks once a week or once a fortnight.

So from a series of 7 – 8 different products for skin, what we recommend is the use of 2 – 3 products (the oil for face and body, the face wash and the body wash). Occasionally you may use the face mask as a pick me up.

Along with a good diet a healthy lifestyle, these few products are all you need for good quality skin.

 

Skin moisturising options at Krya:

I started this post with a question that is often asked of us: what are our options in moisturising.

I end this post telling you that you should choose your skin care products as carefully as you chose your food. Just like none of us want to eat Endosulfan contaminated rice or Monocrotophos contaminated strawberries, none of us should be choosing ethanoxypenol laced skin creams or moisturisers.

Your skin and hair are bio-engineered to perform very specific and important functions. In their performing of these functions they are supposed to look great. However, when we unknowingly apply damaging, toxic and suspect ingredients on your hair and skin, their health diminishes and they start looking the worse for the wear.

The careful selection of a few well crafted and well thought out natural products are all your skin and hair really needs to function really well and look its best.

Here is Krya’s range of skin care products for different needs:

  1. Krya’s Classic skin range – designed for normal to oily pitta prone skin. This skin has an occasional breakout, has an oily t-zone, and is sensitive to heat and the sun and gets easily flushed in heat
    1. The Krya Classic Skin Oil with Carrot & Wintercherry
    2. The Krya Classic facewash with Green Tea & Chamomile
    3. The Krya Classic Bodywash with Rosemary & Cassia Flower
    4. The Krya Classic face mask with Rose petals & Guava
  2. Krya’s After Sun Range – designed for skin with high sun exposure, heat sensitive, sun exposure induced dryness and high tanning and pigmentation (due to sun exposure)
    1. The Krya Classic Skin Oil with Carrot & Wintercherry – use at night to encourage skin healing and repair
    2. The Krya Soothing After Sun face wash powder with Oatgrass & Mint
    3. The Krya After sun bodywash powder with Arjuna & Ashwagandha
    4. The Krya After sun soothing herb face mask with Liquorice & Rosemary
  3. Krya’s Anti Acne Range – designed for skin that has severe acne
    1. We do not recommend use of a skin oil until the eruptions have reduced in number. Once they have come down , you can use the Krya Classic skin range,
    2. The Krya Clarifying Anti acne face wash with Guava and Lodhra
    3. The Krya Anti acne Face mask with Daruharidra and Lodhra
    4. Acne prone skin does well with the Krya Classic bodywash
  4. Krya’s Moisture Plus Range – designed for normal to dry skin that tends to be flaky around the mouth and eyes, feels rough, dull or lifeless and seems to “drink in” moisturisers.
    1. Krya Moisture Plus Skin Oil with Durva and Pomegranate
    2. Krya Moisture Plus Face wash Powder with Gotu Kola & Liquorice
    3. Krya Moisture Plus Body wash powder with Kushta & Indian Liquorice
    4. Krya Moisture Plus face mask with Fennel & Orange Flower
  5. Krya’s Sensitive Skin Range – designed for skin that is prone to eczema or psoriasis with skin thickening, dryness, crust like scab formation, intense itching and skin darkening in the problem area
    1. Krya Sensitive Skin Oil with Cardamom & Neem (NEW) – we have had excellent results with our Sensitive skin oil – regular use accelerates skin healing, cuts down skin thickening and brings skin back to its original colour with minimal scars and blemishes
    2. Krya Sensitive Face & Bodywash with Lodhra & Lotus flower
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Krya Ayurveda series – Balancing vata dosha through your feet

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

It is interesting how the state of your feet reveal a lot about your dosha type and helps traditional medicine diagnose the state of your skin and health.

Ayurveda defines twin goals as its objective: the promotion of “Ayu” (long life) and the promotion of “Ayush” (health). Most treatises say that with the right care, proper following of prescribed health regimes, a human being should be able to live for atleast a 100 years free from disease. In my experience, I have seen this to be true of many of the great yoga gurus like T Krishnamacharya, BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, who all lived well beyond 90, and were mobile, extremely sharp and teaching and working until their very last day.

The most special quality of traditional medicine systems is their ability to form a holistic view and see the patterns between different parts of the body and the organ systems – no traditional medicine will dived itself by organ parts or systems. The body is treated as a whole and the corrections that are to be made are deduced by observing different parts of the body and forming seemingly disparate connections.

 

The role of Vata dosha in the body:

I have spoken about vata dosha and how it is essential in a healthy body to promote mobility, intellect, creativity and speed. Vata is often called the companion dosha as it helps transport and move the other 2 doshas of pitta and kapha which are immobile without Vata. Vata therefore governs the seat of the muladhara chakra in the body – the kidneys, uterus, and all organs of downward movement (faeces, urine, and blood).

Therefore any disturbance in Vata always affects all downward movements in the body – limbs, walking, joints, periods, bowel movements, etc.

I have mentioned before how cities and people living in cities naturally have an excess of Vata. Vata dosha governs the qualities of wind, space, and actions associated with air like speech and hearing. So when we utilise transport to commute long distances, use our speech and hearing in excess (with most office and creative jobs), use objects that excite the sense organs and involve creativity like a computer, mobile phone, Ipad, we are engaging with our Vata dosha – if this engagement is not balanced and does not give our Vata dosha a chance to calm down, we would have excited it to the point of excess.

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Vata vitiating measures:

When we use products, or engage in treatments that dry out our body, we are removing moisture and therefore increasing vata in the body. So lack of oiling, no regular abhyanga and the use of drying products on hair and skin are also factors that can increase vata in the body.

Vata also increases when we selectively consume vata promoting foods – these include foods that promote wind like potatoes, cabbage, excess amount of lentils, high amount of raw foods and fried foods and even healthy foods like Millets.

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The quality of air that we must keep in mind the most is its ability to move rapidly and fill gaps – unlike pitta and kapha dosha which are immobile, vata is extremely mobile. So every time we leave our internal body dry, use products that deplete moisture, and over engage with vata dosha, we are leaving gaps in or body for vata to rush in and grow in excess.

The dance of the 3 doshas in the body is a fixed sum game: so whenever one dosha goes in excess/ reduced the other 2 doshas go down / up to make up the difference. So the vitiation of one dosha, if left untreated always leads to complications caused by other doshas.

 

Symptoms of vitiated vata dosha:

One of the questions we ask people who write to us with symptoms of dry lifeless hair and skin is to ask them to observe the state of their nails, especially toe nails. Ayurveda states that hair and nails are both made from asthi and majja – bones and marrow from the body. So in one sense, the quality of your hair and nails reflect the quality of your bones and marrow – so if your hair is dry, weak, lifeless and your nails are not in the pink of health, this reflects that your body needs to be taken care of.

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The asthi and majja, like the rakta is formed from the food we eat. When we eat the right food, and when our organs are in good shape to absorb nutrients, the process of forming our body is said to be good. Similarly, if the organs of Mala (excretion) like the skin, kidneys and lower intestine need to be functioning well to remove the waste products from the body, to ensure the channels are free and clear from toxins for nutrition assimilation to happen.

Food and external application are the twin routes to keeping the body in shape. Ayurveda emphasises on the roles of both anna and daily regimens to be followed (external application) to nourish, feed and maintain the body’s health.

An excess of both Pitta dosha and vata dosha can cause cracks in your heels. The cracks formed due to aggravated Pitta dosha are less deep compared to the cracks formed by vitiated vata dosha. The heel cracks formed due to aggravated Vata dosha can be deep, where you can see a layer of fat and tissue underneath the cracks, leading to pain when you walk.

Cracked heels are not a cosmetic problem: they are your body’s way of letting you know that you are off balance.

 

The quickest way to manage vitiated vata:

Vata dosha is the dosha that responds the quickest to the sense of touch as it is the dosha that governs all the sense organs. So every sense organ like the eyes, ears, skin, respond well to measures that decrease vitiated vata.

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The is why our single point prescription for any form of dryness (dry hair, dry skin, dry feet, lifeless skin, dullness, constipation, improper bowel movement, pain in joints) starts with an abhyanga (oil massage). By bathing the body in oil and massaging it vigorously, we control the spread of air. By increasing the warmth in the body, we liquefy fat / kapha and encourage it to come to the surface. By cooling the body, we also cool down pitta / Agni in the body. This is why an abhyanga is considered tridoshic and so beneficial for the body.

The Charaka Samhita states that if a twig is dipped in oil and massaged vigorously every day, no force can break this twig – it can be only bent but not broken. Similarly a daily / frequent abhyanga adds strength, glow and nourishment to the body and gives it the strength to withstand disease, old age and delays ageing.

Nail care in Ayurveda:

As the nails are a precursor to bone and marrow health, it is important to keep them in good health. Ayurveda recommends that the feet be observed atleast once a week in minute detail to ascertain signs of dosha vitiation. Nails should be clean and free from artificial colours and nail polish so that you can examine their colour, smoothness and growth to see if your body is working well.

Application of nail polish has long been deduced to be extremely harmful to the body. Nail paints are loaded with substances like dibutyl phthalate that are carcinogenic. The phthalate family is linked strongly to breast cancer, precocious puberty and has adverse foetal effects like low birth weight, and changes in foetal mental and motor development.

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In addition to their strongly adverse effects, the application of nail paint seals off the nails from interacting with the environment, and does not give us a chance to continually examine the state of our health.

Pada abhyanga:

Pada abhyanga is a strongly recommended Dincharya in Ayurveda. This is especially suitable for high vata vitiation – so if you generally have late nights, irregular eating schedules, dry skin and hair, cramping and pain during periods and incomplete bowel movements, a daily pada abhyanga before sleeping is very beneficial.

If you are not doing a daily abhyanga, a Pada abhyanga is beneficial between your regular abhyanga days. A Pada abhyanga is also beneficial; when you are not allowed to do a full Abhyanga due to certain health conditions.

A Pada Abyanga is also an excellent complementary Abhyanga practice to remove the fatigue of the day, calm down high mental stress and to assist you or your family members during periods of high mental stress (board exams, board exam results, etc).

How to do a pada abhyanga and when:

If your vata is out of control, a nightly pada abhyanga before sleeping is very beneficial. Else once a week as a part of a good maintenance routine, especially on Sunday morning is beneficial.

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Wash your feet extremely well, preferably with a grain based wash ensuring the pores of the skin are roughly cleaned and opened. Dry the feet very well and begin abhyanga using a medicated sesame based oil. If vata affliction is very high, warm, melted ghee may also be used. Using Melted ghee also helps with excess pitta if it is an issue.  Pay a lot of attention to the soles of the feet – The soles of the feet contain Marma points corresponding to many organs like the kidneys so a strong regular massage is said to be very beneficial to the entire body.

Once the soles of the feet are done, pay attention to the toe nails and the nail beds. Apply a good amount of warm oil / ghee copiously ‘watering” the nails to ensure oil penetrates the cuticles and the nail bed. This is also a good time to clean the nail beds and shape your nails without damaging the cuticles in any way.

Once the pada abhyanga is done, wait for 15 – 20 minutes before removing excess oil from the feet. If your vata dosha is very high, you can simply wipe off the excess oil with a warm and moist towel. If this is done, wear loose cotton socks over your feet to retain warmth and ensure the oil does not smear onto your bed linen while you sleep.

Otherwise, you can wash your feet again with a grain based wash and then dry the feet well. Whether your vata dosha is high or not,you must clean the excess oil using either of the 2 methods suggested.

Benefits of a good pada abhyanga:

The immediate benefit of a good pada abhyanga is that excess vata is controlled and you get sound sleep. Generally vitiated vata results in disturbed, light sleep that leaves you feeling tired and irritable the next morning. This settles within 2 – 3 regular pada abhyangas.

Apart from directly affecting the health of the feet and ensuring there are no cracks, dry skin or stiffness around the toes and ankles, in the long term, a pada abhyanga improves clarity of vision, reduces fatigue, improves strength of feet and improves the circulation of rakta in the body. Pada abhyanga along with an overall body abhyanga and kesha abhyanga (hair oiling) are the 3 important external oleation routines prescribed in Ayurveda for good health.


This is a part of Krya’s continuing education series on Ayurveda for the benefit of Krya’s consumers and our blog readers. This is imperative as knowledge and belief in Ayurveda is fast falling and there is a rise in unscrupulous elements who are exploiting people’s inherent belief in Ayurveda with sub standard products / advice.

Our work consists of 2 parts: the first is in disseminating good quality information that is interesting and engaging to help you understand how relevant Ayurveda is to your life. The second part of our work is in research, formulating a manufacturing a high quality set of support products that are designed to help you maintain the health of your hair, skin and body (externally). We hope that our work inspires you to take charge of your health and follow simple, consistent and meaningful health routines to help you lead a better life.

 


Krya’s list of abhyanga-snana products can be found in the links given below:

Krya for abhyanga and pada abhyanga: Skin Oils

Unique features

  • Processed using traditional, skin health enhancing and regenerative herbs like Ashwagandha (Winter cherry), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Moringa, Liquorice, etc
  • As per the Ayurvedic tradition, all of Krya’s skin oils are processed with warming herbs like cumin, ajwain and dried ginger to ensure the body’s kapha and mucous level does not increase with the oil application. This is especially important when making skin oils for babies, as babies are generally high in kapha dosha, so the oil should not further vitiate this kapha.
  • All the herbs we use in our oils are either organically cultivated or wild harvested and are free from synthetics, pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Our herbs are processed in our cold pressed, manually extracted, full of goodness base oils of coconut, sesame, apricot, tamanu and kokum butter
  • The oil processing is done on gentle heat and takes upto 8 – 10 hours of gentle manual stirring per batch. The oils then steep for 7 more days in aromatic herbs before they are bottled and packed.

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Krya Abhyanga-Snana : Ubtans

Unique features

  • Processed using organic grains, seeds and forest collected herbs that are extremely nutrient rich and beneficial for skin
  • The herbs are carefully sorted, cleaned, washed where necessary and solar dried at a gentle temperature before processing
  • Each herb is processed separately as per Ayurvedic Dravyaguna standards and then carefully blended for the final formulation
  • We take care to ensure that the natural aroma and properties of the herbs are maintained
  • Our ubtans are perfect post abhyanga to remove excess Abhyanga oils from skin and cleanse thoroughly yet gently, without stripping skin of essential oils.
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Mindful manufacturing & maximum nutrition

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

I had 2 separate conversations yesterday that were on a topic that We’ve been quite obsessed about in the pre-work leading up the Krya factory. How do we process herbs and grains to ensure that they are easy and convenient to use without sacrificing the nutrients that go into them?

Grain processing for nutrient absorption is an ancient art. Archeological excavations indicate that plant domestication is about 11,000 years old. We first started domesticating vegetables like the bottle gourd, which was used as a vegetable and a container before the evolution of pottery and the art of ceramics. Cereal grains were domesticated around 9000 BC in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. Apart from fruit bearing annuals, pulses like peas and grains like wheat were part of this wave of plant domestication.

4. einkorn wheat at the fertile cresecent

 

The domestication of plants and cereals grains led to a great change in our way of life: this paved the way for Man to change from being a nomadic hunter gatherer to a fixed dweller in domesticated groups which slowly evolved to cities and towns. So in a way, the cultivation of cereals and grains created human civilisation itself.

The quern stone is an important landmark in the history of grain processing. Ethnographic evidence indicates that querns were used to grind not only grains for food, but also different kinds of herbs for medicines and cosmetics. Different types of querns existed in the ancient world: saddle querns, beehive querns and rotary querns which we are familiar with in India.

2, syrian quern stone3. egyptian grain grinding

 

The evolution of the water powered mill mechanised the use of the hand quern to some extent. The force of flowing water would generate enough power for the grinding wheel to begin turning. The grinding mechanism was similar to the rotary quern and the grain would be crushed between the rotating wheel and the stationary base of the Water mill. The Barbegal Aqueduct and Mill is a Roman Watermill complex located near the town of Arles in southern France.

 

1. barbegal mill

This mill was strategically located on a Roman aqueduct created to supply drinking water from the Alpilles mountain chain to the town of Arelate (now the town of Arles) on the Rhone River. This aqueduct fed 2 parallel sets of 8 waterwheels to power the attached flourmill. The mills were thought to have been operated almost continuously for 200 years from the 1st century AD and have an estimated capacity of 4.5 tonnes of flour per day – enough to feed the 30,000 inhabitants of Arles.

How fast does it spin? 

One of the ways to analyse the quality of processing is to find out the speed of the grinding mechanism. All rotary based mechanisms where the method involves something rotating around a fixed axis ( a grinding stone in the case of a wet grinder) or even the drum of your washing machine have a measure called RPM (revolutions per minute) to measure the frequency of rotation. The greater the RPM, the greater is the precision and power of the grinding, washing or drilling device.

8. RPM - how fast does it spin

 

A modern ultrasonic dental drill can rotate upto 800,000 RPM. Depending upon the spin cycle you choose in your washing machine the drum can rotate between 500 – 2000 RPM. When cruising at a minimum idle speed, your car engine has an RPM between 750 – 900 RPM. A Formula 1 car’s racing engine is operated at nearly 20,000 RPM. The speed of ancient water mills is estimated to be about 120 RPM.

 

High speed milling machines: devolution?

With the invention of fossil fuel powered electricity, water mills were slowly substituted by electricity powered mills. Milling machines themselves also underwent several technological changes. From the stone based water mills, we moved to roller mills. Roller mills produced a huge technological breakthrough as they were able to separate wheat bran from its endosperm, helping in the introduction of “Maida” or refined wheat flour.

To achieve this super refined flour, slightly wet wheat would be passed through a roller mill. This moisture acts in 2 ways on different parts of the wheat: it softens the endosperm, helping it be ground extremely finely, and it hardens the bran leaving it as a coarse grind. Therefore, you could easily sieve and separate the super refined endosperm from its coarser, much healthier bran and sell super refined flour.

Today’s milling machines are high speed impact pulverisers. Often sold for various purposes from grinding granite and stone for the construction industry to grinding food products like grains and spices, impact pulverisers and hammer mills are sold on 2 counts: speed of food processing (as described through the RPM) and fineness of the material ground.

Krya’s experiments in herb and grain processing and our observations:

We have a line of cleaning products that include a detergent and a dish washing product and a line of personal care products that include a face wash, hair wash and a body wash. Our quest when formulating and manufacturing our products is twofold: are they able to harness all the power of the natural ingredients we use while providing our users with a certain degree of comfort and convenience during use.

The yardstick for determining whether a particular manufacturing process is good or not, really depends on the metrics for measuring a product. Most powdered products are measured on a single metric only: the size reduction of the particles that has been achieved and the evenness of the particle size. Think of any brand of compact powder or even a talcum powder you might use for your child. Apart from the fragrance, perhaps the only way you might measure the quality of your product is the even and smooth feel of the compact on your face or the powder on your child’s skin.Unfortunately this metric of smoothness and evenness has now expanded to cover all powder based products, no matter what they are originally supposed to do.

5. all powders are not the same

Turmeric grinding:

Turmeric, the ubiquitous spice in Indian cooking and medicine is used extensively as is in cooking or as a part of important spice mixes like sambhars powder and rasam powder. Turmeric is a notoriously tough root to grind. Most household mixer grinders cannot get a smooth turmeric powder, so turmeric is usually sent to the neighbourhood flour mill for processing. (Of course the mechanism of the mixer grinder is not suited to grinding at all, as it is designed for a cutting rather than a pounding action). Different kinds of industrial grinders can be used for turmeric grinder.

In very large, high capacity spice grinding operations, an impact mill or a cyclone mill is used to grind turmeric. The RPM of an impact mill starts at 1500 RPM and it can go upto 2800 RPM depending on the purpose of the mill. This kind of mill can dramatically reduce the processing time of grinding hard turmeric roots. This means that greater volumes of turmeric can be ground and processed in this factory.

Ayurvedic medicine processing:

Rasanadi chooranam is an Ayurvedic medicine which is always available at our home. This is an extremely useful preparation to control water accumulation in the sinuses. In Ayurveda, a pinch of Rasanadi chooranam is applied every time you wash your hair at the lymph nodes and certain points on your head. This chooranam helps retain heat in these points and help dry up water before it has a chance to be absorbed internally and reach the sinuses. If you suffer from water accumulation or a feeling of heaviness in your head after washing your hair, in wet weather or if your head sweats a lot, Rasanadi chooranam will make a huge difference to your health and well being.

We tested the physical characteristics and aroma of Rasanadi chooranam bought from 2 different Ayurvedic brands: One came from a government run (presumably lower funded) organisation and the other from a big brand name Ayurvedic company. The Rasanadi chooranam from the government funded Ayurvedic Company was darker in colour and coarser to touch. It was also extremely fragrant and generated a feeling of warmth as soon as it was applied on the head. However the Rasanadi chooranam from the big brand company was much lighter in colour, extremely fine to touch and had little or no aroma. It did not have the immediate warming characteristics of its poorer counterpart.

Both brands have used the same Ayurvedic formulation from the same Ayurvedic text. Both brands use a mixture of conventionally grown / cultivated herbs and forest collected herbs. The major difference lies in the way they have been processed. Clearly the bigger brand has used a more expensive, hi impact, high RPM pulveriser. This pulveriser has, through a combination of high heat, greater number of beating heads and higher energy, achieved fineness of the final product by sacrificing aroma, and some of the products functional characteristics.

Active ingredients and how to release them:

Processing food and natural medicine or cosmetics follow similar principles. The active ingredients in plants are bound up within their cell structure. Our role in creating functional products is to release these active ingredients so that they get to work as soon as you apply, soak or eat them. In grain processing which we spoke about, the active ingredients in the grain like the B vitamins and protein is readily available to the body only when we soak, ferment, or create flour. This very act of creating flour, if done improperly can completely destroy the active ingredients present within the grain.

The active ingredients of soapberry which we depend upon to produce hair magic or laundry magic in the Krya hair wash and Krya detergent is called saponins. These saponins are distributed through the outer shell of the soapberry fruit. To extract these saponins, we need to either soak the fruit in water and extract it as an aqueous extract or powder the shells and make the saponins more bio available so that they are released faster in the presence of water or mechanical action.

6. saponin extraction at krya

 

However saponins, like most active ingredients are sensitive to air, and heat. When processed in a high heat generating milling operation, they get denatured or cooked. These denatured saponins have a lower foaming action and have a completely different aromatic profile when compared to properly processed saponins.

Why process a soapberry at all? Using a whole soapberry is not as effective or convenient as using the powdered soapberry or an aqueous extract. Because it is only through subjecting the whole soapberries to some form of processing, we are able to make the saponins readily available to us.

When is herb or food processing just right? And why you should care

Food or natural products are truly nutritious and provide well being when they have been carefully made, using high quality raw materials and careful processing techniques. High heat and fast processing has 2 negative effects on plant based material: It destroys the volatile, delicate aroma compounds and it denatures vital nutrients like vitamins (some of which are extremely heat sensitive).

For example, thiamine in wheat is one of the first vitamins to be lost in high speed processing. This is especially true in high speed mills where temperatures can reach upto 204 degrees centigrade. In our skin and hair care products, we use several delicate, extremely volatile, aromatic herbs.

Lemongrass for instance, goes into our Kids body wash. Lemongrass is a dry, fibrous grass, and is especially soothing for delicate skin. Its volatile compounds are released by either carefully crushing the grass or through steam distillation to extract its essential oil. When the grass is dried at high temperatures (above 60 deg c) or processed using high speed cutters, the plant loses its vibrant, citrusy top notes. The resulting powder resembles dried hay, and simply adds volume without adding to the therapeutic qualities of our body wash.

9. krya bodywash for kids with lemongrass

 

The Just right level:

Much like Goldilocks and the three bears, there is a “just right” level in all natural product processing. But obviously this varies depends on the kind of product being spoken about.

Here are 3 checks for you to evaluate if your brand of completely natural food, cosmetic or household product has been sourced and processed correctly:

1. Is its colour distinctively lighter compared to the original raw material? The more an ingredient is crushed or processed, or sieved, the lighter it becomes. For example: refine white flour or Maida is super white in colour. This is because the brown coloured bran has been sieved out of the flour, and the endosperm has been moistened and pulverised to a very fine degree.

2. Does it have a characteristic natural aroma? Or does it smell cooked / roasted or burned? Is there any strong, distinctively “un natural” fragrance? If the food or natural cosmetic you’ve bought smells neutral, has no fragrance or has a burned / cooked fragrance, then what you’ve bought has been over processed. Alternatively, if you are buying a brand of natural hair wash and what you smell reminds you of a bubbly lemony synthetic shampoo, then obviously what you’re using is not very natural.

3. Is it extremely even and is the powder of a very high degree of fineness? It should come as no surprise to you that natural ingredients are not identical. No two grains of rice or wheat are alike. No two leaves from the same stalk have identical aromatic compounds of physical characteristics. Similarly, when food or natural products are processed, it is not possible to achieve microscopically identical particle size.

All a manufacturer can do is to sieve the final product to ensure that the particle size achieves a certain minimum or maximum threshold. Within this limit, variations will continue to exist. Complete evenness and near identical particle size can only mean repeated processing and sieving in a high speed mill.

If you are observing this in your flour, then you will be eating nutritionally weak flour. It would make sense to either switch brands or to decide to process your own flour. If you are observing this in your natural hair care or cosmetic product, then your product will not work as well as it could on you. The repeated processing the product has undergone has depleted it of any nutrients that could be absorbed by your skin and hair. Again, switching brands or making your own personal care products would make better sense.

Additional Information:

  • For low heat , carefully processed flour, ask for your organic store’s own brand of flour (to ensure freshness).
  • Krya’s skin and hair care products will be launched commercially in a month’s time. This is why its taking this time.
  • Krya’s all natural cleaning products for the home can be found here.

About the Series:

This article is a part of Krya’s writings on natural products and their sourcing and processing. We are passionate about promoting a truly environmentally sustainable lifestyle and this can be achieved only if we come to rely on using high quality plant based material to clean and care for ourselves and our homes. This follows our earlier series on toxic products in our home and how you could learn to identify and detox your home from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today.

If you would like to explore our toxics series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.
  6. Do the cosmetic products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode them? Here’s Urban survival 102 telling you what you should look for in cosmetic labels
  7. Two non toxic cleaner recipes you could try in your home and a Krya factory update
  8. A holistic approach to beauty and health and a fermented Amla drink to make this February for your family

 

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2 non toxic cleaner recipes and a Krya factory update

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

When we started Krya, the life we left behind was hurried, quite thoughtless, filled with consumption and was full of products. I went from a seven step skin care routine and a 4 step hair care routine to a completely natural, simplified life. Having left a life immersed in the opposite of what we wanted to do at Krya, it seemed natural to wonder if we were starting something that was years ahead of its time. If we were in fact, pockets of a parallel universe living in our world.

As time goes by today, I am happy to note that our Parallel Universe is growing. And that our mission to replace harmful, synthetic, often petrochemical derived products that people use in their homes and themselves, is being aided by a growing concern and awareness around the world.

I was struck by this this week as we met different sets of people to buy equipment for the upcoming Krya factory. The manufacturer of our solar drying equipment broke off our technical discussion of the sun’s path and drying angles to tell us to “stick to our noble path”. He told us that while our going might seem slow, and sometimes difficult, what we were doing was right and needed and that we had to keep on working to help cleanse people’s bodies and lives.

He spoke from the bitter experience of watching his Mother suffer through 2 rounds of surgery for intestinal cancer, and how choosing conventional allopathic medicine did not give them the panacea they were promised.

The connection between the diseases we succumb to, the small illnesses we see in our children, and the food we eat or the products that we apply on ourselves, can seem elusive. We certainly do not equate eating a sugary caramel popcorn at our favourite movie hall with fatigue, irritability or our inability to wake up on time the next morning. Neither is the connection between a 2 am visit to the Pediatric hospital with a breathless child and the detergent used in the home, evident.

But the connections are real. And it is our Life’s work at Krya to  educate and inspire people about these connections and create, safe, completely natural alternatives to care for you as a support structure.

The factory we are working on at Siruseri is in support of our Life’s work. We have been working for more than a year on putting together a clean, thoughtfully designed manufacturing location that creates high quality products with great reverence and joy.

Our factory is located within the Sipcot IT Park, in an oasis of calm and greenery called the Golden Jubilee Biotech Park for Women. This is a special Park that has been designed to promote Women Entrepreneurship in Life sciences. Our layout and machines have been thought through to create gently processed products that retain their natural characteristics and aroma. Wherever possible we have used machines that are much slower (and therefore take more time) than their regular commercial counterparts. By reducing the speed of each batch, we are able to retain the unique natural characteristics of our herbs, leaves and fruits that become such wonderful cleaning , skin and hair care aids in the hands of our consumers.

Designing our factory and creating our manufacturing space has come at a cost: I have been unable to write more frequently in the Blog. My intention when we started this series was to provide a lot of useful and impactful information on leading a toxin free life. I apologise for this long gap in writing on this subject.

I spoke earlier about our Parallel Universe growing. In early december, Arathi, the editor of the Week’s “Smart Life” supplement wrote to us asking us to write an article for the Week’s January Issue with information on the toxicity of household cleaning products. “Give our readers some easy to use, inspiring suggestions on replacing these easily at home”, suggested Ararthi.

George Watt, a medical graduate of the University of Glasgow came to Indian in 1873 and published an authoritative 6 volume dictionary of the economic products of India. 10 years later, inspired by his monumental effort, the British Government asked George Watts to organise in 1885, an exhibition of the economically useful plants of India in calcutta. George Watts did not look back and went on to devote the next 25 years of his life in cataloguing India’s natural biodiversity and wealth.

Our true wealth in India lies in our rich, biodiverse flora and fauna. And in the context of creating non toxic cleaners for our home, our trees and plants provide us with a staggering array of formulation options to easily and efficiently clean and care for ourselves.

Here are 2 recipes that you can start with. We wrote this for our article for the Week. They are easy to make, and work extremely well. They are water based, liquid recipes, which we don’t make commercially at Krya, but are easy to make and environmentally sustainable when made by you for your home.

Multi-Purpose Surface Cleaneruse this to mop your floors, counters, bathrooms and to even scrub your toilet

1. Soapberry powder – 100 grams (Cleansing and anti-bacterial agent) (Use the Krya detergent if you have some)

2. Neem Oil – 25 ml (Anti bacterial agent, insect repellant)

3. Citronella Oil – 50 ml (Insect repellant, freshness)

4. Citric Acid – 25 grams (Preservative, mild bleaching agent)

5. Arrowroot powder – 20 grams (Thickening agent, optional)

6. Water -1.2 litres

Instructions

Mix the citric acid crystals in a small cup of warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve completely. Mix the soapberry powder in 1.2 litres of water and bring it to a boil in a thick bottomed vessel. As the liquid begins to boil, add the arrowroot powder and stir until the liquid thickens to the consistency of a watery shampoo. Once the liquid has thickened, take it off the flame and add the dissolved citric acid liquid. Let the soapberry liquid cool before filtering out the soapberry residue.

Now stir in the neem and citronella oil into the filtered soapberry liquid and mix well. Bottle the liquid cleaner and store in a cool, dry place or in the fridge (after labeling it properly!).

This recipe should give you approximately 1 litre of liquid multi purpose cleaner.

This multi-purpose surface cleaner can be used to clean floors, tiles, kitchen tops or even glass surfaces. This is a concentrate and a few spoons of this can be added to a mug of water which can then be used to clean surfaces. As mentioned before always do a patch test on a small portion of the area to be cleaned before proceeding further. If there are pets at home, you can exclude citronella oil from the recipe.

The Natural no-napthalene linen freshener:

sweet basil

A non toxic fragrant alternative to stinky napthalene balls
A handful each of the following dry herbs:
Neem leaves
Thiruneetrupachai (siva tulasi) leaves
Tulasi leaves
Lemongrass stalks
2 balls of pure camphor or edible camphor (pachai kalpuram)
4 sticks of Sweet flag (called vasambu in Tamil)Place all these ingredients in a pillow case, and coarsely crush them together. Shake well so that the ingredients are mixed well together.  Now divide this mixture into equal quantities (about a tablespoon each) and fill into muslin / cotton bags. Use this in your linen cupboard instead of naphthalene balls to keep insects and moths away.
Replace your natural pot pourri pouches every 2 – 3 months or as the fragrance fades. The old herb mixture can be composted.

 

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.
  6. Do the cosmetic products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode them? Here’s Urban survival 102 telling you what you should look for in cosmetic labels
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Urban Survival 102 – reading cosmetic labels

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

This is the second part of our article on the science of reading product labels, in which we will decode cosmetic product labels. In the earlier part we dived into the different elements that make up a food label in the Indian context. Krya does not make food products. We work only in household and skin care products. However we are also aware that good nutrition and health are fundamental to great skin and hair, which is why the earlier article examined food labels.

 The amazing human skin

The skin is the primary recipient of personal care products and to a lesser extent the scalp and hair. It is also our first line of defense and very integral to good health. Therefore I am constantly appalled by how poorly we treat our skin by applying products on it without due diligence.

Consider these skin facts :

  • The skin is the largest organ in the body.
  • The skin renews itself every 28 days ( it is a living growing organ !)
  • The adult human skin can weigh around 3 -4 kg and covers approximately 20 square feet in area.
  • The skin can absorb up to 60% of any product applied on it. (It is not a inert physical barrier like a raincoat)
  • A baby’s skin can be three times thinner than an adult’s skin (& therefore is more vulnerable)

The cosmetic products industry is beset with two main problems today which makes label reading a vital survival skill.

  1. Lenient regulatory standards

A good friend who is the marketing director for a global brand of powder fruit juice concentrate revealed that in India, their formulation contains 96% white sugar, 2.5% preservatives and just 1.5% fruit juice extracts. Even at just 1.5 % levels, they can legally show lush pictures of fruit orchards and claim all the benefits of eating the fresh fruit from the tree. So if you went to the store with just the image carried over from TV advertising and purchased the product without reading the label, you will be sugar high and nutrient low.

8. Oranges_and_orange_juice

What is actually in your “straight from the orchard” orange juice? Mostly sugar?

 2. Creative re-interpretation

Creative re-interpretation is the other side of the same coin that also has lenient regulatory standards. Benefit claims made by brands today are stretched to the point be being farcial or even false. A common example is the use of the word “goodness” in many food and cosmetic products. It is legally possible to add 1% olive oil to 99% liquid paraffin’ to create a massage oil and then claim the benefits of pure olive oil. Here the trick is to use the word “goodness” of olive oil in the claim.

In this backdrop we would like to provide you with 4 filters to scan any cosmetic label to help you make a technical decision, and hopefully a better decision.

The 4 things to think through when reading a cosmetic or household product label

  1. Does it add up to 100 %?

This is the first point to check on a cosmetic label and ask yourself whether it all adds up.

The norm is to provide a full list of ingredients. This is not followed by many products. Then there are cases where complete declaration rule is relaxed, which we will talk about shortly. If the ingredient list says “key ingredients” mentioned with their percentages, you should quickly add the numbers. They will not add up to 100% and often the list of ingredients will account for only 30%-40% leaving you in the dark about the remaining 60% -70%. This is cause for concern.

Example 1: The label of a leading herbal hair wash powder calls itself completely natural and goes on to claim it is a proprietary Siddha formulation. The label declared many wonderful natural ingredients like Soapberry (which we use across our Krya cleaning and hair care formulations), Shikakkai and Amla (which goes into our body wash products). However, the ingredients declared were only key ingredients adding up to just 27% of the product.

6. Acacia concinna

Acacia concinna: a wonderful natural herb used throughout India for hair care. A common ingredient misrepresented in “herbal” products

But what about the remaining 73% of the product,  which is really the major part of what is being applied on your hair. I found the composition of the remaining 73% on the label of the export variant of the same product. The balance 73% contained the following

  • sulphates (a cheap foaming agent)
  • hydroxy propyl tiammonium chloride
  • Hydrated aluminium silicate
  • Preciptated silica
  • Dimethicone
  • Glycerol

None of the above ingredients are good for hair. Let us leave aside the debate of whether they are toxic to hair and environment. At the very least I can aver that the composition of the 73% not declared on the pack is nothing to be proud of and the claim of “herbal hair-wash” is certainly misleading.

  1. Excipients , QS

Many formulations contain active, potent ingredients which need a carrier medium or a buffer or a diluting agent known as excipient, which can safely deliver the active ingredient. These excipients can be natural or synthetic and are usually cost effective, inert, bulking agents. The excipient concept has its origins in medicines. For example bitter medicines for children were given with honey as an excipient to mask the taste. The excipient concept and the format for declaring it has now been borrowed by processed food and cosmetics industries as well.

It is common on labels now for brands to declare their ingredients by weight per 5 gm of the product with the excipient listed at the very end with the suffix “q.s”. Now q.s. from the latin ”quantum satis” is an instruction to add “quantity sufficient “of the excipient to make the formulation. It is also assumed that formulator has an understanding of the safe limits in which the excipient can be used. This is a tricky situation for someone interested in decoding the label. The manufacturer need not disclose what the name of the excipient used neither is there any clear guideline on what chemicals or ingredients that can be called excipients.

Example 2: For example I used an Ayurvedic toothpowder and found it to be rather sweet. The label had listed several herbs well known for oral care which added up to nearly 40% by weight of the product and the balance 60% under excipients. Now I assumed that the excipient would be salt which is rather common. However after tasting the toothpowder and finding it to be really sweet, I discovered that the excipient was mostly sugar, which is not a good idea at all in a toothpowder.

2. toothpaste on brush

Sugar: a common excipient used to make the taste of toothpaste more appealing

Then there are cases where the excipient appears to outright misleading. After our earlier post on sunscreens, a mother messaged us requesting an audit of the Ayurvedic sun screen lotion that she used on her kids. Now the product’s ingredient list read as follows:

  • Key ingredients like aloe , zinc oxide , oil etc at 11%
  • Bees wax at 7.5 %
  • Purified water Q.S.

It appears that water is the excipient forming 91.5% of the lotion. Here is the problem which the lay person would not be aware of.

It is just not possible to form a stable water based lotion with just beeswax as the emulsifier. In the lotion industry a number of other chemicals like cetyl alchohol, stearic acid, polysorbate, carbomer are used as emulsifiers to product a stable lotion in all conditions.

Further with 91.5% water and a long shelf life, some preservatives are required. The industry depends on chemicals like parabens and benzoates for preservative action, which are also not listed in the ingredient list.

This raises many questions: how did this brand of Ayurvedic sun screen lotion achieve a stable product with just beeswax? Is any ingredient deliberately left out to protect the intellectual property? Is it just plain omission?

The only option here is to directly write to your brand and ask them for a complete disclosure of all ingredients including excipients.

  1. Claims & Mis-directions  

Product claims are stretched to the absolute limit today. What started off as creative interpretation of the law can now be stretched to the point where it is no longer true.

Example 3: An example that immediately comes to mind is the line used by an Ayurvedic preparation which claims that their product helps you “stay slim and smart”. I have always wondered about the use of the word “stay” for this therapeutic product. If I am already slim and smart, why do I need this product? The visual communication gives us the impression that it is a problem solver, so if you do not notice the fine print you could easily conclude that this product will “make” you slim and smart. Sadly I know that many consumers have purchased this product in the hope of losing weight. I am not sure whether it worked for them or not.

The other disturbing trend in Indian cosmetic industry is use of the “Ayurvedic” tag to claim the halo of this sacred branch of our tradition. It is possible with some legal jugglery to add a few ingredients that have mention in Ayurvedic texts to an otherwise basic chemical formulation and pronounce the product as “Ayurvedic medicine”. Apart from the obvious benefit of piggy backing on Ayurveda, there are some licensing and tax benefits which motivate brands to borrow the Ayurvedic cloak.

In his book, India Unbound, Gurcharan Das recounts the story of how Vicks Vaporub became “Ayurvedic” when faced with the twin problems of very poor profits and a boycott by the Pharmacies in India. He recounts in the book that in this dire situation someone came up with the idea of re-classifying Vicks as an Ayurvedic formulation. Coincidentally some of the key ingredients are also mentioned in Ayurveda as remedies for common cold and the government approved their reclassification. They then were allowed to distribute the product widely in all stores and not just pharmacies. They also claimed tax benefits allowed to Ayurvedic medicines and scripted a spectacular financial rescue.

Is this really Ayurveda? Is this really presenting a true picture to the consumer who reads the label and trusts that Vicks is a genuine Ayurvedic formulation originally created by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor?

Ayurveda is a very exact and exacting science that has great reverence for the patients well being as well as for the plants, animals and minerals that provide the raw materials to create Ayurvedic medicines. For herb collection Ayurveda specifies place of origin, method of cultivation, time , season of methods of collection and storage.  I very much doubt if Gurcharan Das and the rest of the team at Procter & Gamble regularly invoked the blessings of Lord Dhanvantari at the factory manufacturing Vicks Vaporub as prescribed by Ayurvedic tradition.

This was most likely the first incident in India of a brand exploiting the Ayurvedic classification loop-hole. Since them this is a route abused by so many brands that is has also corrupted many hoary Indian Ayurvedic companies. Many Ayurvedic brands in India have now incorporated “bad habits” from cosmetic companies. For example, I know of an Ayurvedic company that manufactured only tooth powder for over 80 years. The current generations of owners have suddenly started manufacturing a tooth paste with the known cosmetic villains like SLS, sugar, artificial colours and flavors and still continue to call it an “Ayurvedic formulation”.

Charaka, one of the father’s of Ayurveda has said that medicine is that which restores health and brings longevity. He also avers that a pure medicine is one which when eliminating disease should not give rise to even the slightest cause for another disease.

4. Is this product free from known Chemical Villains?

In this blog, we have written several articles putting forth our point of view on several industrial chemicals in cosmetic products that are toxic to some or all humans. These chemicals are skin irritants, endocrine disruptors and even carcinogenic. This is not the place to present a case for or against these chemicals. So we will go straight into our recommendation. Given the bewildering array of what could go wrong with chemicals in cosmetic products it is far easier to look for what is NOT present in a product that read the ingredient list. In our opinion the following claims on a product label should help you make a better choice. So look for

  • Sulphate ( or SLS ) free
  • Paraben free
  • Petrolatum free
  • Fragrance free
  • Aluminum free
  • Lead free
  • Cruelty free
  • Phthalate free
  • DEA / TEA free

We hope that this article and its companion on reading food labels will give you the basic skills to survive shopping in a supermarket aisle filled with thousands of potentially harmful ingredients. Hopefully, you will walk out carrying products that genuinely fulfill the promise they made to you in their communication of being safe and natural for you and your family.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.

 

 

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Pink Predators: Common carcinogens in your home

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

Last month I attended a meeting of women entrepreneurs. On the sidelines, we were invited to a breast cancer awareness campaign organized by one of the entrepreneurs who had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. This young lady is a passionate advocate of early diagnosis of breast cancer. As a part of the worldwide pink ribbon day, her team conducted awareness camps for women employed in the major IT parks in Chennai.

As she spoke, a palpable tremor ran through the women in the room. Many had some encounter with the dreaded “c” word, having watched a loved one suffer.

I lost a favourite aunt in 2009 to breast cancer, or perhaps the aggressive chemotherapy given to her. I watched my bright, active danseuse Aunt shrivel away, lose her hair, her energy and eventually her life after four repeated chemotherapy assaults on her body. Breast cancer is one of the most common and fast growing cancers in India today and forms nearly half of all the cancer detected in India . In 2012, 70,000 Indian women died due to breast cancer.

The Pink Ribbon movement

In 1985 in the US , the breast cancer awareness month (BCAM) was created as a partnership between American Cancer Society & a pharma company that is now part of Astra Zeneca. The main aim of the BCAM is to promote mammography as the weapon of choice to diagnose and fight breast cancer. Such partnerships are fraught with ethical dilemmas. Astra Zeneca is the manufacturer of the breast cancer blockbuster drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen. Some have argued the overly visible and alarmist tone of breast cancer awareness pushes for over reporting and aggressive promotion of the treatment which are the drugs. Worse still, it is now understood that X-ray mammography to detect breast cancer is dangerous and is a carcinogen.

The breast cancer awareness movement came into its own in the early 1990’s with promotion of the pink ribbon as the symbol. In 1993, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Vice-president of Estee Lauder and a  breast cancer survivor herself founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and widely popularized the pink ribbon as its symbol. In that year, Estee Lauder make up counters handed out 1.5 million pink ribbons with a information card describing the steps to construct a self breast exam.

Pink marketing

Since then, the pink ribbon has become one of the most visible symbols of cause related marketing across the world. Research shows that given parity cost and quality, more than 50% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause. Going by the popularity of the pink ribbon, breast cancer certainly seems to be a popular and profitable cause for the brands piggybacking on this cause.

1Pinkmarketing.jpg

From NFL costumes to cosmetics, from shoe sellers to cricketers, the pink ribbon has engulfed them all during the awareness month. While many critics and naysayers tend to dismiss this as pink washing, there are positives. Millions of dollars have been raised from these campaigns due to which early warning signs are now part of the general lexicon.

But one critical issue continues to trouble the general public.

Despite the top management support, and marketing muscle thrown behind breast cancer awareness, several cosmetic companies who support this cause, continue to use ingredients that are suspected to be carcinogenic. In many cases these suspect ingredients have been found in breast cancer tissues. Think about it. The very brands that raise money for awareness continue to use suspected carcinogens in their products.

Pink washing?

In 2013, 15 beauty brands devoted to defeating breast cancer got together to start an offshoot campaign called “we are stronger together”. But according to EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database, 12 of these companies, including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, and Estee Lauder & Origins sell a wide assortment of cosmetics that contain known carcinogens and other toxics.

The carcinogenic impact of these toxic ingredients is relevant to the study of what causes breast cancer. Research suggests that genetic causes form only 5 – 10 % to breast cancer develops. 90 – 95% of cancer exposure is thought to develop from a series of environmental causes including radiation exposure, excess alcohol consumption, and of course exposure to dozens of carcinogenic chemicals.

The Krya series on toxics

This Krya series on toxic chemicals in household products has been developed as a result of hundreds of queries from concerned users, very often in categories where Krya does not have any product yet. We are asked for our opinion on product categories on the potential hazards of chemicals and more importantly, recommendations for safer natural alternatives.

For the last 4 years on the krya blog, we have maintained our stand that the consumer products industry in India is dangerously under-regulated. Many products are sold widely with little understanding of long term human safety or environmental protection. In our personal experience, we have seen that R&D in global consumer products companies operates in silos, with a narrow focus on cost and immediate consumer gratification. Their safety standards are decades old. They continue to play with the boundaries of safety and often wait for a public outcry or a government order to cut back on toxic ingredients. This laissez-faire attitude has introduced to the trusting public a set of new, potentially dangerous, hydra headed monsters.

With October just gone by, we start our toxics series by examining common industrial chemicals that we could enter in our homes that are suspected to lead to breast cancer.

The Pink Predators

 Parabens

Parabens are a big family of preservatives found widely in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. and have been around for nearly 100 years. They are the industry standard for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Parabens have been detected in urine, serum, breast milk and seminal fluid, but the most worrying fact has been their detection in breast tissue from patients with breast cancer. In one important north American study, it was calculated that the average person is exposed to 76 mg of parabens every day, with 50 mg from cosmetics, 25 mg from pharmaceuticals and 1 mg from food.

Research from the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health found that the blood of over 60% of the children surveyed during the National Health and Nutrition examination survey was contaminated with more than 8 toxins including significant levels of 3 kinds of parabens.

One alarming property of parabens is their ability to enter the body through the skin, something that most people are not aware of. This has been widely studied in underarm cosmetics like deodorants and whiteners. Breast cancer research shows a higher concentration of parabens in the upper lateral breast near the armpit corresponding to the use of deodorants which contain parabens.

3deo caution

After the work of many consumer awareness groups like EWG, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove both parabens and formaldehyde from its baby care and adult skin care products by 2015 including brands like Aveeno & Neutrogena. But Johnson & Johnson continues to re-assert the safety of parabens and made this decision to eliminate parabens only to assuage certain consumer groups.

Globally most governments have not re-examined the safety of parabens. Some outliers are the Danish government which has banned the use of products for children below 3 years. In Indian parabens are commonly used in cosmetic and other applications.

While we can go back and forth on the safety of parabens , we certainly do not want to be learn 30 or 40 years later that the early researchers who warned against the use of parabens were absolutely right. This is exactly what happened in the global debate on smoking and lung cancer. While the debate raged, many were smoking their way to cancer hoping that the warnings would turn out to be false alarms.

On the other hand it is important to note that parabens do not have any beneficial or therapeutic whatsoever to humans. So the question to ask is this, are there safe alternatives to parabens ? The answer is YES! Paraben free products are available globally and are waiting for you to discover them.

 

Phthalates

Phthalates are chemicals used as plasticizers, to make physical products pliant and flexible – they are widely found, in vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, detergents, nail polishes, soaps, toys and skin care lotions. For example, DEHP, a common phthalate, is added to PVC at concentrations between 1 – 40% to make it soft and pliant. Unplasticized PVC without DEHP is hard and brittle.

Phthalates are physically bound into plastics using a heating process, which means that they are very easily released into the environment when this physical bond breaks. This happens in many innocuous ways when phthalate containing products are kept near heat or exposed to strong solvents. For example : when phthalate containing plastic dishes are washed with harsh chemical cleaners.

Phthalates are cheap and versatile: so they are found in products as diverse as children’s toys, and utensils, coatings in pills and nutritional supplements, emulsifying and suspending agents in lotions and shampoos, binders and gelling agents in liquid detergent and dishwash. Other personal care products that contain phthalates are liquid soap, perfumes, deodorant sprays, hair sprays, eye shadow, nail colours and moisturizers.

When used in vinyl flowing, phthalates like DEHP easily leach into the atmosphere, contaminating indoor household air. Once released this toxic air can be inhaled by babies crawling on the floor or pets. A 2008 Bulgarian study found that higher dust concentrations of DEHP was found in the homes of children with asthma and allergies compared to non- asthmatic children.

While a lot of the present phthalate research focuses on infants and children, it is believed women are at a much higher risk of phthalate exposure due to their higher consumption of cosmetic products and exposure to household cleaning products. Recent (2010) in-vivo and observational studies show an association between phthalate exposure and breast cancer. Also, phthalates like many other endocrine disrupters are both bio-accumulative and additive – when mixed with other classes of chemicals like BPA or nonyl-phenols, they exhibit a deadly chemical synergistic effect. Essentially this means that all these toxic chemicals gang up against your body with a multiplier effect.

2Nail paints caution

A recent published study for the first time studied the positive correlation of DEP (diethyl phthalate), positive correlation with breast cancer. DEP is found in a high proportion of perfume carrying products like deodorants, hair sprays and moisturizing lotions because of its ability to make fragrance “linger” for a long time. DEP is also used as denaturant in alcohol and is found worryingly in products like mouthwash.

Endocrine disrupter

Why are phthalates dangerous to human health? Simply put, they are endocrine disruptors. Their behaviour can mimic endocrine hormones like estrogen , which really confuses our bodies , leading to disease.

In 2000, Puerto Rican scientists reported an association between DEHP & premature breast development in young girls signifying an early onset of puberty. At the same time the CDC in the United States tested blood samples of 289 Adult Americans and found phthalates in all of them. The levels of some phthalates, including DEHP in women of childbearing age far exceeded government mandated safe levels to prevent birth defects.

Two studies published in Environmental Health perspectives in 2003 found that pregnant women with phthalate exposure on average give birth one week earlier than those without significant phthalate exposure.

A 2006 study among Indian women with endometriosis showed a significantly high level of phthalates in their blood – this included phthalates which are restricted for use in the EU like DEHP, DBT, BBP and DnOP.

Regulations around Phthalates:

Most restriction around phthalates today focuses on children. The EU has restricted the use of certain phthalates like DEHP, DBP, in children’s toys from 1999. Phthalates like DINP, DIDP and DNOP are restricted in toys that can be put into a child’s mouth. The restriction allows these phthalates to be present only upto 0.1% of the plasticized mass of the toy.A similar act was passed in the United States in 2008.

5childrens toys post

Phthalates in the Cauvery river.

A study published this year studied water and sediment samples of the Cauvery River, one of South India’s major rivers. A two year soil sediment and water study found DEHP in 92% of the water samples and DEP and DMP in every water sample. Similarly 94% of soil sediment samples also contained DEHP. While the contamination percentage was said to be below USEPA guidelines for water, the soil concentration exceeded this guideline.

The Cauvery river basin covers Karnataka, Kerala , Tamilnadu and Pondicherry.  It is the source for both an extensive irrigation and hydroelectric system and also supplies drinking water for many towns and villages. Bangalore, Mysore and Mandya depend almost completely on the Cauvery for their drinking water. In this situation, the fact that some of the most toxic phthalates like DEHP have so comprehensively contaminated this river cannot be ignored.

Nonylphenols (NP ) and  Nonyl phenol ethoxylate (NPE)

Nonyl phenols come from a class of chemicals called Alkyphenols. Alkylphenols, including nonyl phenol are precursors to chemical detergents , and are used as additive to fuels, lubricants and other polymers.

All alkylphenols including Nonylphenol ethoxylate are xenoestrogens. They mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and they can disrupt the normal process of reproduction. Xenoestrogens can increase the growth of the endometrium, leading to endometriosis, and can also increase breast cancer tissue in tissue culture studies.

Precocious puberty or puberty among young girls below 8 years is one of the effects of Xeno estrogens. Studies across America, Europe and Asia suggest that irrespective of race and economic conditions, the earlier onset of puberty is attributed to the environmental chemical exposure. Precocious puberty has been studied to lead to significant psychological distress, poor self image and poor self esteem in a young girl. It has also shown to lead to reduced adult height, paediatric & adult obesity, gynaecological disorders like endometriosis, poly cystic ovarian disorder and infertility.

Nonylphenols are chemicals used in laundry and dish detergents, cleaners and emulsifiers, paints, pesticides and in personal wash products. Since the discovery of Nonyl phenol in 1940, its production has been growing every year – it is now a high production volume chemical, with 100 million- 500 million pounds of NPE being produced globally every year.

4synthetic dishwash

Nonylphenol persists in aquatic environments and can take months or longer to degrade in water and soil. Because Nonylphenol is used in so many cleaning products which “go down the drain” like dishwash products and detergent products, it is a ready contaminant into sewage and water supply. Nonyl phenol bio-accumulates inside the body, and is a potent endocrine disrupter.

Synergistic effects:

As already mentioned, one of the most troubling problems of ingredients like Nonyl phenol which are used as filler in pesticides for their “inert” properties is their ability to work synergistically with other chemicals and multiply their toxic effect on humans.

Current regulations:

The EU has eliminated the use of Nonyl Phenol and its ethoxylate in most industrial and product sectors. Canada has implemented a pollution prevention plant to drastically reduce the use of NP/NPE.  The US EPA plans to encourage voluntary phase of using NP/NPE in industrial laundry detergents.

In India this is not yet regulated.

Products that contain NP / NPE:

Used as a surfactant in shaving creams, detergents, dishwash, hair dyes, hair styling products and pesticides. It is difficult to ascertain if your brand contains this chemical as it is a feedstock chemical which is usually unlisted.

 

Pink could be the colour of happiness

But it is not in the case of beauty or consumer products.  Our article discusses just 3 kinds of toxic chemicals that are commonly found in Indian homes today in their cleaning, skin or hair care products. The US FDA lists over 100,000 industrial chemicals in use today!

This blog cannot cover all these chemicals in depth, but what we will do is to look at products and ingredients that are extremely toxic to you and suggest alternatives. Children and their toxic exposure is a grave concern for us at Krya, and one of our posts will examine the products that we surround our children with today , their current toxic load and examine better alternatives.

Having read this post, you may be left with a deep feeling of “why”. Why do companies use these chemicals? Is it out of malice? Are they out to get us? Are they as unaware as we are? Our next post will look at common myths and facts when formulating household products. Hopefully some more answers will emerge there.

 

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

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To Bt or not to Bt – we think not

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

India is now the top exporter of cotton and the second largest producer of cotton in the world. The agriculture ministry estimates that in 2010-11, there were 111.42 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation, and of those, nearly 90% were growing Bt cotton. Bt cotton is a genetically modified (GM) variety of cotton sold by seed companies that buy this “Bt gene” from Monsanto and was introduced in 2002 to India.

India is an ancient centre of cotton cultivation dating back to 5000 BC. Cotton cultivation was well developed during the Indus valley civilization. In just over a decade Bt cotton has grown exponentially and has wiped out roughly 90% of all land under desi varieties of cotton, disturbing an ecosystem that has thrived since ancient times.

Was it worth it for India and her cotton farmers to embrace Bt cotton in such staggering numbers? Consider this, the growth of Bt cotton in India also coincides with a period of mass farmer suicides by the cotton farmers. Since 2005, over 2.5 lakh Indian farmers have committed suicide; most of them were cotton farmers.

Apart from our farmers, we have also lost biodiversity in this mad rush for Bt. we have lost much of our cotton biodiversity. Before Bt cotton, farmers used to use about 40% hybrid seeds and 60% native cotton seeds. After the introduction of Bt Cotton, farmers began to use mostly hybrid seeds (over 90%) abandoning the indigenous cotton seeds.

India’s cotton crisis is a matter of grave and immediate concern to all of us.

If you thought that Bt cotton was an isolated crisis, remember that there are dark forces that are trying to inject the “Bt gene” into other crops, starting with Bt Brinjal. To paraphrase Martin Luther King,” To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it”.

What exactly is Genetically Modified (GM) cotton?

The chief engineer behind Bt cotton is Monsanto. It “creates” the Bt Cotton seed by inserting the gene coding for the Bt toxin of the Bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the cotton seed. This is a family of over 200 different types of proteins that produce chemicals that are harmful to certain insects, specifically the larvae of moths, butterflies, cotton bollworms, and flies.  When this gene sequence is inserted into a cotton seed the cotton crop produces this Bt toxin in its tissue. When the insect larvae that are affected by this Bt toxin eat this “infected” cotton, they are killed.

The evolution of Monsanto:

Monsanto was founded in 1902 and by the 1940s was a major plastics company creating synthetic fibres and plastic derivatives like polystyrene which is used in take away coffee cups which remain cool despite the hot liquid in them. Monsanto is infamous for the development and production of Agent Orange for the U.S Army’s operations in Vietnam in 1970. Agent orange was a chemical herbicide that was sprayed by air US Helicopters over large tracts of agricultural land in Vietnam. It killed the trees and forests, depriving the locals of food and cover.

Agent-Orange-dioxin-skin-damage-Vietnam

Major Tu Duc Phang holding his pre-Agent Orange photograph

In effect it is estimated that 3 million Vietnamese citizens were severely harmed by Agent Orange

In 1983, the direction that Monsanto worked in began to change. The scientists at Monsanto were among the first to genetically modify a plant cell. As of 2012, Monsanto has 2 lines of businesses: herbicides and a line of seed “products”. Many of Monsanto’s seeds are genetically modified to work only with their herbicide range. So they force a package deal on the farmer who has to buy a system of seeds plus the herbicides to keep pest away.

In this article we will examine the dark agricultural crisis engineered by Monsanto, starting with Bt cotton.

Bt Cotton is not the “Final Solution” against pests

“Die Endlösung der Judenfrage” or the Final Solution to the Jewish question was the euphemistic and innocent sounding term given by the Nazis to the Holocaust, that massacred 6 million Jewish people.

Heydrich-Endlosung

A letter from Reinhard Heydrich (a high ranking Nazi official and one of the main architects of the Holocaust) to diplomat Martin Luther in Feb , 1942 asking for administrative assistance in the implementation of the “Final Solution”.

 

India’s cotton farmer crisis, that has intensified since the 2002 introduction of Bt cotton , is another  Holocaust. Bt cotton was sold as the “final solution” against cotton pests and promised a glorious economic future with bountiful cotton harvests.

On the contrary, In 2010, Monsanto reported to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) that the pink bollworm (a cotton pest) had developed resistance to its genetically modified cotton variety Bollgard1 in Amreli, Bhavnagar, Rajkot & Junagarh districts in Gujarat.

Besides Bt Cotton being ineffective against its main pest, the cotton bollworm, its introduction has led to the growth of hitherto weaker pests like sucking pests leading to significant economic losses. Cotton productivity has continued to fall in Bt cotton cultivation areas and pesticide expenditure has shot up despite the promised reduction as pesticides need to be employed both against new pests and against resistant pests like the resistant bollworm.

GV Ramajaneyulu of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture states that data related to consumption of pesticides and micro studies indicates that there is initially a reduction in the use of pesticides especially those against boll worms when switching over to Bt Cotton. This reduction in bollworm is countered by a corresponding increase in aphids and sucking pests which means that a cocktail of pesticides are used to combat the new threat. Also, official data on pesticide consumption in India reflects no major change in use of pesticides after having adopted Bt cotton.

Seeds are no longer free, they are a product.

One of the biggest changes to the farming system with the introduction of genetically engineered seeds is the new system of economics that has come to plague agriculture, which depended only on nature and soil. For generations, farmers have saved native seeds and carefully bred select strains to produce indigenous varieties with regional variations. These seeds would be saved from the previous crop and would be swapped with another variety that would perhaps grow on a neighbouring farm.

Hybrid and genetically modified seeds on the other hand are expensive and take a lot of research to create.  Hybrid and GM seeds cannot be reused as they are sterile. This means a farmer has to buy seeds every time he plants the crop, making the very act of farming (which used to be living off the land) an expensive commercial production. Bt Cotton seeds are between 4 – 10 times more expensive than hybrid seeds.

The protests against GM crop also points to a more fundamental question: should seeds and therefore food production be corporatized? Because when seeds, which are the fundamental unit of food is declared as a private product and needs to be purchased, food, and the lives of the farmers who produce this food is controlled.

By patenting their GM seeds, Monsanto is able to charge money from farmers every time they produce food for us. Seeds which used to be freely shared by farmers and selectively bred have now become the intellectual property of companies like Monsanto. Every seed packet that is sold by Monsanto also charges a percentage of the fee as royalty from the farmer. After locking in the farmers to this system, Monsanto is free to increase their prices at will. At point when the price of a 450 pack of Bt cotton seeds went up Rs 1950/- , the Andhra Pradesh State government had to step in and limit the price to a ceiling of Rs 750/- and also enact the Andhra Pradesh Cotton Seeds Act 2007 to regulate prices. A farmer is forced to purchase 5 packets of Bt seed per acre of cultivation and the related pesticide. This cash outflow season after season is a huge financial blow to the small holding farmers.

When food is corporatized, then farmers who buy the seeds are treated much like consumers buying the latest electronic gadget are. When pink bollworms developed resistance to Bollgard 1 seeds, Monsanto urged farmers to “upgrade” to Bollgard 2, which it claimed offers better resistance to Bollworms!

Bt Cotton is not a law abiding citizen

In 1998, Monsanto started field trials of Bt cotton without approval from the GEAC. By the time the Indian government gave permission to plant Bt cotton in 2002, use of Bt cotton seeds had spread illegally in the major producer states. Again in 2013 , the next generation of Bt seeds were found to be sold illegally by the Maharashtra government well before the GEAC approval.

Bt Cotton is like an infestation: it spreads

In early 2010, the German edition of the Financial Times published a report stating that global brands like H&M were selling clothes made of Bt contaminated organic cotton. And this organic cotton was being sourced from India. Nearly 30% of the organic cotton sourced from India was contaminated with traces of Bt cotton.

A report released by the centre for Sustainable Agriculture studied the cotton seed production in India along the complete supply chain and found that were no standards to protect the indigenous cotton varieties from contamination by Bt cotton. The biologically and physical contamination possibility of cotton seeds range from 5 – 30%. The standard regulations ask farmers to maintain a 30 – 50 metre distance from nearest Bt farms. In practice given India’s landholding pattern and the presence of many many small farmers, this isolation is difficult to implement – this makes the infestation faster and easier to spread.

GM cotton is less profitable to a farmer compared to a non GM variety

A Feb. 2008 study published in the Agronomy journal had researchers from the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environment Science analyse and compare the produce of GM and non GM plants.

The general belief driven by marketing around GM crops is that GM crops help plants fight pests better saving farmers’ management time and money. Because the plants are supposed to be pest resistant, a farmer can farm the land more intensively without hiring more people as the plant is supposed to be able to take care of itself.

The Georgia University study actually showed that Bt cotton is less profitable than a non Bt variety in any location or any year.

Bt cotton in India performs only in well irrigated fields. For example in Vidharba, which is a cotton belt in India, the climate is dry and almost drought like. Here adoption of Bt cotton has seen reducing yields from the crop which has been linked to the huge number of farmer suicides in the region.

Here the State Government alarmed at the huge human losses has stepped in to find more sustainable ways of making cotton cultivation feasible. This initiative has been aided by the Central Institute for Cotton research which has put together a package helping farmers with desi cotton varieties of cotton seeds which required less water and was traditionally suited to that arid region.Documentary_Cotton_for_my_Shroud' depicts_ the livesofcottonfarmersof_Vidarbha

Vidharba Cotton farmer – Image courtesy ‘The Hindu’

Apart from switching from Bt cotton to desi indigenous cotton, this project also aims to decrease cotton cultivation cost. And promoting desi seeds means less labour as there is a lower amount of weeding required, hardier crop that requires less input and also seeds which can flower twice and produce crop twice a year unlike Bt cotton which gives only one harvest per year.

There are 3 kinds of lies

There are 3 kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies & statistics.

There are many government reports, newspaper op-ed pieces, Monsanto case studies that conclude that yields of cotton ( & therefore the lives of farmers) have improved since the launch of Bt cotton.

We would like to ask some questions to those reports

1)      Can these so called success stores guarantee that yields of Bt cotton will continue to grow in the future? What if the yield collapses in the next 10 years?

2)      The cotton yields may have improved temporarily, but the farmer also had to spend Lakhs of rupees on seeds and herbicides (& loan interests). So after the Bt harvest , does have less money in the bank than before ?

3)      Have the yields improved in every single farm in every state of India ? For those families who lost their bread-winners in Vidharba, this national yield statistic will not bring any comfort.

 

What next ?

Our aim when we wrote this article was to write an informative and educative piece which simply presented rational facts. However when focussing on the rational, it is difficult to ignore the human life consequences of having switched to Bt Cotton.

We lose a farmer every 30 minutes in India as he proceeds to drink the insecticide or pesticide he has been forced to buy to protect his weak, Bt cotton crop. From 1995, there have been more than 2.5 lakh farmer suicides in India. And this suicide rate has peaked within 3 – 4 years of the introduction of Bt cotton as farmers find themselves chained to the higher costs of seeds, and inputs that are increasingly required when they allow the Bt crop to infect their soil.

Cotton cultivation has already been termed dirty. According to the Organic Trade Association:

Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidophos, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous.

Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater 

When you add Bt cotton to this already dirty cocktail, you get a crop that is not just dirty but is also toxic.

 At the end of this article, the answer to the question posed by our title should be obvious: Unlike Hamlet, there are no grey areas to consider when asking yourself whether or not to Bt. But if you would like to know what your non Bt options please come back and read us over the next few days.

We hope that our series on sustainable fabric is inspiring you to take a closer look at your wardrobe. Our series on sustainable fabric has the following posts: 

  1. Our introductory post on the sustainable fabric series
  2. On the One Person Satyagraha and why you should start one
  3. On the environmental and human health hazards of chemical dyes
  4. The primer to sustainable Indian fabric is here
  5. The first part of the textile traditions of India that suit Spring and Summer is here
  6. The second part of the textile traditions of India that suit Monsoons and Winter is here.
  7. Our post interviewing Lata Ganapathy-Ravikiran on Handloom love and why she chooses to support this industry is here.
  8. Our post on the warped state of Handlooms in India and what ails the sector is here.
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