Category: Reviews

Are Name Brands Supplements Worth the “extra” cost?

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The “name brand” SJW is on the top. The store brand (in this case, from Walmart) is on the bottom.

In the case of herbal supplements, they sure are!

Several months ago I purchased a store brand “St. John’s Wort” supplement. I took 1 capsule and proceeded to get a head ache. I tested it again on 3 separate occasions, and each time I got a head ache after taking it, so I just assumed I was one of the few people who get “side effects” from taking St. John’s Wort. Then I read this article recently, and it told me what I already “knew” in my head, but was in denial about to be honest.

So I decided to buy a good name brand supplement and give St. John’s Wort a try again (I need some emotional support postpartum and I’m trying to avoid going back on Zoloft). On the recommendation of a midwife, I took 2 yesterday morning – no headache. I took 2 at lunch – no headache. I took 2 with dinner – no headache.

I decided I needed to look closer at these supplements. Upon examining the store brand capsule next to the name brand capsule, they were not even the same color!  I opened both capsules and poured them on to a plate. The store brand smelled vaugely of SJW (short for St.John’sWort), but also had a strong “burnt” smell. The name brand smelled fresh and like the dried whole herb of SJW that I have in my pantry. The store brand felt like ashes when I touched it. The name brand felt like other reliable sources of powdered herbs I’ve dealt with.

Moral of the story – if you’re going to give the natural remedy of herbs a try, don’t skimp. Go for the trusted names. In the case of herbal capsules, I prefer the “Nature’s Way” brand, which is the name brand I went with.

Soap Nuts or Just Nuts?

I’ve heard of soap nuts for a long time, but the very idea that a “nut” could clean my clothes (and other things for that matter) seemed way too out there for me to believe.  In my continual search for an affordable, “green”, and safe options for my family kept bringing me back to this wondrous little fruit.  Experience has taught me the hard lesson of not investing a lot in something until I know it will actually WORK for our family, so we bought a TRIAL pack from Naturoli, which included two soap bars (cleanings and shampoo), 1/4 lb of soap nuts, x18 super concentrated cleaner, shampoo and a laundry stick.

I have a few criteria that things must meet before I will “approve” them for long term sustainable use for our family.  1.) They have to be *SIMPLE*.  I can’t bend over backwards just to use a green cleaner, 2.) it needs to be safe enough to be used by my children, 3.) it needs to NOT cost an arm and a leg, and 4.) it needs to clean to my acceptable personal standard.  Now on to reviewing…

Shampoo:  I’ve used this on myself and all my kids so far and I am VERY pleased 🙂  It’s expensive, so I don’t know that it will be a do-able option for us, but it DOES work.  It is said that you can use soap nuts to make your own shampoo, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

x18 super concentrated cleaner: I haven’t tried this one *yet* so I’ll get back to that

Cleansing Bar: I’ve used this on both myself and the kids so far and am pleased.  It doesn’t dry out the skin & it has a very earthy natural smell.  Again, it is on the expensive side, but that may be ok depend on how long it lasts.  I’ve got it resting on a wire rack which allows it to dry between uses so we’ll get the most life out of it as we can.

Shampoo Bar: I haven’t used this enough to make a definitive conclusion.  Like the cleaner, I’ll get back to you on that 😉

Soap Nuts: Buying a sample size was not cheap, but if these meet all my standards, when purchased in larger quantities they can be a very frugal and green option.  The theory is you can throw the nuts contained in a little muslin bag (which are really a dried fruit, not a nut) in the washing machine with your clothes and reuse them 4-6 more times.  Soap Nuts contain a natural surfactant (the stuff they use in laundry detergent and other cleaners) which should clean your clothes.  You have to make sure not to overstuff your washing machine so the nuts can circulate in the water with your clothing and the natural surfactant can be released.  *If you are a information hound like I am, you can find more information on soap nuts here at Soap Nuts Pro.

We do many loads of laundry a day (3-4) and so reducing the size of our laundry load size is NOT an option.  Thankfully there is an alternative!  You can soak your soap nuts in hot water (or boil), essentially making a “tea” or “extract”, there by eliminating the need to make your laundry loads a little smaller so the soap nuts have more room to agitate.  You can also use this “tea” in your dishwasher, as a household cleaner & even a shampoo!  The downside is that since it does not contain preservatives, it will spoil fairly quickly and you need to either make it in very small batches OR freeze in ice cube trays for later use.  You can make it last a *little* longer by adding preserving essential oils or citric acid and then store it in the fridge.  My plan is to make just enough to get use through 1-2 days at a time, adding citric acid (which is a natural preservative & cleaning power booster) so I can just keep this out on the counter as needed if I find that to be more convenient.

I am experimenting with different ways to make my soap nut liquid.  The first night I simmered them in water for an hour.  Yesterday I just poured boiling water over them into a jar and shook it up a few times through the course of the afternoon and then stuck it into the fridge.  Both methods produced about the same colored liquid so I think I might just stick with the jar method for now.  The results are promising so far, but not enough to be conclusive.  I will let you know 🙂

My “recipe” for making soap nuts liquid:

Ratio of 5 soap nuts to 2 cups of water.  After it is done soaking, strain out soap nuts and add 2 tbsp citric acid* (1tbsp per cup of water).  I’m using about 1/3-1/2 a cup per load of laundry and about 3tbsp per dishwasher load.  I should also mention that it is NOT recommended that you use soap nuts with cloth diapers that are made out of synthetic materials (such as microfiber, fleece & suede cloth), natural fiber diapers are fine.  We use pocket diapers made out of synthetic materials, so I am looking for an alternative solution for diaper laundry.  We do enough clothing laundry that soap nuts are still a viable option for us.

*Citric acid is the acid that is naturally found in lemons and other citrus fruit.  I purchased mine online from AAA Chemicals.

Adventures with Strollers

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For about a year we’ve had a BOB, double stroller and have LOVED it, but as an ever expanding family 😉 our needs have changed once again and it left me looking for a stroller to replace our beloved BOB.  It needed to be able to accommodate a newborn infant, (we do a convertible car seat, so it does not come out of the car like most “bucket” seats) because with 3 other children ages 4 and under, I needed a safe place to put baby if my full attention was called upon by the other 3 younger ones.  I wanted it to be narrow and easy to maneuver in a crowd: we participate in a weekly home-school group and getting through crowded halls with our wide BOB made things difficult (ie. I waited around a lot, lol.)  It needed to be able to *easily* control it with one hand, as my other hand is often occupied holding someone or something.  Trunk space wasn’t really an issue (we’ve got a giant 15 passenger van with the back bench taken out), but surprisingly we do need lots of trunk space a lot more often than I anticipated when we first purchased the van.
That lead us to the Phil & Ted’s Explorer stroller :).  I’ll let the web site explain all the wonderful features it has and I look forward to giving a full review on it for use with two toddlers and then with a toddler and an infant. And for inquiring minds, we sold our BOB & found a deal on a new one – I try to avoid buying brand spanking new @ retail prices when possible.  *grin*