Three continents, 3 sacred resinwoods...

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The past year has been an intense travel year, but along the way, I have had the good fortune of meeting some amazing healers and managed to source some incredibly fresh ingredients. As usual, my very best products typically arise from lucky encounters with the right people and raw ingredients of supreme quality. You might even say that the ingredients find me.

I spent a few months studying in the Tulum area, Mexico, where I again connected with the local Mayan resin harvesters and sourced some superb Gold Bursera Copal resin. A few kilos of the honey-coloured beauty imbued my luggage with its sublime scent.

Then off to Asia for another three month Zen meditation stint at my spiritual home Shoganji Zen retreat, southern Japan. The trees found me. I investigated the uses and indications for Japanese Cypress resin and essential oil sourced some fine, crisp, and bright wildcrafted essential oil. 

I also just happened to have in reserve a small amount of the worlds best frankincense, the deep red resin of B.Carteri from Somalia. A friend of mine is directly involved in the sustainable wild harvesting of this dwindling resource. This would be the perfect addition to balance the scent and round out the medicinal effects of this therapeutic blend.

Satisfied with my perfect harvest I blended and bottled the oil in "Buddha house" of Shoganji Zen retreat.

TREE OF LIFE, 3 sacred resin, Ayurvedic Treatment Oil.

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Handcrafted limited edition by Naturopath, Pierre Black, at Shoganji Zen Retreat, Saganoseki, Kyushu, Japan.

Ingredients: >20% pure Gold Mexican Bursera Copal whole resin, B. Carterii fine Somali Frankincense whole resin, wildcrafted Japanese cypress essential oil, pure vitamin E, Italian grapeseed oil. 

Aroma description: Complex warm woody scent; topnotes of conifers, honey, and beeswax, with hint of bright hardwood and the unmistakable background notes of fine frankincense.

For Treatment Massage: Used traditionally for the amelioration of all types of pain, inflammatory skin conditions, physical or mental trauma, anguish, depression, anxiety, and spiritual malaise. Apply generously anywhere on the body, head, or face; avoiding the eyes and mouth. Leave the oil in contact with the skin as long as possible, optimally overnight, before washing off. 

Facial Treatment: Deeply hydrating, toning, and regenerating to facial skin. Apply generously to the face and neck, and even the ears and scalp if you like, leaving on overnight. 

Dilution: May be diluted up to 10x with additional grapeseed oil or other suitable massage oil base at your own discretion. Medicinal effects may become less pronounced with dilution.

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Other indications: May aid in the treatment and healing of acne, psoriasis, eczema, fungal infections, dandruff, minor skin injuries, minor skin infections, all inflammatory skin conditions, etc. (Not for use or serious, open, or fresh wounds or infections.)

What is an "Ayurvedic Thailam"?
While studying Ayurveda (the traditional medicine system of India) in Kerala, I had the opportunity to directly experience the blending and use of traditional Ayurvedic "thailams" or treatment massage oils. I was surprised and impressed by how densely medicinal the oils were and how they, to my surprise, were easily and directly absorbed through the skin. Far beyond the effects of ordinary "massage oil", these traditional Ayurvedic thailams were something completely novel in terms of efficacy. 

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Notes, cautions, and disclaimer.

Shake gently before use. Some separation of the product may occur since it's so densely packed with active ingredients.

Please take care: As with any natural product, allergic sensitivity or reaction is possible. Always test for 24 hours on a small area of skin before use. Not for use during pregnancy. No medical or health claims are made regarding this product. May stain certain fabrics or furniture. Disclaimer and copyright apply to this product and its description. 

Made at ZenRetreat.com in 2018. Best if used before end of 2019. 

New Product: Ayurvedic "thailam" treatment massage oils.

The remarkable power of Ayurvedic treatment oils

While studying Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system of India, in Kerala a few years ago, I had the opportunity to experience traditional densely medicated Ayurvedic "thailams" or treatment massage oils both as a practitioner and patient. I was surprised and impressed by how effectively the herbal medicinal constituents infused in the oil were directly absorbed through the skin. Far beyond the effects of ordinary "massage oil", and not based on either aromatherapeutic or rubefacient principles, these traditional Ayurvedic thailams were something completely different; powerful medicines with a range of effects on mind and body. 

Two new Limited Edition Pierre Black products...

My very best products typically arise from personal, often chance encounters with unique and exciting ingredients of the very best quality. This year is no exception.

Raw ingredient sourcing, Mexico, Jan 2016...

White Copal is a highly prized natural aromatic tree resin, wild-harvested by the Maya people of Guanajuato state in central Mexico. The superb quality, freshness, and aroma, of this particular copal, which I personally sourced and selected in Mexico this past January, is what inspired me to create this powerful Ayurvedic “thailam” or medicated treatment oil. 

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White Mayan COPAL (protium copal) Ayurvedic Treatment Oil
handcrafted limited edition by Pierre Black 250ml. Order this product on etsy.

For Treatment Massage: Used traditionally for the amelioration of all types of pain, inflammatory skin conditions, physical or mental trauma, anguish, depression, anxiety, and spiritual malaise. Apply generously anywhere on the body, head, or face; avoiding the eyes and mouth. Leave the oil in contact with the skin as long as possible, optimally overnight, before washing off. 

Facial Treatment: Deeply hydrating, toning, and regenerating to facial skin. Apply generously to the face and neck, and even the ears and scalp if you like, leaving on overnight. 

Dilution: May be diluted up to 10x with additional grapeseed oil or other suitable massage oil base at your own discretion. Medicinal effects may become less pronounced with dilution.

Other indications: May aid in the treatment and healing of acne, psoriasis, eczema, fungal infections, dandruff, minor skin injuries, minor skin infections, all inflammatory skin conditions, etc. (Not for use or serious, open, or fresh wounds or infections.)

Contains: >20% pure White Mexican Protium Copal resin, pure vitamin E, Italian grapeseed oil. 

Order this product on etsy.

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Memories of India...

Some close friends of mine returned from India last year with a small amount of superb wild-harvested black frankincense for me. I was only able to make 9 bottles of this superb and densely medicinal oil. Frankincense is well known as a medicine in numerous healing traditions around the world. It is well documented as having both physical healing properties and as well as psychoactive effects.

Black Frankincense & Sandalwood Ayurvedic Treatment Oil
handcrafted limited edition by Pierre Black 250 ml. Order this product on etsy.

For Treatment Massage:  For topical use on intact skin. Traditionally this oil is used for the amelioration of all types of pain, physical or mental trauma, anxiety, depression, fear, nervous conditions, anguish, and spiritual malaise. Apply generously anywhere on the body or head, avoiding the face, and leave on the skin as long as possible, optimally overnight, before washing off. Apply with or without massage. Apply to problem areas or over the entire body and head. 

Dilution: May be diluted up to 10x with additional grapeseed oil or other suitable massage oil base at your own discretion. Medicinal effects may become less pronounced with dilution.

Other indications: May aid in the treatment and healing of acne, psoriasis, eczema, fungal infections, all inflammatory skin conditions, etc. (Not for use or serious, open, or fresh wounds or infections. Do not use on the face.)

Contains Indian Boswellia wild-harvested black frankincense (olibanum) resin >20%, Indian sandalwood essential oil, vitamin E, Italian grapeseed oil. 

Order this product on etsy.
 

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Notes, cautions, and disclaimer for both oils listed above:

Shake gently before use. Some separation of the product is normal since it's so densely packed with active ingredients.

Please take care: As with any natural product, allergic sensitivity or reaction is possible. Always test for 24 hours on a small area of skin before use. Not for use during pregnancy. No medical or health claims are made regarding this product. May stain certain fabrics or furniture. Disclaimer and copyright apply to this product and its description. 

Made at ZenRetreat.com in 2016. Best if used before end of 2017. 

Summer Heat and Irritated Tattoos...

A few friends and clients have contacted me this week about sudden "tattoo allergies" in already healed and well established tattoos. These cases typically present as a rash and or acne in and around the tattoo. Its no coincidence that I get this question more and more as the weather warms up in the late spring, and that a whole lot of people have asked the question just this week!  
This week summer heat has showed up full force for the first time, and air pollution levels in Montreal have been extra high as well.

Not A True "Allergy"

This is rarely a real allergy to the tattoo itself, but rather the fact that previously damaged skin is more prone to congestion. The area will be less efficient than normal skin at sweating and eliminating oils and waste. Inappropriate diet and toxin overload cause congestion throughout the body that peaks and becomes pathological in hotter weather. The body is working hard to adapt to the season, stay cool, reduce and purify stored body fat, and naturally cleanse itself, but the heat and waste can get stuck, especially where the skin has been damaged previously. 

Topical Treatments

Some topical treatments may give you some relief but don't address the real underlying issue. Warm saltwater baths or soaks might help. Use sea salt and add enough salt to make the water about as salty as the ocean. You might finish up with an antiseptic essential oil such as pure lavender or tea tree.

I don't recommend any petroleum based skin care products (which increase congestion) or commercial acne treatment products (which may cause further irritation).

Seasonal Diet is the Real Key

The best solution and the most natural "treatment" is an appropriate seasonal diet. It's not just about the tattoo: with the right whole body approach, you'll feel better all around. Think of your angry tattoo as an alert for what's happening in your body and how you need to respond.

As the weather warms up in the spring we should be reducing carbs and increasing dietary fiber, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and more frequent meatless meals.  Animal products and fats in the diet should be carefully controlled for quality. Choose organic or naturally raised animals whenever possible, and select oils that are non-GMO and cold pressed. (Extra virgin olive oil, coconut, grapeseed, avocado, and nut oils are some of the best.)

The hottest part of the summer is our natural detox period and the diet should be rich with water, aromatic herbs and spices (especially the green leafy ones), hot peppers (optionally), tea (instead of coffee), raw green foods, high quality fish and poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, and raw seeds and nuts (healthy, non-congesting fats). 

We should minimize or avoid white refined carbohydrates, dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), deep fried foods, heavily processed foods, low quality industrial oils (such as canola), fatty industrially farmed meats, refined sugars, coffee and alcohol.

Don't panic! You can still enjoy the summer. Choose the things you think it would be easiest to eliminate, and then you can relax about enjoying that BBQ you were invited to, or going out and having a few too many drinks. Balance the "good" choices against the "bad".The more of these things you can keep to a minimum, the better you'll feel!  




3 beautiful spring seafood meals, and choosing fish with caution...

Its hard for me to resist good fish and seafood, but there are definitely some other important considerations beyond the yum factor.  Sustainability and toxic contamination are major concerns. The biggest challenge is finding a fish market willing to fully inform you about the source and fishing methods. This is unlikely at your regular grocery store. Inaccurate or intentionally deceptive labelling is also a common problem at large.

Below are three delicious meals I made this spring along with a link to sourcing considerations and challenges. Although I would give myself an A on these dishes when it comes to flavor, I would honestly only give myself a C when it comes to health and sustainability. Responsible, affordable, delicious fish is a huge challenge these days and the facts change from moment to moment. What we can do is stay informed and try to make the best possible choices given our situation. Right now I still believe that some fish and seafood intake has health benefits that far outweigh the risks, and I think the simple joy of eating must weigh heavily in the equation.

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Japanese noodle bowl with tuna tataki.  Millet and brown rice organic noodles by King Soba, seared tuna "tataki", sauteed bok choy, Japanese style cucumber and sweet red pepper slaw, Korean style roasted seaweed, dressed with dark sesame oil and ponzu (a soy sauce/citrus blend).

Its easy to do this with any sushi quality sustainable fish instead of tuna. Coat fish in soy or ponzu, a little sesame oil, and even less honey.  Sear all outer surfaces of the fish in a very hot pan.
Japanese slaw can be made easily with any slightly tougher vegetables that respond well to pickling: cucumbers, bell peppers, radish, daikon, red or green cabbage, and carrots are some of my favourites. Grate or finely slice, add some good salt (any natural whole salt), and douse with lemon juice or cider vinegar. Within an hour, the salt and acid will mellow in flavor and soften the vegetables. If the flavor is too intense, pour off or squeeze out some of the juice. 
Choosing the right noodles is about flavor, texture, and health. There are many affordable high quality organic and wheat-free noodles on the market these days if you look for them. Go to any health food store, ethnic grocery, or health food section of your grocery store.

This meal was a rare indulgence. Even thought I find good tuna hard to resist, it is almost completely off my list of things i'm willing to eat with any regularity. Most tuna is highly suspect - even if you manage to locate a sustainable variety, it is often unaffordable and always loaded with a heavy dose of mercury and other contaminants. Some tuna is ok. Find out more here.

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Cod and corn salad with cilantro pesto. Baby greens, cucumber, and sweet corn off the cob (non-GMO), topped with pan fried cod (don't overcook!), pesto and Tajin.

Cilantro pesto: Blender or food processor a bunch or two of cilantro, and enough olive oil and lemon juice (5:1 ratio) to make a nice consistency, a little good salt, and my secret touch; a little garlic flower (optional).
Tajin is a name brand table condiment found ubiquitously in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America. It can also be found for sale in Latin groceries around the world. Its basically hot peppers, lime juice, and salt in a dry powdered form.

The Canadian cod fisheries are very slowly making a comeback. Good cod is simply delicious. Find out how to choose sustainable cod here. Pacific cod is the best choice and is both sustainable for the time being, and relatively low in contaminants.

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Grilled octopus on artichoke hummus with asparagus. 

Octopus was slow cooked in white wine, lemon juice, white pepper, and some good salt, then grilled it very briefly in the oven on high. Served it on store bought artichoke hummus with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.  Flash boiled young asparagus was served with a simple lemon, olive oil, and tahini dressing. 

I had given up on octopus many years ago after a couple of miserable chewy failures. This fantastic article was the key to my new found success.

Octopus is not currently a top choice as far as sustainability so its not something I choose to eat on a regular basis. Toxin levels are variable in octopus depending on where it was caught. Choose with caution. Find out more here.

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More and more cities now feature sustainable fish shops.  This article, although slightly dated, is packed with resources for the conscientious fish and seafood buyer in Montreal.