Friday, January 27, 2012

Plants for luck and prosperity

Apart from the abundant red and gold decorations, certain plants have gained a reputation for being essential to ringing in the Lunar New Year. Ascribed special value owing to the good feng shui they purportedly confer their owner, as eco warriors ourselves, we're all for the greening of homes and offices.


Kumquat plants are so common a plant to have every Chinese New Year that it would be odd to visit a Chinese household this time of the year and not come across one! The sound 'Kum' could mean 'mandarin oranges' or 'gold' in Chinese, and so by word association the plant has come to symbolise prosperity, wealth and abundance

Pussy willow

Pussy willow is frequently used to decorate households celebrating Chinese New Year providing the branches upon which to hang red and gold decorations like ang pow packets or gold ingots. As it is a plant that features multiple blossoms, it has come to symbolize abundance, while its soft texture and the colour of its shoots are reminiscent of traditionally prized items in Chinese culture such as silk and jade.

Golden Money Plant
The Golden Money plant got its name from its leaves, which are angular-shaped and look like Chinese gold ingots from ancient times. The plant's thick, fleshy, and naturally glossy leaves are lush denoting abundance, and when the plant flowers, it signifies that the household will receive a windfall. Ker-ching!

Fortune bamboo
The name says it all really. Referred to in Chinese as 'Kai Yun Zhu' which means 'the bamboo that brings in luck and good fortune', it represents the doorway to good luck, fortune, and happiness in a household. Buy your boss one; who knows, it could welcome higher profit margins and land you a raise.

Peach blossom
Peach trees don't grow in Malaysia, but that doesn't mean you can't substitute them with synthetic varieties. The flowers that grow on peach trees symbolise growth and development, longevity and prosperity. In Chinese culture, the bigger the flowers bloom, the better the luck! Wooden swords made for use during Chinese rituals or ceremonies are also made from peach wood as it is believed that the wood wards off evil.

Money Plant
The most popular among plants thought to bring good luck to homes, the verdant money plant symbolises abundance and prosperity and is believed to purify air. It's a hardy plant, able to survive indoors or outdoors. If kept indoors, the money plant would need regular watering and to be placed somewhere well lit or which gets natural sunlight, but generally as it is an easy to care for, it's a common tenant even among those not famed for their green thumb, thus ensuring even the most horticulturally-challenged benefits from good energy.

First aid beauty foods

Why waste money on expensive beauty products when you could have everything you need right in your own kitchen?

Redness relief - mushrooms
With a high sodium and potassium content, mushrooms are extremely beneficial for broken capillaries and thread veins,' says Helen Ambrosen, arts and science co-coordinator for Lush.
'They are also packed with zinc, another helpful healing agent to reduce inflammation in skin while their antioxidants fight free radicals to protect against further damage.'
TRY IT: Especially kind to sensitive skin, liquidize mushrooms with almond oil to make a vitamin-packed treatment to soothe an irritated complexion. Rinse off after 10 minutes.
Blemishes – parsley
Stand up to angry spots with this fragrant herb which is packed with vitamins, minerals plus impressive anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties.
'It not only stimulates circulation to flush away toxic debris from the affected area but helps to repair and strengthen the skin too,' says holistic skincare expert, Bharti Vyas.
TRY IT: Grind a handful of parsley into a pulp and apply to the affected areas. Leave on for a few minutes then wash off with warm water and moisturize as normal.

Under-eye shadows - chamomile teabags
'As well as its reliable skin-soothing properties, chamomile also has an impressive anti-inflammatory purpose which can reduce puffiness,' says Susan Curtis, medicines director at Neal's Yard Remedies.
'Used teabags are a handy ready-made mask and because skin under the eyes is extremely thin, the healing herbs can penetrate quickly for fast results.'
TRY IT: Place a used, cooled teabag over each eye and rest for 10 minutes. Or, intensify the effects and refrigerate them first - a chilled compress helps further constrict blood vessels to minimize shadows and calm puffiness.

Sagging features - egg whites
'Whisked egg whites are well-known in the industry as a natural facelift,' she says. 'As they dry on skin, their water content evaporates which causes a temporary tightening action after they've been washed off,' Sarah explains. 'As egg whites also contain an enzyme which breaks-down bacteria, they can be used to relieve acne and minimize pores too.'
TRY IT: Whisk an egg white until fluffy and paint all over face and backs of hands with a mask brush. Leave to dry then wash-off with warm water.
Wrinkles - Cheshire cheese
Far from being the stuff of nightmares, Cheshire cheese could in fact be the latest wonder ingredient to wage war on wrinkles. This year, researchers at Reaseheath College discovered the crumbly delicacy can soften and moisturise dry skin to minimise the signs of time.
Milk is already a key ingredient in skincare as its lactic acids have exfoliating properties plus vital vitamins to nourish the complexion.
TRY IT: Make your own anti-wrinkle face pack with Cheshire cheese and double cream mixed into a soft paste. Apply to the face and leave on for 15 minutes before rinsing off with soap and water.
Dry, itchy skin - oats

Calming, cleansing and softening, oats are used as a key ingredient in many best-selling products to treat dehydrated skin and eczema.
'The starchy nature of oats helps skin absorb and retain moisture. Oat milk moisturizer can also prevent anything from penetrating the skin that could cause further irritation,' says Helen Ambrosen. 'They also gently exfoliate which is still necessary for dry skin conditions to buff away dead cells so skin can breathe,' she adds.
TRY IT: Soak a handful of oats in cold water, after 30 minutes squeeze and sieve the oats to create oat milk. Apply straight away to skin with cotton wool for immediate relief.

Peeling nails - olive oil

This Mediterranean super food is a nutritional powerhouse with inbuilt antioxidants to nurture nails back to health. 'When essential moisture has been lost from the nail plate, bonds between the layers break allowing water to penetrate and cause peeling,' says manicure guru Marian Newman.
'Olive oil essentially waterproofs nails as it is absorbed easily to safeguard against moisture loss.'
TRY IT: Gently file the edge of nails every week and massage a small amount of oil onto nails and the surrounding skin daily to top up moisture levels and nourish cuticles for healthy growth.

Lackluster complexion - bicarbonate of soda
Swap the chemical cocktail found in most exfoliators for a more minimalist approach to skincare instead. 'Bicarbonate of soda is a miracle agent which gently alters the pH and acid mantle of the skin to shift dead cells which make the complexion look dull and tired,' says Sarah Chapman.
'Your face will look and feel smoother plus aftercare products can penetrate further too.'
TRY IT: Mix a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda with a little warm water to make a paste. Lightly massage over damp skin and rinse off. Repeat up to twice a week and follow with a protective cream or mask.
Frazzled hair - avocado
'Avocado is an excellent beauty food for brittle hair as its oil can penetrate deep into the hair cuticle. It also acts like a moisture magnet which locks-in long lasting hydration to revive condition,' says celebrity tricologist Philip Kingsley.
'Avocado's combination of proteins, essential acids and vitamins A, D and E are all essential agents for healthy hair and manageability.'
TRY IT: Philip is famous for his deep conditioning treatments, so try making your own budget version. Mash half an avocado with two eggs plus a little olive oil and water. Work the emulsion into damp hair with your fingertips and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off thoroughly then shampoo and condition.
Stained nails - lemon juice
As well as making you look old, discoloured nails are a serious fashion no-no,' says Marian Newman. 'Lemon juice is a stain devil for nasty looking nails - its natural fruit acids work like a mild bleach to help remove impurities and stains almost instantly for healthy-looking hands,' she says.
TRY IT: Press affected nails into a fresh slice of lemon or lime for a few seconds. Leave the juice on for a few minutes before washing off then follow with an intensive hand cream if necessary.