Pharmaca Blog

  • Beyond Resolutions: Setting Intentions for the Year

    Wishing2Resolutions: We make them, we break them, we forget about them. What if there was a better way to set goals for the year and actually keep them?

    The key, according to practitioner Julie McGinnis at our south Boulder store, is in creating a vision board. “Resolutions are like saying ‘I’m on a diet.’ But if you take the time to make a vision board, you’re setting much bigger intentions,” says Julie, who was introduced to the idea from a friend who held a vision board “party” a few years ago. “If I hadn’t done it and seen it work, I would never have believed it!”

    What is a vision board? It’s like the collages you may have made in elementary school—a poster board featuring images that represent your goals for the year. It can be meaningful mementos from an event or person that inspired you, or just images cut from magazines that represent how you want to feel. “Taking the time to cut out images, and then look at them every day really helps to set your intentions,” Julie says.

    And studies have shown that visualizing our goals is an essential part of realizing them. Athletes have been visualizing their peak performances for years, and a 2004 study showed that people who sat at home and just visualized going to the gym gained half as much muscle mass as people who actually went to the gym. Experts believe that visualization can be a powerful tool for many challenges in life.

    Vision board how-tos

    Consider creating your own vision board party with your partner, your friends or your family. It can be a great way to talk about your wishes for the new year and come up with joint goals.

    First, set your intentions for the year, focusing on the areas of relationships, career and finances, home, travel, personal growth (including spirituality, social life, education) and health. Experts say it’s best to focus not just on what you want, but how you want to feel about these things.

    Next, gather your materials, including a posterboard (or even a decorative bulletin board), magazines and newspapers, and glue or pins. Create a quiet, calm, interruption-free space and spend time thoughtfully identifying the images that will be most inspiring. Take your time as you carefully affix each image to your board.

    Once it’s finished, find a place in your home to hang it where you will see it regularly. And take a moment each day to really look at it—it could be the difference between setting a goal and meeting it.

  • Fermented Foods: Add Some Culture to Your Diet

    EatingYogurtCan’t tell your kombucha from your kimchi? If you’re wondering what’s behind the buzz about fermented foods, here’s what you need to know.

    Bring on the bacteria!

    Fermentation is all about the chemistry of breaking down a complex substance into simpler parts, with the help of bacteria, yeast or fungi. It’s a process that’s been used for centuries to preserve food and aid in digestion.

    There are two common ways to do this: lacto-fermentation, which converts sugary lactose into lactic acid and gives food a distinctive sour taste; and alcohol fermentation, which uses yeast to convert natural sugars in fruit and grains into alcohol.

    Good for your gut, skin and mood

    Fermented foods have a wide range of health benefits, but perhaps the most important is their function as a probiotic. Fermented foods with active bacterial or yeast cultures supplement the many beneficial strains of bacteria that live in our gut. And because our gut houses the largest part of our immune system, keeping it healthy with fermented foods can help us fight infections, allergies and inflammation, say experts at Tufts University.

    Another benefit of fermented foods? A mood boost. If you’ve been feeling slightly down or anxious lately, fermented foods can help, nutritional psychiatrists tell us. That may be because 95 percent of serotonin, the chemical in our bodies that regulates mood, is produced in our digestive tract. A healthy, probiotic-rich diet plays a big part in keeping the production of serotonin strong, helping reduce anxiety and improving our mental outlook.

    Skin conditions such as acne, eczema and rosacea may also be improved through consumption of fermented foods, as dermatologists are looking at the relationship between a probiotic diet and good skin health.

    Kimchi, kombucha and more                                                         

    There are more fermented food options than you may realize—just be sure to look for labels featuring “live” or “active” cultures, meaning the food hasn’t been pasteurized, a process that kills good bacteria. (Note: Even though beer and wine are fermented, their active bacteria is killed off during production, sorry!)

    Try adding some of these into your diet for a probiotic boost.

    Kefir and kombucha beverages both have beneficial yeast and bacteria cultures. Kefir is usually made with cow or goat milk, coconut milk or water; it tastes tangy and packs a powerful punch of gut-helping probiotics. Kombucha is fizzy and made from fermented sweetened black or green tea, and has a slight vinegar smell—but fans love that it’s also high in antioxidants.

    Other fermented favorites: Yogurt (look for ones with low sugar content) and tempeh are readily available and are excellent sources of protein and calcium. Tempeh, a whole soy food with a nutty flavor, can be used as a meat or tofu substitute. Sauerkraut and kimchi (a popular Korean condiment) are made from fermented cabbage, offering not only probiotic power, but also high levels of glucosinolate (which may lower the risk of cancer, say researchers at University of New Mexico). Just make sure you look for “live cultured” versions of sauerkraut and kimchi (pickles, too!), usually found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.


    Fermented nutrition is becoming a popular component in supplements, since the fermentation process helps make nutrients more bioavailable, and easier to digest. Ones to try: Genuine Health’s Fermented Whole Body Nutrition and Genuine Health’s Fermented Vegan Proteins+, made with fermented grain proteins and organic vegetables.

  • Easy Switches for a Healthy Thanksgiving

    SaladEaterIf you’ve got dinner guests following a Paleo, Gluten-Free or Vegan diet—or just anyone concerned with all the calories that come with Thanksgiving dinner—planning a meal that will suit everyone’s needs is no small task. But fear not: A few easy switches can accommodate them and help everyone celebrate and enjoy the holidays! We got ideas for simple swaps from Nutritionists Liz Gilliam in Albuquerque and Toni Eastwood in Redmond.

    Traditional trade outs
    Thankfully roasted turkey (white meat without the skin) is low in fat and calories. But traditional side dishes can be loaded with hidden fat and sugar. Canned cranberry sauce is full of high fructose corn syrup, Liz says. She suggests making a cranberry side dish with fresh cranberries (like this Cranberry Apple Sauce—it’s super easy, tastes better and is loaded with healthy antioxidants).

    Other healthy ideas

    • Bread stuffing comes packed with carbohydrates that can leave us feeling bloated, says Liz. Instead, try a stuffing made with whole grains that are rich in protein (like this Quinoa Stuffing).
    • Homemade gravy can be high in fat, so be sure to skim the fat off before using pan drippings.
    • For dessert, Liz tell us to choose pumpkin pie over pecan; it has about half of the calories and pumpkin is rich in vitamins A and C, and potassium, to boot. Fruit desserts are an elegant and healthy option, too—try these Vanilla Poached Pears that are naturally high in fiber to aid digestion.

    Paleo swaps
    Paleo dieters enjoy all things that could be hunted or gathered in the caveman era. Roasted poultry or meat and root veggies are ideal, but grains, dairy and refined sugar are a no-no—so traditional foods will need some tweaking. Bread stuffing can easily be Paleo-fied by using only chopped onions, apples and celery. Or try a pork, apple and cranberry recipe like this Best Ever Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing.

    Instead of mashed potatoes whipped with milk or cheese, try blending boiled or steamed cauliflower with a little butter or almond milk in a food processor, then adding roasted garlic or chives. Finally, think nut crusts when you’re looking for a flavorful switch for pies. This Grain-free Pumpkin Pie is Paleo-friendly with an almond and coconut grain-free crust and yummy pumpkin-honey filling.

    Vegan swaps
    Adding a veggie, grain and bean dish will keep vegans (and non-vegans, too!) happy at holiday meals. Fall produce like squash, apples and pumpkin are especially welcome. Stuffed butternut squash filled with rice, Brussels sprouts, garbanzo beans and flavorful spices is an easy make-ahead dish. Traditional Style Vegan Shepherd’s Pie cooked in individual baking dishes is a full-flavored side or main dish (and can easily be made with regular dairy products for vegetarians). And celebrate the fall harvest with Vegan Pumpkin Pie Blondies, moist brownie-like bars with a spicy twist.

    Gluten-free swaps
    For those with celiac disease, or gluten sensitivities, think beyond traditional bread stuffing for a side dish and try protein-rich ancient grains or rice, Toni tells us. Baked Rice flavored with shitake mushrooms and saffron pairs beautifully with roasted poultry or meat dishes. Or choose a quinoa-based salad like Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini. Using nuts instead of flour, this Pecan Nut Crust is a perfect accompaniment to your favorite creamy pumpkin filling.

    And don’t forget about digestive support
    Regardless of what foods you eat, keeping your digestive tract functioning well is important, especially during the holidays when stress and over-eating is more common. Pharmaca’s Chewable Papaya Enzymes feature natural papaya and pineapple enzymes that help break down food so it’s more easily digested. And vegetarian-friendly Doctor’s Best Digestive Enzymes and Enzymedica’s Digest Gold with ATPro (great for Paleo and gluten-free diets) are a good bet for helping your body digest fats, proteins and carbs.

  • Smoky Eye Tutorial from ZuZu Luxe

    Treat your eyes to the smoky look with this step-by-step tutorial from ZuZu Luxe Founder Gabriel De Santino.

  • The Minimal Makeup Look from jane iredale

    Looking for a fresh, minimal-makeup look to highlight your naturally beautiful skin? Turn to mineral makeup from jane iredale for just the right amount of coverage!

  • Natural Contouring 101

    If you've wondered how to use natural makeup to achieve the trendy contoured look, this tutorial--featuring W3LL PEOPLE Founder Shirley Pinkson, is a great place to start!

  • Medicine Cabinet Spotlight: Our Pharmacist’s Must-Have Pharmaca Products

    group shotEvery day at Pharmaca, our health care practitioners recommend remedies for customers from all walks of life. But what do they take home with them? We asked Jami Sheth, pharmacist at our Pacific Palisades location, for her must-have Pharmaca products.

    Metagenics Omegagenics EPA-DHA 720
    “Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most researched nutritional supplements on the market right now. The list of benefits are extensive. The reason I take 4 capsules of these daily is to help reduce inflammation and to optimize memory, learning and cognitive function.”

    Pure Encapsulations B12 liquid 1000 mcg
    “B12 deficiency is overwhelmingly common especially amongst vegetarians and vegans. My last blood work showed I was deficient, so I started supplementing with a liquid form that I could keep in my purse. This methylated formulation is the active form of B12, which assists the liver in removing toxins from the body and is the perfect antidote to low energy and lack of mental clarity.”

    Designs for Health Vitamin D Supreme
    Most people are deficient, and despite living in southern California, my latest blood work showed I was, too. Vitamin D regulates thousands of genes in our bodies. I use it to keep my immune system at peak and my mood high. What I love about this formulation is that it is blended with vitamin K2 which provides a synergistic balance that enhances bone health and prevents overdose of vitamin D.

    Thorne Research CystePlus
    “Once inside the body, it is converted into glutathione (also known as “the master antioxidant”). It’s responsible for helping the liver remove toxins as well as recycling other antioxidants. I use it to lift brain fog or to break down mucus when I have a cold.”

    jane iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation
    “My favorite compact powder! Makeup from jane iredale is beloved for their lack of irritating chemicals. This foundation provides a natural finish with built-in SPF protection and does not clog my pores.”

    SpaRitual Nail Lacquer in In The Buff
    “Nude nails are the current rage and create the perfect clean esthetic for both work and evening wear. These lacquers are formulated without DBP, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and are 100% vegan. They have all the benefits of a professional-grade lacquer without the toxic components of standard polishes!”

  • Argan, Marula and Rosehip, Oh My!

    FlowerOilBotanical oils are the name of the game these days, offering benefits for skin, hair, cuticles and so much more. Here’s the low-down on some of our favorite oils.

    Argan Oil
    Extracted from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree, argan oil has long been valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. Incredibly rich in vitamin E, essential fatty acids and proteins, argan oil helps fight lines, repair imperfections, minimize scars and stretch marks, restore texture, elasticity and tone, and reduce inflammation.
    Bottom line: Argan is a good lightweight oil for all-over hydration.  

    Where to find it
    Hair: Acure’s Repairing Shampoo with Moroccan Argan Stem Cell + Argan Oil
    Face: evanhealy’s Argan Intensive Facial Serum
    All over: Derma E’s Skin Hair and Nail Oil with Organic Argan and Jojoba Oils

    Marula Oil
    Harvested from the nut inside the marula fruit grown in southern Africa, marula oil is packed with nourishing essential fatty acids and antioxidants—at a higher concentration than argan—that protect your skin from free radical damage.

    The molecules in marula are also smaller than other hydrating oils, meaning it absorbs quickly and can take other treatments—like retinol, glycolic acid or vitamin C layered on after the marula—with it into the deepest layers of skin. Marula’s antimicrobial properties can also help heal breakouts and fight future bacteria.
    Bottom line: Marula offers serious antioxidant punch, is good for acneic skin and absorbs quickly.

    Where to find it
    Face: Marula Pure’s Marula Facial Oil
    Body: Shea Terra’s Namibian Marula Double Shea Butter
    Hands: SpaRitual’s Hydrating Hand Salve

    Rosehip Seed Oil
    Rosehip seed oil has been used since the times of the ancient Egyptians for its nourishing properties. Now harvested mainly from the seeds of rose bushes grown in Chile, rosehip seed oil is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids that offer a variety of benefits.

    Vitamin C and lycopene are antioxidants that help protect against sun and pollution that can lead to wrinkles, while essential fatty acids offer serious dry skin relief (even for dry scalps). And a natural form of vitamin A does wonders on existing wrinkles and scars.

    Pure rosehip seed oil is best when it’s been cold-pressed to maintain more of the original nutrients. It’s gentle enough to be used undiluted on the skin, and is a great addition to other creams and lotions for face and body.
    Bottom line: Rosehip is great for balancing normal to dry skin, anti-aging and reducing scars.    

    Where to find it
    All over: Aura Cacia Restoring Rosehip Skin Care Oil
    Face: Suki Nourishing Facial Oil
    Eyes: Mineral Fusion Brightening Eye Cream
    Hands: Pangea Organics Chilean Rosehip with Tamanu & Red Clover Hand Cream

    Evening Primrose Oil
    Evening primrose oil comes from the seeds of a group of wildflowers grown throughout the US, and has the one of the highest concentrations of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) of any plant. GLA is an omega-6 essential fatty acid that’s vital to cell structure and the elasticity of the skin, and is ideal for the treatment of dry skin and inflammatory conditions, such as eczema and arthritis.

    Evening primrose oil is also ideal for acneic skin, since it helps dilute pore-clogging sebum, and for rosacea because it reduces inflammation and stimulates the contraction of blood vessels.
    Bottom line: Evening primrose is best for balancing, firming and taming inflammation caused by acne and rosacea. 

    Where to find it
    Face, Hands, Eyes, Body: Weleda Evening Primrose line
    Hair: John Masters Evening Primrose Shampoo for Dry Hair
    Nails/Cuticles: SpaRitual Cuti-Cocktail Nail & Cuticle Oil

  • Five-Minute (or Less!) Stress Busters

    SnowPlayThe holidays are coming! It’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed during this busy season, so take five with these quick and easy stress relievers.

    Take a walk, breathe fresh air.
    Sometimes the best way to reduce the emotional intensity of stressful feelings or events is to take a break and remove yourself from that environment. A brief 5-minute walk can help clear your head as you breathe in fresh air and take more oxygen in, letting you deal with stressors more calmly (check out this recent study about how engaging with nature can physically change the brain). Even just using that 5 minutes to take slow deep breaths on an outside balcony or terrace works since measured breathing prompts our nervous system to stop releasing cortisol, the stress hormone.

    Diffuse calming scents.
    Aromatherapy helps relieve stress because when we smell calming scents, receptor cells in our nose send signals to the part of our brain that regulates emotions, lessening feelings of anxiety. Try Pharmaca’s Be Calm Lavender Essential Oil Blends, balancing Bergamot or relaxing Rose Moroccan in SpaRoom Essentials’ new Natura Diffuser and within minutes your air will be filled with soothing scents. This beautiful diffuser is crafted from fallen trees in Thailand and uses ultrasonic technology to provide a fine aromatherapy mist for up to 4 hours.

    Sip a cuppa.
    Take it from English mums and nannies who know that when you’re upset or stressed, sitting down for a few minutes and sipping a cup of tea makes the world seem right again. Scientists agree that a cup of black tea brings stress hormone (cortisol) levels back to normal. Pamper yourself and try Tea Forte’s Noir Single Steeps Black Tea Sampler, blends of hand-picked black tea leaves with scrumptious flavors like Blood Orange and Chocolate Rose. If you prefer herbal teas, chamomile and lemon balm are natural soothers and both are found in Traditional Medicinals' Organic Chamomile with Lavender, made with organic, Fair Trade certified chamomile.

    Chew something.
    Simply chewing a stick of sugarless gum can help relieve stress. It can also make you more alert and help you multi-task, say researchers from Melbourne's Swinburne University who saw anxiety levels drop 17 percent and efficiency during multi-tasking exercises improve 67 percent when people chewed gum. Flower remedies calm and reduce anxiety too; Bach’s Rescue Remedy Pastilles blend five emotionally balancing botanicals into one tasty drop.

    Rub your feet.
    There’s an acupressure pressure point on your feet called Bubbling Spring that can calm and ground you during stressful times, or even help with insomnia. To find the Bubbling Spring point, use your thumb to find the natural depression about 1/3 of the way down your foot from the base of the toes, directly under the second and third toe. Firm pressure and kneading on that point will release tension and relax you. Add to this massage’s bliss factor by adding in Pharmaca’s Massage Lotion in Lavender…and try to have someone do it for you!

  • Spice Up Your Makeup with Marsala This Fall

    Have you spotted Marsala in your travels this fall? #Pantone #ColoroftheYear 2015 #Marsala

    A photo posted by PANTONE (@pantone) on

    It’s time to put away the pastel eye shadows, pink lip glosses and brightly painted nails of summer....and turn our attention to fall-inspired red-browns, like Marsala, the Pantone Color of the Year! This earthy, warm color gives you a look that says you just came in from a brisk walk in chilly air. To help you find the marsala that’s right for every skin type, we turned to cosmetologist Cintya Lull in Portland.

    Fair skin tones
    Marsala’s deep tones can stand in sharp contrast to fair skin during the day, so it’s best to stick with sheer tints of this rich color. “Start with one light swipe at first,” says Cintya, “and build more layers until you get the color you want.” For a hint of marsala-hued color on your cheeks and lips, try jane iredale’s In Touch Cream Blush in Charisma and Mineral Fusion’s Sheer Moisture Lip Tint in Adorn. At night, marsala’s rich wine color is perfect for adding a touch of glam to pale skin. We love jane iredale’s PureMoist Lipstick in Katerina for its saturated color and nourishing botanicals.

    Medium skin tones
    Medium skin looks great with a pop of marsala on one feature and more neutral or nude tones for the rest. W3LL PEOPLE’s Universalist Multi-Use Colorstick 3 in Berry Aubergine lets you choose which feature to emphasize with marsala since it’s made for eyes, cheeks and lips. Turn to their Universalist Multi-Use Colorstick 9 – Nude Flush to highlight other features in a more subtle way. The lightweight creamy formulas are extremely blendable, Cintya tells us, and help nourish skin with aloe, vitamin E and green tea extracts.

    Olive or dark skin tones
    Marsala perfectly complements darker skin with its warm richness (“This color is made for you!” says Cintya). Start with a blush that gives your skin a soft glow like W3LL PEOPLE’s Purist Luminous Mineral Blush in Rose. Paraben, talc and chemical free, this powder can also be used as eye shadow for a monochromatic look. At night, amp up your look with jane iredale’s PurePressed Eye Shadow in Merlot, a highly pigmented color that’s crease-resistant. For lips, try Burt’s Bees’ Lip Crayon in Napa Vineyard, a full-coverage matte color that’s creamy and moisturizing with shea butter, jojoba oil and kendi oil.

    Every skin tone
    Want to dip your toe into the marsala trend? Spice up your fall pedicure with Deborah Lippmann’s Nail Color in Lady is a Tramp, a matte cream polish free of toluene, formaldehyde and DPB (dibutyl phthalate), and rich in nail-saving botanicals including green tea extract and aucoumea. If you prefer a little sparkle, try SpaRitual’s Fall in Love Nail Lacquer, a vegan polish that uses mica for shimmer instead of guanine (fish scales that are often found in mass-marketed nail polishes). Keep your nails chip-free longer with a base coat that bonds your polish to nails with a rubberized basecoat like SpaRitual’s Lacquer Lock Colorstay Basecoat, that’s free of nasty chemicals (and vegan, too).

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