I have recently begun using products from the wide range from Danish company Urtekram, which focuses on delivering gorgeous products for those with sensitivity, allergy or simply wanting something more natural in their cosmetics and pampering. They are particularly hot on ensuring products like the hand creams meet with standards for organic certification, green/eco and vegan living. So often, companies striving to fulfil such stringent standards, fail to then produce items that are gorgeous and lovely to use, but not so with these hand creams! I have the Rose and Nordic Birch versions and both of them are absolutely lovely. The textures, first of all, are rich and creamy, without being oily. So your hand cream stays where it should do – on your hands. This kind of texture is especially welcome during the colder months, when skin needs that extra boost of moisture and comfort. The other top feature is the scents. If you like anything on the rose and rose geranium vibe, then the Rose hand cream ticks the box. Admittedly, it has more of the geranium oil than rose oil quality, but it really is a luxurious smelling and feeling product, which has been making me feel cared about each time I use it. Needless to say there’s not much left of the 75 ml pinky-red tube, which has fitted very handily into my handbag. The other winner is the Nordic Birch, packaged in a lilac pink tube – the colour matches its light fragrance and general feeling of sensitivity, mixed with freshness. This cream has a really subtle and uplifting scent, designed to evoke the experience of walking through woodland and enjoying the fresh air. Subtle, but slightly heady, one to relax with whilst listening, perhaps, to Elkie Brooks singing Lilac Wine! Nordic Birch currently sits on my bedside table and provides a reassuring hand caress before bedtime. Both tubes feature easy, flip open caps and are of a slightly chubby, friendly build. As well as these products being easy to use and lovely to apply, what I am enjoying is that they make my hands feel so much better, pampered and nourished. And although there are some fragrances involved, they are natural and non-irritating so I haven’t ended up with the usual dryness, itching or redness that I can get from so many hand creams. I am looking forward to exploring more from the Urtekram range – I think they’re a company to look out for. UK stockists include the independent store, Lansdown Health Foods in Lewes, East Sussex (Tel: 01273 474681). The full range of Urtekram products can be viewed at http://www.urtekram.com/.
Archive for the ‘Allergy’ Category
Hayfever affects nearly 40% of children and peaks in adolescence, frequently during exam times, when students are trying to perform at their best. Researchers conducting a study in June 2007 concluded that those students who suffer with hay fever on the day of their exam are 40% more likely to drop a grade between their mock and final GCSE’s than students who don’t suffer with hayfever – rising to 70% if they are taking a sedating antihistamine treatment. 
I certainly wish that something like the Qu-Chi acupressure band had been around when I was sitting exams at school, as having a bout of hayfever all through my Maths O-Level definitely affected my performance and my results!
The Qu-Chi band has been developed by acupuncturist Andrew Broch and is a simple but effective device for tackling the symptoms associated with hayfever and related allergies such as rhinitis. In a nutshell, histamine reactions that show up around the facial area can be tackled and indeed prevented with this band. This is what Airtight International, the manufacturers, say, in more detail:
“The band works by utilising the “Qu-Chi” acupuncture pressure point, which is a specific focus-point on the body, linked to the front of the face and the sinuses. This point is used to pull heat away from the face and reduces the affect associated with symptoms and has been shown to reduce the affective effects of histamine type reactions in the body.”
The way that Andrew Broch, its inventor, explains it is: ‘If you imagine your body as an onion, it has many layers. Acupuncturists believe that if the body’s energy is in the superficial level of the body, it will be more sensitive to whatever the body comes into contact with such as pollen, perfume, dust, paint, animal hair, etc and thus produces histamine to help defend against attack. So I came up with a proto-type band to see how effective it would be if the qu-chi point was isolated with an acupressure marble. When stimulated, the Qu-chi point moves this superficial energy inwards towards the centre of the body, so the body is not as sensitive and does not react when coming into contact with pollen.’
Here is the lowdown on the Qu-Chi band in use, by a long-term sufferer of hayfever and rhinitis symptoms.
How to use it: one band goes one side of the elbow, the other band goes the other side, with the black button on the acupressure point in the crease of the elbow. Instructions in the pack explain where this spot is and how to be sure you have found it, ie it feels slightly tender when pressed.
Times of Usage: The band can be used both day and night. Although it is not completely clear from the pack information how long it is to be used for at each usage, I found that it worked best to keep it on for quite a while, ie several hours at a time. For a few hours I found it to be painless to wear; when I wore it all day long I did feel at some point that I wanted to take it off. Maybe it was just an indication that the band had done its job!
Care: The Qu-Chi band is machine washable and claims to be hard wearing; I hope it will live up to this claim as some of the stitching came a little loose on the band I was trialling. However, so far it has remained intact just through general usage.
How it works: the black plastic button presses on the Qu-Chi acupressure point, which moves sensations in the facial areas to further within the body. The idea here is that any exterior irritants are not registered as irritations at the surface level, so the usual histamine reaction associated with an allergic response to incoming toxins or irritants does not occur.
Results: Does it actually work in practice? For me the answer was an unequivocal yes! I should add that, these days, my main symptoms tend to occur around the eye area and occasionally I also experience an itchy throat. Mostly, I get itchy eyes and, if I can’t resist the urge to itch, will often end up with eye infections such as red eye and conjunctivitis, which can be difficult to clear. At best my eyes will become sore from rubbing them and the itching is an annoying distraction. My usual mode of both preventative and curative action is to use eye drops. But since trying the Qu-Chi band I am impressed at finding it to be as effective as drops, in the early stages of irritation. Where it is perhaps less effective is in coping with an infection state once that has set in, which is not something that it claims to do in any case. If used at the initial moment of irritation, or soon after, it does seem to relieve the itching – both with eyes and throat.
Advantages: The Qu-Chi acupressure band is “unisex”, suitable for both men and women, boys and girls. In the pack picture the band appears in a shade of beige. The one I received was pink and toned in reasonably well with my particular skin tone. Some people might argue that pink is more of an advantage for girls, but with such items as surfer bracelets and festival fabric jewellery around these days, it does look cool and fun in pink! Thinking of holiday and sports use, as the band can go into water, I imagine that it could happily be worn when swimming, or in the shower. What is not entirely clear is whether the band being wet affects the tautness of the fabric, which keeps the acupressure button or “marble” in place; but possibly not as the elastic quality would still remain. Cost wise, at £9.95, the band is quite economical compared with ongoing supplies of orthodox hayfever applications, given that it can be used again and again. It should be added that it can, however, be used with other medications if need be. The band is also lightweight to carry around and can be easily kept in a handbag when not needed. The Qu-Chi band claims to be fast-acting and to not cause drowsiness. I found that my symptoms reduced within ten minutes of wearing it, which, to me, seemed to be quite quick. I also did not feel especially drowsy having applied the band, so I do feel that it lives up to these claims. The symptoms it alleviates include the following: runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, tiredness, headache and lack of concentration. You can put the band on either before symptoms appear, or as soon as you notice them.
Disadvantages: After longer use (3 hours or more) I did wish I could take the band off as it felt slightly taut on my arm. The adult size is “one size” and my arms are probably average size. I wonder if it will be comfortable enough for an adult with much wider arm circumference. The maker’s say it is suitable for people of all ages, although there is no specific mention of babies and I imagine there may be a risk of baby pulling the band off and swallowing it. However, the instructions make clear that it is not to be used by pregnant women, as this acupressure point can induce labour. Additionally, as part of the effect of the band drawing energy away from the face and towards the internal organs, I noticed that my taste buds were slightly impaired when eating and, later, that there was a degree of abdominal pain and extra activity in the organs. This occurred on two separate occasions when the band was worn for several hours at a time and reminded me of the side effects from taking antihistamine medication for rhinitis. However, from the point of view of the Chinese medicine, of which acupressure is a part, maybe this would be viewed as a positive outcome, with the body undergoing a process of detoxification and rebalancing within the organs. I also experienced a ‘flu virus not long after using the band, which suggested to me that this mode of help for an allergy might be tapping into an underlying cause and bringing it to the surface.
Conclusion: The basic idea behind this band is brilliant and the band works similarly to “water bands” aimed at helping people who suffer with sea sickness. In fact, for me it worked better than those do, or at least I found it more effective for relieving hayfever symptoms than I found water bands to be for relieving sea-sickness. So even if you have tried water bands and they did not help, the Qu-Chi band is still worth a try for helping with symptoms relating to hayfever and allergic rhinitis. I very much liked that the band is easily portable, simple to use and effective. It is nice to have another method for tackling symptoms of itchiness in the eyes, especially when in a situation where it is difficult to apply eye drops. There is no mess involved in using the band. I was surprised at how effective it was for my symptoms, including stalling an itchy throat, which, for me, can often be the precursor to a sudden bout of sneezing and watery eyes. I also occasionally experience facial itchiness relating to eczema and think that I will be reaching for the Qu-Chi band to help with that situation, too! For anyone who has ever suffered the debilitating effects of a day of relentless hayfever or rhinitis, this has to be a handy product to keep on hand.
Availability: Retailing at £9.95, the Qu-Chi band is available from http://www.qu-chi.co.uk and http://www.asda-pharmacy.co.uk, as well as Amazon, Manor Pharmacies and many independent chemists and pharmacies nationwide. You can also order direct from the ‘Qu-Chi’ mail order hotline on 0113 350 5432. Qu-Chi also has distributors in Spain, Denmark, Japan and Slovenia
Note:  Findings from a Hayfever and exam performance Study commissioned by the charity Education for Health, in June 2007. For more information see Donald MacLeod’s in depth article in the Guardian Education section dated 13th June 2007:
Review/Article Text Copyright Diana McMahon-Collis 2011