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Patient Advocacy: Listening and Observing

Advocacy1

I have found myself as patient advocate many times through the years. It is a role I enjoy, excel at, and one that comes quite naturally. I have the ability to become invisible for long periods of time yet pop into action when needed. I’m good in a crisis without becoming flustered or overwhelmed. I can maintain critical thinking and act when pressure ensues without letting my emotions bubble over the top. These are important keys in patient advocacy. I’ll describe three stories here to clearly show why I believe this is a necessary task to be handled when illness or injury interferes with our daily lives.

Story One

My father-in-law was in a long-term care facility. We visited him regularly. It fell to me to see him most often because of my more flexible schedule. I noticed he was “off” one day and checked in with the nursing staff. Though they weren’t initially as concerned as I was, we decided a visit to the ER was warranted.

My husband joined me in watching his father’s steadily worsening state. After nearly an hour and being told dad was going to be transported back to the nursing home, we sought out a doctor for more information. Though not verbatim, we were basically informed that dad was old and people eventually die of something. We were completely floored. We were not given any specific information on the problem or the proposed treatment.

After  transport, I stayed with dad as he continued to be somewhat disoriented and unwell. I inquired about sending him a little further to a different hospital ER for evaluation. It turned out his insurance would cover it (Medicare/Blue Cross), so I insisted. After several hours, they chased down a severe bladder infection and admitted dad to the hospital.

Had someone not been present to advocate for dad, he likely would have died because of that episode. It takes an observant individual who knows the patient well enough to notice what’s out of the ordinary behavior or abnormal. Our intuition and daily interactions with people can be key to helping trigger advocacy.

Story Two

A friend ended up in the hospital with a mysterious ailment and his wife (one of my closest friends) called to tell me about it. I traveled to sit with them each day for several days (until he was diagnosed and well on the road to recovery). While I was there for my sick friend, I was there as much for his wife.

When a loved one is ill or injured, it can be overwhelming to try to function with any normalcy. My friend was traveling to and from the hospital in the dark while trying to keep as many day-to-day necessities functioning as possible. I supplied moral support, her lunch, and took copious notes during the parades of doctors.

It can be vital for someone to keep track of the information different teams of doctors bring to the equation. Taking down names and times at the very least lets a medical team know that someone is holding them accountable. Asking clarifying questions can help everyone remember when emotions overwhelm.

Story Three

Another close friend was hospitalized recently. This is a person that I care a great deal about and with whom I work on occasion. My first visit was only an hour long but by morning I was rearranging my schedule and ready to camp out for as long as was needed. It was clear to me that she needed an advocate to speak with the staff and to inform friends and loved ones who cared and wanted to help but for whom my friend had no tolerance due to her severely ill state. I sat quietly for at least eight hours each day for several days tending to her needs and helping the hospital staff and loved ones stay updated on her status.

Most care facilities are stretched beyond limits. Even when checking vitals and dispersing medication when normally scheduled, it’s not the same as having someone observing constantly—especially when that someone can underscore that what the patient is telling is truth. For instance, this friend was in need of the strong medication they were delivering and it was important for them to know that she usually didn't do any drugs. When she asks, it’s because she really needs them.

It was also important to keep friends informed so they could focus on their best avenues of helping. Not everyone should use their energies to visit the hospital. Often the patient needs peace, solitude, and quiet. Many of us feel a need to care take others or entertain when we are visited. That often isn’t what a hospitalized person needs or wants to do.

While I could go into a lot more detail and give more information about each of these stories, I hope it’s apparent that these aren’t abnormal but rather ordinary experiences. Many people can’t simply set aside their everyday lives to advocate for others but networking can help facilitate the caring for our friends when needed.

Advocacy3

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

4 Herbs to Support Gratitude

Think back to the last time you had a quiet moment to yourself to reflect on your appreciation for something or someone in your life. For me, a sense of gratitude comes from deep inside. It does not wash over me, but rather is stirred from the heart. A complete focus is required, as well as a vulnerability, and the effect is immediate. A tranquility sweeps through me and a subtle feeling of joy embraces me.

Melody Beattie, a best-selling author of many self-help books, wrote, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” It is a beautiful idea that health and wellbeing can be a consequence of something as simple as gratitude. In fact, studies have shown a correlation between the two. In one study, counting blessings resulted in a decrease of systolic blood pressure in hypertensive participants. In another study,gratitude predicted greater sleep quality, less time to fall asleep, and increased sleep duration.

The key to observing gratitude is to open your heart and center yourself. In celebration of Herbalist Day on April 17, a holiday that is meant to express appreciation for herbalist friends and teachers, we take a look at four herbs that will help you do just that.

Herbs to Support Gratitude

Herbs that support Gratitude: Gingko

Gingko

If gratitude begins with centering yourself and focusing, we look to herbs that nurture concentration. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is known for sharpening mental focus. The ancient ginkgo tree is well-known not only for its longtime medicinal use, but for its longevity as a species. Considered a “living fossil,” the tree is widely known as perhaps the oldest continuous species of any kind; fossils of the plant have been dated to over 250 million years old, making it likely that it was a food source for dinosaurs.

Gingko improves cognitive focus in part by improving the synthesis and turnover of neurotransmitters. As a circulatory tonic, Gingko supports circulation throughout the body to improve the flow of nutrients, oxygen, chemicals, hormones, and immune cells. Ginkgo is well-suited for persons facing circulatory deficiency as well as hypertension.

In Western herbalism, ginkgo is seen as having an affinity for the head, brain, and the circulatory system; the standardized extract in particular shows antioxidant actions in the brain. Vasodilator herbs such as Gingko help dilate the blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

Herbs for Gratitude – Holy Basil

Holy Basil

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is uplifting and joyful, guiding open the heart to feel gratitude and a yearning for emotional connection. The heart is the processing center for the nervous system and stores our life experiences and memories. As an adaptogen, holy basil can help put one in a state that allows for the ability to expand knowledge. As a nervine, holy basil is initially stimulating, but then brings a calm and reassuring sense of solidity and groundedness that helps quiet the mind, collect distracted thoughts into focus, and give one a sense of resilience for the long haul.

Learn more about holy basil here and here.

Herbs for gratitude - Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry

As a member of the rose family, wild cherry (Prunus serotina) is an ally for the heart and sacral chakras, as it is sweet, loving, nurturing, and sensual. It helps open the heart, making space to lovingly communicate with and receive from others. Our hearts are much more than mechanical pumps; they are powerful sensory organs and nervous system receptors tuned toward love, compassion, and oneness, and they receive emotional input of all kinds every minute of the day.

As such, their physical health is affected by the myriad of life experiences and emotions processed by the heart and stored in the heart’s “memory.” We’ve all seen or felt the physical effects of a deeply broken heart – our heart hurts. Heartbreak, stuck emotions, depression, grief, and trauma can manifest as physical heart ailments, from coronary disease to weak hearts to blockages. The rose family, particularly hawthorn and rose, excels at gently nourishing, healing, soothing, opening, and protecting our energetic hearts allowing us to participate genuinely in practices of gratitude.

Download a free Wild Cherry Plant Monograph from The Herbarium here.

Herbs for Gratitude - Hawthorn

Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is a calming nervine and is used much like rose, and often with rose, to heal, open, and protect the energetic heart. This is helpful because the heart chakra is the balance point, or gate, between the lower and upper chakras (the external/physical/matter and internal/mental/spirit). If the heart chakra is blocked, we feel the mind and body as separate, not unified, and can feel isolated, disconnected, unworthy of love, and have difficulty expressing emotions like appreciation. If the heart chakra is too open, we may withhold our emotions to manipulate others or offer love only with conditions attached. Physically, we may suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease. If the heart chakra is balanced, we feel harmonious, and feel a deep well of unconditional love, compassion, and trust for ourselves and others.

Hawthorn is used by herbalists as a wonderful plant ally for the heart. It is considered to be a trophorestorative that helps to nourish and balance the heart. Emotionally, hawthorn may be soothing and healing.

Try our Winter Solstice Heart Tea here.

Celebrating Gratitude!

Celebrating Gratitude!

As herbalists we have a responsibility to pass information onto others and to empower them on their herbal path. While gratitude for these people can, and should be, practiced every day, Herbalist Day is a special occasion to say thank you to those who have helped you on your own journey. On Monday, April 17, you will find us carving out time in our day to write cards to our mentors and friends.

We encourage you to join us with the Herbal Academy’s free, downloadable thank you cards designed just for Herbalist Day 2017.

Free download for Herbalist Day

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Learn more about the Herbal Academy at theherbalacademy.com.

REFERENCES

Herbal Academy. (2016). Herbarium monographs: Gingko, Holy basil, Wild Cherry, Hawthorn [Membership-only Website]. Retrieved on 03/24/2017 from herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/

Wooda, A., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43–48.

Shipon, R. (2007). Gratitude: Effect on perspectives and blood pressure of inner-city African-American hypertensive patients. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University.

 


 

 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Apitherapy: Bees as Medicinal Midwives

 

Pharmacology is the branch of medicine dealing with the actions of drugs in the body—their therapeutic and toxic effects. Our ancestors were the original pharmacologists; developing drugs from plant and animal sources. The word pharmacy originated from an Egyptian word, pharmaki, and the Greek, pharmakon. It is also related to the Egyptian word pharagia, which means “the art of making magic”. The ability of organisms to make medicine and to self-medicate play key roles in the development of pharmacology AND in the making of magic….

Making magic with plants and flowers has its roots deeply entwined in the interspatial relationships over millennia with insects as pollinators. Pollinators procured the sweet and tangy nectars and the rich and robust pollens for their own nutrition and self-medication. In so doing, they have helped to fertilize flowering plants and thus, have served as midwives to blooms across the globe producing food and medicine for varied species for millennia. The foraged food from flowers that bees collect is indeed magical in that it not only feeds them and their developing young directly, as well as other critters and humans, but also serves as medicine to their super-organismal health network. This ability to transform flower power into sweet elixirs and other potent hive products provides medicine for the one --- and the many.

What is it that the bees have been eating and sharing with other organisms that lend to health? Bees visit numerous flower blooms and the mixtures through biological processes of chemistry and physiology keeps them healthy and provides healthy products which they share with humans as pharmaceutical (plant derived) medicines. As super-organisms, honeybees have evolved as an efficient and productive species. More recently, they, along with other pollinators have been experiencing increasing challenges from climate fluctuations, habitat encroachment and industrial agricultural development.  Yet, there are pockets here and there around the globe, where the natural landscape and topography is helping to nurture stronger and healthier species, whose subsequent generations-- like seeds, carry their genetic story to unfold over time while providing pollination for growing food, feeding life, and making medicine, magic, near and far. And, when bounties are plentiful, their products can be shared.

New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment is one such place. NM plays host to 7 out of the 8 climactic zones- from desert to tundra, only lacking tropical. Enchanted landscapes chisel and sculpt challenging and unique circumstances living under the state flag Zia sun emblem. Father Time tests and Mother Nature encourages. Plants and organisms that have adapted to the diverse and adverse conditions of our enchanted lands have unique and creative healing properties, as is evident in the traditional and cultural practices of both our Native Indigenous and Hispano societies. Early pharmacologists focused on natural substances, mainly plant extracts. It was until the 17th century that botany and medicine went hand and hand, and then it changed: Science diverged from its physical foundation to controlled laboratories. The industrialization of agriculture and “conventional” societies changed perspectives and approaches. We are now becoming more conscious and returning to integrative approaches that our ancestors have known and applied generation upon generation.

Pharmacology developed in the 19th century as a biomedical science that applied the principles of scientific experimentation to therapeutic contexts. Today, pharmacologists harness the power of genetics, molecular biology, chemistry, and other advanced tools to transform information about molecular mechanisms and targets into therapies directed against disease, defects or pathogens, and create methods for preventative care, diagnostics, and, ultimately, personalized medicine. But, for millennia, other organisms have been serving as pharmacologists and have helped to harness the power of healing from their natural surroundings. In turn, this has helped to challenge and enhance their health through selective pressures authored by Mother Nature. Over time, these organisms have developed diets and essences of being that have integrated into the very context of nutrition and health for a myriad of other creatures, including humans, via diversified fruit and vegetable produce options, grains, and other forage. By pollinating animal forage, these pollinator organisms also help to produce meat and fiber; such fantastic feats for such small beings.

It is this miraculous and magical energy that is bestowed by bees into their stored foods, as well. Historical folklore AND modern medicine both recognize and share the benefits of honey and other bee products. Ancient cultures developed and refined methods of application including honey; bee bread (bee collected pollen mixed with honey and stored in honeycomb); propolis (antibacterial and antimicrobial resins harvested by the bees from various woody plants, shrubs and trees); royal jelly (a secretion by young nurse bees fed to all of the hive’s progeny for their first few days of life, and to the queen for her entire life); and venom from the bee sting. Individually and collectively, in various proportions, these hive medicines have served as beneficial therapies for various conditions and cultures.

The application of bee hive product medicines is called Apitherapy. "Api" is Latin for bee and "Apis Mellifera" is our beloved honeybee. There are numerous races of Apis Mellifera- the majority of which originated in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Thus, it is these cultures that have developed elixirs and concoctions of bee hive products for their apitherapeutic properties. It is with current scientific documentation that much of what these ancient cultures already knew is now being better understood through modern research and scientific applications. Integrative Apitherapeutic applications can help various conditions and bodily systems including allergies, cardiovascular diseases, blood diseases, respiratory, digestive, kidney, musculoskeletal, nervous, eye, ENT (ear, nose and throat), skin, endocrine, nutrition and metabolic, genital, sexual, immunological, viral, cancers, oral, parasites, systemic, mental and pediatric. In fact, there is research being conducted in north-eastern NM on the benefits of NM honey to treat antibiotic-resistant staph (MRSA) infections in children through a grant from UNM- Pediatrics by Farmington Pediatrician and beekeeper, Dr. Stephen Rankin. American Bee Journal article reprint at apitherapy.blogspot.com/2012/04/new-mexico-honey-beats-manuka-at.html) and NMBKA PowerPoint slideshow link at nmbeekeepers.org/making-honey-and-medicine-a-local-affair/.

Honeybees and their stewards are indeed midwives helping to pollinate wild and cultivated forage for the one and the many. As community-minded, super-organismal magic makers, honeybees and their stewards have been sharing their efforts with cultures and peoples across varied lands for many moons. We honor them and their efforts for our communities, now and for future generations. We hope that interested community members will continue to participate in mindful pollinator promotion and production…for it does indeed take a community network to support local, regional, national and global production of food, fiber, and medicine through positive stewardship of our Tierra, Aire y Agua- Land, Air, and Water. Somos Agradecidos/We are Thankful.


 All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

20 Different Varieties of Mead

In its most basic form, mead is simply the fermentation of water and honey into an alcoholic beverage. Also called honey wine, the craft of mead fermentation has been enjoyed for centuries for social, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes.

Mead comes in various forms and displays huge diversity in regards to ingredients that are used and the flavors these ingredients bestow. These flavors are further diversified through the use of different types of yeast, different types of honey, additives like herbs or fruits (known as adjuncts or gruits), or the method of aging.

Mead taste testing by Herbal Academy

Chai Mead from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

In the Herbal Academy’s newest online program, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, students explore the many types of mead that are brewed across the world and experiment with recipes from several varieties themselves. Preview the Different Varieties of Mead chart below, a brief excerpt from The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course!

Varieties of Mead

These terms will not only help you navigate some of the informational resources that exist regarding this delightful fermentation experience, they will hopefully also inspire you to experiment. You will notice that many of these varieties of mead include the use of herbs such as hops, rose petals or hips, and even chili pepper as flavoring ingredients! In essence, any of these meads could be considered herbal healing liquors. So, formulating your herbal mead can be about both flavor and healing. Just look at this variety!

The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course by Herbal Academy - recipes

DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF MEAD

Acerglyn

A mead made with honey and maple syrup.

Black Mead

A mead made with honey and black currants.

Bochet

A mead made whereby the honey is caramelized or burned separately before adding the water to bring out toffee, chocolate, or roasted marshmallow flavors.

Braggot

Derived from the Welsh word bragawd, is also called bracket or brackett. Originally brewed with honey and hops, later with honey and malt—with or without hops added.

Capsicumel

A mead flavored with chili peppers! Yee haw!

Cyser

A blend of honey and apple juice fermented together – similar to a hard cider except sweeter due to the addition of sugars from the honey.

Great Mead

Any mead that has been aged for several years. Distinguished from short mead or quick mead which is meant to age quickly and be consumed in short order.

Hydromel

The Greek and French term for “water-honey” in Greek. It is also used as a name for a light or low-alcohol mead.

Melomel

Melomel is made from honey and any fruit. Certain melomels have more specific names depending on what type of fruit is used. For example, a morat is a type of melomel made from mulberries.

Metheglin

A healing liquor, or mead made for medicinal purposes.

Omphacomel

A medieval mead recipe that blends honey with a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crabapples, or other sour fruit. Lemon or sorrel juice is also sometimes used for additional flavor, as are herbs or spices.

Oxymel

A historical mead recipe traditionally made by blending honey with wine vinegar. In modern times, Western herbalists often employ oxymels as a preservation method for medicinal herbs. For example, some forms of ‘fire cider’ are made with honey and therefore considered an oxymel.

Pyment

A pyment is brewed with red or white grapes or grape juice. A pyment made with white grape juice is sometimes also called white mead.

Rhodomel

Rhodomel is made from honey, rose hips, rose petals or rose attar, and water. This type of mead could also be considered a metheglin, depending on the intention of the brewer.

Sack Mead

Mead that is brewed with more honey than is typically used and therefore contains a higher-than-average alcohol concentration. Mead that is at or above 14% ABV is generally considered to be of sack strength. Sack mead often retains elevated levels of sweetness, although dry sack meads which have no residual sweetness can also be produced.

Short Mead

Also known as a quick mead and often considered the opposite of a great mead. A type of mead that is meant to age quickly for immediate enjoyment. It can also be champagne-like, depending on the methods and yeast used. Good for brewers with little patience.

Show Mead

A plain mead with only honey and water as a base with no additions such as fruits, spices, or herbal flavorings. Sometimes requires a special yeast nutrient and other enzymes for an enjoyable finished product, as honey alone often does not provide enough nourishment for the yeast to carry on its life cycle.

Sparkling Mead

Mead that has carbonation. Usually created through the use of champagne yeast.

Still Mead

Mead that is not carbonated.

White Mead

A mead that is colored white with herbs, fruit, or sometimes even egg whites. Also a name sometimes given to white grape pyment.

As students discover in The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course, brewing herbal mead can be much more than simply making an alcoholic beverage. Brewing herbal mead can be a ritualistic journey of celebrating community and honoring the people, places, and plants that have provided guidance, knowledge, friendship, or support. In fact, brewing herbal mead is one method, among many in the realm of fermentation and food production, that can be used to honor the changing of the seasons, times of year, or memorable milestones in your life and the lives of those in your community.

Herbal Mead Tutorial  The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course

Whether you are interested in creating delicious mead and beer with an herbal spin to share with your friends and family or are looking for ways to expand your probiotic routine with kombucha, water kefir, or fermented foods, The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course will walk you through making these ferments step by step, from start to bubbly finish!

Preview the full course outline and sign up to reserve your seat in class here: theherbalacademy.com/product/craft-herbal-fermentation-course/ 

Cheers!Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Marlene spent several years studying herbs and learning under some of the most revered modern herbalists and continues to practice plant medicine through correspondence courses and teaching others. 

Photos provided and copyrighted by Amber Meyers and Grant Lacouture, Herbal Academy.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Prepare for Spring by Making Digestive Bitters

Just as we spend spring days clearing rubble from our overwintered gardens, we can also spend the warmer, longer days clearing winter’s accumulated waste and toxins from our bodies. Up to this point, we’ve been in hibernation mode – sleeping more, eating comfort foods that are high in fats and oils – and in early spring it’s time to jump-start our perhaps still resting metabolisms, get the blood moving, and help the liver process the waste efficiently.

Bitter tonics are particularly useful in spring because the simple act of tasting bitters on your tongue triggers the liver and gall bladder to create bile, which stimulates the digestion of fats and oils. With the digestive system working efficiently, toxins are eliminated from the body and, over time, bitters act as “alteratives” or blood purifiers. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar taught that alterative bitters are “agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the blood” (Gladstar, 2011).

dandelion greens
Fotolia/posh

You can introduce bitter flavors into your diet by eating more bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion. Coffee is the most commonly consumed bitter, and steamed burdock is a seasonal bitter treat that’s also fun to forage. An easy DIY option is to make herbal bitters, which are essentially a tincture made with bitter herbs. Although drinking bitters isn’t as much a part of our mealtime traditions as they once were, you may still recognize the term “aperitif” for digestive-stimulating drinks consumed before a meal, and “digestif” for those consumed after a meal.

Digestive bitters can also double as fantastic ingredients in homemade cocktails. For example, the Manhattan cocktail (my personal favorite) calls for angostura bitters, which feature bitter gentian root (Gentiana lutea). Keep the following Digestive Bitters in your medicine cabinet, but don’t hesitate to break them out when a special-occasion cocktail is in demand.

DIY Digestive Bitters Recipe

tincture bottle
Fotolia/rawf8

This recipe uses ingredients that are easy to forage, grow, or purchase in the United States. Yield: 1 pint.

  • 2 parts dandelion root

  • 1 part fennel seed

  • 1 part orange peels

Add combined herbs to a wide-mouth canning jar and then cover with high-proof vodka or brandy. Shake to make sure all herbs are completely submerged, and then let sit in a dark spot for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking every 2 or 3 days to keep plant material covered. Strain through a cheesecloth and store infused tincture in a labeled, amber-colored bottle. Take 1 teaspoon or one tincture bottle dropperful before or after meals. Consume your homemade bitters within 1 year.

fennel seeds on spoon
Fotolia/ksena32

Learn more about bitters by reading this fantastic two-part series by Sharyn Hocurscak with The Herbal Academy: Part 1: History and Benefits of Bitters and Part 2: Making Bitters. 

I’d also recommend reading Guido Masé’s book The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter, and Tonic PLants – Guido is the founder of Urban Moonshine, a company that crafts high-quality bitters that are sold nationwide.

 

 Hannah was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in The Herbal Academy’s online school where she worked her way through the Entrepreneur Herbalist Package. She is managing editor for Heirloom Gardener magazine and senior editor for Mother Earth News. Read all of Hannah's posts here.

How To Protect Tap Water From Legionalla Bacteria

tap water 

For most, there’s nothing easier than turning on the tap when you need a drink of water. This daily act comes with a word of caution for some locations: New research shows that a glass of warm or room-temperature tap water could harbor harmful the legionella bacteria.

What’s hiding in our pipes, and how can you protect yourself?

Legionnaires’ Disease from the Water Supply

Legionnaires’ disease is a dangerous form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria. Historically, most cases of Legionnaires’ were spread by the infected patient inhaling the bacteria, but new cases have been cropping up that pinpoint warm water from a kitchen or bathroom tap as the source of infection.

The disease can be treated with prompt application of antibiotics, and is usually only fatal to individuals who have underlying health issues.

The first reported case of patients becoming infected due to legionella bacteria in the water supply was in Philadelphia in 1976, where more than 221 people were infected, including 115 hospitalizations and 34 deaths. At the time, officials were afraid that something more contagious, such as swine flu, was the culprit, but that was later disproven.

After months of searching, they were no closer to an answer and believed they might never know what had caused the outbreak.

Recent research from the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology may be able to explain that early outbreak. Dutch researchers have determined the best growth conditions for the legionella bacteria in water sources, such as drinking water pipes or water towers, and  have concluded that drinking water that comes from natural sources, and which may have a higher concentration of dissolved organic matter, is ideal for the growth of the bacteria.

The organic material that’s dissolved in the water creates a biofilm that provides an ideal growth environment. Other conditions that promote legionella growth include:

• Warm temperatures, between 68 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit
• pH that falls between 5.0 and 8.5
• Water that is stagnant (such as that in water towers or other water storage areas)

It’s important for local water control officials to monitor the amount of legionella bacteria in their water sources, because after a bacterial colony has begun to grow, they cannot be eradicated by the chlorination typically used to purify public water supplies.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the U.S. each year. However, most of these cases are isolated and are not associated with mass outbreaks of the illness.

How to Protect Your Tap Water from Legionella Bacteria

This shouldn’t discourage you from utilizing your home’s tap water for cooking, drinking, or bathing. But prevention and preparation are key to making sure your home’s water supply is safe to drink.

Avoid stagnant water. Stagnant water provides the perfect breeding ground for legionella bacteria. If you’re away from home for a while, make sure you turn on your water taps throughout the house and let them run for a while so the stale water is replaced with fresh.

Consider water testing. OSHA has guidelines for taking water samples, and you can reach out to local or state officials to find out who in your area is responsible for water testing.

Monitor any outdoor water sources. Outdoor fountains, ornamental water features, or hot tubs and pools can all be potential growth mediums for the legionella bacteria. Taking steps to minimize legionella growth risk factors can enable you to enjoy your water features without risking the growth of the bacteria in your yard or around your home.

Stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are both good resources for any information about potential legionella outbreaks in your area. Keep the risk factors in mind as well, anytime you’re dealing with a source of freshwater in your area.

Legionnaires’ disease is not as threatening as it was back in 1976, when doctors had no idea what it was, but it still presents some danger. Stay informed and make sure you take all necessary precautions to avoid being exposed to the bacteria. If you do, you can enjoy your tap water without worrying about what might be in it.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Argan Oil: Its Benefits, Uses and Purity

 

You’ve probably heard of argan oil: the new “miracle” ingredient in DIY natural cosmetics. You may know it’s made in Morocco, where it’s something of a national treasure. You may also know it’s beneficial for your hair, body, and even as a food ingredient.

However, you may not know any specific argan oil benefits — that studies suggest it accelerates burn healing and fights cancer and diabetes.

In this post, I’ve compiled the last 20 years of research on argan oil benefits, Now you can get the real deal about all its benefits without the hype and sales pitches.

Many people making homemade, DIY cosmetics, or looking for non-toxic beauty or health care ingredients, get lost in a sea of available information online... If you’re one of them, use this as a quick reference.

How is Argan Oil Used?

Now let’s see exactly what the liquid gold does and doesn’t do.

Argan oil is only found in southwestern Morocco. Numerous attempts have been made to grow it in other parts of the world with no success, It is mainly used in two very different ways First of all, the oil is used as a gourmet delight because of its nutty flavor and apparent health benefits.

Secondly, it is used as a powerful ingredient in many health and beauty products. It is rich in vitamin E and contains many antioxidants. In fact, the Berbers who populate this region of Morocco have been using the oil for hundreds of years, and it has been particularly valuable in protecting and conditioning hair and skin.

Between June and August, the Moroccans harvest the mature fruits of the argan tree. These fruits are dried for many weeks, the most labor intensive part of oil extraction is removing the pulp and crashing the hard shell nut which contain one to three oil rich kernels.

These kernels are then pressed using traditional extraction or mechanical extraction or chemical extraction to obtain culinary-grade oil, the kernels needs to be roasted before pressing.

Sebum Level Correction

In Morocco, where the Argania tree grows in the semi-desert Sous valley, people have long used argan oil to fight spots, oily skin, acne and other skin problems. In recent years, science has given us hard evidence that explains why.

Here’s the deal. Your body produces a natural, oily substance that waterproofs and lubricates your skin. This substance is called sebum, and it protects you from injury, sunburns and other nasty stuff. Even your ear canal has sebum.

The problem is, the modern lifestyle can mess with your natural sebum levels. Air pollution, unhealthy food and even hormone levels can confuse the body. As a result, many people today have.

• Too much sebum - oily skin, whiteheads, blackheads, acne, pustules
• Too little sebum - dryness, skin injuries and tears, itching and redness, acne

Having too much sebum is a common and dangerous problem. This makes hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin, leading to all kinds of yucky skin conditions. Unfortunately, most oils, including olive oil, can’t stabilize your sebum levels.

The reason for that is, your skin isn’t very good at absorbing vegetable products, which is why many people complain about olive and sunflower oils greasing skin to the point it leaves stains on clothes and furniture.

Argan oil works differently. A 2007 study had volunteers apply a cream with Argania spinosa oil base for 4 weeks. The results took the researchers aback.

Sebum regulation improved in 95% of the volunteers. Areas covered with oily spots were reduced by 42%. The number of active sebum glands stayed level, proving that argan oil fixes your sebum levels naturally instead of messing with your body.

Researchers believe that Vitamin E and linoleic acid (omega-6) are the specific ingredients in argan oil that create this effect. Vitamin E is a unique, fat-soluble antioxidant essential for healthy skin. Omega 6 is a fatty acid that stimulates skin and hair growth.

Argania Spinosa oil may be so good at de-greasing oily skin and moisturizing dry skin because it’s rich in both - another one of many argan oil benefits.

Accelerate Burn Recovery and Reverse Skin Damage

That’s right: a study confirmed that argan oil application can greatly accelerate recovery from burns and other injuries! Didn’t think you’d see this way to use argan oil for skin care, did you? Argan oil significantly speeds up wound healing by almost 50%! as shown in a clinical experiment.

That’s why it’s used for all kinds of exposure injuries in Morocco since a long time ago. It is widely known to heal sunburn, puncture wounds, frostbite, hot and cold burns, etc.

The one question that’s still open to debate is how and why Argania Spinosa oil works to heal the skin. Although we don’t know all the answers, a study has shown why the oil specifically speeds recovery from sun damage.

Melanin - the pigment in our skin that protects us from ultraviolet rays and decreases the risk of cancer - is critical to say the least. Having too much or too little of it can lead to a higher risk of cancer, skin disorders and other problems. Studies have shown that argan oil is an elective melanin biosynthesis inhibitor. This means that argan oil normalizes skin cells that have too much melanin, keeping you healthy and safe from UV rays.

Slows Cell Aging and Oxidation

Argania Spinosa oil is rich in spinasterol and schottenol: naturally occurring compounds that have been clinically proven to protect cells from both oxidation and aging. As an added bonus, they help your body maintain Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, this gives your immune system an extra kick when it comes to fighting cancer.

Here’s what’s really interesting. Normally, antioxidants act by scavenging free radicals: uncharged molecules that are believed to cause aging and aging-related diseases. What antioxidants can’t do is slow down the level of oxidation in your body.

Argan oil is different, because it tackles the free radical problem at the root. It reduces the rate of oxidation in your body, actually stopping your body from creating these particles. In fact, Argan oil has 3 mechanisms that have been shown to specifically fight skin aging and wrinkling. It keeps cells young, protects them from cellular stress, and stimulates new skin growth and the regeneration of old skin.

Improved Skin Elasticity

As you already know, Moroccan oil is a powerful antioxidant. It’s rich in vitamin E and omega 9: the 2 things your skin needs to stay healthy, elastic and hydrated. That’s why Moroccans use it to prevent wrinkles, premature aging and crows’ feet. What does research tell us about its measurable effects on the skin?

Well, in a human subject experiment, a group using argan oil as a skin product for 30 days was shown to have significantly improved skin hydration compared to the placebo group.

Since moisture loss is one of the main reasons for skin aging, this is significant. Hydrated skin loses less collagen and is protected from heat, cold and the sun. Wrinkles may be impossible to reverse, but making sure your skin cells and membrane have enough water prevents signs of aging from happening in the first place.

The evidence doesn’t lie. In another study, 30 postmenopausal women were asked to apply argan oil every night for 2 months. The amount was tiny: 10 drops. The assessments used to measure the oil’s effect were TEWL (transepidermal water loss) and WCE (water content of the skin).

After two months of argan oil use, there was a measurable improvement in the skin’s ability to retain water. It could also “lose” more water without drying, meaning this wasn’t just a cosmetic effect; this was a real, cell-level change.

The proof’s in the pudding: even a tiny amount of Moroccan oil added to a skin product can improve hydration and the elasticity of skin without “trapping” water inside cells and making the user feel bloated.

How Important is the Purity of Argan Oil?

As mentioned above, argan oil is expensive because it’s only produced in one place on earth: Morocco.

Although the Moroccan government plans to triple argan production output in the next few years, and the trees have already been planted, it’s still a premium product.

To save money, manufacturers and retailers have sometimes added other oils to what is labeled as “argan oil”. (This is what doctors hypothesized as the reason for the severe reaction of allergic contact dermatitis.)

If you don’t use pure argan oil, you won’t get its full benefits. In cosmetic products, you risk diluting the nanoparticles that make it so easy to absorb to the point where all the goodness is gone. When consuming it, you risk putting whatever was used to dilute the oil in your body. You probably don’t want that.

So how do you recognize Organic Pure Argan oil?

Real, pure, authentic oil often has a tiny bit of sediment at the bottom of the bottle and appears a bit “cloudy”. It’s also pale yellow in color. If your oil is clear, and has no sediment at all, you’re probably getting a fake.

Argan oil should also have a luxurious, nutty smell! If yours doesn’t have a smell, it could be old, or worse, “deodorized” by extreme heating processes... If it’s even Arganoil at all. The good news is, studies show that even a few drops of pure oil can help you get these wonderful argan oil benefits.

Using Argan Oil Correctly

As a supplement. So, you want to live longer, stay younger, and protect yourself from diseases like diabetes and cancer. In other words, you want some argan oil in your life! A very easy way to get its nutritional benefits is by using it as a supplement.

Argan oil does the most for your lipid levels and insulin sensitivity when consumed with food. 3-5 ml taken with 1 or 2 meals every day will do wonders for your skin and overall health. Many people also report that moroccan oil reduces hunger pangs, and consume it before bed to avoid the night munchies!

In your DIY recipes. When you use pure, natural products in your DIY skincare recipes, you only need a few things to make a great formula you will swear by. Whether you make stuff for personal use, or to sell, argan oils many benefits and low required dosage make it a godsend in cosmetics.

If you want to make that DIY shaving cream, or body butter, or handmade soap, or facial mask, just add 10 drops or so to the formula. Even 1 drop of pure argan oil will have a noticeable effect on dry and oily skin, stretch marks and all skin types - just make sure to warn people with nut allergies!

As a stand-alone product. Argan oil is very rare, even in Morocco, where it’s made. Fortunately for Moroccan women, you only need a tiny bit to get its benefits. Traditionally, locals use argan oil before bed, applying a few drops to their face and hair as part of their night-time beauty routine. You can do the same — it’s so rich you’ll find it easy to make just a little last you a long time!

As a food ingredient. The last (and tastiest) way to use argan oil is in your food. Just use it instead of butter or olive oil and share it with your friends and family members so they get the benefits, too. As another option, you can use it as a great bread dip ingredient, either pure or mixes with a little balsamic vinegar, Italian-style, for a delicious treat!

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not attempt to replace the advice of a medical expert.

Elena Julian is an aspiring farmer, mother, beauty DIYer. Join Elena aver at OilYit. Watch her press argan oil on Youtube, and follow along on Twitter.


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