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Herbs can be powerful allies for our health and wellness. Many of us are familiar with Echinacea and yarrow as antimicrobials, wild cherry bark for a cough, ginger for nausea, and a host of other herbs used in acute situations to restore health. Herbs can be very effective used in this manner, but herbs also shine when used as daily building and strengthening tonics.

What are Tonic Herbs?

In a previous article I discussed nourishing herbal infusions, which are made from nutrient-rich herbs that are safe to consume on a daily basis, as we do food. In this article I delve into tonic herbs – those herbs which can be consumed daily to enhance vitality, longevity, and energy. We may be familiar with the concept of tonics from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wherein they are used “to supplement deficiencies and enhance energy and well-being” [1].

Using Tonic Herbs for Health

Tonic herbs slowly build and strengthen, restoring our body systems to a balanced state, thus supporting optimum function of our physical bodies as well as enhancing our emotional well-being. They reflect the essence of herbalism, which we emphasize in our online herbalism classes – integrating plants into our diets on a daily basis as supportive, building, strengthening allies used as preventative medicine or to heal chronic disease. Hippocrates hit the nail on the head with his oft-cited declaration, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” In recent years as we have linked the sad state of the Standard American Diet to our health struggles, there has fortunately been an increased emphasis on letting food be our medicine. We can focus on the second half of Hippocrates’ mandate and let medicine be our food by supplementing our diets and nourishing our bodies with tonic herbs.

Is important to note that the definition of tonic is somewhat different in TCM and Western Herbalism. In general, eastern tonics are used in the case of deficiency to build or nourish the body, while western tonics are used to improve organ or system function, often through clearing and cleansing [2]. Western tonics do include nurturing, building tonics such as adaptogens (which increase the body’s ability to resist and adapt to stress, be it physical, mental, or emotional) and trophorestoratives (which build strength and function of organs or body systems); but they also include normalizing tonics (which improve organ or system by stimulating function) and blood tonics (which cleanse and detoxify the blood) [2]. This article focuses on the building tonics which treat deficiency and restore function by restoring strength, generating warmth, providing nutrition, and providing moisture [3].

The Herb Safety Scale

One important criteria for tonics is that they have no negative side effects if used appropriately. In terms of safety, it is helpful to consider where various types of herbs fall on a safety continuum scale of 1 to 5 [4].

Nourishing herbs are on the left side of the scale with a safety rating of 1, as they are very safe and can be consumed daily as often as desired with no side effects.

On the right side of the scale are herbs for extreme acute use (also called heroic herbs by herbalist Christopher Hobbs), which have a safety rating of 5. These are herbs that are “strong and highly irritating, causing dramatic changes to occur” with little difference between a therapeutic dose and a toxic dose [5] and thus strong potential for side effects – these must be used only under direction of an experienced herbalist.

In between these extremes are tonic herbs and “specific” herbs. Tonic herbs are gentle and slow stimulants [4], have a wide therapeutic range, and include two types: nourishing tonics that are very safe to take daily over extended periods of time; and stimulating tonics that are safe to take for days to months without side effects if used correctly.

“Specific” herbs are “moderately active stimulants” [5] with a narrower therapeutic range, best for acute use limited to approximately two weeks.

The Herb Safety Continuum Scale

The Herb Safety Continuum Scale

Class of Herb

Safety Rating

Safety Notes

Period of Usage


Nourishing Herbs


No known side effects

As often as wanted, like food

Nettle, oatstraw, chickweed, red clover, alfalfa

Nourishing Tonics


Little to no side effect

Daily use over long periods of time

Reishi, burdock, dandelion, holy basil, astragalus, cinnamon, garlic, schisandra berry, raspberry leaf

Stimulating Tonics


Possible side effects with improper use

Days to months

Hawthorn, ginseng, licorice, eleuthero, rhodiola, turmeric, ashwagandha, Gingko, ginger, motherwort

Specific Herbs


Acute use only

2 to 3 weeks

Goldenseal, myrrh, juniper, usnea 

Heroic Herbs


Extreme acute use only under guidance of experienced herbalist

Very limited doses

Foxglove, poke root, lily of the valley

Using Tonic Herbs for Health and Vitality

So what are some tonic herbs, and how can we use them? Tonic herbs can include adaptogens, trophorestoratives, normalizing amphoterics, and alteratives. Tonics can work on one organ or body system or several simultaneously. While it might seem like a good idea to take enough tonics to cover each body system, this could become overwhelming! Including tonic herbs in cooking and making tonic preparations takes some planning, so keep it simple by incorporating just a few into your daily routine.

Consider your areas of weakness in the body - if you struggle with stress or anxiety, choose an adaptogen or a tonic for the nervous system. If you have digestive difficulties, choose a tonic that supports the liver and digestive system. If you have a history of heart disease, choose a cardiotonic. If you are generally healthy and just want to enhance your health and increase energy and longevity, choose an adaptogen to support multiple body systems, or rotate different tonics every few months. Ideally, consume these in or as food (e.g. throw some astragalus or reishi into a soup recipe) or as herbal infusions and decoctions. If your busy life simply does not allow for this, herbal tinctures are also an option.

Immunomodulators for the Immune System 

A strong immune system will fight off daily assaults to our health, and immunomodulators like astragalus root, reishi mushroom, and licorice root help build immunity. These herbs are rich in polysaccharides and saponins, which stimulate the body’s innate immunity [6]. These herbs are also adaptogens, which increase the body’s ability to resist and cope with physical and emotional stress, adapting to the stressor instead of succumbing to it. Additionally, astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) is tonic to the adrenal glands, heart, lungs, and liver. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is tonic to the liver, is anti-inflammatory, and lowers cholesterol [1], and its nervine action helps relieve anxiety and sleeplessness. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L.) is tonic to the digestive system and is a powerful antiviral (but should not be taken in high doses or on its own for extended periods as it can raise blood pressure).


Turmeric for the Digestive and Musculoskeletal Systems

Efficient digestion and assimilation are paramount for health - a large percentage of the immune system resides in the gut, after all! Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a warming, carminative, and slightly bitter digestive tonic that kindles digestive fire and promotes healthy digestion by stimulating the production and flow of bile and relieving symptoms of indigestion such as cramping, gas, and bloating. It is also liver-protective, helping to prevent liver disease. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can help soothe inflammatory bowel diseases. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions are helpful for maintaining healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments, relieving symptoms of arthritis, and keeping tendons and ligaments flexible. Read more about turmeric and get our spin on the age-old Golden Milk recipe here.

Tonic Herbs for Health: Hawthorn

Hawthorn for the Heart

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is rich in flavonoids and is a well-known cardiac tonic. Hawthorn extract from the berry, leaf, and/or flower is used as a general cardiac tonic, a cardiac trophorestorative, and for cases of angina, high blood pressure, early stages of congestive heart failure, and atherosclerosis [7]. It is a supportive and anti-inflammatory tonic herb for any type of heart-related condition, including helping to heal the heart following a heart attack. Hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers are also used as calming nervines and are used to heal, open, and protect the energetic heart. Get a lovely hawthorn tea recipe here.

Oats - Using Tonic Herbs for Health and Vitality

Oats for the Nervous System

Oatstraw (Avena sativa), which makes an ideal nourishing herbal infusion due to its rich nutritive profile, is also a great nerve tonic. The rich vitamin B, calcium, and magnesium content in oatstraw and milky oats help soothe, and strengthen nerves. Oatstraw and milky oats are considered one of the best remedies for “feeding” and restoring the nervous system, particularly in times of stress and in the case of nervous system weakness or exhaustion associated with depression [8] overwork, or emotional trauma [9]. Oats also support cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol,  improving circulation, and reducing blood pressure by elasticizing veins and arteries. Learn more about the health benefits of oats.

Ashwaghanda tonic herb

Ashwagandha for Reproductive Vitality

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) translates to “that which has the smell of a horse, as it gives the vitality and sexual energy of a horse” [10]. This name alludes to the root's strong odor as well as to its use to restore strength and vitality, and to improve and enhance sexual drive by gradually lowering stress levels that may inhibit the sex drive. Ashwagandha also enhances endocrine function. In addition to its ability to build libido in men and women, ashwagandha has been shown to improve potency in men [11]. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogen and acts as an immunomodulant. Due to its calming nature, it is also used to relieve anxiety and tension.

For more extensive herbal monographs for these plants and more, join us in The Herbarium, which features some of the most beautiful and complete monographs to date, pulling together traditional herbal wisdom, hands-on experience, and modern scientific research to present a multifaceted description of each herb. We also offer a free herbal blog chock full of informative articles and online herbalism courses designed for students who wish to build their foundation of herbalism knowledge.


[1] Winston, D. and Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

[2] Tierra, L. (n.d.) Herbal Tonics: East and West.

[3]Holmes, P. (1997). The Energetics of Western Herbs, Vol. I, Third Edition.

[4] Maurer, S. (2013). Sacred Plant Medicine Apprenticeship class handouts. Gaia School of Healing and Earth Education.

[5] Hobbs, C. (n.d.) Herbal Medicine: Specific And Tonic Immune Herbs Exploring A Practical System Of Western Herbalism.

[6] Masé, Guido. (2013). The Wild Medicine Solution.

[7] Murray, Michael T. (1995). The Healing Power of Herbs.

[8] Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism.

[9] Hardin, Kiva Rose. (2010). Wild as the Day is Long: The Restorative Medicine of Avena.

[10] Lad V and Frawley, D. (1986). The Yoga of Herbs.

[11] Tierra, M. (n.d.) The Mighty Ashwagandha, Superior Aphrodisiac and Male Fertility Tonic.

Jane Metzger is the Assistant Director at the Herbal Academy of New England, home of the online Introductory Herbal Course and Intermediate Herbal Course. HANE recently released its affordable membership program, fittingly called The Herbarium, featuring one of the most complete plant monograph databases to date. Learn more about all of HANE offerings at Herbal Academy of New England.

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


arthritis-diagram of affected joint

Living with Arthritis: Diminishing the Pain

When pain in my leg, localized in my knee, was diagnosed by my MD as Osteoarthritis, I was not too surprised. I was only 54, which seemed a little young, but it is known that arthritis is genetic and several of my family members had also had the ailment as part of their lives.

Saying No to Pharmaceuticals

So my doctor recommended a prescription only medication used to virtually eliminate the pain and debilitating effects of arthritis. She gave me a free sample to try before I committed to a regular regime. Well, it did help somewhat but to me it wasn’t all that different from ibuprofen. Then I discovered the price…$750 for a 3 month supply. I was floored. I know that this might not be considered too pricey compared to other medications, but it was well beyond by means and arthritis is not a life threatening illness. It does however affect “quality of Life”. So I made the decision to pursue other avenues of healing.

This article deals with remedies for Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. Arthritis means, simply, inflammation in one or more of the joints. Since it is a chronic condition, in addition to inflammation the cartilage between the joints breaks down. It is amazing to think that there are over 100 different types of arthritis. However, generally people are most familiar with the two most common forms: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid. Over 27 million Americans have Osteoarthritis, and 1.3 million have Rheumatoid Arthritis. (Arthritis Foundation, 2015)

Many temporary measures can be utilized to diminish the effects of arthritis:

• Ibuprofen-a non-prescription, readily available medicine that not only relieves pain, but helps to reduce inflammation, Very helpful for arthritis sufferers, but overuse may cause stomach damage.
• Topical ointments and rubs (for example Ben Gay) can provide pain relief for minor aches.
• Ice packs, used regularly, can help diminish swelling.
• Regular exercise that is low impact on the joints, swimming is an excellent choice and also yoga.
• Weight control: carrying extra weight can of course burden several of the major joints.

Looking at these diagrams showing how arthritis affects the joints it makes one realize how arthritis can be so painful. Sometimes Osteoarthritis progresses to the point that the cartilage between the joints breaks down and more drastic measures need to be taken to not only alleviate pain but to stop the disease from have a debilitating affect.

Range of Motion 

Cortisone Shots

Since I developed a limp, and the pain in my leg was pretty much a daily occurrence, I realized I had to take further steps. Through the grapevine, and strong recommendations from friends, I found a very good orthopedist. After meeting with him and discussing several options, I first decided to try cortisone shots. The first shot of cortisone worked very well and I was joyously pain-free for about 5 months. When pain returned, I went pack for another cortisone shot, but this one barely lasted a month. Cortisone shots are helpful, but not good for long term because they can eventually weaken your bones by inhibiting the absorption of calcium.

Gel Injections

I then proceeded to learn about the option of gel injections directly into the joint. This is used to replace lost cartilage. Depending on the individual, this therapy can have wonderful results lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. I went ahead and made the appointment. Then, I started to have second thoughts about the procedure and my long term goals and working with this condition. When I had an eye-opening discussion with both my orthopedist and the Physician’s Assistant they made me realize that you will know when you are ready to try surgery when your “quality of life” is affected by your current condition. That helped me take a good hard look at how it was affecting my life and my lack of mobility; I then took the next step to have Total Knee Replacement. When I asked my doctor if I was postponing the inevitable (surgery) he gently referred to my X-rays and then said yes. No time like the present, I scheduled the surgery as soon as I could.

Total Knee Replacement

Now don’t get me wrong…I did not “jump” right into the decision, it took quite a bit of agonizing and even right up to the day of surgery…I was very frightened. Through many reassurances, and the realization that this is a very common procedure…I survived with flying colors. As with many surgeries, the surgery itself went well, it is the recovery afterwards that it the long hard climb. As of this writing, I am in the midst of 6 to 8 weeks of Physical Therapy.

I am currently working on achieving the sought after Range of Motion.

I am making great progress and I feel confident that I made the right decision to drastically improve my mobility and diminish my pain. Yet, I was not anticipating the amount of pain involved. I always thought I had a high tolerance for pain and perhaps I do, but what is difficult is lasting pain over a series of weeks. Nevertheless, in the long run I am optimistic that it will be worth the challenge.

It is important to remember when dealing with arthritis that you don’t “cure” arthritis you manage it. Looking at it this way helps to make it more bearable and not as overwhelming. Any strides that are achieved, really make you feel more in control of your own well being, instead of silently suffering. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone.


1) Arthritis Foundation

2) Arthritis- How to stay Active and Relieve your Pain.

Barbara Stokes & Antoine Helewa

3) Yoga for Arthritis-Loren Fisherman

4) Illinois Bone and Joint Institute (Orthopedic Specialists)

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



As my friend Jodie says ‘people are messy.’ Yep, this is true. This statement resonates true for me with relation to others as much as it does myself. A group of us talked about this subject several months ago and at the time I said, I will need to write a blog post about this truth. But as with many blogs, the idea comes on in a moment of clarity and then takes some time in reflection to ruminate.

This can be good sometimes, bad other times, or just neutral. Unfortunately, ‘people are messy’ came fully back to my mind on one BIG Messy Monday. On three separate occasions one Monday I came to understand how messy we can all be. The interesting thing about those three messy interactions was the following Friday follow-up from all three individuals. The debriefing continuum between all three people and myself was as far and wide as you can get.

I received a card, email, and letter on that Friday from the three individuals. One was filled with many more ways of misunderstanding, one was explaining the circumstances that made our interaction messy, and the other an apology with humor sprinkled throughout. It was clear which ones had a bridge to understanding.

I have a curiosity about our messiness. Is my messy the same as my husband’s or daughter’s? Does our messiness work with each other’s because we are in the same family unit and so it’s mitigated by our love and acceptance for each other? When things get messy with the store clerk, wait person, or another driver it is normally a fleeting moment in our lives. When it happens with a friend we have the opportunity to review the relationship and figure out if both people are adding to each others lives. Most often when it has happened within my family space it gives me an opportunity to remember our love and history.

At this stage in my life I value my time as precious, so in my reviews of messiness I get very clear about which direction I want to head and with whom. I believe the messiness in all three interactions, was messiness coming from all parties, coupled with layers of misunderstanding. I find in-person conversation the best way to clear things up. In these conversation all parties have the opportunity to explain out their actions, justifications, intentions, and questions while using all of our language both verbal and nonverbal. That said, many folks can be opposed to direct conflict, so conversations may not rank high on their list of possible options to resolve problems. I personally have rarely used the above mentioned card, email, or letter methods as they are reminiscent of the detached mean girls from my middle school and high school days.

As I reflect more on my messiness as well as other’s. I question how we can find complementary and balanced messiness. I plan to do my best to intentionally surround myself with the folks I want to be messy with.

How do you work through messy interactions with others? Can you do better in bridges of understanding? In what ways are you messy?

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


Are Pickles Fermented? Pickled vs Fermented Foods

Since I discovered the various health benefits of fermented foods, I have become a complete fan of these sour, delicious treats. I have learned to make my own fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, and more. But when it comes to grabbing a fermented snack from the grocery store, choosing the right product can be confusing. So what are fermented foods, exactly? And are pickles fermented, or are pickled foods different from fermented foods? These types of questions shouldn’t be ignored; there is a crucial difference between pickled and fermented foods that impacts their nutritive value.

Pickling and Fermenting – Not to Be Confused

Some pickles can be fermented, but others are not. Pickling is a more general term, referring to various ways of preserving foods in an acidic medium. In many cases, that acidic medium is vinegar. When most people refer to pickles, they mean cucumbers that have been prepared in vinegar.

So what are fermented foods, then? Fermentation is considered a pickling method, but it is a specific one; in this case, the acidic medium is created through lactic acid fermentation. During fermentation, the starches and sugars in the food are converted into lactic acid by the bacteria lactobacilli. The lactic acid production is what gives fermented foods their unique sour smell and flavor. The fermentation process is also what makes them such nutritive super foods.

Health Benefits of Fermented Foods: It’s All about the Healthy Bacteria

During the fermentation process, probiotics, or healthy bacteria, are produced. Probiotics are now known to be effective in treating a variety of conditions, and more and more is being discovered about the link between the bacterial composition in our bodies and overall health. (Learn the difference between prebiotics and probiotics here.) Fermented foods offer a wide variety of strains of natural, healthy bacteria, even more so than most probiotic supplements do.

Probiotic-rich fermented foods have a variety of health benefits. They aid in digestion, enhance the nutrient availability of food, and ward off harmful pathogens in the digestive system like Salmonella.[1,2]

But the benefits of fermented foods reach far beyond just digestive health. Probiotics in fermented foods help to enhance immune system functioning, affect lipid metabolism, have cancer fighting effects, and more.[1,3] For a detailed discussion of the various health benefits of fermented foods, read more in 7 Reasons Why Fermented Foods Are Healthy.

 How to Choose Fermented Foods Instead of Pickled Ones

If you are looking to increase your probiotic consumption, don’t be fooled by pickled products on grocery store shelves. While pickled foods can be tasty, they just simply don’t have the same incredible health benefits as fermented foods.

In a simple sense, you can think of the difference between fermented and pickled foods in terms of whether or not they are live foods. Fermented foods are rich in live, healthy bacterial cultures, while pickled foods are not. So what are fermented foods? Examples of fermented foods include the following, which all are made from live cultures:

• Sauerkraut
• Sourdough bread
• Yogurt
• Kombucha
• Kefir
• Miso
• Cultured cheeses

When heading to the grocery store, go straight to the refrigerated section. This is where you will likely find truly fermented products, instead of just pickled ones. Read labels carefully. Many truly fermented foods will say it on the container, and they will advertise their probiotic content. Look for labels that include the words “live cultures,” “source of probiotics,” or others that hint that the product you are buying is indeed fermented.

Try out fermentation for yourself

Even better, try making your own fermented foods at home. Try out these simple and easy recipes for homemade sauerkraut and sourdough bread to get started.


[1] J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jun;100(6):1171-85.

[2] Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb;27(1):139-55.

[3] Biotechnol Res Int. 2014;2014:250424.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

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


I recently had the treat of spending 10 days on the island of Bali, Indonesia. I was there for a Dancing for Birth retreat with a handful of other Dancing for Birth Instructors and Stephanie Larson, DFB’s founder. Many Balinese believe that Bali is the last step before reaching heaven. That can’t be far from the truth.

Feasting on organically grown food and bathing in outdoor showers was just an accent to the daily discussions and dance filled workshops we had everyday. Dancing for Birth uses dance to build confidence in pregnant and postpartum mothers and to support shorter, easier and safer births. Our daily workshops introduced us to a new palate of dances from around the world as well as nuggets of tried and true birth wisdom. For a doula, spending a week in an oxytocin induced birth high is about as close to heaven as one can get.

In the middle of our week we were welcomed for a tour of Bali’s famous birth center, Bumi Sehat, and a casual chat with her founder and CNN Hero of the Year, Ibu Robin Lim. According to Lim, it costs $400 - $600 to have a vaginal birth in Bali and $1,000 to $1,500 to have a Cesarean birth. The average monthly wage in Bali is $200. And, if a family can’t pay before time to leave the hospital, the baby stays, mostly unattended. Bumi Sehat provides free prenatal, birth services and basic medical care for families from all over Bali. On two occasions we told a cab driver where we were staying, by Bumi Sehat. They would immediately know where to take us and energetically tell us about precious sons and daughters who had been born there. What Bumi Sehat has coined as “Gentle Birth,” is making a difference in the lives of people all over the island who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay and take home their babies.

Lim is a busy woman. She sat to tell us about the Italian doctor who came to Bumi Sehat as a PR stunt, but left changed. “He left an asshole, but came back (from Bali) a doula,” his staff told Lim when the doctor asked her to speak to every obstetrician and gynecologist at his hospital about delayed cord-clamping. As she told similar stories, she also tolds us that the baby who is crying is a day old and that his parents are still getting to know him. She waved to a long-time donor who was visiting. She directed a foreigner and his daughter to one of the local practitioners to see about an ear-ache. All this the day after she returned from The Philippines to check on a birth center there. I asked her how she does it all. She first credits her dedicated staff and friends and adds, “and I’m always high on oxytocin.”

The week after we left, of Orgasmic Birth and Pain to Pleasure was hosting a two-week long doula training in Bali. Women from the United States to China and everywhere inbetween attended this two-week workshop where they began their certification as doulas, childbirth educators and lactation consultants.

Amid ancient statues adorned with marigold garlands and banana leaf offerings, smiles and warm greetings from the Balinese and their healing touch received through massages and herbal scrubs, I kept wondering, why Bali? Why did these birthkeepers choose Bali? Why do they train future birthkeepers in Bali? I asked Stephanie Larson this question. Her immediate response was, “I think it’s the love here.” The after a moment she said, “There is so much music, dance, art and celebration. All of those are a part of birth.”

Yes, that’s it. The Balinese I spoke with loved life and their music, dance, art and celebration were testament of that. Of course Bali - who wouldn’t want to birth so close to heaven.

I have tremendous gratitude and respect for Stephanie, Robin and Debra and for all the work they have done as birth keepers. Please, continue bringing us to Bali and showing the world that birth is as beautiful as Bali.

Photos: Above - Ibu Robin Less (right) sharing birth wisdom with Stephanie Larson (middle) and other Dancing for Birth instructors. Below - Rice paddies in Bali

Lisa Marie is a birth doula, supporting and empowering women through the birth experience in Portland, Oregon. She teaches Dancing for Birth, a childbirth education and fitness combo class using bellydance, Latin and African dance to help mommas be more comfortable and confident in thier bodies through birth and beyond. One of her specialties includes supporting laboring mommas with Type 1 Diabetes.

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


6 Tea Tree Oil Uses

What can freshen breath, fight infection, and clear up acne all at once? Tea tree oil, from the Australian plant, Melaleuca alternifolia, has widespread medicinal qualities, making it an effective home remedy for many different conditions. Try these tea tree oil uses for yourself.

Tea Tree Oil: A Natural Antiseptic

Tea tree oil is one of the best essential oils for antimicrobial uses. It fights a wide range of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi, helping to get rid of infections and treat a range of conditions caused by bacterial or fungal overgrowth.

Treat athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection, and tea tree oil’s antifungal activity is particularly effective against it. In one study, a 25 percent tea tree oil cream was far more effective than placebo at reducing infection and getting rid of symptoms.[1] Try a footbath with a few drops of the oil in a bucket of warm water.

Clear up acne. Tea tree oil is commonly found in many natural products aimed at treating acne, as it helps to fight bacteria associated with acne and helps reduce inflammation. Products with 5 percent tea tree oil can help to reduce the number of acne lesions by 24% to 62% when applied twice daily for one to two months.[2]

Get rid of lice. Lice can be especially hard to get rid of, particularly with natural products. But laboratory studies show that tea tree oil can kill lice in only thirty minutes, suggesting that it may be an effective natural alternative to conventional lice treatment.[3] Try mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with a few drops of lavender oil and adding it to a small amount of mild shampoo. Lather into the scalp, leave on for thirty minutes, rinse, and repeat as necessary. Be sure to follow other lice treatment strategies, including using a lice comb and thoroughly cleaning your home and clothing.

Fight bad breath. Bad breath is caused by bacterial overgrowth in the mouth. Tea tree oil has antimicrobial activity against many of the bacteria responsible for bad breath symptoms, which may help to keep your breath free of bad odors.[4-6] Mix a few drops of tea tree oil in water to make a mouthwash, or try tea tree oil infused toothpicks as breath fresheners.

Treat toenail fungal infection. Fungal infections on toenails (onychomycosis) are quite common. Topical application of tea tree oil seems to be effective at eradicating this kind of fungal infection, and it may be as effective as prescription medications for the condition.[7-9] Try applying tea tree oil to a cotton ball and dabbing it on your toenails until the infection goes away.

Prevent dandruff. Studies show that tea tree oil can also be effective in treating dandruff. In one study, 5 percent tea tree oil applied daily for four weeks reduced symptoms of dandruff by 41 percent.[10] Try mixing tea tree oil with coconut oil, massaging it onto your scalp, and letting sit for a few hours (or overnight). Wash out using mild shampoo.

Tea tree oil uses in the home

Many people report that tea tree oil can be used to make various DIY cleaning and self-care products. Try these ideas to get you started:

• Try making an effective, all-purpose cleaner with natural antiseptic qualities by combining a few teaspoons of tea tree oil with a few cups of warm water in a spray bottle.
• Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to heavily soiled laundry along with your natural detergent to kill any bacteria.
• Deter household pests, like ants and bugs, by wiping tea tree oil at points of entry, like windowsills.
• Apply a few drops of tea tree oil to your toothbrush between uses to keep it clean and free of germs.

Experiment to come up with your favorite medicinal and household tea tree oil uses; this essential oil is quite versatile and can be very convenient to keep on hand.


[1] Australas J Dermatol. 2002 Aug;43(3):175-8.

[2] Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2015 Feb;45(2):106-10.

[3] Parasitol Res. 2012 Nov;111(5):1985-92.

[4] Int Dent J. 2002 Dec;52(6):433-7.

[5] Arch Oral Biol. 2013 Jan;58(1):10-6.

[6] Clin Lab. 2015;61(1-2):61-8.

[7] Trop Med Int Health. 1999 Apr;4(4):284-7.

[8] J Fam Pract. 1994 Jun;38(6):601-5.

[9] Mycopathologia. 2013 Apr;175(3-4):281-6.

[10] J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Dec;47(6):852-5.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

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



I have been thinking and conversing a fair amount lately about things I think we can do to raise each other up – brainstorming things that could make the world a more equitable place for all.

In these conversations several have said "my small actions won't be noticed or change anything". To that I say, I think they can, will, and more importantly, what would be the harm in trying?!

To implement large scale change I suggest we start being more mindful of the following five things:

1. Think about where and how you spend your money, it counts. For me this means using a credit union not a wall street bank. Shopping for food at local farmers markets, co-ops, CSA's, and if possible supplementing all of this with my own crops. Knowing my brands. Giving little to multinational/1% brands and shopping instead at small businesses. There are many resources to help in this area like the phone app Buycott.

2. Think about your long term investments. Buy stock from companies who share your values. My personal values translate to corporate practices that: care for the earth and pay employees a livable wage for a honest days work.

3. Pay off your debt. I am still working on this one, it is mightily important to me. The more or us that live debt free the less control outside influence can have on our lives.

4. Consume as little as possible. Living lightly on the planet will allow us to stretch, reuse, and replenish our resources. Turning lights out and being mindful to water use makes a difference.

5. Help a co-worker, neighbor, or service professional. By this I mean, if a coworker or neighbor needs help and you can lead a hand or resources, jump in with both feet. When dinning out, getting a hair cut, or any other type of service, tip well. Carly and I were talking about this the other day and her new stance is why not 30 percent?! Her thinking is that if we help lift each other up financially we are helping out the 99 percent and by doing that we are raising all boats.

If you have anything to add to my list, please list it in the comments below so that others can see an important impact you have discovered.

After I had written this, I read Anneli Carter-Sundqvist's blog on Ways to Increase Our Self-Sufficiency on the Mother Earth site. I highly recommend her post for more good ideas.

What do you do to help move the 99 percent forward? Can you live with making some changes in your life to help the good of the whole? Can you trust that your ripple effect will make an impact?

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

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