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2/2/2016

 

For the past few days, I’ve been hearing alarming news on the radio about the Zika virus spreading into the United States.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, like West Nile and malaria. From what is known so far, the virus does not spread from person to person like a cold, but by a mosquito biting an infected person and then on to another person who contracts the virus. 

I hate putting chemicals on my skin, so I use an essential oil spray that has proven to be very effective.  In the past couple years in the garden, none of us have been bitten even though my neighbor has a large pool of standing water. Even at a riverside campground in Louisiana, there were no mosquito bites.

Herbal Mosquito Repellent Spray

Ingredients:

• 14 ounces Witch Hazel
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Citronella Essential Oil
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Eucalyptus Essential Oil
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Lemongrass Essential Oil

Directions:

Mix ingredients together, shake well and pour into spray bottles(s). To store more than a month or two, it is best to keep the spray in a glass bottle or you can halve the recipe.

You’ll give the bottle a shake each time you spray. If it’s hot and you’re perspiring, re-apply every couple of hours.

Where to Find Ingredients and Equipment

The essential oils can be found in most health food stores, usually in the 10-ml bottles.  (Even Amazon has these oils; just make sure you buy pure, undiluted oils.) If you want to find the oils in larger quantity, there are sources online at New Directions Aromatics, Rainbow Meadow, Bulk Apothecary, and many others.

Never buy essential oils from a pyramid marketing company or from a catalog that lists all the oils at the same price.

Witch hazel can be found in most any drug store, usually in the first aid section, next to the peroxide.

Plastic spray bottles can be found in the personal care section, often near the travel size containers. Pretty glass bottles like ours are available in several catalogs, such as Pinetree Seeds and even on Amazon.

Zika Virus Update

Wanting to learn more about Zika, I Googled and found this quite scary information:

The Zika virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas, the World Health Organization has warned. The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America. It has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains and some countries have advised women not to get pregnant. No treatment or vaccine is available. New cases of the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects, have been confirmed in the UK.

Sources: CNN · BBC · Time

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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.



2/1/2016

I always tell my Dancing for Birth students to worry less about dancing correctly and more about trusting their bodies, as I want them to do in birth, with one exception — squats.

After I demonstrated a true birth squat in class one evening, a student asked, “Why doesn’t everyone else know this?” I was stopped by her question. It reminded me that many childbirth professionals and educators are still teaching and having mommas squat incorrectly.

Correct, Parallel Birth Squat as drawn by Vincent Van Gogh

Women in correct, parallel squat, as drawn by Vincent Van Gogh 

My first response to her question was that many birth professionals have seen a lovely film called The Squat Position in Delivery. This film shows women birthing peacefully in deep squat positions at a Brazilian facility. The film is made by doctor and filmmaker Claudius Paciornik. While Paciornik was researching the gynecologic health of native Brazilian women in the ‘70s, he observed that “to rest they squat, and in this position they give birth.” Birth professionals love this film have have been honoring the squat since the film’s release.

Soon after completing my doula training and seeing this very film, however, I heard that North American women have a higher incidence of tearing in the squat position. With the help of Evidence-Based Birth, I was able to track down some of the research for this statement. But this fact continued to bother me and I wanted to find the connection. Eventually it came to me. Squatting correctly is not only an ideal birth position, but in many countries it is also a comfortable position for sitting on street corners to chat, snack, work and as Paciornik noted, to rest.

For those who have travelled outside of the U.S. and western Europe, you may recall seeing men, women and children sitting in what I will call a parallel squat. Regardless of how deep or shallow the squat is, the individual’s feet are more or less parallel to each other. Most westerners find a parallel squat very uncomfortable. Instead, we find ourselves squatting with heels pointed in and toes pointed out. Like the squat represented in the film, this is in fact the wrong way to squat for birth.

Go ahead, try both squats. How does it feel? Notice that the the heel-in squats pushes the knees out and squeezes the glutes together. And like a clothespin, this position narrows the pelvic opening; the opposite of what we want in birth. Then notice that the parallel squat keeps the pelvis square and open. This is what we want.

Let’s take this a step further, in both squat positions, put your palms against the outside of your knees and push your hands towards your knees while pushing your knees towards your hands. Do this again, this time keeping your pelvis above your knees and lift your tailbone to the sky.

You will find that when you do this exercise with a parallel squat, keeping the pelvis above the knees, that your pelvis will feel much more open. And it is. In Dancing for Birth classes we actually measure the difference, and it is considerable.

So, therein lies the mystery. most western women work and rest in chairs and sofa’s, often in a reclining position. So not only is the squat position not a normal part of their lives, when they do squat, it is typically heels in. Traditionally, non-western women have rested in a squat position and when they do, it is a parallel squat. They are practicing a correct birth squat in their everyday lives.

Woman washing in parallel squat by Michael Coghlan

Woman washing in parallel squat, by Michael Coghlan

So, yes, squatting in birth will open your pelvis and make much more room for baby to descend and enter the world. But, in this case, there is a right and a wrong way. Keep those feet parallel and your pelvis above your hips for a correct squat and a safer, more comfortable birth.

Lisa Marie Morgan is a birth doula, Dancing for Birth™ Intructor and Trainer, mom, wife and lover of life living in Portland. Read more from Lisa Marie here.


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.



1/29/2016

In mid-January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) effectively ceased regulating ruminant meat and dairy products sold under “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels, claiming that its Agricultural Marking Service (AMS) lacked the authority to define the phrases. Many sustainable agriculture advocates bemoaned the regulatory loss. One of the more influential voices, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director, Fred Hoefner, warned that USDA’s move would “take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.” Sustainable graziers and restoration agriculturists must reject fatalisms and hyperbole, and, instead, quickly standardize a new Grass-Fed label definition that takes animal welfare, environmental impact and human nutrition into account.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture activists compare the Grass Fed decision to the equally controversial abandonment of “Country of Origin Labeling” (COOL) requirements for meat products back in December. While both affect local meat producers and consumers, the two USDA decisions differ in their relationship to the U.S. Congress. Congress legislated, and President Obama signed the redaction of COOL requirements as a part of the omnibus budget bills. For Grass Fed and Naturally Raised decision, the USDA realized that it lacked the authorization to define those phrases, like it has for other labels, such as USDA Organic. This distinction matters because with legal precedent in The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, a motivated Congress could empower the USDA to define those labels. Sustainable and nutritious food advocates must motivate that Congress in every way possible.    

The USDA-Verified label was far from perfect. Unlike the American Grassfed Association’s labeling procedure, the USDA Verified Grass-fed label did not regulate antibiotic and hormone application, did not specify confinement restrictions, and did not guarantee regular access to pasture. And, unlike the Animal Welfare Approved Label, the USDA did not require a particular health plan for livestock benefit. Nor did the USDA label require safe working conditions, soil and water conservation, or wildlife habitat conservation, like the Food Alliance Grassfed Certification. Each of these independent labels have unique benefits, which, if standardized into a federally enforced “Grass Fed” label via congressional authorization, would further sustainability and nutrition goals.

The next USDA Grass Fed label should represent the agency’s nutritional mission with respect to essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid nutritional “baselines” would ensure ruminants’ access to fresh pasture forage, while supporting consumer cardiovascular and neurological health. One MOTHER EARTH NEWS pilot study demonstrated that grass-fed beef rib-eyes, on average, contained almost nine times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and slightly less than three-quarter the Omega-6 fatty acids (providing a more healthful Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio of 2:1). Meanwhile, intensively grazed perennial pastures stimulate carbon sequestration and rural economic development.

Until the USDA implements updated product labels, “Know Thy Farmer” is more important than ever for products sold with “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels. Health- and sustainability minded consumers should vote for changes with their fork, dollar, and, above all, their votes, all the while offering thanks to those who raise animals on pasture using sustainable and humane practices.

Search out your local pasture producers at the farmers market or on Eat Wild, and let them know you’ll pay the premium. Then, get on the phone with your representatives and senators, or drop them an email. Labeling and label-reform has been successful before, and it will be again. Consider the “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels—and the COOL/GMO labeling debates, for that matter—minor setbacks in a larger sustainable food revolution. When these labels are reinstated, they should be comprehensive, vetted and policed.


Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, Omega Fatty Acids Nutrition, and Nature and Environment.



1/15/2016

 

Everyone knows walking is good for you. It’s plain common sense, backed by a wealth of recent medical research. In fact, a major new study found that lack of physical activity is twice as deadly for us as obesity.

Health data shows that as little as 30 minutes of walking a day cuts the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in half, lowers the likelihood of diabetes by 60 percent, limits colon cancer by 31 percent for women and reduces risk of dementia, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, glaucoma and catching a cold.

This kind of evidence prompted U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to issue a call for Americans to walk more. “Physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Murthy explains. “Even a small first effort can make a big difference in improving the personal health of an individual and the public health of the nation.”

“Walking is the most common form of physical activity across incomes and ages and education levels,” adds Thomas Schmid of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s because it’s free, easy, relaxing, available right out your front door and easily incorporated into daily schedules. Plus it’s fun. The CDC’s most recent research shows the number of Americans who take a walk at least once a week rose six percent in the last decade.  Still, less than half of all adults meet the minimum recommended guidelines for walking, rolling in a wheelchair or other physical activity (30 minutes a day, five days a week), according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even worse, only a quarter of high school students today reach the mark (one hour a day, seven days a week), according to the Surgeon General’s report.

What can be done to ensure the health of our country? The Surgeon General encourages everyone to walk and work to make their hometowns more safe and inviting for people on foot. He lauds the new walking movement that’s emerged over the past few years for getting Americans moving again. Health care professionals are on the frontlines of this effort, and many are bringing the message back to their clinics by including physical activity as one of the vital signs — like blood pressure and tobacco use — they check on with patients. Some MDs even write prescriptions for walking.

Several health care systems track physical activity in their health care records, including Greenville Health in South Carolina, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah and Idaho, and Kaiser Permanente, an integrated health care delivery system, in California and seven other states.

If Walking Were a New Drug, It Would Make Headlines

“What if there was a pill you took one day that lowered your blood pressure, prevented diabetes, improved your mood and protected against depression, increased bone density and prevented fractures, helped you remain independent as an older adult, enhanced your ability to think, and gave you more energy?” ask Dr. Robert Sallis and Dr. Karen J. Coleman in Sports Medicine Bulletin. “Would you be asking your doctor to prescribe it for you?”

Such a drug already exists, Sallis notes — it’s called walking. “If walking was a pill or surgical procedure, it would be on 60 Minutes.”

Sallis, a family practitioner at a Kaiser Permanente clinic in Fontana, Calif., keeps special walking RX prescription pads in his exam rooms, which he fills out for some patients saying, “This is what I want you to do to treat your high blood pressure or depression or diabetes, etc. If it’s not enough, then we will consider using a medication.”

What are patients’ reactions? “They respond very well to this message,” Sallis says. “This approach really frames for them how important exercise is to their health and treating their disease.”

Sallis first spoke up about walking and other physical activity being recognized as a vital sign in 2007, when serving as president of the American College of Sports Medicine and helping launch the Exercise is Medicine initiative with the American Medical Association.

The aim of that project is to highlight the mounting research proving that physical activity should be seen as essential to health and the treatment of disease. It’s obvious that doctors, nurses and other clinicians should raise the idea of walking during medical exams, when people are paying particularly close attention to their health and how to maintain it.

Putting the Plan into Action

In 2009, physical activity was designated as a vital sign for Kaiser Permanente facilities in Southern California and the idea was quickly adopted throughout the rest of the non-profit organization — the nation’s largest integrated care health system with 10.2 million members 17,000 physicians, 50,000 nurses, 620 clinics and 38 medical centers on the West Coast, the Mid-Atlantic region, Colorado, Hawaii, and Georgia.

Patients are asked how many days a week, on average, they engage in moderate or strenuous physical exercise, such as a brisk walk, and for how many minutes? These two simple questions frequently spark conversation about the value of walking (or yoga, Zumba classes, bicycling, gardening and other physical activity) in treating and preventing disease.

A follow-up study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that 18 months after Kaiser Permanente adopted physical activity as a vital sign in Southern California, 86 percent of all adult patients had a record of their activity levels included in electronic medical records. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente’s Exercise as a Vital Sign program was honored with an Innovation Award by the National Business Coalition on Health.

“Asking an individual about their daily physical activity helps our providers learn what matters to our patients and prompts our patients to think about healthier habits,” explains Lisa Schilling, vice president for Healthcare Performance Improvement with Kaiser Permanente's Care Management Institute. “It also allows us to connect the individual to resources and habits that promote better health.”

Even health care professionals sometimes need encouragement to live healthier. Zendi Solano, a research assistant for Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif., admits that she knew the importance of exercise but “really didn’t take it seriously” until her doctor asked about it during a checkup.

Diabetes runs in Solano’s family, and she was obese with elevated blood sugar. Right then and there, she decided to take up running. At her next physical, Solano had lost 30 pounds and her blood sugar levels were normal. Being asked about exercise as a vital sign, she says, “is a great reminder.”

About 2/3 of Sallis’s patients fall below the minimum federal guidelines for exercise, and half of those report no moderate physical activity at all during an average week, he says. ‘Talking about physical activity can have an impact on everyone,” he says, especially high-risk patients with diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis or other chronic diseases.

“Anyone who is at risk for chronic disease should consider exercise an essential vaccine to greatly lower risk of illness and…extend life,” he wrote in a guest editorial for The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The power of exercise to heal really hit home for Sallis after meeting Valerie, a 68-year-old patient with Parkinson’s Disease who came into his office with a walker. She was desperate and depressed because her medication was no longer working. He recommended she visit a fitness professional to walk on a treadmill at one mile-per-hour speed along with some resistance training and stretches.

“In a month-and-a half, she came back to my office without the walker, and telling me she had more energy and a more positive outlook,” he remembers. This convinced him, “if something so simple and inexpensive as exercise can have such a profound effect, shouldn’t we try to prescribe this powerful medicine to all of our patients?”

Something You Can Say ‘Yes’ to For Better Health

For Liz Joy, Medical Director for Community Health at Intermountain Healthcare based in Utah, the “a-ha” moment about physical activity as a vital sign came in 2008 at a meeting focused on preventing obesity among youth.

“It was a roomful of physicians, health care directors, scientists and coaches,” she remembers, “and one speaker got up and asked: ‘What is health care doing about this crisis?’ That’s when it came to me that physical activity needs to become a vital sign.”

Intermountain adopted the idea in 2013 in its electronic health record for use by clinicians in Utah and Idaho. “It’s a way to bring discussion of physical activity into the exam room,” Joy explains.

“Even if it’s just a brief conversation about how important it is to your overall health. I can let patients know it’s as important as blood pressure, and more important than obesity and cholesterol to your overall health.”

“I generally start by talking about walking, because it’s free and everyone knows how to walk,” she adds. “I’ll tell them just start with 10 minutes at a time — and no one has ever said they can’t do that. Do that three times a day, and you have your 30 minute daily minimum.”

Joy notes that doctors have been charting people’s weight for generations, telling them to lose weight while watching the national obesity rate continue to rise. “Talking about physical activity is a positive conversation — something people can do to improve their health. And when they take that first step, sometimes their eating habits begin to change, too. You’ve helped enhance their self-efficacy.”

Some of her patients don’t consider walking real exercise, so the conversation can offer new motivation to get back on their feet. “I saw a patient and was surprised his records showed that his physical activity was zero. I knew he had a dog, and I asked if walked the dog? Yes, he said 30-60 minutes a day. But he didn’t think of it as exercise.”

“The physical activity vital sign is a great prompt to have a conversation with patients about activity and exercise — to let them know things like gardening and dog walking count,” she adds.

Joy points out that health care systems have a strong incentive for adding physical activity to their lists of vital signs. “Physical activity is stressed in Medicare reimbursements as one of the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures, which Medicare and others use to assess the quality of health care delivery to determine level of payments. It’s a huge financial driver.”

Spreading the Message into Exam Rooms Everywhere

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has joined with other groups in the walking movement to alert health care professionals about the promise of adding physical activity to their list of vital signs.

“One strategy is to get influential medical organizations to formally adopt physical activity as a vital sign, and then activate their individual members,” says ACSM CEO Jim Whitehead. They’re already working toward that goal with 10 medical societies, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

“This is for all health care providers, not just physicians. Nurses can often make a greater impact because they typically spend more time with you,” notes Brenda Chamness, ACSM Strategic Health Program’s Senior Director.

Working with Kaiser Permanente and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative — a coalition of organizations ranging from the CDC to AARP to NAACP to the PTA — ACSM hosted a two-day scientific roundtable on the subject last April, which detailed recent research and presented best practices used by working physicians, including Robert Sallis and Liz Joy. In October, several hundred health professionals around the country took part in a webinar on “Making Physical Activity a Vital Sign.”

“All this can have a major impact by showing people that they all don’t have to go to the gym to be healthy,” says Adrian Hutber, Vice President of Exercise is Medicine at ACSM. “They can just go out and take a walk.”

Jay Walljasper writes regularly about public health and healthy communities. The former Editor-in-Chief of Utne Reader, he is author of The Great Neighborhood Book. He has a personal website and you can read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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.



1/11/2016

MOTHER EARTH NEWS facilitated a pilot test over the summer and early fall of 2015 to examine the fatty-acid profiles of 32 grass-fed, free-ranged and pastured cows, lambs, pigs and chickens. At this point in the omega-6, omega-3 fatty-acid testing program, we’ve analyzed results from about 30 samples. Overall, pastured products are several times richer in beneficial omega-3 fats, and, at the same time, those samples are much lower in problematic omega-6 fatty acids when compared to the USDA Nutrient Database numbers, which reflect levels found in industrial products. Therefore, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is much lower in grass-fed products, thus more nutritionally favorable, than the USDA standard. Additionally, we’re learning how reducing omega-6 intake might be even more beneficial than increasing omega-3 intake; please see Richard Manning’s Omega-3s and More: The Importance of Fat in a Healthy Diet for more information.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are “essential nutrients,” meaning that they must come from a person’s diet; however, a skewed dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 disrupts the body’s natural inflammatory balance. For this reason, select foods with a fatty-acid ratio as close as possible to 1 to 1. As we continue to learn more about the relationship between omega fatty acids, the link between increased consumption of omega-6-rich corn and soy products, and obesity in the United States makes more sense. For more information on this topic, please see our recent article, Linoleic Acid in Soy Strongly Linked to Obesity Epidemic. For those reasons, we are convinced that it is best to avoid corn- and soy-fed animal products, whenever possible, opting instead for those products carrying labels like the American Grassfed Association, the Food Alliance Certified Grassfed, USDA Grassfed + USDA Process Verified, Animal Welfare Approved Certified Grassfed, or USDA Organic. (Please see Which Grass-Fed Beef Labels to Trust.) Better yet, get to know your meat, egg and milk producers, visit farms, ask the right questions, and let farmers know that you are willing to invest in healthful and sustainable animal farming operations.

Summary of Data Analysis

Fats Chart Ratio 

We are still studying the data for lamb, pork, milk and cheese, and will report more on them later. You can look up the USDA nutrient values for other foods at Self Nutrition Data. We are incredibly thankful for those farmers who sent in samples—on their own dime!—to enable our work at MOTHER EARTH NEWS. We’ve provided a list of participating farms below. If you are a producer, and would be interested in participating in future testing, please email us.

List of Participating Farms 

Arrow K Farms
Black Diamond Farms
Brady’s Beef
Bush Creek Farm
Coonridge Organic Goat Cheese
Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill and Farm
Cozi Farm
DS Family Farm 
Eggs by A Man and His Hoe
Five Bar Beef
Hopeful Farms
Ledamete Grass Farm
Mesteño Draw Ranch
Ode to Joy Farm
Old Narrow Gauge Farm
Polyface Farms
Riverview Farms
Spring River Farm
Straight Arrow Bison Ranch
Sunbird Farms
Taylor-Wright Farm
The Medina Farm
Valley Fall Farm


Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, Omega Fatty Acids Nutrition, and Nature and Environment.



1/7/2016

Urea Skin Cream

I know many people, myself included, who start to get dry, scaly skin in the winter months. And for many, dry skin isn’t just a bit of a bother – it can be a big issue. The symptoms can get so bad that the skin cracks, causing itchiness, pain, and even infection.

If you deal with dry and cracked skin on a regular basis, you don’t have to continue to suffer. It’s time to not just find relief, but to prevent your symptoms from occurring in the first place. One of the more effective ways to do this is to use moisturizing creams with an important ingredient: urea.

What is Urea?

Urea is a compound naturally found in the body, where it plays a major role in the metabolism and excretion of nitrogen. Urea is also present in the layers of the skin, where it is important for maintaining the balance of moisture in the skin. This allows it to have beneficial effects in dermatology.

Creams containing urea can effectively prevent and treat a variety of skin conditions, such as the following:

Psoriasis
Dandruff
Eczema
Athlete’s foot
Toenail fungus
Dry skin [1]

Urea as a Dry Skin Remedy

Urea is known to be especially effective in treating dry skin, even in severe cases.[1] It is known to aid in the healing of dry skin by a variety of mechanisms:

1. Improving hydration of skin cells[1]
2. Reducing water loss through the skin[1]
3. Enhancing antimicrobial action to protect against germs and infection[1,2]
4. Regulating genes that help skin cells form a protective barrier[2]

These qualities of urea help to keep your skin hydrated, moisturized, and protected from external sources of injury and infection. Urea isn’t just a treatment tool; it can help to prevent dry skin from occurring in the first place.

How To Use Urea for Dry Skin

Urea can work wonders on dry skin, and it can help you to stop it from happening in the first place.

Find a product with 10 percent to 20 percent urea that uses natural ingredients. Common moisturizers often have ingredients like parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, and other ingredients that are toxic in the body, disrupt hormones, cause reproductive problems, and even cause cancer. So be sure to consider natural alternatives that include healthy ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, ceramides, or other natural products.

Urea is considered a safe product, and adverse affects are uncommon. Mild irritation is the most common side effect; if you experience any irritation, stop using the product.[1]

To read about other effective dry skin remedies, read more here.

References

[1] Dermatol Online J. 2013 Nov 15;19(11):20392.
[2] J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Jun;132(6):1561-72.

Natural Health Advisory Institute contributing editor 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. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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.



12/31/2015

 

When the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors planted an herb garden at the magazine offices in the spring of 2015, our expectations were low. The weather stayed unnaturally cool, cloudy and soggy for weeks. So, we were pleasantly surprised that nature dealt us a bumper crop of calendula when the weather turned warm. Reluctant to let anything go to waste, we quickly researched calendula and found ways of dealing with an abundance of this skin-friendly herb, starting with easy homemade calendula-infused oil.

Calendula has been used medicinally for centuries. The flower petals contain high amounts of cell-protecting antioxidants. Calendula’s uses include topical applications to the skin to help heal wounds and to treat burns, cuts and minor infections. (Learn more about the herb’s beneficial properties on the Mountain Rose Herb blog.)

Drying Calendula 

In addition to soothing the skin, calendula flowers are also beautiful. The plentiful blooms — in shades of yellow and orange — brought a cheery appearance to our office garden. The flowers bloomed all summer and well into fall, although we stopped harvesting in mid-September in hopes the plants will reseed next spring.

Every couple of days during the growing season, we visited the herb garden to harvest new blooms. Calendula flowers easily pop off their stems when you cup your fingers beneath the calyx and pull up. Before we could use the flowers in homemade concoctions, though, the petals needed to dry thoroughly because their moisture could encourage the growth of mold in our homemade calendula-infused oil. To dry our harvest, we spread out the flowers on the tops of our computers. The low heat generated by the computer towers worked great, and each batch of calendula flowers took only a few days to dry sufficiently. After a few months of bountiful harvests, we began joking about starting a mail-order calendula business.

Calendula Jar 

Dried calendula flowers will keep in a dark, dry spot for many months. Most of us stored the dried blooms in glass canning jars until we were ready to use them. We poured olive oil over dried calendula flowers inside clear, clean glass jars, and then placed the jars on sunny windowsills to steep. The resulting calendula-infused oil was ready in about a month, after it had changed color to a vibrant orange-yellow.

Editor Hannah Kincaid mixed some of her infused oil with homemade sage oil and beeswax to create a healing calendula salve that’s shared by everyone in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS office. Making salves is simple: With a double boiler, melt a small portion of shaved beeswax in an herb-infused oil, and then pour it into a container for storage. The mixture will solidify into a salve as it cools. See A Quick Guide to Beeswax & Liquid Oil Ratios for advice on determining the amount of beeswax to use in your own calendula salve recipe.

 

I made soap using my own calendula-infused oil. The herb’s skin-healing properties appealed to me because I suffer from dry skin and rashes in the winter, and I also have family members who battle eczema. To make calendula soap, you can use this Echinacea Soap recipe from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website, substituting calendula-infused oil for the extra virgin olive oil, and using calendula flower petals instead of echinacea. I omitted the essential oil to create an extra-gentle unscented soap.

Dried calendula flowers also can be sprinkled on top of salads, soups and other dishes to bring a cheery touch of summer to your meals at any time of year. And calendula is easy to grow: Just sow the seeds in your garden when the soil is warm. To get a jumpstart on spring, you can plant Calendula officinalis seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost, and then transplant them to your garden. Your biggest problem will likely be keeping up with the harvest as the flowers start to bloom.

(Top) Photo by Rebecca Martin

(Second) Photo by Cheryl Long

(Third) Photo by Rebecca Martin

(Bottom) Photo by Rebecca Martin


is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like.









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MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.