Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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8/3/2015

 

I have seen it said that happy couples live longer and I believe that's true. I also think good friends add to our lives in emotional richness, depth, and fullness.

In the past three days Mark and I have broken bread with: a couple that we travel and spend time in the mountains with, some childhood friends of Mark, and a man that I have known for forty plus years. It has been a weekend of enjoying my passion for feeding my loved ones and enjoying the fellowship of friends and family.

When I overbooked this weekend by planning to feed one couple dinner on Friday night, a group of friends breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday to two more folks, I knew I would be spending some ample time in the kitchen. Mark would be doing many loads of dishes, with the help of our friends. What I didn't know is I would be receiving the gift of reflecting on how rich our lives are with the friends that we are surrounded by. If I had the opportunity to string together more time with our loved ones I would have many more meals to prepare in the coming days. If only if had the time, energy, and resources. Someday I trust I will.

The thing I love about breaking bread with my family and friends our sharing in nourishing our bodies. I am grateful for an abundance of fresh organic fruits and veggies, specialty foods like cured meats, fresh seafood, and home grown meat that are humanly raised and delightfully flavorful. To enjoy friendships with the same intricacies and delight as I do food is altogether another gift. To be able to talk about politics, and other powerful topics, in a trusting space with folks who don't always share my views is exceptionally educational. As the presidential election season heats up, I imagine I’ll have many more of these conversations in my future. Go Bernie!

Mark and my friendships are diverse in time known, perspectives on life, and places we have been and plan to go. The thing that I believe ties these friendships together is respect for one another, the sharing of time and resources, and history with each other as well as our willingness to help each other in our hours of concern or need. I am thankful for the great diversity we comprise in community.

What are the qualities you look for in your friendships? Can you make more time to break bread with your loved ones? What topics will you be sharing and enriching each others lives with as you break bread?


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. 



8/3/2015

One of my favorite foods is paella. Each summer, my family goes to our favorite restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking Pike Place Market in Seattle, and we order up a round of paella for everyone. We spend the afternoon taking in the summertime colors of the market and feasting on the delicious, beautiful dish. Part of what makes paella such a unique food is the addition of saffron. This special spice imparts the distinct yellow coloration and earthy flavor in foods like paella, risotto, curries, and more. But did you know that saffron benefits extend beyond culinary uses, and that saffron can actually benefit your health as well?

What is saffron?

Saffron is a spice used in cooking. Resembling thin, red threads, it is harvested from a plant called Crocus sativus, of the iris family. If you have ever bought saffron for a recipe, you know that it isn’t cheap; this is because it is harvested by hand, and takes about 150 flowers to produce just one gram of saffron threads. 

6 saffron benefits  

Saffron contains more than 150 compounds, many of which have medicinal properties like carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and more).[1] Laboratory studies have shown that saffron acts as an antioxidant, fights inflammation, modulates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, protects nerve cells, benefits artery health, and more.[1-3] Saffron benefits for your body range from treating depression to moisturizing your skin:

1. Treat depression. A systematic review of clinical studies showed that research supports the use of saffron for treating mild to moderate depression. Studies have found that saffron extract had similar efficacy to antidepressant medication and outperformed placebo. Most studies have found a dosage of 15 mg twice a day to be effective.[1] To read more about how saffron treats depression, as well as to learn about another effective spice for depression relief, go here.

2. Protect against toxins. There have been several reports of saffron extract protecting many tissues in the body from both natural and chemical toxins, including the brain, heart, liver, kidney, and lung. Clinical trials are still needed to verify these results, but it is likely that saffron has many protective effects in the body.[4]

3. Appetite control. Some research suggests that saffron may be used in weight management because it can help to lower appetite.[5] One study found that mildly overweight women who consumed saffron extract (176.5 mg per day) snacked less frequently than those consuming placebo. The authors believe that saffron may help with weight loss by creating a satiating effect.[6]

4. Improve memory. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may benefit from taking saffron as well. Clinical studies have found saffron and its active component crocin to have positive effects on cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, similar to medications like donepezil. Therefore, it could be a safe drug alternative to try.[7]

5. Help PMS. Research is still in its infancy, but researchers have found that 30 mg of saffron per day can help to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.[5] Read more about saffron and two other natural remedies for PMS here.

6. Soothe skin. Saffron has long been used to treat a variety of skin conditions. It is used in anti-itch creams, may protect against sun damage, and is known to have moisturizing effects on the skin as well.[5,8]

Some of the other potential saffron benefits for your health include treating infertility, erectile dysfunction, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more.[4,5]

Recommended use

Most studies have used a dose of 30 mg saffron daily. It is considered safe to use at those low doses, and it usually presents little side effects.[1] If you wish to use saffron as a dietary supplement, be prepared to pay a good price for it. Saffron is considered the most expensive spice in the world, so supplements won’t be cheap if they are of good quality. 

You can also try using saffron in cooking from time to time in dishes like risotto, seafood stews, or paella. Experimenting with this unique and special spice will not only please your taste buds, but it may also improve your health, as well. 

[1] Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;29(6):517-27. 

[2] Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2012;11(1):37-51. 

[3] J Tehran Heart Cent. 2011 Spring;6(2):59-61. 

[4] Drug Res (Stuttg). 2015 Jun;65(6):287-95. 

[5] Daru. 2015 May 1;23:31. 

[6] Nutr Res. 2010 May;30(5):305-13. 

[7] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:926284. 

[8] Pak J Pharm Sci. 2014 Nov;27(6):1881-4. 

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.



7/28/2015

Red Clover Blossom Harvest 

Want to make your own herbal medicines, but not sure where to start? Tinctures (alcohol extracts) and infusions (concentrated teas) are my favorite ways to take herbs internally– after eating them as food, of course! Both methods involve soaking plant material, whether leaves, flowers, roots or seeds, in a liquid.

Which liquid is preferable depends on what you’re trying to get out of the plant — that is, the type of constituents you’re going for. Tinctures are often used for acute or specific concerns, while water-based infusions, when made part of your regular diet, just like “an apple a day,” gently strengthen the body.

Remember that knowing how to make herbal medicines doesn’t mean you know how or when to use them. If you do have possibly serious concerns, don’t hesitate to consult a health professional.

All About Making Tinctures

Alcohol-based extracts are quick and convenient: they are appropriate for acute ailments and first-aid situations. And they have a shelf life of three to five years or more.

Plant constituents that dissolve easily into alcohol include (as their name suggests) alkaloids. Plants with important alkaloids also frequently have other constituents that dissolve more easily into water. For this reason, I tincture plants in equal parts alcohol and water. That is what is meant by “100 proof” alcohol: 50 percent alcohol and 50 percent water.

To make your own tincture, chop fresh plant material, pack into a glass jar, and cover with 100 proof alcohol. Ideally you want a 1:2 ratio of plant weight to alcohol volume. If you have 6 ounces of dandelion roots, for example, use 12 fluid ounces of alcohol. If you are using leaves, packing the container full and tightly is close enough.

Keep in mind that a tincture will only be as potent as the plant material in it. The less fresh the material, the less potent your medicine. If the plants are dried, they are further removed from the source and don’t tincture as well. So try to complete the whole process, from field to jar, the same day.

Label your jar with the contents and the date and let it sit for six weeks. Then strain out the plant material and viola, you have enough homemade tincture to fill and refill a 1- or 2-ounce dropper bottle many times over.

Tincture dosages are usually expressed in drops, and a dropper (when squeezed and released once) contains about 25 drops. When taking tinctures, it’s best to dilute in water or juice.

If you are concerned about the alcohol content, you can just use warm tea instead, as much of the alcohol will evaporate out with the steam. Keep in mind, though, that each dropperful has no more alcohol than a ripe banana.

Tinctures Brewing 

All About Herbal Infusions

Infusions, or concentrated teas, extract nutrients like minerals, vitamins, and chlorophyll. Infusions taken daily are nourishing and tonifying.

Infusions are best made with dried herbs because they can only be left for a few hours, not for weeks, so there’s not as much time for the liquid to penetrate the tough cell walls in the plant. During the drying process the cell walls of the plants are weakened. Then the contents of those cells, when soaked in water, easily come out into solution. That’s why fresh leaves will barely color a tea while dried ones will often turn it a dark, rich hue.

This is not to say that fresh plants should not simply be eaten. Let’s say you have fresh Nettles outside your doorstep . . . rather than brewing the leaves like an infusion, cook them — and eat both greens and broth!

To make an infusion, place one ounce (about a cup) of dried plant material into a quart mason jar. Fill with boiling water, cap, and let steep for four to six hours or overnight. You can add a pinch of mint for flavor. Then strain out the plant material and enjoy one or more cups daily. With most tonic herbs, the dosage need not be precise. These are foods: help yourself!

Infusions keep for several days in the refrigerator. You can drink them warm or cold, sweetened or plain. The important thing is to make them a part of your daily diet, and for that, they need to be something you enjoy.

Try some out yourself. My favorite infusion herb is Nettles, which is nourishing for the adrenals and kidneys, as well as the hormonal and immune systems. My favorite tinctures to have on hand in the family medicine chest include the renowned immune tonic, Echinacea, as well as St Johnswort and Motherwort.

Making Nettle Infusion 

It feels good to make your own herbal medicine and to make herbal food your medicine!


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.



7/27/2015

Hands pic 

My husband Mark has the most profound way of giving unconditional love that I have ever experienced.

To call me high spirited with lots of energy and passion for causes might be a bit of an understatement. In my book, The Invisible Parenting Handbook, our daughter Carly describes me as ".....a gale-force wind" and a person who likes to help whenever possible. She says "Sometimes when I think about my mother, I imagine her carrying these big baskets full of people, me included. Not because we need her to hold us up, but because she chooses to take us under her wings regardless". Mark's grace and ability to support me in my all of passions and pursuits has allowed me the space to do many things over my life time. I know that this gift is unusual and I am thankful for his continuous offering.

Recently someone asked Mark how he deals with me, my energy, and passion for causes. His answer went something like this "I watch her run as far and long as needed because I know she needs it, the running, and when she has finished her task and is tired she always returns home to me". I am sorry to say that I do not have the same grace when it comes to unconditional love. Mark is a master; I am in training. To watch your partner timelessly, unconditionally, and masterfully give love is truly remarkable.

I trust that I serve as an example of mastery to Mark in some other area.

After thirty four years of learning about one another’s strengthens and weaknesses we have the knowledge and ability to enjoy each other strengths and pass by each other's weaknesses. As we age with our relationship, sometimes we pass through moments of boredom, minimal patience, and the need for personal space. When these trying times settle in for moments longer than I’m comfortable harboring, I look to my elders for examples of loving couples to emulate and question. Through these examples I learn how to tend and mend Mark and my togetherness.

I ran into one such couple on my walk the other day. I have watched this couple from afar for many years. They walk one of my neighborhood walking routes. I have seen them other times working in their sweet well manicured yard. As they walked in front of me recently I was touched by their act of holding hands. I caught up with them and asked if I could take their picture, they obliged. I walked on and remembered I had yet to write this week’s blog. I had a question for them and turned around to ask: ”What makes your relationship work well?" For her the answer was "It just works" and for him it was "Keep your month shut". In a way it doesn’t matter what the answer is, it simply matters that they’re holding hands, and that they know it’s working.

If you are in a long term relationship can you say why it works? Are you thankful for spending your time in your long term relationship? Can you show others the grace of your relationship? Is your relationship worthy of your time and life's energy?


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.



7/23/2015

Morton Salt

“Do I need iodized salt in my diet?”

Without knowing your location or diet, my answer is a qualified “yes.”

We obtain iodine from food grown in soils that contain it, but large areas of the world’s soils lack sufficient iodine. So, seasoning your food with iodized salt is the best way to be sure you’re getting as much of this essential nutrient as you need.

Iodine has one main function in the body: The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland nestled at the base of the throat, needs it to make thyroid hormones, which affect every cell in the body by regulating metabolism. They’re also critical to optimal growth and development, including that of the skeletal and central nervous systems in fetuses and infants. According to the National Institutes of Health, iodine may also have a positive effect on immune function and in preventing fibrocystic breast disease.

If a person becomes iodine-deficient, his or her thyroid gland will enlarge to form a “goiter.” Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid, called hypothyroidism, include fatigue, constipation, cold intolerance, depression, dry skin and hair, weight gain, and muscle weakness. In 1924, the iodization of table salt in the United States successfully addressed deficiencies caused by the consumption of foods grown in soils lacking in iodine. Before that, illnesses due to iodine deficiency were widespread throughout the Great Lakes, Appalachians and Northwestern regions — known as the “goiter belt.”

If a woman is iodine-deficient during pregnancy, her infant may have mental disabilities, stunted growth, and problems with speech and hearing. In fact, the World Health Organization calls iodine deficiency the most preventable cause of brain damage. Mild iodine deficiency has also been linked with attention deficit disorder.

While the typical U.S. diet contains a lot of salt in the form of processed foods, these foods are mainly made with non-iodized salt, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Table salt is thus the main source of iodine in most U.S. diets. (The label will specify whether the salt is iodized.) A half-teaspoon of iodized table salt contains about 140 micrograms of iodine. Adults need 150 micrograms a day. Requirements rise to 220 micrograms during pregnancy and 290 micrograms while nursing.

Reliable dietary sources of iodine include saltwater fish, shellfish and seaweed. Breads and other grains often contain iodine as well.



7/21/2015

Scientist in Lab 

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide, and when I learned that I could affordably have my body tested for glyphosate accumulation, I immediately jumped on board. People get tested all the time to see if their vitamin levels are deficient, and some pay big bucks to test hormone levels and genetic history. Why not see if you’re playing landlord to a toxic tenant?

My Test Results

I’ve eaten an all-organic diet for years, and filter most of my drinking and cooking water. With the exception of occasional restaurant meals, I consume organically-grown, local-when-possible, whole foods. This goes a long way toward avoiding glyphosate and other non-organic pesticides and herbicides; however, I live in Kansas, where the rolling fields are overrun with “Roundup-Ready” crops. If there was ever a part of our nation where glyphosate pollutes the water and unavoidably creeps through the air, it’s my prairie homeland.

The glyphosate test that I took part in was conducted by Moms Across America, and participants could choose to have either their urine, breast milk or home’s tap water tested. I chose urine, because I wanted to see how my organic diet and agriculture-heavy location factor together. About a week after I sent off my sample, I received a short email, “Your test results are <7.5 ppb.” To which I thought, “OK … Is that good?”

 I went to the Moms Across America website to compare my results with others across the nation. It turns out that 7.5 ppb (parts per billion), is the lowest detectable limit that the test is capable of finding. Yes! I’m either at or below the lowest detection level! I congratulated myself for eating organic and patted myself on the back.  I celebrated too early, though, because as I scrolled further down the page I discovered that 7.5 ppb is still way higher than anything deemed “OK” by the standards of many other countries. For example, in 2013, 182 urine samples from 18 European countries were tested for glyphosate levels, and the highest result was 1.8 ppb in Latvia (and they weren’t thrilled). My test results of <7.5 ppb could still potentially be about 6 times higher than anything found in the European study — and I’m lucky — a test respondent from Oregon had levels at 18.8 ppb. 

 The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other U.S.-based regulatory bodies have created rules for how much glyphosate is allowed in drinking water, and these rules are based on the assumption that the toxin isn’t bio-accumulative. Glyphosate is water soluble, so it’s been assumed that if you eat a peach with glyphosate on or in it, then within a few days your body will expel the toxin and everything is peachy keen. However, the Moms Across America testing found “high” glyphosate levels in three out of 10 breast milk samples submitted. This discovery questions the assumption that glyphosate is not bio-accumulative, and it points to the idea that this toxic chemical is indeed building up in our bodies faster than it can be expelled. We’re passing it along to our sensitive infants via breast milk (and even umbilical cords) before our children even have a chance to be exposed first-hand via pesticide drift, drinking water and non-organic foods.

According to the test’s summary, “The levels found in breast milk testing are 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They are, however, less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level for glyphosate in the U.S.” It was after reading this conclusion that it hit home for me just how much glyphosate accumulation our government is willing to deem “safe,” despite the lack of long-term, peer-reviewed, unbiased studies.

What Is Glyphosate?

There’s glyphosate in our bodies; but why are people concerned? Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, which means that when it’s absorbed by the body it either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body’s normal functions, leading to increased rates of infertility and prostate or testicular cancer, as well as low sperm count. Studies have also linked glyphosate exposure to celiac disease and gluten intolerance, as well as an increased number of children born with autism spectrum disorder and developmental problems.

In 2014, honeybees were tested to see how field-realistic doses of glyphosate would affect their behavior – sadly, they were noticeably less sensitive to nectar rewards and they experienced impaired associative learning. It goes without saying that for a delicate and declining species, these skills are necessary to both their survival, and, from a pollination standpoint, our own.

Last, but certainly not least, the World Health Organization announced in March, 2015, that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. This announcement has huge implications, and it’s amazing that it was even publicized considering how much money and political sway Monsanto and other key players in the biotech industry have put forth to prevent such credible, unbiased studies from being conducted or promoted.

Infertility, honeybee deaths, cancer; these aren’t small concerns. To make matters worse, many of the studies mentioned above tested glyphosate in isolation. For real-world application, however, this toxic chemical is mixed with solvents and surfactants, legally considered “inert ingredients,” that work together to amplify the toxic effect of the herbicide – and as a result amplify its toxic effects on human cells.

There’s been tremendous growth in the amount of glyphosate sold and used within the past two decades. The increased use of glyphosate is due largely to the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops. These “Roundup Ready” crops, including soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton and sorghum, are specifically engineered to withstand heavy sprayings of glyphosate, while nearby weeds wither and die. Because weeds continuously evolve, they’re quickly becoming resistant to the sprays, and, as a result, farmers have to douse crops with larger and larger amounts of the toxic chemical each year. Because genetically modified crops are more likely to be doused with glyphosate, choosing to eat organic foods and voting to label genetically modified ingredients are two ways you can work toward avoiding this toxic pesticide.

As you can see, glyphosate isn’t a product I want to mess around with. Even without factoring in the societal impacts of its largest promoter (Monsanto) unnecessarily suing small farmers and tampering with the world’s seed supply, I simply don’t think the benefits of using glyphosate outweigh the costs. Organic market farmers are proving left and right that it’s possible to grow bountiful crops without the use of toxic pesticides or herbicides. Plus, in response to the “we need to feed the world” argument, we first need to address what to do with all the food we’re already wasting. (Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption each year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is wasted, and that’s a problem.)

After taking some time to analyze my test results, I feel reassured to learn that the glyphosate levels in my body are low — at least according to U.S. standards.  I like knowing that my daily choices to eat organic foods and avoid toxins when possible are worth the extra time — and sometimes money — that it takes. I do believe that if I didn’t eat organic foods and filter my water, then my glyphosate levels would be significantly higher, especially considering the fact that glyphosate is gleefully sprayed on the fields and yards surrounding my home and workplace. For me, participating in this study verified that eating organic foods is a powerful step toward protecting your health and divesting from a system that’s more focused on profit than the health of our people or our generous host, Earth.   

Learn more about Moms Across America, and read more about the glyphosate test results (or sign up to participate!), here.

Photo by Foltolia/jolopes: St. Louis-based Microbe Inotech was the laboratory used for the glyphosate testing mentioned in this article.


Hannah Kincaid is an Assistant Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. She is an enthusiastic student of herbal medicine, organic gardening and yoga.



7/20/2015

Global Warming 

I believe we need to change our language around climate change. It seems to me that our current words don't speak the full truth. "Saving the Earth" is not what we need to set our sights on, the Earth will exist long after we humans become extinct. If we want to pay attention to humans saving something we should talk about saving our species.

I am not a scientist and I don’t need to be one to realize that we are living through a time of human-induced and unchecked climate change. When we frame our conversation around this pressing matter ‘light’ and ‘mindful living’ on the earth has the wrong connotations of sacrifice to it, when it is really about protecting and salvaging whats left. If we shifted our conversations to tie into comparison with other extinctions maybe we could unarguably begin to understand the self-defeating weight of our own errors. Some current articles do speak to one extinction leading to another.

I have always believed that when you craft words carefully you can create a more compelling picture. So instead of save the earth how about we make it personal – Save The Humans, save ourselves. If we want to save ourselves and future generations we need to prevent our home, the Earth, from becoming humanly uninhabitable. In this self-preservation attempt it seems paramount to keep the land masses above sea level and enveloped in oxygen rich air.

When nonbelievers say that their is no such thing as climate change we can just stick to the facts, if the conditions of our planet shift and make it impossible for some insects and animals to exist humans will have no immunity. The only alternative is to continue on ignorantly talking about reducing our footprint while we continue running towards the biological limits of no return. Hopefully if we humans become extinct the Earth will heal and rebalance itself.

Are there people in your circle that would benefit from a more simplistic conversation about saving the humans? Can you change the way you live by living more lightly? What does more lightly look like to you? How can you help to Save The Human?


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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