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I recently listened to a fascinating TED Talk about the lack of transparency in the medical field. Dr. Leana Wen shared an experience she had with her mother when facing a financially-driven treatment promotion for her cancer recovery. Her mother wanted to know why she was steered toward one course of drugs over another. She was able to trace the decision back to the lucrative relationships with certain pharmaceutical companies and specific doctors. Out of a concern for the promotion of health over profit, Dr. Leana Wen founded the organization Who’s My Doctor? The organization works to unmask the financially secured power relationships responsible for the promotion of specific medical recommendations and prescriptions. 

This talk started me thinking about transparency in more general terms, outside the medical field—the transparency we have with each other and the option of acting on it on a day-to-day basis.


I have often been told that I am brave, pragmatic, and bold when it comes to sharing my thoughts and questions. I think my approach comes from a foundation of self-awareness, trust and respect for myself and others rather than an internalization of expectations, assumptions and judgment. When I am clear and honest with myself about my intentions, I find it easy to be honest with those around me. When people are transparent with me, I can decide if we add to each other’s journey or are better suited for different communities. 

Ultimately, I look to take part in communities that rise together in this authenticity. Authenticity is not often comfortable, easy, or even valued in some communities. For me, when I encounter disagreement, I look to discover differences, hold space for our differences, and explore the individual historical contexts that inevitably led to such varied perspectives. I am a part of multiple communities built on difference, and in every case, the sustainability of these communities rests on the transparency and patience with respectful, honest communication.

Dr. Leana Wen’s point about building transparency and accountability into the medical profession can apply to the idea of building authenticity and care into our relationships in general. I think we can and should hold our families and loved ones to the same standards Dr. Wen asks doctors to adhere to with their patients. Let’s begin by trusting, knowing, and honoring ourselves by being transparent with each other. 

I look forward to a day when being who we are cannot and will not be overshadowed by who others want us to be.

What if we all became totally transparent with each other? What do we want to know about each other? If the relationship between the patient and doctor needs transparency, why wouldn’t a relationship between family, friends, and loved ones also need it? Why does being transparent look like bravery? What are we afraid of when it comes to the judgment of others about the real us? What makes us fear transparency? 

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Im sure that you have heard of tea tree oil, but do you know how to use it?  What is it and where does it come from? Let me start by telling you that tea tree oil may actually be the cure allof essential oils. It can be found in everything from toothpaste to household cleaners. Its available as oil, as a diluted watermiscible preparation, and in soaps, salves, and creams.  

Tea Tree Oil Ethnobotany


Amazing tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has been used for centuries by the native people of Australia to treat wounds and burns, as Australia is the home of Melaleuca alternifolia. The medicinal tea tree should not be confused with the tea plant (Camillia sinensis) that gives us green or black tea. Of the more than three hundred species of the genus Melaleuca, it is M. alternifolia that provides the most favorable healing properties.

Australian explorers searching for valuable red cedar trees in remote areas of New South Wales found that the native aboriginal people in that area used the leaves of the tea tree to treat wounds. They would crush the leaves and apply them to the skin and place a warm mud cast over the area. The explorers followed this example and found the treatment effective. Studies in the 1920s showed that the antiseptic properties of tea tree oil were 13 times stronger than carbolic acid, the main antibacterial in use at that time.

Tea Tree Oil as an Antiseptic

Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances that are applied to intact skin or to wounds to reduce the possibility of infection. They are differentiated from antibiotics by the ability of antibiotics to be transported by the blood and lymphatic systems to destroy bacteria within the body, and from disinfectants which destroy germs found on inert surfaces.

The discovery of antibiotics led away from the use of natural antiseptics. However, things have changed and we are now more conscious of and need to be more cautious of the overuse of antibiotics. There is a very real role here for tea tree oil, then. Tea tree oil is a powerful antimicrobial. It kills many bacteria and fungi. The full strength oil has the ability to penetrate through intact skin to destroy deeper pockets of pus. Studies from the Tea Tree Oil Research Organization of the University of Western Australia show that it is unlikely that bacterial resistance to tea tree oil can develop even despite long term continuous use.

Tea Tree Oil Chemistry and Safety

Tea tree oil is produced by distillation of the leaves. The oil has a pleasant characteristic smell. It contains at least 100 organic compounds consisting mainly of terpinenes, cymones, pinenes, terpineols, cineol, sesquiterpenes and sesquiterpinene alcohols. Indeed, four of the constituents are rarely found anywhere else in nature. None of these substances is especially effective alone, and maximum healing power occurs when they work together synergistically. Australian standards require that the terpinen–4ol content of the oil be greater than 30 percent and the cineol content be less than 15 percent. As with other essential oils, it can be toxic if ingested. Tea tree oil should be used topically and not swallowed. When a product is tested for safety, it is tested to see if it damages genetic material within an organism’s cell (genotoxicity), if it is poisonous to the cells (cytotoxicity), or produces extreme sensitivity to sunlight (phototoxicity). Tea tree oil was shown to be safe in each of these three categories when applied externally.

Tea Tree Oil Uses

Antiseptic: Tea tree oil can be considered a designer, natural antiseptic. Unlike some other chemicals used in antiseptic remedies, it does not cause tissue damage or pain when applied to infected skin. A few drops mixed with water can be used to irrigate wounds, killing any bacteria and fungi whilst promoting healing. Not only does it not hurt when you apply it, but it has a mild anesthetic quality that produces relief. These properties make the full strength oil a necessary part of your arsenal against infections.

Insect repellant: Not only is tea tree oil an ideal antiseptic for scrapes and abrasions, it is also an excellent insect repellant. If you are bitten by an insect, dab the oil onto the bite to prevent infection and to soothe the wound. For more reading and recipes on insect repellents, go to the Herbal Academy of New England website.

Daily hygiene: Tea tree oil soap has a delightful scent and this together with its antiseptic properties makes it very useful to use on a daily basis, especially for strongly scented folks. One or two drops can be applied to your toothbrush and rinsed off to kill bacteria on the toothbrush. It also makes a delightful shampoo, and is one of the ingredients in this Herbal Lice Killer Shampoo.

Sore muscles: After exercise, a few drops of tea tree essential oil in a hot bath helps soothe the muscles while the aroma soothes the soul. A few drops rubbed into sore muscles or joints diminishes discomfort.

Sore throats and stuffy noses: Two drops of the oil in a glass of water can be used as a gargle for sore throats to kill the bacteria and to soothe discomfort. It is important not to swallow it. One drop applied to a bed pillow or under the nose reduces congestion and promotes easier breathing.

Acne: Tea tree oil has been shown to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide in treating acne. It is used as 3 or 4 drops in warm water to wash the face followed by a dab of the full strength oil on each lesion. The ability of the full strength oil to penetrate the skin makes it especially useful in treating boils this way.

Smells: One drop of tea tree oil in a glass of water can be used as a mouth wash for treating bad breath (don’t forget to spit it out).

It is also useful for treating smelly feet. Likewise, it can be used diluted in water for underarm body odor. A few drops in a warm bath are useful for reducing vaginal odor. A few drops mixed with water in a mist bottle kills bad odors in the air by killing bacteria and giving off its characteristic scent.

Difficult to treat nail bed infections: Fungal nail bed infections (paronychiae) are notoriously difficult to treat. A few drops of essential oil applied around the nail has been found in many cases to cure the infection. I recommend the use of tea tree oil in addition to conventional medicine for these stubborn infections.

Cracked and painful heals: Application of tea tree oil is remarkably effective in healing cracked and sore heels.

Clearly, this designer antiseptic in the little brown bottle should be an essential component of each purse, first aid kit, and medicine cabinet!

Essential oils and herbs are both tools we can use in self care. Usually we only need to gently nudge our body into healing, and this is where herbs excel. Educate yourself first before trying to use herbs or essential oils you are unfamiliar with. For further reading on essential oil safety visit these articles on the Herbal Academy blog:

Using Essential Oils for Children

A Closer Look at Essential Oils and Safety

If you are interested in taking your herbal education to the next level, consider studying in a guided herbalism program. The Herbal Academy of New England is enrolling beginner students in the Online Introductory Herbal Course and more experienced herbalists in the Online Intermediate Herbal Course.


Drury, Susan. (1989). Tea Tree Oil: A Medicine Kit in a Bottle. Linfield, NSW: Unity Press.

Levy, Gaye. (2013). The Miracle of Tea Tree Oil: 80 uses for Survival. Retrieved on January 2, 2015 from Backdoor Survival.

Marlene is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy of New England, the home of the Online Introductory Herbal Course and the Online Intermediate Herbal Course, and meeting place for Boston area herbalists. Through the school and online herbal classes, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to over 1,000 students across the globe. Photos provided and copyrighted by Herbal Academy of New England.

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.


In the past, we have shaped our New Year’s days by what seemed fitting that morning. Mark and I tend to plan some things, but for much of our vacation time, we normally just let things unfold. This vacation-mode flexibility could be due to Mark’s daily stress level as a small business owner, or maybe just our enjoyment shared in the spontaneity of what will turn up. Most likely, the relaxed nature of our New Year’s plans are owed to their position at the end of the winter holiday line-up, when we are all just very overfed and a little burnt out.

This year, we did something much different, thanks to Carly’s suggestion. On the first day of 2015, we took a day trip to the Washington Coast. The weather was picture perfect. The day with Carly and Mark was soul satisfying. The drive up the coastline, with all its silent grandeur, gave me pause to think about how much I have to be thankful for, including the magnificent place in which we live.

On the way to the beach, while Carly slept off the hours she had missed the night before, Mark and I listened to a podcast by Glynn Washington, called Snap Judgment. This particular segment was about gratitude. Washington started the podcast by saying that the action of sitting down and writing a gratitude list helps him to be mindful of how much he has, which further allows him to let go of life’s little insignificant irritants. His opening message served as a great reminder for me of how easily I can get wrapped up in the little stuff. I’d like to change that. The beginning of 2015 marks the end of my dwelling on 2014.

Beach 2015

After walking two beaches, driving along 101, marveling at views of the ocean, lakes, and the rainforest; giving a stranger a ride to his mother’s; and enjoying a fun lunch with my family, I felt settled and lighter. Sometimes the comfort in the habitual routines Mark and I fall into mask the potential in setting a little daily intention. On our drive, I told Carly that I think she’s wonderful at setting an intention for her day. When she spends time with friends, or her friends from out of town come to visit, she always asks them how they’d like to spend their time together, what they’d like to do. She’s pretty clear about finding a constructive, fun way for them to fill their hours. When I told her how much I admired how she sets those intentions, she said, “Isn’t that what life is all about?” Sometimes she blows me away.

Thank goodness for her suggestion to take a road trip to the beach to mark our first day of 2015. I know that in many ways, I live very intentionally, but the inactivity of my “me and Mark time” needs some restoration. The habits that we have formed from a life of 33 years together are about to get some attention. In 2015, I look forward to shaking things up.

How much attention does your time off get? Do you need to shake up some habits in 2015? Does the first day of your New Year set the tone for your year?

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.


Volunteering and sharing

Now that Carly is growing into independence and on her way to, as she says, “finding a paying job in 2015,” the concentration of our influence on her has faded. Certainly, we all still learn from each other, but, for her, not at the same rate and level as when she was a child and reliant on us. In 2015, Carly will move into her own place, settle in, look around at adult life, and continue to confront questions that direct her to our guidance, but for the most part, she has the tools necessary to captain her own ship. 

I trust that over Carly’s lifetime I have impacted her as well as some of her friends and classmates by being a mentor, confidant, and positive example. This role came naturally for me, because kids were in our home throughout Carly’s childhood, and I enjoy being a strong female presence and involved adult. I know I was able to exemplify authenticity, kindness, intentionality, self-respect, and a continual and critical questioning of what constitutes success.

In the next stage of my life, as a mother of a grown adult, my circle of influence will be dependent on where I choose to spend my extra time. Recently, I have been thinking about where this might be. I could mentor at Pioneer Human Services, where I currently work in Business Development for our Commercial and Airplane parts division, or I could find a parenting support program to become involved with, or, more informally, I could reach out to families and young people in my neighborhood when they need support. 

As I embark on this process of picking which community of people I want to contribute to next, I will start by asking myself some practical questions: What amount of time can I commit to per week/month/year? How well do different organizations align with what I find to be important? What service can I best offer? I will also be mindful of my working style. I like to be given a task and work independently to complete it.

When I volunteer, I always find that I get back more than I give. While I may influence others, I am equally influenced by and learn from them. This is the essence of community, the collaborative spirit of mutual support and growth. Whatever I choose, I will make sure that the relationships I form are intentional, honest, and rewarding for me as well as the people and communities I connect with.

How will you impact others in 2015? Do you volunteer now? Is it time to refresh your volunteer opportunities? Where can you leave some of your wisdom? 

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. 


You may not hear about Candida overgrowth as much anymore, but there’s more evidence than ever that this syndrome is real and is often associated with other gut problems that cause a wide variety of symptoms throughout the body.

Back when I was beginning my naturopathic medical education in the late 1990s, everyone was talking about Candida yeast overgrowth. The terms “chronic candidiasis,” “yeast syndrome,” and “intestinal candidiasis” were the labels most often used for this condition, in which yeasts that belong to the genus Candida (especially Candida albicans) overgrow in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This Candida overgrowth, essentially a chronic, low-grade Candida yeast infection of the intestines, was believed to cause a wide variety of symptoms in virtually every body system.

Denial of Intestinal Candidiasis

At that time, there was very little research on yeast overgrowth in the intestines. It was known then, just as it is known today, that Candida yeasts normally live on the skin and mucous membranes, including those of the GI tract, without causing infection. Conventionally trained physicians were (and still are) taught that Candida yeasts found in the gut, even if they are found in abnormally large numbers, are not causally related to symptoms or disease, do not constitute a health hazard, and do not require treatment.[13]

Research on Candida Yeast Overgrowth

There is small but growing body of scientific evidence, however, that disputes these assumptions. The recent research indicates that yeast overgrowth in the intestines does occur and is associated with a variety of symptoms and other health conditions which improve with antifungal treatment.

For example, Candida overgrowth of the GI tract was found in recent studies to:

• Promote the development of food allergies by increasing intestinal permeability and affecting immune function.[1,2]
• Aggravate inflammation not only in the gut but in tissues all throughout the body, increasing the risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases.[3,6]
• Directly correlate with the amount of inflammation and severity of symptoms in patients with ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.[4,5,6]
• Increase with the use of antibiotics, especially when there is already inflammation in the intestines.[6]
• Increase with the use of proton pump inhibitors.[7]
• Cause the same symptoms as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) when it occurs in the small intestine.[7] SIBO symptoms include abdominal pain, chest pain, belching, bloating, fullness, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, gas, malabsorption, and vitamin deficiencies.
• Promote inflammation in the lungs.[8]
• Occur more commonly in people with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin disorders.[9]
• Occur more commonly in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.[10]

Candida, IBS, and “Medical Unexplained Symptoms”

Furthermore, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have more antibodies in their blood to Candida albicans.[11] The severity of IBS symptoms is directly associated with levels of those antibodies.[11] People with “medically unexplained symptoms” who also score high on a standardized Candida questionnaire called the Fungus Related Disease Questionnaire-7 also have higher levels of antibodies against Candida albicans.[12] These people often have a history of frequent or long-term antibiotic use along with symptoms like frequent yeast infections, sugar cravings, and fatigue.[12] Higher levels of antibodies against Candida albicans indicates the immune system is hypersensitive to the yeast or may simply reflect greater exposure to it (due to Candida yeast overgrowth).[11]

So Why Do We Tend to Hear Less About Candida Overgrowth Today?

Candida is less in the spotlight today, I believe, because of the fact that conventional medicine has long denied the existence of chronic candidiasis and therefore the overall body research on it is still relatively small.[13] In addition, I think we hear less about Candida because we now have greater knowledge of the entire intestinal microbiota (which includes fungi and bacteria) and the gut barrier system, as well as better ways of diagnosing problems related to gastrointestinal function, including DNA analysis of the GI microbiota.[14]

With this knowledge comes greater understanding of all the problems that can arise when these aspects of gut health become dysfunctional, including not only yeast overgrowth, but SIBO, leaky gut syndrome (increased intestinal permeability), and intestinal dysbiosis. Nowadays, with more sophisticated testing methods and greater understanding of all these conditions, we often see Candida yeast overgrowth occurring in conjunction with SIBO, leaky gut syndrome, and intestinal dysbiosis. And because SIBO and leaky gut syndrome do not have the same long history of denial by conventionally trained physicians, they are more widely studied and accepted by mainstream medicine.

Candida Treatment

Candida yeast overgrowth in the gut is a very real condition that is finally the subject of medical research, although much more is needed. Natural and integrative doctors who have been treating this condition for decades have seen thousands of sick patients recover from chronic candidiasis by using comprehensive treatment plans that not only eradicate the fungus using appropriate antifungal agents, but also identify and reduce predisposing factors, such as dietary factors, impaired immunity, impaired detoxification function, or underlying disease states.[15] To find an integrative doctor near you, search in the Natural Health Advisory Directory. Be sure to also download the free report, Natural Health 101, for a quick guide to taking charge of your health.


[1] Gut. 2006 Jul;55(7):954-60.

[2] Biosci Microbiota Food Health. 2012;31(4):77-84.

[3] Med Mycol. 2011 Apr;49(3):237-47.

[4] J Clin Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul;48(6):513-23.

[5] J Physiol Pharmacol. 2009 Mar;60(1):107-18.

[6] Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Aug;14(4):386-91.

[7] Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Jun;37(11):1103-11.

[8] Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Jan 15;15(1):95-102.

[9] Int J Dermatol. 2014 Dec;53(12):e555-60.

[10] Scan J Gastro. 2007;42(12):1514-1515.

[11] BMC Gastroenterol. 2012; 12: 166.

[12] J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Dec;13(10):1129-33.

[13] Dtsch Arztebl Int. Dec 2009;106(51-52):837–842.

[14] Am J Gastroenterol. 2005 Feb;100(2):373-82.

[15] Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. Ch. 51. Chronic Candidiasis.

Kathleen Jade, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Physician in the Seattle area where she conducts natural health research and writes for Natural Health Advisory Institute.  Contact Dr. Kathleen by commenting on one of her blogs. She has written a recently released e-Book Fatigue Causes and Relief: Natural Remedies for Excessive Tiredness and Chronic Fatigue.

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.



One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the time I am fortunate enough to spend with loved ones. I find great joy in listening, learning, and reveling in the wealth of wisdom and love that surrounds me. The people that I choose as my elders, mentors and guides never stop enriching my life.

At our dinner table this weekend, one of our family’s elders joined us for an equally nourishing meal and conversation. We all talked about lasting moments and lessons from our childhood and she specifically shared the profound effects of living through war some seventy years ago. Listening to her weave together what took place in her own backyard during WWII gave us only a peak into what she must have felt and seen. The strength and work ethic that kept her family, and arguably the rest of England, looking down and moving forward as a team with a concentrated goal in mind gave me pause. She connected this tenacity of character required from war time to her generations pragmatic approach to life. I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on a diversity of lessons learned that I can continue to incorporate into my life today.

Our daughter furthered the conversation by asking us all a question that prompted a reflection on our past year: “What is your fondest memory of the year?” Her’s was the second year-end question I have heard this week. The other went something to the effect of: What is your greatest accomplishment this year?” While both focus on an appreciation of the year passed, each question remains distinctly different. What I glean from each is an awareness that approaching our family conversations with loving interest and questions, will guide us into a deeper knowledge of each other and ourselves as we share in the significance of today by tying it to our past and then weaving it all together for our future.

Because we live in an age of social media, which I sometimes refer to as anti-social media, conversation can be awkward or hard to bring folks into. In this season of time spent with loved ones what questions will you be asking each other? Where will you be spending time together? Will you be sharing your intentions of the past, present and future with each other? Do your elders know the impact they have on your life?

I look forward to spending time with family and friends and plan to cherish our togetherness through mutual sharing, learning and growth.

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.


Several weeks back, one of my dear friends, readers, and book editors forwarded me an email with information about a few charities and how they spend people’s hard earned donations. It reminded me of an article a boss sent to me years ago and a conversation my stepfather and I had when I was much younger about his research into the irresponsible spending of the Red Cross and AARP. During the past few weeks, our mailbox has been littered with donation envelopes. Because it is the season of asking and receiving, it seems a good time to do some investigating into where all our December dollars and donations end up.

For many years, our family has attempted to find our way to the most useful holiday gifting. My husband and I have decided on years of no gifting, regardless of the fact that I have often changed my mind before the 25th, and failed to notify him of that change. Other years, we’ve made big proclamations that all gifts should be homemade, books, or donations to charity, and not all family members held up their end of those agreements either. Regardless of the specifics, most every year we spend some time as a family considering what we should do about gift giving, and about where to spend our money with the most reward to all.

This year, I had hoped to give small local sustainable gifts to friends and family who would be dropping by during the holiday season, donate in honor of others, and give gift certificates of experiences to some; but that dream will necessarily be placed on hold until next year. Having until recently been unemployed for six months, and with Mark and I working toward a goal of freeing ourselves from credit, this year, I am saying “no gifts,” for the most part, and meaning it.

Horseback riding

I know as we age, many of us find we need less stuff. Mark and I started giving experiences to each other many years back, and these gifts have formed some of my most cherished memories. There was a trail ride with our rental horses Teddy Bear and Dakota, and the hot air balloon ride that I had been wanting to try all my life. These memories made with Mark will be in my heart forever, and I wouldn’t think of trading them in for something more material.

So this year, in the time I would usually set aside for gift planning and shopping, I will instead start a file of experiences, good hard-working charities, and local artisan-made and handmade food treats that I will look forward to gifting to loved ones next December.

What gifts do you buy for your loved ones? What charities do you give to and how do they spend your money? How will you celebrate this holiday season?

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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