Natural Health

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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.



12/30/2015

Ocean Waves

The following visualization engages the mind-body connection for the purpose of self healing, and can be used as a complementary therapy during many situations, i.e. injuries, chronic and acute illnesses, stress, depression, pain, and more. When my beloved friend found out she had a breast tumor, she spontaneously created and used this visualization with incredible results. Shannon's tumor shrank from 9 centimeters down to 6 centimeters in just two weeks after using this self-healing technique two or three times a day! As you can imagine, her doctor's were baffled; Shannon, her family, and friends were amazed and very grateful! Many believe that we all possess this mind-body healing potential, and through practice can learn how to access it. The scientific studies conducted so far on the topic of self-healing visualizations and guided imagery to effect a mind-body response show promising results.[1][2][3] The Mayo Clinic suggests a very similar visualization as one technique to relax and reduce stress.[4] Even tennis champion Novak Djokovic uses visualization to improve his performance.[5]

Shannon's Ocean Healing Visualization

Listen to the sounds of ocean waves

As with any visualization or intention, it's important to call in all of your senses. Since this visualization takes place at the ocean (in your mind’s eye), it helps to listen to a recording of ocean sounds. You want to hear the waves coming to shore, and then hear the waves receding. You can listen to one such audio clip at my website, Biofield Healing. If you have access to a secluded beach with waves, even better!

Prepare

Find a comfortable spot that is free of distractions; silence your phone, etc. Shannon used to draw a bath and add sea salt, himalayan salt or epsom salt to the water - but you can also use this visualization while sitting or lying in another comfortable location. Prepare for this experience with reverence, joy, and gratitude; give yourself time so you are not rushed.  Connect with your "Higher Power" (Creator) and connect with your "Higher Self" - the part of you that knows and wants what is for your highest good. Anticipate the healing potential that your Higher Power and Higher Self can achieve when working together.  This is a joyous, playful, and creative process.

Clearly verbalize your intention out loud

Some people call this prayer, some call this putting it out into the universe, others call it stating your intention. Just be sure to state it out loud and make it clear what you are trying to achieve. Don't just say, "I want to be healed", instead try to be very specific.  For example, if you are trying to heal a sprained ankle your intention may be to reduce the swelling and inflammation, or to heal torn ligaments so they are normal again.

The visualization

Visualize yourself lying by the ocean's edge. Call in all of your senses.

Smell and taste the salt water spray.

Hear the sea gulls.

Feel the warmth of the sun.

Feel the wet sand beneath you

(all in your mind's eye).

And so you're lying by the water, and the waves roll onto shore and the warm water covers you with love, covers you with healing water. The water is a beautiful ocean green.

Then as the waves recede, visualize the water drawing out whatever needs to be healed.  Maybe the water draws out fatigue, pain, a virus, inflammation, a cyst, or even a tumor. Maybe the waves cover you with healing waters which mend a fracture, laceration, or surgical wounds. Maybe the waves cover you with peace and draw out anxiety, panic, stress or exhaustion. Be specific in what you are envisioning. You know what you need — make the visual yours.

Remember to breathe. Breathe in healing energy and breathe out the injury, illness, disease, emotional trauma, etc.

Closing thoughts

The more time you put into self healing techniques, the better the results. So not only is it more effective to use this visualization during a longer session, it is more effective if it is used multiple times a week, or even multiple times a day.

As you finish, remember to think of yourself as already healed.  And please remember to give thanks. Thanks for learning how to self-heal, thanks for being healed, thanks for your Creator's love and assistance, thanks for everything. Gratitude is important! And in that spirit, thank you Shannon for sharing this priceless mind-body technique with us, inspiring us to connect with our deepest wisdom, and teaching us the power of self love combined with the power of our Creator's love.

References

[1] Mind-body medicine: state of the science, implications for practice
[2] Effects of guided imagery on postoperative outcomes in patients undergoing same-day surgical procedures: a randomized, single-blind study
[3] Guided imagery: a significant advance in the care of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery
[4] Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress
[5] Champion Novak Djokovic Reveals the Power of Visualization 

Disclaimer:  All information is offered to assist one's innate ability to balance body, mind, emotions & spirit. Clients are encouraged to seek advice from medical doctors in addition to considering complementary and alternative practices. 

Judy DeLorenzo is a micro-farmer, holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She completed a 3-year course in Transformational Energy Healing, studied homeopathy, earned a certificate from eCornell in Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition, and is currently studying herbalism. Her approach as a holistic health practitioner is to carefully look at the complete picture and suggest solutions that promote the person’s innate ability to self-heal and maintain vibrant health. You can learn more about Judy DeLorenzo and her healing practice at Biofield Healing and find Judy online at A Life Well Planted. 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.



12/21/2015


 

A few months ago, I noticed that I’d developed some weird habits surrounding my social media use. I was checking my Facebook and Instagram accounts at least 10 times a day, but I almost always logged off feeling disappointed or slightly depressed. (Apparently, I’m not alone. See How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms.)  I follow a number of news organizations on my social media accounts, and, as a result, my newsfeed is a strong mix of political and environmental news, advertisements, and updates from friends and family. Despite the occasionally interesting or inspiring post, I still felt bogged down by news of mass shootings, scathing political remarks, and updates about the declining state of our environment – not to mention the slew of mediocre food pictures and narcissistic “selfies” that seem impossible to escape.

Why did I continue to spend so much time on a platform that I wasn’t enjoying? I have no idea. It was as though I would black out and then wake up to find myself blinking at my Facebook profile.  How did I get there? What was I looking for? The apps on my Smartphone allowed me to check Facebook notifications at stop lights and skim through Instagram photos while waiting in line at the check-out counter. Every potential moment for quiet reflection was in danger of being interrupted by a strong pull to comment, like, share or respond.  The more I became aware of this nagging desire, the more uncomfortable I felt about it.

The day of the Paris terrorist attacks was the day I logged off.  I’m fully aware that turning something off doesn’t make the problem go away. But, for our mental health and sanity, it’s OK to take a break. Take a breath. The world won’t stop turning if you temporarily tune out.  It’s been a little more than a month since I decided to log off, and I couldn’t be happier with the awareness and centeredness that I’ve gained since then.  Here are the self-imposed rules I created, and the steps I took to establish healthier digital habits. You can choose to follow any of these recommendations that seem inspiring, and tailor them to fit your needs.

Log off social media for one month. I uninstalled the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone to prevent myself from logging in during brief “dull” moments.  I logged out of Facebook on my desktop, but accidently kept it bookmarked on my toolbar. This bookmarked toolbar was how I found myself unconsciously blinking at the Facebook login page about 10 times a day for the first week. I discovered that I’d been treating my Facebook page like I would an afternoon walk, or a refill of coffee. While working at my computer, if my mind needed to switch tracks or take a short break, I automatically clicked the Facebook icon to start mindlessly browsing. I would only browse for 2 or 3 minutes (I think …) but all those short minutes add up.

I finally broke the habit by removing the bookmarked icon from my toolbar and creating access barriers (the need to physically type my login information before accessing my accounts). It took nearly two weeks for me to quit reaching for that icon when I felt bored or restless.

You can tailor this rule to fit your lifestyle. Maybe you’re happy with the time you spend on Facebook, but Twitter and Snapchat seem to consume your time. Also, if a month is too long, try a week, or even a weekend. The goal is to gain awareness about your social media habits, and to cut back on “zombie browsing.”

Be grateful for the privilege to disconnect. Whenever I became tempted to log in and break my detox, I repeated this mantra to myself: “Unlike millions of people around the world, I have the privilege to disconnect, however temporarily, from news of violence and exposure to language that is negative, racist or fueled by hate. I choose to be grateful for that privilege, to appreciate the beauty of this unique moment, and to be here, now.”  

This became my favorite part of the entire process, and it really helped me gain appreciation for my fortunate circumstances.  

Don’t check email at home. Only check your email from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. When I started my digital detox, I was in the habit of checking my work email once or twice each evening, just to make sure nothing crazy happened that needed my immediate response. This is just unnecessary; I’m not a cardiac surgeon who needs to be on-call to save lives. It can wait.

I was in the habit of using my phone to check work-related and personal emails in the morning before I even got out of bed. I can’t believe I was doing this. It even hurt my eyes to look at a screen so early in the morning, but I did it anyway. I told myself I was preparing for the work day, but I was actually stealing from that wonderful, early-morning alone time when the rest of the world is still asleep and coffee tastes better than ever.

By cutting back on time spent looking at my laptop and phone screen, I started sleeping better. After two weeks of quality sleep, I finally developed an early-morning yoga routine. Instead of lying in bed, hitting snooze and lazily scrolling through email and Facebook, I now stretch by the fireplace and sip a cup of coffee while the sun rises. I can’t believe it took me so long to make that change!

Turn off the TV. I don’t have a TV or Netflix account, but I’m including this “rule” for those of you who do. If you feel like you spend too much time in front of the tube, a digital detox is a great time to cut back. You may decide to only watch 30 minutes a night, or to never watch TV during dinner.

 Think about what your perfect week would look like. Where does TV factor in? Design your detox rules around that vision. I watched a few DVDs on my laptop during my digital detox, but because TV time isn’t a problem for me, I didn’t feel like I needed to limit my consumption to form healthier habits.

Don’t look at your phone while at dinner or with friends.  With our Smartphones, we have the incredible ability to search online for the answer to any question that arises during conversation. But I’ve noticed we often reach for our devices before we really think things through. What happened to old-fashioned debates — and the ability to actually use our memories?  

It’s also just rude to be on your phone when someone is trying to share a meal or participate in a conversation with you.  After I decided to keep my phone safely tucked away during meals and outings, I began to offer a more engaged, tuned-in version of myself. (Warning: After you initiate this change, you may start to really lose patience with other people on their phones.  You’ll start noticing this rude behavior more and more often.)

These last three recommendations are not rules that I imposed on myself, but small ideas for moving forward:

Wear a watch. After gaining newfound distance from my Smartphone, I realized that I was still digging through my purse to find it whenever I need to check the time.  Wearing a watch will cut back on the number of times you need to reach for your phone each day, plus it looks classy.

Keep reading material close at hand. There are definitely situations where you find yourself waiting longer than expected. Maybe you’re in a doctor’s waiting room, or picking up a friend who’s stuck in a meeting. Whatever the situation, you can deter pulling out your Smartphone by having a copy of an interesting book or magazine close at hand.

 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported that the average U.S. consumer spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook.  In comparison, readers of a median speed take about 4 hours to read a medium-sized book (64,000 words – think “Brave New World”).  If every U.S. consumer substituted time on Facebook with time spent reading a book, they could read one book every 6 days – that’s 60 books a year. Can you image how well-read we would be if we spent 40 minutes a day reading?

Send a postcard or hand-written letter. It doesn’t seem like many people do this anymore, but receiving a beautiful, hand-written postcard or letter is so exciting! Walking to my mailbox is one of my favorite household chores; I always hope for a small, heart-warming note tucked among the bills and coupons. I have a bundle of letters that my brother wrote me while stationed in Iraq, and they’re one of my most treasured belongings. Like wearing a watch, sending a hand-written letter just feels classy and timeless. Have fun and use some special stationary. Print off a few pictures to share, or include a beautiful dried leaf or flower that stands out to you.  A letter or postcard written with love is truly a keepsake.

Looking Back on my Digital Detox

I definitely had a few slip-ups during my digital detox, and I didn’t do a perfect job of sticking to my rules. But just because I slipped up a few times didn’t mean my whole plan was shot. I effectively changed the way I interact with and use my social media accounts, I’ve cut way back on screen time, and I’ve replaced a few negative habits with healthier ones.

I also had a great realization about my personal relationships. By weeding out the white noise and distractions, I narrowed in on the people who I really wanted to talk to. If I missed somebody or wanted an update, I called them (and vice versa). I ended up having a 3-hour-long phone call with a friend who recently moved to Seattle, and I placed more phone calls to long-distance family members than ever before.

This experience helped me realize that Facebook is a binky for loneliness, but that time spent with a loved one— or a dedicated phone call if you live far apart — is a cure.  If you do a digital detox, the people you engage with regularly will still be in your life, but, judging from my own experience, the interactions you have will be warmer, more genuine and better focused.


Hannah Kincaid is an Associate Editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. She works on the magazine’s natural health beat, and in her spare time she focuses on restoring her century-old farmhouse, studying native plant medicine and practicing yoga.



12/15/2015

Ancient Traditions

For many generations, herbal medicinal recipes have been prepared by herbalists and families as a way to fight the common cold and other illnesses. As with all early herbal traditions, recipes were passed down from one generation to the next; from healer to community, from parent or grandparent to child. This mentoring was done in the garden and in the kitchen, personally and hands-on.

The exact recipes varied depending on which roots, herbs, and garden varieties were available; also depending on individual needs, tastes and preferences. These effective creations of “food as medicine” continue today.

Fire Cider’s Roots

Since the early 1980s, Rosemary Gladstar, an herbalist who many consider to be the godmother of American herbalism, has been teaching one such recipe to her many students and has been sharing it freely throughout the herbal community and beyond.  From its inception, she called it Fire Cider and describes it as a “spicy, hot, deliciously sweet, vinegar tonic.”

This creation was copyrighted in her herbal course materials and featured in several of the books she authored. Since then, it has been shared, enjoyed, modified, and even sold by an untold number of herbalists and health enthusiasts. With Rosemary Gladstar’s blessing, I am sharing this recipe with you today. Truth be known, I did ask for permission but it was unnecessary because Rosemary generously considers Fire Cider to be everyone’s recipe — part of our herbal legacy.

Name Under Fire

But alas, there is more to this story. In recent years, a company named Shire City Herbals trademarked the name and is attempting to stop all other businesses from using it. Many of these small herbal companies have been creating and selling their version of Fire Cider for many more years than Shire City Herbals has been in existence, potentially for more years than the founders of Shire City have been alive!

Litigation has been ongoing but the case will hopefully end soon with the freeing of Fire Cider.  If you would like to learn more or get involved, please go to Free Fire Cider.

Why does this matter?  If the judge upholds the Fire Cider trademark, it would set a dangerous precedent in which other traditional herbals — i.e. “elderberry syrup” could become owned instead of freely shared and enjoyed as it was meant to be. This is a stand for “traditions, not trademarks.”

A reasonable solution would be to have Shire City rename their product “Shire City Fire Cider” and drop the trademark so others can also continue to use Fire Cider in their name. Since Shire City clearly did not create the name or invent the product, this seems like a fair request.

Rosemary Gladstar’s Original Fire Cider Recipe

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup grated horseradish root
• 1/2 cup or more chopped onions
• 1/4 cup or more chopped garlic
• 1/4 cup or more grated ginger
• Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper “to taste”. Can be whole or powdered.  “To taste” means should be hot, but not so hot that you can’t tolerate it.  Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.
• Raw honey
• Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
• Optional ingredients: turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, etc.

Directions

1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover tightly with a tight-fitting lid.

2. Place jar in a warm location and let it infuse for three to four weeks. It is best to shake every day to help with the maceration process.

3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid. The strained herbs can be used to make chutney (see recipe below).

4. Add honey “to taste.” Your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”

5. Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry.  But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you have room.

How to Take: A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent preventative tonic.  Or take several teaspoons throughout the day if you feel a cold coming on.

Judy’s Notes

Cover the mouth of the jar with parchment paper or waxed paper before screwing on the lid.  This keeps the acidic vinegar from eroding the metal.

Rosemary suggests heating the honey to make it easier to blend into the tonic. Please use caution here and only warm the honey up slightly to preserve the medicinal properties.

Strain the herbs from the liquid tonic using a cheesecloth-lined colander.

Fire Cider makes a lovely gift, infused with your wishes for good health. Cheers!

Feel free to play with this recipe and develop your own favorite version as so many people have done.  The batch that I currently have infusing contains all of the original ingredients plus burdock root, cinnamon, oregano, sage, rosemary and lemon. Just be sure to always cover the roots and herbs with plenty of undiluted, 5% strength, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.

 

Fire Cider Chutney Recipe

Strain the herbs from Fire Cider after 3 to 4 weeks. The herbs should still be somewhat firm and flavorful.

Add the herbs to a food processor or blender and grind coarsely (don’t blend into a smooth paste, but only until coarse and crunchy). If too dry, add a little of the Fire Cider Vinegar to the mix.  You might wish to add a little more honey and cayenne to taste.

Your finished Fire Cider Chutney should be sweet but not too sweet, hot but not too hot, and just right for your pleasure taste!

This delicious chutney is great on toast, mixed with rice, veggie dishes, is a favorable addition to soups, or can be enjoyed right from the spoon. It’s the perfect winter condiment!

For more of Judy’s favorite cold and flu fighters, go to A Life Well Planted. You can find 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.



12/11/2015

Is Honey Good for You

I’ve always loved honey. Honey on toast, on top of biscuits or rice cakes, or in a sandwich with peanut butter, it doesn’t matter, its all delicious. But is honey actually good for you? Or is it just another unhealthy, sweet product?

When it comes to honey, there’s both good news and bad news.

The honey debate – is it just another form of unhealthy sugar?

Honey is made up largely of sugar, and much of it is in the form of fructose. Eating a lot of fructose is not good for you, and it can contribute to a number of health issues.

This is why there is such a stand against products loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, and why these products should generally be avoided. But since honey also contains fructose, is it also on the do not eat list?

In general, sweets and sugar should be avoided. And yes, honey does fall under this category, so it shouldn’t be eaten in large quantities. But if you need a treat and are choosing between refined sugar and honey, honey definitely has its benefits.

Advantages of Honey

The thing about honey is that it isn’t just sugar. Honey is sugar packaged up with a whole lot of other compounds that can benefit health, including antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. It can contain vitamin C, niacin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.[1]

Honey has been reported to be antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, and more, which can help prevent and treat a variety of conditions.[1,2-4] Studies have found that honey can:

• Reduce blood sugar responses compared to other forms of sugar [2,5,6]
• Protect from heart disease through strong antioxidant activity, which may help in lowering cholesterol and triglycerides [5,7-11]
• Prevent gastrointestinal infections and ulcers [2,12]
• Treat allergies [13,14]
Cure coughs [15,16]

Benefits of honey that don’t require eating it

If you stay away from sugar completely and don’t choose to eat honey, there’s still a place for it on your pantry shelf. Topical applications of honey can help treat a variety of conditions, from burns to cuts.

There are reports of people finding honey to be useful massaged into the scalp, spread on rashes, and more. It is one of the best natural remedies for dandruff and one of the best burn treatments.

Choose raw, local honey for the most benefit

When buying honey, look for raw, unprocessed honey. This will give you the most antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Specific kinds, like manuka honey and tualang honey, seem to have especially beneficial effects.[3]

I prefer to buy a large jar from my local farmer’s market; a big jar will last me a long time, and I like knowing it comes from local bees.

References

[1] Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jun 20;9:61.

[2] Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2013 Jun;16(6):731-42.

[3] Malays J Med Sci. 2013 May;20(3):6-13.

[4] J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Feb 26;51(5):1500-5.

[5] J Med Food. 2004 Spring;7(1):100-7.

[6] Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(6):913-34.

[7] Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2010;7(4):315-21.

[8] J Med Food. 2009 Jun;12(3):624-8.

[9] Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:286051.

[10] ScientificWorldJournal. 2008 Apr 20;8:463-9.

[11] Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Nov;60(7):618-26.

[12] J Food Sci. 2008 Nov;73(9):R117-24.

[13] Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2011;155(2):160-6.

[14] Ann Saudi Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;33(5):469-75.

[15] Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Dec;161(12):1140-6.

[16] Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Dec 23;12:CD007094.

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.



12/9/2015

Tai Chi Benefits for Your Health

My senior year of college, a friend and I signed up for a tai chi class offered on campus. We thought it would be an entertaining hour or two every week, and it gave us a few extra course credits. But a week or two in, I realized that the classes were actually something I really loved and valued as a part of my week. I looked forward to the few hours each week where I got to calm my mind and move my body at the same time.

If you’ve never tried tai chi before, I highly recommend it. Not only is it an enjoyable activity, but it is also a very healthy one; tai chi is proven to help numerous conditions and benefit your general health.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a branch of Chinese martial arts that consists of slow, flowing movements. When you practice tai chi, your whole body is involved; you are generally in a whole-body semi squat, doing continuous movements that flow from one position to the next. Along with this type of whole-body exercise, tai chi also involves concentrating on your breathing, focusing your mind, and relaxing.

There are many different styles of tai chi, each with different forms, routines, and approaches. These days, it is common to find tai chi classes that offer simplified forms that can be easily learned and modified for different skill and fitness levels.

Who Can Benefit from Tai Chi?

Tai chi is an excellent exercise for anyone. It is gentle and low-impact, but it also helps to improve strength, aerobic capacity, flexibility, and posture.[1] So if you are looking for ways to diversify your workout routine, tai chi is well worth your while.

But tai chi can also be used as an effective therapy for a wide range of specific health conditions. A large review published in PLoS One in March 2015 found that 94.1% of the 507 studies on tai chi benefits reported positive effects.[2] So what is tai chi good for?

1. Osteoarthritis. A recent meta-analysis showed that tai chi improved scores on a timed walking test, knee strength, and symptoms of pain and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.[3]

2. Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi is a good exercise option for people with Parkinson’s disease. One study found tai chi to improve postural stability and motor functions while reducing the rate of falls.[4] Read more about tai chi and other exercises for Parkinson’s disease treatment here.

3. Heart disease. Tai chi can help lower the risk for heart disease; it may help lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and lipid levels, for example.[1]

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Researchers reviewed eleven articles and found that people with COPD who practiced tai chi had better scores on tests rating respiratory symptoms, and they also performed better on a timed walking test. Overall, the study suggested beneficial effects for people with COPD.[5]

5. Cognitive function. Tai chi is thought to be beneficial for cognition and brain health, as it involves not only exercise (which is good for the brain) but also spatial processing, attention, memory, and concentration. A review of nine studies showed that tai chi could improve things like global cognitive ability, attention, learning, memory, language, and other factors of good brain function in healthy adults.[6]

6. Breast cancer. Research suggests that tai chi can be beneficial for women with breast cancer, as it can improve arm functional mobility, muscle strength, physical capacity, and other measures.[3,7]

Some other examples of conditions that can be helped by tai chi include rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, low back pain, diabetes, and more.[1]

Older people, in particular, may find a lot of benefit in trying tai chi. It has been shown to prevent falls and improve sleep in seniors, for example. To read more about the specific benefits of tai chi in older populations, go here.

Take a tai chi class to experience the mental and physical benefits of tai chi.

I never expected to enjoy my tai chi class as much as I did. Ever since then, I have hoped to sign up for another class in my area so that I can once again experience the calm, yet energized feeling of this flowing, gentle exercise.

There aren’t many other activities that bring my stress levels down, quiet my mind, and keep my body strong all at the same time.

Search for tai chi classes in your area and sign up for one today. They can be found at community centers, and sometimes at yoga, dance, and martial arts studios. If you can’t find one near you, search online for guided videos to try tai chi in your own home.

References

[1] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:502131.
[2] PLoS One. 2015 Mar 16;10(3):e0120655.
[3] Br J Sports Med. 2015 Sep 17. pii: bjsports-2014-094388.
[4] N Engl J Med. 2012 Feb 9;366(6):511-9.
[5] Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2014 Nov 7;9:1253-63.
[6] Am J Health Promot. 2015 Aug 25. [Epub ahead of print]
[7] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:535237.

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 Best Blogging 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.



12/1/2015

 

As we enter into the cold and flu season, it is the perfect time to be thinking about your immune system and practical ways to help boost it. Alex and I practice these immune-boosting tips every day of the year and we are always extra pleased when we are able to ward off a nasty flu or cold.

These tips are our tried-and-true suggestions for increasing immunity and maintaining good health all year long. Let's start with a brief explanation of what your immune system is: The immune system is the body's defense against infectious organisms and other invaders. Through a series of steps called the immune response, the immune system attacks organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease.

As you can see, it is important to help boost immunity so that your body can effectively do its job in fighting off sickness.

Here are our top 10 immune-boosting tips to help you stay healthy and active this winter season.

1. Build up your gut health. You can't have happy thoughts on a sour stomach. 80% of your bodies immune system is in the gut. Start by eating probiotic rich foods and drinks such as kraut, kimchi and kefir. Here is a link we posted on how to make your own kefir

Increasing probiotics in the gut will help to build up the good bacteria in your body and help greatly boost immune system.

2. Proper supplementation. Alex and I love to supplement with several key products to help boost our immunity year round such as medicinal mushrooms. One of our personal favorites is called "My Community" by Host Defense. We also take vitamin C powder in the form of simple ascorbic acid. If we feel something coming on we start loading up 5-7 milligrams a day spread out evenly. This is one of the most inexpensive ways to help boost your bodies immune system. We also love the homeopathic remedies by Boiron especially if we feel like we are coming down with something.

3. Bone broth soup. This is really a hidden treasure. Bone broth soup is not only great for immunity but it is very healing to the gut. This is also very rich in collagen which is great for hair, skin, nails and joints.

4. Proper hydration. Staying hydrated helps with detoxification and functioning optimally among numerous other benefits. Try drinking purified water and organic herbal teas. We like to add fresh squeezed organic lemons to our water for a refreshing change and extra added benefit of cleansing & alkalizing the body.

5. Optimize your Vitamin D3 levels. This has immuno-protective and stimulating benefits. Many people are walking around Vitamin D3 deficients and this can cause your immune system to suffer. Here is a great article by Dr. Mercola that goes more in-depth.

6. Minimize coffee consumption. Caffeine is known to increase cortisol which can temporarily lower the immune system. If you are going to drink it, drink a cup in the morning and preferably organic. An even better option is to drink a good quality organic green tea in place of coffee.

7. Sweat it out. Try laying in the sauna or steam room for small periods at a time while drinking plenty of water & infusing Eucalyptus essential oils. This helps with detoxifying the body and increasing body heat which helps improve circulation.

8. Eat clean, nutritious food. Your body is what you eat. Limit grains and eliminate sugar if at all possible. Feed your body good quality lean proteins such as grass fed meats, organic chicken, fish or turkey. Increase your good healthy fats such as avocados, raws nuts and seeds and extra virgin first cold pressed olive oil (preferably local, not imported) and fermented raw grass fed dairy such as cheese, yogurt and kefir. (See link from #1)

9. Drink raw apple cider vinegar with the mother. We like to drink Braggs ACV. I put two tablespoons diluted with 8-10 oz. water first thing each morning upon waking. This has so many wonderful benefits including boosting immunity, hydration, detoxification and it is fantastic for gut health as well as alkalizing your body. Read up on this if you want to know more.

10. Manage stress. I saved the best for last! Stress is a silent killer and it definitely contributes to lowering immunity. Try managing your stress by taking time for things you enjoy, exercising daily (medium to heavy resistance training) and cardio as well as getting plenty of rest each night. Alex and I like to shut off our router and stop all technology about an hour before bed. This helps us to rest better and also prevents us from looking at "blue light" which can disturb melatonin production or cause insomnia.

We hope these 10 immune-boosting tips help your family as much as they help ours. If you have any questions or would like to know more details on the above, feel free to comment. We love interaction and helping spread our knowledge. Here is to having a strong, healthy and functioning immune system.

Alexander Poptodorov is a health and wellness enthusiast who has a passion for helping others to achieve their very best through optimal living. In 2005, he and his wife, Ashley, opened A+A Wellness in Atlanta, Ga. Today, Alex has embarked on his newest adventure, obtaining his N.D. Degree. Alexa and Ashley are excited to share their experiences and excitement with you about the endless possibilities of being healthy.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Best Blogging 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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