Natural Health

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4/7/2014

Aspartame Side Effects in Children

After the dangers of refined sugar became widely known in the 1980s, the American food industry began replacing it with artificial sweeteners. As an added psychological bonus, these supposedly harmless molecules also reduced the caloric content of foods, making them popular for use in low-fat, light, and diet products. In addition to aspartame, synthetic chemical sweeteners are also known by the following chemical names: acesulfame potassium, neotame, saccharin, sucralose. Brand names include: NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin, Sunett, Sweet One, Sweet & Safe, Splenda.

Foods that May Contain Aspartame

According to NutriSweet, a variety of foods are typically sweetened with aspartame.[1]

Carbonated soft drinks
Gelatin dessert
Hot chocolate
Pudding
Fruit drinks (10% juice)
Breath mints
Ice cream
Yogurt
Chewing gum

Why Small Children are Vulnerable

While holistic doctors do not recommend aspartame consumption by anyone, children are especially susceptible. One or two packages of yogurt, gelatin, or fruit drinks can contain enough aspartame to put a baby over the FDA’s recommended intake limit of 50 mg/kg of body weight.[2]

Aspartame Side Effects Can Lead to Brain ImpairmentAspartame Side Effects

The body immediately breaks aspartame into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol.[3] Methanol is further broken down into formaldehyde and formate. In adults, these compounds may not reach high enough levels to cause problems.[4] For babies, however, methanol can reach high enough levels to cause oxidative stress to the brain.[5] This is the same effect that is caused by free radicals. Chronic incidents of this stress will cause faster brain aging, and could contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, learning impairment, and depression.[3,6] Considering that babies may be exposed to multiple daily servings of the foods listed above, chronic effects are possible until the child becomes old enough to properly metabolize aspartame. Even then, some may experience long-term health consequences.

Phenylketonuria

Also known as PKU, this is an inherited condition in which babies cannot break down phenylalanine. Aspartame can cause severe problems in children with PKU. This includes seizures, rashes, tremors, delayed mental skills, and impaired intellect.[7] All of these are results of excess phenylalanine in the blood. Considering that 50% of aspartame consists of phenylalanine, the sweetener contributes significantly to this problem. Children with PKU should never be given aspartame, even as they become older.

Blood sugar and insulin resistance

Aspartame side effects are intensified by monosodium glutamate (MSG). Studies demonstrate that aspartame alone increases the blood sugar of newborn mice by 60%, but when combined with MSG, the increase is 130%.[8] The research also concludes that subjects experience reduced insulin tolerance. Cells cannot absorb glucose or produce energy when they fail to respond to insulin. This leads to increased blood sugar, increased appetite, and decreased energy.

How to Avoid Synthetic Sweeteners

Anything that is labeled low sugar, diet, low calorie, light, or low fat is likely to contain an artificial sweetener of some kind. Carbonated beverages, fruit drinks, and yogurt can be especially high in aspartame. The best way to avoid aspartame is to entirely eliminate sweetened foods and drinks from the diet. If sugars are absolutely necessary, healthier choices include coconut sugar, agave nectar, and raw honey.

References

[1] NutraSweet Property Holdings, Inc. ©2003.

[2] Crit Rev Toxicol. 2007;37(8):629-727.

[3] Pharmacol Res. 2006 Jan;53(1):1-5.

[4] BMJ. Feb 5, 2005; 330(7486): 310.

[5] JBiosci.2012Sep;37(4):679-88.

[6] Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Apr-Jun; 2(2): 63-67.

[7]Pubmed Health. PKU; Neonatal phenylketonuria.

[] Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012 Jun 14;9(1):58.



3/25/2014

In theory, bread should be a healthy, whole-grain food. But the process that transforms healthy whole grains into the white bread found on most grocery store shelves destroys their nutrients and adds a variety of dangerous chemicals.

The Terrible Truth About White Bread Most breads are produced from flour; they are not natural forms of whole-grain wheat. They require yeast cells to expand them with gas, gluten to bind them together, and preservatives to slow the inevitable growth of mold. Most common brands also add high fructose corn syrup, molasses, and dextrose to enhance flavor.

The Refinement of White Flour Removes Nutrients

Wheat is a seed like any other. It consists of an outer covering (the bran), an embryo (the germ), and a fuel supply (the endosperm). In the case of white bread, the bran and germ are removed and only the soft endosperm is milled into flour. As the initial food supply for the growing seed, the endosperm contains mostly simple carbohydrates. These simple carbohydrates break down into single units of sugar almost immediately, causing hazardous spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.

Wheat’s vitamins, minerals, fiber, tocopherols, antioxidants, and proteins are found predominantly in the germ or bran.[1] The removal of these nutrients is the reason why white breads and pastas must be “enriched” after processing. Unfortunately, these added vitamins typically constitute an extremely small percentage of the recommended daily values.

The Bleaching Process Adds Toxins to the Flour

The flour that is made into white bread is bleached with benzoyl peroxide. The bleaching process does nothing to clean the flour. It has no purpose other than to make the product more visually appealing, so that consumers will be more likely to purchase it. This agent oxidizes the yellow flour to make it appear whiter. In the process, benzoyl peroxide creates free radicals and benzoic acid.[2] Free radical species are well known to contribute to DNA damage and aging, and benzoic acid can cause contact irritation, discomfort, weakness, and malaise.[3] When ingested, the agent can cause headache, nervousness, nausea, and vomiting.[4]

In addition to the health effects mentioned above, benzoic acid also contributes to the destruction of beneficial intestinal bacteria.[5] In fact, this antibiotic action is what makes benzoic acid useful as a preservative. Any disturbance to the body’s natural balance of intestinal flora can lead to an overgrowth of parasites or pathogenic bacteria.

Further hazards can occur if any of the benzoyl peroxide makes it into the final product. Exposure to this agent has been found to cause a significant decrease in the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase (SOD).[6] This enzyme is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants and its destruction can lead to rapid aging and DNA damage.

White Flour Products Contribute to High Levels of Blood Sugar

The glycemic index (GI) for white bread is 70.3.[7] Technically, this means that it raises blood sugar 70.3 percent as much as pure glucose sugar, which is extremely high. To compare this to a few nutritious foods, the GI for broccoli is about 10; cherries, 22; and tomatoes, 38. Even extremely low-quality foods such as milk chocolate and potato chips only reach a GI of about 43. This makes white bread very dangerous, especially to diabetics.[8] It is also a poor source of energy, as the high level of blood sugar that it causes will plummet nearly as quickly as that caused by a soft drink or candy bar.

If You Eat Bread

Pumpernickel, whole rye, and whole wheat breads are much healthier alternatives to white. But you still need to be careful. Bread manufacturers use a variety of tricks to make their products appear to be healthy. For example, a bread can be called “whole wheat” even if it only contains a small fraction of whole-wheat flour. Make sure that the label instead reads “100 percent whole wheat.” If the word “enriched” is anywhere in the list of ingredients, the product is not 100 percent whole wheat.

Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, molasses, other refined sugars, and preservatives such as benzoate. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the potential dangers of gluten. The best bread to eat is known as Ezekiel or Genesis bread. These breads are made from sprouted grains and usually do not contain milled flour or preservatives.

Remember: Always ignore the promises on bread labels and instead read the list of ingredients to know what you’re putting in your body.

References

[1] Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:71-4.
[2] J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Jan;49(1):98-102.
[3] CAS Registry Number: 123-77-3 Toxicity Effects.
[4] CAS Registry Number: 65-85-0 Toxicity Effects.
[5] J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2006 Aug;90(7-8):316-24.
[6] Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2011 May;31(3):479-84.
[7] Biomed Pap Med Fac Univ Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub. 2004 Jul;148(1):17-25.
[8] Eur J Clin Nutr. 1991 Feb;45(2):97-103.



3/21/2014

There was a time when I would not make a trip to the health food store without picking up a bottle of Kombucha. It was my treat. Some kids like the free cookie at the grocery store bakery. I looked forward to the Mango Kombucha in that pretty glass bottle with the mandala on it.

There was a girl in my last yoga teacher training that made the best homemade Kombucha. She gave me a SCOBY so that I could make my own. I put it in the fridge and promptly forgot about it. There went that.

My husband recently went on a fermentation kick, and so we came round again to the prospect of making our own Kombucha. We acquired a SCOBY from a good friend and this time put it to work. We have since grown and shared our own to many the delighted Kombucha lover.

Kombucha Scoby

First thing's first: What on earth is a SCOBY?

It is a starter culture or “mother” that stands for Symbiotic Culture of friendly Bacteria and Yeast. Most of us are familiar with the Friendly Bacteria craze. We want those hard working bugs in massive quantities to keep us on the healthy track to better life. I’m a fan. A SCOBY looks a bit like a thick rubbery pancake and is your key to making great Kombucha. These days there is usually a friend of a friend of a friend that makes their own and has plenty to share. Put your feelers out.

From that starter culture, you can turn your basic sweet tea into a tasty vitamin and mineral delivery system. A Kombucha mother is filled with enzymes that aid detoxification, glucosamines that help to prevent arthritis, and packs a probiotic punch that helps control harmful yeasts and promotes a happy bacterial situation in your digestive tract.

The immune boosting qualities as well as mood enhancing benefits of this wonder drink are enough to make anyone jump on the Kombucha bandwagon. I mean, who doesn’t like a 2000 year old elixir that has been linked to preventing cancer and other degenerative diseases?

According to the Food Renegade, a popular website and blog on the healing properties of food, the health benefits of Kombucha include: detoxification, joint care, digestion aid and gut health, and numerous immune boosting antioxidants. Visit the link above to learn more from the Food Renegade.

You’ve acquired a SCOBY. Now what?

Let’s make some Kombucha. This recipe comes from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

1 quart pure water
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp loose/2 teabags black tea
½ cup acidic kombucha (when you receive your SCOBY it will be stored in this liquid)
a Kombucha mother/SCOBY

In a small pot, mix water and sugar and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add tea. Cover and steep about 15 minutes. Strain the tea into a glass container. (I use a wide mouth Mason jar.) Add the acidic kombucha liquid. Place the SCOBY in the liquid, with the firm, opaque side up. Cover with a cloth and store in a warm spot, ideally 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

In about a week or less you’ll see a thin skin forming on the surface of your Kombucha (this is a new SCOBY forming). Depending on your tastes, you can drink it now or let it sit a bit longer. The longer it sits, the more acidic it becomes. Once it arrives at a desirable taste for you, start a new batch and put the current one in the refrigerator. You now have 2 SCOBYs. Pass one on to a grateful friend.

You are now on your way to a more healthy and vibrant life. The health benefits of Kombucha are plenty and there are lots of folks out there that have experimented with different flavorings for their mixes if that’s your thing. Give it a google search and you’ll see!

Have fun, and if you find a yummy recipe to flavor your Kombucha, please share it here. I’m always happy to try new ways of enjoying this awesome drink!



3/19/2014

Fasting is a great way to energize the body and mind and to tune it in for the changing seasons. With spring’s longer days and longer to-do lists around the corner, I could use a push-and-a-shove and would happily fall face first into a pile of motivation. Fasting is that push-and-a-shove and what follows is a period of increased motivation.

Before getting into the core and science of what fasting is, let’s talk about what it’s not. Although it has become popularized through celebrities and marketed by corporations, it is not primarily a weight-loss diet. It is also not a one-way dead end street to God’s house. Yes, it may assist some people in losing weight or in walking a spiritual path, but by no means is fasting going to keep that weight gone for long or the mind fixed on God forever. Even a skinny atheist will benefit from a fast.

Master Cleansing

Defining a Fast

Fasting is a cleansing for the physical body. Just like an automobile needs a tune-up, so does the body. To get the best gas mileage, a vehicle’s tires must be properly inflated, the air filter must be cleaned, and the oil needs changed every so many miles. Although the vehicle may still run with low air pressure, dirty filters, and old oil, it will not operate at peak performance. After a less-than optimal life, it will soon enough die. But if that same vehicle receives regular tune-ups, its life expectancy will be increased, along with the quality of each ride. Same with the body.

I know the human body does not have tires, air filters, or engine oil, but it does have tissues, blood, and organs. Everything from the air humans breathe to the food humans eat contains different levels of contaminants that continue to build up. Although the body naturally relieves itself of many toxins, it can never be fully relieved unless the amount of contaminants entering the body are dramatically decreased. By not chewing or eating any food for a chosen number of days, the digestive tract goes on vacation and all organs get time off. Extra energy becomes available within the body and that energy is re-directed towards removing toxins and healing organs.

Fasting is not eating, but the body is still getting vitamins and minerals through fluids. And water. According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James and Phyllis Balch, they recommend to fast for three days a month and to follow a 10-day fast, at least twice a year. For me, that sounds extreme. (I’m not an atheist, but I sure am skinny.)

Science of Fasting

In today’s world, toxins are impossible to avoid, but with a little fasting know-how, toxins built up in the body can be removed and no one needs to be a nutritionist, a doctor, or plastic surgeon to do it. It can be done in the comfort of a home while following a daily routine. Once the digestive system begins to experience a rest from food, many natural processes take effect. According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the following happens:

The natural process of toxin excretion continues, while the influx of new toxins is reduced. This results in a reduction of total body toxicity.

The energy usually used for digestion is redirected to immune function, cell growth, and eliminatory processes.

The immune system’s workload is greatly reduced, and the digestive tract is spared any inflammation due to allergic reactions to food.

Due to a lowering of serum fats that thins the blood, tissue oxygenation is increased and white blood cells are moved more efficiently.

Fat-stored chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, are released.

Physical awareness and sensitivity to diet and surroundings are increased.

In my own experience, once I begin a fast I feel like I can feel how each part of my body works on an independent level. I do get irritable, lazy, and weak once the toxins jump out of my tissues into my bloodstream and begin the removal process. The removal process alone is quite a process. Since the body is not digesting food it is not removing stuff the same way and will require extra attention. Some common things to aid in the removal process are enemas and herbal teas during the fast or taking fiber supplements before and after the fast. Salt water flushes also work great and have become my chosen method of removal while fasting.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing

Types of Fasts

In Gandhi’s day, it was common for people to fast on water alone. I have no desire to experience how that may feel. This type of fast is not recommended, according to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, because toxins will be released too quickly and fresh vitamins, minerals, and enzymes will be lacking, causing headaches and worse.

I have followed a 3-day juice fast and a 3-day master cleanse and the master cleanse gave me much more energy. This fast permits the body to drink water mixed with grade B maple syrup, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Each ingredient aids the body to remove toxins and heal, in combination with a salt water flush first thing each morning.

The 3-day juice fast was a bit more demanding. I lost count of how many times I had to clean produce, juice the produce, break down the juicer, clean the juicer … I felt like there was less time to rest which added to the feelings of weakness and irritability. It was also more expensive than the master cleanse; however, I would love to try this fast in the summer when produce is available both in season and local.

The most important thing about fasting are the days before and after the fast. Don’t expect to eat a steak, cheese fries, and a big bowl of ice cream as a last meal before a fast, whether it’s for 5-days or one. According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, eating raw fruits and vegetables two days before the fast will cause less of a shock to the body. Also, if cooked foods are eaten right after the fast, the beneficial results may not be so beneficial in the end.

My Own Experience

For me, two days before the fast I’ll limit myself to one cup of coffee in the morning. I’ll also cut out junk food and sugar and I’ll eat a big salad for dinner. The next day, the day before the fast, is when I get strict. No caffeine, lots of green smoothies, and a 100 percent raw food salad. If I need a snack, I eat an apple, which helps me with caffeine and sugar withdrawal, or some almonds and dried cranberries.

Then the fast is on. (Sometimes near the end I get the urge to create elaborate grocery lists in preparation for when I can eat again. I do not recommend feeding these thoughts.)

I always break the fast with fresh made orange juice, except this juice has all the pulp still in it. Feeling the digestive system go back to work is mind-blowing, like going to one of those museums where human veins, tissues, and organs are all on display for the still-alive humans to observe, except it’s like observing it from the seat of the dead, as if I could consciously observe the inside of my body to not only know what it looks like, but to know what it feels like, functioning, at the same moment. It’s definitely a little out there in comparison to normal, everyday sense-awareness. Even fun.

After orange juice, I’ll eat small pieces of fruit. The stomach shrinks and the amount of digestive fluid the body needs to digest food decreases during the fast. Working back up to large portions and cooked foods is a slow process, yet another great benefit of fasting. The body gets used to raw vegetables and fruits, and it starts to tell the mind that this is the food it wants. Of course the mind always wins and in a few days, coffee and bakery treats are re-introduced. But the urges for healthier food choices at least tends to linger.

I once did a 5-day fast but I looked Gandhi-skinny and it mentally scared me a bit. Physically, it felt great. The weight and muscle came back in less than 2 weeks. According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, fasting for more than three days should only be done under qualified supervision. I agree. Most recently, I followed a one day fast and that, too, was a well-worth experience.

According to the Prescription for Nutritional Healing, the length of the fast will accomplish different things. A three-day fast helps the body rid itself of toxins and cleanses the blood. A five-day fast begins the process of healing and rebuilding the immune system. A ten-day fast can take care of many problems before they arise and help to fight off illness, including common degenerative diseases.

And according to me, even a one day fast will energize the body and mind and tune it in for spring. I’ll physically and mentally be buzzing with energy along with the bees and blossoming flowers.

Please do much research on fasting before attempting it alone. I am not a nutritionist, doctor, or plastic surgeon and I only intend to share my experience. For more information on fasting, check out Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Also check out this website for more information on how to prepare for the master cleanse, along with the salt water flush recipe.

To check out what’s happening in the garden, visit my blog. Thank you.



2/25/2014

Warning: Don’t Rely on Diabetes Symptoms to Reveal a Problem One of the most dangerous things about the most common type of diabetes, type 2, is that life-threatening complications often occur before any diabetes symptoms ever develop. In fact, many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all, while others have diabetes symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed. If the symptoms go unnoticed and the disease is left untreated, the risks of complications such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, and more can skyrocket. Some individuals, however, may experience the typical symptoms of diabetes. Therefore, it’s a good idea for all of us to know what the diabetes symptoms are and be able to recognize them.

Classic Diabetes Symptoms

Increased urination
Excessive thirst
Blurred vision
Excessive hunger or increased appetite
Extreme fatigue
Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
Sensations of tingling, tickling, prickling, pricking, pain, or burning in the hands or feet
Darker, thicker skin in areas of body folds and creases
Yeast infections

Diabetes Complications, Not Symptoms, Are Often the First sign Something’s Wrong

Because many individuals with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms, the disease often remains undiagnosed for many years. In fact, millions of diabetics in the U.S. have no idea they have the disease. Many of these individuals will first become aware of their disease not when they develop one of the diabetes symptoms listed above, but rather when they develop one of diabetes’ life-threatening complications, such as a heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease. Other diabetes complications include heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and other forms of cardiovascular disease, mild cognitive impairment, dementia, cancer, depression, and erectile dysfunction. The earlier you catch diabetes, the easier it is and the more likely you are to completely prevent these diabetes complications and avoid diabetes symptoms.

High Blood Sugar Testing

Annual Physical Exam with Blood Laboratory Testing is Essential

Since these diabetes symptoms are not a reliable way for many people to discover they have diabetes, it is critical for individuals to get annual checkups with their doctor which should include the typical lab tests for diabetes and prediabetes: fasting blood sugar and glycohemoglobin A1c. If the numbers don’t look good, take your doctor’s advice seriously. Diabetes can be reversed with the proper diet changes and the use of natural healing protocols, but the sooner you get started the better your chances of getting it under control.

How to Treat Diabetes Naturally

If you suffer from diabetes or you have experienced any of the diabetes symptoms, it is critical that you begin following a low-glycemic diet and/or begin using natural remedies to lower blood sugar. You can find out more about these therapies here:

Suffering From High Blood Sugar Symptoms? Use This Glycemic Index Food List

Could This Diet for High Blood Sugar Be the Single Healthiest Diet for Everyone?

Cinnamon and Diabetes – Clearing the Confusion

What’s Your Experience?

Have you experienced symptoms of diabetes? What about diabetes complications? If so, have you been able to reverse any diabetes-related problems using diet or other natural remedies? Our readers want to hear from you and know what’s worked and what hasn’t for your diabetes issues. Please share in the comments section below.



2/20/2014

PeppermintSpring is floating around out there somewhere, just waiting for its moment to, well, spring. It’s been quite the winter around the majority of the country, bringing moisture that was well needed; there is no arguing that. I think for most of us though, we are ready to move on. We are ready to dig our hands into the dirt and feel the sunshine on our faces.

One of the things I most look forward to is the smell of mint in the air. It grows wild throughout my yard and when a strong breeze kicks up, it sets me on a peppermint cloud, bringing me to a standstill from whatever task I happen to be involved in at the moment. I know that for many, the mint family is a nuisance, spreading like wildfire wherever its heart desires. But for me, that nuisance was a blessing for my less than green thumb when I began my journey into the gardening world. And when I discovered just how useful the sprawling bugger was, it was easy to say: let it grow.

Peppermint Healing Properties

Though many in the mint family pack a whole health wallop, the herb we are loving on presently is Mentha Piperita, or Peppermint. This common weed is widely used for its properties as an antibacterial (inhibiting the growth of bacteria), antiseptic (applied to skin to prevent bacterial growth), and carminative (to relieve gas and griping). It is also a mild analgesic (pain relief without loss of consciousness) and has nervine (calm nervous tension and nourish the nervous system) properties.

Let’s begin with the easiest and most common form for getting that healing dose of peppermint: A simple cup of tea, made by steeping about 1 tsp of the dried herb or 2 tsp of the fresh leaves in 8 ounces of boiled water for about 15 minutes, is a lovely remedy for many everyday ailments, including headaches and stomach upset. Drinking a cup of peppermint tea about an hour after a meal helps to keep your digestive juices in working order and when taken prior to eating, might help you to avoid gas pains. Its mild anesthetic properties can sooth the stomach wall and relieve the vomiting associated with pregnancy and motion sickness.

Peppermint can help to relieve anxiety and maintain focus, aiding those who deal with daily stress. And while it can be a soothing herb, it also has the opposite function of encouraging circulatory flow and treating lethargy. A cup or two of a stronger brew, say a tbsp of herb per 8 ounces hot water, can offer you a boost without the caffeine hangover. It’s a valuable help for colds and flu. I usually turn to peppermint when I feel a cold coming on. Making an extra strong dose and letting it steep for an hour or two will usually do the trick when caught early. Right now though, I go easy on the peppermint because I’m breastfeeding and it has been known to reduce mother’s milk.

Other Uses  for Peppermint

Another way to utilize the tea is for compresses. Soaking a clean towel in the hot, steeped herb can do wonders for headaches. Just place the towel on your forehead, lie down and relax. You can use the same method for sunburn. Just allow the towel to cool and replace as needed.

In addition to the herb, I always keep some pure peppermint essential oil on hand. It packs a bigger punch than the fresh or dried herb and one or two drops will usually do the job. A drop massaged into each temple always eases my headaches. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards because you DO NOT want to get it in your eyes. If you do: washing your eyes out with cool water will usually help. Because of its antiseptic properties, a couple drops of the oil on a minor kitchen burn or scrape can help sterilize the skin and ease the pain.

Putting a few drops into steaming water and draping your head over the water with a towel can relieve sinus congestion. You can also put a couple drops into your palms and rub them together briskly, creating warmth, and then cup your hands at your nose and breathe deeply. This also helps for concentration and focus. But be careful to only breathe this two or three times, as this can stimulate the heart and possibly cause lightheadedness and burning eyes. Use in an aromatherapy diffuser to provide an overall uplifting and enthusiastic feeling to any room.

I keep a bar of peppermint soap in my shower. For me, there is nothing like the magic of mint in a steaming bath or shower. It lifts my spirit and is super soothing for skin rashes. Adding a few drops of oil to your favorite lotion makes a great foot balm, and gargling with an infusion of the herb freshens the breath!

While the benefits of this herb are far-reaching, exercise caution if you are pregnant or nursing. Do not overuse peppermint in any form for any condition. The suggestions printed here are from experiences I’ve benefited from personally and do not mean they will work the same for you. Every body is different. Consult your doctor if you are more comfortable doing so.

The possibilities of this aromatic herb are many, far more than what I’ve included here. I encourage you to explore it further and maybe plant some in your own yard to enjoy its plentiful benefits. However, if you would like to avoid a mint takeover, I’d suggest potting it.

Visit me at Folkways Farm, to read about urban farm life and the happy shenanigans of my family! Thanks for reading Mother Earth News!

My resources for this article include: The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffmann, The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, by Holly Bellebuono, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood, and The Way of Herbs, by Michael Tierra.



2/18/2014

I recently spent a weekend at the Oregon coast. If you have ever been there yourself, you know that you do not go to the Oregon coast for sunshine and warm sand. You go for the magnificent views including striking rock formations and rhythmic waves. Each time I am at the Oregon coast, I awavesm reminded of how similar those rolling waves are to the contractions experienced by women in labor.

By design waves naturally rise from the vast ocean behind them, hug the edges of the shore and quietly retreat. Then, they do this once more and once more. At times, the white foam of the waves reaches the shore quickly and rhythmically, at other times slowly and idiosyncratically. And while waves aren’t always symmetrical, they are constant. I have yet been to the coast and wondered what happened to the waves. It is in their consistency that there is assurance. As the waves roll by no man’s command, their rhythm reflects the order of the universe, the closing of one day and the beginning of another.

Like the ocean waves they mimic, the contractions of childbirth also build slowly and crescendo through a mother’s body until they crash and rescind back into a relaxed uterus, giving momma a few moments to rest. As the next contraction flows in and through and over the mother, her baby wiggles it’s way through the birth canal, closer to the open, cervical shore. If momma senses fear or feels a lack of control, the contractions may follow the asymmetry of the waves, slowing and even stopping before completing the predestined cycle. However, when momma feels loved, supported and relaxed, the contractions will continue and fall into their prehistoric rhythm. Left to nature’s intricate design and timing, these contractions will mirror the waves in closing the day of life in the womb and awaken mother and baby to a new life full of joy and beauty.  

It is awe inspiring to see the many synergies in nature. As we breathe in and out, the world breathes in and out with us. As we grunt and groan through the pains of labor, the earth shifts and quakes and brings forth new life with us. As the earth tilts on its axis causing the ocean’s waves to roll in and out, so will the mother tilt her pelvis and let the power of birth roll through her body until her precious child is born.

Have you experienced a labor which fell in synch with the waves of the ocean? Please share.

Photo: Pacific City, Oregon by JoAnn Swanson












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