Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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In my experience with plants as both a grower and an herbalist, I have seen firsthand the healing power of plants time and time again and it never ceases to amaze me. The vigor and vibrancy of plants is magical. They are one of the greatest life forces on earth and inherently hold the key to health. Plants nourish our bodies.

Numen: The Nature of Plants, a film by Brook Hollow Productions, an association with United Plant Savers, is a cornucopia of intuitive wisdom, science based knowledge, and exuberant passion and reverence for plants around the world dedicated to and in memory of the late Bill Mitchell, Co-founder of Bastyr University. The film opens with plant close ups and stunning time lapse photography of plants throughout their growing cycles, their intrinsic eye catching patterns and their symbiotic relationships with pollinators. Numen is defined as the spirit believed to by animists to inhabit natural objects. The film describes that we sense this force the most abundantly through plants.

I immediately visualized of the life cycle of the sunflower. When you close your eyes and imagine one sunflower seed in the palm of your hands, you notice the shape, the size, the texture, the color, the pattern and striations. Imagine placing it in soil and seeing the sprout cracking out of its shell. The roots push their way down into the rich dark earth at the same time the sprout forms a stem and cotyledons appear like magic. The stem stretches for the sun and begins to grow wider and taller. Leaves form and the stout square stem burrows strong roots into the earth. Soft rains fall. The stem grows and grows and new leaves form. The bud forms. The leaves once protecting the fragile bud begin to fold back, exposing the inward facing petals to the sunlight. The sunflowers tight bud slowly begins to blossom- a process which can occur within just a few hours. The bloom opens wide, fully embracing the life force energy of the sun, even turning with the sun. The sunflower proudly displays its inherent sacred geometry, the Fibonacci spiral. As it is meant to, it fulfills the very essence of its being, welcoming pollinators to drink its sweet nectar in the mutually beneficial relationship that is pollination. The sunflower-whose petals capture the very essence of the sun itself and whose sight is stunning against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, whose company is pleasant as it dances in the gentle breeze throughout changing seasons. As it fulfills the very nature of its purposeful life cycle, seeds form and become food for humans, small animals and birds alike.

Numen describes the intelligent and intuitive characteristics each plant intrinsically holds. Indeed the animated life force is recognizable in plants, if we take the time to notice their beauty and magic. Their shapes, sizes, colors, textures, heights- all vastly different characteristics which allow for their unique distinguishing factors. Similarly to personality and character traits recognized in a friend hidden amongst a crowd of people a unique laugh, the color of their hair, their vibrant eyes, and their smile distinguishes them amongst the masses. Identifying and getting to know plants can be seen in the same light. Recognizing a plant just as you would a friend is an excellent way to delve into the vast art of plant medicine, foraging, gardening and plant science.

The film immediately dives into some of the most quintessential concepts of humans in relationship to plants. When considering the most fundamental building block of life on earth: Kenny Ausubel, founder of Bioneers eloquently makes a critical point that” the history of humanity is the history of our relationship to plants.” Dr. Tieraona Low Dog points out the simple yet precise fact that “all people historically and today have relied on plants for their food, medicine and clothing.” Dr. Rocio Alarcon, an Ethno botanist is fascinated by the notion that “humans have been living approximately only five million years; agriculture has been around for only 10,000 years; plants have been around for 400 million years. You can imagine the evolution of these plants to have these incredible rich properties”

Rosemary Gladstar, world renowned author and herbalist explains how “herbalism is oldest system of healing used on the planet; plants are our teachers and we have evolved in relation to them; everything at the base of the food chain comes from plants. Plants were here long before humans and we have evolved in relationship to them” Dr. Hellen Oketch, Chief Scientist at Herb Pharm points out that “plants are the only organism that are able to transmit the energy from the source (the sun) into a form that can be used by humans and also states that t some of biochemistry found in plants is similar to some of the biochemistry found in humans.” Herbalist and healer Raylene Ha’aleelea Kawaiae’a, believes that “plants are our ancestors, our elders and that we should treat our elders well and respect them dearly because they have wisdom to share with us.” Bill Mitchell, ND and Co-founder of Bastyr University, concludes that “Our DNA contains so much material from the plant world. A lot of the DNA, the memory comes from the very origins of life. When life was evolving, most of the green material found in the ocean consisted of Omega 3 oils, the chloroplasts, Omega 3 oils which seem to be the fundamental oil of the universe. The body still needs omega 3 oils as they are the substrate to many chemical reactions. So we are connected to the beginning to life itself.” Matthew Wood, clinical herbalists states that “in the 19th century, herbalism was really part of the marrow of American society and was deeply entrenched and explained that 90 percent of the population knew how to treat themselves with herbs.” The film describes how in the late 1890’s and the early 1900’s in North America, you could walk into any drugstore in America and could buy hundreds of herbal products, especially liquid herbal extracts. Ausubel explains that “ many major natural medicine traditions going back, are all founded in these basic principles that nature is the source of healing” He goes on to explain a divergence, a conflict in medical philosophy between the natural medicine school and the conventional (allopathic) schools of medicine directly affected the future of healthcare in the U.S. and around the world. What was once considered health care quickly became sickcare. Ed Smith explains how “natural medicine began to die out as folk medicine after the second world war because people were enthralled with new science and technology and craved to be modern and how we are moving into a new era.” Rosemary Gladstar notices that less than one hundred years ago, herbal medicine was antiquated and pushed pills instead of herbal medicine and vitamins over fruits and vegetables. She explains that this new found modern medicine claimed to end disease and unfortunately influenced an entire generation to turn to western medicine and completely dismiss thousands of years of herbal plant medicine.

The disconnection has developed out of the fact that we began to not know where our food and medicine comes from and in turned the mindset developed that we are separate from nature. The sad effects of this massive disconnect is that we are now are seeing a rise in chronic illnesses. The disconnect has moved us farther and farther away from fresh air, clean water, healthy soil, safe food and ultimately our historic source for health and wellness-plants. Ausubel points out that “the huge toxicity directly related to drilling oil and all of the thousands of chemicals produced as derivatives are now poisoning the entire web of life, ourselves included. The whole idea of ecological medicine embodies that we are connected to the ecosystems around us and that we can only really be healthy when the land and the water around us are also healthy and if they are not, then it’s going to show up in our physical well being.” Author Mark Shapiro points out that a myriad of affects that have been researched and are documented. He points out the Center for Disease Control surveyed a group of random Americans and found that average American has 148 chemicals in their bloodstreams. Dr. Martha Herbert, Asst. Professor of Neurology at Harvard University states that these chemicals are “Wreaking havoc at the molecular level and then that cascades up to the cellular and organism and ecosystem level” The film goes on to explain the detrimental effects humans have caused throughout the last century but also provides hope in offering practical solutions that all of us are capable of being a part of. I have yet to see a film that sums it up as clearly.

With all this knowledge about the current state of the environment, the world, we are faced with a personal decision. There is a severe dilemma… We must choose a healthier way for the future of the planet. We must make smarter choices about our food, choices about medicine. We must make decisions that will improve the quality of our lives, not decisions which will contribute to our demise. The solutions: limit the use of plastics, shop local, buy local, adopt a diet in which 70 percent includes vegetables including dark leafy greens, a colorful array of fruits and vegetables, use fresh herbs in your daily diet; avoid big box stores, walk instead of drive, grow your own food and medicine, share your knowledge with your friends and neighbors, don’t use toxic cleaners; reduce, reuse and recycle. The larger lesson is to make a conscious effort in our daily lives to understand the interconnectedness and symbiotic relationships occurring all around us- between people and the earth, people and people, and plants, people and animals, , plants and animals and all the connections in between and to implement ways of honoring these connections in our daily lives. It is up to every single one of us to make small changes and adapt for the greater good. Holding reverence for the very thing that brings nourishment to almost all life… plants is the one thing that will truly open our eyes and hearts to healing ourselves and healing the earth.

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.


Well Behaved Women

There are only two articles of clothing in my closet—given to me by two different people—that are exactly the same. They’re tee-shirts with a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich printed across the front: "Well-behaved women seldom make history.” The woman who gave me the first one, bless her heart, is a pilot for Alaska Airlines.

I don't necessarily need or want to make history in a grandiose way, but I do want to make a positive impact on the lives I touch. When I step outside the boxes that make others believe I am well-behaved, to make sense out of nonsense, it seems to benefit me and those around me. If I ask tough questions that allow others to look at life from a different perspective or challenge myself to change my perspective for the good of the whole, am I misbehaving? Perhaps for some. I know that my mother's generation was taught to color inside the lines and do for others before themselves. Many in her generation also believed that if women acted by a singular definition of “ladies,” things would work out for the best. When the best was not achieved, the constructs started to shift. Thank goodness for wonderful and critical pioneers of change.

My sister sent me a link to an article, 15 Things All Badass, Fearless Alpha-Women Do Differently Than Other Types Of Women, in an email this weekend. In the subject box she wrote, "Don't know why I thought of you immediately :-)."

The civil and women's rights movements helped shift our thinking about what well-behaved looks like. In the US, before the 1960s, was it well-behaved to sit at the back of the bus if you were black? Is it well-behaved to keep silent about rape and sexual abuse? Is it well-behaved to try to hide your mental illness? Is turning a blind eye to injustice well-behaved? Those two words “well-behaved” can keep us in a box of perceived moral authority founded on fear. When we step out of those boxes, our boldness can illuminate their limits by shining light on all sorts of oppression.

As I read through the article my sister sent to me, and read about the 15 things all badass, fearless alpha-women do differently from other types of women, I had to smile. I know that of the 15, 13 perfectly describe me. I may work on the other 2. What if we expected all humans to incorporate this list of 15 into their lives, held each other accountable to the list — changing our cultural definition of well-behaved. I think we might all change the course of history.

History making, as with decision making, could and should be something that benefits as many lives as possible. If we stood in solidarity: expecting mutual respect from each other, calling out others when they began threatening the stability of other living beings, mutually cultivating lives of sustainable nourishment, and seeing our inner-selves as an investment more important then things, money, or other physical collections, we would make our world together a better place for all.

What do you do for the sustainable good of all that might be misconstrued as ill-behaved? Can you do more in that area? What does well behaved look like to you?

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.


Eastern Poland Botanicals Trade

Accusations of adulteration and fraudulent behavior in the wake of the New York attorney general’s cease-and-desist letters telling Walmart, GNC, Target, and Walgreens to stop selling certain herbal supplements are nothing new. Nor is sensationalist reporting that ignores the complexity and evolution of the global botanical industry. The way the press portrays this industry matters. Framing controversies in simplistic and outdated terms—in this case resurrecting the old claim that herbal remedies are snake oils foisted off on unsuspecting consumers—keeps us from having the conversations that do matter, about how today’s herbal supplements do work, how their ingredients are sourced, how their effectiveness can be validly tested, and even how the botanical industry affects sustainable agriculture and economic systems.

Given that 85 percent of Americans reported taking some form of nutritional supplement or herbal remedy in 2012, these are the discussions we need to be having. Understanding how plants work in the human body and how to measure whether they are safe and effective is complex, but efforts are under way to do just that. Contamination and adulteration of herbal supplements are real issues, but good companies have systems in place to address them.

Controversy Surrounding Herbal Remedies Testing

The issue of testing plant properties—at the heart of the New York case now being adjudicated in the press—is also not straightforward. In this case, for example, as the industry has been quick to point out, the DNA barcoding tests used to show that no trace of herbs listed were detected is an unproven method for testing finished plant-product ingredients. (DNA barcoding is used, accepted and valuable for identifying fish and other zoological items in foods). And in fact, the botanical industry has stepped forward to address the claims. The United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA) has announced its own investigation to test the products through third-party labs, and it will publicly share the results (see this Natural Products Insider article).

These more nuanced conversations are common within the botanical industry and the media would do well to begin focusing on the factors that influence efficacy rather than continuing to question the fact of it. Most consumers who purchase herbal supplements—$6 billion worth in 2013 (American Botanical Council in Yahoo News) are less interested in sensationalized accounts of supposed fraud, and instead want to know which remedies work and why. They want to know whether the additional cost of some brands is worth it. They want to know what quality control standards are in place and what these standards actually measure. And some want to go beyond that to find out whether the plants in their remedies are cultivated or wild-harvested, if they were grown or collected in the United States or overseas, whether they were overharvested and whether the people who cultivated and processed them were treated fairly.

Focusing on the Issues that Matter in the Botanicals Industry

This investigative depth is increasingly common in the energy and food industries, where groups with different perspectives are beginning to engage in complex discussions about the impacts of different systems of sourcing food or providing energy. These conversations have moved beyond arguing over whether organic is different from nonorganic food to consider most broadly how, through our purchasing power, we impact not only our health and well-being, but the health and well-being of the planet.

This larger discussion about how our choices impact broader environmental health is the conversation that the alternative health movement should be leading. Yet as long as the media continues to define the terms of the debate, reducing it to attacks on the very premise that plants can be used in healing, practitioners and reputable companies are forced to spend their resources proving in bluntest terms that, in fact, their products work.

Given this focus and the skepticism that misinformed reporting creates, companies are rightly wary of revealing more nuanced information about the challenges they face in sourcing and processing hundreds of botanicals from all over the world for fear the media will jump on any more evidence to support their claims that the final products are fraudulent. The result is more secrecy in the industry, and more potential for skepticism.

The Sustainable Herbs Project

One new initiative is seeking to change this dynamic. The Sustainable Herbs Project is preparing to create an interactive documentary website where consumers can go to learn about the industry from a third party, one with nothing to defend but the right to understand. The site will enable users to follow medicinal plants from their point of origin through the supply chain to the consumer. Bringing this supply chain to life with stories from collectors, processors, traders and finished-product producers, with men and women involved in all aspects of the industry, the site will document what it takes to produce high-quality herbal supplements. By providing research-based information consumers need to be able understand the many facets of the herbal industry, the site will enable consumers to draw their own conclusions about efficacy and ethics, rather than relying on conclusions filtered through sensationalized press reports and corporate marketing campaigns.

In this way, we hope to lay the ground for moving beyond old alliances and debates to the more important discussions about quality, sustainability and equity that ultimately determine the value of botanical supplements. These conversations can help us not only feel easier about the herbal products we purchase, but can reveal how choosing certain products and supporting certain practices actively engages us in creating a different world based on the values that matter to us.

Photo by Ann Armbrecht: A wild collector brings wild-collected plants to sell at Runo, a herbal processing company in eastern Poland, near the Białowieża Forest.

The Sustainable Herbs Project is a new project by the producers of the award winning documentary, Numen: the Nature of Plants, the first feature length film on the healing power of plants. We are creating an online interactive documentary following medicinal plants through the supply chain to launch a more educated and responsible consumer movement supporting high quality herbal remedies and sustainable and ethical sourcing.

To make this information available for free, the site creators have launched a Kickstarter Campaign to cover the costs of designing and developing the website/interactive documentary and to birthing an organization to carry on this work. The campaign ends February 25, 2015, so make your donation now!

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.



Around this time of year, I begin to miss the bright, colorful fruits and vegetables that I can find fresh in the farmer’s market during the summer. It seems that eating healthy during the summer is sometimes easier, because there is an abundance of fresh, nutrient-dense foods at your fingertips. But getting health-boosting nutrients, like antioxidants, is important all year long.

If, like me, you need a little mid-winter inspiration, here is a list of healthy, high antioxidant foods to eat this winter season. You might be surprised by some of these rich sources of antioxidants, which include black rice, pecans, and dark chocolate.

The Importance of Antioxidants

Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants like vitamin C, phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Often, the brightest colored fruits and vegetables have the highest antioxidant capacities. Antioxidants help to get rid of harmful reactive oxygen species formed during oxidation, which protects cells from damage. Oxidative damage can contribute to several diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and cancer, and consuming antioxidants can help protect you from these conditions.

Getting Antioxidants in Winter

You have probably heard that blueberries are great antioxidants. These, and other bright, colorful, high antioxidant foods are easy to find in the summer, but you won’t easily find fresh blueberries on the shelf in the winter months? Not to worry; there are plenty of foods easily available all year long that can give you a sufficient supply of antioxidants.

Black rice. As mentioned earlier, brighter, deeper colored foods often contain more antioxidants. This is true for rice, as well. While white rice is not a highly nutritious food, black rice is actually an antioxidant powerhouse, full of phenolic compounds. Most of the antioxidants in rice are found in the rice bran (the outer layer), which is removed in the production of white rice.[1] Pigmented rice, like black rice, has almost six times the amount of phenolic compounds than white rice. Out of all the colors of rice, black rice has the highest level of antioxidant activity.[2] So instead of using white rice in your next recipe, substitute black rice instead for a healthy alternative.

Cranberries are a health food well-known for their use in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Cranberries are harvested in the fall and can be found fresh into the winter months. The tart, almost bitter taste of cranberries is off-putting for some. But this flavor is due to the low sugar content and high antioxidant composition of these berries, which make them healthier than many other fruits.[3] The phenolic compounds found in cranberries allow them to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, fight cancer, and more. And these antioxidant compounds are readily absorbable and easily used by the body after ingestion.[4] Just try not to eat over-sugared preparations of cranberries, like store-bought cranberry juice.

Pecans. It is now known that nuts are actually healthy, and studies show that pecans come out on top in the number of phenolic compounds and antioxidant capabilities compared to other nuts. They are rich in flavanoids, in particular. Consuming antioxidant-rich pecans as part of a meal can help to lower blood lipid and cholesterol levels.[5] Eat pecans as a snack, or toss them on a green winter salad with apples.

Spices. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, which tend to be characteristics of winter cooking, all have enormous health benefits, in large part due to their antioxidant content. For example, cloves and allspice contain large amounts of an antioxidant called eugenol, which is extremely powerful in protecting the body from harm.[6,7] These spices protect against inflammation, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.[6-8] Add a few teaspoons to muffins, quick breads, or your morning oatmeal for a delicious flavor.

Dark chocolate. Fruits and vegetables can be delicious and nutritious, but winter should not be without its treats, as well. If you are in need of a satisfying treat, look no further than dark chocolate. The health benefits of dark chocolate come from its polyphenol content, with these antioxidants aiding in improving memory, boosting mood, lowering blood pressure, and more. Look for high cacao contents for the healthiest option.

This list is just the beginning of healthy, antioxidant foods to eat during the winter. When trying to choose healthy foods, remember bright, natural color is best. Winter squashes in orange and yellow also contain a lot of antioxidants, as do beets, pomegranates, and carrots. What will your favorite antioxidant foods be this winter?


[1] J Food Sci. 2015 Jan 16.

[2] Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Mar;2(2):75-104.

[3] Adv Nutr. 2013 Nov 6;4(6):618-32.

[4] Food Chem. 2015 Feb 1;168:233-40.

[5] J Nutr. 2011 Jan;141(1):56-62.

[6] Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Dec;13(14):1900-6.

[7] Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014 Feb;4(2):90-6.

[8] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:642942.

Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Grazing Cattle

Producers of meat, eggs and dairy from grass-fed animals are invited to participate in a nutrient testing project being conducted this year by MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Evidence continues to emerge showing how much more healthful grass-fed products are, compared to foods produced by high-grain diets in factory farms. If enough producers participate, we hope this project will be a powerful new piece of evidence showing that pastured products are indeed worth premium prices.

Results from the testing will be included in our coverage of this issue later this year. Both sustainable agriculture expert Joel Salatin and best-selling nutrition author Jo Robinson have endorsed the project.

Learn more about this discounted nutrient testing opportunity. If you are buying grass-fed products from local growers, please relay this link to them.

For more background on this important topic, you can read the article which will appear in our April/May issue, The Many Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat.

Photo by Fotolia/Photoiron

Robin Mather is a senior associate editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and the author of The Feast Nearby, a collection of essays and recipes from her year of eating locally on $40 a week. In her spare time, she is a hand-spinner, knitter, weaver, homebrewer, cheese maker and avid cook who cures her own bacon. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or .


Anatomy of a varicose vein 

I have known about varicose veins since our first family reunion that was warm enough for shorts. Along with several other common diseases I was told from a young age that varicose veins was an inevitable condition of my genetics. I am not one to accept my fate, and I tend to subscribe to the philosophy that we must know our enemy in order to defeat him. I spent a lot of time understanding the pathophysiology of the varicose vein. This problem in our circulatory system can happen just about anywhere in the body. The hemorrhoid is merely a varicose vein. A large percentage occur in the legs, however, and this is pretty logical. A varicose vein is simply one in which the wall of the vessel has pushed out and blood pools rather than pumping efficiently on to another part of the body. In the legs this can be the result of weak tissue walls, over exertion or excessive weight. The legs spend a good deal of time pumping blood back up to the heart against the force of gravity. There are pinched places in these veins that act just as a series of locks do in a canal. As the blood passes one of these “locks” the vessel pinches to prevent the flow from sliding backwards in its progress upward. Many different factors can cause these sites to fail, contributing to the problem of varicose veins in the legs.

Five years ago as my pregnant body became heavier in the last trimester I woke to find one angry, bulging vein running through the inside curve of my knee. I was ready for this challenge. Typically, I would advise someone to work from the outside in when working on a varicose vein.

Externally, it is often recommended that one wear compression stockings. This tight tube sock very literally squeezes the blood through the leg and prevents the vessels from sagging. Unfortunately, at the end of the day you will remove the sock and your weakened veins will once again sag painfully. It is a good stop-gap method, but should be used in conjunction with a deeper therapy.

Herbal liniments are extremely useful in toning both skin, muscle and blood vessel walls. Often these liniments are made up of astringent herbs. These herbs precipitate the proteins in our cell walls, resulting in a tightening and toning that can head off “looseness”. A simple liniment of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) massaged into the legs upwards in the direction of the heart can work wonders.

Internally, nettle (Urtica dioica) is indispensable for anyone who is having difficulty with this condition. Not only is it a blood builder, but it is a tissue strengthener. It should be part of a daily habit when someone wants to correct bulging veins.

I had my varicose vein problem for five long years. It bulged constantly. If I stood for any length of time at a farmer’s market or other event the whole area would ache mercilessly. Every month during my cycle the downward pressure would drive me to sit with my feet up as often as possible because of the pain. I was doing so many things “right” from a health standpoint and I wasn’t having much success. That was until I happened to look down one day and discover my salvation.

I noticed that when I stood or walked, my right foot was turned out ever so slightly. The longer I pondered this the more convinced I was that there was a connection. My varicose vein ran along the inside of my right knee where the varicose vein was located.

I decided to try an experiment. I turned my foot straight ahead. Every time I came to a stop, I looked down and corrected my alignment. I walked consciously, forcing my foot to point forward with each step. For two weeks I experienced aching from my hip to my toes as the muscles worked to respond to the change. In just two days, though, I got my best indication that I was on the right track. That varicose vein sunk out of sight into my leg, my skin smoothed as if it had never been there and the ache disappeared.

Do you suffer with painful and unsightly varicose veins? How about hemorrhoids? Please take my advice. Have a friend or loved one look closely at your posture as you stand and walk. Are both of your feet facing directly ahead? Are both of your knee caps facing forward without locking your knees? Do you stand with one hip higher than the other? Is your head directly above your shoulders or is it extended forward or back. Our bodies are designed to carry our weight in a specific way, we are structurally engineered in a beautiful and perfect way. When we alter the way the weight is carried in the structure, the body “makes do” often strengthening some muscles and weakening others to compensate for our inattention. In the case of our circulation, this alteration can put an intense amount of pressure on the blood vessels that are tasked with circulating oxygen, food and toxins that are being shed. The discomfort of fixing a postural issue is well worth the many body systems that will be affected by the improvement!

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. 


As I get older and closer to the end of my life, I watch friends around me entering the same phase. I am incredibly grateful for the years I have lived and don't take this gift lightly.

I am getting more closely acquainted with the process of dying as I watch some around me in the throes of that process. While observing, I am noticing how little we speak about death and how uncomfortable we are with the topic in general. It seems to fall under the controversially taboo category with politics, sex, religion, and income. Perhaps it's time we start talking about these subjects. Honesty, transparency, and ownership will need to guide these conversations if they are to have any effect. One way to start talking about death is acknowledgement. "No one is getting out of here alive, so . . .” I begin to think about the hard facts of these difficult subjects and then connect them to my more personal feelings and goals.

holding hands

Recently I have watched three different people in the process of exiting our planet due to vastly different conditions and with completely contrasting attitudes. Two have passed. Watching these people go (and in the process of going) has helped me to understand a variety of choices we can be fortunate to face when nearing our end.

As her children said, Jean was "glad to have lived a good life and was not afraid to leave it." A member of the Hemlock Society of Washington and a supporter of Compassionate and Choices of Washington, Jean was crystal clear about directing the point in which she was finished living. In her mid-eighties, she had a plan for dying and executed it with thought and intention.

Glenn was in his early sixties and had hoped for many more years on Earth. Because of his long and arduous path toward death, he shared all the words possible with his loved ones. On one of my last visits, I asked Glenn if there was anything more he needed to share. He said, "I love you, man," which as I write this still makes me smile. I got the gift of telling him how much he meant to me in my life as well. When his son called to tell me of his passing, he said that he died in peace surrounded by love.

The third person is my neighbor, who is dying more visibly than the rest of us but has not yet passed. He was diagnosed with ALS four long years ago. I believe his speech stopped two years ago, as did his eating, ability to move, and self-care. With such a brutal and unforgiving disease, he continues to linger on. The word disease seems so fitting for this “dis-ease.”

As I age, I plan to have more intentional conversations about death and dying with my loved ones. During one of my recent conversations, a book was recommended to me. I look forward to reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and others to understand more pathways taken at the nearing ends of our lives.

Are you ready and willing to talk with others about death and dying? Do you have any plans if your life lingers on with disease? Do you live life as if this might be your last day on earth?

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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