Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Mercury: Research on the Environmental Neurotoxin’s Link to Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer's 

The epidemic of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease effects countless numbers of families worldwide, mine included. In an effort to understand the root cause of this relatively new phenomenon, I spent over 80 hours reading through scores of research studies and the data that I uncovered may startle you, but also give you hope. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is not “normal” or our fate. There are clear causative factors which can be mitigated once you understand them. There is a lot of information to cover so this exposé is being presented in three parts to make it easier to digest. The first two parts will reveal causative factors, and the third part will offer solutions.

It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the US currently have Alzheimer’s disease, the 6th leading cause of death in the US. Those numbers don’t include other types of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association further states that 1 in 3 seniors will have one form of dementia or  another when  they die. [1] These numbers are staggering and expected to grow as the baby boomers age. We are so used to the elderly being afflicted by dementia that many accept it’s our fate, as if our minds have an expiration date. However, as the World Health Organization and Alzheimer’s Association explain, older age may be a risk factor, but dementia actually isn’t a normal part of aging. [1, 2]

Much is written about how to diagnose, treat, and manage dementias, as well as warning signs and risk factors. But that’s not what I want to discuss in this 3-part series. Instead, I want to talk about the “elephant in the room” namely the correlations between dementia, heavy metal toxicity, and microbes. Many in the scientific community agree that there should be more research into these areas, but did you know that there already has been a great deal of research completed with compelling results? Probably not, because it’s not routinely discussed in the doctor’s office or mainstream media. This series will take a look at the relationship between dementia and just two toxic metals, mercury and aluminum, as well as the role microbes may play. However, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and copper in our environment may also be entering our bodies and causing harm to our brains and central nervous systems.

Mercury as a Neurotoxin

There is no question that mercury is a neurotoxin, in fact one of the most toxic substances on the planet, with no safe level of exposure. [3] It has been established that mercury can pass through the blood brain barrier, and accumulate in the brain. [4] Studies have found elevated levels of mercury in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients. [5, 6, 7] However, this mercury toxicity may not be detected in a living dementia or A.D. patient because mercury levels in the blood, urine, and hair don’t indicate if there is mercury stored in the brain; an autopsy is the only way to determine this. [7]

In 2010, a team of academic researchers from the US and Germany conducted a comprehensive and systematic review of studies already completed on this topic. They reported “Thirty-two studies, out of forty testing memory in individuals exposed to inorganic mercury, found significant memory deficits”. [6] One of the researchers, Professor Deth, a now retired professor of pharmacology at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences stated, “Mercury is clearly contributing to neurological problems, whose rate is increasing in parallel with rising levels of mercury. It seems that the two are tied together.” [8]

Dr. Boyd Haley, Retired Professor and Chair of the Department  of Chemistry, University of Kentucky has extensively researched the connection between mercury and Alzheimer’s and found “extended mercury exposure to neurons in culture has been shown to produce three of the widely accepted pathological diagnostic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. These are elevated amyloid protein, hyper-phosphorylation of Tau, and formation of neurofibrillary tangles”. [9]

Mercury Amalgam Filling

Amalgam Fillings

Even though the neurotoxic effects of mercury are clearly known, we continue to be exposed to this poisonous substance in various forms. One common source of mercury exposure is through the use of dental amalgam fillings. When a person has amalgam fillings, mercury is continuously emitted as a vapor. This vapor is easily inhaled into the lungs and then absorbed into the  bloodstream. Through the bloodstream mercury reaches various parts of the body, including the brain, and is retained. [10, 11] Some researchers have found a correlation between the number of amalgam fillings present, and the amount of mercury present in the brain. [7, 11, 12]

However, other studies found that the number of amalgams and amount of stored mercury isn’t always easily correlated because some people are able to clear the metal from their brain easier than others; Dr. Haley stated, “the inability to excrete mercury may play a major role in the build up of brain mercury levels over many years.” [13] The elderly tend to have a harder time detoxing.

Patients aren’t the only ones suffering the consequences of these toxic fillings. The Scientific Committee of the European Commission found that, “In most studies available, mercury exposure in dental clinics resulted in significant adverse health effects in dental workers”. Even 30 years later, 15% of dentists and assistants, “showed increased mercury induced neurological deficits” [7] Dr. Matt Young, President of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology has said, "Mercury must seriously be considered as a causal agent of Alzheimer's. It is imperative that the National Institute of Health fund realistic research regarding the mercury Alzheimer's connection, which heretofore has for the most part been ignored.” [14] To make matters worse, “Exposure of patients with amalgam restorations to radio frequency radiation emitted from conventional Wi-Fi devices can increase mercury release from amalgam restorations”. [15] [16]

Most dentists in the US have switched to less toxic materials, but for 150+ years untold numbers of people had mouthfuls of cavities filled with mercury amalgams including our current senior population and aging baby boomers. If you don’t have these toxic fillings you are still being effected by them through the environment. Lack of EPA regulations has allowed dentists to dump tons of mercury into our sewers every year since the beginning of their use. These lax controls have allowed mercury to spread into rivers and streams, into the air through sludge incineration, and even onto cropland when used as fertilizer. Also, the cremation of the deceased with amalgam fillings releases mercury into the air. [17]

The FDA and ADA have continued to downplay these concerns, even as other countries ban or phase out dental amalgams completely; the WHO and United Nations Environmental Programme have both voiced serious concerns about mercury exposure. [18,19] So what does the ADA say about all this? Dr. Mark Breiner, author of Whole Body Dentistry, explains “the American Dental Association remained adamant that mercury in patients’ mouths is safe, and, in 1988 it changed its code of ethics making it unethical for a dentist to recommend the removal of amalgam because of mercury”. [20, 21]

Other Sources of Mercury

Fish and seafood; mercury bioaccumulates so tends to be present in higher amounts in larger, longer-living predatory species

Adult and child flu vaccines contain an ethyl-mercury preservative called thimerosal; other children’s vaccines contained this preservative until the FDA banned it in 1998 [22]

Fluorescent light bulbs, including the now popular energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which international programs wish to phase out [19]

Mercury thermometers and other measuring devices

Burning coal, and mining gold releases mercury into the environment

In past centuries, hats were cured with mercurous nitrate creating a widespread occupational exposure and “mad hatters” syndrome. Those wearing these mercury laced hats also were exposed but at lower levels. Unbelievable as it may seem, from the 17th to 19th centuries, mercury pills and elixirs were common to treat syphilis, and also were routinely prescribed as health and longevity tonics causing deleterious effects and even death.

Additional Causative Factors to Consider and Solutions

The second part of this three-part series will focus on other potential causative factors, namely aluminum and microbes. Week 3 will discuss possible solutions to this crisis.


[1] 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Alzheimer’s Association, pages 17, 26, 10

[2] 10 Facts on Dementia World Health Organization

[3] Bose-O’Reilly S, McCarty K, Steckling N, Lettmeier B (2011) Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Healthcare

[4] Aschner M, Aschner J (1990) Mercury neurotoxicity: mechanisms of blood-brain barrier transport Neuroscience Biobehavioral Review

[5] Mutter J, Naumann J, Sadaghiani C, Schneider R, Walach H (2004) Alzheimer disease: mercury as pathogenetic factor and apolipoprotein E as a moderator Neuroendocrinology Letters

[6] Mutter J, Curth A, Naumann J, Deth R, Walach H (2010) Does Inorganic Mercury Play a Role in Alzheimer’s Disease? Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

[7] Mutter J (2011) Is dental amalgam safe for humans? The opinion of the scientific committee of the European Commission Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

[8] Kornwitz J (2010) Research Suggests Mercury Linked to Dementia News@Northeastern

[9] Haley B (2002) The Relationship of Toxic Effects of Mercury to Exacerbation of the Medical Condition classified as Alzheimer’s Disease

[10] Lorscheider FL, Vimy MJ, Summers AO (1995) Mercury exposure from "silver" tooth fillings: emerging evidence questions a traditional dental paradigm FASB Journal

[11] Health Canada: The Safety of Dental Amalgam (1996), page 4

[12] Eggleston DW, Nylander M (1987) Correlation of dental amalgam with mercury in brain tissue Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry

[13] Haley, B Mercury toxicity: Genetic susceptibility and synergetic effects (2005), pages 540-41

[14] Mercury Linked To Alzheimer’s Disease (2010) International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology

[15] Effect of radiofrequency radiation from Wi-Fi devices on mercury release from amalgam restorations (2016) Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering

[16] Increased Release of Mercury from Dental Amalgam Fillings due to Maternal Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields as a Possible Mechanism for the High Rates of Autism in the Offspring: Introducing a Hypothesis (2016) Journal of Biomedical Physics and Engineering

[17] Dental group defends mercury fillings amid mounting evidence of risks (2016) McClatchy DC

[18] Exposure to Mercury a Public Health Concern (2007) WHO

[19] Minamata Convention on Mercury (2013) UN Environmental Programme, page 46

[20] Breiner M (2011) Whole Body Dentistry: A Complete Guide to Understanding the Impact of Dentistry on Total Health, page 48

[21] American Dental Association Code of Professional Ethics, Section 5.A.1

[22] Vaccine Ingredients - Thimerosol Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She has a deep understanding that food is medicine and "we are what we eat" so we should treat our bodies with respect by eating pure, whole, super nutritious foods. She loves to grow and shop for food, create recipes, cook, take food photos, and share the process with clients, her social media audience, family, and friends. You can learn more about Judy's healing practice at Biofield Healing and enjoy her blog posts at A Life Well Planted. Read all of Judy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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

Start Your Herb Garden Today

mint patch fresh

Whether you are shoveling three feet of snow right now or, like us, just enjoying some pleasantly cool weather with seasonal showers, winter is as good a time as any to start an herb garden (or plan to expand the one you already have). If you live in a warm climate, you can grow herbs outdoors perennially. If you are more weather-challenged, you can keep your herbs in pots indoors, and transfer them outside in spring.

My herb garden is my favorite, most useful, most versatile and easiest to maintain green patch. Once herbs get going, they’re extremely easy to grow and only require minimal care. They don’t need a lot of space or water, and can be tucked into nooks where you can’t grow much else. Many herbs boast of wonderful medicinal properties and a whole array of culinary uses. In fact, for someone just establishing a garden, I’d recommend to get started with herbs. Here is what we currently grow:

Rosemary – Grows as a spiky green arborescent bush. Rosemary has antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties, and is great in enhancing the flavor of roast meat and fish. Can be propagated by placing cuttings (without blossoms) in a jar of water in a sunny space.

Sage – Sage tea is great for both colds and coughs, and digestive complaints including gas and stomach pain. Leaves can also be used in a variety of meat, fish and pasta dishes. We got our sage as a seedling from a nursery, and it took months to really get going, but now it’s a mighty bush.

Hyssop – I love this Mediterranean herb in cooking, and use it in pasta sauce similarly to how I would use basil. Hyssop sprawls once it gets going, and soon you’ll have it in abundance.

MintMint has a wonderful fresh smell and is great in teas. Our personal favorite get-well tea for colds is a sage-mint combo with a sprig of rosemary. Mint is also thought to aid stomach pain and indigestion, and can offset nausea. There are several varieties of mint with subtle differences in flavor – we currently grow two. Mint, like rosemary, can be grown from cuttings placed in a jar of water until they take root.

Lavender – Lavender is a new addition to our herb garden. Many proponents of natural medicine are familiar with lavender essential oil, but the fresh leaves, too, have antiseptic, antibacterial properties, and lavender tea is considered to be a soothing, calming infusion, great for treating insomnia. I personally don’t need any reason to grow lavender other than its delightful smell. If you grow lavender from cuttings, those need to be placed directly in moist potting soil, rather than in water, to take root.

A flowering herb patch will attract bees and other useful pollinators to your garden. If you have an excess of herbs, you can always dry them by hanging them up in bunches, in or out of doors, and store them in airtight containers for later use. You can make herb-infused olive oil by putting sprigs of fresh or dried herbs in the bottle. You can give away bunches of fresh herbs, or pretty containers of dried herbs, as gifts. You can make satchels of dried herbs, particularly lavender, to scent your closets or other confined spaces. Herbs can also be used to scent homemade soaps, body scrubs, lotions and other artisan body care products. Finally, if you’re daring and adventurous and have a lot of herbs, you can try your hand at making essential oils. The possibilities are endless!

So take a leap and start an herb garden today. Whether you end up with a full-blown patch, or just a few pots on the windowsill, I can guarantee you will enjoy it.  

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

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

Was Four Thieves Stolen?

Danse Macabre 

History of Four-Thieves Vinegar

When researching the history of Four Thieves Vinegar I realized there are many more versions of this folklore than I expected. The reason there are so many versions is because the story itself dates back centuries. A popular recount is that during an outbreak of the plague in Marseilles around 1772, four robbers ransacked the sick and dying. These four thieves, even though exposed to the plague, didn’t fall sick because they used a medicated vinegar topically. They were eventually caught and in exchange for leniency by the court they shared their prophylactic recipe which became known as Marseilles Vinegar and also Four Thieves Vinegar. The use of protective medicinal vinegars dates back even further to the 14th century bubonic plague; I’m sure these four opportunistic criminals didn’t come up with the bright idea all on their own.

The original recipe was handed down for centuries and many variations were the result. The Scientific American Cyclopedia of Receipts, Notes and Queries published the following in 1900.

Four Thieves Recipe

In another book called Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy, Gattefosse claims that the following is the original Four Thieves recipe which hung in the Museum of Paris in 1937.

Take three pints of strong white wine vinegar, add a handful of each of wormwood, meadowsweet, wild marjoram and sage, fifty cloves, two ounces of campanula roots, two ounces of angelic, rosemary and horehound and three large measures of champhor. Place the mixture in a container for fifteen days, strain and express then bottle. Use by rubbing it on the hands, ears and temples from time to time when approaching a plague victim.

The late Dr. John R. Christopher (1909 - 1983) when writing about the medicinal value of garlic pointed out, “Garlic was the principal ingredient in the famous Four Thieves Vinegar which was adapted so successfully at Marseilles for protection against the plague when it prevailed there in 1772. This originated, it is said, with four thieves who confessed that, while protected by the liberal use of aromatic garlic vinegar during the plague, they plundered the dead bodies of the victims with complete safety”.

Four Thieves Morphed into Oil and More

There is no doubt that the term Four Thieves sprung up centuries ago to describe an herbal vinegar tincture containing plenty of garlic. Just like many other herbal traditions, Thieves Vinegar recipes have been happily created, shared and enjoyed by herbalists and wise women in the kitchen ever since; cottage industries also sprung up to share this valuable medicine with the community. In relatively more recent years, essential-oil blends were created and given the similar name Four Thieves Oil or just Thieves Oil even though these oil blends didn’t have that much in common with the ancient vinegar recipes. One company, Young Living, has produced an entire line of Thieves products including essential oils, soaps, cleaners, mints, toothpaste, etc. which don’t resemble the original recipe at all.

Herbal Medicine

This would be all well and good, except that Young Living trademarked the name Thieves, so now no one else can call their products by that name or any name even similar. The four thieves making this recipe famous took advantage of the sick and dying, and as the story goes weren’t locked up back in the day. Now hundreds of years later the name, that has become synonymous with their traditional recipe, has been put behind lock and key.

Was Four Thieves Stolen?

So now this begs the question, “was four thieves stolen?”. The herbal community believes so. They are still reeling from a similar trademark debacle because another traditional recipe, Fire Cider, was trademarked by Shire City. I wrote a post for Mother  Earth News two years ago entitled, Fire Cider Original Recipe and Controversy, which explains how Rosemary Gladstar, the godmother of modern day herbalism, coined the term Fire Cider. Throughout her life, and still to this day, Rosemary freely shares the beloved recipe that she created with her students at the California School of Herbal Studies in the early 1980’s. If she wished to sell it, Rosemary can’t legally use the term Fire Cider to describe her own recipe! This also effects longstanding cottage businesses that have used the term for decades. Some may ask, why didn’t she trademark it? To Rosemary and other herbalists, myself included, trademarking the terms Fire Cider and Four Thieves is like trademarking Chicken Soup or Elderberry Syrup. It’s concerning that the trademark office didn’t do more research before handing out these trademarks to ensure generic terms stay in the public domain. Rosemary, along with Mary Blue, Nicole Tells and Kathryn Langelier (aka as the Fire Cider Three), is working with the US Patent office to create a master list of traditional terms that their office needs to be aware of before more of the people’s heritage are stolen. The hope is to free the terms Fire Cider and Thieves, and to set a legal precedent to protect generic  and traditional herbal terms from trademarks in the future.

If you would like to help these causes or just learn more, please visit the Facebook page Traditions Not Trademarks or

I hope you've enjoyed learning about the history of Four Thieves and the current state of affairs. Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She has a deep understanding that food is medicine and "we are what we eat" so we should treat our bodies with respect by eating pure, whole, super nutritious foods. She loves to grow and shop for food, create recipes, cook, take food photos, and share the process with clients, her social media audience, family, and friends. You can learn more about Judy's healing practice at Biofield Healing and enjoy her blog posts at A Life Well PlantedRead all of Judy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.



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

Crafts and Homemade Body Products


Many people thinking of spinning, weaving, knitting, soap-making and other home-based crafts as fancy hobbies rather than attributes of simple, self-reliant living, but it all depends on the context. You may certainly spend a lot of money, if you wish, on soap and candle molds, essential oils and costly equipment, or you may do things very simply, actually saving money in the process.

I have made wonderful homemade soap with old oil I had absolutely nothing else to do with, and I have made candles from paraffin drippings which were otherwise absolutely useless. I have unraveled old sweaters and used the recycled yarn for making new things, and utilized tattered felted yarn as doll hair. Basically, as most of the time I can’t afford hobbies which cost money, I get creative with what I have on hand.

I view proficiency in traditional skills as a kind of security fund: today it may be very cheap and easy to go into a store and buy whatever you might fancy, but tomorrow it may just happen that people who can make their own will find themselves very glad of it. This goes for knitting, sewing, spinning, basket-weaving and any craft you might think of.

A good place to start would be to try your hand at making your own natural body care products such as body butters, balms, scrubs, lotions and deodorants, which are very satisfying and usually very quick to make, and great for personal use, as holiday or hostess gifts when packed in pretty jars, or even as a potentially profitable home-business venture – not to mention they are a lot healthier than anything commercially available!

Like many other artisan wares, body care products can be as simple or complicated, as cheap or expensive as you like to make them. Here are some easy-to-make recipes which are my personal favorites:

Super Simple Salt Scrub


1 cup sea salt
1\2 cup good quality oil such as almond, coconut or grapeseed
Several drops of your preferred essential oils (optional)

Mix everything, place in a jar and use in the shower for gentle exfoliation and moisturizing.

Coconut Sugar Scrub

Mix coconut oil and sugar in equal proportions (for example, 1\2 cup coconut oil and 1\2 cup sugar).

Add a dash of lemon zest, vanilla or crushed dried herbs (optional). It will make your body scrub smell delicious!

Mix, place in jar and use in the shower.

Oatmeal Honey Facial Scrub


1\2 cup oatmeal, finely ground
1\4 cup honey, preferably raw – honey has some wonderful healing properties and is very good for the skin.
1\4 cup olive, almond or coconut oil

Mix, gently rub into skin, let sit for a couple of minutes and wash off.

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

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

Educating Children in the Spirit of Simple Living


One of the most beautiful things about simple living is how child-friendly it is. Closeness to nature, a slow pace of life and an abundance of simple, practical activities are just the thing for children of all ages (and adults, too). Young and old alike enjoy digging in the dirt, playing with baby chicks or shaping dough into loaves of bread.

I don't think education, however inspiring and individually adapted, should turn into running in circles around the child and making sure there's no boring moment. I see many parents driven by the famous "Mom, I'm bored!” especially during summer vacations - so much that they feel compelled to entertain their children 24/7. As soon as the child says he or she is bored, they will be immediately taken to the mall, the zoo, the swimming pool, or signed up to any number of extra-curricular activities.

Boredom, while often seen as unproductive, can in fact be of infinite use. A bored mind is a clear, unoccupied mind, which can, when provided with the right tools, produce great things. Inventions, books, scrapbooks, crafts, paintings, new recipes, creative role-playing games, and even various household projects have been known to grow out of a seemingly nonconstructive, "bored" state of mind.

Learn like Pollyanna

Remember Aunt Polly?

'... At nine o'clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music.'

Some home economics is still taught in kindergartens and schools, though it went out of fashion - but even if there were a lot of home economics classes, the best place to learn things like that would still be at home, where cooking, sweeping the floors, sewing, mending, knitting and working in the garden occur as part of our day-to-day lives. A little child learns a lot simply by observing an apron-clad mother, and later by participating in simple tasks.

After the aforementioned speech from Aunt Polly, Pollyanna exclaims, 'Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to - to live... I mean living - doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills... and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere...'

I heartily agree, perhaps because I'm such a dreamer and always loved unstructured time as a child myself. It was not laziness or boredom - it was necessary, at least for me, to encourage creativity. The most unusual projects sprang up from that "doing nothing" time.

In the past, and I'm saying this without idealizing or waxing nostalgic, it was easier for children to participate in the daily doings of a household. People grew and raised their own food, made their clothes, walked over to visit friends. Today, life may be materially easy, but it is more complicated. Now children spend their days in schools, cars, after-school activities, and in front of the screen.  All of these are artificial environments, producing nothing real in the way of a genuinely useful, satisfying project that is so beneficial for the little child. And I don't know about you, but here in Israel people are constantly clamoring to have government-funding for ever longer school days, to solve the problem of what to do with their children in the afternoon.  

We strive to live gently, slowly and simply. The crazy pace of our world often doesn't allow parents to get their children to participate in day-to-day life, because they are so bent on doing everything as quickly and efficiently as possible - and little children do slow you down. Also, children are often shuttled off to too many activities to leave them any time for participating in simple life and simple chores. 

My children, from a very young age, were taught to pick up their toys, gather eggs, help out in the kitchen, help sweep the front porch, do simple cleaning tasks (wipe the windows, etc) and hang up small items of laundry. Work is not a punishment - being allowed to participate in the adult life is a treat, an honorable badge of being a big kid and Mommy's helper. I'm not saying they do all the above with a 100%-success rate, but I do try to keep them involved on a consistent basis. 

When your children are very young, it’s perhaps more effective to do all the work yourself. But I know that some years down the road, I will be very glad for allowing my daughters to hang up their own underwear, taking about five minutes for each item. 

From Your Own Hands: Self Reliant Projects for Independent Living

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna's books are on her Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog. Read all Anna's Mother Earth News posts here.

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


California Poppy: A Cooling Sedative Herb for Relaxation

herbal self care

This article is excerpted from the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course at the Herbal Academy.

Unfortunately, the word stress has become commonplace in our day-to-day language. How many times have you felt stressed or said that you were “stressed out” this past month? We use the word “stress” for anything from a feeling of being run down to severe overwhelm to mild frustration. Though its overuse may diminish its meaningfulness, we should not underestimate the detrimental effects stress can have on our bodies, our minds, and our emotions.

Fortunately, there are many herbs that can help with symptoms of stress and bring us to a more relaxed state. In the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course, we have identified a number of herbal allies to support our overall health and wellbeing. Here, we take a look at California poppy, a helpful sedative herb that can be used to manage our stress response.

First, a Look at Sedatives

Herbs are often classified into actions—the effect that an herb is believed to have on the human body. A sedative herb, also known as a relaxant, calms and soothes the nervous system, and can help induce sleep.  

The stress response is likely to present as signs and symptoms such as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, palpitations, poor digestion, insomnia, and anxiety amongst others. Sedatives are often used to help a person who is unable to sleep because of stress causing these problems.

california poppy

California Poppy for Relaxation

This delightful herb is a great choice for someone who is unable to stop overthinking and worrying about things or simply cannot switch off their thoughts. Being a sedative herb, California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham) is commonly employed to improve sleep and rest. So if you find yourself counting sheep at night, it might be time to add California poppy into your bedtime routine.

Interestingly enough, California poppy is in the same family as the opium poppy; however, California poppy contains different alkaloids that produce a mild sedative effect instead of a narcotic effect. The group of alkaloids in California poppy are much less potent than morphine and codeine.

California poppy has been used to address a variety of mental complaints including depression, anxiety, melancholia, nervous agitation, hyperactivity, restlessness, insomnia, neurasthenia, and nervous tension (Tierra, 1988; Tierra, 1998; Mars, 2001; Romm, 2009; Marciano, 2015). It can be used to reduce stress, aid in relaxation, and to calm the spirit (J. Snow, personal communication, 2010).

California poppy is said to exhibit a dose-dependent effect, such that lower doses are predominantly anxiolytic, and higher doses have a sedative effect (Romm, 2009), while excessive use may lead to a hangover effect (Mars, 2001). Many practitioners use California poppy in lower doses, combined in formulations with other nervine herbs (Abascal & Yarnell, 2004). In a clinical trial with over 250 patients, researchers studied the efficacy of a French formula (Sympathyl®), containing California poppy, hawthorn flower (Crataegus laevigata), and magnesium, for treating mild to moderate anxiety disorders. Participants taking the California poppy formulation had significantly improved anxiety symptoms after three months compared to those taking placebo (Hanus et al., 2003).

If you have California poppy growing in your area, harvest the plant when it is just beginning to flower. Tincture the plant fresh, or use for infusions. A latex-like solution present in the leaf, stem, root, and flower is the target to capture in tinctures and infusions.

** For California poppy’s dosage and safety considerations, please consult a clinical herbalist or reference the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course by the Herbal Academy.

California poppy is just one of many herbal aides that can be helpful in overcoming symptoms of stress and managing your stress response. If you are interested in exploring more relaxing botanicals and approaches for stress management, we welcome you to join us at the Herbal Academy in our Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course.

Discover What “Herbal” Self-Care Really Means

Discover What “Herbal” Self-Care Really Means

Herbal self-care is much more than just taking herbs when we are frazzled or blue or tired. The Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course explores stress and its effects on wellbeing and then delves into the holistic approach to self-care for stress management. You’ll walk away with an understanding of the nutritional choices, lifestyle practices, and herbs that can transform your response to stress and enhance your wellbeing.

Learn more and register for the class.

Marlene Adelmann is the Founder and Director of the Herbal Academy, international school of herbal arts and sciences, and meeting place for Boston-area herbalists. Through the school, Marlene has brought the wild and wonderful world of plant medicine to thousands of students across the globe. Learn more about the Herbal Academy at


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Boosting Health in Everyone’s Hometown

Good health means more than good medical care.

Many other things affect how long we live and how healthy we feel — including conditions in our housing and neighborhoods, the social and physical environment of our communities, economic opportunities and the levels of stress in our lives. According to a landmark University of Wisconsin study, the state of our overall health is attributable to four major factors:

• 20 percent - access to and quality of clinical health care
• 40 percent - social and economic factors in our lives
• 30 percent - individual factors and behaviors
• 10 percent - the physical environment in which we live

The good news is that we can improve these factors to boost everyone’s health, no matter where they live. Last year, Kaiser Permanente and Project for Public Spaces released a detailed report of peer-reviewed research making the case that healthy communities foster healthy people. Addressing these issues is the point of a Centers for Disease Control-funded initiative to improve community health — the National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention program, known as Partnering4Health.

As part of the project, the American Planning Association, the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), the National WIC Association, Directors of Health Promotion and Education  and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association are using community-based solutions to boost health for Americans of all incomes, ethnicities and regions.

They are working to reduce a 21st century epidemic—preventable chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and many forms of cancer—by helping communities increase physical activity, nutritious eating, breastfeeding and other healthy ways of living. Recently more than 200 community leaders from among the 97 communities participating in the program came together in Denver to share best practices and success stories. “There’s more to health than great medical care,” declared Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention of the America Heart Association at the meeting.

A spate of recent medical research shows that your zip code can be a more accurate measure of your prospects for a healthy life than your genetic code. Sanchez pointed out that people living in certain low-income, racially segregated areas of Chicago live 16 years less, on average, than those in affluent city neighborhoods because of disparities in income, employment, social support and education.

More real-world evidence for this place-based approach to health was found in the stories that community health advocates brought to Denver from their hometowns:

Kenosha, Wisconsin: A Prescription for Better Health

Recent medical studies suggest that healthy habits can be as effective as some medicines in reducing and preventing many prevalent diseases. Concerned that Kenosha’s health statistics rank among the lowest in the state, local Haitian-American physician Junith Thompson worked with local public health groups to design RX pads prescribing patients to eat more fresh vegetables, take up new physical activities, set aside daily time for reflection and other positive lifestyle changes. Distributed by the Kenosha Health Improvement Project, they are now used at a number of clinics and health agencies in southeastern Wisconsin.

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana: Listen to the Music

“In Louisiana, you have to reach people through their culture,” explains Mary Schultheis, project supervisor for Healthy Plaquemines Parish Now.  In her community, just outside New Orleans, that means music. So she adapted popular songs into public service announcements that promote breastfeeding.

A new recording of the classic Mardi Gras song “Iko Iko,” now trumpets, “Hey, now. Hey, now. Mothers are breastfeeding!” New lyrics to the ‘70s soul tune “Mr. Big Stuff,” shout out: “It’s the right stuff. We’re trying to make healthy babies.” Another thrust of the organization is to connect more people to existing resources for healthier living such as WIC programs, farmers markets, food shelves and faith-based health organizations.

East St. Louis, Illinois: Health on the Corner

Many residents of this predominantly African-American city buy their groceries at corner stores. That’s why Make Health Happen! — a coalition of health, government, business and civic groups — engaged six shop owners to stock more nutritious foods. One store was able to add a cooler for fresh fruits and veggies thanks to a donation from the regional YMCA. Another worked with a local graffiti artist to create a mural showcasing the store’s new selection of healthy offerings.

Lowering the cost of healthy foods through coupons accepted at groceries and farmers markets also boosts wholesome eating throughout this city of 27,000.

Loudoun County, Virginia: Water as One Answer to Childhood Obesity

Since many kids swill sugar-laden beverages throughout the day, Loudoun County’s health department introduced “It’s Water Time” to encourage elementary and Head Start students to drink more water instead of juice or sweetened beverages.

Captain Hydro, a flying penguin toting a water bottle, extols water as the best thirst-quencher in coloring books and other materials for kids and their parents. Promoting breastfeeding, offering healthier options in vending machines and increasing access to nutritious food are other strategies being used to reduce childhood obesity in this suburban community.

Wichita Falls, Texas: Making WIC Easier to Use

The number of people involved in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program was falling in Wichita County, Texas, which potentially means a less healthy community. A big part of the problem was confusion among both shoppers and grocery store clerks about what foods were eligible for purchase with the benefits. The county public health office and local WIC office worked together training clerks about the program and distributed handy shopping guides to WIC participants.

Transportation was another problem, especially in reaching a local farmers market where special deals were available with WIC coupons. So now fruit and vegetable vendors are also setting up shop at the local WIC office where women enroll and visit for benefits.

Tattnall County, Georgia: A Friendly Place for Breastfeeding

Mommy & Me, Healthy as Can Be is a new program to make breastfeeding easier and more acceptable throughout this rural county. More than 50 local businesses have become breastfeeding friendly locations thanks to a joint effort by the Southeast Health District and the Partner for Health program at Meadows Regional Medical Center.  The medical center also works more closely with the area WIC office now.

More Success Stories from Michigan to Texas

That’s not all. Trailnet is pursuing an ambitious plan to connect St. Louis with a network of safe, comfortable, protected bikeways, which will encourage people of all ages, incomes and physical shapes to bike around the city. Tarrant County WIC in Fort Worth sponsors a breastfeeding bootcamp for new moms, with personal instruction. Kansas City, Missouri, features mobile markets, which bring healthy food to underserved neighborhoods by bus with Rollin’ Grocer and with Truman Medical Center’s Mobile Market.

Choosing Health in Lake County — serving a rural area in Western Michigan where 51 percent of kids live in poverty — aims to make “the healthy choice the easy choice” with farmers markets, increased access to WIC programs and healthy food options labeled in groceries and restaurants.

While funding for this CDC program ends in late 2017, “there’s no sense that the work is over for these groups,” noted Elaine Auld, CEO of SOPHE, who was one of the Denver event’s organizers. “People have really rolled up their sleeves so that many of these projects will continue, funded by other sources such as hospitals with their community benefits work.”

A number of pressing public health issues surfaced at the Denver conference, which will influence the ongoing work of this emerging healthy communities movement around the country.

• “Poor health cannot be explained just by individual behavior,” noted Monte Roulier, president of Community Initiatives, which helped put on the conference. “Place really does matter. How do we change physical, economic, social and cultural environments to improve people’s health?”

• Inequality cannot be overlooked as a health issue. Equity came up often from speakers and in audience discussions. “These conversations are daunting. It’s easy to say, ‘what can I possibly do in the face of all this? How does a farmers market fix it?” said David Gibbs, a senior associate at Community Initiatives, who is African-American and called the conversations at this meeting notable in their depth. Many participants from low-income communities emphasized that, yes, they need more community gardens, bike trails, and good food options, but unemployment, poverty, crime, and gentrification also impact health issues, too.

• “The action is local now” was a common refrain heard throughout the four-day conference as news from Washington, D.C. foretold massive cuts in domestic programs, including health. “There is a positive spirit in communities that we can still get things done,” Auld observed.

• Local success depends on deep community engagement. The expertise and resources of national organizations is critical, but what’s most important is that local people feel equipped to make their communities healthier.  When they feel ownership of these projects, the results are more far-reaching and lasting.

• The power of story.  While scientific evidence is mounting in favor of this community-powered approach to health, real-life stories of everyday people in a wide variety of communities are just as important in capturing the attention of the American public — not to mention healthcare professionals, government agencies and funding institutions.

Jay Walljasperauthor of the Great Neighborhood Book and America’s Walking Renaissancewrites, speaks and consults about creating healthy communities. Read all of Jay’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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