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8 Natural Mosquito Repellents

by Michelle Schoffro Cook

 

Before you grab that DEET-based mosquito repellent, consider using a natural option instead. DEET, also known as diethyl-meta-toluamide, by any other name still stinks. And research proves that the main ingredient in commercial mosquito repellents leaves more than a bad odor.  According to a Duke University study, it damages brain cells, can cause behavioural changes, and can have harmful interactions with some medications.  The scientists also observed that it caused brain cell death in animals frequently exposed to or after prolonged use of DEET.

Additional research found that up to 15 percent of DEET is absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream.  According to safety data sheets on diethyl-meta-toluaminde, the toxic effects of this chemical include: reproductive disturbances, genetic material mutations, and central nervous system disorders.

There’s no need to suffer long-term and serious health consequences to ward off pesky mosquitoes.  Choose a natural alternative that’s proven to work as effectively as DEET or in some case, MORE effectively than DEET.

Here are some natural options:

1. Catnip—You can drive cats wild and make mosquitoes run in terror, according to research at Iowa State University which found that the essential oil found in the herb catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

2. Citronella—the old standby. Use only pure essential oil of citronella—not fragrance oil.  Oils purchased in bulk for burning are not adequate for applying topically to your skin.  For your skin it is best to get a high quality citronella essential oil from a natural food store.  While it’s not as effective as catnip, it’s still a good option.

3. Garlic—eat lots of fresh garlic—mosquitoes can’t stand the stuff.

4. Lavender essential oil smells great and is a commonly used and effective mosquito repellent.  It’s best diluted in a carrier oil like apricot kernel, sweet almond, or coconut oil.  If you can find organic soy oil, it is also a good option since it also keeps mosquitoes at bay.

5. Neem oil or neem seed oil:  According to a study by the US National Research Council neem oil is more effective than DEET.  The results were confirmed by scientists at the Malaria Institute in India and in research cited in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. Neem is a plant that grows in India.

6. Organic soy oil—Research cited in The New England Journal of Medicine found that repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as DEET-containing repellents. Soy oil is inexpensive and easy to find, making it an excellent choice. Plus, it is an excellent body moisturizer. As an aside, research shows that an ingredient in soy can slow the growth of body hair when applied topically.  Choose organic soy oil if possible since many soy crops are now genetically-modified.

7. Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)—New research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine shows that lotus is an effective mosquito repellent and also helps kill mosquito larvae.  Since lotus grows in water it is a good option as a natural repellent in backyard ponds and water features rather than something that is applied topically.

8. Black pepper (Piper nigrum)—New research from the same study shows that an extract (the study used an alcohol extract but black pepper essential oil would probably work too) of black pepper is effective in repelling mosquitoes.

I mix about 30 drops of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper (total, so about 6 drops of each essential oil) into about 30 mL of an unscented and natural oil or moisturizer, which I keep handy in a jar. I rub a bit onto my skin prior to heading outdoors. You can also mix 30 drops of these essential oils into organic soy oil for extra protection. Always do a 24-hour skin test to be sure you don’t have sensitivities to any of the oils.

7 Ways to Help Honey Bees

by Eve Fox

The bad news is that our honey bees are dying. U.S. bee keepers lost a shocking 31% of their hives this winter, as they have for the past seven years in a row. Although the exact causes of Colony Collapse Disorder are not 100% certain, what is crystal clear is that we’re speeding towards the disastrous point at which we will not have enough bees to pollinate our crops.

The good news is that there are a number of easy (even enjoyable) ways YOU can help honey bees to survive and, hopefully, to thrive. And none of them involve rushing out to buy protective mesh clothing and a smoke can!

Here are seven simple ways to help our favorite pollinators out.

1. Add your name to the petition urging the EPA and USDA to ban neonicotinoids, a widely used class of agricultural pesticides that is highly toxic to bees and believed to play a crucial role in colony collapse disorder. The EU has just enacted a ban on neonicotinoids and we must follow Europe’s lead as there is literally no time to waste.

2. Let dandelions and clover grow in your yard. Dandelions and clover are two of the bees’ favorite foods – they provide tons of nourishment and pollen for our pollinators to make honey and to feed their young.  And these flowers could not be any easier to grow – all you have to do is not do anything.

3. Stop using commercial pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers – these chemicals are harmful to the bees. And they’re also harmful to you, your family, and our soil and water supply, too. Definitely not worth it!

4. Eat more honey and buy it from a local bee keeper. This is a pretty sweet way to help the bees (sorry, I can never resist a good pun.) Unlike big honey companies, local bee keepers tend to be much more concerned about the health of their bees than they are about their profits. And their products do not have to travel far to reach your kitchen, either. You can almost always find local honey at your farmers’ market and it may also be available at your local health food or grocery store. It may cost a little more than the commercial options, but it’s well worth it.

5. Plant bee-friendly flowers. This not only helps the honey bees, it will also make your yard more beautiful and can also provide you with a bunch of great culinary herbs.In addition to the dandelions and clover I mentioned above, bees love many other flowers, including: bee balm, borage, asters, lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, honey suckle, poppies, sunflowers, marigolds, salvia, butterfly bush, clematis, echinacea,  blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, fennel, yellow hyssop, milkweed, goldenrod, and many more.

You can also just buy one of those pre-mixed packets of wildflowers with good results. And, if you’re ever in doubt, choose native plants as they will be best suited to the climate you live in and can help support the bees throughout the season.6. Buy organic. Organic food and fibers like cotton and hemp are produced without the use of commercial pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides, making them inherently more bee-friendly than conventionally grown products.
7. Share this post with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to help build more “buzz” for honey bees.

Top 10 House Plants that Clean the Air

Areca Palm

Also known as yellow palm or butterfly palm, the areca palm is one of the most popular and graceful palms. It is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins, and is beautiful. The areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Raphis Palm

This large palm has fans six to 12 inch wide with four and 10 thick, shiny leaves. It is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects and is great for improving indoor air quality. It grows slowly and is easy to maintain. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Bamboo Palm

Easy to care for and a popular variety. The bamboo palm pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air. This palm is also one of the top-rated plants tested for the removal of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight.

Rubber Plant

Bred for toughness, it will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures, making it an excellent house plant. This plant is easy to grow and is great for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment, particularly formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.

Dracaena “Janet Craig”

The dark-green leaves of dracaena “Janet Craig” make it an attractive plant. It is one of the best plants for removing trichloreoethylene. These plants can tolerate neglect and dimly lit environments. This plant does best in indirect, medium sunlight. It will tolerate dimly lit areas, but growth will be slow.

English Ivy

English Ivy is often used as ground cover in public atriums or lobbies. But to add interest, try growing it in topiary form or in hanging baskets. They are easy to grow and adapt to a variety of home environments. However, they do not generally do well in high temperatures. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.

Pothos

One of the primary reasons Pothos is popular is it can tolerate lower light, lower humidity and cooler temperatures than many other plants. Pothos are rated one of the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins. Pothos also goes by a few other names: devil’s ivy, pothos ivy and has a few cultivars. The most common variety “Golden Pothos” gets the most use in the interior business. Two other varieties are “Marble Queen” with a streaky white on green and “Jade” which is green. Pothos does not like wet feet and the soil should not stay too moist. Every so often a Pothos could use a good pruning – but prune selectively. This will also promote new growth. Best in indirect, medium sunlight but it will also tolerate very low light.

Ficus Alii

This is a new ficus variety that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Its slender dark green leaves make it an extremely attractive plant. Its ability to help purify the air, ease of growth and resistance to insects make it an excellent choice for the home or office. It is much less finicky than the Ficus Benjamina. Like all species of ficus, expect some leaf drop until the plant adjusts to its new location. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.

Boston Fern

Ferns are probably one of the oldest groups of plants. Many have been found as fossils dating back to prehistoric times. The Boston Fern’s stiff fronds arch out, drooping downward as they age. It is grown strictly for its foliage for it does not produce flowers. It is best displayed in a hanging basket or sitting upon a pedestal. As an indoor plant, the Boston Fern requires a certain amount of attention. It must have frequent misting and watering, or the leaves will quickly turn brown and begin to drop. It is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment. Best in indirect, medium sunlight.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

An outstanding foliage plant that also produces beautiful white spathes, the peace lily should always be included when seeking a variety of indoor plants. This plant has a high transpiration rate and enjoys the large water reservoir that hydroculture offers. It possesses all the qualities to make it one of the best indoor plants. The Peace Lily excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Its ability to remove air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.

Natural Remedies for Receding Gums

Receding gums is often one of the first signs that warn you of gum disease. When gums start receding, they create a space between your teeth and the gums and this will cause bacteria to enter the gums and start damaging the tissues.

Many reasons like poor dental hygiene,periodontal disease, heredity, hormone imbalances and aggressive brushing of the teeth are some reasons associated with this condition. Receding gums need not always be treated in a dentist’s office. There are some natural remedies that can be used at home in order to control the deterioration of the gums and teeth.

Natural Remedies For Receding Gums

Green Tea

Rich in antioxidants, green tea is known as the elixir of health and can be used for treating and preventing the onset of a number of diseases. Taking green tea will help in reducing the damage caused to the teeth as a result of receding gums. Green tea reduces inflammation of the gums and also helps in destroying the bacteria in the mouth that can cause periodontal problems. Take a cup of green tea in the morning to keep your gums and teeth strong.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil can be used in the same manner as a mouthwash for removing toxic substances and plaque buildup in the gums, which too can cause the gums to recede.

Take a quarter cup of sesame oil and swish your mouth thoroughly with this. Warming the oil slightly can help as it can help in better absorption and removal of toxins and plaque. The oil will also give a protective coating to your gums and teeth and prevent recession of gums and dental decay.

Aloe Vera

Aloe is an anti-inflammatory and anti bacterial agent. Take the fresh gel from the aloe plant and use this for brushing your teeth. You can also use aloe gel as a mouthwash every day morning and after meals to protect your teeth and gums from decay and prevent receding of gums. Aloe also helps in healing of damaged gums and infections.

Coconut Oil

Being antimicrobial in nature, coconut oil too is a great remedy for treating receding gums and the cause behind it. Take some virgin coconut oil and swish your mouth with it after brushing your teeth.

This will give your teeth the necessary cover for protection against disease causing bacteria and germs and also prevent food particles and germs from sticking between and on the teeth and causing decay. Coconut oil can be used every day as a prevention method for receding gums and also for general oral hygiene.

Lemon Oil

Lemon has mild antiseptic qualities and is also an excellent antibacterial agent. However, direct application of lemon every day is not recommended as it can corrode the enamel.Lemon oil can be acquired or prepared at home by infusing olive oil with lemon for a few weeks.

This oil can be used for swishing your mouth first thing in the morning. Lemon oil helps in killing all the bacteria and prevents gum recession and tooth decay as well. Lemon also stimulates tissue formation and can encourage new tissues to grow in the place of damaged ones.

Eucalyptus

This strong essential oil helps in killing all the germs in the mouth and prevents tooth decay and gum diseases that lead to receding gums. Eucalyptus is also anti inflammatory in nature and helps in reducing swollen gums as well. Take some eucalyptus oil and dilute with water.Massage for a few minutes onto your gums every day and rinse off. This will stimulate new tissue growth and also reduce gum recession and damage due to bacterial action.

Clove

The action of cloves on decayed and damaged tooth and infection has been long praised. Clove oil is known to be a natural antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti fungal agent and helps in stimulating the growth and repair of damaged tissues. Cloves are very powerful as disinfectants and can stop bacterial action with frequent use. Use a clove every day or massage with clove oil for best results.

Myrrh

kind of resin that is obtained from trees, myrrh can be used for stopping the recession of gums and preventing root exposure and damage as well. It is also great for strengthening the gums. Myrrh can be used for rinsing the mouth or as a tooth powder or paste, whichever is convenient for you.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil can be diluted and used for swishing the mouth for preventing gum recession and root damage. Remember that the oil is very strong and should not be used without diluting it, lest it should cause burns. Tea tree oil is a powerful anti fungal and microbial agent anddestroys the bacteria and plaque buildup in the teeth and between the gums.

Also Read

Natural Cure For Receding Gums
Home Remedies For Sensitive Teeth

Sumac Tree

Sumac tree is known to have stringent qualities that can come of help for treating of receding gums. It helps in stimulation of the gums and also cleans the teeth, keeping them safe from decay and damage. Take a twig and peel the outer bark. Gently rub the inner partover the surface of the teeth and along the gums.

Yarrow

Wild yarrow too has several antiseptic and astringent qualities. The flower or the leaves of wild yarrow can be used for rubbing over your teeth and preventing gum recession to a great extent.

Sage Leaves

The leaves act as a tonic for the gums and are also an excellent treatment for the mucus membrane. Sage leaves can be directly rubbed on the gums and teeth for protection andtreatment of receding gums. Sage leaves can be used for making a tea as well for preparing a rinse for your gums. Add sage leaves to a cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes before using it for rinsing.

Rose Vinegar

Rose vinegar helps in strengthening the gums and can be used as a rinse for the mouth. For making rose vinegar, take 3 ounces of rose petals and soak in red wine vinegar solution. Steep for about seven days and strain it. A tablespoon of rose vinegar can be added to one cup of warm water and this can be used as a mouth rinse every day to prevent recession of gums.

7 Reasons Mushrooms Could Save the World

by Kristina Chew

Perhaps you only think about mushrooms when one sprouts up in your yard or when you’re ordering a pizza. But they have uses far, far beyond the kitchen:

1) An alternative to styrofoam packaging

Mushroom fibers can be used as an eco-friendly alternative to polystyrene, the synthetic (and potentially carcinogenic) polymer most of us encounter as styrofoam. An upstate New York company, Evocative Design, literally grows its product from corn stalks and vegetable husks injected with mushroom spores; the fibers are grown in molds and then baked in an oven so they have the right texture, hardness and elasticity.

Evocative Design recently made a deal with Sealed Air, a huge packaging wrap (think bubble wrap) company, to build factories that will make Restore Mushroom Packaging. One day, your purchases could arrive not packed in “peanuts” but in actual, biodegradable, mushroom fibers.

 

2) Oil, diesel and other petrochemical spill clean-up

Mycologist and researcher Paul Stamets was contacted by the EPA after the Deepwater Horizon spill to learn about how mushrooms could be used to clean up petrochemicals via a process called mycoremediation, in which toxic compounds are reduced into harmless ones by fungi. The EPA did not actually use his mushrooms but Stamets has carried on with research should future spills occur, developing strains of oyster mushrooms that can tolerate ocean salinity and metabolize oil that is floating on the surface of the sea.

3) A substitute for chemical fertilizers

Stamets’ company, Fungi Perfecti, also produces what he says is an alternative to fertilizer, Mycogrow. According to some organic farmers, Mycogrow fertilizes plants without causing pollution, says Alternet.

Swiss scientists have  found that plants and certain kinds of mushrooms, mycorrhizal fungi, form symbiotic relationships. The fungi acquire nutrients (including, in particular, phosphate) and are therefore able to “act as an extension of plants’ root systems, drastically reducing the need for phosphate fertilizers.”

4) An eco-way to clean up farm waste

In addition, mushrooms could help clean up farm waste: Sacks of mycelia (the vegetative part of a fungus that look like a mass of branching threads) can also be used to filter out toxins and bacteria, says Stamets.

5) A fungal insecticide

Pesticides based on fungi can replace the chemicals currently (and widely) used to kill ants and termites. Some mushrooms and toadstools have been found to contain compounds that, if isolated, could be used in developing insecticides.

6) Garbage disposal

We’re talking garbage on a massive, landfill-size scale: Certain types of mushrooms can break down 90 percent of the materials in dirty diapers in two months. Those diaper-eating fungi would be oyster mushrooms, which can grow on dead trees as they eat cellulose, the main component of disposable diapers.

7) A way to overcome the fear of death

That’s a tall order for a small fungus to fullfil.

Before anyone was worrying about eco-friendly packaging and pesticides, people have been turning to psilocybin mushroom — “magic mushrooms” — for their “transformative” (hallucinogenic) effects. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University say that the psychedelic drug in the mushrooms “reliably induce[d] transcendental experiences in volunteers, which offered long-lasting psychological growth and helped people find peace in their lives — without the negative effects.”

Scientists are trying to find the “sweet spot” that would enable people taking psylocybin to, as Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology, says “optimize the positive persistent effects and avoid some of the fear and anxiety that can occur [when taking the mushrooms].” Ultimately, Griffiths and the other researchers are seeking to find out whether such psychedelic experiences could help people recover from addiction and deal with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised if, one day, mushrooms inherit the earth?

 

 

 

The Art of Receiving

by 

Everything in the universe is made from energy— subatomic particles. Including this page. The subatomic world of energy creates the home you live in, the car you drive and the clothes you’re wearing right now. Beneath the texture, design and color of your clothing is another formation of subatomic particles—the human body. Your body pulsates with energy. With every breath, your body moves vast amounts of blood to your heart while cleansing carbon dioxide from your lungs. Your body is powered by millions of cellular energetic contacts, which need energy to maintain health or allow for healing.

The fourth chakra receives the highest amount of energy, in the form of abundance, for the human body. Reception occurs at the back mate of the chakra, right in-between your shoulder blades. When this chakra is open—its normal state—and allows energy in, it receives health, love, joy and wealth. Many people refuse to receive, and energetically block this chakra, withholding deserved abundance and healing.

Some people leak their vital life force from this chakra. The leaking, which is generally subconscious, can devastate the anatomical structures in the chest: heart, lungs, breast tissue, thymus gland, lymph fluid, and blood vessels. It’s very important for all of us to realize that we’re worthy of energy and an abundant life—even if others around us do not allow this for themselves.

Thoughts and feelings are energy, too. If our thoughts are consumed by worries and concerns then that is the type of energy that will run through our bodies. Only by adopting a new philosophy that lets us see the beauty in each moment, rather than the suffering, will we be able to stop leaking our own precious energy and ultimately learn how to receive energy—the real job of the fourth chakra.

Empathic individuals, those who can feel the feelings of others, seem to have the most difficulty receiving or maintaining their life force energy. Yet, it is these individuals, with extraordinary compassionate hearts, who are drawn to healing professions. When we leak energy or are unable to receive it, we hope that someone less fortunate will use it instead.  However, very few individuals understand the emotional and mental mechanics of allowing universal life force energy into the body. What we don’t receive hangs out in the ethers unused.

Empathy is a gift that will lead us to feed, clothe, and support our world in ways we have yet to imagine. The challenge of being empathic is to become comfortable with the feelings of others—even when others are sad, lonely, or distressed – while remaining dedicated to the health and wellbeing of their emotions and life first. It takes energy to give, and it takes energy to refuse the kindness and giving nature of others. When we allow our beings and souls to be fed by the world around us, then and only then can we give.

Exercises to Practice the Art of Receiving

Balancing the Fourth Chakra and Stopping any Leaking

Use several fingers to gently tap your mid-sternum for one minute. This reduces or stops any energetic leaking from the fourth chakra while activating the thymus gland, which plays an important role in balancing our immune system, increasing energy levels, and improving blood circulation (if your stress is highly elevated, tap for several minutes).

Receiving Energy

The back of the fourth chakra is between the shoulder blades. This area of the body has the highest receptivity to energy. To balance the heart chakra, visualize or feel energy moving into your back at least five times a day. For example, you could visualize a large flock of birds flying into your back; hear or feel warm rain moving into your back; or hear a wonderful melody vibrating and filling up the heart chakra.

A great way to practice receiving love is to stand in the shower with your back facing the spray of water.

People who can most benefit from this exercise often tend to forget to do it. A great way to remember is to pay attention when others acknowledge you in a positive way— perhaps when someone says, “Thank you!” or “Have a great day!” Let these moments of kindness remind you to receive through the heart chakra.

Once you get the hang of this exercise, it’s important to feel the act of receiving, which can often be an enormously moving experience.

 

War on Gardening / Freedom to Garden

Lately I’ve been reading many articles on the subject of home gardens and laws against it. It’s time to change these ridiculous laws! Does it make sense to you to cover your lawn with chemicals and waste so much water just so you can have a greener lawn than your neighbors, or grow vegetables and help your family as well as save money? Of course, if you want a green lawn that is certainly OK, but what if I want to garden in my yard? Shouldn’t that be my choice? I say YES!

Here is one article on the subject:

Cities Continue to Demonize Vegetable Gardens

From 2008 to 2009, home gardening increased from 36 million to 43 million households. It appears to be continuing its upward trend. As Mother Earth News puts it, “The worse the economy, the more people garden.”

Although vegetable gardening is good news for people’s pocketbooks as well as their stomachs, it has created an interesting problem between some city officials and the local gardeners. In what has been dubbed a War on Gardening, many green thumbs across the nation are having to deal with officials who are none-too-impressed with their edible plants.

The trouble occurs when gardeners turn to unconventional places to plant their produce, usually in the front yard. One organization, Food Not Lawns, is devoted to helping gardeners rip up their useless ornamental lawns in favor of growing something you can eat.

The garden starts out innocently enough, in most cases. Usually, the gardens under dispute are very well-maintained and give the appearance of order and organization. However, someone soon calls the city with a complaint. City workers then look up their land development code and issue a citation.

It’s there that the situation gets dicey. The gardener can either comply with the city or face an array of fines, watch as the garden gets cleared by the city, or be confronted with even jail time for their actions.

The most famous case of this concerned Julie Bass, who faced up to 93 days in jail for not removing her front-yard vegetable garden. But gardeners from Orlando to Oklahoma are stirring up an unlikely movement challenging the authorities and calling for others to preserve their right to garden.

One gardener we spoke to related a problem he had with the city of Las Vegas. “[My] garden contained assorted vegetables like beets, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, [and] grape vines in a Pennsylvania topsoil retention method.”

His garden was covered with Bermuda grass to conserve topsoil and water. It was this that officials took offense at, and they wrote him a citation.

“The citation stated “Overgrown area, in need of cutting. Time limit and fine if failed to comply.”

He sent a reply stating that he did not live in a fenced in homeowners association area, and that the inspector did not know the difference between weeds and vegetables. “Two weeks later I received an apology from our city councilman,” he told us.

The question of whether gardeners should be allowed to use their front lawns as plant beds affects more than you may think at first glance. Those against them see them as a threat to property values, a plight on the aesthetics of a neighborhood.

Is there more behind anti-gardeners’ thinking, however? The woman charged with a misdemeanor and threat of jail was told that her garden was not “suitable” for a front yard, with one city official saying that suitable meant “common.” Since ornamental lawns today usually include bermuda grass, a couple of deciduous trees, and perhaps a small row of flowers, that is what everyone should do, the thinking goes. The question then becomes less about personal freedom and more about why we constantly try to define what is normal and acceptable in society.

Perhaps soon officials will realize that organic vegetable gardening is a good thing, and it is here to stay. Until then, there will probably be many more cases of the war on gardening taking place in America.

Also see  Todmorden: The Incredible Edible Town

12 Uses for Garlic

1. Maintain Good Health. With properties that are thought to help your heart and liver, boost your metabolism of iron, prevent cancer, and fight against bacteria and viruses, garlic is a vital component of a healthy diet. Try to eat one or two cloves every day!

2. Cure a Cold. For thousands of years, garlic has been known as a treatment for coughs and colds. And, while the science isn’t all there yet, limited research has suggested that garlic will help treat these wintertime ailments. Mince a clove of garlic and steep it in hot water for about 5 minutes. Strain out the garlic and drink. It’s a natural cough syrup! You can also try to eat 3 raw cloves a day around cold and flu season to prevent catching a bug.

3. Get Rid of Acne. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub it over the affected area. Done regularly, the antibacterial properties found in garlic cloves will help to clear up your complexion.

4. Treat Cold Sores. Like in treating acne, cut a clove of garlic in half and apply it directly to the sore. It might sting a little, but it’s been shown to work just as effectively as commercial treatments for getting rid of those unsightly sores.

5.  Treat Athlete’s Foot. If there’s anything garlic doesn’t like, it’s fungus, so treating your athlete’s foot with the stuff works wonders! Crush a couple of cloves and toss them in a foot bath filled with warm water. Soak for about half an hour.

Pest Control

5. Use as a Pesticide in your Garden. Skip those harmful commercial pesticides and use a natural, DIY method with garlic instead!

Note: Buy a liquid soap, NOT a detergent. Health food stores have liquid soaps, such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps.

Basic Soap Spray
1 to 2 tablespoons liquid soap
1 quart water

Combine ingredients in a bucket, mix, then transfer to a spray bottle as needed.

Garlic Variation
1 to 2 heads garlic, chopped
Enough boiling water to cover

Put garlic in the bottom of a mason jar and cover with boiling water. Put lid on and allow to sit overnight, then strain and add garlic-water to the soap spray. This will decay, so be sure to freeze leftovers until ready to use again.

6. Repel Mosquitos & Other Insects. We all know the best way to kill a vampire — garlic. But do you know why? Well, one major theory is that, like vampires, blood-sucking mosquitoes are afraid of garlic. You can rub garlic on your skin to ward off mosquitoes, if you like, but you can also leave out cloves of garlic in areas where mosquitoes flock.

7. Warning: Don’t Feed Your Pets Garlic. There’s a school of thought out there that garlic will help protect your dogs and cats for fleas, ticks, and other pesky critters. While this is true, garlic can be very toxic for animals. As the ASPCA notes, “An occasional small amount, such as that in most commercial pet foods and treats, may not cause a problem, but because of the risk, we generally recommend that you avoid feeding your pets products that contain more concentrated amounts of garlic.”

Other Great Uses

9. Repair Glass. Think of this as a quick fix for mildly-damaged glass — rub the sticky juice of a crushed clove of garlic onto the hairline cracks, wiping away an excess liquid. Garlic is a natural adhesive, so it’ll help the glass to stay together and prevent any further damage.

10. Use as a Glue. On the same note, you can use garlic in place of glue for other things, such as paper crafts.

11. De-Ice Surfaces. In a pinch, garlic salt works wonders in de-icing roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces.

12. Make a DIY Surface Cleaner. Chop up a 3-4 cloves of garlic, and toss them in a spray bottle filled with white vinegar. Add a couple drops of lemon oil and voila — you have yourself a DIY disinfectant spray!

The Wonders of Baking Soda

Baking soda is an essential part of any home remedy kit. It can be used to ease heartburn, as a salve for insect bites, a soak for itchy skin and even to help cure urinary tract infections.

This baking soda remedy for heartburn is used by my dad, who has suffered with uncomfortable indigestion for years. Until he discovered this remedy, he took either prescription medicine or daily doses of over-the-counter stuff. Now, he needs to treat his heartburn only once or twice a week.

Heartburn Remedy

Dissolve a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar into 1 tablespoon of warm water. Add a 1/2 cup of cold water. Then add a 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon vinegar and a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir the mixture, then drink the whole thing quickly, while it’s fizzing.

Insect Bites & Itchy Skin Remedy

For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itchies, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower.

Remedy for Urinary Tract Infection

Cranberry juice is a great natural treatment for urinary tract infection, but if you buy it in the grocery store, it can be loaded with sugar. Here’s an alternative, less sugary treatment for urinary tract infection using baking soda. At first symptoms, mix a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into an 8-ounce glass of water. Drink the remedy once per day.

Note: If you have high blood pressure, do NOT ingest baking soda remedies before consulting your health care practitioner. For any health issue of concern, discuss with your doctor.

 

Here are 10 uses of baking soda for cleaning in the home:

A commonly available mineral full of many cleaning attributes, baking soda is made from soda ash, and is slightly alkaline (it’s pH is around 8.1; 7 is neutral). It neutralizes acid-based odors in water, and absorbs odors from the air.

1. Drain cleaner: Pour one cup down the drain followed by three cups of boiling water.

2. Chemical smells out of clothes: Soak clothes for two to three hours or overnight, in one cup of baking soda. Agitate the machine occasionally. Repeat if necessary. Wash as usual. (This method is great for removing the new smell out of clothes.)

3. Cat urine: Alternate sprinkling baking soda, which will neutralize acid odors, with white distilled vinegar.

4. Dog odors and urine: Sprinkle with baking soda. Let set for a few hours before sweeping up.

5. Silver polish: Make a paste of baking soda and water, scoop some onto a clean, soft rag, and polish the silver. Rinse and polish dry.

6. Soft scrubber: Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl and add enough liquid soap or detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop onto a sponge and clean the bathtub or tiles. Rinse.

7. Scouring powder: Simply sprinkle baking soda into a sink and scrub.

8. Oven cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Squirt with enough water that the baking soda is damp. Let set overnight, making sure the baking soda is damp before you go to bed. In the morning, simply scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge. Rinse.

9. Refrigerator deodorizer: Place an open box in the back of the fridge. It will “absorb” odors, which means that it will draw odors to the baking soda molecules.

10. Cutting board deodorizer: Sprinkle the cutting board with baking soda, scrub, rinse.

 

7 Ways to Make Your Living Space Smell Nice

Rather than spraying chemical-laden air fresheners, choose one of these seven natural ways to make your living space smell a little nicer.

1. Invest in houseplants. Have your favorite plants and herbs growing in your kitchen, living room and bathroom in small pots. The presence of green plants will help reduce indoor air pollution and keep clean air circulating in your space.

2. Save your citrus fruit skins. Save the peels of oranges, lemons, limes and other citrus- fruits. You can place them in boiling water to have a fresh scent in the kitchen, or run them in your garbage disposal with boiling water. Lastly, put some citrus skins in your vacuum bag the next time you vacuum your carpet.

3. Dilute essential oil with water in a spray bottle. You can spray your furniture and carpet to make the whole room smell a specific scent. To diversify, you can have different scents for different areas of your home. For example: lavender for the living room, sandalwood for your bedroom and peppermint for the bathroom.

4. Place bowls of white vinegar in corners of the room. The vinegar will neutralize and absorb any offending odors.

5. Place fabric softener in your shoes and closet. It will take away any stale clothing smells. For another closet air freshener, place a cedar block at the bottom of your closet. Use sandpaper for a new layer once a year.

6. Light soy candles instead of regular candles. Soy candles are longer-lasting, better for the environment and have a more robust smell. (They are also safer than carcinogen-emitting candles – made from petroleum.)

7. Bake bread or cook your own meals. Few things are as welcoming as the smell of freshly baked bread or the herbs of a home-cooked dinner.

 

How to Make Safe Candles Yourself

by Annie B. Bond

Candles are a wonderful enhancement to ambiance and mood, yet they can contribute to air pollution, sometimes significantly if synthetic perfumes are used.

Learn how to make our own stunningly beautiful candles using sustainable, less toxic ingredients.
1. One of the highest goals of making your own less-toxic candles is to make them free of petroleum products, such as paraffin and synthetic fragrance.

2. You can now buy vegetable wax (usually soy) in craft stores such as Michaels. One brand offers microwaveable soy wax and the process was very, very easy. No fuss, no mess.

3. Beeswax is another pure wax choice, although expensive. I personally just love the smell of pure beeswax candles, and we make candles with 100 percent of this wax for very special occasions. Beeswax needs to be melted in a double boiler.

4. For myself, I prefer unscented candles, but my daughter is looking to add scent to her candles, and many of you might like aromatherapy.

We used only perfectly pure essential oils bought at natural food stores, and only about 5 drops for 2 cups of dried wax flakes. Add the essential oils after the wax has melted and has been removed from the heat source. Stir thoroughly.

Many so-called aromatherapy candles are very soft due to overuse of fragrance, and often these candles cause serious problems with candle soot. Making your own helps you control how much fragrance/essential oil you include.

5. Use wicks without lead. We chose wicks without any metal inside, but there are now lead-free wicks available in craft stores. Wanting to be safe not sorry, we bought metal-free wicks. They have been fine.

Tick Removal

GOOD TO KNOW! Tick Removal: A nurse discovered a safe, easy way to remove ticks where they automatically withdraw themselves when you follow her simple instructions. “I had a pediatrician tell me what she believes is the best way to remove a tick. “Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. Please pass on.

10 Yoga Poses to Improve Circulation

1. easy pose with deep breathing

Sit cross-legged on the floor. If you’re dealing with poor circulation, you don’t want to sit criss-cross for too long, but a minute or so of deep, focused breathing should be fine. Focus on taking deep breaths in and exhaling completely.

 

2. mountain pose

Come to a standing position, with your feet just under your hips, arms by your sides, and spine straight. Imagine a string going up your spine and to the sky, pulling your body straight and strong. You can leave your hands at your sides or bring them into prayer position, like in the photo. Stand here for a few deep breaths.

 

3. chair pose

Begin in mountain pose, then bend at your knees, and lower your butt toward the floor. Imagine that you’re sitting down in an invisible chair. Go as low as your flexibility allows up to bringing your thighs parallel to the floor. Raise your arms above your head, lengthening through the spine. Stay here and breathe for 10 deep breaths.

 

4. warrior II

Come back to mountain pose, then widen your stance so that your feet are about 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. You may need to adjust this slightly once you bend your knee. Raise your arms so that they are parallel to the floor, then turn your right foot toward the right wall and turn your left foot in ever so slightly to give you some extra stability. Bend the right knee, bringing your thigh parallel to the floor. Keep your torso pointed straight ahead and turn just your head to gaze beyond your right hand. Hold for 10 deep breaths, then repeat on the left side.

 

5. triangle

Remain in the wide-legged stance from Warrior II, but straighten both legs. Raise your arms so they are once again parallel to the floor, then stretch your upper body out to the right, then tilt your torso to the right, raising your left arm straight up in the air and stretching your right arm towards the floor. You can grab onto your thigh, calf, ankle, or foot with your right hand if you feel like you need the support. Turn your head to look up at your left hand, and breathe. Hold for 10 breaths, then repeat on the left side.

 

6. downward dog

Come onto your hands and knees, with palms flat on the floor. Curl your toes under, so they are in contact with the floor, then push up through your palms and the balls of your feet, straightening your legs and lifting your butt up into the air. You want to have a flat back and straight legs, though your feet will most likely not be flat on the floor. Keep your neck neutral and breathe here for about 30 seconds.

 

7. yoga lunge

From downward dog position, step your right foot forward, placing it on the floor between your hands. Arch your back slightly, and look up at the ceiling, keeping your palms on the floor. Hold this supported lunge for 10 deep breaths, then push back into downward dog to switch sides and repeat on the left side of the body.

 

8. pigeon

Come back to a hands and knees position, then swing your right foot forward, so that your knee is between your hands. Slide the left leg back along the floor slowly until it’s as straight as you can get it without straining your groin. Arch your back, and look up to the sky for 10 deep breaths, then release your spine and lower your head to the floor. If you need more support, you can rest your head on your hands or even stack your fists and rest your head there – it all depends on how flexible your legs and spine are. Hold this for 10 breaths, then switch and repeat on the left side.

 

9. shoulder stand

One word of caution: if you have not done shoulder stand before and you are pregnant, you don’t want to start now when your balance is a little bit iffy. Practice legs up the wall pose instead.

You don’t want to lie on your back for too long when you are pregnant, so limit shoulder stand or legs up the wall to 10 deep breaths to avoid putting too much pressure on your vena cava.

To begin shoulder stand, lie on your back, then bring your feet close to your buttock, feet on the floor. Use your core strength to lift your feet and your butt off of the floor, so your legs are pointing to the sky and allow your chin to tuck into your chest. Do not turn your head in this posture, because you could hurt your neck. Just gaze at your navel  and engage your abdomen. Use your hands to support your lower back in the posture, which you can stay in for as long as is comfortable, up to 5 minutes.

 

10. savasana

Every yoga practice should end with savasana. If you are pregnant, modify this posture by laying on your side rather than on your back. You can also put a small cushion between your knees to help make you more comfortable. If you can, lay on your back, with your feet slightly apart and your arms by your sides.

In either postition, focus on relaxing your body, beginning with your feet and working your way up to your face and the top of your head. Think about letting go of tension in each extremity, in your buttocks and groin, and in your abdomen. Relax here and breathe for as long as you like. You may even fall asleep, and that’s fine!

Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)

  • Mistake 1: Growing from seed. When you first start out trying to grow fresh herbs, I recommend you begin by trying to grow from seedlings rather than planting your own seeds. These great little starter plants are widely available in grocery stores in the late spring. For the same price as a packet of fresh herbs from the produce section, you can buy your own little starter plant. Lots can go wrong in the seed to seedling transition (including not thinning out plants properly), so its probably best to begin by skipping that complicated task or you are in danger of washing out before you really begin.
  • Mistake 2: Starting with the wrong varieties. I recommend you start by trying to grow fresh basil. It is the perfect trainer herb. First, basil grows quickly, allowing you to observe the effects of your care more easily. Second, basil leaves wilt visibly when not watered enough, but recovers well if you water the wilted plant. This makes basil a great ‘canary in the mineshaft’ to help you figure out how much water is enough.
  • Mistake 3: Watering herbs like houseplantsInstead, water herbs a moderate amount every day. While some houseplants flourish with one solid watering per week, most delicate herbs require moderate and regular watering. This is particularly true during hot summer months. If you have good drainage at the bottom of your pot (at least a drainage hole, possibly rocks beneath the soil), it will be difficult to water herbs too much.
  • Mistake 4: Not cutting early and often. As a novice gardener, it may seem like your puny little plant just isn’t ready for a trip to the barber, but then you will find yourself sitting there wishing for leaves without much success. Again, basil is a great herb to practice pruning. As with all herbs, you want to cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. With basil, when you cut the plant that way, the originally trimmed stem will no longer grow. However, two new stems will grow around the original cutting, creating a “V” shape (see the photo above, can you spot the Vs?). If you don’t trim basil aggressively, it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil produces a nice sturdy plant. Of course you want to be sure you are always leaving a few good sturdy leaves on the plant (see below). As it continues to grow, continue to prune it approximately every 3-4″ for a nice solid plant. I like to let it grow for some time and then cut back to within 2-3 inches of the original cut. After only a few early trial cuts, this usually makes for a nice clipping with plenty of basil to use for a pizza.
  • Mistake 5: Taking the leaves from the wrong place. When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb’s growth. Once your plant is big enough to sustain a decent harvest, keep on taking from the top, as you have been when you were pruning. That way you get all those tender new herbs that are so tasty, and your plant gets to keep its well developed solar power system in place. Plus, if you pluck from the base and leave the top intact, you get a tall skinny plant that will flop over from its own weight (and yes, I know this from experience). When you pluck from the top, instead of clipping off just below a pair of leaves, you want to clip off just above a pair of leaves. It is a bit counter-intuitive as a novice, but trust me it works. The place where the leaf joins the stem is where new growth will occur when your plant sends off new stems in a V.
  • Mistake 6: Letting your plants get too randy. If you are pruning regularly, this may never become an issue, but unless you are growing something for its edible flowers, be sure to cut back herbs before they start growing flowers. My friend once brought me to her backyard garden and pointed, frustrated, at her wimpy, small basil plants. “I just keep tending them, but they don’t even produce enough leaves to put on a salad!” she lamented. I pointed to the glorious stalk of flowers at the top of each plant, “That’s your problem” I explained. Because herbs are kind of like college boys: if you give them half a chance, they will focus all their energy on procreation and neglect growth. If you want leaves, keep cutting off the little flower buds whenever you find them (see photo above), and it will encourage your plant to focus on growing more leaves.
  • Mistake 7: Using tired soil with no nutrients. Tired soil that has been sitting in your garden or lawn for ages often looks grey and a little depressing. Would you want to grow in that stuff? Give your plants a dose of the good stuff and they’ll thank you for it. I grow my herbs in a combination of potting soil, used coffee grounds (with a near-neutral PH, available for free at Starbucks), and organic compost. If I have some on hand, I also throw in crushed egg shells. Those without access to compost (and no deep commitment to organic growing) may find Miracle grow useful. My momma swears by it for tomatoes. A diluted solution of Miracle grow occasionally can help many herbs flourish.
  • Mistake 8: Getting in a rut. There is an element to passion about herb gardening. In order to be good at it, you need to feel rewarded. So don’t stick too long with one or two herbs just because they work. Branch out to a few other basic herbs that you will use regularly in your kitchen. There are few things more rewarding as an urban foodie than being able to pop out to the fire escape to clip fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Once you have become comfortable with basil, I recommend moving on to try growing oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme. All are regularly useful herbs in the kitchen, and all are relatively easy to grow. You will notice that rosemary cleaves after cutting in a somewhat similar way to basil, but grows much more slowly, so the effect is difficult to notice. Some plants also respond to clipping by throwing out more full leaves at their base. I have long wanted to grow cilantro but have not had much luck with it.
  • Mistake 9: You mean there’s more than one kind of mint?When choosing herbs, read the label carefully. For example, there are two main varieties of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. Mediterranean oregano is the more common variety, and what you likely own if you have conventional dried oregano in your cupboard. I have Mexican oregano growing on my back fire escape. I love Mexican oregano in spicy dishes, for making beans from scratch, and often use it in tomato dishes where I don’t want the flavor to seem too much like marinara. Similarly, there are many different kinds of mint. You don’t want to be thinking of the pungent spearmint plant and accidentally take home the much more subtle (and not mojito savvy) applemint by mistake.
  • Mistake 10: Feed me Seymour! If you are planting in soil instead of pots, take care that your cute little herb seedling doesn’t become a giant plant that takes over your garden. A word of warning for oregano and mint: both can be voracious growers. If you are planting outside in a garden, rather than in pots, you may want to consider potting these herbs and then burying the pots in the ground. This will add a measure of control to the root systems of these herbs, which can otherwise take over a garden and strangle nearby neighbors. When in doubt, check out wikipedia, they usually are careful to point out which herbs are in danger of overwhelming your garden.

10 Foods That Promote Brain Health

Who doesn’t want to become smarter? Who wants to look better or feel healthier? Many recent studies have shown how certain nutrients can positively affect the brain, specifically in areas of the brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Generally speaking, you want to follow a healthy diet for your brain that will lead to strong blood flow, maintenance of mental sharpness and reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We know that foods play a great role in our brain, as concluded in several studies led by a phenomenal neuroscientist at UCLA, Gomez Pinilla.

According to one study, the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies the same way that when we use our car we need to fill the gas tank. Unfortunately, we generally take better care of our cars than our bodies. Why is that? We are hearing frequently that consuming the right nutrients can help our health, aging process, and more efficient brain-body functioning.

With that said, I want to share with you ten foods you must keep in your diet to maintain brain health:

1. Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This magical nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, which is a phytonutrient.

2. Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.

3. Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue.

4. Blueberries and strawberries: Studies show that people who eat berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect your brain from the oxidative process.

5. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate offers incredible concentration powers. It is a very powerful antioxidant containing natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: you need to find dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving for optimal benefits.

6. Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.

7. Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, this powerful spice has shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than that of blueberries or strawberries.

8. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6 which all promote healthy neural tissue.

9. Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain.

10. Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells.

10 Things to do for Cleaner Indoor Air

Here are 10 easy, simple things you can do to keep the air quality pure and safe in your home.

1. Empty your refrigerator tray. It can start looking pretty swampy in there, and the ‘fridge fan blows that moldy yucky air right into your home.

2. Dust your heaters. When the heat comes on, it isn’t good to smell fried dust.

3. Check for foreign objects in your heating elements. Anyone with small children knows that plastic objects can find their way into the heating units and next thing you know, everyone is sniffing and wondering, “Why does it smell like burning plastic in here?” Toxic!

4. Clean your oil burner. A dirty furnace doesn’t function as well and can emit more harmful carbon monoxide and other undesirable compounds.

5. Clean chimneys. Prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide buildup in your home.

6. Devise a compost system. When the windows stay closed, molds in the air from fermenting compost can become a problem. Be sure to empty your kitchen compost every day.

7. Be alert to outgassing. New products and activities like painting will have more of an effect on your indoor air quality now that the windows are closed. You may want to air new carpets or upholstered furniture before putting them in your house. If you’re painting, be sure to provide plenty of ventilation, and choose non-toxic paints.

8. Steam-clean your carpets. Get rid of dust, dust-mites and other noxious things so you won’t be inhaling them with every step you take.

9. Choose your candles wisely. Petroleum-based and lead-wick candles contribute significantly to dangerous levels of indoor air pollution. Buy (or make) candles made from beeswax, soy, or vegetable oils, lead-free wicks, and pure essential-oil fragrances.

10. NO kerosene space heaters, ever! They are lethal. If you need extra heat in a room, consider one of the free-standing electric heaters filled with oil that radiate clean heat.