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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Food For Your Face: DIY Yogurt Honey Mask


It only takes two minutes and two ingredients to make this mask.

Honey helps moisturize skin and it contains minerals and amino acids needed for tissue repair and rejuvenation. Look for raw honey and avoid pasteurized products because treating honey with heat destroys many of its beneficial compounds.

One variety of honey in particular, Manuka honey, has proven medicinal benefits. It comes from bees that gather nectar from manuka trees in Australia and New Zealand. Manuka honey has been shown to stimulate skin cell growth, reduce inflammation, and demonstrate antibacterial activity against MRSA.

Like honey, yogurt helps the skin retain moisture.  It also has astringent properties, causing pores to constrict, and it supports the protective bacteria that live on the surface of your skin.

If you don't have yogurt or prefer not to use it, you can substitute mashed avocado in this recipe. However, you'll want to wipe the mask off with a damp cloth before rinsing, because unlike yogurt, mashed avocado could clog your drain.


Materials: 

1/4 cup organic plain whole milk yogurt (Greek or regular)
1 teaspoon manuka honey (or substitute any raw honey)


Directions:
  1. Mix the yogurt and honey until thoroughly combined.
  2. Apply it to your face and/or body.
  3. Relax for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off or climb into a warm bath. 
  4. Follow with a light coat of All-Purpose Healing Salve.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earthing


Scientists have uncovered something in our environment that may be just as important for good health as sunshine, clean water, and nutrient-dense food. It’s physical contact with the earth, also called earthing or grounding, and sometimes even "vitamin G."

Strange as it sounds, we may be in danger of not getting enough. Instead of connecting to the earth, we're cutting down rainforests, living in skyscrapers, growing gardens on rooftops, and dreaming about space travel.

Few people in the United States live off the land the way their ancestors once did. We no longer spend most of our time barefoot and our homes no longer have dirt floors. For many people it’s actually rare to touch the earth anymore but new studies show that we may not be able to live well without it.

Reservoir of Electrons

Free radicals are unstable atoms or groups of atoms that have lost one or more electrons. They readily react with other molecules to get electrons back, and in the process, they can damage cells and DNA on contact, triggering inflammation and illness.

A certain amount free radicals are naturally produced as a by-product of metabolism and they’re normally neutralized by antioxidants. But too many free radicals can overwhelm our built-in capacity to contain them.

We accumulate excessive amounts of free radicals when we’re exposed to electromagnetic radiation, when we come into contact with toxic chemicals in the environment, when we’re under stress, when we suffer from chronic diseases, when we consume unhealthy fats and too much sugar, and when our diets are deficient in antioxidants. In our modern world, these things are happening all the time.

Our planet's surface has an abundance of negatively charged free electrons which are replenished regularly by heat from the earth’s molten core, radiation from the sun, and lightening. When we’re in contact with the earth, the exchange of electrons can neutralize the positively-charged free radicals in our bodies and help us maintain electrically stable environments.

Unstable electrical environments change the pH of body fluids and the way that enzymes function, which slows chemical reactions and causes an uneven charge distribution to build up inside cells and tissues. Physical contact with the earth brings stability, restores our natural electrical state, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent damage to cells and DNA.

Research Studies

The research studies on earthing have been small and preliminary, but the results have been impressive. So far they’ve uncovered several specific benefits:
  • Earthing can decrease the stickiness of blood cells which improves blood flow, prevents clotting, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. (Chevalier 2012)
  • Earthing can improve heart rate and rhythm. (Chevalier 2011)
  • Earthing can improve sleep by reducing the secretion of stress hormones at night and resetting the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Sleeping grounded caused people to fall asleep more quickly, wake up less frequently during the night, feel less stressed, have more energy, and experience less pain. (Ghaly 2004)
  • Earthing can activate the parasympathetic part of our nervous system that helps us relax and deactivate the sympathetic “fight or flight” part of our nervous system that causes stress responses like increased heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. (Chevalier 2011)
  • Earthing can normalize thyroid function. (Sokal 2011)
  • Sleeping grounded can protect us from electromagnetic radiation. After thirty days study participants reported “significant relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension.” (Ober 2011)
  • Earthing can improve the responsiveness of our immune systems. (Chevalier 2011)

A recent review of earthing studies confirmed these results and concluded that “emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS [autonomic nervous system] dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV [heart rate variability], hypercoagulable [sticky] blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.” (Chevalier 2012)

Electron Transfer Technology

Ironically, earthing can be done artificially with electron transfer technology. A wide variety of conductive appliances are available to transfer the earth’s electrons from the ground to your body. These include grounded mattresses, bed sheets with conductive silver threads, mats for the bed or floor, carbon loaded rubber computer desk mats, electrode patches that can be applied directly to the body, and bands that wrap around the body, wrist, or ankles.

All grounding appliances should be disconnected in case of lightening storms and these devices can interfere with blood-thinning medications. People who use them may experience adverse effects like tingling sensations, muscle cramps, malaise, aches, pains, and other flu-like symptoms, which are usually temporary and may improve with increased water intake.

Earthing Naturally

Despite technological alternatives, the best way to connect to the earth is by going barefoot on surfaces that conduct electrons. These include
  • Grass
  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Gravel
  • Concrete surfaces (like sidewalks or even a warm concrete floor in your basement)
Wet surfaces conduct electrons better than dry surfaces, and salt water conducts electrons better than fresh water, so activities like strolling on the beach or even walking in dew-covered grass deliver the biggest benefits. Painted concrete surfaces are not conductive, and neither are asphalt, vinyl, or wood surfaces.

Being barefoot is best. In some studies, symptoms of pain, stress, and tension started to improve in as little as thirty to forty minutes. If you can’t go barefoot, the next best thing is wearing shoes and sandals with copper alloy inserts that conduct electrons from the ground to the bottom of your feet. Leather-soled shoes conduct some electrons but plastic- and rubber-soled shoes don’t conduct any.

It’s time for us to reconnect with the earth and nothing could be more natural. To improve health and prevent disease, spend at least half an hour each day in contact with the earth’s conductive surface. Unlike electron transfer technology, direct physical contact has no negative side effects.

References:

Brown D., Chevalier G.T., and Hill M. 2010. Pilot Study on the Effect of Grounding on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine 16(3):265–273.

Chevalier G., Mori K., and Oschman J.L. 2006. The effect of Earthing (grounding) on human physiology. European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics 2(1):600–621, 2006.

Chevalier G. and Sinatra S. 2011. Emotional stress, heart rate variability, grounding, and improved autonomic tone: clinical applications. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal 10(3):16-21.

Chevalier G., Sinatra S., Oschman J.L, Delaney R.M. 2012. Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity—a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease. The Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine DOI: 10.1089/acm.2011.0820

Ghaly M. and Teplitz D. 2004. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 10: 767–776.

Lee Y.A., Kang S.G., Kim S.H., Park S.J., Kim H.N., Song I.S. 2012. Assessment of lifestyle effects on the levels of free oxygen radicals in the Korean population. Korean Journal of Family Medicine 33(5):296-304. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.2012.33.5.296.

Ober C. 2011. Grounding the human body to neutralize bioelectrical stress from static electricity and EMFs. ESD Journal, available at: http://www.esdjournal.com/articles/cober/ground.htm (accessed 1/6/12).

Sokal K. and Sokal P. 2011. Earthing the human body influences physiologic processes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17(4):301–308.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Yoga Relieves Back Pain


A recent randomized controlled study confirmed what many have known for years: yoga can relieve back pain.

Researchers in West Virginia followed 90 participants with chronic back pain, lasting 3 months or more, for a full year. One group received 6 months of standard medical treatment, including medication, while the other group took 90-minute Iyengar yoga classes from a certified instructor twice per week for 6 months. On the days when they weren’t taking classes, participants in the yoga group were instructed to practice at home for 30 minutes using props, a DVD and instruction manual.

Compared to the control group receiving standard medical treatment, those who practiced yoga regularly reported a 42 percent reduction in pain, a 29 percent reduction in functional disability, and 46 percent less depression. They also reduced their use of medication.

Six months later, 68 percent of yoga participants were still practicing an average of three days per week for at least 30 minutes. Their levels of pain, disability and depression had increased slightly as they spent less time practicing yoga, but they still had significantly fewer symptoms than those in the control group.

Iyengar yoga utilizes controlled breathing and props like blocks, benches, blankets and belts to safely perform poses (asanas) and achieve correct body alignment. This type of yoga is good for individuals new to yoga and those who have difficulty performing poses without props.

Reference:

Williams K et al. "Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain." Spine, 34(19):2066-76, 1 Sept 2009. DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181b315cc

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Natural and Non-Toxic Spring Cleaning


When spring is in the air, I prefer to smell flowers, not cleaning products. Manufactured and store-bought cleaners pollute the air and they contain toxic chemicals that can have negative effects on our health.

An analysis of 25 common household products including the best selling brands of all-purpose sprays and disinfectants found harmful ingredients in every single sample (Steinemann 2010). All together, the 25 products released 421 chemicals, some classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. laws. Only one chemical was listed on a product label and only two were listed on any material safety data sheet. And almost half the products contained chemicals recognized as carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Minimize your exposure to dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals by replacing store-bought cleaners with natural products. You can clean your entire home easily and effectively with just a handful of simple ingredients and a few basic materials.

Basic Supplies

To clean your home without chemicals, start with these basic supplies:
  • White vinegar
  • Pure essential oils
  • Fragrance-free liquid castile soap made from organic coconut, olive, hemp, and/or jojoba oils
  • Olive oil (doesn't have to be extra virgin or cold-pressed)
  • Baking soda
  • Spray bottle
  • Rags or old towels
  • Sponge with scrubbing surface
  • Broom and dust pan
  • Steam mop (or regular mop)

Make your own non-toxic all-purpose cleaner by adding 1 cup white vinegar, 5 drops tea tree essential oil, 5 drops pure lavender or citrus essential oil, and a half cup water to a clean spray bottle. (For tough cleaning jobs, omit the water.) Label the bottle, close it tightly, and shake it up before each use.

Vinegar cleans by dissolving surface residue. Essential oils disinfect because they are naturally anti-bacterial and tea tree essential oil is especially effective at removing mold and mildew. Be sure to use only pure essential oils and avoid any fragranced, synthetic, or perfume oils.

Before You Start

According to the EPA, indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air, even in the largest and most industrialized cities, so open your windows to exchange and circulate the air inside your home (EPA 2012). Before you begin the actual cleaning, clear off all the surfaces you intend to clean and take time to organize and de-clutter your home. Don’t forget closets and storage spaces.

Clean out your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Get rid of unhealthy processed foods, expired items, and dried herbs and spices more than a year old. Replace plastic storage containers with glass containers or wide-mouth canning jars. Replace non-stick pots and pans with cast iron or stainless steel cookware.

Round up all of your personal care products and get rid of the ones you don't use. Research the rest on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database. Search by product, manufacturer, or ingredient to read safety reviews and find safer alternatives if necessary.

Dusting

Dusting is especially important because household dust can be full of environmental toxins. A Cape Cod study found 66 different toxic chemicals in household dust including phthalates, flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and 27 different pesticides. DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) has been banned in the U.S. for the past 40 years but it was detected in 65 percent of homes.

Avoid using dusters that simply move dust around and redistribute it in the air. Instead use a clean, slightly damp, washable cloth, rinsing it out as needed, to pick up dust and remove it completely. Let dusted surfaces dry thoroughly and don't forget to dust the leaves of your houseplants. They help filter your indoor air so make sure they can breathe. If you don’t have any houseplants, consider adding species shown to remove toxic chemicals from indoor air such as ivy, snake plants, spider plants, and peace lilies.

Household Surfaces

Use your non-toxic all-purpose cleaner to clean counters, sinks, stove tops, appliances, tiles, toilets, mirrors, windows, and floors by spraying it on and wiping it off with a wet sponge. It smells like vinegar when it’s wet, but the odor evaporates as soon as it dries. For stubborn residue, allow the solution to sit on dirty surfaces for several minutes before wiping it off. Or sprinkle baking soda, which acts as an abrasive agent, over the area and scrub it off with a wet sponge. 

Don't use the vinegar-based solution on wooden surfaces or those made of natural stone. Instead wash surfaces made from marble, limestone, calcite, or dolomite with liquid castile soap diluted in warm water. Polish wooden surfaces by using a dry cloth to rub in a small amount of olive oil.

If you don't clean regularly, removing built-up grime sometimes requires a stronger solution. This is especially true in the kitchen where airborne oil droplets collect on surfaces surrounding the stove and interact with dust particles. In these cases, isopropyl alcohol can be used to dissolve stubborn residue. It's flammable and can be irritating, but the ingredients are known (alcohol and water) and it's an effective solvent when everything else fails. If you have to use it, do so sparingly, only in well-ventilated areas, and be sure to wear rubber gloves.

Floors

Clean the floors last. Steam mops are the best tool for cleaning non-carpeted surfaces after you sweep because they use only water, steam, and washable, reusable pads. Use steam mops on finished hardwood, tile floors, and other smooth surfaces. If you don't have a steam mop, use a regular mop and make your own cleaning solution by adding a cup (or more) of white vinegar to a bucket of hot water, along with a few drops of tea tree oil.

For carpeted surfaces and upholstery, high-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) vacuums are the most effective way to remove dust and toxins.

Room by Room

Besides organizing, dusting, and cleaning surfaces and floors, certain rooms have special considerations:
  • In the kitchen, disinfect sponges by moistening them and heating them in the microwave. One study showed that two minutes at full power killed or inactivated more than 99 percent of germs and bacterial spores including E. coli (Park 2006).
  • In the bathroom, unclog drains by pouring down a quarter cup of baking soda and following it with a cup of white vinegar. Wait for the foaming to subside and flush with plenty of boiling hot water. Don’t forget to make use of drain snakes and plungers.
  • In bedrooms, rotate mattresses and wash comforters, blankets, and pillows.
  • In the laundry room, replace store-bought fabric softeners with white vinegar (use a half cup per load) and organic wool dryer balls. Replace fragranced, chemical-based detergents with those that are biodegradable, made from natural plant oils, and free of phosphates.

Don’t forget to clean windows, window treatments, light fixtures, rugs, and door mats. Check fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are in good working order. Change your furnace filter and clean out air ducts and vents. If you need help, hire a professional to do it for you.

References:

Environmental Protection Agency. 2012. “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality.” www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/insidestory.html.

Park DK, Bitton G, and Melker R. 2006. Microbial inactivation by microwave radiation in the home environment. Journal of Environmental Health 69(5):17-24.

Steinemann A.C., MacGregor I.C., Gordon S.M., Gallagher L.G, Davis, A.L., et al. 2010. Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, DOI: 10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002