Thursday, June 22, 2017

Protect Your Kids, Inside & Out

The heat is on! It’s summer, and everyone is outside!  Soccer camps, picnics, swimming, whatever it is, most of us will have our kids outside during the summer months. But as a parent, there are things we have to be mindful of before we send our kids out for a day in the sun. Here are some tips to keep your kids healthy and safe this summer.

Boost Antioxidant Defenses. Antioxidants for kids? Yes! These protective compounds are needed by everyone. A good antioxidant status inside your body can help protect your skin against damage from outside forces, like the sun and pollution. Make sure to keep plenty of fruits, berries, nuts and seeds on hand to nourish skin from the inside. Unsulfured trail mix, dehydrated fruits or freeze dried fruits make great portable snacks for a day in the sun.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Kids need consistent reminders to drink fluid. This is especially true when they are swimming. They tend to forget that being surrounded by water does not mean you can forget about drinking water. A hydrated body will help nourish skin, protect against dehydration and prevent cramping. And remember that water is truly the best option when it comes to fluids. Avoid drinking too many sports drinks, which are often loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Save those for sports camps when they can be used as intended. As an alternative, try a natural recovery drink like coconut water, which can be used anytime.           

Protect Skin on the Outside. If you or your kids will be outside for any length of time, protect skin from the sun’s harsh rays with a sunscreen. Look for a natural mineral-based formula that offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. All the better if it has beneficial additional ingredients, such as protective green tea, soothing aloe, or natural essential oils.  And if bugs are a concern, protect yourself and your family from biting, stinging pests with natural insect repellents. Several essential oils, including lemon eucalyptus, citronella, and geranium, work effectively to repel insects. This allows you to avoid chemicals like DEET, a chemical repellent that concerns many parents. 

Recover After a Day Outdoors. Spending more time outside means the potential for sunburn, insect bites, and other common issues related to the great outdoors. Here’s how to help your skin recover from those common summer problems.
  •          Sunburn occurs from over exposure to the sun.  Aloe vera gel used topically is cooling, soothing and speeds healing. You can find it in a variety of natural products. For even more cooling, add a couple of drops of pure peppermint oil to the aloe gel. Not only does it cool, but it’s analgesic effect can help reduce some of the pain from sunburn.
  •          Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac is a common warm weather malady in many parts of the country.  Immediately after exposure, use poison ivy soap and an herbal spray made with jewelweed, which can help naturally relieve itching and inflammation. Homeopathic remedies can also help with symptoms.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Natural vs Synthetic Fragrances & DIY Dryer Sheets

What types of cleaners do you use in your home? Have you ever really looked at the bottle? What are the ingredients? Most household cleaners are not required to give full disclosure on their label. I’ve always thought this odd. It makes me wonder, are they hiding something? I really don’t know the answer. What I do know is even the chemicals that are listed are often toxic in some form, which is why you often see the poison skull & crossbones on the label.

We’ve been taught everything has to be sanitized, and yet overuse of antibacterial chemicals is leading to superbugs – antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We live in a world that is over fragranced – from perfume to a plethora of home air freshening products. And these fragrances could contribute to respiratory problems. It is my opinion that any household with infants or children, anyone with asthma or COPD, should use caution when putting scents throughout their home.

One of the issue chemicals in household cleaners and in body care products is Phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals used as softeners, or plasticizers, in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, as well as solvents and other additives in a wide range of consumer products. They’re found in shower curtains, wallpaper, dyes, mosquito insect repellents, and personal care products such as nail polish, skin moisturizers, and perfumes. And you often do not know they are there. The potential problem with phthalates is they may contribute to increased risk of cancer, and may impact human reproduction and development. The thing is, you can reduce your exposure just by looking at the products you clean our house with, and the products you clean your body with. Just by avoiding the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on a bottle can reduce your exposure. If you would like to know the actual make up of those fragrances, you will have to do a little digging. A large producer of household cleaners does provide a list of the chemicals in their fragrances, which is 19 pages long, 2 columns on each page.

Or you can make it easy on yourself. Look instead to naturally scented green cleaners and body care products. These are scented with essential oils – nature’s fragrances. These essential oils not only lend a nice fragrance, but many of them have the benefit of being naturally antibacterial. In a 2009 study, several common and hospital-acquired bacterial and yeast isolates (six Staphylococcus strains including MRSA, four Streptococcus strains and three Candida strains) were tested for their susceptibility against several essential oils. Thyme, lemon, lemongrass and cinnamon oil provided the most effective antiseptic action in this study. Others with antibacterial action include tea tree, basil and eucalyptus. 

There are any number of DIY recipes out there for natural household cleaners. I’ve included one below that we are also making in Aromatherapy Workshops this month at Akin’s and Chamberlin’s Natural Foods. A huge thank you to Wyndmere Naturals for providing 100% pure essential oils that work perfectly for this recipe.

DIY Reusable Dryer Sheets

1/2 cup White Vinegar
10 drops Essential Oils (I used 6 drops Wyndmere lavender, 4 drops Wyndmere tea tree)
4-6 Fabric Scraps (old Tshirts, bed linens or PJs), cut into squares about the size of a dryer sheet - cut with pinking shears or stitch with zig zag stitch
Glass jar with lid (like a large canning jar)

Make the softening solution by combining vinegar and essential oils in the jar. Add fabric squares and replace lid, letting fabric soak up the liquid. Label jar and store upright.

To use:
Remove 2 squares from the jar and ring out the liquid back into the jar. Throw them into the dryer with the clothes. Use 2-4 for a small/medium load, or 4-6 for a large load.

After cycle is complete,  put your homemade dryer sheets back into the jar, re-soak and reuse!

And don't worry - your clothes won't smell like vinegar as long as you stick to the guidelines above (don't use too many sheets), but the essential oils will leave a fresh scent!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why You Need Sleep & How to Sleep Better

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each day, but many Americans get by on less than 6. Some just don’t take the time to sleep, while others struggle with getting a quality night’s sleep. Why is sleep so important? Here are the top 4 reasons:

1.         Immunity - Lack of sleep increases the chance that you will get sick. Rest helps the body recuperate each day.
2.         Skin – Beauty sleep is real! Lack of sleep affects skin moisture and can enhance wrinkles.
3.         Mood – Lack of sleep can contribute to irritability and stress, and chronic insomnia has been linked to anxiety and depression.
4.         Energy – If you don’t sleep well, your energy level will be low. Good sleep refreshes the body and helps you feel more energized.
So, how can you get more sleep? Here are my top 3 ways you can get a better night’s sleep:

1. Manage Stress. Stress contributes to insomnia and sleep disturbance. Manage stress naturally by supporting nerve health with B vitamins and nerve-supporting herbs like passion flower or chamomile. Try yoga or deep breathing exercises in the evening to calm the body and mind. Aromatherapy can also help with stress. Inhaling certain scents helps calm and quiet the mind, allowing you to fall asleep easier. Scents that support calm and relaxation include lavender, chamomile and bergamot. 

2. Create Comfort. Take time to wind down before bed, turning off devices and televisions. Take a nice soaking aromatherapy and mineral salt bath to relax your body and soothe any aches and pains. Sip on a nice cup of passion flower tea to ease stress and calm the body. Make sure your bed and bedroom are comfortable - a cool, dark room supports better sleep.

3. Try Natural Remedies. Magnesium plays an important role in sleep, supporting relaxation. A magnesium deficiency can result in insomnia, while magnesium supplementation has been reported to enhance sleep and reduce nighttime awakenings. Valerian is well-known as a mild sedative that can help you fall asleep more quickly, and reduce the number of awakenings during the night. Herbal nervines like hops and passionflower help nourish and calm nerves. These act on the body naturally, without unwanted side effects common to prescription and over-the-counter sleep medicines.

You can improve your sleep today by starting with just one of the steps listed here and before you know it, you’ll be sleeping better than you have in years.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Quit Smoking


Today is the Great American Smokeout. 

According to the American Cancer Society, about 40 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the world. In addition, those exposed to second hand smoke, like children whose parents smoke, get sick more often, have more lung infections, and get more ear infections. For you and your family, make a decision to quit today.

Once you decide to quit, consider these tips to help you get started. Here are a few basic tips to help get

1. Method. Determine your desired method of quitting – whether cold-turkey or tapering off.

2. Support System. Develop a support system around you. Get support from family, friends and co-workers. Let them know about your desire to quit and ask for their support to help you do it. Seek counseling help if it is needed. There are numerous web- and phone-based counseling support systems in place.

3. Detoxification. Help the body detoxify from the many toxins in cigarettes by using natural approaches. These products are optional, but can provide natural support while the body detoxifies. As with all supplements, these should be discussed with your health care provide prior to use. And be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Homeopathic smoking withdrawal formula - a homeopathic formula designed to support the body in detoxifying, reducing irritability and cravings, and calming nervous tension.
  • Herbal Smoke Free formula – An herbal combination with lobelia for those wishing to stop smoking. It may help calm the nervous system, dilate the bronchioles and loosen mucus.
  • Detox formula with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – Detox formulas often focus on the liver. While smoking does not directly affect the liver, the toxins in cigarettes do get stored in the liver over time. A liver detoxification formula can support healthy liver function, and the NAC works on both lungs and liver to help detoxify.
  • Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids. It is well known that vitamin C levels are lower in smokers. While vitamin C will not help with cravings or detoxification, it CAN help support the health of blood vessels, which are often damaged due to smoking. Vitamin C would also be beneficial for family members exposed to secondhand smoke.

On this Great American Smokeout, think about quitting, and develop your plan to become free from smoking.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Hibiscus – A Healthy Red Brew to Celebrate the Red, White & Blue

The hibiscus plant is a favorite among gardeners and landscapers because it produces showy flowers that enhance the beauty of any garden. As a bonus, the hibiscus flowers attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Another bonus? Hibiscus flowers offer therapeutic benefits to people!
     Hibiscus tea is an herbal infusion made with the crimson colored calyces (sepals) of the hibiscus flower. It brews a bright red-colored tea with a tart flavor. Hibiscus can also be taken as an extract or in capsule form.  The benefits of hibiscus may come from its antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins and quercetin, but it also contains several plant acids, including citric and malic acids, which may explain the tart flavor. 
     Hibiscus has a rich history of medicinal use in other parts of the world. In Africa, it has been used for skin health and to treat constipation. In Egypt, hibiscus is used as a diuretic to support fluid balance, and to support heart health. In Iran, drinking hibiscus tea for the treatment of hypertension is not uncommon. 
     It is this last use that has given rise to real interest in hibiscus over the last few years. Studies from 1999 and 2009 found that people with high blood pressure who drank three or more cups of hibiscus tea per day had significant reductions in their blood pressure, on average a 10% reduction. In a study of Type 2 diabetic patients, participants who were not taking any blood pressure medicine, and who drank hibiscus tea each day, saw a 16% decrease in their systolic blood pressure. 
     While research has demonstrated potential benefits of hibiscus on blood pressure, it may also help reduce cholesterol. Research has shown that in people with metabolic syndrome who took hibiscus extract, cholesterol and glucose levels reduced significantly. 
     To use hibiscus, you can take the extract in capsule form, or enjoy the tea hot or iced, or use hibiscus in jams or tea cakes. Here is an easy recipe from the kitchn for Cold-Brewed Jamaica, a refreshing hibiscus iced tea that would be perfect for July 4 celebrations! Enjoy and be safe out there!

Cold Brew Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Makes 1 quart
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers (about 1/2 ounce or 4 tea bags)
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons honey or agave, or to taste
Lime wedges (optional, for serving)

Place the hibiscus and cinnamon stick in a large jar or bowl. Add water. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8 to 12 hours). Add honey or agave to taste. Strain out any solids and serve over ice with a squeeze of lime, if desired.
Store the brewed jamaica covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Top 4 Natural Summer Remedies

School is out, summer is here, and it’s time to get outside! Spending more time outside is great for body, soul and spirit – fresh air and sunshine can lift the mood and boost the immune system. Using common sense can allow you to enjoy it even more – drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and wear your sunscreen if you will be out for more than about 15 minutes. But spend too much time outside and you may have some challenges to deal with, such as sunburn, poison ivy, or insect bites. So I’ve listed my top 5 natural remedies to help you handle summer skin challenges.
1. Tea Tree Oil. This is the number one remedy to keep on hand all year, but it has specific benefits for summer maladies. Tea tree oil is great of insect bites. It can help ease the itch and reduce the histamine- caused skin irritation. Tea tree oil is also a potent antiseptic, so it can be diluted (in coconut or other oil) and applied to minor cuts and abrasions. As a bonus, tea tree oil can also fight toenail fungus and athlete’s foot!

2. Aloe Vera Gel. Spend too much time in the sun and you end up with the dreaded sunburn. It’s best to avoid it with appropriate use of sunscreen, but if you do end up with sunburn, apply aloe vera gel topically. Aloe vera is cooling and soothing. It penetrates and hydrates the skin, and can help relieve pain, acting as a mild anti-inflammatory agent.  Aloe vera gel also works well for other minor burns.

 3. Arnica Montana. Arnica, a daisy-like flower, has been traditionally used as an external herbal remedy for bruises. It is commonly found homeopathically for both internal and external use for strains, sprains and pains. Arnica can help ease bruising and swelling, and is also great for sore muscles that occur from overexertion.

4. Jewelweed Spray or Soap. I am terrified of poison ivy! I’ve had a couple of bad reactions in the past, so I do my best to avoid it. But there are times I know I have been exposed and kept it contained. With poison ivy it is critical to use a soap or wash that will get the urushiol oil off your skin. Jewelweed is a natural remedy for poison ivy rash. Soaps and sprays with Jewelweed help tame the itch and support healing of the skin.