Thursday, July 31, 2014

6 Benefits of Green Tea Consumption

Green tea has been used as a standard drink in Asian countries for hundreds of years. It is often touted as helping to maintain youth and vitality. It has come to the attention of the Western world in recent years, and  more and more people are discovering its health benefits.*

Green tea is still grown and manufactured in Asia. It is cultivated, dried, pressed and processed from a variety of different trees. Some companies still do the work by hand.

Want to know why you may benefit from drinking it? Keep reading.

English: The appearance of green tea at three ...
The appearance of green tea at three different stages (from left to right): the infused leaves, the dry leaves, and the liquor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1. Antioxidant protection – Green tea contains a high concentration of antioxidant substances called polyphenols. These substances can retard some of the signs of aging. They also help neutralize free radical action in the body that can lead to cataracts, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, joint problems and wrinkling.

2. Weight loss – Some studies have shown that green tea extract led to increased weight loss in study participants. It has been proposed that drinking a cup a day can help increase your metabolism so you burn more calories even at rest.

3. Dental health – Drinking green tea might be good for your body beginning with your mouth. It has been suspected that substances in green tea actually neutralize the bacteria in the mouth that can lead to tooth decay and dental plaques.

4. Disease prevention – Studies are being conducted that show promising results for those with Parkinson’s disease. Drinking green tea may be able to help prevent the condition. Green tea can help prevent the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain leading to a depletion of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for movement in the body.

some of that tea
Green tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Infection management – If it can work on the bacteria in the mouth, it can help in other areas of the body as well. Green tea has been shown to help reverse sepsis in laboratory mice. Drinking green tea may boost your immunity to fight off infections.

6. Heart disease – Regularly drinking green tea may help you control your risk of heart disease. It has been shown that substances in green tea help to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood by blocking its oxidation. Not only that, but it also may help to improve levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and keep the arteries pliable and clear.

Are you looking for ways to improve your health? Green tea may be a healthy addition to your diet.

* This article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as medical advice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Caffeine - The Good & the Bad

Many need it to get going in the morning. When the energy wanes mid-morning, it is used as a pick-me-up. We are talking about caffeine. It has its good side and its bad side.

What Is Caffeine?

It is a stimulant. It is designed to perk you up and get your blood flowing faster. Blood vessels are dilated so you get more oxygen flowing. Caffeine is found in sodas, coffee, tea and chocolate. But is there such a thing as too much of it?

The Good

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
Coffee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Caffeine is an ingredient in many medications. We are not just talking about energy drinks or pills designed to keep you awake so you can cram for an exam or tend to a cranky baby. Look at the ingredient list for headache medications. Do you see caffeine listed there?

Caffeine can open blood vessels so that other medication can reach the site of pain more easily. For someone suffering from a migraine headache, drinking a caffeinated soda or tea can provide quicker relief than a pill. It is not advised to drink a soda as your main remedy, but it can take the edge off while your medication is starting to work.

Let’s go back to those energy drinks. They don’t just keep you awake; they give you more energy. This is desirable for someone who has a lot to do and wants to get it done.

Remember that oxygen increase? As the blood vessels dilate, more blood can reach the brain and so can more oxygen. You can think more clearly from first thing in the morning.

That extra energy can assist with weight loss. Drinking energy drinks can help you get through a particularly tough workout. As the metabolism ramps up, your body burns more calories to help you lose weight.

The Bad

With the good also comes a bit of a downside. While caffeine can do all of these things, using it too much can lead to some potential problems. 

Cans of XTC.
Energy drinks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Caffeine is addictive. Ever notice that you can’t just have one cup of coffee? Some people have several cups. You may have started with one but you end up drinking more as your body gets used to the effects of one cup. Too much can lead to jitters that can cause a lack of focus as the day wears on.

When that much caffeine is going through your system, stopping it can make you a bit woozy. Caffeine withdrawal can lead to dizziness, blurry vision and headache. How ironic, since it can also help stop a migraine.

High blood pressure is also a factor. Many medications that contain caffeine (such as cold medicine) are being changed to a different formulation for those who have a history of high blood pressure. The caffeine can raise normal blood pressure which makes them even more dangerous for someone who has a diagnosis of hypertension.

Regular consumption of caffeine can also deplete your adrenal glands, leading to low energy, fatigue, inability to handle stress, sleep disorders, and a host of other health problems.

Are you a caffeine drinker? A little can be helpful but too much can backfire on you. It's okay to have a bit of caffeine once in a while, but try not to do it every day, and if you do, have no more than what is contained in 1 cup of coffee.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ten Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Insomnia affects around 1 in 10 people and can be mildly annoying to downright debilitating.  Insomnia isn’t just the inability to fall asleep; it can also occur if you wake too often throughout the night or if you wake and feel un-rested. 

Here are 10 tips to overcome insomnia naturally:

Sleeping cat
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
1.  Pull the shades tight.  Our bodies are regulated by our circadian rhythms. These rhythms are directly influenced by light.  That means even a trip to the bathroom where you turn on the light can have a negative effect on the rest of your sleep that night.  And a cumulative effect over time. Pull the shades tight so you’re sleeping in darkness.  To wake, consider investing in a natural alarm clock, which gradually brightens emulating the rising sun.

2.  Turn off technology.  Television, computers and video games are all stimulating and can impede sleep.  Give yourself at least an hour before bedtime without these distractions and by all means, keep them out of your bedroom.

3.  Cool it.  If your bedroom is too hot, then you’re not going to be able to sleep.  Experts recommend keeping your thermostat no higher than 70 degrees when sleeping. 

4.  Create a schedule and stick to it.  Sleep schedules are important. They tell your body what to expect and you’ll sleep better when you develop and stick to it.  For example, doctors and health experts recommend 8 hours of sleep a night so you could go to bed at 11pm each night and wake at 7am.

5.  Routines help.  Just like a schedule helps your body know what to expect, a sleep routine can also help get your mind prepared for a good night of sleep.  Many people read before they go to bed, they listen to calming music, journal or pray.  Create a sleep routine that calms your mind and prepares you for a good night’s sleep.

6.  Avoid sugary foods before bed.  For a long time people advised against eating before bed however, the problem isn’t necessarily with eating in general - it’s what you eat.  Starchy carbs and foods high in carbohydrates can cause a spike in blood sugar and a subsequent plummet.  This blood sugar roller coaster ride is terrible for sleep.  Instead, if you need a snack, consume a lean protein with a bit of whole grains. 

(Photo credit: Stephen_Beaumont)
7.  Avoid Caffeine.  Some people are particularly sensitive to caffeine and may not know that the cup of coffee they’re drinking in the morning may be preventing them from sleeping that night. If you’re a caffeine addict, all hope is not lost. 

Consider quitting caffeine for a few weeks and monitor your sleep.  If your sleep doesn’t improve when you’re off the caffeine then you know that’s not your problem, however it’s still wise to not drink any caffeine after noon.  Be aware that teas and some foods also contain caffeine, not just coffee.

8.  Consider Melatonin.  Your body naturally produces melatonin, a hormone that influences sleep.  Light and darkness play a role in your body’s production of this hormone - however, sometimes it can get off kilter and the result is poor sleep and insomnia.  You can find melatonin supplements in your natural food store.

9.  Try Valerian.  Another item you’ll find in your natural food store is the herb, valerian.  While it smells something awful, it’s commonly used to treat insomnia by calming and relaxing. It comes in both capsule form and valerian tea, which tastes much better than it smells. (Note: Valerian can be habit-forming and should not be used long-term. It also may interfere with some medications. Consult your physician before taking.)

10.  Avoid alcohol. Alcohol makes sleeping quite difficult for most people.  While it’s a depressant and causes relaxation, alcohol doesn’t let your body fall into the deeper stages of sleep.  This means you may fall asleep quite well once your head hits the pillow; however, you’ll often wake a few hours later and be unable to fall back to sleep.

Ultimately, diet and exercise play an important role in your sleep and in preventing insomnia.  The better care you take of yourself, the better you’ll be able to sleep.  That being said, these 10 natural insomnia remedies are safe and effective whether your insomnia is an occasional occurrence or a chronic problem. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

11 Natural Remedies for Scrapes & Bruises

Scrapes and bruises are a part of everyday life - especially in the summer with all the outdoor activities going on. Some of us, it seems, whether we’re accident prone or adventurous or maybe a little bit of both, get scraped up daily.  While there are many handy over-the-counter remedies to clean cuts, reduce swelling, prevent infection and promote healing, there are twice as many natural remedies which accomplish the same thing - without all the synthetic chemicals.  Nature really does take good care of us! 

Let’s look at some natural remedies for scrapes and bruises:*

1. Witch hazel. This plant is actually a deciduous shrub and the bark and leaves are an astringent which can be used to disinfect and to clean skin.  It’s also commonly used to treat sore muscles and swollen tissue. 

aloe vera
Aloe vera (Photo credit: olgaberrios)
2. Aloe vera is a common treatment for sunburns and rashes. A succulent plant grown in warm, tropical climates, it protects and moisturizes the skin - and is also great for treating burns.

3. Arnica Gel, which comes from a perennial in the sunflower family, is excellent for treating muscle aches and bruising, as well as arthritis pain. 

4. Raw garlic.  Despite the very unique and strong aroma, garlic cloves can be used as an antiseptic to disinfect cuts and scrapes.

5. Comfrey, a perennial flower, is used to treat sprains, strains, bruises and broken bones.  The roots of the flower are ground into a poultice and placed on the injured area.

6. Yarrow leaves, when dried and ground into a powder, can be uses to disinfect cuts and scrapes and to stop bleeding.

7. Lavender essential oil, when combined and diluted by jojoba oil or olive oil, relieves pain, burns and bee stings. 

8. Tea tree essential oil, when diluted with jojoba or olive oil, is an antiseptic and antibiotic.  It is great for cleaning minor cuts. 

Mexican thyme, Queen of herbs, Coleus aromatic...
Thyme. (Photo credit: Vietnam Plants & The USA. plants)
9. Thyme essential oil, when diluted with a base oil like olive or jojoba has both antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.  Use it to clean minor cuts and scrapes and to soothe bruised and sore muscles.

10. Castor oil can be used to treat bruising and reduce swelling. 

11. Calendula oil is used to soothe rashes and minor scrapes. 

In addition to these 11 natural remedies, homeopathic remedies can be designed to treat swelling and bruising, and flower essences can be used to reduce stress and alleviate shock symptoms.  Mother Nature has provided you with a number of gentle and safe first aid remedies.  Create your natural first aid kit today and take advantage of all the healing power that nature has to offer!

* Note: Information provided above should not be considered medical advice. You should consult a qualified medical professional before using any natural remedy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Video: How Geothermal Heating & Cooling Systems Work

This very short video explains the basics of how geothermal systems work to heat and cool your home - much more quietly, efficiently, and cheaply than any traditional home heating and cooling method. My husband and I plan to install a geothermal system in our new home, but I didn't know much about it until recently. They are a great choice for our location - more consistent and reliable than solar or wind power - and from what we understand, less prone to maintenance issues.

The systems can last up to 3 times longer than a conventional heating or cooling system - and they accomplish both objectives with one, quiet low-maintenance unit - plus providing some hot water in the summer. A 30% tax credit for purchase and installation of these systems is available in most states through 2015.

Check it out, and learn more about this energy-efficient way to provide heating and cooling for your home!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 Green Energy & Fuel Saving Tips

More and more people are getting interested in going green - not just because it's good for the planet, but also because it can save you a lot of money. And with the sky-rocketing costs of energy and fuel, this is one area where you might want to seriously consider going green, especially if you're looking to save money.

English: Worldwide Renewable energy, existing ...
Worldwide Renewable energy, existing capacities, at end of 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The problem with the current energy sources that we use is that most of them are based on fossil fuels, which means they are not renewable energy resources. So when they are gone they are gone, and that makes them a hot commodity. Of course since we're already hooked up "to the grid” so to speak, this makes using other renewable energy sources to power our homes and cars a bit more difficult. It is not impossible, though.
Here are 5 tips for "going green" with energy and fuel.

1. Call your electric company. They might already be offering some renewable energy sources. And if they aren't offering anything now, that doesn't mean they won't be in the future. You can make a small investment in the future of renewable energy with your electric company by switching to a greener energy choice if they offer it, and expressing your interest in doing so in the future so they are aware of the demand.

2. Install solar panels on your home. This will help you to rely less on the “grid” system of the utility company. While up front there is a large cost to this, there are also tax breaks and incentives through the government for making these kinds of efforts to save our resources. You can often save up to 2/3 of the cost of a remodel like this. And after that initial investment the cost to power your home is free! 

3. Use geothermal energy to heat your home and provide hot water. Geothermal energy is the earth's heat. Install a ground source heat pump to heat and cool your home with. Again, there is an up-front cost, but these systems usually last a good 30 years with little to no maintenance, and you won't have to pay the high costs of heating and cooling bills during that time!

4. Get a wood stove. This is a great way to heat your home, especially if you live in an area where wood is readily available. And many of the newer wood stoves give off little smoke and ash, and are very efficient.

2010 Honda Insight photographed at the 2009 Wa...
2010 Honda Insight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
5. Purchase a green vehicle. Having a smart car or other energy-efficient car offers many perks. Save money at the pump and you can even receive tax breaks and incentives again if you purchase a green vehicle.

While we might not be quite there in the technology to have everyone fully switch over to using green energy and fuel, it is most definitely becoming more and more achievable. And the government recognizes the importance of doing this to keep us from using up all of the earth's resources to fuel our lives, so you can often receive rebates or tax incentives for making the switch to a greener energy choice. Options are out there - and in the long run, they can save you quite a bit of money. 

Even if you can't make huge changes to your lifestyle and home, that doesn't mean you can't do something. If you can't install solar panels on your home, that's okay; you can at least use the sun to your advantage. In the winter months, opening your blinds to let the sun in during the day will help heat your home - therefore using less heat, saving you money, and helping to save the environment - all for no cost!

You can also use public transportation or a bicycle whenever possible to get yourself around. Carpooling too is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Any one of these things is a great way to turn your life in a green direction to help make sure there is a healthy planet for our future generations to enjoy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Video: Detoxification Is About Food - Not Pills

No matter what your goals are for detoxing, it's a great way to make your body healthier. This short video gives you a brief overview of our favorite cleanse and detox program - The Total Wellness Cleanse. As he explains in the video, cleansing is about food - not pills! Or at least it should be....

In order to give your body the support it needs to detoxify itself naturally, you need to give it the correct nutrition. The Total Wellness Cleanse is a nutrition program that will teach you how to do just this. No crazy lemon juice diets, weeks where you can only eat soup, or anything like that. This is a program that teaches you how to eat real foods that feed and heal your body, and support all of its detoxification systems. With daily guidance, step-by-step instructions, and delicious recipes and daily menu ideas, this system is the complete package when it comes to natural and gentle detoxification.

Check out the video and you'll see why....

Click Here to Learn More About The Total Wellness Cleanse:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What You Need to Know About Doing A Detox

As you go about your everyday activities, your body has mechanisms in place for ridding itself of toxins.  When you use the bathroom, exhale, and sweat, your body is excreting substances for which it has no use or that might cause harm.

The organs involved in these processes sometimes get overwhelmed and need a break.  Like any system that works 24 hours a day, the human body sometimes just needs some "down time."

What Does a Detox Involve?

In some cultures and religions, fasting is part of religious observance.  A "detox" is a sort of variation of the fasting theme, designed to purify and cleanse.  A detox, like a fast, is always to be regarded as a temporary dietary adjustment, not a permanent one.  Most detoxes last anywhere from one to five days, with most lasting three.  Do not ever attempt a detox if you are pregnant or nursing.

There are several different types of detoxes, or cleanses, that are prevalent today.  Among them are:

Detox Tips
(Photo credit: Livin' Spoonful)
1. Juicing

* This is probably the most common and popular kind of detox.  "Green" juices made from raw cabbage, kale, or other leafy greens are allowed, as well as some fruit juices.

* Some nutritionists recommend preparing for the juice detox a day or two before by eating only raw fruits and vegetables.  When coming off the juice detox, eat only raw fruits and vegetables for another two days, then gradually introduce small meals of other items back into the diet.

* The lemonade diet, where the participant drinks only maple-syrup sweetened lemon juice mixed with water for several days, is one of the best-known juice-based detoxes, but it can be very hard on the body, and reported results vary.

2. Fruit and Veggie

* This detox is said to be good for anyone wishing to relieve the body of the stresses caused by digesting dairy and meat products.  On this detox diet, the fruits and vegetables can be raw or cooked - and they often include beans, so you have a good source of protein.

3. Water Only (Fasting)

* While this is a fairly popular form of detox, some experts strongly advise against it.  Drinking water only can upset your electrolyte balance, and it also tends to result in a too-rapid release of toxins into the bloodstream for elimination.  If you do choose to do a water only detox, make it for just one day.

Detox diets are often supplemented with herbs and/or fiber supplements as well.

What Are the Benefits of Doing a Detox?

1. Cleansing your body's organs

Detoxification is helpful in cleansing the blood and lymphatic systems, cleansing the colon of impurities, and giving the kidneys and liver - the main blood filtering organs - a rest.  As the intake of toxins is curtailed in a detox, the body has a chance to release stored toxins.
2. Removing toxins stored in your fat tissue

Interestingly, most agricultural chemicals, especially pesticides, are fat-soluble.  This means they tend to accumulate in fatty tissue in the body, and are found in higher concentrations in high-fat foods which are not organically grown.  As you undergo a detox, you begin to lose some fat, and as the fat gets "loosened up," the toxins get released from it.

3. Improved sense of well-being & physical healing

Detox diets are also touted as a means by which ill people can correct their illness.  Ulcers, cancer, depression, and general inflammation have all been relieved by detox diets.

Ultimately, a detox program can be very helpful when done periodically to improve your health. However, you should always use caution, listen to your body, and we generally recommend a gentle detoxification program such as the Total Wellness Cleanse, rather than an extreme program or regimen.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Explore Tide Pools with Your Children This Summer

If you live near a beach, or are vacationing near one this summer, don't miss the chance to explore them with your kids! They are a fun way to experience nature, and a great learning opportunity.

Tide pools present a unique opportunity to see an ocean environment up close and personal.  Their easy accessibility makes them an ideal learning experience for young children, who can explore ocean animals and habitats without having to take them scuba diving.  Here are a few tips and strategies to explore tide pools with your children.

Tide Pooling
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#1.  Learn the tide schedule and go at low tide.  This is important; you won’t have anything to study or explore if the tide is in.  When it goes out, however, little magical wonderlands are left behind.  Make sure you know when to expect the tide to come back in and the predicted weather.  It’d be a shame to become caught in a storm and watch your tide pool wash away before your eyes.

#2.  Use the low tide to explain to your children the gravitational pull of the moon and how it affects our seas.  This can be a complicated concept to understand for little ones, but they can comprehend the basic idea.

#3.  Make sure children are wearing protective shoes.  Water shoes or sandals are a good choice because they move easily when wet, but will still protect a child’s feet from sharp shells and stones. 

#4.  Consider preparing your children for the animals they are likely to encounter.  That way they can be on the lookout or make a scavenger-type hunt out of the trip.  They can look for one of every type of creature on their list.

#5.  Explain the general rules of nature.  Take only pictures; leave only footprints.  Make sure children understand they are witnesses of nature, not shoppers. 

#6.  For older children, encourage them to bring a sketchbook or a camera to document the wildlife they view. 

Sea Stars,Sea Urchins,Sea anemonesin Tide pool...
Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, & Sea Anemones in Tide pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
#7.  Use a tide pool to teach children about how animals survive.  Show them animals that have weapons, animals that use camouflage, and animals with exoskeletons to protect them.

#8.  Make sure everyone, parents included, is wearing sunscreen or long clothing to avoid sunburn - particularly on sunny days.

#9.  Make sure children, and adults, use caution when reaching into the tide pools to retrieve a creature.  Additionally, make sure each creature is put back where it was found.

#10.  Consider taking a pair of gloves and a small net so you can easily retrieve life, coral, shells and other items from the tide pool without risk of injury to yourself or to the environment.

Tide pools offer a wealth of learning opportunity and they’re fun to explore.  Children will have a wonderful time exploring these small worlds and learning about the ocean, and parents can enjoy a fun family outing while sharing this learning experience.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fun & Healthy Summer Activity: Nature Walk With Kids

When you’re looking for something to do with your children this summer, consider taking a nature walk with them.  Studies have shown nature walks improve your child’s emotional well being.  Let’s take a look at how nature walks benefit your child and how to take a nature walk with your children.

Nature Walks Help Children Concentrate

Description unavailable
(Photo credit: A Chilling Soul)
Take a walk outside in nature and you’ll notice a few things. You’ll notice you almost immediately feel calmer and more relaxed.  You’ll notice your mind may stop jumping from thought to thought.  Instead, of thinking about that project that’s due or that bill you have to pay, you’ll notice the rabbit sitting in the grass or the strange bird chirping in the tree.  You’ll notice the colors of the leaves on the trees and feel the sunshine on your shoulders.  In short, your mind clears and you begin to focus on the present moment. 

The same thing happens for children.  If your children are older then chances are they’re living extraordinarily busy lives.  Nature walks will help them concentrate and focus on the present. In fact studies have shown that nature walks for children with attention deficit issues were just as effective if not more so than medication to improve their concentration - and medication should only be a very last resort - especially when it comes to kids, with young and growing brains!

Nature Walks Build Confidence

Nature walks tend to generate curiosity and a sense of exploration in children.  They wonder what that funny orange moss was or why the snake was lying on that rock in the sun. This sense of wonder and curiosity helps them feel a part of something bigger than themselves.  It’s almost magical to watch children come out of their shells on a nature walk.  Their shoulders straighten, their eyes light up and confidence and curiosity beam from them. 

Nature Walks Boost Positive Emotions

Many forms of therapy use nature to treat depression, trauma, and to boost mood.  This is because nature is a proven method to boost mood and reduce aggression in children.  Scientists haven’t pinpointed the exact reasons why this occurs.  Some theorize that sunlight has a chemical effect on mood.  We do know that people suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, which occurs during the long months of winter when people don’t receive enough sunlight. 

(Photo credit: erichaynes)
Other’s have studied the effects of greenery on children and have found that children with more nature in their schools, more greenery, get better grades, have fewer behavior problems, and generally perform better in school.  

If you’re new to nature walks, start small and local. Choose trails or parks nearby and let your family gradually build up to longer walks. Get your children interested by pointing out interesting features and encourage them to show you what interests them. 

Many physicians and counselors actually prescribe “nature walk therapy” for their patients who are suffering from stress and anxiety issues, who have high blood pressure, depression or other mood related concerns or who need to improve their attention span.

In addition to helping children focus, giving them more self-confidence and boosting their mood, taking a nature walk with your children helps foster the bond between you and your children.  It creates fond memories, lets your child know that you enjoy quiet time with them in nature and gives them an overall appreciation for life.

Summer is a great time to get out in nature -  both for yourself and your kids - take advantage of the summer months, and reap the health benefits for your family!