Friday, January 27, 2006

Dietary Supplements – Botanicals

What is a botanical? The study of plants is called botany, so a botanical is a plant, or part thereof, that is valued for its medicinal or therapeutic properties. Some people groups have used these botanical – or herbal - supplements for thousands of years to alleviate some conditions. However, even though they are gaining in popularity, many professional health carers in the western world still doubt their usefulness.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (1994) has ruled that before a botanical can be classified as a dietary supplement, it must…

· Be intended to supplement the diet.
· Contain one or more dietary ingredient like vitamins, or their constituents.
· Be intended for use in oral form such as tablets, capsules liquid or powder.
· Be labelled on the front that it is intended as a dietary supplement.

Many herbal remedies meet these criteria. They are also packaged and sold as teas and infusions, tinctures and extracts, and are becoming increasingly popular in western countries, being used to relieve mild conditions instead of what is seen as the harsher chemical alternative.

For instance, ginger in various forms is used to combat travel and morning sickness,
because it does not make the consumer drowsy and dry in the mouth as do some other over-the counter, or even prescription, drugs. It can be taken as a tea, a tablet or in the form of a lolly (sweet). There are many herbal products on the market, and some claim to help mental ability, while others are said to increase strength or energy, help you sleep, or cope with stress. Most of them are quite expensive, so make sure you really do need that product before you buy it.

If you have a disease or are on medication of any kind and wish to try an herbal remedy, it would be wise to consult a knowledgeable health professional before doing so. Some herbal remedies have been shown to react adversely to chemical substances.

Many people accept herbal medications as safe because they are ‘natural’, but this is not necessarily so. Many plants are poisonous, or may have serious side effects or give allergic reactions when taken by susceptible individuals. One such case is bee pollen. Just as you can be allergic to bee stings without knowing it (if you’ve never been stung) so an allergy to bee pollen may also be present. While many herbal concoctions can be useful, you should always approach new herbal products with caution. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ayurvedic Herbs

Before the advent of modern medicine as we know it many cultures developed natural medicines called herbs. These cures usually came from plants and other natural substances which today can often be found in the kitchen.

Ayurvedic Medicine is a tradition of treating people holistically that has a history of treating disease and preventing illness through herbs and even some of your every day spices found in the kitchen.

A number of Indian plants or herbs and spices have found their way into the United States. Ginger, Gotu Kola, Gymnema, Cinnamon, Boswellia or Frankincense and East Indian Globe Thistle are just a few of the Indian herbs that can be found in your local herbalist store or even at the grocery store.

used as a digestive aid this spice has been recommended to cure gas, colic and even decrease heart burn. It is also known as a tonic to increase vigor and as an anti-depressant. In India this herb is also known as Sunthi or Adrak

Gotu Kola
Listed as a common herb in India this herb should not be confused with Kola Nut which is a different plant. In Ayurvedic herbalism this plant has many uses including wound healing, skin disorders, sedative effects and even seems promising as a blood pressure lowering herb.

Gymnema Sylvestre or Gurmar has received a lot of press because it appears to block sugars. The first noticeable effect when a small amount is placed on the tongue is that the person stops being able to taste sweets. The theory is that it has a similar blocking effect internally. The actual effect may be that because you don't "taste" the sugar it doesn't trigger that "sweet tooth effect". When used with diabetics a decrease in blood sugar and insulin levels was noted with this Indian herb.

In addition to being a key ingredient in mom's cinnamon rolls this spice has been used as a stimulant for hundreds of years by the Ayurvedic Herbalist. It is used commonly to alleviate tooth ache, rheumatism and as an astringent. The essential oil seems to have marked anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties also.

Also known as Frankincense this gummy residue is used externally for its anti-inflammatory properties and as an expectorant and immune system booster when taken internally. This tree is native to India and the Middle East.

East India Globe Thistle
considered a tonic or energizer this herb also seems to have anti-diabetic qualities and may be found in compounds that promote anti-oxidant effects or that reduce blood sugar.

The list of Ayurvedic herbs is much longer than just these few. It is noteworthy that many of these herbs are also spices or foods such as apricot or licorice. The Ayurvedic tradition promotes the belief that food plays an important role in curing disease and promoting wellness. The precept that "we are what we eat" is not a new one it seems.

Taking herbs in place of medications is not without some risk. Many herbs contain potent substances which can create side effects as well as interactions with medications.

A common example is ginseng. Ginseng interacts with coumadin (a common blood thinner) and causes your blood to become even thinner.

Anytime you are considering taking an herb or supplement you should research the effects and side effects and as always if you are taking medications you should consult with your doctor before starting any herb or supplement.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Keeping Your Colon Healthy!

A healthy colon is vital to a healthy body. It is by no means the only step, as some would have you believe, but nevertheless essential to regaining optimum health.

OK, to many this may seem a revolting topic and could well be the reason most people do little or nothing about maintaining a healthy colon. However, no one who eats a "modern" diet can escape the formation of caked deposits on the lining of the colon, which inevitably interferes with its normal function.

One example of our modern diet is the consumption of white bread, which contains little or no fibre and has large amounts of gluten, which is a very sticky wheat protein. Our digestive system simply was not designed to handle this garbage and is constantly under strain to expel it from the body. In many cases this "gunk" ends up blocking or sticking to the colon wall. White bread is but one example of the junk most people consume these days.

Most people would be amazed at what actually comes out of an average "healthy" person during a colonic. Quite often there are rock hard discs, dark lumpy strings, sheets or flakes of brown mucous and last but not least the occasional tape worm. All of which are disgusting to look at (not to mention the smell!). It is not surprising why people shy away from discussing the subject or decide to have colonic treatment. However, if the average person is carrying around all this toxic sludge how can they possibly have a healthy body? This unwanted build-up within the colon interferes with peristalsis (the rippling motion of the colon) and can be a primary cause of constipation.

When large amounts of the colon's surface become coated with impermeable dried fecal matter or lumps of mucous three things happen:

1) Delays in expelling fecal matter increase the amount of toxins absorbed into the body.

2) The absorption of nutrients that the body needs is severely interfered with.

3) Water within the intestine should be filtered back into the blood stream. However, if the lining of the intestine is caked, this water cannot be absorbed and can lead to dehydration.

There are two types of colon cleansing, enemas and colonic. Enemas are self administered, whereas a colonic is generally carried out at a clinic. A colonic achieves more in less time with up to 50 gallons of water being flushed through the intestine. A colonic machine can administer the equivalent of six enemas in less than one hour.

If you are considering a colonic it is best to do your homework first. Find out the technicians credentials and, if possible, speak to someone who has actually used the service.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What is Orthorexia?

I've just learned about this eating disorder. Would you think that you can even die of it? Unbelievable as it sounds, it has already happened.
This is what Dr. Steven Bratman, inventor of the word "orthorexia" writes:

"It’s great to eat healthy food, and most of us could benefit by paying a little more attention to what we eat. However, some people have the opposite problem: they take the concept of healthy eating to such an extreme that it becomes an obsession. I call this state of mind orthorexia nervosa: literally, "fixation on righteous eating." "

Click here for the article

Treat Yourself to a Luxurious Home Spa - Less Money, More Often!

A day at the spa - what a welcome release! However, most individuals just dream about the soothing music and luxurious spa treatments because they don't have the time or money to indulge. That doesn't have to be the case, a bit of pampering from time to time goes a long way to making you feel good about yourself and ready to take on the day.

If you are at your wits end with work, the kids, the house or just the hectic pace of life you can create your own mini home spa tonight and re-create it as often as you need to. In fact, having the ability to turn your bathroom into a spa for even half an hour before you hit the sack will not only relax you but can become a weekly indulgence without the cost or the time involved in day spas.


To really feel like you've been transported to a luxury spa it's worth it to set the stage properly. Here are the six steps to creating a mini home spa and how to enjoy it.

First, get rid of the toys! Or any other clutter in the tub. Dump them in a bin and set them outside the bathroom door if you have to, but don't try this with rubber frogs and superhero washcloths lying around.

Second, have a big towel ready. Have several on hand if you're trying any body wrap that you will need to wash off later.

Third, it's worth the little extra to invest in a plush, comfy bathrobe and slippers. It's a one time expense to really feel like you've gone to a spa.

Fourth, candles and a CD. Find something tranquil that suits the mood you're going for. Are you looking for rejuvenation or relaxation? Aromatherapy candles in scents like lavender for relaxation or citrus for rejuvenation will intensify the effects of your other treatments.

Fifth, face mask, exfoliation tool or scrub, Epsom salts and essential oils. Whether you prefer to create your own products from kitchen ingredients on hand, like bananas, honey, cucumber or chocolate; or if you purchase a few samples from the drug store, create a theme with your selections. A lavender oil in your bath with a rich, moisturizing chocolate or mud mask will feel extra indulgent. A peppermint bath with a cucumber mask will refresh you like nothing else.

Sixth, time. Put aside at least 20 minutes to enjoy your mini home spa. Fill the bath with hot water, turning on the shower for additional steam, and place a few teaspoons of Epsom salts along with several drops of your essential oil. Light the candles and turn on the music. Wash your face with a warm face cloth and apply the mask liberally. Unrobe and slip into your bath; start with your exfoliating scrub or pumice and then let yourself relax and enjoy all the sensations; smell, feel, sound.

When you're done, wash off the mask and moisturize from head to toe. Complete the experience by wrapping yourself in the soft robe and enjoying a cup of herbal tea selected to compliment your spa experience. Choose peppermint or citrus tea for a rejuvenating spa or a jasmine or chamomile tea for a relaxing spa.

Creating a home spa is so easy and affordable you'll have no excuse not to indulge as often as you wish!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Five Tips for Optimal Health

Every person can improve their health if they follow these five guidelines: Be optimistic, eat right, exercise, sleep well, and find purpose for your life. Follow these and you will become healthier, happier, and more productive.

First, put away fear and worry and find joy. There are health professionals who recommend not watching or listening to the news. Reading the daily newspaper in the morning starts your day off on a negative path. The news brings you crisis after crisis, tearing you down.

Change your thinking to one of optimism and gratitude. Thinking of things you can be thankful for is a great exercise every morning. Be thankful for life, for family, for the ability to see and to think. It doesn't matter what you put in the blank. The important thing is to develop a thankful heart.

The second guideline is to eat right. Eat more whole foods, less processed foods, and overcome your addictions to junk food. That is hard to hear and perhaps even harder to follow, but it is so vitally important to your overall health.

Besides eating the right foods you need to be careful not to overeat. Overeating causes us to age faster, increases wrinkles, and greatly increases our chances of acquiring many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. If you need to, decrease the amount of food you eat.

At the same time increase the percentage of whole foods in your diet. Whole foods improve your health and improve your immune system. Eat 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and reduce the amount of sugar and salt in your diet. You will notice a difference in your energy level and your overall health.

Thirdly, get adequate sleep. If you do not sleep enough your body is not going to function efficiently. It will even slow down your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose extra weight.

Also, a lot of hormones are secreted in high levels during sleep which allows your body to recuperate and repair. For example, if you are an athlete or a body builder, not getting enough sleep will increase your chances of injury or failure.

Fourthly, exercise regularly. The average person should try to exercise every day, raising their heart rate a little bit and keeping it there for 20 minutes or so. If you cannot do it every day or every other day, at least do it every three days. Studies have shown that after being sedentary for 72 hours the body's metabolism starts to decrease.

Fifth, find purpose in your life. Even people who have experienced horrendous illness have been able to survive for a long, long time because they had a reason to live. They have become incredibly useful individuals within their family and social and community spheres despite their illness.

These five guidelines are very basic and within reach of most people. Followed closely they can lead to a longer, healthier and a more fulfilling life.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Sick House Syndrome"- How to Avoid It

Although we all know that fresh air is good for us, we tend to almost always associate it with spending time outdoors. Since many of us spend most of our lives indoors, we should educate ourselves on the danger of what is called "sick-house" syndrome. This occurs when our homes, offices, etc. are sealed tightly to prevent noise, pollution, or cold air from entering. Unfortunately, this also prevents harmful fumes caused by paints, cleaning products, deodorizers and wood smoke from getting out. Your furnishings, carpeting, and clothing can emit dangerous pollutants that can rob you, your family and even your pets of good health!

Studies show that the air in our homes should be changed ten times per day - anything less causes build up of dangerous pollutants. Below are some tips to help avoid "sick-house" syndrome. First, open the windows (just a crack is sufficient) when possible, and check to make sure that all vents are unblocked.

Another problem that lack of ventilation can cause is mold and mildew. This is found to be a danger not only to your health, but it can also damage the structure of your house. Especially in rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms, where humidity is likely to be high, proper ventilation is essential to avoiding toxic mold. The use of fans in these areas are helpful. If possible, try to avoid taking long hot showers as the vapor that's emitted can eventually cause mold also.

Also, check areas such as the attic, and underneath floors for proper air circulation. If you have a humidity problem upstairs, it probably means that the attic or roof space needs more ventilation. Be aware that some types of flooring can cause structural damage if there is not adequate ventilation beneath it.

We all want our homes to smell nice, and a clean, well-ventilated house will. But unpleasant odors happen, and we must not become overzealous in using artificial scents that add more pollutants to the air. Aerosols, in particular, are not eco-friendly and often contain nasty additives. Do not fall into the trap of trying to create a "fresh smelling" home by adding more chemicals to our already polluted air.

You can easily make your own room deodorizer by sprinkling a few drops of vanilla or essential oil on a cotton ball. Place this in a small open container to prevent the oil or alcohol from damaging your furniture. Other natural room fresheners to use include baking soda, white vinegar, fresh or dried herbs, or even a bowl of fresh apples. And, if you like the scent of fresh flowers, treat yourself to the real thing instead of using an artificial spray. Try to keep chemical-laced cleaners, and perfumed products to a minimum, and use natural products as much as possible.

If you or your loved ones suffer from unexplained drowsiness or a general malaise, try getting fresher air through the house. Some people are quite sensitive to mold and exhibit symptoms such as headaches, chronic coughing, inflamation of mucous membranes such as sinus problems. For more serious cases your best bet is to find a certified mold inspector or certified mold inspecting company who knows where and how to look for the dangerous mold and how to remove it if possible. There have been some houses that have been so seriously infected with mold that they had to be destroyed. Take the issue of mold and household pollutants seriously, your family and home will breath easier and you can avoid the "sick-house" syndrome.

Patricia Kirkcaldy runs the Home and Garden Decor Blog
Where you'll find Free Home and Garden Improvement
Tips and Weekly Home and Garden Show Schedules!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Reduce Your Stress: Read A Book

It will take you to faraway places with white sandy beaches and clear azure skies in the blink of an eye. It will take you back in time to the days of prehistoric monsters or thrust you forward to the Big Brother world of tomorrow. It can even fill your eyes with tears one moment and make you laugh out loud the next.

Reading a good novel or story will open a window to the world and give you a vision of things you never dreamed possible. And the side benefit is, reading is one of the best ways to reduce your stress level and can even help you solve whatever problem is ailing you.

Reading is the great escape and it also works well as a way to relax. When you curl up with a good book, you put the rest of the world and all its troubles out of your mind as you are taken to distant places to learn about different time periods, and to expose yourself to new ideas and philosophies. You are essentially taking a vacation of the mind -- but one that can be virtually cost-free, especially if you live near a library.

Of course, reading is also a great way to reduce stress by gaining the knowledge you need to solve problems. For example, let's say you're overweight and this is causing you stress. You find that the more weight you gain, the more stressed you become, which just causes you to eat more. Instead of getting stressed out, why not read a good book about nutrition that will teach you how to plan meals better, so they're low-cal and low-fat. This could very well result in reducing your weight problem and it could even disappear altogether along with the stress that is bringing you down.

Reading can also be a source of great hope, giving you ideas and inspiration that will relieve your stress. Biographies and rags-to-riches stories about famous people will teach how they overcame their struggles. These stories of triumph might even inspire you to seek ways to overcome the challenges in your life.

Of course, there are also times when reading can increase your stress level. For instance, if you are studying for a test, or reading about tragedies in your local newspaper, you might find your stress levels skyrocketing. That's why it's important to choose your reading material carefully. If you're feeling stressed, why not pick up a book that will relax you. A good travel book, or cookbook, or book of poetry are far better choices than news magazines filled with stories about all the things that are wrong in the world.

Self-help books are also a very effective way to help reduce stress. They encourage you to explore your feelings and they recommend such techniques as listening to soothing music, learning how to play a musical instrument, or just engaging in deep breathing in order to deal with stressful situations.

One of the best stress reliever is reading a good novel. It's the best medicine there is without the side effects of drugs. When you read a good story, whether it be a historical fiction or a mystery thriller or a comic novel, it almost always transports you away from anxieties and frustrations. It allows your imagination to run free and then leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated. When you are reading it forces you to concentrate, to exercise your mind in a way that passively watching TV or a movie can never match.

In the long run, it doesn't matter what you read but how much you read. Try reading while standing in the grocery line, or at the bank, or while pedaling your stationary bike. The more you read, the more you will want to read because you will quickly discover its short and long term stress reducing benefits.

Good Nutrition Made Easy

Many of us will start a new life in the New Year. Let's start with improving our eating habits. Good nutrition is critical to a healthy lifestyle, yet there is so much information out there, most people do not have a clear understanding as to what they should and should not be eating. This article will simplify things.

First off, no more will you eat three big meals during the course of the day. To optimize your metabolism and your digestive system, break the day down with five to six small and nutritious meals. We will cover what these meals should be in a second.

When you clog your system with three big meals, your metabolism slows down and your digestive system cannot handle all the food. As a result, you end up with partially-digested food and, for most people, a tired and fatigued feeling.

You want to make sure you eat within one hour of waking up. In other words, do not skip breakfast! If you take away just one thing from this article, let it be that you should eat a big and nutritious meal within one hour of waking up. Furthermore, do not eat within two hours of going to bed. The last thing you want is food sitting in your stomach when your metabolism is at its slowest.

Most people know which foods they should stay away from. The obvious ones include desserts, high-fat meals, candy, fast food and fried food. In fact, most people will feel a big difference simply by staying away from these kinds of foods. The not-so-obvious ones include:

1. Pasta (with the exception being wheat pasta)
2. Fat-free foods (because they are filled with sugar and chemicals)
3. Most frozen meals (because of all the preservatives)
4. Processed meats like fake cold cuts (because of all the preservatives and chemicals)
5. Soda and juices (because of the sugar)
6. Creamy meals (because of the fat)

Furthermore, start getting in the habit of reading the ingredients of the food you buy. If sugar is one of the first three ingredients listed, do not buy it. And if you see hydrogenated oils listed anywhere in the list of ingredients, stay far away. These kinds of fats, called Trans fats, wreck havoc on your body.

As far as what to eat, buying anything at the grocery from the following list is a straight path to better health. These foods include:

1. Fruits like bananas, berries and apples
2. Whole grains including bread and pasta
3. Oatmeal (not the microwave, sugar mix)
4. Low-fat dairy including milk and yogurt
5. Chicken, turkey and fish
6. Vegetables like spinach, squash and tomatoes
7. Olive oil and fresh garlic
8. Eggs
9. Natural peanut butter (the regular kind contains hydrogenated oils)
10. Beans and legumes
11. Almonds and other nuts
12. Water

Simply focus on staying away from the foods you should not eat and buy more of the foods listed above. You will find that the longer you make an effort to do this, the more will power you will slowly develop.

Obviously sometimes you are going to slip, but this is not about perfection. Make a conscious effort to improve your eating habits and you will notice a huge difference in how you look and feel. After all, you are what you eat.