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Archive for the ‘Staying Healthy’ Category

Ok. I have to rant for just a sec.

I work in a shop that sometimes gets door-to-door people in trying to market whatever they’re selling, and one day, some guy confidently came in with a question for me. “You’re a girl, so you must love makeup, right?”

I bit my tongue on most of what I wanted to say: that I’m a woman and not a child, that just because I’m female doesn’t make me genetically predisposed to love makeup, that I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with how I look currently that needs fixing, that my health is far more important to me than smearing carcinogens on my face every day is, that honestly, I like sleep much more than spending extra time on my appearance in the morning, and that anyone shallow enough to judge me on how I look or my choice to not use makeup doesn’t deserve the privilege of being a meaningful part of my life. I just merely replied that I don’t wear makeup because so much of it has so many terrible chemicals in it.

“But everything we carry is all natural!”

Not interested, thanks.

I can’t possibly roll my eyes back far enough in my head. All natural, huh? Yeah, sure it is.

I’m so tired of the phrase “all-natural” being touted (at least in the US anyway) as synonymous with “safe,” “healthy,” and “non-toxic.” Really tired of it.

Just because something is all-natural doesn’t mean it is safe, healthy, or non-toxic. All it means is that something is labeled as having been made from ingredients found in our natural world, and it doesn’t even mean that label has to be telling the truth if it’s outside the purview of the FDA. That doesn’t make them safe. Actually, legally that term (from solely a food standpoint, anyway) doesn’t really mean anything. Here’s what the FDA’s website has to say about the matter:

What is the meaning of ‘natural’ on the label of food?

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Now this is all murky enough when it comes to food, but even more so when considering cosmetics, cleaning supplies, toys, food storage containers, clothing, and other things we come in close contact with for extended periods of time that can effect our health but that are outside of the domain of the FDA . Technically, lead is all-natural, mercury is all-natural, arsenic is all-natural, and the list goes on and on. None of these things are safe. I don’t want stuff like that in things I come in contact with. Heck, jalapenos are all-natural, but I still don’t want them in my face cream.

I’m not saying I want to live in a bubble. I don’t. I’m not even sure it’s possible to avoid everything I want to avoid. But as long as lead is still an ingredient in lipstick, but it’s still ok to be called “all-natural,” I think there’s a problem. To me, this isn’t about disclosure of ingredients on labels (because who knows what all those chemical names in cosmetics are anyway?), it’s about not putting toxic or potentially toxic ingredients in stuff in the first place. And about not conflating the label all-natural with safe.

I think the Story of Stuff sums it up a little better than my currently angry, emotional self can:

And the next over-confident, condescending, horrifyingly sexist guy to come in trying to sell their new makeup going to get an earful from me. 🙂

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I have allergies. And I get lots of colds. And during the times I’m most suffering, Vicks is a close friend of mine. Both in the vapo-rub form as well as inhaled form.

So when I last visited my sister and saw her homemade version, I had to know more.

It’s very easy to make your own Vicks-style inhaler.

Find a small airtight container and put a cotton ball in it. This will be your inhaler container, so find one as small as you can that will seal tightly and hold a cotton ball.

For the actual solution, you’ll need a mix of 3 different essential oils: Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Lavender.

On the cotton ball, add:

  • 8 drops peppermint oil
  • 20 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 28 drops lavender oil

When your symptoms are bugging you, simply take the lid off and take a deep breath through your nose. It really does help.

My sister uses it for her kids’ asthma, as a supplement to their inhalers, NOT to replace them. But I find it helps with my allergy congestion as well.

Here is an article from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy  about asthma, which also might be helpful for allergies as well.

Now, I’m not advocating that anyone with asthma use only this. Not at all. What I AM saying is that there are other options you could try if you suffer from asthma, allergies, congestion, etc. and see what works best for you. This is simply another option to try.

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As another hobby, I also like to do henna.

I’ve heard about the properties of henna as a remedy for various fungal infections, so when I noticed I had something similar, I figured, what the heck, I’ll draw all over it with some henna and see what happens.

I’d had this particular type of skin infection before, and last time, it took about a year of applying a prescription cream over the area about 2-3 times a day, so I knew what I would need to do and I knew it would be a long process. Needless to say, I wasn’t really expecting that much from the henna. I thought at best, my infection would diminish a bit after the first application, and maybe after I kept applying henna every few weeks, the infection would finally go away. But after a few days, the design darkened and there was absolutely no trace of where the fungal rash-thing was.

I was absolutely floored.

I don’t have pictures or anything (seriously. I was not about to take pictures of that), so you’ve got nothing to go on except my word, but it totally worked, and it was gone within about 3 days or so.

I was truly surprised this worked so well, and happy to have saved myself a trip to the doctors office (both in time and money) and a prescription for cream that might work after several hundred applications.  Really, the only thing you’ve got to watch out for is if there’s broken skin involved. I had a little spot of broken skin on the rash where I put the henna, and now have a permanent henna dot to show for it. Henna is apparently permanent when applied to broken skin. It’s really not a big deal to me though, as it’s just a tiny dot. Actually, I’m not even sure I didn’t have a little freckle there in the first place, but I think it’s from the henna.

Henna seems to have some strong anti-fungal properties and seems to be a good treatment for various types of fungal rashes, foot fungus, nail fungus, and is even said to be able to get rid of head lice. I am by no means a henna expert, but I’m certainly having fun with it, and learning new things about henna along the way.

Pretty cool, huh?

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I met someone the other day who drinks diluted apple cider vinegar for her health, and it reminded me that diluted apple cider vinegar works as a specific remedy for heartburn. I can’t remember where I read or heard that, so I can’t cite the source, but it was a good thing that encounter triggered my memory, because I’ve been dying lately from heartburn. A slow, painful death from the esophagus on out. So after that conversation, I went home and tried it. Just a splash of apple cider vinegar diluted in a glass of water.

Now, if you’re not accustomed to drinking vinegar (which I imagine most people aren’t), it isn’t that good. In fact it’s awful. But I can’t deny the fact that the effect was absolutely unmistakably instantaneous. Heartburn gone. Husband’s theory is that it’s so gross it just makes you forget you have heartburn. But whatever the case, it was gone, and so I don’t care why.

Now I do have to say that it didn’t last very long, maybe an hour or so and I was back for another dose of a few sips. But realistically, you have to keep taking those chewable antacids about every hour or so for them to work, and I’d argue that they’re just as gross. So I’ll take the free version that’s already in my pantry.

As an aside, there’s also a note on our box of baking soda that you can mix a bit of baking soda in water and drink that to relieve heartburn as well. In my own experience it doesn’t work quite as well as the apple cider vinegar. It doesn’t work instantly, and it also doesn’t last long. And it’s still gross. So taste-wise, you’re out of luck. And I wouldn’t recommend going right from the baking soda mix to the vinegar one, or you might turn into a volcano.

And I’ve said this before with other health-related things, but here it is again. I’m not a doctor, nor do I have any medical training. I’ve found something that works well for me for mild relief. If you have chronic or severe issues, it might be good to check with your doctor about that.

Anyone else have experiences to share? What works for your heartburn?

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I’ve recently been suffering from my first cold of the season, and it caught me off guard. I didn’t have on hand any ginger or lemon for my usual cold remedy tea, no decongestants, nothing that would help. Naturally, in my desperate state of needing some kind of relief from crushing sinus pressure and pain and constant sneezing and blowing my nose, I tried searching the web for something, anything.

I came across something simple to make, with ingredients present in my house and decided to try it. It was a simple mixture of honey and cinnamon, found at Health Home Happy:

Simply mix 1 tsp honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon and ingest 2-3 times daily until cold symptoms recede.

I tried it and I felt better: the pain and pressure subsided, I actually slept that night, and my runny nose/sneezing was all but gone. But there’s really no telling if I wouldn’t have felt better the next day anyway. And I wanted something to work so badly, perhaps the placebo effect was in play as well. Who knows? Honestly, I don’t really mind a little brain trick now and then, if it makes me feel better.

But does it really work?

There are lots of holistic health sites that claim it does, but they also make all kinds of unrealistic claims about what honey and cinnamon can cure. Apparently, there’s a huge list of outlandish claims that’s been circulating the internet for quite some time, which originated in an article from the tabloid Weekly World News. Here’s what Snopes has to say about it.

And here’s a really down-to-earth response to those claims from the Crunchy Coach that I found very helpful.

Ok, now for some medical research:

According to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health web archive, it seems there have been several studies done about honey and upper respiratory infection, mostly in children, and almost entirely related to cough symptoms only. The results vary, with some studies concluding that honey works a little better than traditional cough syrup ingredients, about the same as cough syrup ingredients, or might work just as well as cough syrup ingredients, depending on the severity of the cough/infection. One study cited insufficient evidence in determining honey’s efficiency.

Here are links to the studies I looked at, if you’re interested.

Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents.

A comparison of the effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and diphenhydramine on nightly cough and sleep quality in children and their parents.

Honey for acute cough in children.

And I feel a little silly adding this, since it seems obvious, but I don’t have a background in medicine. If you’ve got something severe or persistent, see your doctor. If you really like the honey/cinnamon thing, you might want to mention to your doctor or pharmacist you’re taking it, as it can react with certain medications and have certain side effects. 

Anyone have any thoughts on this? What’s your favorite at-home cold remedy?

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No Impact Week is coming up again! I participated in this for the first time in January, and now that I’ve had a chance to gauge my progress forget about all the progress I’ve made and revert to old habits, it’s time to sign up again and give it another go. This time around, the folks at Yes magazine have added the option of being able to register as a group. So…..I created a group for Path to Green. This is an open invitation for anyone who’s interested in giving this a try. No judgments, just effort and action. Start yourself wherever YOU are in this process, and make progress at a pace and level that works for YOU. Every little bit counts, and it’s not about comparing what you do (or can’t do) to what others do.

It’s a week of daily challenges to try, and by the end, the idea is to have a different perspective on your life, what you need, what you appreciate more, what you can do without, and what hinders rather than enhances your life.

Anyone out there who wants to sign up? I’ll (try to) post my reflections every day about my own experience, and hopefully this can be an outlet for us to all share our thoughts, experiences, and commiserate cheer each other on.

No Impact Week is scheduled to start the week of September 18.

Go here to sign up: http://noimpactproject.org/experiment/register-for-the-yes-magazine-no-impact-week/

And in the box that asks if you have a private group name to enter, be sure to type in Path to Green

Some specifics on how the project works: http://noimpactproject.org/experiment/how-it-works/

More general info: http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/join-yes-for-no-impact-week-september-2011

Some inspiring words from creator Colin Beavan: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/jump-in-together-an-invitation-to-no-impact-week

Drop a line in the comments if you’ve signed up, so we can all get an idea of who we all are and how to support each other throughout the week!

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When I chose the name “Path to Green,” I was thinking in terms of environmentalism, in terms of being greener for our planet, reducing our reliance on commercially-produced products that leave a long trail of waste in their wake, and reducing exposure to scary chemicals in commercial products. And I’ve told the story already of why I got started with this in the first place, no need for repeating. I was also thinking in terms of helping out others, compiling recipes and advice in one place, helping make it seem “do-able” to make lots of small changes that eventually accumulate into big change, and adding my voice out there to say that we can do this together.

But what I didn’t realize was the bigger picture in my life. When I chose the name Path to Green, I wasn’t thinking about “greener pastures” in the larger sense of my life. I was thinking specifically about being green in the environmental sense.

But it ended up being a piece of the puzzle. See, I started this whole writing “thing” in the midst of some big life changes. I had just left my teaching career behind and was adrift looking for something new. And I started simplifying. First with the basic recipes I’ve been posting, and then it expanded from there. This simplification has opened up a space in my life that wasn’t there before. I connect more with the people around me. I make and maintain stronger relationships. New ideas and relationships flourish where mental clutter and stress used to be. I’ve become more in touch with my own self.  I have a stronger voice. I feel more relaxed and settled in a job I probably never would have considered before, but it’s a good fit for me. I have ended up somewhere I never thought I’d be. And it’s a much better place.

This experience has truly taught me a lot about letting go, about knowing when to quit, about how to listen. Listen to my body, my inner voice, my inner artist, my hopes, to others, to our planet.

And yes, this “path to green” has led me on a path to freedom, and into a path of artistic expression. Maybe I’m not an “artist” in the traditional sense, but I definitely hear the voice of my creative force that inspires me, I feel the pull to create, and I artistically express myself without reserve. I draw, paint, quilt, write, dance, sing, play piano (again!), and sew. And I wouldn’t have any of these wonderful things in my life if I hadn’t embarked on this journey. If I hadn’t opened up the space for it.

It all starts with awareness. My career change helped me to be genuinely aware of myself and helped me to sort out what’s truly important from what I had attributed false importance to. Even something as simple as cutting back on commercial products and making my own opened up space for awareness.

It’s also about listening. There’s a little voice in each of us that is like a compass: it will point us in the right direction (where we need to be) if we’re still for a moment to listen. I still feel unsure, but I know I’m on the right track. And I also know that voice will always be there when I need help.

And it’s about faith. At times it’s been hard to trust that little voice and to know that it’s never wrong. Mine pushed me somewhere scary: out of the only career I had known and into somewhere completely new. But I’m in a better place, and I’m learning something new. And it’s certainly better for my well-being than my stress-filled teaching job was.

It’s not just about the environmental path. This experience has taught me a lot about all kinds of paths. And it all starts with the first step.

How do you make space in your life?

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