Baths (and bath houses) have been around for centuries, so there has to be something good about them other than the luxury of hot water. In fact, hot baths have been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits. According to the Huffington Post, baths can boost your mental capacity and improve your memory, just by taking a few intentional moments to relax your body and mind. The humidity from the warm water can heal dry nasal passages and soothe your lungs, even if you didn’t realize they were working harder in the colder weather. The warm water of a bath will relax and promote healing of sore or aching muscles. Baths are also ideal for reaping the benefits of aromatherapy. A lavender bath will promote relaxation, while rosemary, mint and sage will calmly energize and, and even improve your memory. And adding salt introduces a new element of detoxification, drawing out the grit and stress of your day, and Epsom salts can give you a gentle magnesium boost.
Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, taking a bath might not actually save as much water as taking a really quick shower (according to National Geographic: Green House and Waterwise), unless you have a super-mega-inefficient power showerhead, so you can’t necessarily pull the “it’s better for the environment” excuse to soak. That being said, baths usually require around 20 gallons of water, which is the same amount as a 10-minute shower. So, if you have more than 10 minutes on your hands, a relaxing soak may be just what you need!
Though baths are wonderful all year round, they are especially luxurious in the winter. Even a 10 minute soak can do you a world of good, so try one of the following recipes if you want to take your bath to the next level!
Recipe from Happy Money Saver
These lovely darlings are a perfect hybrid of body butter and bath scent to pamper you and give your skin a treat. Since oil (therein butter) and water don’t mix, the hydrating skin food gets absorbed, leaving the bath smelling wonderful with tea and essential oils.
Recipe From Humblebee & Me
Remember that science project with the baking soda volcano? These homemade bath bombs run on a very similar principle. The mix of baking soda and dry citric acid (often used for canning) explode into a perfect fit of effervescence in your tub, and you can create your own fragrance too with essential oils! Try a Soothing Aloe and Coconut Milk variation.
Image from the Gardener’s Supply Co.
Recipe from Frugal Granola
Who says tea is just for drinking? This bath time herbal “tea” (it doesn’t have any tea leaves, and won’t stain you or your tub!) is a perfect herbal mix to reap the benefits of herbal aromatherapy. Mix up a bag of your favorite herbs and let your stress wash away. Rosemary, mint and basil energize and revitalize the mind, while lavender and sweet orange peel relaxes. You could also let herbs free-float in your tub for picturesque-ness, but it’s a lot easier to clean up just a tea bag. Plus, the tea bag can also be used as a body scrub! And it can work as a potpourri until you can steal a minute for the tub.
After your skin has soaked up all the clean moisture from your bath, slather on an organic moisturizer or homemade body butter to fortify a moisture barrier between your skin and the dry air, protecting your newly replenished and pampered skin, and leaving your skin extra soft.
Taylor Nutting is an editorial assistant at Mother Earth Living who loves to find new ways to live a healthy and happy life.
It’s that time of year—stuffy noses, aggravating coughs, nasally voices…oh, here we go again. This cold and flu season we thought it would be fun to ask our Facebook readers how they kick nasty colds to the curb, and everyone seemed to have some great ideas! We received so many wonderful tried-and-true remedies that it was hard to pick just 20, but here are some of our favorites.
“I swear by this strong ginger-honey-lemon drink: In a glass jar, combine 10 ounces boiling water, a thumb-sized knob of thinly sliced (or grated) ginger, the juice from half a lemon and enough honey to sweeten (to taste). This recipe helps soothe sore throats and relieve sinus pressure. Let it steep for as long as possible, but sip it while it’s still hot.” –From Lori Parr
“Try this old home remedy: Brandy plus hot water, honey and lime. It’s called a hot toddy. Drink it just before bed.” –From Jackie David
“OK, I don't know how natural this is, but it sure knocks out a bad cold. Take one grapefruit, cut it in half and squeeze the juice into a saucepan. Add some water as well as the grapefruit halves, then bring it all to a boil. Finally, add some whiskey and honey, and drink it while it’s still hot, right before bedtime.” –From Sharon Howell
“While everyone around me is sick, I stay healthy with this preventative elixir: Combine 1/2 cup hot water with 1/3 cup lemon juice, or juice from 1 fresh lemon; 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne powder; 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger powder, or fresh; and honey, to taste. Drink the concoction as warm as you can, without risk of burning yourself. Drink it all at once. This will raise your body temperature and cleanse your kidneys and liver. Enjoy daily.” – From Ellen Nygaard
Chest Congestion Relief
“For chest congestion: Mix 4 tablespoons warm water with 2 tablespoons organic honey, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Shake well. Drink 1 tablespoon, three to four times a day.” –From Sally Rogers Devine
Lots of Garlic
“Raw garlic: Eat it, steam it and inhale it. It works on the toughest of infections. I've used it on myself, my husband and my three little girls.” –From Star Gypsy
“I’ve studied holistic medicine and swear by black cumin seed organic oil—it’s beyond amazing. Even though it tastes terrible, it treats more than 40 ailments and is better than any high-dollar face cream or serum on the market. Many companies use it in $200 face creams as their secret ingredient. It’s good for acne or scalp conditions, but it’s great for wiping out a cold, flu or sore throat in a couple of days! Nettle is also awesome at helping clear up mucous, hacking coughs and allergies.” –From Cynthia Shirrell
“I juice kale, garlic, carrots and apples for flu symptoms. It’s very effective for my diabetic husband who shouldn't take much over-the-counter medications.” –From Patty Kratzer
“My grandmother’s chicken soup is not your traditional soup—it’s a recipe my family has used for generations. Cover pieces of chicken with cold water, then season with kosher salt to taste; 1/2 cup star anise; and a couple of bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer, covered, for a few hours. Strain and place in the refrigerator until cold. Skim off the fat, then reheat the soup, garnishing with parsley. Serve by itself or with egg noodles or another noodle of your choice. This is a great soup to freeze. In fact, I have some of it in my freezer right now! –From Candice Gayleen
Elderberry Cough Syrup
“Try the following recipe: Pour 4 cups water into a medium saucepan and add 1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried), 2 teaspoons fresh or dried ginger and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl. Discard the elderberries (or compost them!) and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it’s no longer hot, add 1 cup raw honey and stir well. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint-sized Mason jar or 16-ounce glass bottle of some kind. Store in the refrigerator and take daily for its immune-boosting properties.” –From Susanne Aggerholm
Know Your Onions
“OK, everyone is going to go ‘Ewww,’ but our oldest daughter, who was born with a rare heart problem, can’t take anything that would cause any elevation in her heart rate. My pediatrician told me to chop an onion really fine and cook it in a little water, then strain and add sugar (I usually used anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup) to make a syrup. I gave it to her every couple of hours and it worked. Now I use this with my great grandchildren. Honestly, they don’t really mind it as much as you would think. –From Gayle J. Rhodes
“As a yogini, I love all things Ayurveda. It has been extremely supportive in helping me overcome problems with imbalanced hormones and PMS. I would love to share my go-to Ayurvedic tea for whenever I have a sore throat. I have had many clients use this exclusively to overcome colds and flu. Friends, family and my children love to use it, too. As a bonus, it tastes great!
3 cups water
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of turmeric
Dash of cayenne (optional)
2 teaspoons raw honey
Bring water to a boil on the stove. While water is coming to a boil, add the ginger. Once water has boiled, add coconut oil, lemon, turmeric and cayenne. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into 2 cups and add a teaspoon of raw honey to each cup. (Ayurveda says that cooked honey loses its beneficial qualities and becomes poison in the body; always use raw honey if you want to get the most beneficial medicinal qualities out of this Ayurvedic superfood.)
Drink as often as you like. I would recommend at least three times as day, but if you would like to drink it more often, go for it!” –From Olga Dossa
Vitamins & Herbs
“I always humidify tea tree oil with eucalyptus oil. This works well on sore throats and congestion. I also up our diets in vitamin C and zinc-rich foods.” –From Ash Allgood
“I take vitamin D3 and drink honey-lemon tea with chamomile and ginger. Honey and lemon soothe while chamomile calms and ginger helps with nausea. Vitamin D3 is an immune-system booster that helps fight off illness quickly.” –From Amber Abram in Ohio
“Combine turmeric with black salt and gargle for as long as you can stand. It tastes horrid but works!” –From Denise Curry
“Oregano oil! Mix it with coconut oil and apply to your feet, or take the mixture orally, which works fastest. You can also place oregano oil directly under your tongue and chase it with milk or juice to keep it from burning too much.” –From Erin Jaramill
“Essential oils! Our flu bomb consists of 4 drops lemon oil, 4 drops thieves oil, 3 drops oregano oil, 2 drops tea tree oil and 2 drops frankincense oil combined in a vegetable capsule. Take two times daily with food and water.” –From Rachel Alexander
“I second thieves essential oil blend! It contains cinnamon bark, cloves, rosemary, eucalyptus and lemon therapeutic-grade essential oils, and the blend is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. Adding 1 drop to a cup of hot water makes a soothing, delicious and healing Thieves Tea. Just sweeten with honey as needed. My family also rubs the blend on our feet before going to bed at the first sign of a cold. No sicknesses in this house!” –From Jessica Steel
“This remedy has been a tradition in our family for more than 80 years: Combine 1 cup red wine (per person) with 2 to 3 cloves (max), 1 tablespoon sugar (per cup) and 1 slice lemon (per cup). Bring these ingredients to a boil, then strike a match over boiling liquid to burn off alcohol. (Note: Be extremely careful at this point, as the flame can get quite large.) Allow most of the alcohol to burn off, then pour into a cup and sip all of the liquid until it’s completely gone. Don't consume the cloves. This has worked for our family every time—it breaks colds and fevers.” –From Mark N Heather Cooper
“For sore throats, my parents always rubbed Vicks VapoRub on our necks then covered it with 100-percent wool socks—it truly seemed to work! For chest coughs, pour 2 to 3 cups white long grain rice in an old pillow case, tie it into a knot at the top, microwave for about 23 seconds, then check the temperature on your wrist. If it’s at a manageable heat, apply it to your chest until it cools. There’s something in the rice that relieves the chest pain from coughing and loosens up congestion.” –From Traci Shirley Lyman
*Statements herein have not been evaluated and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. It’s recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. You might eat a handful of veggies one week and exercise the next, but you're not setting yourself up for long-term success. Start with these basic tips, and use them as a foundation for your healthy lifestyle. Most of them seem small, but they add up to reveal significant results.
Don't Downplay the Negative Effects of Soda
People with a "Diet Coke addiction" often justify the craving by saying that it’s healthier than regular Coke or that it has fewer calories. While this is true, it's still not a healthful option. Challenge yourself to cut back on your soda or diet soda intake, and replace it with water. There are multiple resources out there to calculate how much sugar and caffeine are in different drinks, so check before you sip.
On top of calories, soda causes tooth decay, dehydration and sleep problems. If you're tired of articles telling you to stop drinking soda because of the sugar, then do it for your teeth or sleep.
Speaking of Teeth, Go to the Dentist
Are you nervous about going to the dentist in case he or she finds a cavity? What about multiple cavities? You might not be that nervous if you regularly get six-month check-ups. Your dentist will tell you what you're doing wrong, from not flossing to brushing too hard. It's better to go and have a dentist catch something early than have to endure a root canal.
Along with the dentist, don't shy away from your regular check-ups either. If your doctor knows you, he or she can spot any bodily changes that could be a sign of something worse. He or she will also be able to offer advice about diet and exercise.
Start Small with Exercise and Work Up
There's been a new trend in gyms to reduce pressure and judgment and to make people feel good about themselves no matter their shape. While this is great, some people are still nervous to try it out or invest in the money of a full gym membership.
Start small with the goal of getting in better shape rather than losing weight. Take a walk around the block at night to get the blood flowing or do a round of lunges in your bedroom before going to work. The key is to get your body used to daily activity. Once you're in a routine, start turning it up. Soon you'll be looking forward to your daily exercise challenges.
Image courtesy Flickr/epSos.de
Clean Up Your Diet
Eating better is one of the biggest challenges for people trying to get healthy. Food provides comfort or convenience, and no one wants to give those up by cooking healthful meals. Like exercise and diet soda, you can get healthier just by changing a couple of elements each week. Cut back on the number of times you eat out to just once a week; that way, eating out will be a treat.
Also, consider choosing organic vegetables over the regular kind to cut back on the chemicals found on other options. If you're worried that eating right will get expensive, don't worry: there are plenty of way to save. For example, sort through Valpak coupons before you go to the store to see what you can save.
Get on a Normal Sleep Schedule
This can be challenging for those who work late into the night. However, if you find yourself watching Netflix until 2 a.m. and are still getting up at 6 a.m., then you could be hurting your health in multiple ways.
On top of a decreased sex drive and increased risk of heart disease, a lack of sleep also makes you less alert and increases your risk of getting into an accident. There are an estimated 100,000 auto accidents and 1,550 crash-related deaths each year due to fatigue. Plus, a lack of a good night's sleep leads to other unhealthy habits such as increased caffeine intake and opting for fast food instead of cooking. Getting eight hours a night or increasing your hours asleep by one or two nightly can go a long way toward building healthier habits.
Whatever you do to get healthier, do it for the right reasons. Make sure that you want to be healthier for a better you, not just trying to look like the catalog models.
Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.
Exercise may not be the only thing that can impact our brains. Lack of exercise may negatively affect the structure of our brains, as well as increase our vulnerability to stress and our risk of poor heart health, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Comparative Neurology.
In the 2014 study, a dozen rats were grouped into two categories: sedentary rats and active rats. Half of the rats were housed in cages with running wheels, and the other half without. After 12 weeks, scientists started to discover notable differences between the two sets of rats’ sympathetic nervous systems—the part of the body that controls blood pressure. Whereas the shape of the neurons in the brains of the active rats remained mostly unchanged, the neurons in the brains of the sedentary rats had sprouted many new tentacle-like branches. Such excess branches are believed to make it easier to overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which may lead to an increase in blood pressure as well as contribute to the development of heart disease.
Although this study analyzed rats, researchers think the same results would be seen in humans. What’s most interesting about this study is how it suggests that inactivity can change the structure of our brains, just as activity does. So get up off that couch and move around. It’s essential for your health.
Learn more about brain health and exercise at Crew Blog.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living. She loves managing the health section, as well as testing beauty products enriched with natural ingredients. Find her on Google+ and Instagram.
The health benefits of omega 3s are plentiful. An essential fatty acid, it plays a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Research also shows that omega-3s reduce inflammation and may lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Even though omega-3s are fundamental for our health, our bodies can not manufacture them. Instead, we must get them through a properly balanced diet.
Fats in general are a quintessential part of a healthful diet, despite their bad rep. The key is to eat the right ones and reduce intake of the bad ones: saturated fats occur naturally in animal products and are likely less healthy; monounsaturated fats are healthful fats found in foods associated with the Mediterranean diet; and polyunsaturated fats comprise all of the essential fatty acids and are not naturally produced by the body. (For even more on this topic, read “All About Fats.”)
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Many nutrition experts believe we should consume these fats in nearly equal amounts for optimal health. Unfortunately, the average American consumes an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 or higher. This is because omega-6s are easy to find—they are available in highly refined vegetable oils, which are abundant in processed and fried foods—whereas there are few sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
How to Get Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are two critical, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that the body most needs: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). The third, short-chain omega-3s are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). While they are also beneficial, they have less potent health benefits than DHA and EPA.
Turn to these sources to get your adequate omega-3 fatty acid intake.
DHA and EPA are most typically found in fish oil. Many health experts agree that fatty fish is your best source of omega-3s and recommend consuming fatty fish twice a week (a serving size of 3.5 ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards). Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines and tuna contain the most omega-3 fatty acids. Many other types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3s, while some fish such as tilapia and catfish don’t appear to be as heart healthy because they contain higher levels of unhealthy fatty acids. Be sure to purchase wild-harvested seafood products.
Sesame-Crusted Salmon Recipe
Ahi Tuna Recipe
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Oils
A handful of seeds can also boost your omega-3 intake, flax seed and walnuts in particular—1/4 cup flax seed contains 6.3 grams omega-3 fatty acids, and 1/4 cup walnuts contains 2.7 grams. Other seeds rich omega-3s include chia, hemp, butternuts, pecans and pine nuts. Add a nutty flavor to salads, yogurt or your morning breakfast granola with a handful of these seeds. You can also cook with healthful nut oils, including soybean, rapeseed, flax seed and walnut oils, to reap similar health benefits.
Celery Root, Apple and Walnut Salad Recipe
Oat Coconut Granola Bars Recipe
Eating plenty of veggies is always essential for a healthful diet. It’s no different here—a lot of your favorite vegetables are good sources of omega-3s. Cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are particularly great sources, as are winter squash, collard greens and spinach.
Charred Brussels Sprouts Recipe
Maple-Baked Acorn Squash Recipe
While it’s always better to get omega-3 fatty acids from food, you can certainly get your DHA and EPA by taking fish oil supplements. The government doesn’t set RDAs for fatty acids, but typical fish oil doses in studies range from 1 to 4 grams a day. Fish oil is used in supplements, but there are also vegetarian supplements available.
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.
For such a tiny fruit, blueberries sure do pack a powerful punch. This vibrant, nutrient-dense fruit is a long-studied superfood fruit and is rich in resveratrol, quercetin, polyphenols (most notably proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins) and other flavonoids, as well as fiber and vitamin C. Relatively low in sugar, blueberries have a low glycemic load, meaning they don’t cause sharp spikes in blood sugar much like some natural fruits. Blueberries are also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which play an important role in lessening inflammation associated with chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and memory loss. Best of all, they’re only 80 calories per cup! Check out these amazing blueberry benefits.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Cancer Preventative: Blueberries may have myriad anti-cancer effects. Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, this sweet-tasting fruit may reduce oxidation and inflammation, dual processes that promote chronic diseases, including cancer. A more recent study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that blueberries’ proanthocyanidins may inhibit the growth of certain human prostate cancer cells. Another recent study from Rutgers University identified it may contain chemicals that can help prevent colon cancer.
Brain Boost: Blueberries may improve memory thanks to its proanthocyanidins, which give the berry its blue color. This polyphenol has the unique capacity to protect both the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage by environmental toxins. Additional studies suggest eating blueberries regularly may reverse some age-related memory loss and motor skill decline.
Heart Health Hero: As a good source of dietary fiber, blueberries may keep cholesterol in check. Women who eat blueberries are less likely to suffer from a heart attack, according to a study reported on by Harvard Health Publications. In the study, women who ate the most blueberries were 34 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Researchers suspect that these berries were beneficial because they are high in anthocyanins.
Bone Strengthener: An excellent source of manganese, blueberries may play an important role in bone development. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry concluded that blueberries can prevent bone loss. The study showed an increase in bone mineral density and favorable changes in biomarkers of bone metabolism.
Bladder Aid: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that take hold and grow inside the urinary tract, resulting in infection. While cranberries are more widely revered for improving bladder health, blueberries can also help fight UTIs. They discourage food-borne disease-causing bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella, and inhibit bacteria from binding to bladder tissue.
Vision Repair: Blueberries pack 14 milligrams of vitamin C per cup. This beneficial property can aid your health in a multitude of ways, including your eye health. Vitamin C reduces intraocular pressure, decreasing the potential for developing glaucoma, the second most common cause of blindness in the U.S., according to the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Skin Food: Among its other benefits, blueberries are a boon for skin. As a rich source of antioxidants, anthocyanins and vitamin C, blueberries can help maintain youthful-looking skin. Use topically (try this Antioxidant Mask Recipe) or eat regularly for its skin-boosting benefits.
To benefit from blueberries health-boosting properties, eat about three or four servings of blueberries each week, according to Harvard University. Right now is the best time to enjoy blueberries—this tasty berry is ready for picking in late July to mid-August, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. But don’t rush to pick as soon as the berries turns blue. Wait a couple of days—when they’re ready they should fall off right into your hand once you give the clusters a little tickle. Harvested blueberries will keep for up to two weeks, so be sure to preserve a bounty of fresh blueberries for winter months—they’re easy to freeze!
Native to North America, there are three types of blueberries: Highbush blueberries are most commonly found at grocery stores; lowbush blueberries, which are generally smaller and sweeter, are equally delicious and most often found in pie fillings; and rabbiteye blueberries are even smaller but not as high in flavor. Try blueberries in the following Mother Earth Living recipes.
Healthy Blueberry Recipes
Blueberry Smoothie Recipe
Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes Recipe
Summer Tempeh Stir-Fry with Blueberries Recipe
Cod with Warm Blueberry-Mango Salsa Recipe
Blueberry Cobbler Recipe
Gina DeBacker is the associate editor at Mother Earth Living, where she manages the health section of the magazine.
Before hitting the gym or that afternoon yoga session, think about filling up with foods that enhance your workout. Foods with complex sugars, protein and carbohydrates will keep you fueled, and some experts agree that even a small cup of coffee can improve your physical performance. Try to eat at least 30 minutes to an hour before your exercise routine.
Photo by Fotolia/blas
5 Best Pre-Workout Foods
Rich in fiber, oatmeal helps stabilize blood sugar, which in turn stabilizes your energy, keeping you fueled through your workout. Add fresh fruit for an added boost.
Probiotics—specifically the Lactobacillus strains—in yogurt have been found beneficial to weight loss efforts. Yogurt also helps to stabilize blood sugar, which results in less fat-storage hormones. Read more about probiotics in yogurt in our article “13 Proven Health Benefits of Probiotics.”
Bananas contain potassium, a vital nutrient for healthy muscle function. Bananas are also high in carbohydrates that are key to a quality workout. Eat whole or blend in a protein smoothie. (Try our Blueberry Banana Smoothie Recipe!) You can also slice on top of whole-grain toast to pack in extra carbs.
Photo by Fotolia/helenlbuxton
Whole-grain bread is packed with protein, fiber and the carbohydrates that your body needs to perform well. Snack on a piece of whole-grain toast before a workout. Top it with bananas or peanut butter (or both!) for even more power.
Another great source of protein, peanut butter is a great workout buddy. It’s also packed with the healthy fats that are less likely to be stored as body fat.
Victoria Pitcher is Web Editor at Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.