We tracked down everything from alarm clocks and the latest apps to all-natural supplements that may help you sleep more soundly.
Rest Your Head
Earthsake’s Natural Latex Contour Pillow helps support and align the neck and spine sans formaldehyde (often used in conventional foam pillows).
To Buy: $99, Earthsake
Wake Up Happy
Encourage the body’s circadian rhythms (which help regulate sleep/wake cycles) with the Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light.
To Buy: $70, Amazon
The f.lux app changes the spectrum of light coming from your phone or tablet to
correspond with the time of day—and your circadian rhythm.
To Buy: Free, f.lux
Maintain melatonin, GABA (a neurotransmitter) and serotonin to promote healthful sleep and manage anxiety with NeuroScience Kavinace Ultra PM.
To Buy: $50, PureFormulas
Drift off to dreamland with Earth Therapeutics Dream Zone Pillow Mist, scented with lavender, valerian, geranium and bergamot.
To Buy: $9, Ulta
Learn more about the importance of healthy sleep in The Power of Sleep.
If you don't get enough healthy bacteria in your diet, consider these high-quality supplements.
Hour After Hour
American Health Probiotic CD’s 12 billion organisms are delivered gradually over an extended period of time and throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract.
To Buy: $20, iherb.com
UAS Labs Senior Probiotic provides 25 billion units of five strains of bacteria, specially designed for older adults.
To Buy: $38, Vitacost.com
ohso Probiotic Chocolate Bars offer 1 billion bacteria in the form of a tasty, 70-calorie bar of Belgian chocolate.
To Buy: $9, Vitacost.com
Go for a Drink
With prebiotic inulin to assist the healthy growth of bacteria, NOW Probiotic-10 +Inulin delivers live organisms in a powder you can stir into water, tea or juice.
To Buy: $20, NOW Foods
Irwin Naturals Active-Cleanse and Probiotics combines beneficial bacteria with aloe and triphala for all-around digestive support.
To Buy: $27, Irwin Naturals
Learn more about probiotics, prebiotics and their role in your health in The Vital Importance of Healthy Gut Bacteria.
Michele Tune (a.k.a. Raw Juice Girl) is a freelance writer and blogger. She has lost over 100 pounds and found great healing from natural remedies, raw foods and juices. Read about her journey at www.healingwithjuices.com.
In response from Natural Alternatives: Dry Eye Syndrome Treatment.
Dry, itching, throbbing, bloodshot eyes are no fun! And, if it’s your job to stare at a computer screen all day, every day, then your eyes are continuously being aggravated—that’s not healthy.
If you aren’t familiar with natural remedies, you may feel your only options for relief are over-the-counter, chemical-laden eye solutions. Sure, some of them may soothe your eye woes for a short time but how many of them are going to target the root cause and truly help you improve the health of your eyes?
If you’re experiencing these irritating eye problems, your eyes need to be lubricated and nurtured—you can do this with natural remedies, both from within and externally.
But first, what actually causes dry eyes to begin with? There are a variety of reasons eyes dry out.
Here are a few:
• Menopause or other hormonal imbalances
• Staring at computer screens for too long
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography/Courtesy Flickr
Treating Dry Eyes from Within
You may have one or more nutritional deficiencies. For ultimate eye health, you need to take in plenty of vitamins A, B, C, and E. Also be sure to eat foods rich in zinc and selenium (or take quality supplements). And as K.C. mentioned in her recent post on dry eye syndrome, Omegas are fabulous for eye health.
Raw fruits and vegetables are crucial for overall health—including our eyes. You can pack in a ton of extra veggies and fruits by drinking fresh juices and smoothies. For instance, toss a handful or two of baby spinach leaves into your banana (or other fruit) smoothie and the fruit’s sweetness actually dominates the flavor, so it’s a nice way to sneak in those greens you may not otherwise eat.
Some people have noticed improvements to their eye health and vision from juice fasting as well.
Natural Remedy Recipes (for External Use)
Although it’s important to fill our bodies with the proper nutrition that promotes strong, moist, healthy eyes from within, it’s also nice to have safe, go-to natural remedies that can relieve our aching eyes while we wait for the internal methods to kick in. Following are a couple of inexpensive, organic recipes—and they’re both so soothing!
Organic Chamomile Eye Wash
• 2 chamomile tea bags (or spoonful of dried chamomile flower)
• Warm water
• A cup or bowl
• Sieve (if you’re using loose-leaf herb)
1. Add chamomile bag or loose herb to a cup or bowl.
2. Pour warm water on top of it.
3. Let them steep for up to 15 minutes.
4. Remove the tea bags (or strain loose herb with sieve).
5. Find a relaxing position (lay down or lean back in a chair).
6. Close your eyes and cover each one with a tea bag.
7. Leave the tea bags on for up to 10 minutes.
Note: If you’re using loose-leaf chamomile herb, you can put the moistened mixture you’ve strained into cheesecloth (or an empty tea bag you can purchase online or at your health food store) and follow the same steps above.
You can also cup some of the chamomile tea into your hand (or draw it up into a dropper) and wash your eyes out with it. It’s warm, soothing, healing, and safe.
Cold Cucumber Compress
• 2 cold cucumber slices
1. Find a comfortable position.
2. Put a cold cucumber over (closed) eyes.
3. Leave them on for up to 10 minutes.
Tip: Slice an organic cucumber ahead of time and lay the slices flat (not touching) in small plastic bags or reusable containers and freeze. When you need a quick “cold cucumber compress,” you can just grab two slices from the freezer and let them thaw a little. After all, you want relief—not frozen eyeballs!
I have personally followed all of the tips mentioned here for the past several years. The result? I no longer have to wear eye glasses.
Balch, Phyllis A., CNC, Prescription for Herbal Healing: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies, New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002
Balch, Phyllis A., CNC, Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Third Edition), New York: Avery Publishing, 2000.
National Institute of Health Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium
National Institute of Health Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc
We hear about “toxins” a lot in our everyday lives, and one place you’re likely to hear about them is in a yoga class or massage session. Do these practices actually help remove toxins from our systems?
It depends on what you mean by toxins, and if this is important to you, it merits some follow-up questions with your yoga instructor or massage therapist. What specific toxins are they talking about and how are you getting rid of them? Are we talking about improving circulation? Dealing with lactic acid? Reducing levels of stress hormones?
Yoga is an especially interesting case because the practice has so much tradition and philosophy behind it. Some health claims for yoga have been documented by modern science, while others are rooted in a philosophical tradition that you may or may not buy into. It’s good to know what you’re getting.
If you’re interested in learning more about the health benefits of yoga and massage, a great source for more information is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. NCCAM’s health information on yoga suggests that it may be useful for reducing low-back pain, coping with stress, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and relieving anxiety, depression and insomnia, not to mention improving overall fitness and flexibility. For massage, NCCAM fact sheets indicate that scientific studies are more limited, but available research suggests that it offers many of the same benefits.
If any of that sounds like what you’re looking for out of a detox program, great! But if you have other reasons for wanting to detox, such as specific concerns about liver disease, this may not be what you’re looking for. When in doubt, ask questions, and take any claims about removing unspecified “toxins” with a grain of salt.
To learn more about detoxing your body, read The Truth About Detox Diets.
Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Lawrence, Kansas. You can find her reading labels in the wellness aisle of her local natural foods store or on Google+.
Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy naturally, yet it’s one that so many people overlook. Whether it’s giving in to the lure of the television set or sitting all day at an 8-to-5 desk job, most of us aren’t getting the recommended two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week that the United States government recommends—a benchmark that, if not met, could actually shorten our life spans. Only 31 percent of Americans get the recommended two and a half hours of physical activity a week, while 40 percent of us don’t get any regular physical activity.
How often do you exercise? Only 31 percent of Americans get the two and a half hours of physical activity recommended by the government. Photo By Mike Baird/Courtesy Flickr
Our nation’s inactivity has led to a rise of health-related problems, most notably obesity. To combat these problems, a group of health experts developed a set of policies, programs and initiatives aimed at increasing physical activity across all segments of American society called the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan. The Plan, which was revealed this past Monday, includes a variety of ideas to get people up and moving. It calls for building bike paths and bike lanes on major roads, which would encourage people to walk or bike to work; increasing funding for parks, sports programs and fitness facilities; establishing activity programs for early childhood education; and encouraging doctors to assess patients’ physical activity levels and discuss ways they can meet the activity guidelines. The Plan’s committee includes representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and various universities across the nation.
Working at a desk all day long makes it difficult to get in the recommended two and a half hours of physical fitness each week, but I’ve noticed small ways in which my coworkers stay active during the day. Natural Home's managing editor, Jessica Kellner, devotedly goes to the gym almost every day on her lunch break, and many of the editors from our sister publication Mother Earth News take walking breaks almost everyday.
How much physical activity do you get each week? What kind of activities do you participate in, and what motivates you to do it?
In the ongoing project of “greening” my home and habits, especially in relation to all those routine products like cleaners, make-up and toothpaste, I think it’s time to talk about one of the changes I made a while ago—switching out my deodorant. As the weather shows no sign of dropping below 90 degrees anytime soon and people may try to slather on extra layers of potentially damaging antiperspirants, this seems like a better time than, say, February, when I made the change myself.
Deodorant is one of those things that I am acutely conscious of in my day-to-day life. Or rather, I’m conscious of the lack of deodorant, much as I have difficulty going to sleep without brushing my teeth, or stepping out of the house without something to cover my shoulders (this last is a style and modesty consideration I developed and internalized in Japan). Times when I forget or willfully ignore one of these things are peppered with tiny moments of distraction and irritability, especially if I have no way to easily rectify the situation.
My "obsession" is a habit I didn’t even think about until a few years ago, when a friend had a rather severe reaction to antiperspirants while at summer camp that left her unwilling (and possibly unable) to ever use such products again. But I’d never experienced anything remotely similar, so I just set that whole issue aside and continued blithely using antiperspirants until a few months ago, when I noticed some tenderness under my arms and my boyfriend suggested finding a product that was only deodorant, and not an aluminum-containing antiperspirant. He pointed out that aluminum wasn’t really something I needed to be absorbing into my skin (it's the primary substance that stops perspiration and can irritate skin), and that sweating is kind of something skin is designed for (sweating is the principle way for the body to cool itself and ward off dangerous reactions like heatstroke; regularly interfering with that process seems unhealthy). A week later, after rifling through the stock of local grocery stores and pharmacies, I found only one single product that was a deodorant and not an antiperspirant—Tom’s of Maine. Everything else had aluminum in it, or parabens (a carcinogenic), and likely both.
I know that there are other non-antiperspirant deodorants out there, but this truly is the only one I could readily find. It’s more expensive than a lot of other mainstream brands, but it keeps me from freaking out, seems to be generally kinder to my skin, neutralizes body odor and doesn’t have to be rigorously scrubbed off every time I shower like most other brands I’ve used. It took me a little while to get used to feeling sweat under my arms (never a lot, just some), but now I actually feel more comfortable than when I was using antiperspirants, possibly because my body can regulate internal temperature more easily. In my experience, the single $5 container lasts for several months. (In fact, I have yet to need to purchase another.) So I consider it a good investment. But if you’re interested in using something aluminum-free and unwilling to pay more for a stick of deodorant, you can’t find an aluminum-free brand in your area, or what you're using simply doesn't work well for you, there are some other things you can try.
A scented deodorant powder can make a cute gift! Try this recipe.Photo by Lisa Clarke/Courtesy Flickr
Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different, and some of these ideas may not work for you. Body odor can have many causes, including diet, weight and medication concerns. I’ve seen both dairy and meat mentioned as sources for diet-induced body odor, but it likely depends on your personal lifestyle and genetics. Also, with the exception of those options that contain corn starch, these solutions are not intended to stop sweating, only odor (and corn starch has only a mild effect). These are ideas I’m planning to experiment with whenever I do run out, too.
1. Baking soda: Yes, you read that right. The same stuff you can use to clean your pots and pans, or scrub ceramic, or brush your teeth with, can also be used under your arms to eliminate odor, in much the same way it works in your fridge or cabinet. Just pat the dry powder against your just-washed underarms (or pat a slightly moist paste to your dry skin) and voila. Don’t believe it? There are bloggers all over the internet who are quite willing to regale you with their experiences in this, though it may be more of a winter thing than a summer thing (for those sensitive to the appearance of their underarms while wearing shirts without sleeves), and its doesn’t always work by itself.
2. Baking soda and corn starch or arrowroot powder: The corn starch or arrowroot here adds dryness, acting as a light antiperspirant if you’re worried about sweating. Be aware that some people are sensitive to corn starch and may experience an allergic reaction from using it in this manner.
3. Rubbing alcohol and essential oils: Just combine 99 percent Isopropyl rubbing alcohol with a few drops of your choice essential oil and pour it into a small spray bottle. Spray the solution under your arms (it may sting for a second if you have just shaved). That’s it.
Simple ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar and rubbing alcohol can kill the bacteria that causes bad body odor.
Photo by Melissa Doroquez/Courtesy Flickr
4. Lemon juice: Even simpler than the rubbing alcohol, try just rubbing half a lemon under your arms while showering (again, not right after a shave), let it sit for 5 minutes, then wash with soap and rinse. Pre-squeezed or purchased lemon juice also works. You can also try washing first and then dabbing your underarms with lemon juice after the shower—the citric acid kills the bacteria build-ups that cause unwanted body odor.
5. Apple cider vinegar: Same drill as the lemon juice. The vinegar works by lowering the pH of your skin to a point that bacteria can’t live there. One recommendation I saw suggested dusting your underarms with baby powder afterwards to avoid the vinegar’s smell.
6. Homemade deodorant recipes: Sometimes people do this because no other product works for them. Sometimes they do it for fun, or because baking soda and corn starch just don’t get the job done. Sometimes they do it because they can add their favorite herbal scents to it. There are many of these recipes floating around, the most popular of which seems to come from Amy’s Angry Chicken. There’s another here at Kitchen Stewardship, and even more here at Crunchy Betty and Survivorsareus. These recipes let you use herbal essential oils either for scent or for their bacteria and fungus-fighting powers. Tea tree, lavender, rosemary, ylang-ylang and bergamot are popular choices for both aims. One batch of deodorant has the potential to last several months to a year, and the average cost is reported at about $3 a batch.
If you try any of these, or have tried them in the past, let me know how they work for you! And please, if you develop a rash or some other allergic reaction to any product, stop using it and, if you are concerned, please see a health professional. If you feel the need to use a stronger antiperspirant, try to use it as sparingly as possible. The FDA has not found any direct relationship between the aluminum in antiperspirants and either breast cancer or Alzheimer’s, but they have not proven it to be safe either. My personal opinion is that chemically forcing your body to not sweat is unlikely to be healthy, since that is one of the principle ways the body sheds toxins.
Stay cool this summer!
Read More: Body Powder Gift Set - Polka Dot Cottage
Test the safety of your cosmetics at the Skin Deep Database - The Environmental Working Group
If you’ve been exfoliating daily or using certain natural facial scrubs, you may have been doing your face more harm than good. Although skin exfoliating products can unclog pores, stimulate circulation and smooth your skin, the scrubbing granules found in some, such as the apricot pits in St. Ives Apricot Scrub, can also damage capillaries and cause breakouts to spread.
The Problem with Conventional Exfoliants
It’s important to examine your natural facial scrub to see what exactly does the scrubbing. For instance, even natural exfoliants, such as nuts and seeds, need to be finely ground. Otherwise their sharp pieces can cut and damage your skin.
Photo by Rishi B/Courtesy Flickr
Microbeads, such as those found in Dove’s Gentle Exfoliating Foaming Facial Cleanser, have become a common alternative to harsh scrubbers. However, even though they’re gentle on your skin, they’re often detrimental to the environment. In the Orion Magazine article "Polymers Are Forever" Alan Weisman discusses how polymers, often listed as “polyethylenes”, are regular ingredients in exfoliating microbeads. Long after you scrub and rinse your face clean, these polymer fragments are washing up along shores and harbors around the world, including Plymouth Harbor in England.
Natural Exfoliation Solutions
Don’t give up on exfoliating just yet. There are plenty of ways to exfoliate without harming the environment or your skin. Simply adding a little sugar to your face wash and then GENTLY scrubbing your face no more than a couple of times a week is one way to go.
Also, natural exfoliant enzymes found in papayas and pineapples, as well as alpha-hyrdoxy acids from citrus fruits and sour milk, can help with your natural exfoliation routine.
Photo by Leeno/Courtesy Flickr
5 Natural Exfoliation Recipes
Try out some of our natural exfoliation recipes and get started on a path toward glowing, healthy skin.
• Oatmeal Facial Cleanser
• Rose Petal Yogurt Scrub
• Comfrey and Oatmeal Facial Scrub
• Pineapple Sage Face Mask
• Oats and Eucalyptus Scrub
For more information on how to exfoliate naturally, check out Laurel Vukovic’s article, "Skin Deep: Natural Exfoliation."
Have you had problems with facial scrubs in the past? What do you use to exfoliate? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Ariel Tilson was an editorial intern for The Herb Companion magazine.