Mother Earth Living

Natural Health

Better living through nature


3/29/2013

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that occurs when the skin rapidly produces new cells at ten times the normal rate. Because the skin cells still slough off at their normal rate, this creates a buildup of cells, leading to patches of dry, itchy and occasionally swollen skin with thick silvery or whitish scales. The cause of psoriasis is unknown, although scientists think that it’s a genetic disorder (as cases of psoriasis often run in families) and possibly connected to immune system. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that runs in cycles with periods of remission.

Although there is no cure for psoriasis, it can be treated at home with natural remedies and improved through lifestyle changes.

psoriasis wrists
Photo By nebari/Fotolia

Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Diet: Poor diet and food allergies can worsen psoriasis. Poor digestion can create toxins that contribute to skin proliferation. As with many skin conditions, focusing on natural elimination of toxins through the digestive track, instead of through the skin, can significantly help. For a healthy, toxin-eliminating diet, focus on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and whole grains. For protein, choose easier-to-digest vegetarian sources or lean cuts for meat eaters. Cold-water fish is an excellent protein source as it also provides essential fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and low levels of which have been associated with psoriasis. Avoid foods that promote inflammation or are hard to digest, such as red meat, dairy, fatty or fried foods, alcohol and foods high in refined sugar. Food allergies can also trigger episodes of psoriasis.

Sunlight exposure: Light therapy is a helpful treatment for psoriasis. While many doctors offer UVA and UVB treatments at their office, you can also obtain ultraviolet rays from controlled sun exposure. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends starting small with just five to 10 minutes of sun exposure daily, preferably around noon, then adding 30 seconds each day to find the right amount of exposure for your skin. Be sure to fully expose any patches of psoriasis and wear sunscreen over any patches of skin not afflicted to protect them from sun damage.

Hydration: For those with psoriasis, it’s important to keep the skin moisturized. Showering, soaking in a tub, swimming and other water-immersing activities can hydrate skin and help remove patches of scales, if done correctly. For an easy treatment, soak in a lukewarm or tepid bath (not hot; hot water can strip skin and leave it itchy), pat skin dry and immediately apply a thick emollient or body oil to help lock in moisture. Salves can also be beneficial, especially if they contain skin-soothing herbs such as calendula. Soap can dry out and irritate skin; instead, consider a gentle cleanser designed for dry skin.

Supplements and Herbs for Psoriasis

Fish oil contains essential fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for treating psoriasis. Take a standardized dose daily.

Milk thistle helps the liver remove toxins from the body, aiding in the body’s natural detox process. Take 250 mg three times daily.

Aloe vera can be taken internally or applied topically to treat psoriasis. Drink a quarter cup of aloe vera juice or apply pure aloe gel, taken from the leaves of the plant, to affected skin to benefit from this plant’s cooling, anti-inflammatory effects.

Turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory effects that make it beneficial for treating psoriasis, and some studies have even shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can alter gene expression, including a particular type that can minimize psoriasis flares. Turmeric also enhances detoxification. Take 1 gram of dried turmeric in capsule form daily, or add liberal amounts of turmeric to your cooking.

Discover more home remedies for psoriasis.


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


2/28/2013

Although inflammation is a natural reaction and helps with the body’s healing process, chronic inflammation can be damaging and even play a major role in the development of many diseases: arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, various cancers and more. Tackling chronic inflammation may require major lifestyle changes—managing stress, exercising more, eating right.  While a proper diet can be crucial to managing inflammation, don’t discount the benefits of other kitchen ingredients. Many herbs have anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful in tackling chronic inflammation—many of them inexpensive as well. Try supplementing your diet with these seven anti-inflammatory herbs for a start.

green tea and ginger
Green tea and ginger both have anti-inflammatory properties. Photo By Brebca/Fotolia

7 Anti-Inflammatory Herbs

Turmeric: Curcumin, the active in ingredient in turmeric and the substance responsible for its yellow color, has strong anti-inflammatory properties. A clinical trial in the Journal of Neurochemistry found that treating patients with turmeric led to a 30 percent reduction in Alzheimer’s-associated brain plaque. A recent Italian study also found that taking turmeric led to a 58 percent reduction in pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, and a 63 percent reduction in reliance on standard painkillers. Take 400 to 600 mg of standardized powder three times daily; or use liberally in cooking.

Devil’s claw: Widely used for joint pain and inflammation in Europe and the United States, devil’s claw has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis pain and even be as effective as certain prescription painkillers. One small study also showed that devil’s claw may be useful in treating mild-to-moderate lower back, neck and shoulder pain. Take 600 to 1,200 mg of a standardized dose three times daily.

Boswellia: Boswellic acids in this Ayurvedic herb, sometimes called Indian frankincense, bind to enzymes that cause inflammation. Studies have shown boswellia to be useful in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and Crohn’s disease. (For a more in-depth look at how boswellia treats arthritis, check out the article Soothe Aching Joints with Frankincense.)

garlic in white wooden box
Photo By ivan_dzyuba/Fotolia

Cayenne: Capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne peppers, has been shown to inhibit certain substances associated with the inflammatory process, helping to reduce pain and inflammation in conditions such as arthritis and diabetic neuropathy. Studies have also shown this anti-inflammatory herb to be beneficial for heart health and immunity. Use a capsaicin cream as directed for affected areas (never on broken skin), or take 30 to 120 mg in capsule form three times daily.

Garlic: Compounds in garlic inhibit inflammatory messenger molecules, which has shown to be particularly effective in helping to promote heart health. In addition, garlic’s anti-inflammatory properties can benefit our respiratory system (in the case of inflammation in airways), help with arthritis, and maybe even inhibit some changes in fat cells that are critical to the development of obesity. Use garlic liberally in cooking. You can also eat the cloves raw and whole. Cutting or crushing the garlic before consumption amplifies its health benefits. 

Ginger: Anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger called gingerol suppress pro-inflammatory compounds. Ginger is particularly effective at treating arthritis; a study published in Osteoarthritis Cartilage found that long-term use of ginger led to less pain, swelling and inflammation in arthritic patients. Preliminary studies have also shown that ginger may help prevent heart disease, another inflammatory condition, by helping lower cholesterol and prevent blood clotting. Take 250 mg of ginger extract four times daily.

Green tea: Polyphenols in green tea act have anti-inflammatory properties, and studies have shown that green tea can reduce inflammation and help with conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, stomach cancer and more. Drink at least two cups a day.


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


1/23/2013

Winter means it’s time for root vegetables. Suitable for being grown in cold weather and stored for months at a time, root vegetables are a staple winter food. High in fiber and low in calories, they’re also a nutritious choice. Sweet potatoes are a common root vegetable, and like other roots, they’re chock full of beneficial compounds.

sweet potatoes
Photo By Amanda Richards/Flickr

3 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Antioxidant Content

Sweet potatoes are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene—the antioxidant responsible for the hue of the orange varieties—found in nature. Several African studies have found sweet potatoes to have 100 to 1,600 micrograms of vitamin A for every 3.5 ounces and to be an excellent way for school-aged children in Caribbean and African countries to get enough vitamin A in their diet. But beta-carotene isn’t the only antioxidant in rich supply in sweet potatoes. Purple sweet potatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant anthocyanin. And unlike other foods, which contain the highest concentrations of and nutrients in their skin, purple sweet potatoes have ample amounts of anythocynins in their flesh. Sweet potatoes also have high levels of vitamin C and sporamins, which are “storage proteins” that help the vegetable to heal itself if physically damaged.

Blood Sugar Benefits

Unlike other starchy root vegetables, sweet potatoes can actually have a positive effect on blood sugar levels—even for those with type 2 diabetes. Eating sweet potatoes can raise levels of adiponectin, a hormone that helps regulate insulin metabolism, and low levels of which are often seen in people with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, sweet potatoes contain a moderate amount of fiber (about 3 grams) and have a low glycemic index rating.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Studies have shown that eating sweet potatoes decreases formation of substances that can lead to inflammation, thanks to anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants that can offset inflammation triggers. In animal studies, animals that consumed sweet potato had less inflammation in their brain and nerve tissue. One important component of sweet potatoes’ ability to fight off inflammation is beta-cryptoxanthin, which helps prevent the formation of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

How to Eat Sweet Potatoes

Although most people will think of the orange variety, sweet potatoes come in a variety of shades ranging from white and cream to yellow, pink and purple. Sweet potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways. For inspiration, check out these recipes:

Sweet Potato Colcannon
Caramel Sweet Potatoes
Southern Sweet Potatoes
Savory Vegetable Stew with Lentils, Sweet Potatoes and Kale
Sherried Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle and Sage
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Pecan Crunch Topping
Sweet Potato and Parsnip Puree

To derive the maximum health benefits from your sweet potatoes, be sure to eat them with fat-containing foods, as fat helps the body absorb more beta-carotene from the sweet potatoes.


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


12/27/2012

Some of us tend to celebrate the season overzealously, and any time you overindulge there is a consequence. So if you’re not looking forward to that post-New Year’s Eve hangover, you’ll be pleased to know there is a sweet, simple, quick hangover cure tucked away in your cupboard—honey. Honey is acclaimed by scientists for its ability to aid the body in quickly breaking down all the alcohol you consumed (and are most likely regretting when your head is pounding the following morning).

honey in glass bowl and jar
Photo By ctppix/Fotolia

So what is a hangover anyway?

A hangover is your body's reaction to toxicity. When alcohol breaks down in your liver it produces acetaldehyde. This byproduct of alcohol metabolism is more toxic than alcohol itself. Fortunately, its effects on the body are short lived—that is if you only have a few drinks every now and then. Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time produces enough acetaldehyde to cause serious liver damage, so drink wisely. Women tend to have longer-lasting hangovers than men as they produce less of the enzyme that breaks down the alcohol. (So ladies, don’t try to match your man drink for drink. He’ll be eating lunch while you're still hiding in the bathroom.)

Other contributors to the dreaded hangover include lack of deep sleep caused by glutamine rebound. Because it’s a depressant, alcohol inhibits the natural stimulant glutamine, causing the body to increase production of glutamine and causing the brain to remain active even after you have already passed out—hence the fatigue you feel the following day. As for the vomiting, that’s your body's way of telling you that your stomach is producing too much hydrochloric acid and it’s time to rid the body of some of that alcohol gunking up the works.

How can honey help my hangover?

Because of its antioxidant properties, honey neutralizes the toxins created by consuming alcohol. Dr. John Emsley, UK Popular Science writer and chemistry academic, claims the natural fructose in honey helps the body rapidly metabolize alcohol. According to Dr. Emsley, “the fructose in honey is an essential compound that helps the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products.” The body uses the fructose found in honey to convert the acetaldehyde made during alcohol metabolism into acetic acid, a substance that is “burned up naturally by the body.”

According to a statement made to Reuters Health by the headache expert Dr. Merle Diamond, president and managing director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, eating honey could help you avoid the hangover headache altogether: “Honey on a cracker or piece of toast, before or after drinking, may prevent a hangover. Honey, as opposed to some other sugar stores, has fructose, which competes for the metabolism of alcohol. This competition prevents the rapid change in alcohol levels that causes the 'bang' headache in the morning. Tomato juice, another good source of fructose, also helps to burn alcohol faster, but honey works best.”

Basically honey provides a buffer by giving the body a little sugar to metabolize and preventing the sudden change in blood sugar levels, as well as increasing the alcohol metabolism processes in the body.

honey on toast
Photo By Antonino D'Anna/Fotolia

How to use honey for a hangover

You’ve finished off that last bottle of champagne and brought in the New Year with a bang. Before you turn in, stir a couple of spoonfuls of honey into a glass of hot water and drink it down. In the morning, spread some honey on a piece of toast. Toast can provide you with little potassium and sodium, both of which aid in the task of digesting all that alcohol. Remember, according to Dr. Emsley, that hair of the dog cure only works if you drink so much alcohol regularly that you suffer from withdrawals. So don’t make things worse. Have a glass of water with some honey instead.


Kate HunterKate Hunter enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, crafting, making natural products, and following up on politics and the latest health food news. After changing her major from art to biology to English, she finally obtained a B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. Kate is a published author both online and in print and has owned, operated, and published a literary journal. She is a mother of three, speaks sarcasm, some Spanish, but mostly English and spends her time baking, taking pictures, canning, growing and drying herbs, reading, selling natural products and homemade crafts in her Etsy store HomemadeByKate, and checking food labels of course. 



12/13/2012

Headaches are one of the most common ailments. No matter your age, gender or health status, you’re likely to be plagued with these occasionally. Headaches generally fall into three categories: cluster, tension and migraine. Knowing which type of headache plagues you will help you find a treatment.

• Cluster headaches generally affect one side of the head and can cause intense pain for a few days before disappearing and reappearing later.

• Tension headaches are often described as creating a “tight band” of pain around the head. Tension headaches are often accompanied by pressure or a feeling of throbbing in the head or neck. The pain can be mild to moderate, changing with intensity during the day.

• Migraine headaches cause severe pain, usually one just one side of the head. Migraine headaches are characterized by impaired vision, sensitivity to light and nausea.

If you’re used to popping an aspirin every time a headache springs up, consider the dangers of taking over-the-counter painkillers—and consider one of these natural approaches instead.

woman with headache 

Natural Home Remedies for Headaches

Magnesium can be relaxing to the nervous system and can help relieve migraine headaches and prevent tension headaches. While you can take 200 mg of magnesium two to three times daily, magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, so consider taking an Epsom salt bath for headaches that won’t go away.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that our bodies create and then turn into serotonin. Many headache drugs work by affecting serotonin, and preliminary research shows that taking 5-HTP might help prevent migraine and tension headaches. Serotonin affects circulation in the brain and can help increase levels of endorphins—natural painkillers—in the body. Take 50 to 100 mg three times daily. 5-HTP should not be combined with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Capsaicin, an active compound in cayenne peppers, can help relieve pain by interfering with the transmission of pain signals between the brain and the body. Try rubbing a bit of capsaicin cream on the inside of your nostrils to relieve pain from migraine headaches.

Cut out processed foods. Food additives MSG (monosodium gluatamate), nitrates (found in processed meats) and artificial sweetener Aspartame have all been linked to headaches. To reduce your chances of getting a headache, stick with whole foods. For more on dangerous food additives, check out the article “5 Most Toxic Food Additives to Avoid.”

Keep a headache diary. It’s easier to find a cure for your headache if you can track when and where they occur, as well as what kind. When you feel a headache coming on, make a note of the day and time, as well as what you’ve had to eat within the past 24 hours, how long (and well) you slept the night before, and other details such as any unusual stress or circumstances in your life. Once the headache has passed, record how long it lasted, where the pain occurred and what techniques you used to make it stop.

Acupuncture or acupressure can help with pain relief from all three types of headaches. Acupuncture involves inserting very tiny needles at strategic points on the body to relieve pain. Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but does not use needles. To find an acupuncturist near you, visit the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Massage can also relieve pain from tension headaches.

Practice good posture. Poor posture can trigger all three types of headaches, but sitting up straight can help keep strain off your muscles and prevent them from tensing up.

For more natural solutions, check out the post “Natural Headache and Migraine Relief.”

Images: Photo By Yuri Arcurs/Courtesy Fotolia


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of
Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


11/15/2012

Grapes don’t often get a lot of recognition when it comes to healthy food talk—usually it’s wine, a grape product, that steals the show—but this little fruit bears a lot of benefits, from its antioxidant content to its affects on heart and brain health. Just check out these five health benefits of grapes!

green grapes in a bowl 

Health Benefits of Grapes

Antioxidants

Grapes are a treasure trove of antioxidants. As a group, grape varieties are known to contain phytonutrients such as flavanols (catechins, quercetin, etc.), phenolic acids, carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, etc.) and stilbenes (such as resveratrol). Most of the antioxidants in grapes are concentrated in the fruits’ skin and seeds; by comparison, the pulp or flesh contains just one-twentieth to one-one hundredth the level of antioxidants.

Anti-Inflammatory

Reserveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes and grape products such as wine, provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Grapes combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties lend it a bevy of other health benefits.

Heart Health

It’s well-established that red wine offers some heart health benefits, so it should come as no surprise that so do grapes. The high antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory properties of grapes can help reduce cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, prevent clumping of platelets and reduce risk of clots. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of California-Davis found that patients with metabolic syndrome (at risk for heart disease) who took grape seed extract experienced a drop in blood pressure. An animal study at the University of Michigan also discovered that rats given a grape supplement blending green, red and black grapes had lower blood pressure, better heart function and reduced inflammation at the end of the 18-week study

concord grapes in wooden basket 

Anti-Cancer Benefits

Thanks to their antioxidant properties, grapes also offer some measure of protection against cancer. Studies have found that grape seed extract can kill leukemia cells and head and neck cancer cells, and can prevent the growth of breast, stomach, colon, prostate and lung cancer cells in laboratory experiments.

Brain Health

Although few large-scale clinical studies have been conducted, evidence points toward consumption of grapes as being beneficial for brain health. An animal study at the University of Houston found that rats fed a grape-enriched diet experienced reduced anxiety and learning and memory problems brought on by anxiety. Another study found that participants who drank a glass of Concord grape juice daily scored better on the California Verbal Learning Test than participants who did not. Key antioxidant components of grapes have also been linked to improved brain health. In 2008, researchers at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University reported that supplementing with resveratrol, commonly found in grapes, reduced plaque formation, a factor associated with Alzheimer’s and other related diseases, in animal brains.

Other Benefits

Grapes have a bevy of other health benefits that science has yet to explore in-depth. Preliminary research shows that grapes have anti-microbial, blood sugar regulation and anti-aging benefits.

Eating Grapes

Grapes come in many varieties, including wine grapes and raisin grapes, but most of us consume table grapes, which are usually larger in size. Red, green and black are the most common colors consumed, but grapes also come in yellow, blue black, pink, crimson and other colors. Although much of the U.S. falls into the broad band of climate suitable for growing grapes, most grapes grown in the U.S. come from California. During the months of January to April, however, many grapes are imported from South America or Mexico, so be wary of that when purchasing grapes from your local grocer. Grapes rank high on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list, so be sure to purchase organic grapes for optimal health benefits.

Growing Your Own Grapes

If you’re interested in growing grapes on a large scale, check out the article Start an Organic Backyard Vineyard.

Images (top to bottom): Photo By Andrew Wilkinson/Courtesy Flickr; Photo By Dennis Wilkinson/Courtesy Flickr


Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on .


11/7/2012

I bet if you asked 100 people to name their go-to kitchen staples, olive oil would top the list. Once revered by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, olive oil is still a kitchen favorite, adding flavor to meals without sacrificing nutrition value.

Health Benefits Of Olive Oil
Maximize your health. Learn how to buy the best olive oils on the market.
Photo By Christian Jung/Fotolia

Although olive oil is high in fat, the main types of fat found in it are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which are considered healthy dietary fats. Consuming a small amount of a healthy unsaturated fat such as olive oil before a meal will actually help you digest your food more slowly. MUFAs also help lower total cholesterol levels and normalize blood clotting. But even healthier fats are high in calories, so always use in moderation.

The problem with olive oil, however, is that because so few taste offensive you may be buying a bottle that isn’t as healthful as scientific studies claim it is. That’s because you may be buying the wrong variety. To maximize your health, learn how to choose the best olive oil so that you are stocking your pantry with the very best for your family. 

REFINED OLIVE OIL doesn’t have much nutritional value because of the many industrial processes that it has been through, which tamper with its flavor, odor and color. This odorless and tasteless olive oil is the least expensive and best used for frying. Side note: When extra-virgin olive oil is added to refined oil you get a product called pure olive oil, or just olive oil.

VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is a more intermediate quality of oil. It contains a fair amount of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants, but is not considered as healthful as the following variety.

EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. Organic, unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the most desirable variety to purchase because it is the purest and most delicately flavored of all the varieties. When studies triumph the success of Mediterranean diets or tout olive oil’s many benefits, they are referring to an olive oil in its purest form, i.e. extra virgin. EVOO, which means it has been made from crushed olives and is not refined in any way by chemical solvents or high heat, is rich in polyphenols and more costly than other varieties. Do not use this as a frying oil. Instead, savor its flavors in pasta sauces, finishing sauces, soups, drizzles and dipping oils.

Because extra-virgin olive oil is so much more valuable than most other vegetable oils, but also costly and time-consuming to produce, EVOO fraud has become a widespread problem. In fact, many bottles labeled extra-virgin olive oil on supermarket shelves have been adulterated and shouldn’t be classified as such, says New Yorker contributor Tom Mueller. To avoid becoming a victim of this deceit, follow these general olive oil shopping tips.

+ Choose an olive oil that comes in a glass bottle, as those tend to be of better quality.

+ Read the label. High-quality olive oils will say where and when they were pressed, whereas low-quality may label it as “estate bottled.” You should also look for a packaging date, as this information will be available from higher-quality companies.

+ You should also check the back label for a fine print that sites the source of the olive oil if you want a variety that was actually produced in a specific country (such as Spain, Greece or Italy).

+ Be wary of overly green olive oils. Although its green color could come from the olives, it could also come from the leaves that were pressed with them.

+ Also be wary of an olive oil that is extremely light or extremely yellow in color. The former could mean it is tasteless, while the latter could mean it is very old.

+ For fresh olive oil, check the label for a harvest date and use it within a year from that date. (If a harvest date isn’t available, the use-by date is usually two years after the oil was made.)

+ Seals and medals are an added bonus. European olive oils may have a Designated Origin seal, indicating that it was produced in a particular region; and the California Olive Oil Council awards a seal to oils that meet a set of quality standards in the United States.

+ Extra light olive oil may be low in calories, but it is also highly refined with virtually no flavor or color. If you’re worried about calories, use a better quality oil but in moderation.

+ It’s not always possible, but if you can, taste your olive oil before you buy it. See our list for how your olive oil should taste

What are some of your favorite EVOO's? Tell us in the comment's section below!


Gina DeBackerGina DeBacker is the assistant editor at Mother Earth Living. She considers olive oil one of the biggest staples in her kitchen.





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