The new school year’s just started. Everyone’s on a level field right now, whether you’re a straight-A student or one who’s just trying to stay in school. It’s a fresh start, before studying, tests, classes, extracurricular activities and—obviously—your personal life wear you out.
So what’s an overwhelmed student to do? Everyone’s always telling you about how cheating is bad and that an unfair advantage is something to be avoided. Let’s face it though—a little boost here and there couldn’t hurt. Besides, it’s not really cheating per se…it’s more like a way to give you an edge.
Wondering what you have to do to get this advantage? Believe it or not, it’s as simple as eating healthy. Read on for a cheat sheet on why and how to ace your exams through your stomach.
1. Eating healthy gives you energy. This one’s a no-brainer. (Get it?) Candy, chips and soda are easy to grab on-the-go, but they will cause you to crash in no time at all. You might be alert for the first part of class, but drooling on your desk by the end. This dramatic shift in your ability to focus can completely tank your learning and test-taking efforts. Don’t be that guy snoring in the back of class. Choose snacks that have fiber and protein for long-lasting fuel that won’t cause crazy insulin spikes.
Tip: Boost your memory with a hard-boiled egg instead of the sugary and salty snacks from the vending machine. As a good source of choline, eggs are an amazing brain food.
2. Staying hydrated means staying awake. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and sleeping through class. Or it can cause you to not be able to focus on what’s on the page in front of you. Have you ever tried to answer questions when your brain’s fuzzy? The fastest way to ruin all your studying is to show up for a test without being properly fueled—and that means drinking plenty of liquid. The brain is nearly 75 percent liquid and has no way of storing water, which is why dehydration affects your mental performance so quickly.
Tip: Stay away from sugary drinks as they’ll just cause you to crash a few hours later when the sugar and caffeine have worn off. Stick to plain old water or unsweetened tea (watch out for the caffeine though). Your teeth, jeans and brain will thank you.
3. Your brain needs glucose to function. Just because your brain needs glucose does not mean it’s free-for-all time at the candy store. Trying to jumpstart your brain with a heavy dose of glucose can harm the rest of your body and the brain itself, leading to sleepiness, impaired memory and mental fog. Glucose can be drawn from recently eaten carbohydrates—like vegetables, fruits, and whole grain. The fiber and other nutrients in these whole foods help prevent the sugar spikes that lead to the crashes.
Tip: Eat fruit to power your brain. Fruit is a great source of fiber and fructose, as well as that all-important glucose. The glucose will keep your brain running, and fructose with the fiber will keep your energy levels up and stable. Added bonus: fruits are packed with antioxidants, which can help protect your brain.
4. Certain nutrients protect your brain from environmental damage. What’s that you say? You’ve never done anything hazardous or harmful to your health, ever, in your whole life? Well, good for you. Most students have—and eating healthy can help protect or even repair some of the damage done from exposure to the, ah, “elements.”
Tip: Eat fish for the omega-3s, which could minimize the effect of junk food on the brain while boosting your memory and ability to learn. Skip the fish sticks in the cafeteria though, as there is probably very little omega-3 and a lot of extra fat and filler.
5. Brain food slows aging and cognitive decline. Unless you want to end up like your older relatives who constantly wander about, asking where their keys are, start protecting your brain now against aging factors—and you’ll end up seeing a boost to your memory. Better memory equals better test scores.
Tip: Snack on nuts and seeds. They’re good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E and of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent cognitive decline. Mix together pumpkin seeds, walnuts and dried blueberries for a brain-boosting snack with lasting power.
6. Improve your recall with the magical fruit. Beans aren’t just good for your heart. Packed with protein and fiber to give you energy to stay alert while learning, studying or taking an exam, beans are also a great source of folic acid. A necessary nutrient for the developing brain, folic acid improves memory and brain performance.
Tip: Don’t like beans (or its side effects)? Try eating strawberries or asparagus instead for the same effect.
Just remember: eating well alone will not help you ace those tests (obviously). You might have to crack open a book once in a while, or stay awake in class long enough to hear what the teacher has to say. But healthy eating will help give you a boost to help you succeed in school—and in life.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in Southern California. With kids of her own, sending them off to school with healthy foods is very important to her. She contributes to the BenchPrep blog, helping students prepare to ace their exams and get through school with flying colors. Follow her on Twitter today!
Whether it's bloating, cramps or the blues, most women will struggle with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) at some point during their lifetime. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85 percent of menstruating women experience at least one PMS symptom during their monthly cycle! While some may choose over-the-counter medications or hormonal birth-control pills to help alleviate the symptoms, there are plenty of simple, natural ways to relieve PMS that women can turn to instead.
Incorporate restorative poses into your yoga practice during your cycle.
Yoga. While it's not recommended to do a high-impact yoga practice during your cycle, restorative yoga poses such as Queen's Pose (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) support opening the hips and may help relieve symptoms such as constipation and abdominal cramps. For this pose, place a bolster behind you in line with your spine. Recline and bend your knees, then let knees drop outward with your feet together. Place a pillow under each knee for support. You should be fully relaxed in this pose with no straining or stretching. Rest in this pose for 10 minutes for best results.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli promote hormonal balance.
Photos courtesy PhotoRack
Nutrition. It should go without saying that broccoli is good for you, but dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables are crucial for balancing hormones. Many symptoms of PMS are caused by an imbalance in the reproductive hormones. Eating foods such as spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower throughout the month may help your body regulate its hormone levels. Avoid caffeine, refined sugar and carbs for best results.
Herbs. One of the simplest and most popular herbal treatments for menstrual maladies is red raspberry leaf, particularly in tea form. For best results, steep this herb in a covered mug for 10 minutes before drinking. Red raspberry leaf contains alkaloids that tone the uterine muscles and can help guard against cramps.
Sleep. Did you know that getting too little sleep can impact your menstrual cycle. Lack of sleep puts stress on your body, which throws your hormones into imbalance. Help ensure you get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep per night by keeping your bedroom dark, turning off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, or taking a warm bath before turning in.
Tracy Puhl is the owner of GladRags, washable cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cups that are better for your body, your budget and the environment. Tracy is passionate about period positivity, woman-owned business, and empowering women everywhere to make healthy choices. In her free time, she likes to volunteer, travel, read and cuddle with her fluffy black cat.
Almost everyone seems to be “green” these days. From banks and carpet cleaning companies to manufacturers of branded products, a large percentage of companies (70 percent according to MIT) are making environmentally friendly claims. The green bandwagon is getting bigger and bigger by the day. While we take in thousands of brand impressions and clever corporate messages every day, it is getting increasingly difficult to sift through the claims and understand who is making legitimate efforts in sustainability. The reality is that sales of products featuring sustainable messaging are on the rise and most companies want a piece of the action.
So how can you be sure that you are choosing a company that is authentic in its commitment to you, its employees, its community, and to the planet?
Smart consumers are asking questions like: Would this company be socially and environmentally responsible if it wasn’t important to consumers? But even if you ask the right questions, it is really difficult to find the difference between “good companies” and good marketing.
Enter B Corps. The B stands for benefit. Benefit Corporations have chosen to be put through a rigorous impact assessment regarding their workers, suppliers, customers, community, governance and environmental impact. The impact assessment is a dynamic online questionnaire where a score from 0 to 200 is tabulated in real time. To reach certification status you must have a score of 80 or higher. All applicants are obligated to upload various corporate documents as well as company literature and policies ranging from employee handbooks to supply chain strategies.
Once your assessment is complete a representative from B Lab (the governing non-profit for B Corp Certification) reviews the assessment with you. Even though this isn’t the official audit committee, the representative skillfully challenges the answers on the assessment and adjusts your score accordingly. More than 8,000 companies have used the assessment tool, yet there are fewer than 800 Certified B Corps.
A little more about B Corps:
• B Corporations are recognized as legal entities in 20 states and 11 others are currently working on it.
• B Lab is the non-profit organization that oversees the B Corp certification, assessment and audits.
• B Corps have a greater level of transparency and accountability in their business functions and products/service.
• B Corps typically put the B Corp seal on their products, web pages and sales literature.
• B Corps have a greater purpose, focusing on a triple bottom line (people, planet, profits).
• B Lab provides the framework and support to continue to improve upon your score year over year.
• Patagonia, Etsy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dansko and Ogden Publications (the publishers of Mother Earth Living) are B Corps.
Put simply, B Corps are stewards of the world beyond their marketing team. B Corps are serious about using business to make the world a better place. They are authentic and accountable in how they conduct their business and serve their community. B Corps are working hard and working together to be a driving force in creating change. B Corps create a better future. B Corps are the future.
Look for the B Corp logo or visit Bcorporation.net to search for B Corps.
Steve Shriver is a pioneer and entrepreneur in the organic and sustainability movement within the United States. A longtime member of the Natural Products Industry, he has been in the natural skin care business for more than 14 years and is the CEO and founder of Eco Lips Organic Lip Balm located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A green enthusiast, Steve initiated a solar power project by working through IRENEW (Iowa Renewable Energy Association), an initiative that turned into one of Iowa’s largest solar power projects, gaining immediate support from the State of Iowa, Alliant Energy and the Department of Natural Resources. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, traveling, and hanging out with his wife and 3 daughters, as well as playing music, climbing mountains, running and doing yoga.
Did you ever receive a care package from a parent or relative while in college? I recall a box of goodies arriving shortly after settling into my freshman dorm room. The delight of receiving some of my favorite snacks from home helped with those pangs of homesickness that is part and parcel of our first true sojourn from our roots.
Photo By Jeremy Wilburn/Flickr
Interestingly, the first care package was the original unit of aid distributed by the humanitarian organization CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere). In 1945, CARE began a program to send aid to Europe, where starvation was a growing risk for large numbers of people in the wake of World War II. Americans were given the opportunity to send a CARE package for $10 to friends or relatives in Europe. Packages were guaranteed to arrive within four months. The first 20,000 packages reached France in May 1946. Over the course of the next two decades, 100 million more packages were delivered, initially in Europe and later in Asia and other parts of the developing world.
This impressive demonstration of generosity by thousands of Americans certainly contributed to our reputation as a caring society. I like that the “care package” has such a meaningful origin. The term, while a registered trademark of CARE, has become widely adopted as a generic term for a parcel of food or supplies sent for relief or comfort.
Across the country, young people are carrying boxes up stairwells and setting up their new abode where adventures, learning and growth are sure to happen. Tears are shed as we say goodbye and leave our incredible kids behind to begin or recommence the university life. It’s back to school time.
Comfort is the essential impetus for sending a college care package to your child. We are comforting ourselves for our own missing of them at the morning breakfast table and soothing our worries that they are eating properly now that they are away from home. But the comfort that our child experiences from the arrival of a care package—well that is hard to quantify. In my own experience some thirty years past, I still remember with great fondness receiving a care package that let me know I was being thought of!
We each have a multitude of choices for the care package we send plus incredible speed of delivery—much better than the four months it took the first care packages to arrive in Europe 65 years ago! So as you consider sending a care package to your child, I hope you’ll take a peek at America’s Best Organics all-organic care packages. Our goal is to provide nutrient-rich, delicious and useful treats that give your student an extra boost for their health and happiness away from home. Here’s to comfort and the love that binds us across distance and time.
Seleyn DeYarus is a long-time advocate of the positive impact of healthy lifestyles on people and the environment. Based in Boulder, Colorado, she is majority owner and CEO of Best Organics, Inc., an organic and sustainable brands promotion company and provider of America's Best Organics gourmet gift basket collections. Learn more about Seleyn and find your next best gift at AmericasBestOrganics.com.
In 2009, I wrote a post about timing and visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Herb Garden, which you can see was surrounded by chain link fencing alongside a sign that said the area was closed.
The closed sign was not what I wanted to see in 2009.
The original Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Herb Garden was designed in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration laborers. The new Herb Garden features a combination of orchard, annual, perennial vegetables, herbs and work spaces to give gardeners a realistic look at all of the garden’s functions. It is a true working herb (I would call it more of a kitchen) garden.
A more inviting sign to the herb garden.
This year, my timing was perfect with a whole new—and much improved!—sign and space for the herb garden. I believe the weather played a significant role this season in how the gardens are doing in general. The week before we arrived in NYC, temperatures were in the 90s to 100s. Stifling!
The path draws the gardener into the garden.
Here is a look at the entrance to the herb garden. I especially like how it has vertical elements to give more room to grow lots of different fruits.
A bird’s eye view of the knot garden.
I also liked that there is a platform to look over the knot garden. It's too tough to see the design from ground level, and so much easier to see it from above. Now if only the banana plant in the container could be moved out of the way!
Beneficial rose hips of Rosa rugosa.
The path above led to Rosa rugosa, which had amazing rose hips! Here are some rose hip recipes from Mother Earth Living if you have to harvest from your gardens.
Bay laurel with a sweet potato vine entwined!
The one herb that I thought should have done better was this bay laurel. They can be slow growers, and this one was in a container, which makes it easier to bring it inside for the winter. If this one wasn't competing with a sweet potato vine I think it would have fared better. I wouldn't be surprised if the young bay is taken over by the end of the season.
A very healthy bed of basil.
The basil in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Herb Garden are doing very well. They had several different kinds growing together. At home, my basil is doing very extremely well thanks to the rain and heat—my sweet basil is doing the best. I also planted cinnamon, lemon and lime basil seeds. Try my recipe for Basil Jelly. It's a Renee Shepherd recipe that I have been using for years.
Sweet alyssum planted along the borders in the herb garden.
This season my garden has been plagued by more bad insects than usual. I told The Herbal Husband we need to plant sweet alyssum next year to attract pollinators and beneficial insects so that we can balance out the bad insects with the good ones.
Birds enjoying the sunflower seeds.
Sometimes birds are helpful, as they eat the bad bugs. But mostly they are there for the sunflower seeds. I plant a lot of sunflowers because they not only attract pollinators but they are great food for the birds and sometimes the squirrels and chipmunks.
The one herb I did not find in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Herb Garden was lemon verbena! It is not an herb garden in my opinion without lemon verbena!
A beautiful combination of herbs and vegetables.
All photos by Nancy Heraud
As I have said for many years, planting a kitchen garden, or rather a combination of herbs, flowers, veggies and fruit trees, is a productive and beneficial investment for your family and the environment. So as you are planning your garden over the winter months, think about all of the benefits of having more than just one particular plant group. If you are thinking of having a fall garden, Mother Earth Living just published a guide to planning and growing: Fall Garden Planning.
As always, if you have a comment or question about any of my posts, please write to me here or my e-mail at email@example.com and put in the subject line “Herb Comment or Question.” And be sure to visit my blog Lemon Verbena Lady's Herb Garden. Talk to you soon.
For about 1 million years now getting poison ivy has been a drag. (Okay, maybe the very species, Toxicodendron radicans, hasn’t been creeping around that long, but you get the idea.)
Toxicodendron radicans has itchy results. Treat its skin rash with a jewelweed salve.
My First Introduction to Poison Ivy
I remember twenty-something years ago the first time I got poison ivy. I’d just bought my beautiful log cabin atop a mountain in the Hudson Valley, and my woody acre abutted 3,000 acres of virgin forest owned by an art preserve (sigh). Oak trees, periwinkle and hostas waking up for spring, sassafras holding fast, and lovely little columbine bowing her head in. My calico kitten Ra had revved up her purring, hunting and exploring, helping me with the wild hydrangea and strong-willed wisteria, and I was sure we were both in heaven. (As soon as I planted the catnip, Ra was in cat heaven.)
So, being a tenacious gardener with shiny new gardening tools in my hot little hands, I started to clear my acre of all the riffraff. With visions of herb beds dancing in my head, I tore out old foliage like a new national policy was being enacted. Yeah, I’d seen a picture of poison ivy, but we’d never been formally introduced. The poison ivy didn’t wait for the introduction.
About the third day of my gung ho gardening, I’d reached my sweaty and sooty quota for the afternoon and headed indoors. “Puffy pink stuff” starting appearing on my arm and let me tell you—only the devil creates that kind of itching.
I ran back outside to examine the pile of dug up leaves and vines I’d dumped in the compost pile. Lying low and hardly smiling, there lay some skimpy little vines with anonymous tri-leaf edges. Uh-oh. By now the itching was viciously creeping up my arm, so I ran back in the house and jumped into the shower. Thinking I was smart, I scrubbed my arm with a nice almond face scrub to "rub off” the ivy contact. BIG MISTAKE. Being a City Girl, I hadn’t grown up with a lifetime of folks spinning yarns and trading poultices to soothe this savage beast.
I wound up spreading it to both arms and my legs that night. Miserable doesn’t even come close to telling the tale of that summer. It hung on and on and on and on, all summer long as in all summer long. I was ready to drum up some sorcery but settled on meds from the doctor. The skin heals sooooo slowly from this infection. Poison ivy has some macho immune defense system itself (if I were scientist doing AIDS research, I’d have this species under my microscope lens, dissecting its hidden secrets). Over the years, I have had a few bouts of this rigorous skin rash.
Natural Treatment for Poison Ivy
So here we are again this summer, and this year poison ivy really decided to fool me. I was driving from where I live in the Hudson Valley to go out on Long Island. (Nice drive by the way.) I stopped at a rest stop and parked my car across from a big old maple tree and wrapped around this tree was a big old fat and sassy poison ivy vine staring at me. I stared back. I went to the ladies’ room, came back to my car, got in and started driving. I got an itch on my hand, scratched it, kept my eyes on the road and noticed a half hour later I was still scratching. Uh-oh. I looked down. The music from Jaws’ shark attack was playing in the background—p.i., 12 o’clock high.
When I reached the nearest health-food store I bought a bottle of tea tree oil to clean and dry it up. Next day, I got busy with my herbal self-defense. Here is the homemade poison ivy salve I prepared this time around to heal my rash.
Poison Ivy Salve
1. Simmer 1 cup jewelweed (my herbal antidote to poison ivy) in 1 1/2 cups olive oil and 2 tablespoons of beeswax for 2 hours; allow to congeal.
2. Ground up 4 Himalayan neem caplets and mix in 2 tablespoons powered myrrh.
3. Take a dollop of the jewelweed mixture on a Q-Tip and stir it into the neem-myrrh mixture. To use, slather it all over the affected area—perfect!
When I made this salve for myself, I would put an old towel in my lap and sat like this for 1 to 2 hours a few times a day. I’d wipe off the mixture, do some things in my house or in my home office, and then put the next dollop of the mixture on my arms again. The itching was gone and the skin began to heal. Whew! Close one!
Poison ivy is so not funny. I'm glad Mother Nature still provides, even for this one, because she really doesn’t want us to suffer; Mother Nature just wants us to learn.
You can find out more about jewelweed on the USDA's plant profile database.
May the jewelweed be with you.
Marguerite Dunne is a city girl and a traveler. Visit her website Herbs On Hudson or listen to her radio show, The Urban Herbalist.
"Go out, go out I beg of you And taste the beauty of the wild. Behold the miracle of the earth With all the wonder of a child." —Edna Jaques
When it comes to living well, the simplest things are often the best. During this season of long days and warm nights, we can take pleasure in treating ourselves to the taste of freshly grown herbs, the relaxation of handmade spa products and the refreshment of a sweet-cool beverage enjoyed outdoors with friends and family. Sit back, relax, and peruse our articles about healthy living from the July/August 2013 issue. In this issue we teach you how to enjoy your bountiful garden harvest all year; give you product recommendations to create a healthier, simpler, more self-sufficient home; show you simple solutions for quick breakfasts; discuss the basics of simple and affordable DIY body-care products; and much more!
Healthy Living Tips
Summer Harvest Guide: Enjoy the garden harvest all year with this plant-by-plant guide to harvesting and storing your favorite crops.
24 Goods for a Self-Sufficient Home: Create a healthier, simpler, more self-sufficient home with our expert product recommendations for the kitchen, garden and medicine chest.
How to Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning: Use no- and low-cost methods and energy-efficiency enhancements to stay comfortable this summer without soaring energy bills.
13 Ways to Use Lemons Around the House: Brighten and refresh your home with these 13 easy, natural uses for lemon.
6 Basic Homemade Beauty Products: It's simple and affordable to make your own beauty products at home. Use these beauty recipes to learn the basics, then have fun creating your own custom blends.
Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas: Get inspired in the morning with these quick and easy breakfast ideas.
Backyard Bounty: 8 Useful Weeds: Are weeds our friend or our foe? Discover a world of uses for eight of our favorites and decide for yourself.
3 Easy Herb-Infused Water Recipes: What could be simpler than gathering around a backyard barbecue or sitting on the porch on a balmy evening with a refreshing glass of water infused with delicate botanical flavors?